There are many different ministries people offer and the Diocese of Oxford wants to encourage all kinds of lay ministry, giving as much freedom as possible to the local church.
As such, formal authorisation from the bishop is usually given only when this is required by the Church’s canon law. There are currently three areas of ministry in the diocese which require a bishop's formal authorisation (not to be confused with a bishop's licence, which is what allows LLMs (Readers) and clergy to minister within the diocese):
Including responsibility for any talk or activity fulfilling the function of the sermon in a Service of the Word;
Leading services of public worship with Communion by Extension
Clarification on what constitutes communion by extension and who may conduct these services is given here;
Lay funeral ministry
A growing area of ministry with significant pastoral responsibility.
The bishop’s authorisation gives you permission to exercise the relevant ministry within your parish or benefice, but it is up to your incumbent/ministry team when you are asked to do so. They are also responsible for supporting you in your ministry.
Process for obtaining authorisation
To receive a bishop's authorisation, you need the backing of your incumbent and PCC(s), usually expressed through a formal PCC resolution. You will also be asked to meet with a vocations adviser or area dean by way of providing a more 'external' reference as to your suitability for this public ministry.
With all this in place, your incumbent writes to your area bishop, advising them of this support and also including (i) details of your current DBS Disclosure and (ii) evidence of required Safeguarding training (you will need to complete the new 'Leadership' safeguarding learning pathway, which has replaced C3).
Your bishop would then issue an intial letter of authorisation, usually without needing to make any further enquiries. This initial authorisation effectively allows you to begin ministering during an initial period of up to two years and will stipulate the basic training you will be expected to undergo during this time.
On completion of all relevant training requirements, and so long as your DBS and safeguarding training have not expired, you will then be able to apply for your initial authorisation to be renewed to a 'full' authorisation, which is normally renewable for up to five years at a time (or to the expiry of your current DBS Disclosure, if sooner).
One point to note is that you don't (probably shouldn't) need to do all the training before applying for initial authorisation. In fact, the point of the initial two-year authorisation is to 'legalise' the preaching you do while you are learning to do so!
Introductory leaflets for those interested (or those whom you think might be interested) in training for these ministries can be downloaded here:
- Authorised preaching introductory leaflet - Oct 2021
- Authorised leading of services of communion by extension introductory leaflet - Oct 2021
- Authorised lay funeral ministry introductory leaflet - Oct 2021
Full policy & procedures
For a fuller appreciation of how the scheme operates, check out this formal policy and procedures document:
Authorised Ministry Training Handbook
This handbook gives a full explanation of training requirements, some suggested assignment titles and resources to help with learning:
Do join us for any of the training courses on offer.
Lay funeral ministry online course
A course for those who would like to explore funeral ministry is now available online. It's designed for anyone who feels called to offer themselves for this important ministry; licensed lay ministers who would like to develop this aspect of their ministry, authorised preachers, and those with considerable pastoral experience may want to explore this further.
The course offers insights and expertise into taking funerals and exercising compassionate care of the bereaved. It can be completed online at any time, but prior to booking you need to have a conversation with your incumbent and gain their support. You will also need to identify a mentor who can accompany you though the training and the start of your funeral ministry.
To gain access to the course, please email email@example.com and one of the CMD team will be in touch.
The Revd Dr Phil Cooke
Local Ministry Programme Director
01865 208 282