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The Rev. Timothy Cargal, Ph.D., serves as the Coordinator, Preparation for Ministry/Exams for Mid Council Ministries of the Office of the General Assembly.

“... the Land that I Will Show You” is the blog of the Office of Preparation for Ministry/Examinations of the Presbyterian Church (USA). This blog is designed to serve as a resource for those discerning and preparing for a call to the ministry of Word and Sacrament as ordained teaching elders of the church. It will also provide a place for reflecting on and dialoging about the changing context of pastoral ministry in the early 21st century.

For quick announcements about changes or developments in the preparation process, dates related to exams or other key events, discussion boards, surveys, etc., you can follow us on Facebook at “Preparing for Presbyterian Ministry.”

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April 11, 2014

Readers and Quarterly Exams

Flip calendar with word "Quarterly"The first round of quarterly exams will be offered July 25 and 26. This expanded opportunity for candidates obviously brings with it an expanded need for ordination exam readers. Notifications were sent to all CPM moderators and presbytery stated clerks this morning with information from the Presbyteries’ Cooperative Committee on Examinations for Candidates (PCC) about how the presbyteries will be asked to provide readers under the new schedule. Since interest about how this will work extends beyond just committee/commission moderators and stated clerks, I want to share some details of the plan.

Presbyteries will remain in the same pattern of six regions, and each region will continue to provide readers in the same “half” of the year. So, the Central, Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, and Western Regions that previously dealt with exams written in late summer and evaluated in the fall will now read exams the first weeks of August and November. The two regions, Southern and Midwest, that previously handled exams written in winter and evaluated in early spring, will now read exams the first weeks of February and May.

A survey of readers from the past year found they were about equally divided between a preference for more readers in each reading period (and so fewer exams per reader overall), or having fewer readers but only being asked to read during one reading period each year (with the result of more exams per reader overall). So the PCC has decided to ask each presbytery to elect the same number of readers as last year, but the presbytery may decide how its readers will be used in the two reading periods for which it will be responsible. A presbytery may decide that all of its readers will read in both reading periods. Other presbyteries might divide their readers between their two reading periods (with each reader evaluating exams only in one period). Still other presbyteries may leave it to their readers to decide whether to read in one or both reading periods. 

Hopefully this flexibility will make it easier for presbyteries to recruit readers, increase the likelihood that readers will fulfill their commitments made to the presbytery and the broader church, and provide sufficient readers in each reading period to make the process efficient and manageable.

The “User’s Guide” for this online reporting site has been updated to cover the reader reporting process and other recent changes. The updated user’s guide is available at:

Increasing the opportunities each year for candidates to take the senior ordination exams and substantially reducing the time until results are available promise to tremendously benefit both them and to their presbyteries. This benefit is only possible by the willingness of readers to provide this additional service.

Categories: Ordination Exams, Ordination Process

Tags: ordination exam readers, quarterly exams

March 27, 2014

Options among Questions on the Ords

In my previous post I addressed a number of changes that the Presbyteries’ Cooperative Committee on Examinations for Candidates (PCC) is introducing this summer as it begins offering the senior ordination exams quarterly. The change that has drawn the most attention—both in response to the blog and as I have made visits to a number of presbyteries and seminaries over the past few weeks—has been the PCC’s decision to eliminate the opportunity to choose between an “A or B” option in a section of the exams and between Old Testament or New Testament passages on the Exegesis ...

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March 19, 2014

Quarterly Senior Ordination Exams to begin in July

In May of 2013, the Presbyteries’ Cooperative Committee on Examinations for Candidates (PCC) announced its plan to move to quarterly administration of the “senior” ordination examinations beginning in the second half of 2014. They also announced at that time that there were some changes to the Bible Exegesis, Church Polity, Theological Competence, and Worship and Sacraments exams that would be necessary to accommodate the more frequent offerings. In order to avoid any confusion regarding the 2013-14 program year exams, they held off announcing those related changes. Now that the results of the Spring 2014 exams have been released, it is ...

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July 19, 2013

Exam Resources Updates

In just over month we will enter the second year of fully online ordination examinations. We have learned a lot in this first year, both about how candidates and readers prepare themselves for the online exam process and how they use the system. In response to feedback we have received we have continued to make changes and additions both to our resources and the online exam programming. Today we are formally releasing two updated resources incorporating these changes.

In the examinations section of the Preparation for Ministry portion of the denominational website ( we have added ...

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June 6, 2013

"Basic Training" and More at Big Tent

As I work with presbyteries across the church one of the questions I am often asked is about training opportunities to support preparation for ministry committee leaders and members. Well, this year will mark the fifth biennial Healthy Ministry Conference, the primary national training event in this area. It is part of Big Tent that will be held in Louisville, Kentucky from August 1-3.

The Healthy Ministry Conference addresses a broad range of issues related to mid council work with candidates, teaching elders and congregations, so in this blog I want to highlight some of the workshops that focus on ...

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