I know that those remaining in the PCUSA are probably tired of me making comparisons between the EOP and the EPC presbyteries. I do so not to frustrate anyone, but because there really is a difference.
Let me contrast my experiences being received in the various presbyteries of which I have been a part:
I was ordained into the UPCUSA through the Presbytery of San Gabriel in California. My examination—both before the candidates’ committee and on the floor of presbytery—was thorough. I was asked questions on theological subjects, polity, and the Bible. The examinations may have been more thorough because so many seminary professors were in the presbytery, including Jack Rogers (Fuller), Paul Jewett (Fuller), and Burton Mack (Claremont).
We moved to Scotland where I had to go through a complete ordination examination again. I was told that they weren’t simply accepting American ordination certificates because of problems they had recently had. It turned out that those problems were a result of their confusion over the difference between Methodist candidates ordained to the deaconate rather than the pastorate.
Anyway, I had to stand (sit?) oral exams on theology, polity, Bible, and church history. I was also required to translate significant passages of Scripture from the Hebrew and Greek, something I might have trouble doing today!
When I came to Oklahoma in 1982 I was twice interviewed. There were two consistent sets of questions: “Did I support the ordination of women?” I confidently answered “yes,” but was suspect because I was a Fuller grad (this was said by the committee up-front). The other question was about prayer. At my first meeting with the committee one pastor asked me if I really believed that God answered prayer. I answered “yes,” as I still would.
They were not satisfied with my answers, so I had to return from California to Tulsa for a second examination. Again I was asked if I would support the ordination of women. Between the first and second meeting there had been the crash of an airliner in Louisiana, and the same pastor asked me “do you think that the people in that plane’s prayers weren’t answered?” This, to me, demonstrated a naive understanding of prayer and a complete misunderstanding of Reformed theology.
Before the presbytery I gave my testimony and (wouldn’t you know it) was asked by someone on the floor if I supported women’s ordination. My answer must have been satisfactory, because I was admitted without a negative vote.
Today, Wayne and I were examined over the phone by two teaching elders (pastors) of the EPC presbytery. This was a preliminary examination, since both the Kirk and the EPC are at the inquiry stage. The examiners asked us to describe the Kirk. They then wanted to know our basis for the interpretation of Scripture, as well as our acceptance of the theological essentials of the EPC and the Westminster Confession. This presbytery has not ordained women to the office of teaching elder although women are ordained as deacons and elders, according to individual churches beliefs. The fact that we would prefer that the presbytery ordain women as pastors was not received with hostility or incredulity, but grace.
Following the time together, the lead examiner emailed Wayne and me, thanking us for our time and interest, and even suggested further reading for us better to understand them.
I don’t know what the future holds. We may be admitted into the EPC. We or they may decide that we will do something different. But what we have experienced so far indicates a commitment to Scripture, Reformed faith, and Truth that I have not experienced in a long, long time.
Keep praying—keep the faith,