MINISTERIAL FORMATION CERTIFICATION AGENCY A Brief History
In 1983, General Synod President James Cook Recommended: To appoint and fund for one year an ad hoc committee of ten persons representing the General Synod Executive Committee, the Board of Theological Education, the Particular Synod of the West, and including one consultant to be named by each of the seminaries, to investigate the inauguration of Reformed Church theological education in the Far West, and to bring its recommendations to the 1984 meetings of the Board of Theological Education and the General Synod. 1983
DR. COOK PROVIDED THE FOLLOWING REASONS: (1) The numerical growth of the Reformed Church in America has been steadily westward, (2) Geography and culture have combined to create a feeling in the Far West of separation from the rest of the denomination. (3) Leaders in the Far West are concerned about the number of churches being served by pastors with little or no background training in the denomination. (4) The majority of the church members in the Far West have no Reformed Church background. (5) Of the 24 seminarians presently under the care of Classis California, Central California, and Cascades, only one is attending a Reformed Church in America seminary. Nevertheless, most, if not all, of these candidates will serve Reformed Church congregations in those classes.
THE TASK FORCE James Cook Leonard Kalkwarf Chester Droog Herman Ridder Harold Korver Louis Benes, Jr. Douglas Fromm Richard Rhem Hugh Koops (NBTS) I. John Hesselink (WTS) Jim Cook Chet Droog John Hesselink & Karl Barth (Barth was not on the task force)
THE BIRTH OF TEA, GENERAL SYNOD1984 • A design for a Reformed Church Theological Education Agency (TEA) with a two-fold responsibility… • The direct supervision of all RCA ministerial candidates attending Fuller Theological Seminary. • The indirect supervision of all RCA candidates attending seminaries other than New Brunswick, Western, and Fuller.
THE CONCEPT OF TEA (1984) • The TEA will be both parallel with and different from the present theological education agencies of Western and New Brunswick. • It will be accountable to the General Synod through the Board of Theological Education. • Its location will naturally relate it to a major geographical area and a dynamic ecclesiastical center of the Reformed Church in America. • It will be concerned with theological integrity, professional competency, and denominational identity of the Reformed Church in America candidates under its care. • It will have administrative, pastoral, and academic responsibilities for the Reformed Church ministerial candidates under its care. • It will make recommendations to the Board of Theological Education concerning the fitness for ministry of the Reformed Church in America candidates under its care.
The Theological Education Agency hired its first director, the Rev. Dr. Kenneth Van Wyk. 1985 Ken Van Wyk meets Bert Jara
THE TEA BOARD TEA will offer benefits to RCA • A TEA will provide a significant RCA ecclesiastical presence in a third major geographical area of the denomination • A TEA will provide beneficial theological presence and oversight for a significant concentration of RCA ministerial candidates. • A TEA will resolve some of the perennial problems inherent in the present professorial certificate dispensation process. The TEA board in 1990 – John Opmeer, Chet Droog, Harold Korver, Roberto Garcia, Syp VanderDussen, Cleo Ludwig, Richard Koerselman and Ray Lokers.
The TEA designs RCA courses at Fuller Seminary and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS). FULLER SEMINARY STUDENTS Dr. Chuck Van Engen taught RCA Standards to RCA students at Fuller.
SECOND DIRECTOR IS CALLED… 1991 Ken Van Wyk Cornelis Kors
SUMMER INTENSIVES OFFERED1992 RCA History & Worship Course 1994 RCA courses are offered as intensive classes. The RCA seminaries collaborate with TEA by providing instructors and academic recording for credit.
TEA AND SEMINARIES SHARE THEOLOGICAL ASSESSMENT FUNDS • Funding for theological education has come predominately through the “per member” assessment for TEA. Over 50% of the income has come from this source. John Hesselink and Robert Hoeksema share teaching duties at an early summer intensive…
THE TEA REQUESTS NEW OPTION • In the spring of 1996 the Tea Board of Trustees and the Classis of California asked the General Synod Council to consider a new office and alternate process toward ordination. • The GSC responded by creating a task force to review the standards for the preparation for ministry: The Task Force for the Standards for the Preparation for Professional Ministry (SPPM)
THE CHALLENGES ADDRESSED BY SPPM • The challenge of providing nurture and care for our present and potential ministerial leadership. • The challenge of identifying and properly preparing competent leadership for the church. • The challenge of welcoming all people into the full church as worshipers and leaders in a manner which values cultural differences. • The challenge of designing an equitable and systemized examination and ordination process for the ministry of Word and sacrament. • The challenge of bridging the gap between congregation and seminary. • The challenge of providing a balance between the classical and practical approaches to theological education. • The challenge of recognizing and supporting the church’s “fourth office”—the Office of General Synod Professor of Theology. • The challenge of establishing new and strengthening old RCA connectional relationships. • The challenge of creating an environment which fosters and encourages ministerial formation. • The challenge of hearing and responding to the cries of the people. • The challenge of being the church of Jesus Christ.
