A Peak Behind the Curtain
As you read this, I will be in Los Angeles convening a group of volunteers from the Western United States to evaluate Church Polity examinations… but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me explain briefly how I got here.
In 2008, I was invited to become a member of the Committee on Preparation for Ministry. This is a group of pastors and elders who oversee the process of those preparing for ministry in the PC(USA). After my first meeting filled with terminology and processes I didn’t understand, I asked Rev. Fran Park, “Why are elders on this committee? We have no idea what it takes to become a minister. How are we supposed to mentor a student through this process?” Fran gave me a lesson on our shared governance of pastors and elders, how both are called to be leaders at all levels of the Church.
In 2009, another member on the committee suggested I volunteer to read ordination exams. In addition to completing seminary and studying Hebrew and Greek, the PC(USA) requires that would-be ministers pass a set of five examinations to demonstrate competence in basic areas of ministry (Bible Content, Worship and Sacraments, Church Polity, Biblical Exegesis, and Theology). Faced with lengthy resource papers and bibliographies of books I had only begun to explore, I once again felt ill-prepared for my task as a reader.
But once the reading began, I was energized. I felt like this was a place I was called to be. One of the leaders of the meeting (called a convener) encouraged me to consider running for the office of convener. This committee is called the Presbyterian Cooperative Committee (PCC) and is comprised of 12 persons appointed by General Assembly and 12 persons elected from the various regions around the country where the examinations are read.
I volunteered to read exams the following year and learned that our reading group was electing a convener. I decided to see if that was where I was to be so put myself in nomination and was elected. This group is an amazing collection of individuals who are committed to Christ and his church. A new wave of feelings of inadequacy rushed over me. I was now responsible to help write the exam questions and resource papers that readers would use in their evaluation. I’m finally starting to feel like a contributing member of the team but still have much to learn.
This process is but one step on the journey to becoming a pastor but it is a high stakes and often stressful time. Some who have gone far down their path have found these exams a challenge they are not able to overcome. It is a means to evaluate a person’s readiness to begin ministry so our hope is that this tool is used by those entrusted with overseeing the preparation for ministry process to discern God’s Spirit and will for a candidate.
We meet from Sunday to Wednesday and begin each day in worship, then evaluate exams or the readers’ comments for 10 to 12 hours every day. It is exhilarating and exhausting work. Please keep the readers and conveners in your prayers as we undertake this task in service to the church.