Saturday, April 3, 2021

Reforming Appalachia: A Robust Under Care Program

    To replant Presbyterianism in West Virginia, the New River Presbytery must employ a robust, active, engaging, and encouraging Under Care Program that guides the advancement of our candidates toward ordination. The goal of such a program is to overcome obstacles that have historically handicapped Presbyterianism in Appalachia by enlisting qualified licentiates and unleashing ordained ministers earlier in the process than has been customary. Such a program should include the following seven categories:

  1. Administration by the Presbytery

    1. Identification and registration of candidates

    2. Tracking, assessment, and reporting of progress

  2. Guidance by the Candidate and Credentials Committee

    1. An Individualized Under Care Plan is an agreement between the presbytery and candidate 

    2. Developed by the candidate and approved by the mentor, session, and Candidates and Credentials Committee

    3. Customized to include the candidate’s plan for education, mentoring, ministry engagement/Internship, licensure, and ordination

    4. With tentative dates for tracking progress 

    5. Monitored by an assigned mentor who reports annually to the Candidates and Credentials Committee. 

  3. Educational opportunities

    1. Three Options

      1. In-bounds, in-person non-traditional educational programs such as the New River Presbytery’s LAMP program (in-development).

      2. Online seminary coursework at established out-of-bounds seminary programs such as RTS, Westminster, Covenant, and Greenville.

      3. Out-of-bounds, in-person seminary programs are not preferable because statistics show seminarians who leave the bounds of the presbytery are less likely to return. 

    2. Licensure Educational Program

      1. Presbytery provides an in-house “course of theological studies” that prepares students for licensure exams.  

    3. Ordination Educational Program

      1. PCA ordination ordinarily presupposes at least a bachelor or masters in any field, although this has been debated and can be exempted under the extraordinary clause.  

      2. Beyond that, ordination requires only “a regular course of theological studies” that fulfills the Uniform Curriculum of the PCA and satisfies the Presbytery.  This means an additional degree or certificate is not necessary for ordination. Such a candidate can be ordained without appeal to the extraordinary clause. 

      3. Presbytery should make available a regular course of theological studies that adds subjects in prep for ordination exams and fulfills the Uniform Curriculum Guidelines of the PCA. 

      4.  Presbytery should encourage completion of professional ministerial degrees or other continuing education needs/desires after ordination. 

  4. Active, In-bounds Ministry Engagement and Internships

    1. Pre and post licensure opportunities for ministry

    2. According to the individualized written program

    3. Managed by a church session

    4. Mentored by the church pastor 

    5. Partnered with the presbytery to provide/require a variety of presbytery-wide experiences

    6. Toward the advancement of Presbyterianism in West Virginia.

  5. Licensure and Licenciate ministry

    1. Terminal or interstitial Licensure

      1. Terminal primarily for pulpit supply and interim ministry

      2. Interstitial as a stage of progress toward ordination

    2. Candidates are licensed as early in the Under Care Program as possible, as soon as wisdom, preparation, and opportunity permit 

    3. So as to arm a presbyterial infantry for the advancement of Presbyterianism in West Virginia

    4. Commissioned and managed by the presbytery toward specific goals developed in partnership with the licentiate.

      1. Filling pulpits

      2. Gathering congregations

      3. Cultivating calls

    5. Reporting annually to the Presbytery.

  6.   Assessment throughout

    1. Of progress

    2. Of continuing interest

    3. Of skills

    4. Of qualification

    5. Toward recommendation for examination for licensure or ordination

  7. Ordination

    1. Upon successful completion of education program, internship, licensure, assessment, cultivation of call, and recommendation 

    2. With the understanding that education will continue toward a terminal professional ministerial degree or other educational needs/desires. 

    3. Requiring the presbytery to administrate and provide for continuing education after ordination.

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