What Happens When Classis Examines a Candidate?
When a church calls a pastor who has not yet been ordained, its Classis is required to examine the candidate before ordination. Henry DeMoor points out that the focus of this examination “is to ensure the personal readiness for ministry in the particular congregation (or ministry) to which the candidate is being called.” Because our denomination takes ordination seriously and the minister of the Word ordination applies denominationally, Synod has three representatives (Synodical Deputies) who must concur with the procedure the classis is required to follow.
The scheduled examination is made up of three separate parts. The first part is called Practica and is focused on the candidate’s relationship to God and commitment to ministry, understanding of the meaning and relevance of the ministry for our times, loyalty to the church, and related matters. A person from our classis will lead the candidate through a series of questions, followed by an opportunity for all delegates to do so. No time limit set.
The second part is the Sermon Evaluation. The candidate is required to preach on an assigned text and two members of Classis are appointed to evaluate this sermon, both in content and delivery. The candidate is also required to provide written copies of two other sermons. One will be from the OT if the assigned was a NT one, or NT one if the assigned was an OT. The third sermon is to be a sermon on the Heidelberg Catechism. The “critics” will also report on the manner of conducting the worship service.
The third part of the examination focuses on the Biblical and Theological positions. This will be led by someone from our classis, focusing on the candidate’s Biblical and theological judgment, competence, and soundness. The classis here is looking to ensure that the candidate knows the Bible well and is prepared to preach and teach in line with its truths. This section requires a minimum of 30 minutes. Again, opportunity to ask questions of the candidate will be given to all the delegates and the synodical deputies.
When the examination is completed, Classis goes into executive session which is for ordained office bearers only. In executive session a motion is presented to admit the candidate into ministry of the Word, followed by discussion. There is prayer and the Synodical Deputies leave to come to their decision. Classis votes by ballot and the deputies return and inform classis if they concur with its decision. Executive session is concluded, the candidate and others return, and the decision to admit is announced. Hopefully this leads to a time of celebration and affirmation including the presentation of appropriate documentation.
As a delegate, you have the privilege as well as responsibility is to:
- Pray for the candidate before, during and after the examination. It can be a challenge to face this final hurdle after years of preparation.
- Listen for anything that might concern you in the examination. If you feel it is significant, ask a question of the candidate to try to clarify his or her position. Your question may be someone else’s also.
- Enjoy getting to know a new minister of the Word who’ll begin ministry in our classis.