For Candidates for Licensure
From Form of Government XXI:4:
The candidate for licensure shall be examined by the presbytery, or by a committee appointed for that purpose, in the English Bible, ecclesiastical history, theology, and the original languages of the Scriptures. The presbytery shall also satisfy itself, by receiving testimonials or by other means, of the candidate's piety and exemplary life and his personal zeal for and experience in presenting the gospel to others.
Testimonials are an important part of the licensure process and the presbytery weighs them carefully. Candidates should be thoughtful regarding their testimonials. Good testimonials will confirm for the presbytery the candidate's usefulness in ministry and growth in giftedness.
Usually between three and five testimonials are appropriate. The presbytery would like to hear a testimonial from the candidate's session which would include a description of the candidate's ministry at his home church. Some other possibilities would include, for example: testimonials regarding Sunday School classes taught, ministry at a rescue mission, a summer internship, and so on.
For Candidates for Ordination
From Form of Government XXIII:6:
Trials for ordination shall consist of the following: (1) the evaluation of written and oral testimonials as to the candidate's satisfactory exercise of the gifts for the gospel ministry; (2) an examination as to the candidate's Christian faith and life; as to his knowledge of the Bible, theology, apologetics, ecclesiastical history, the Greek and Hebrew languages, and such other branches of learning as to the presbytery may appear requisite; and as to his knowledge of the confession, government, discipline, and worship of the Church; this examination may include such written discourses, founded on the Word of God, as shall seem proper to the presbytery.
Candidates for ordination should also give careful thought to their testimonials. A testimonial from the home session is usually helpful. If the candidate has served as stated supply, a testimonial from that session would be appropriate. This would also be the case for internships.
Candidate who have served in churches outside the OPC should not be reluctant to request testimonials from those churches. The presbytery would be interested to hear how the candidate exercised his gifts with them.
For Ministers Transferring their Credentials
From Form of Government XXIII:2:
A minister may be received from another denomination when he has given sufficient evidence that he has the ministerial gifts required for instruction and rule in Christ's church in accordance with the provisions of Section 6 of this chapter.
The Form of Government indicates that for a minister transferring from another denomination, there are two parts to the requirements of Chapter XXXIII, namely testimonials and examinations. The weight put on each part may vary with each minister. Ministers who have recently been ordained and who have a shorter period of ministry may be required to have more extensive exams. On the other hand, it is possible for the presbytery to depend more on testimonials for ministers who have longer experiences in ministry. In that case the examination process would be less formal. Obviously there are many considerations in play so it is important for the calling session and the minister to work closely with the committee.
In every case testimonials for ministers transferring from another denomination are very important. Testimonials from the previous session would be helpful, as would those from ministers or elders who worked with him. If possible, testimonials from men who are known to the presbyters would be preferred. Good testimonials should showcase the minister's fruitfulness in ministry and usefulness in Christ's kingdom.
If the minister has served as stated supply the presbytery would naturally expect a fulsome testimonial from the calling session!
(Of course in no case would a theological interview and theology exam on the floor of presbytery ever be waived.)
Testimonials may be submitted either electronically or on paper. They should be sent to the clerk of presbytery. However it is helpful if a copy is also sent to the committee. The candidate or minister should request testimonials well in advance of the meeting of presbytery to make sure they are received in time.