Navigating the CPM Process
The CPM guides a set discernment process for those exploring a call to ordained ministry as a Teaching Elder in the PC(USA). This discernment begins with prayer and listening to the Spirit’s work in our lives. That call is also confirmed by the community around us. One does not need to be certain of a formal call before entering the official process and may exit at any time—just as acceptance to the process is not a guarantee of ordination.
The CPM recognizes that discernment of God’s call and the journey of faith cannot be confined to a checklist and will look different given one’s gifts, passions, life experiences, and individual needs.
The following is a comprehensive overview of the preparation for ministry process as prescribed by the Book of Order and shaped by Donegal Presbytery.
A helpful single page outline/ checklist of the process can be found on the CPM Documents Page.
1: Starting the CPM Process
An individual who has been an active member of a PC(USA) congregation for at least 6 months, and who has prayerfully discerned a possible call to ordained ministry as a teaching elder may apply to become an Inquirer.
The following resources have been provided by the PC(USA) to aid potential inquirers in discerning a call to ministry and whether begin the preparation process:
- Discerning Your Call and Gifts for Ministry of Word and Sacrament
- Gifted by the Flame: Professional Church Vocations
We believe call is both confirmed within oneself, but also affirmed outwardly by the community. An individual seeking to begin the process should schedule a meeting with the session to talk about one’s sense of call and the congregation's affirmation of that call. Officially, before officially enrolling with the presbytery, one must meet with the Session of his/ her home congregation and receive their support and endorsement to begin the process and covenant to support her/him along the way.
When the initial meeting between a potential inquirer and session is scheduled, a member of the session will contact the Presbytery to inform them of that action. The CPM will then send a representative to orient the session to the preparation process.
Potential Inquirers should complete the following PC(USA) forms in preparation for meeting with the Session: (Please see the "forms and documents" page of the portal for fillable PDF versions of these documents)
- 1A: Application to be enrolled by the Presbytery as an Inquirer
- 1B: Questions for Reflection
- 1C: Financial Planning for Theological Education
- After the session meeting, the session will complete form 1D: Session Evaluation and Recommendation
Sessions recommending individuals to begin the process will assign as Session Liaison to that person.
Submit forms 1A, 1B, 1C, and 1D to the Presbytery Office. At that time individuals will be assigned at date for an initial meeting with the CPM.
2. Becoming an Inquirer
The purpose of the inquiry phase is to provide an opportunity for the church and those who believe themselves called to ordered ministry as teaching elders to explore that call together so that the presbytery can make an informed decision about the inquirer’s suitability for ordered ministry (G-2.0603).
One officially becomes an inquirer with the approval and recommendation of the CPM acting on behalf of the Presbytery. The initial CPM meeting focuses on getting to know the individual and his/ her understanding and sense of call to ministry. At this time, the CPM usually approves the inquirer’s choice of seminary. Upon approval he/ she will receive a CPM Liaison to support him/ her in the preparation process. At the conclusion of this meeting, the CPM and inquirer will complete the following OGA form 2A: Report of Consultation regarding application.
After the CPM approval, inquirers and the CPM will complete the following:
- sign form 2B: Covenant Agreement and Inquirer Release
- Complete PA Criminal Background Check, PA Child Abuse Clearance and FBI Fingerprinting. Copies of all 3 completed clearances should be given to the Presbytery Office to keep on file. Information on how to obtain these clearances can be found on the Donegal website here.
New inquirers should schedule and complete a Career/ Psychological Assessment as soon as possible, at a site approved by the CPM. Please contact the CPM chair for a list of approved sites. Costs of this assessment are split in thirds by the presbytery, session, and individual.
3: Inquirer Period
While an inquirer, individuals should continue their education in accordance with Presbytery academic guidelines. One should seek experiences for spiritual and personal growth as well as continual call discernment.
The first of the PC(USA) ordination exams, the Bible Context Exam, should be taken while one is an inquirer.
The inquirer period lasts for a minimum of one year.
