Re-Forming the Making of Ministers

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James I. Cook

Abstract

At nine o'clock in the morning of November 21, 1994, ten members of the Reformed Church in America (RCA) met in Cerritos, California, to begin work on an assignment voted by the 1994 General Synod: "To propose standards for the preparation of professional ministry in the Reformed Church in America and the means to achieve these standards" (Minutes of General Synod, 1994: 228). Thus began the life of a group bearing a designation of record-breaking length: The Task Force on Standards for the Preparation for the Professional Ministry in the Reformed Church in America.

General Synod mandated a task force of eight members made up of two RCA laypersons, two RCA pastors, one General Synod professor of theology from New Brunswick Theological Seminary, one General Synod professor of theology from Western Theological Seminary, one Theological Education Agency representative, and one RCA specialized minister with clinical pastoral education certification. The eight appointees were Barbara Liggett, Frederick Wezeman, Vern Hoffs, Stanley Perea, Norman Kansfield, James Cook (chair), Cornelis Kors, and Robert Anderson.

The roots of the task force reached back to 1992 when the General Synod dissolved the Board of Theological Education, but kept for itself the responsibility of overseeing "the standards for the preparation for the professional ministry." The synod then lodged this oversight with the General Synod Council, and specifically with that council's Ministry and Personnel Services Committee (MAPS). This responsibility soon confronted the MAPS with a fundamentally constitutional problem: The Book of Church Order (BCO) contains no such standards to oversee. No level of competency is indicated, and the classes are provided with no guidance to assure them that they are examining and ordaining for service to the whole church rather than within their bounds alone. This  problem and its accompanying issues led the MAPS to recommend the creation of a task force to assist both it and the MAPS office in the following tasks: (1) an analysis of the church's needs, (2) the development of a process to provide the denomination with effective means to recruit and educate candidates for ministry, and (3) an equitable and realistic means for evaluating and certifying their readiness for ministry.

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Keywords
Clergy -- Training of; Reformed Church in America -- Clergy; Religious education; Church work; Pastoral theology
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