Thursday, January 3, 2013

General Ordination Examinations begin today, and those in the Episcopal Church who have prepared for ordination to the priesthood are "ready or not" beginning the five-day rite of passage. I had the privilege in serving with Bishop Mark Dyer, our Professor Emeritus of Theology, in the 1990s on the General Board of Examining Chaplains. Our long-serving, just-retired Professor of New Testament, Tony Lewis, followed us and continues to serve on the Board.

The GOEs have changed some since they began in 1972, but the intent remains the same: to provide an integrative examination over seven areas of theological studies as required by the canons of the Episcopal Church. Never intended to judge formation, they do provide dioceses with one set of essays to help identify for each person preparing for ordination learnings and goals for the future.

At VTS three years ago, we did a sampling of GOEs which three faculty then read without the GOE readers' responses. Our interest was to see what they told us about our graduates and our curriculum. After then comparing their assessments with the GOE readers, they found they were in fundamental agreement with the readers. The conclusion: the integrative process in order to develop the capacity to be able to present a clear and cogent vision of the Christian faith varies significantly among students. This is less a matter of mastery of course content and more a matter of integration of experience and tradition and the capacity to articulate understandings of Christian faith clearly and concretely. This has led us to develop a writing-across-the- curriculum course and to develop more cross-disciplinary, integrative seminars.

Perhaps the most important element in GOEs, however, is the opportunity for each person to give voice to their understanding of Christian faith, see the challenges ahead, and instill the commitment to lifelong learning. We pray for students and for their success, but like most things, success is in the process. Our prayers then are that the Holy Spirit be amongst us, sustain us, and redeem us.

Timothy F. Sedgwick, Ph.D.
Vice President for Academic Affairs
The Clinton S. Quin Professor of Christian Ethics