The General Synod of 1998 adopted the recommendations of the SPPM Task Force and established the Approved Alternate Route (AAR) and the new agency – the Ministerial Formation Coordination Agency (MFCA). 1998 The first MFCA board meets at NBTS.
Q. WHAT WERE THE ELEMENTS OF CONTINUITY BETWEEN TEA AND MFCA. A. Most of the initial Board members of MFCA had been TEA Board members. Cor Kors had been Executive Director of the TEA Board and took the same position with MFCA. The TEA endowment also went to the MFCA Board and use was restricted to purposes similar to those of TEA. Dr. Brad Lewis; a charter member of the MFCA Board of Trustees.
Q. WHEN AND HOW DID MFCA BECOME A PART OF THE DENOMINATIONAL STRUCTURE? A. After discussions and negotiations taking the better part of two years, MFCA, its Board, its assets, and its employees were brought into the denominational structure under the oversight of the General Synod Council in 2002. This occurred as the denomination was also undergoing two other changes. First, an administrative reorganization of those reporting to the General Secretary of the RCA resulted in the establishment of an Office of Ministry reporting to the General Secretary and headed by Gregg Mast. Second, the General Synod Council was replaced by a much smaller and we hope more agile and responsive GSC.
MFCA STRATEGIC PLAN 2005 Mission Statement: Vision Statement • The Ministerial Formation Coordinating Agency of the General Synod works collaboratively with NBTS and WTS to recommend and enhance the standards and paths which prepare those called by God and affirmed by their congregations and classes to become ministers of Word and sacrament in the Reformed Church in America. • A cooperative climate exists in 2009 in which the RCA identifies and calls forth gifted persons for ministry and provides accessible, affordable, and effective ministerial preparation in a hospitable environment to diverse people.
THE APPROVED ALTERNATE ROUTE (AAR) The following criteria are necessary for a person to be eligible for the AAR. • The candidate will have at least five years’ experience in leadership in the church. • A consistory, or classis ministry has demonstrated compelling need for the candidate’s ministry. • The candidate is able to provide evidence of the call, gifts, and experience appropriate for a Minister of Word and sacrament. • The candidate, for compelling practical reasons, cannot complete a master of divinity degree at an accredited seminary.
MFCA BEGINS COURSES IN SPANISH • As a major initiative the MFCA has offered three different courses in Spanish… this will be part of continued efforts to serve diverse groups.
MFCA OFFERS DISTANCE COURSES • As part of a regular offering, the MFCA has been offering a number of courses over the internet through the use of Angel Course Management Software. • Courses include the Credo course, RCA Polity and RCA History & Missions.
IDENTIFYING THE COORDINATING TENSION Key Roles • To cooperatively evaluate and recommend standards for ministerial preparation that are responsive to the challenges facing the church. • To develop strategies to identify and call forth gifted persons for the ministry of Word and sacrament. • To nurture a healthy climate within classes and congregations for ministerial formation. • To provide a flexible alternate route that culminates in ordination to the Office of Minister of Word and sacrament for those who are gifted for ministry but not able to meet the requirements through a Master of Divinity degree and the regular dispensation process as identified by the Book of Church Order (BCO). • To oversee and award the Certificate of Fitness for Ministry for Reformed Church in America Master of Divinity candidates enrolled at non-RCA seminaries.
MINISTERIAL FORMATION CERTIFICATION AGENCY The General Synod of 2007 approved the new name for MFCA and in so doing changed the bylaws to reflect its “certification” role as opposed to the “coordinating” role.
THE MISSION STATEMENT OF THE NEW MFCA The Ministerial Formation Certification Agency is to strengthen the ministry of Word and sacrament in the RCA by overseeing and awarding the Certificate of Fitness for Ministry to RCA candidates graduating from non-RCA seminaries or pursuing an approved alternate route. The MFCA will accomplish this mission by: • Ensuring that the RCA Standards for Preparation for Ministry are upheld in the oversight of the Certificate of Fitness for Ministry and periodically reviewing the standards and the process by which they are applied. • Evaluating progress of candidates and confirming their continuation in the process through the RCSC and AAR committees. • Providing graduate level courses designed to meet the standards for the Certificate of Fitness for Ministry. • Collaborating with and providing counsel to congregations and classes in the care and nurture of candidates for the ministry who are seeking the Certificate of Fitness for Ministry through the MFCA. • Interpreting and advocating for the work of the MFCA to the larger church.
WHERE ARE THE MFCA CANDIDATES IN 2008? 80% East of the Rockies 62% East of the Mississippi
OCTOBER 2008 Ministerial Formation Certification Agency