Choosing a Seminary
Similar to choosing any institution of higher education, choosing a seminary is a personal decision which balances location, cost, spiritual and community life, and strength of academic and theological program, among other factors. However, to help guide PC(USA) inquirers and candidates to helpful preparation for ministry in the Reformed tradition and ensure the opportunity to meet the academic requirements of the Book of Order, the CPMM should approve inquirers seminary choices before enrolling.
What if I Am Already in Seminary?
If a student is already enrolled in a non-PC(USA) seminary or has graduated from a particular seminary before enrolling as an inquirer, the CPMM will work with the student to see where his/her prior coursework overlaps with PC(USA) and CPMM expectations and if additional coursework is needed. Inquirers and candidates may be required to take additional classes at their own expense at a PC(USA) or other CPMM approved seminary.
The PC(USA) and New Castle Presbytery are committed to high academic standards and rigorous preparation of our clergy, historic with the Presbyterian tradition. We are also committed to providing a diverse educational experience to equip future pastors for the changing needs of the church in today’s world.
The following are the master’s level course requirements for the PC(USA) and New Castle’s CPM. These courses are required to provide background in bible, theology, the Reformed tradition, and basic pastoral skills necessary to become a teaching elder. They may be taken as part of or supplemental to one’s seminary requirements for the M.Div degree.
- New Castle’s CPMM also strongly recommends that inquirers and candidates take or work toward:
- A course that focuses on the Book of Confessions
- A course in Ethics
- A course that connects “church and society”
- A second year of supervised field education in the setting of one’s choice
- Demonstration of advanced competency in an area of one’s passion/ choice
The CPMM does reserve the right to ask a student to take additional coursework in an area(s) where it is felt further experience and education is needed. Students should submit a copy of their academic transcript to the CPMM at the conclusion of each academic year and at any time upon request.
Field Education Expectations
As noted in the course requirements, candidates and inquirers are required to complete at least one year of field education and one unit of Clinical Pastoral Education.
Internship in a PC(USA) Congregation
Those under care of the CPMM must complete at least one year (two semesters or time equivalent) of supervised field education in a PC(USA) congregation. This internship should be in a setting different than one’s home church. Field education reports from both the student and the supervisor should be submitted to the CPMM upon completion of the internship.
Clinical Pastoral Education
Inquirers and candidates must also complete a minimum of one unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at an accredited ACPE site. Units are typically 400 hours completed over an intensive summer or extended over an academic year, and are usually in hospitals or chaplaincy settings. CPE evaluations should be submitted to the CPMM upon completion of the unit.
Students who do not believe they can fulfill the CPE requirement in an accredited setting for exceptional reasons should contact their liaison and the CPM chair to discuss the possibility of appealing for a self-designed CPE alternative. This request must be filed at least a year in advance of when the alternative CPE would begin. The CPMM will not waive the CPE requirement, nor will all appeals be granted, but will work to accommodate students as reasonably as possible.
Standard Ordination Examinations
In order to be certified as ready for ministry, inquirers and candidates are expected to pass five Standard Ordination Examinations. Students must register online at the PC(USA) OGA website. Payment is due upon application, and is the financial responsibility of the student.
Bible Content Exam
The Bible Content Examination is ordinarily taken early in the seminary process, generally during either the first or the second year of theological education, or their equivalents (G-14.0310). It is offered twice a year.
Senior Ordination Exams
The other four Senior Ordination Exams are designed for inquirers and candidates who have completed the equivalent of two full-time years of theological education. The purpose of these exams is to assist the CPMM and presbytery in assessing readiness for ministry in both academic preparation and the ability to use one’s knowledge and experience effectively in practical ministry settings.
The CPMM must give written authorization for inquirers/candidates to take these examinations. These four exams will be offered quarterly each year. Ordinarily, all four examinations are taken at once. Inquirers/candidates who are taking these exams for the first time must have written permission from the CPMM to write fewer than four exams.
Candidate’s Handbook for Ordination Examinations
*Students that require or believe they qualify for testing accommodations for the exams should contact their liaison at least six months prior to taking their first exam so that proper documentation may be obtained and filed.
When a candidate is ready to move to be Certified Ready for Examination/ to Receive a Call, he/she will undergo a final assessment with the CPMM. This assessment aims to evaluate one’s readiness to receive an ordained call through evidence of academic preparation, leadership skills, spiritual development, self-awareness, overall growth, and ability to articulate an emerging call. In addition to the final academic transcripts, the following three documents will guide conversation at the Assessment:
Draft of Personal Information Form (PIF)
Before receiving approval to circulate a PIF, a candidate will provide a draft of the PIF to the CPMM.
Statement of Faith
The faith statement should be no more than two pages. It may include images and font choice is the decision of the writer. A faith statement should aim to include:
- understanding of the triune God
- understanding of each person of the God-head
- understanding of the saving work of Jesus Christ
- understanding of the Church
- understanding of Scripture
- understanding of the Sacraments
- understanding of eschatology
- understanding of humanity and sin
During the course of the last projected year of seminary or candidacy, the candidate, with the help of her/his liaison, will develop a professional portfolio to aid in his/her call search process. A portfolio is a reflection of who you are and who you are becoming as a pastor. It showcases your unique skills and passions.