Tuesday, January 08, 2008

ordination and you

I was examined by the Credentials Committee of Covenant Presbytery today, and they approved me for recommendation for ordination. This is huge, and it really feels great to get this step behind me. My friend Michael compares the completion of ordination to the struggle that consumes the movie Poseidon Adventure-- not a bad analogy.

Almost anyone emerging from seminary and entering ministry will be "ordained" in one way or another. Some will be ordained by the congregation that calls them, while others will be examined by a denomination. I am more convinced at this point in the process than ever: it is imperative that you view ordination, not graduation from seminary, as the completion of your training and preparation for ministry.

This was an idea that my good friend Richard once put before me, and I think he is spot-on with this. (Years of pouring that sort of practical wisdom and mentoring into me is one of many reasons why I've asked Richard to preach at my ordination service.) The truth is, you're not done studying just because you've graduated from seminary; in fact, you might find that you study more than you ever did during seminary!

Different denominations have different standards and requirements for ordination; even within denominations the requirements may change. In the PCA, for example, the general standards are set by the denomination-- but the actual requirements for fulfilling them are set by the individual presbyteries. In my presbytery, I was required to complete one written exam (it took me about 8 hours to complete, and had more than 100 questions), and face oral exams before a committee and the presbytery as a whole. Because I requested to complete ordination in two steps (I was "licensed" by presbytery to be a "stated pulpit supply" for my church beck in October), I face both the committee and the presbytery twice for orals.

Other presbyteries have more rigorous requirements: one that I know of has six individual written exams-- and each can day many hours to finish-- prior to committee and presbytery oral examination. Some presbyteries are more strenuous in certain areas, others more difficult on other areas.

What is true across the board in the PCA-- and, I'm sure, in any denomination or church-- is that there's a lot of work to do in preparing for ordination. Few, if any, seminary graduates are able to emerge from seminary and face this level of comprehensive examination successfully without any further preparation.

As Michael said: "We celebrated my graduation from Covenant Seminary in May. I am not sure why. For the last five months I have continued studying and taking ordination exams." He's right-- not that you shouldn't celebrate the accomplishment of completing seminary, but that you shouldn't see it as the end-- you're still studying and learning until you knock out ordination.

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