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A Suggested Guide for Taking Men Under Care of Presbytery

The purpose of this paper is to suggest guidelines for Presbyteries of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, as they take under their care candidates for the gospel ministry. In attempting to do this we have used the entire text of Chapter XXI, section 2 of the Form of Government (which is quoted below, in italics). Using this material as our basic framework, we have suggested how each of the stipulated requirements may be accomplished.

Prior to licensure candidates shall be taken under care of a presbytery.

1. A candidate must be a communicant member of a local congregation of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

2. Ordinarily it should be of the same presbytery in which he is applying to be taken under care.

3. The Presbytery shall receive a written recommendation from the session of the local congregation of which the candidate is a member, certifying that in its judgment his Christian faith and potential gifts qualify him to be taken under the care of the presbytery with a view to ordination to the gospel ministry.

  1. The official letter from the Session to the Presbytery should include a statement indicating how long the candidate has been a member of this particular church.
  2. Presbytery ought to satisfy itself that the candidate has been a member of this particular church long enough to have a good indication of the candidate's gifts and faithfulness.
  3. In recommending a candidate to the care of Presbytery a Session should provide answers to the following questions:
    1. Has this man ever been divorced? If so, a full report of all the circumstances, with the Session's evaluation, is to be provided.
    2. Is there evidence that he is a man of prayer?
    3. Does he demonstrate that he is self-controlled and temperate in behavior?
    4. Is he respected by people both inside and outside the church?
    5. Does he lose his temper?
    6. Does he live a well-disciplined life?
    7. Does he show that he has an aptitude for teaching others?
    8. Does he show an aptitude for refuting error with sound doctrine?
    9. Does he give evidence of being a lover of money?
    10. Is he exercising effective headship in marriage without tyranny?
    11. Does he (together with his wife) control his children?
    12. Does he (and the family) show hospitality?
    13. Is he a recent convert?
    14. Has he shown a willingness to do the lowly, difficult tasks?
    15. When given a difficult and thankless task, does he show perseverance?
    16. Have you polled the congregation (perhaps informally) to see whether the Lord's people who know him would want him to rule over them?
    17. Would the Session favor the nomination of this man as a ruling elder?
    18. Has anything come to your attention to raise serious doubt about his suitability to be an office-bearer?
  4. Answers to the above 18 questions, supplied by the session, could help the Presbytery as it carries out the next two requirements ([4] and [5] below). In this inquiry, Presbytery might well question both the Session delegates, and the candidate, particularly where a serious weakness is noted.

4. It is of particular importance, at this time, that the presbytery inquire 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.

5. It is therefore the duty of a presbytery in taking a candidate under its care, to examine him respecting his Christian faith, life, service, and the motives influencing him to desire the sacred office.

6. 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 for the work of the ministry.

  1. The Session of the local church will have the immediate supervision, and therefore the primary responsibility.
  2. Presbytery should require periodic reports from the Session concerning the development of the candidate.
  3. Particular attention should be given to areas of perceived weakness, or uncertainty.

7. If a candidate desires to place himself under the care of a presbytery other than his own, he shall request his presbytery to forward the written recommendation of his session to the presbytery under whose care he desires to place himself.

8. That presbytery shall examine the candidate as required above of all candidates and, if it receives him as a candidate, shall give him all that continuing care above required.

9. If the exception envisioned in [7] and [8] is allowed, it is imperative that the vital link between the Presbytery and the Session that has immediate and sustained supervision of the candidate not be weakened.

Published at the direction of the Christian Education Committee and its Subcommittee on Ministerial Training, 11/30/99.

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