Sarah over at deeper in me than i is asking about the PCUSA ordination exams–Theology and Worship specifically. I actually did well on these (unlike another exam…), so I can tell you what I did.
As for the ordination process in general, I went into it thinking that I ought to be as honest as possible, presenting my doubts and fears and struggles, and once the committee understood the purity of my motives and call, then they would be compelled to allow me to be ordained. I quickly learned that I was going about it the wrong way.
A good professor took me aside and told me, “Don’t look at any of this as an honest exploration. Treat every step is a job interview. Every step.” He told me about the hot debate that was going on regarding the virgin birth when he was in seminary. He was asked if he believed in the virgin birth and he said, “Yes. Is there anything else you would like for me to believe?”
His advice to me was, “Lie, lie, lie, and lie some more, if you have to. Just make sure that you get through the process.”
I am not passing on this advice… exactly…. I’m just saying that it was good for me to hear. I am overly honest in general, but they didn’t really want to hear about all my problems. So, I got a lot smarter in the process. I learned that there would be other times and places to shake up the establishment, but as long as I was in the ord process, I needed to play by the rules.
So, for the ord exams. Of course, you can make sure you study the Creeds and the Directory for Worship. I think the Directory of Worship was the main thing that I read to prepare for the worship exam.
My theology professor in Seminary was Stacy Johnson, so I read everything he wrote (as I did with all my profs). And I found that the Reformed Readers, Volumes One and Two, were extremely helpful. Actually, I think you might just get away with volume one…. They go through the Reformed thinkers, set out the history, and give you a condensed segment of their work.
Of course, I had to ignore many of the personal rules that I often maintain when presenting theological thought in my congregation. For example, when teaching classes in a congregational setting, I try to always include a woman, a person of color, and/or someone from a liberationist position (I use the term “liberationist” quite broadly). I also try to include an American, because we spend so much time in Europe, we don’t always reflect on what theology looks like in our own country.
And yet, it seems like the Ord readers aren’t much interested in modern or diverse thought. So, I stuck with the classics. And that’s why I point you to the Reformed Readers.
Another general piece of advice, that I’m sure you’ve already gotten. You’ve been writing for professors for the last couple of years. You can make certain intellectual jumps, and your teacher will understand where you’re going. But while taking your ords, imagine writing basics for a typical church member. Use plain words and keep it simple.
Anyone else have some advice? What about the graders and COPM members out there?