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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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May 18, 2015

Placing Candidates--Some Numbers

graduate hold sign reading "now what?"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 graduation (although that is a requirement). It is determined through a process of discernment with a presbytery of care regarding the person’s suitability, fitness, and readiness for a call requiring ordination (G-2.0603 and G-2.0604). If the person has not completed that process prior to graduation, then they will not be able to even begin looking for a call.

There are other factors that complicate answering the question about how long it takes candidates to receive a call. First, we have only been asking presbyteries to report to the Office of the General Assembly when candidates are “certified ready” for about 18 months, and many are not yet into the habit. Second, not everyone who is “certified ready” is actively seeking a call (some documentation on that in a moment). So with those caveats, here is the information I do have.

As of mid-May 2015 presbyteries are reporting to my office that they have 288 persons who are “under care” and “certified ready to be examined for ordination, pending a call.” At that same time Church Leadership Connection (CLC) reports 246 Personal Information Forms (PIF) in the system for candidates/first call seekers actively seeking positions, and an additional 36 PIFs for candidates/first call seekers who are not actively seeking. Adding the two categories of CLC numbers gives a total very close to what is reported by the presbyteries, so together they probably give a fairly accurate representation of the current situation.

Now, as to how long those persons have been looking for that first call, of the 288 persons reported to my office as “under care” and “certified ready,” there are 92 whose date of certification was less than year ago (May 15, 2014). There are 81 whose certification was more than three years ago (May 15, 2012), and for 43 of those it was more than five years (May 15, 2010). It is probable, however, that some of these people—especially at the higher end—have either stopped looking (withdrawn from the process or, like the 36 in the CLC system, simply are not actively searching) or found calls and the presbytery has yet to update their profile. For example, while presbyteries reported 292 ordinations in 2014 to the OGA Records Manager, presbyteries have only reported ordination dates in 2014 for 166 candidates on their online rolls. Nevertheless, taking the numbers we have, for every 10 candidates currently looking for a call . . .

There is another way, however, of looking at this issue: For those who have found calls, how long did it take? Since presbyteries began reporting “certification of readiness” dates online in January 2014, there have been 151 persons for whom both ordination and certification dates were provided. There were actually 203 persons with ordinations reported to my office during this period, but presbyteries did not provide the date(s) for some. Nevertheless, that 151 total for whom we have both ordination and certification dates is a sufficiently random and high enough proportion that it likely is close to the overall pattern. 

For those 151 persons, the time elapsed between certification to ordination ranges from less than a month to 13 years and 8 months. With a sample that small and a range that wide averages are meaningless. The mean, somewhat more useful, was 11 months. Most useful is actually how many were reported as falling within certain ranges:

All these figures underscore the importance of inquirers and candidates keeping their progress in the preparation process with their presbyteries on track with their educational progress in seminary if they are going to be in a position to receive a call at or near the time of graduation.   

Categories: Ordained Ministry, Ordination Process


April 28, 2015

New Formats for BCE Questions

My two previous posts have reviewed changes coming to the Polity, Theology, and Worship exams in response to referrals from the last General Assembly (2014). In this post I will go over changes approved by the Presbyteries’ Cooperative Committee on Examinations for Candidates (PCC) related to the Bible Content Examination (BCE). These changes will take affect beginning with its next administration on September 4, 2015.

The BCE differs from the other standard ordination exams in almost every way. The senior exams in the areas of Bible Exegesis, Church Polity, Theological Competence, and Worship and Sacraments are designed to be taken ...

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April 16, 2015

Oral Component for Standard Exams

In my previous post I discussed the action of the Presbyteries’ Cooperative Committee on Examinations for Candidates (PCC) in response to referrals from the 221st General Assembly (2014) to change the time allotted for the exams in the areas of Church Polity, Theological Competence, and Worship and Sacraments beginning with the July 2015 administration. In this post I will review the PCC’s action in response to the GA’s directive to “integrate oral presentations into the standard examination process.”

The PCC has always permitted presbytery committees or commissions working with inquirers and candidates (CPMs) to approve “special accommodations ...

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March 31, 2015

Beyond Time-Limited Essays

In a press release sent out on Friday, March 27, 2015, the Presbyteries’ Cooperative Committee on Examinations for Candidates (PCC) announced some significant changes to the standard ordination examinations in the PC(USA) that will come into effect beginning in July. Some were in response to referrals from the 221st General Assembly (2014). Over the coming weeks I will explore each of these changes in separate blog posts, going over both the details in the changes and the reasons for them. The first change that I will address relates to the time allotted for the exams in the areas ...

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June 25, 2014

GA Approves Preparation for Ministry Recommendations

Last week the 221st General Assembly received the report of its Special Committee to Review the Preparation for Ministry Process and the Standard Ordination Examinations and approved all twelve of its recommendations. In doing so, the Assembly referred to the presbyteries for their consideration and action constitutional amendments to G-2.0607 and 2.0610 that would facilitate implementation of the first ten recommendations.

On Sunday afternoon the special committee presented a summary of its report to a plenary session of the Assembly. You can view a video version of that report by clicking here (or go to YouTube and ...

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