Today as I write these words I am sitting in Wingate Hall 301 with several candidates for ordination in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). On this weekend, across the United States, PCUSA candidates are taking a series of ordination exams. I am one of the proctors for the exams. Examination areas include theology, worship and sacraments, polity, and biblical exegesis, and many of the questions are based on ministry-related case studies. Over the next month or so, ministers and lay leaders from a wide range of presbyteries will receive, read, and grade the exams. Students who pass the exams will make their way through the final stages of the PCUSA ordination process as they seek and accept pastoral calls and are ordained.
This semester’s schedule at our school includes several “denominational” courses that are designed to support students as they move through their traditions’ ordination processes. Students can explore through these courses the theologies and polities of the United Church of Christ, the Disciples of Christ, or the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. In past semesters, we have offered courses focused on the Episcopal, Baptist, Quaker, United Methodist and Lutheran traditions. We have plans to continue in future semesters to offer courses that focus on these and other denominations and traditions. As students take these courses in tandem with other course offerings in our program, they have a unique opportunity to think about their traditions alongside and in conversation with students from other traditions they will encounter in the cities and towns where they will serve in the future.
One of the gifts of studying ministry at Wake Forest is the diversity of perspectives and traditions to which students give voice in classrooms, worship, workshops, and other School of Divinity and University events. I am teaching an introduction to Christian worship and liturgical theology this semester. Nineteen students are enrolled in the course. These students come from a variety of denominational and non-denominational worshipping traditions and backgrounds, including Baptist, Quaker, Episcopal, United Church of Christ, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Roman Catholic, United Methodist, and A.M.E. Zion (and perhaps others that I have overlooked here or have not yet discovered through classroom conversations). Classroom dialogue is lively and enlightening as students share from their own experiences as lay people, ministry interns, and pastoral leaders their ideas and perspectives on the meaning and purpose of Christian worship. One goal I have for the worship course is that through study and dialogue as both unfold in the midst of this rich diversity, students will gain greater understanding of and clarity about the traditions from which they come and within which they will lead or are already leading.
Students in our program who want to be ordained are encouraged to work closely with their congregational and denominational mentors to clarify their traditions’ ordination requirements. Some of our students will meet those requirements by spending time in their denominations’ seminaries deepening their knowledge of theology and ministry in those denominations. Others will work as interns in churches affiliated with their denominations. As I proctor PCUSA ordination exams today, I celebrate the ways in which our Master of Divinity program supports and uniquely enhances for all of our students their capacity both to embrace their own traditions and to lead in communities that are increasing ecumenical and religiously pluralistic.
Dropping and Adding Spring Term 2013 Courses:
Incomplete work from the Fall Term 2012 is due to the course instructor by February 14, 2012.
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Blessings on the week ahead,
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs