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About this blog

The Rev. Timothy Cargal, Ph.D., serves as Assistant Stated Clerk for Preparation for Ministry in Mid Council Ministries of the Office of the General Assembly.

“... the Land that I Will Show You” is the blog of the Office of Preparation for Ministry of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). This blog is designed to serve as a resource for those discerning and preparing for a call to the ministry of Word and Sacrament as ordained teaching elders of the church. It will also provide a place for reflecting on and dialoging about the changing context of pastoral ministry in the early 21st century.

For quick announcements about changes or developments in the preparation process, dates related to exams or other key events, discussion boards, surveys, etc., you can follow us on Facebook at “Preparing for Presbyterian Ministry.”

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June 19, 2017

BCE Preparation Resource Released

BCE Prep Homepage

Today the Presbyteries’ Cooperative Committee on Examinations for Candidates (PCC) has officially launched a new resource to assist in preparing for the Bible Content Examination. All inquirers and candidates registered by their presbyteries with the Office of the General Assembly may use their accounts on the exams website ( to access a special course on the PC(USA) Training site.

As initially announced in a press release on April 6, this course includes updated guidance from the PCC’s Handbook to the Standard Ordination Examinations regarding the structure of and preparation strategies for taking the BCE, a revised video on these topics, the full-length practice BCE, and an archive of questions developed for the online BCE since the fall of 2009. The practice exam and the archives provide the questions in English as well as Korean and Spanish translations. After new BCE questions are used on the tests, they will be added to these archives.

Inquirers and candidates may access these resources at any time by logging on to their accounts at They will now find a link on their “Profile” page to “Access Moodle Materials.” Clicking that link will open a new tab in their browsers where they will be automatically logged onto the PC(USA) Training “Moodle” website where they can access the “Bible Content Exam Preparation” course. Beginning with the upcoming September 1 administration, the official BCE tests will also be administered using special courses on this “Moodle” site. By utilizing these preparation resources, then, inquirers and candidates will also be familiarizing themselves with the testing platform for the BCE.

The exam question archives are presented in seven canonical divisions utilized in structuring the BCE. Within those divisions, multiple-choice questions are presented in both online and printable-format tables in canonical order according to the primary reference in the respective question. Matching questions (because of their different structure and more limited use) are gathered in a separate division. Along with these tables, each canonical division also includes a quiz incorporating both multiple-choice and matching questions.

While these preparation materials can assist inquirers and candidates in their study and preparation, the questions that appear in the BCE are not limited to topics or verses explicitly treated within these materials. Those preparing for the BCE are encouraged to read widely in the Bible, using these preparation materials as a guide to strategies for study and aids in understanding the types of questions included in the test.

Earlier this month an updated Handbook to the Standard Ordination Examinations was also released (available for download at This edition incorporates the PCC’s new guidance to inquirers, candidates, and their presbyteries that “the BCE be taken after at least one year of formal theological education including introductions to both testaments of the Bible” (p. 26). The handbook and preparation materials also reflect the PCC’s decision to discontinue the inclusion of an ordering question within the BCE; the test now includes only questions in multiple-choice and matching formats.

I am pleased that we have been able to make this resource available well ahead of the August 1 target originally announced in the press release. Please let me know if you have comments or suggestions about the site that I will pass along to the PCC.

September 14, 2016

PCC Responds to September 2016 BCE

At a previously scheduled meeting on September 8-9, 2016, the Executive Committee of the Presbyteries' Cooperative Committee on Examinations for Candidates (PCC) had extended discussion about the results of the most recent Bible Content Examination (BCE). The following is their response to concerns about the exam from across the church, issued with the concurrence of the full PCC:

As part of its regularly scheduled fall meeting, members of the Executive Committee of the Presbyteries’ Cooperative Committee on Examinations for Candidates (PCC) gave extended time and discussion to reviewing the results of the September 2, 2016, Bible Content Examination (BCE) along ...

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October 16, 2015

PCC Letter on BCE Preparation

Today the Presbyteries' Cooperative Committee on Examinations for Candidates (PCC) sent the following message to all CPM moderators and PC(USA) contact persons at theological seminaries:


The members of the Bible Task Group and the Executive Committee of the Presbyteries’ Cooperative Committee on Examinations for Candidates (PCC) are writing in response to concerns raised about the most recent Bible Content Exam (BCE), administered in September 2015. We have discussed the exam and related issues and have agreed to send this letter with a reiteration of suggested approaches to preparing for the BCE. We also are offering to assist Presbyteries ...

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September 4, 2015

Bible Content Exam Results

The Bible Content Examination (BCE) was administered today, and the results both in terms of the average score on the exams and the percentage of inquirers and candidates who met the minimum score (70%) required to “Satisfy” this requirement in the preparation for ministry process were below historical averages.

A total of 127 individuals took the BCE, and the average score was 63.5%, which is about 10-15% lower than historical trends. However, since that average score fell below the minimum requirement, only 36 people (28.3%) scored high enough to receive a “Satisfactory” evaluation on the exam. By way ...

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August 21, 2015

Plagiarism in Ordination Exams

During my six years working with the preparation for ministry process for the Office of the General Assembly, I had previously worked with presbyteries on three occasions investigating cases of plagiarism in the standard ordination exams. For the just completed Summer 2015 exams, I am now working with five presbyteries.

To be clear, I am not talking about cases of “technical” or “minor plagiarism.” I recognize that there are those who think that “sloppy” identification of sources or quotations that don’t follow “proper academic standards of citation” are not “really plagiarism.” Such examples of directly using words from the ...

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