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.”
The Presbyteries’ Cooperative Committee on Examinations for Candidates (PCC) is currently conducting its Annual Meeting. During its opening business session, the PCC considered a number of issues related to moving the exams to an online system. There have been many reasons why the PCC began this effort more than five years ago, but from the very beginning a primary one is that people now simply expect to have the advantages made possible by technological advancement.
At its meeting last year, the PCC took one step that was not directly related to online administration of the examinations themselves but that definitely related to the ways many people now commonly use technology. Those taking the examinations in the areas of Polity, Theology, and Worship and Sacraments were given permission to access the constitutional documents of the church—the current Book of Order and The Book of Confessions—in print, electronic form (as a PDF file), or both when writing the portions of those exams that required citations from those resources.
This year the PCC is taking another step in that direction. Beginning with the August 2012 administration of the exams, the Theology exam and the Worship and Sacraments exam will join the Polity exam in making the appropriate constitutional documents available as resources in all sections of the exams. For the Theology exam, this will mean that candidates will be permitted access to The Book of Confessions throughout the examination. For the Worship and Sacraments exam, both The Book of Confessions and also now the 2011-2013 Book of Order will be available in all three sections of the exam. In keeping with practice already begun, test takers will be able to use print, PDF, or both formats of these materials.
In a day and age when many people keep frequently used resources on their “smart phones” for quick reference anywhere and anytime, many candidates have observed that they really could immediately consult the Book of Order or The Book of Confessions even if asked a question by someone in their church during a passing conversation. This change in the availability of resources in the writing of these examinations acknowledges this impact of technology on the way that ministry is actually practiced.
To be sure (and in the interests of full disclosure), there were other factors considered by the PCC in making this change in what has been a longstanding practice of having both “open book” and “closed book” sections on the Theology and the Worship and Sacraments exams. In the fully online testing environment that will be used beginning in August, there is not a way to “collect” the constitutional documents from test takers before they are “handed the pages” of the exams with questions for the “closed book” sections. This change will also permit development of questions in all sections of the exams that assess more focused knowledge about the confessions and the range of practices covered in the Directory for Worship.
Instructions for the exams are being revised, and updated copies of the instructions will be sent to all those already registered for the August exams, those who will register before the July 15 deadline for those exams, and to the Handbook on Standard Ordination Examinations. Additionally, notice of the change is being sent to all presbytery committees, exam proctors, and seminary contact persons.