33In the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, in order to receive a call to service for which one must be ordained and installed as a minister (FOG 9), it is necessary either to be an ordained minister or to be a licentiate in the OPC (FOG 22:1).
The Form of Government has provisions for examining and receiving ministers ordained in other denominations, but there are no provisions for transferring the licensure credentials of men licensed outside the OPC; therefore, it is necessary for all unordained men who would seek a call to the OP ministry, whether they are members of the OPC or licensed members of another denomination, to fulfill the requirements for licensure in the OPC and be licensed by a presbytery of the OPC. The purpose and requirements for licensure are given in chapter 21 of the Form of Government, which candidates are urged to read for themselves.
Licensure is a preliminary step to ordination to the gospel ministry, which does two things: First, in licensing a candidate to preach the gospel, the presbytery is assuring churches in all OP presbyteries that the man is fit to preach the gospel and qualified to seek a call to ordained service. Second, the period of licensure is a time for continued growth and the ongoing testing of the candidate’s gifts for the ministry—a period of probation under the guidance of the presbytery, which is concluded by further examinations for ordination (FOG 21:1; 23:2-10). Following are the steps to licensure.
1. The candidate must be or become a member of an Orthodox Presbyterian Church (FOG 21:2).
2. The candidate comes under the care of an OP presbytery (FOG 21:2). In this relationship, the presbytery “must show its continuing concern for the progress of all the candidates under its care, and shall continually guide, counsel, and help them as they further prepare themselves for the work of the ministry” (FOG 21:2). The Presbytery of the Midwest guides its candidates under care largely through the work of its Candidates and Credentials Committee.
Is licensure transferrable? The Committee believes that FOG 22:8, 9, 10 imply “yes.” A presbytery licenses a man to “preach the gospel wherever God in His providence may call you” (21:8), not just within the bounds of his licensing presbytery. So each OP presbytery licenses a man for the whole church, not just for the churches in its region. A man’s trials begun in one presbytery may be continued (not started over) in another (21:9). And if he changes presbyteries, his license goes with him as part of his testimonials (21:10).
For a man already licensed in another denomination and coming into the OPC to seek a call to ministry, the under-care period may be highly abbreviated. Under some circumstances a presbytery might take a man under care and immediately proceed to examine him for licensure (conceivably concluding the whole process at the same meeting). To come under care, the following conditions must be met:
a. The session of the candidate’s local church writes a letter to the presbytery “certifying that in its judgment his Christian faith and potential gifts qualify him to be taken under care of the presbytery” to further his preparation for the gospel ministry.
b. The presbytery, in a public meeting, interviews the candidate, inquiring particularly “as to the grace of God in him and whether he be of such holiness of life as is requisite in a minister of the gospel.” The presbytery must “examine him respecting his Christian faith, life, service, and the motives influencing him to desire the sacred office” (FOG 21:2).
3. Licensure requirements and examination procedures. There are several kinds of requirements for licensure: educational requirements, examinations in specified areas, testimonials, sermon preaching, and papers (FOG 21:3-8). In the Presbytery of the Midwest, the Candidates and Credentials Committee guides a candidate through these requirements and trials. Several of the required examinations are conducted by the C&C Committee (or a subcommittee appointed by it) for the presbytery, with the results being reported to the presbytery for its approval. Following are the requirements for licensure.
a. Academic requirements (FOG 21:3).
(1) A “bachelor of arts degree, or its academic equivalent, from a college or university of reputable academic standing,” and
(2) Completion of “an adequate course of study lasting at least one year and a half in a theological seminary.”
b. Examinations required (FOG 21:4).
Original languages of the Scriptures
(2) Conducted before the presbytery:
TheologyThe C&C Committee will examine the candidate in theology before the public examination by the presbytery, in order to help the candidate by discovering areas of weakness or error that may need to be strengthened or corrected. If one-fourth of the presbyters present during the presbytery’s theology examination are dissatisfied, the candidate shall be required to continue the examination at a future meeting of presbytery. The C&C Committee will help the candidate to prepare for such a continued exam.
c. Testimonials or “other means” sufficient to satisfy the presbytery of the candidate’s “piety and exemplary life and his personal zeal for and experience in presenting the gospel to others” (FOG 21:4). “Testimonials” ordinarily means letters written by persons qualified to evaluate the candidate (such as ruling or teaching elders under whom an internship may have been served, current session, etc.), but the presbytery might also permit individuals to testify orally at its meeting and may publicly examine the candidate in the areas specified.
d. Sermon. The Presbytery of the Midwest requires its candidates to preach at least one trial sermon to the presbytery in a public meeting (FOG 21:5). The C&C Committee asks candidates to give its chairman (for distribution to the committee), at least one month prior to the meeting at which the sermon will be preached: the Scripture text, a statement of the theme of the sermon, and a detailed outline of the sermon (or a copy of the actual sermon notes or a manuscript copy of the sermon). This will enable the committee to help a candidate strengthen possible deficiencies in his sermon before it is preached publicly. Under some circumstances the committee may not insist on the one-month requirement.
e. Papers (FOG 21:5)
(1) “An essay on a theological theme,” and
(2) “An exegesis of the Hebrew or Greek text of a passage of Scripture.”
Ordinarily the C&C Committee will assign the themes and texts and expect original papers written for this purpose (because we want to examine the candidate’s current views and competence, not those of prior years, such as during seminary). There may be circumstances in which the committee would not insist on new papers on assigned topics and texts. A candidate or his session can appeal to the presbytery if they believe the committee is unreasonably demanding.
Possible exceptions to the requirements: “No exception shall be made of any of the educational or other requirements for licensure outlined above unless the presbytery, after reporting the whole matter to the general assembly and weighing such advice as it may offer, shall judge, by a three-fourths vote of the members present, that the exception is warranted by the manifest qualifications of the candidate for the holy office of the gospel ministry” (FOG 21:6).
f. Public affirmations (FOG 21:7-8). When (and if) the presbytery has approved the candidates trials for licensure, the moderator will put the following questions to him, to which he must give affirmative answers.
(1) Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice?
(2) Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures?
(3) Do you promise to seek the purity, the peace, and the unity of the church?
(4) Do you promise to submit yourself, in the Lord, to the government of this presbytery, or any other presbytery under the jurisdiction of which you may come?