History and Purpose
What is the General Board of Examining Chaplains?
- The 1970 General Convention of The Episcopal Church established by canon (III.15) the GBEC to standardize the process of examination for ordination. The GBEC administered the first GOE in 1972 and has given it annually since.
Why is there a "General" Ordination Examination rather than a diocesan exam?
- People are ordained in their particular dioceses, but they are ordained on behalf of, and for service throughout, the whole church. Before 1972, each diocese had its own process of examination, and testing varied widely from place to place. The exams' contents depended upon the interests and concerns of individual dioceses and people within them. Some Candidates had lenient examiners and easy questions while others suffered with quirky examiners and inappropriate exams. The GOE is the same for all Candidates no matter where they come from. Evaluators do not know Candidates' identities and have no connection with their Commissions on Ministry, their seminaries or their bishops. The GBEC executive director/GOE administrator and his staff, Readers, the Board, and Editors, as well as diocesan officials, carefully review evaluations, so Candidates have the benefit of a series of independent evaluations.
Why is there a GOE?
- The canons (III. 8) require that before ordination a Candidate must be examined and show proficiency in (1) The Holy Scriptures; (2) Church History, including the Ecumenical Movement; (3) Christian Theology and Missiology; (4) Christian Ethics and Moral Theology; (5) Studies in Contemporary Society, including Racial and Minority Groups; (6) Liturgics and Church Music; and (7) Theory and Practice of Ministry. These are known as the seven canonical areas.
- (1) The Holy Scriptures Scholarly approaches to biblical criticism, their values and limitations; principles and practice of exegesis and hermeneutics; chronology, history, important personalities in the Old Testament, New Testament, and Apocrypha; geography of biblical lands; knowledge of world events and their effects upon the development of the Judeo-Christian tradition; Gospel narratives in Johannine and Synoptic traditions, including Acts; theme, contents and historical context of each book of the Old and New Testaments; major theological developments in the entire tradition; and biblical sources of Christian creeds and historical doctrines.
- (2) Church History, including the Ecumenical Movement The major events and personalities from apostolic and patristic times through Medieval and Reformation periods to the present, in relation to their historical and social contexts; development of distinctive church institutions, formation of the canon of scripture; doctrinal development (heresies, theological controversies, creeds, classical writings); missionary expansion; Church of England from beginning to present, especially the Reformation period and since (Caroline Divines, evangelical revival, Tractarians, expansion of the Anglican Communion, Anglican role in the Ecumenical Movement); the Episcopal Church from beginning to present in context of American church history in general -- major events and personalities; modern missionary movement (biblical and theological basis, relation to the Ecumenical Movement); and general knowledge of comparative religions.
- (3) Christian Theology, including Missionary Theology and Missiology The doctrines: revelation, creation, sin, Christology, atonement, Trinity, soteriology, church, sacraments, missiology, and eschatology; history of Christian thought (Church Fathers, creedal development, Anglican tradition, recent developments); application (ascetical, hermeneutical, apologetic); relation to contemporary understandings of human nature in both individual and social dimensions.
- (4) Christian Ethics and Moral Theology The sources of Christian ethics and moral theology, including the Holy Scriptures, Christian tradition and experience; major ethical theories and major figures in the field; the nature, locus and justification for "the good," including the relation between God, Christ and the good; the nature of moral agency, including the understanding of such issues as freedom, responsibility, obligation, virtue, conscience and character; moral judgment, including the knowledge of the relation between religious belief and moral judgment; the place of spirituality in Anglican teaching about the moral life; major moral issues facing Christians, past and present, and how Anglican moral theologians have resolved or might resolve them.
- (5) Studies in Contemporary Society, including Racial and Minority Groups Current social issues and problems (poverty, homelessness, hunger, racism, injustice, addiction, crime, illegitimacy, child abuse, environmental pollution, war and peace, etc.); ways in which the church and Christian individuals have addressed and may address these; current concerns particular to major ethnic groups in the USA.
- (6) Liturgics and Church Music Christian worship and music according to the contents and use of the Book of Common Prayer and the various hymnals; historical development of Christian worship from Jewish origins to present; theological understanding of the role and function of worship in the life of individuals and of the church; sacramental theology; esthetic and non-verbal elements of worship; the role of music in particular; evolution, contents and use of the Book of Common Prayer and the hymnals.
- (7) Theory and Practice of Ministry Theology of vocation and of all forms of ministry; ministerial roles of laity, diaconate, priesthood, and episcopate; duties and responsibilities of clergy in the contemporary church; nature and significance of pastoral care; knowledge of the practice of the following: preaching, counseling, spiritual direction, the education of all ages, parish administration, stewardship, evangelism, polity of our church, and national and local constitutions and canons.
But haven't Candidates already been tested in all these areas in seminary?
- The GBEC does not intend to duplicate seminary testing in academic areas but to examine how the Candidate has integrated his or her knowledge in the various canonical areas. It aims to evaluate in the GOE the perception and analysis of issues in the several areas; the application of training and resources; the demonstration of knowledge and pastoral sensitivity; and the articulation of views. Some GOE questions may ask for the integration of disciplines and an understanding of the relationships between them, as well as how to use them in ministry.