Questions around the selection of Scripture for the Winter 2023 Bible Exegesis Exam have been the center of conversation in Louisville this week as the Presbyteries’ Cooperative Committee on Examinations for Candidates (PCC) has been holding its annual meeting. During its Thursday plenary, committee members drafted and approved a statement to be added to the registration process recommending that pastors, Committees on Preparation for Ministry (CPM), and presbyteries ensure that systems of support and care are available to candidates taking exams as well as those called to be pastors.
“The exam honor code does not preclude the candidate from seeking pastoral or mental health support during the exam period provided no material assistance is given in answering the exam questions themselves,” the statement reads. “Should a candidate find it is not possible to complete an exam
, the candidate should consult with the CPM to arrange for a future exam or an alternative form of examination.”
The staff support to the PCC are directed to work with the developers who maintain the exam registration and administration system to incorporate the statement into the online registration process.
The selection of Judges 19:1–30 as the basis for the winter exam generated significant debate in social media groups around the denomination, with many saying the passage about sexual violence and murder caused or can cause trauma for many. In response, the PCC issued a statement on Tuesday apologizing for the anger and pain the selection caused.
The PCC also approved a motion on Thursday to form a five-member task group to work with entities within the church that have expressed interest in formal conversations around the formulation of exam questions. At least two seminaries as well as the Committee on Theological Education (COTE) and some advocacy committees within the church have asked to meet with the PCC. The task group will work to convene a gathering, or gatherings, no later than the fourth quarter of this year.
Committee member Christianne Chase supports the idea of meeting with other entities, saying it will show transparency moving forward.
“There is a perception that our work on how we craft these exams is classified as top secret, and part of that comes with the security that must accompany this process to ensure it is fair,” she said. “That has frankly not been helped by some of the actions that have been taken in the last six weeks. We have made a start, and I think it is a good start, but we have not touched on the issue of transparency.”
The Rev. Dr. Robert Lowry, PCC chair, said he was hesitant, at first, to support the motion, but believes it is necessary.
“In the last six weeks, I’ve learned that I don’t know how much I don’t know is going on in the church,” he said. “I’m in favor of the motion and hope that it is a helpful correction to the blind spots I didn’t know I had.”
The PCC will wrap up its annual meeting on Saturday.
The full statement for the registration process is below.
Exam questions include situations and topics often encountered in the practice of validated ministry, some of which may be disturbing. Candidates, pastors, Committees on Preparation for Ministry (CPM), and presbyteries are strongly encouraged to ensure that systems of support and care are available to candidates who are taking exams and those called to be pastors.
The exam honor code does not preclude the candidate from seeking pastoral or mental health support during the exam period provided no material assistance is given in answering the exam questions themselves.
Should a candidate find it is not possible to complete an exam
, the candidate should consult with the CPM to arrange for a future exam or an alternative form of examination.
By registering for the Standard Ordination Exams, I acknowledge receipt of this clarification of the Honor Code and affirm that I have consulted with the CPM to ensure systems of support are available if needed. I further understand that I am entitled to consult with those systems of support during Exams should I need them.