4: Moving from Inquirer to Candidate
The purpose of the candidacy phase is to provide for the full preparation of persons to serve the church as teaching elders. This shall be accomplished through the presbytery’s support, guidance, and evaluation of a candidate’s fitness and readiness for a call to ministry requiring ordination (G-2.0604).
Moving from inquirer to candidate is an intentional step indicating a commitment beyond just exploration of call, but a commitment to full preparation moving toward ordination as a teaching elder. To make this move one must be an inquirer for at least one year, and ordinarily will have completed at least one year of seminary.
The individual under care should submit a one-page statement on his/her journey of faith as well as forms 5A: Application to be enrolled by the Presbytery as a Candidate and 5B: Session Recommendation for enrollment as a Candidate to the CPM after meeting with his/her home session. He/she will meet with the CPM at a meeting time scheduled upon receipt of the paperwork or at the already scheduled annual consultation.
Please see the "forms and documents" page of the portal for fillable PDF versions of these documents
While a candidate, individuals work toward completion of academic requirements for both one’s seminary degree and the guidelines of the presbytery. In addition to required coursework, candidates are required to complete two field education placements (approved by the CPM in advance) one of which is a unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at an approved site. Details on Book of Order/ CPM required courses, Field Education and, CPE can be found here.
Candidates must also pass the four PC(USA) Standard Ordination Exams in the areas of Polity, Exegesis, Theology, and Worship & Sacraments. Detailed information on the Ordination Exams can be found here.
The CPM also encourages candidates to begin developing a one/two-page statement of faith and a Ministry Portfolio. Information on the statement of faith and ministry portfolio can be found here. Both items are required at a candidate’s final assessment to be certified ready for examination.
The Candidacy period lasts for a minimum of 1 year.
6: Moving from Candidate to Certified Ready for Examination Status
A candidate may not enter into negotiation for his or her service as a teaching elder without approval of the presbytery. The presbytery shall record when it has certified a candidate ready for examination for ordination pending a call. Evidence of readiness to begin ordered ministry as a teaching elder shall include:
a candidate’s wisdom and maturity of faith, leadership skills, compassionate spirit, honest repute, and sound judgment;
a transcript showing graduation, with satisfactory grades, at a regionally accredited college or university;
a transcript from a theological institution accredited by the Association of Theological School acceptable to the presbytery, showing a course of study including Hebrew and Greek, exegesis of the Old and New Testaments using Hebrew and Greek, satisfactory grades in all areas of study, and graduation or proximity to graduation, and;
satisfactory grades, together with the examination papers in the areas covered by any standard ordination examination approved by the General Assembly…G-2.0607
Once all the requirements of candidacy have been met, candidates move to complete the preparation process by meeting with the CPM for a final assessment. It is a candidate’s responsibility to indicate to the CPM when they are ready for the assessment. Once a date for the final assessment is set, one month before the meeting the following must be submitted:
- undergraduate and seminary transcripts to CPM (or most recent transcript if in final year)
- Ministry Portfolio
- a 1-page statement of faith
- a draft of the PIF for comments and approval to circulate.
Only after receiving approval to be "Certified Ready" is a candidate permitted to circulate a PIF and begin conversations with congregations for ordained calls. The presbytery will indicate approval to the denomination.
Upon uploading a new PIF to the CLC, the CPM chair must verify a candidate's approval with the OGA before that PIF may be referred to churches. Please contact the CPM chair or your liaison with questions regarding beginning the search for a call.
Inquirers and candidates under care are expected to meet with the CPM, in person, at least once each year while they are under care for their annual consultations. Annual consultation dates are set in January of each year. Accommodations must be made at least a month in advance if one needs to change that assigned meeting. Under certain circumstances, an inquirer or candidate may request to meet with the committee via Skype® or other similar technology if distance is a considerable barrier.
In preparation for an annual consultation, inquirers and candidates should meet with their CPM liaisons and review different areas of academic progress, spiritual and physical care, professional development, and financial realities. Inquirers and candidates must submit Form 3: Pre-consultation report on development areas at least 3 weeks before the annual consultation.
Limited funds are available to offset the cost of travel to and from required CPM consultations. Contact the CPM chair if you need travel assistance.