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Questions on GOE Questions

By Zachary Guiliano

Proposed changes to a canon on preparing students for ordination drew fire Tuesday in a hearing by General Convention’s Committee 12, on Formation and Education for Ministry.

Resolution A090 proposes a change to the subject areas that seminarians are required to study and the General Ordination Exam explores.

The resolution proposes reducing the areas of study from seven to six. Only two areas of study would be left unchanged: “Holy Scripture” and “Christian Ethics and Moral Theology.” Other requirements would be revised or removed.

The most drastic change is the proposed removal of Area 5, which requires “studies in contemporary society, including the historical and contemporary experience of racial and minority groups, and cross-cultural ministry skills.” The current canon specifies that such cross-cultural ministry skills might involve a second language.

The General Board of Examining Chaplains explains these proposed changes as a necessary update and simplification of the canon’s wording (e.g., “there is as much work currently being done in interfaith studies as in ecumenical studies”). Moreover, it states that GOE questions in Areas 5 and 7 often overlap.

In its first hearing, Committee 12 referred resolution A090 to a subcommittee, which expressed considerable unease about the proposed changes.

“Why are they taking out music?” asked deputy Marcellus Smith of the Diocese of Alabama.

The Rev. Canon Tanya Wallace, deputy from Western Massachusetts, suggested that a new requirement to study “Christian Worship” might require both liturgy and music.

A consensus emerged that the proposed changes could not stand in their current form. Subcommittee members considered the removal of explicit requirements of “studies in contemporary society,” as well as “leadership, and the ministries of evangelism and stewardship” especially problematic for a church committed to engage with society amid severe decline.

“They’re leaving out pretty essential things,” Wallace said.

The subcommittee began drafting potential amendments to the proposed resolution, but decided to defer judgment until an open hearing at 7 a.m. June 24.

Seminary faculty expressed their concerns about the proposed changes.

“The English-speaking population in the state of California is less than half of the population, and we’re going to eliminate the requirement around cross-cultural ministry and language requirements?” asked the Rev. L. Ann Hallisey, dean of students at Church Divinity School of the Pacific. “That’s my concern.”

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