As I said in the last post in this series, there are so many variables in the process that it is impractical for a person to compare their experience with the Board to another’s. Of course, that’s done all the time with questions like, “How did she get through and I didn’t? She had me read her work and it was hardly different from mine!”
Here’s what happens. The candidates come to an orientation session in July where they are given instructions for their written work. The candidates report there is heavy emphasis on no plagiarism, so much so that they are afraid not to attribute every idea they write down. Secondly, a gap in good communication can occur when sometimes the persons doing the orientation are not the persons who chair the evaluation committees.
The written work is divided into four categories for four corresponding committees: Proclamation, Bible Study, Theology and Doctrine, and Call and Disciplined Life. All work has to be postmarked by a stated deadline. Then it is distributed to the committees.
The committees divide themselves into “reader teams” of two persons each, and each team then reads/evaluates the work of usually four to five candidates. The readers evaluate the work, then get together to discuss a shared assessment. After that one of the readers writes a response. In the past we would allow sub-standard parts of the work to be re-written, but that changed this year. Now we identify the parts that need improvement, and we specify issues that will probably need to be addressed in the interview with the committee. The overall written work is then graded acceptable or not acceptable.
Here’s an issue the Board will have to deal address with this “no-rewrite” policy. Do the written and interview parts of the evaluation stand alone, or are they complimentary? In other words, does a candidate have to be graded “acceptable” on both parts to get approved, or can excellent work done in one section compensate for sub-standard work in the other?
In the Theology and Doctrine committee we have always seen them as complimentary. A person may show us in the interview a good grasp of theological issues and how to handle them, a skill that did not reveal itself in the written work. And honestly, since the committee votes on approval or non-approval right after the interview section, a good showing in the interview carries more weight.
Other committees, such as Bible Study and Proclamation, might see the written and verbal portions as independent. Once the Bible Study and Sermon are written, they are done. I’m not sure how you would defend or explain your work to a degree that would move it up the acceptable scale.
Each committee divides into interview teams of four to five persons each. After interviewing the candidate, the interview team votes “approval” or “continuance” (which means they recommend the person be continued to the next time). Then representatives of the four committees meet with the Board leadership to assess an overall picture of the candidate’s work.
On our Board, if all four committees report approval, the Board votes, but it’s pretty automatically an “approved for ordination” outcome. If only one committee reports a “continuance,” then the Board usually allows the person to come back to that committee at its next meeting for a second chance. If two committees report continuance, then the Board’s practice has been to vote continuance of the person until the next year. The candidates are informed in person that day, and in writing within a couple of weeks.
If a specific problem in a candidate’s work is identified, the Board will ask one of its members to serve as a mentor to that candidate. When the candidates take advantage of having an assigned mentor, the results at the next Board meeting are usually very good.
So, an individual candidate will have eight to ten people reading their work. He or she will have four interviews before sixteen to twenty people. The assessments will be discussed by an additional four people and the whole Board of 40 persons will take a final vote. Simple enough? Next time I’ll write about some Standards that guide this work.