A Guide for Ordination
Our Book of Church Order specifies the procedure in which a licentiate may be ordained Form of Government XXI, XXIII. For licentiates, see especially chapter XXII.12 and chapter XXIII.1-10.
A couple of points are especially important to underline:
1) A licentiate may only accept a call if the presbytery has determined that he has "satisfactorily completed his probation for the gospel ministry," and then grants him permission to accept the call (FG XXII.12.d). Therefore, while a congregation may issue a call to any licentiate, there is no guarantee that the presbytery will approve the call, since licentiates, by definition, are in a period of probation. For this reason the committee seeks to work closely with licentiates and their mentors in order to advise them regarding their readiness to seek a call.
2) While the trials for ordination focus on a man's academic and theological ability, FG XXIII.6 makes it clear that the presbytery is to evaluate testimonials regarding the candidate's "satisfactory exercise of the gifts for the gospel ministry." As such, the committee is interested in evaluating a man's character as much as his knowledge (cf. Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3). The fundamental question for ordination comes down to this: is this man prepared to be a wise and godly pastor?
More Information about Internship
There must be a call from a congregation (or a reasonable expectation of a call) before the presbytery can begin the examination process for a licentiate. However, the committee is interested in the preparation of licentiates and is happy to meet with them at any time in the process. If a licentiate feels that he is weak in a certain area (e.g. apologetics or the Confession) the committee would be pleased to coordinate a plan of study with him. It's always best to address any potential issues as soon as possible.
When a church extends a call to a candidate, that call will come from the congregation (see FOG XXII.1-9.) It would be prudent for the session to allow the C&C committee, the Moderator and the Clerk of Presbytery to examine the call before its approval by the congregation, to make sure that the call is in proper form and to prevent any difficulties. If the call has been approved by a meeting of congregation and then needs to be modified, another meeting would have to be called, which might create delays.
Preparing Calls to Licentiates
Sometimes a call may be presented to Presbytery before the candidate is ready to be examined on the floor. In that case the call is presented simply as information. Presbytery is not able to act on a call until the examination process is complete.
The exams for ordination are as follows:
English Bible Exam**
Church History Exam**
Examination on Book of Church Order
Examination on the Confession
Theology Exam on floor of Presbytery
The exams marks with asterisks (**) are also required for licensure. Therefore committee may recommend that the presbytery accept one or more licensure examinations as satisfying the ordination requirements. The willingness of the committee to make such recommendations would depend on several factors, including if the licentiate was originally examined in the Presbytery of Michigan and Ontario, details of their probation, academic studies, and so on. The more well-known a licentiate is to the committee, the more comfortable the committee would be making decisions on whether or not to make such recommendations to presbytery.
See the Checklist for more information about the exams.
It is only natural for licentiates to be eager for their ordination and installation as ministers. Sessions and congregations are even more so. Nevertheless it is important to be patient and allow sufficient time for the examination procedure, and the proper preparation of the call.
Candidates should be thoughtful about whom to ask for testimonials. Testimonials carry great weight with the presbyters and are an important part of the process.
Candidates would do well to consider ministers or elders with whom the worked during an internship or other ministry experience. For example, if a candidate served as stated supply, an elder who monitored his preaching could give an invaluable testimonial to the candidate's gifts.
See also Recommendations for Testimonials
Form of Government XXIII.6 states that "this examination may include such written discourses, founded on the Word of God, as shall seem proper to the presbytery." In most cases, the committee is able to recommend that the presbytery find the candidate adequately prepared for ordination without any additional work. However if there should appear any weaknesses during the examination process, the committee may assign a course of study, including writing a paper or papers, as needed.
"Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers."
1 Timothy 4:11-16