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About this blog

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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June 22, 2015

Updated "Advisory Handbook" Released

Cover of June 2015 release of "Advisory Handbook on Preparation for Ministry in the PC(USA)"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 to adjust to the changes in the Form of Government since its revision in 2011.” Its recommendation, approved by the 221st General Assembly (2014), was to

Encourage presbyteries, through whatever structure they have in place to guide the preparation of persons for ordered ministry as a teaching elder, to make full use of the flexibility provided by the Form of Government in G-2.06, particularly 2.0610, to respond to the unique needs of individual inquirers and candidates, especially those from immigrant and underserved communities. (Minutes, 2014, Part 1, page 378)

At the recommendation of its special committee, the Assembly referred to the presbyteries amendments to G-2.0607 and G-2.0610 to facilitate this flexibility in both the process and the ordination exams, and the presbyteries approved the amendments with near unanimous support.

The new edition of the Advisory Handbook was produced in response to the General Assembly’s recommendations and the amendments that came into effect on June 21, 2015. In fact, every line of this Handbook has been reviewed and updated as necessary. The “Preparing for Ministry Today” chapter has had all statistical information checked and updated where more recent data are available. In response to a recommendation from the 2014 General Assembly that presbyteries provide more information about the current realities faced by persons seeking calls to pastoral positions within the church, a new section has been added to that chapter presenting the findings of a recent study into how long it is taking candidates to receive calls once they have been “certified ready for examination for ordination, pending a call.”

Mid Council Ministries staff also took the occasion of these required changes to bring the style of this Handbook into line with the most recent editions of the Handbook on Standard Ordination Examinations in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) with an eye toward facilitating an e-book format release in the future.  This combination of changes in both form and content signals to all those engaged in the preparation for ministry process the General Assembly’s call for the church to continue to build on the work of recent years in developing a process that utilizes “different and equally acceptable ways to uphold the national standards for preparation, ordination, installation, and the practice of ministry.”

The full Advisory Handbook (in Adobe Acrobat Reader format [PDF]) can be downloaded from a link in the preparation for ministry section of the Office of the General Assembly website ( Links are also provided on that page to files of each section of the Handbook in both PDF and Word (.doc) formats for ease of use as handouts or as foundations for developing presbytery policy and procedure manuals.

Categories: Ordination Exams, Ordination Process

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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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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