Leading a Parish through a Transition in Clergy Leadership


The transition generally takes from twelve to eighteen months to complete.  The tasks listed below do not necessarily occur in this exact order.


  1. The wardens notify the Bishop of the "vacancy in the cure" and of date effective.

  2. The Canon for Transition Ministry meets with the Vestry as soon as possible to review the search process and assist the vestry in planning for the transition.  The Search Committee should not be formed until after this meeting and after the Rector* has left.

  3. The parish celebrates the ministry of the departing priest.

  4. The vestry decides about pastoral leadership coverage for the transition. Interim pastor candidates must be approved by the Bishop.


  1. After meeting with the Canon for Transition Ministry, the Vestry selects a Search Chair.

  2. The Vestry and Search Chair select the Search Committee, making sure they are representative of parish constituencies and groups, including on third from the vestry.  They should be Communicants in Good Standing.  Paid staff members, relatives of the former rector, relatives of wardens, and relatives of deacons associated with the parish should not serve on this committee.  The Chair of the Search Committee should be a person of prayer with excellent organizational and group process skills.

  3. The Search Committee meets with the Canon for Transition Ministry for orientation to search process.

  4. The Canon for Transition Ministry's role with the Search Committee includes offering guidance and resources for conducting a Self Study and developing a Parish Profile and Portfolio, answering questions, preparing for interviewing, and helping the committee with the process of the search.  The use of a consultant is optional.

  5. The Search Committee plans for and carries out a Self Study of the parish.   Various means gathering responses are employed, usually including a parish survey and a congregational meeting.  It is important that all members of the congregation be given opportunities to express their views and concerns.

  6. Based on the information gathered, a Parish Profile is compiled which includes a position description, goals, statistics, demographics, worship, buildings, organizations, and clergy leadership style being sought.  The profile must be reviewed and approved by the Vestry.  Drafts of the Parish Profile should be reviewed by the Canon for Transition Ministry before it is printed.  Completing the Self Study and Parish Profile usually takes two or three months.

  7. A Office of Transition Ministry Worshipping Community Portfolio is completed with the assistance of the Canon for Transition Ministry who will create the profile online and then send back to the search chair for approval.  Upon completion of this profile the position is listed as "Receiving Names" on the website of the Diocese of New York at http://www.dioceseny.org/.

*NOTE:  "Rector" refers to Rector, Pastor, Priest-in-Charge, Vicar or Missioner throughout this manual.


  1. Once the Parish Profile and OTM Profile are completed, the Search Committee is ready to receive applications from candidates.  Candidates apply directly to the parish through the contact person (usually the Search Chair).Potential candidates are also compiled from three possible sources:

    Any member of the congregation may recommend a potential candidate to the Search Committee by contacting a member of the Search Committee or encouraging the candidate to apply.

    Although candidates will apply directly to the parish, they may also contact the Canon for Transition Ministry.  (They may have heard about the open position by word of mouth, the website of the Diocese of New York, the Office of Transition Ministry "Positions Open Bulletin", or the Transition Ministry Newsletter.)  In addition, the Canon for Transition Ministry maintains an active file of priests, both within and outside the Diocese of New York, who are looking for new positions.

     c. BISHOPS:
    Any of the Bishops may recommend potential candidates.

  2. NOTE:  Interims, assisting, and supply clergy who have been serving the parish during the interim time are not eligible for the permanent position.

  3. The parish normally receives applications for about two months.  During that period the Search Committee and Vestry should meet with the Canon for Transition Ministry to prepare for interviews.

  4. The resumes and profiles of potential candidates are reviewed by the Search Committee.  From this pool, the Search Committee selects not more than 12 priests they would like to interview as candidates for Rector.

  5. The Search Chair submits resumes and OTM clergy profiles toCanon for Transition Ministry for vetting.

  6. Upon receiving a list of candidates the Search Committee would like to interview, the Canon for Transition Ministry makes reference checks.  The Canon for Transition Ministry then presents the list to the Bishops for their approval. They may add or delete names. This approved list becomes the official list of candidates.  Names on the official list are confidential and should not be shared with anyone outside of the Search Committee, including the Vestry. 

  7. No candidate is interviewed in person without the Bishop's approval.

  8. The Search Committee makes contact with each candidate.  Contact includes phone interviews, visits, reference checks, invitations for interviews at the parish for which they are being considered.  Under no circumstances is a nominee asked to preach or celebrate in the parish during the process.  Nominees appreciate receiving a copy of the Parish Profile, the Parochial Report, and any other information that may be appropriate.  This material may be assembled as the Parish Portfolio.  All nominees should be accorded the courtesy of regularly being kept up to date on the status of their candidacy.

  9. When the committee has interviewed all candidates and determines one to three top candidates, the Bishop is advised of those names through the Canon for Transition Ministry.

  10. The Bishop makes a bishop-to-bishop reference check.  At this time, the required Oxford background check is initiated on the final candidates.  The parish is responsible for the cost of the background check. 

  11. The Search Committee makes its recommendation to the Vestry.
  12. The final candidates are invited to come to the parish for an interview with the vestry.  If the candidate is not from this diocese, arrangements should be made for an interview with the Canon for Transition Ministry.

  13. The Vestry elects, being sure to record its action in the minutes in the form of a resolution and recorded vote.  The name of the elected person is presented to the Bishop for formal approval prior to that person being advised, as required by the canons.


  1. When the nominee accepts the call, the Vestry negotiates the terms of the call with the Rector-elect.  A Letter of Agreement is drafted following the model provided by the Canon for Transition Ministry.   Three copies are signed the Rector-elect and the Warden and then sent to the Canon for Transition Ministry for the Bishop's signature.

  2. No public announcement should be made until the Letters of Agreement are signed. 

  3. Written notice of the election, signed by the Wardens, is sent to the Bishop, who will then notify the Secretary of Convention.

  4. The Search Committee communicates with all nominees not previously informed that they are no longer under consideration and thanks them for their participation in the process.

  5. The parish celebrates the ministry of the Interim Pastor.

  6. The Bishop and Rector-elect agree upon a date and time for the Celebration of a New Ministry.  The Canon for Pastoral Care makes these scheduling arrangements for the Bishop.

  7. The Vestry schedules a New Church Leadership Team Retreat for the Vestry and Rector. This should take place within the first four to six weeks after the Rector has arrived.  A consultant could facilitate the Retreat.  The Canon for Transition Ministry will recommend names.

  8. The vestry schedules a Mutual Study of Ministry for the Vestry and Rector which will be facilitated by a consultant.  This can take place any time between six and twelve months in the first year after the Rector is called.  Thereafter, a Mutual Study of Ministry should be conducted annually.  

  9. The Bishop expects clergy new to the diocese to attend Fresh Start, a colleague support group that meets monthly for two years. 


See Also: