Later this week, the Rev. Dr. Jane Williams will retire as chair of the Diocese of Bethlehem’s Commission on Ministry (COM). She will be succeeded by the Rev. Tim Alleman, staff chaplain in the Geisinger Health System and rector of Holy Cross Episcopal Church in Wilkes-Barre.
Williams, who became chair of the commission in late 2015, has helped make the diocese’s path for discerning a call to the priesthood or diaconate clearer, Bishop Sean Rowe said. Policies have been become clearer and more uniform, and candidates are now interviewed by the commission in a timely way.
“What I’ve been trying to do is to provide some structure and to give COM members, laity and clergy, the opportunity to work on things that really needed to be revised,” Williams said. “We have to have some of these structured processes in place.”
“We’re not here to judge someone else,” she said. “We’re here to help them uncover and be able to speak what it is they feel called to.”
Thanks to the efforts of Williams and her colleagues, said Rowe, the commission is now poised to clarify the roles and responsibilities of ordinands and their sponsors, and to consider the multiple options for candidates’ theological education, including residential and low-residence seminary programs and local formation options. Between now and September, when the diocese’s new bishop is ordained, Rowe will work with the commission on these issues.
“Jane and the commission members have made important progress in making the discernment process for ordained ministry more transparent, and they have laid the groundwork for the next phase of this work,” Rowe said. “I hope that in my remaining months with the people of Bethlehem, we can put in place structures that will allow candidates and postulants to pursue a variety of paths to ordination.”
For Williams, who also retires this spring from her position on the faculty at Moravian Theological Seminary, chairing the commission has been a spiritual undertaking.
“I have felt many holy moments, sacred moments…we’re part of that sacred discernment and we take that very seriously,” she said. “I feel like I’ve followed my grandmother’s admonition…to leave the world a better place for having been here.”