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.
For three years you have been the clergy person in charge at St. Christopher’s Church, a congregation in a populous community. You receive a phone call from a chaplain working with one of the local hospice programs. She shares with you that a 12-year-old girl has been admitted into the hospice facility with a terminal disease. She is being kept as comfortable as possible but is approximately a week from death and is unresponsive.
The family has indicated to the chaplain that they are members of St. Christopher’s. They say they have been inactive at St. Christopher’s for at least five years and do not know the clergy person there, though they still consider it their spiritual home. You do not recall ever meeting the family. The chaplain tells you that she would be willing to continue to minister to the family but also feels it important to at least let you know of the situation.
In an essay of approximately 1,500 words, clearly identify and explain the theological, pastoral and practical issues that inform what you choose to do or choose not to do. Include in the essay any other people or resources you might consult to help you reach your decisions.
The question about the Trinity was very tricky - preaching on the Trinity at least once a year is always a chore, often assigned to unsuspecting seminarians - but the answers, for the most part, took seriously the "unity of Being" of the three natures of the Trinity,
If there was ever a case to be made for the importance of GOEs as a diagnostic tool, these question surfaced it and made it abundantly clear.
For each "not-proficient" score, the readers had to write a 400-600 word response, detailing why the essay was determined to be non-proficient.
In most cases, it was easy to make the case for "non proficiency", simply by quoting from the essay itself. Oh, and by the way, you should know that every essay determined by the reader teams to be either proficient or not proficient had to be read and approved by a Supervising Chaplain, a member of the board.
If any essay was deemed "not proficient", the essay itself and the response from the readers had to be read by a team of three bishops before the 'not proficient' decision held.
I didn't hear of one reversal of a 'not proficient' determination.
Let me hasten to add that there were many, many more responses that were more than adequate. Some were brilliant, actually. And, they clearly "made the heart glad" and gave great hope for the state of the church.
Can the GOEs be a better, more effective diagnostic tool of proficiency for ordination? No doubt. Indeed, the board of the GBEC works hard, every year to make them better. This year was no exception. And, the board is already hard at work on next year's exams.
I know I haven't persuaded those who have had bad experiences with GOEs in the past that they are necessary and important to a process of the formation of spiritual leaders in The Episcopal Church.
That really wasn't what I was trying to do. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. I simply wanted to share my experience this year and have you judge for yourself.
Martin Luther, one of the shining lights of The Reformation, was a huge proponent of educated clergy. He was reportedly horrified by the fact that so many priests could not even find the Lord's Prayer in scripture.
"No dumb dogs" he said.
Known for his harsh insults, I don't think the GOEs need to be - or are - that harsh. I think there's always room for improvement and I think the GBEC works to make them more professional and more proficient as a diagnostic tool. Indeed, I think the readers worked very hard to be compassionate and kind and instructive to the candidate as well as those who have canonical authority and responsibility of that candidate's future.
I don't know how you discern if someone has a pastoral heart, I only know that you can tell if they don't have one beating somewhere, pumping the Love of God through veins and arteries to feed the mind the body and the soul.
No dumb dogs, these, but the present and future of our church.
Lord, have mercy on us, one and all.