John and I were chatting via e-mail the other day about what men have to go through to be ordained. Recently I've spent a good deal of time with the Church Order of the United Reformed Church, and I'd like to share their take on this (and it also gives me a chance to fool around with Blogger's updated editor that I've avoided for a few years now).
This is what one must do to be ordained in the United Reformed Church:
Competent men should be urged to study for the ministry of the Word. A man who is a member of a church of the federation and who aspires to the ministry must evidence genuine godliness to his Consistory, which shall assume supervision of all aspects of his training, including his licensure to exhort, and assure that he receives a thoroughly reformed theological education. The council of his church should help him ensure that his financial needs are met. (See Appendix 1)
This simply means one interested in ministry is to be sent off to seminary. The key phrase though is "licensure to exhort." This is aquired by the following:
Guidelines for a Licensure Exam
a. A seminary faculty recommendation.
b. A brief statement of personal faith and confessional commitment.
a. The prospective licentiate must apply to his Consistory for the exam, securing the required credentials. At least thirty days before the exam, the Consistory is to announce publicly its intention to examine the prospective licentiate, providing opportunity for other Consistories to render observation and/or objections.
b. The prospective licentiate must be examined by his Consistory, and the successful completion of the exam will be certified to other Consistories within the federation.
c. An exhorting license is normally valid for one year, and extension may be requested annually in writing and may require another interview.
a. The prospective licentiate must submit two written sermons for review by his Consistory.
b. The oral exam must address the following: first, the licentiate's godly walk; second, his commitment to the Reformed faith; third, his understanding of public worship; and fourth, matters of exegetical and homiletical method.
So that doesn't sound too bad. Then comes the following:
At the conclusion of such training, a student must approach his Consistory to become a candidate for the ministry of the Word, which shall arrange for his examination at a meeting of the classis of which his Consistory is a participant. No one shall be declared a candidate for the ministry until he has sustained an examination at a meeting of this classis, in the presence of his Consistory, of his Christian faith and experience, of his call to the ministry, of his knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, both in the original languages and in English translations, of the Three Forms of Unity, of Christian doctrine, Christian ethics and church history; of the Church Order, and of his knowledge and aptitude with regard to the particular duties and responsibilities of the minister of the Word, especially the preparation and preaching of sermons. Upon sustaining this exam in the presence of his Consistory and with the concurring advice of the delegates to this meeting of classis, his Consistory shall declare him a candidate for the office of minister of the Word. (See Appendix 2.)
So off to Appendix 2:
Guidelines for a Candidacy Exam
a. A recommendation from the prospective candidate's council.
b. A medical evaluation of health.
c. A diploma certifying reception of a Master of Divinity degree or an equivalent academic degree.
d. A transcript of all seminary grades.
e. A statement of testimony from the prospective candidate.
a. The prospective candidate's Consistory must request a meeting of classis for this exam.
b. The inviting Consistory must circulate copies of the required credentials among the Consistories of classis.
c. The inviting Consistory must make known that the candidate has sustained his candidacy exam and is available for call to the churches.
d. If the candidacy exam is sustained, and should the candidate accept a call within the same classis, the ordination exam is ordinarily waived, to avoid duplication of work within the classis. Taking note of this possibility, delegates hearing the candidacy exam should determine whether the performance is sufficient to warrant such a waiver.
a. The prospective candidate must submit three written sermons for evaluation. Two of these must be on an assigned Old Testament text and an assigned New Testament text. The third sermon must be a catechism sermon on a Lord's Day or question and answer of his choosing. One of these sermons must be preached in a public worship service.
b. The two areas to be covered in this exam are
1. biblical and confessional commitment, and.
2. ministerial competence. The former regards the prospective candidate's knowledge of and loyalty to Scripture and the Confessions; the latter investigates his theological and ministerial knowledge and ability. This exam should, therefore, investigate the following specific areas:
1. Practica: the prospective candidate's personal and spiritual life, his relationship with the Lord, his growth in faith, his background and preparation for ministry, his understanding of ministerial office and his motives for seeking entrance thereto, liturgics, homiletics, pastoral care, evangelism.
2. Bible knowledge: the prospective candidate's doctrine of Scripture, canonicity, hermeneutics, etc., and familiarity with the contents of the various books of the Bible.
3. Biblical exegesis: an Old Testament and a New Testament passage should be assigned to the prospective candidate at least three week in advance (one of them in connection with one of his assigned sermons); the examiner should inquire concerning the meaning of the text and the prospective candidate's ability to work with the original languages and with a suitable exegetical method.
4. Confessional knowledge: the history and content of the Three Forms of Unity, the prospective candidate's willingness to subscribe to them by signing the Form of Subscription.
5. Reformed doctrine: the teaching of Scripture and the Confessions regarding the six major areas of Reformed doctrine (Theology, Anthropology, Christology, Soteriology, Ecclesiology, and Eschatology).
6. Church history: the flow of church history, in terms of major persons, heresies, etc., with special emphasis on the Reformation and the history of the Reformed churches.
7. Ethics: the meaning and function of the Decalogue, also in relation to Christian motivation and character, and to contemporary moral problems.
8. Church Polity: the history and principles of Reformed church polity, and the content of the Church Order.
Now that's a hefty challenge, but you're still not done.
The lawful calling to the office of minister of those who have not previously been in that office consists of:
First, the election by the council of one who has been declared a candidate according to the regulations prescribed herein, after having prayed and received the advice of the congregation;
Second, the examination of both doctrine and life, which shall be conducted to the satisfaction of the delegates to the classis of which the calling church is a participant, according to the regulations adopted by the federation (see Appendix 3);
Finally, the public ordination before the congregation, which shall take place with appropriate instructions, admonitions, prayers and subscription to the Three Forms of Unity by signing the Form of Subscription, followed with the laying on of hands by the ministers who are present and by the elders of the congregation, with the use of the appropriate liturgical form.
And this entails the following:
Guidelines for an Ordination Exam
1. CREDENTIAL: A valid letter of call
a. Exceptional case.: If the ordination exam would occur in the same classis in which the candidacy exam was sustained, then the ordination exam may be waived by the delegates conducting the candidacy exam.
b. The candidate's calling Consistory must invite classis to participate in an ordination exam.
c. The candidate is to preach a sermon in a public worship service which he conducts under the auspices of his calling Consistory.
d. Upon sustaining the exam, the classis shall declare the candidate eligible to be ordained as a minister of the Word and sacraments among the United Reformed Churches in North America.
The two areas to be covered in this exam are .1. biblical and confessional commitment, and .2. ministerial competence. The former regards the prospective candidate's knowledge of and loyalty to Scripture and the Confessions; the latter investigates his theological and ministerial knowledge and ability. This exam should, therefore, investigate the following specific areas:
1. Practica: the prospective candidate's personal and spiritual life, his relationship with the Lord, his growth in faith, his background and preparation for ministry, his understanding of ministerial office and his motives for seeking entrance thereto, liturgics, homiletics, pastoral care, and evangelism.
2. Church polity: the history and principles of Reformed church polity, and the content of the Church Order.
3. Confessional knowledge: the history and content of the Three Forms of Unity, concerning the prospective candidate's willingness to subscribe to them by signing the Form of Subscription.
4. Reformed doctrine: the teaching of Scripture and the Confessions regarding the six major areas of Reformed doctrine (Theology, Anthropology, Christology, Soteriology, Ecclesiology, and Eschatology).
5. Ethics: the meaning and function of the Decalogue, also in relation to Christian motivation and character, and to various contemporary moral problems.
So there you have it. The URC isn't a "me in the woods with my Bible" type of thing, that's for sure.