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The Rev. Timothy Cargal, Ph.D., serves as Assistant Stated Clerk for Preparation for Ministry in 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 of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). 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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October 16, 2015

PCC Letter on BCE Preparation

Today the Presbyteries' Cooperative Committee on Examinations for Candidates (PCC) sent the following message to all CPM moderators and PC(USA) contact persons at theological seminaries:


The members of the Bible Task Group and the Executive Committee of the Presbyteries’ Cooperative Committee on Examinations for Candidates (PCC) are writing in response to concerns raised about the most recent Bible Content Exam (BCE), administered in September 2015. We have discussed the exam and related issues and have agreed to send this letter with a reiteration of suggested approaches to preparing for the BCE. We also are offering to assist Presbyteries and other groups with preparation of candidates for the upcoming BCE in February 2016 and for future exams.

The best approach for preparing to take the BCE is to study the Bible itself and to review materials that aid understanding its “stories, themes, and key passages” (the areas to be assessed established by the General Assembly). For several years now the PCC and Office of Preparation for Ministry have offered the following advice through the Exams Handbook and online training resources:

The key thing to remember is that BCE tests given prior to 2009 are now just like practice tests in ACT/SAT/GRE study guides; they can help someone understand the types of questions and subject areas that will present them with the most difficulty. However, reviewing past tests will generally not be as effective as the methods mentioned above in strengthening one’s breadth of knowledge regarding the specific questions that will be encountered on the BCE.

There are also a few widely available books that provide reviews of the basic content of the Bible that may be useful in preparing for the BCE. We believe all of these resources and techniques are the most efficient ways to prepare for the exam. There may still be individual questions that are more specific than the content gleaned from a general study of the Bible. However, we strive to create every Bible Content Exam in a way that reflects its purpose to examine the stories, themes and key passages of the Bible, maintaining the requirement of a score of 70 out of 100 possible points to achieve a passing score.

All six members of the Bible Task Group and additional members of the PCC along with Tim Cargal, staff support to the PCC, are willing and ready to meet with representatives from presbyteries and seminaries in their area. If you are interested in such assistance, please contact Kathy Riley, Chair of the PCC Bible Task Group at or contact Tim Cargal at


Yours in Christ,

Presbyteries’ Cooperative Committee on Examinations for Candidates

Executive Committee:

Teaching Elder Steve Ranney, D.Min., Moderator

Ruling Elder Janis Adams, Secretary

Teaching Elder Ken Broman-Fulks

Teaching Elder Michelle Moe

Teaching Elder Kathy Riley, Ph.D.

Teaching Elder Marnie Silbert


Bible Task Group:

Teaching Elder Kathy Riley, Ph.D., Moderator

Teaching Elder Clay Allard

Teaching Elder Margaret Aymer, Ph.D.

Ruling Elder Margaret Cowan, Ph.D.

Teaching Elder Leslie Dobbs-Allsopp

Teaching Elder Pamela Szurek


Categories: Ordination Exams

September 4, 2015

Bible Content Exam Results

The Bible Content Examination (BCE) was administered today, and the results both in terms of the average score on the exams and the percentage of inquirers and candidates who met the minimum score (70%) required to “Satisfy” this requirement in the preparation for ministry process were below historical averages.

A total of 127 individuals took the BCE, and the average score was 63.5%, which is about 10-15% lower than historical trends. However, since that average score fell below the minimum requirement, only 36 people (28.3%) scored high enough to receive a “Satisfactory” evaluation on the exam. By way ...

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August 21, 2015

Plagiarism in Ordination Exams

During my six years working with the preparation for ministry process for the Office of the General Assembly, I had previously worked with presbyteries on three occasions investigating cases of plagiarism in the standard ordination exams. For the just completed Summer 2015 exams, I am now working with five presbyteries.

To be clear, I am not talking about cases of “technical” or “minor plagiarism.” I recognize that there are those who think that “sloppy” identification of sources or quotations that don’t follow “proper academic standards of citation” are not “really plagiarism.” Such examples of directly using words from the ...

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June 22, 2015

Updated "Advisory Handbook" Released

A new edition of the Advisory Handbook has been released to continue the work of providing “models of ways presbyteries are responding to unique and emerging issues related to the preparation and equipping of persons for ordered ministry as a teaching elder” (General Assembly Minutes, 2014, Part 1, pages 378-79).

The 220th General Assembly (2012) created a special committee to review the overall preparation for ministry process and the particular role of the standard ordination exams within it. One of the key findings of that special committee was that there had not “yet been sufficient time for the church ...

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May 18, 2015

Placing Candidates--Some Numbers

Perhaps it is because of graduation season, but I have received several inquiries recently about how long it is taking our graduates to find calls to ordained ministry. Having done some research to respond to these questions, I thought there would probably be a broader audience with interest in what I discovered.

To begin, I need to stress that the proper question within our polity is not really, “How long after graduation?” but rather, “How long after ‘certification of readiness to be examined for ordination, pending a call’?” Within our church, eligibility for ordination is not primarily determined by seminary ...

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