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Education takes centre stage: important theme highlighted throughout the week.

This is the year of education for the final instalment of the FLAMES Initiative. To kick-start the program, Rev. Judee Archer-Green, coordinator for this year's project, made a presentation encouraging educational opportunities within church life. "We are all theologians," she told commissioners.

The presentation was complimented by the announcement of another educational event--the 160th anniversary of Knox College, Toronto. The school's principal, Rev. Dr. Dorcas Gordon, gave a lively address. Over 75 per cent of the ministers serving the Presbyterian Church have been in a Knox College classroom.

Even the new Moderator, Rev. Richard Fee, mentioned the importance of education. He said the special offering taken at assembly for HIV/AIDS work would be used to educate people about the disease.

A commitment to education was acknowledged when Dorothy Henderson, associate secretary for Christian Education and Ministry with Children, Youth and Their Families, was given the Educator of the Year award for 2005 by the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators. The award recognizes Ms. Henderson's "creativity and advocacy in the areas of children, youth and family ministries."

Trying to determine exactly what kind of an education is needed for various positions within the church occupied a substantial amount of the assembly's time. In what was anticipated to be simple housekeeping, the recommendations of the Committee on Education and Reception for programs of study needed by ministerial candidates were met with concerns and questions, and calls for clarification, amendments and recorded dissent.

Students eligible for ordination must be approved by the assembly--and only after completing additional study at a Presbyterian college. Many candidates have already studied at length at other seminaries and bring numerous degrees with them.

Commissioners argued that new ministers will be discouraged from serving the PCC if they do not have the money or time to complete additional educational requirements. The method for determining who needs what requirement was debated by some commissioners, who said some ministerial candidates had lengthy service within the PCC in other capacities. Many demonstrate a proven track record for mission, community service and outreach and yet are given lengthier educational requirements than someone who has never been involved in the PCC but has slightly more formal education. Rev. Rosemary Doran, convener of the committee, assured the assembly that all candidates go through a screening and evaluation process before their requirements are set.

After a lengthy debate, all of the recommendations passed in their original form for all ministerial candidates. And the educational requirements set out by the Committee on Education and Reception were maintained.

Assembly also voted on requirements for parish nurses. Ministry and Church Vocations made four recommendations, listing requirements for people in this ministry. The main change was that the Committee on Theological Education will develop a Presbyterian parish nursing certificate program and present it to a future General Assembly. Parish nurses within the PCC will be required to complete the approved program.

Assembly also discussed educational standards for lay missionaries. Ministry and Church Vocations and Canada Ministries decided the PCC needs to establish standards, educational programs and responsibilities for lay missionaries. This recommendation was adopted by the assembly with no debate. The assembly also voted that the Life and Mission Agency, along with the Committee on Theological Education and the clerks of assembly, establish a task force to design these standards, submit an interim report in 2005 and present them to the 132nd General Assembly.

The Women's Missionary Society was concerned that ministers from other countries and denominations are not required to take courses on the mission work of the Presbyterian Church. The WMS's proposal was accepted that the Committee on Education and Reception and the Committee on Theological Education consider making a mission education course a requirement for all candidates entering the ministry of the PCC.

In a fitting end to the assembly, the young adult representatives gave a presentation that endorsed the value and importance of education for clergy, laity and youth.
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Title Annotation:130th General Assembly 2004
Publication:Presbyterian Record
Date:Jul 1, 2004
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