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Act 19, 2016 (XIX) – Act anent Recognition of Candidates and Admission of Ministers. 26th May 2016.

The General Assembly note the advice of the Board of Ministry that existing legislation on the Recognition of Candidates for the Ministry and on the Admission of ministers and probationers of other churches be repealed and replaced with a comprehensive Act Anent Admission to the Ministry. Accordingly, the General Assembly enact and ordain as follows an Act Anent Admission to the Ministry:

The General Assembly direct that all Applications for Recognition as a Candidate for the Ministry of the Free Church of Scotland from those not already ordained to the ministry shall be processed by the Board of Ministry observing the following directives:

1.1 The Board of Ministry shall publish and regularly update a Candidate Application Form. The Form shall consist of Part A for the use of the candidate and Part B to be completed by a conjunct meeting of the applicant’s Kirk Session and the relevant Presbytery or Committee of Presbytery who shall oversee the initial stages of the application process. To comply with civil legislation, the form shall include information on the immigration and nationality of the applicant and shall also gather information on their previous education and experience, their understanding of the gospel and theological views, their vision for ministry including their wholehearted commitment to the authority of scripture and the doctrines of the Reformed faith. The application must be supported by suitable references and indicate that the candidate complies with PVG legislation.

1.2 Applicants must be communicant members of the Free Church of Scotland and should normally have a minimum two-year association with the Free Church or a similar sister church before being given recognition.

1.3 Where the relevant Presbytery approves an application the Board of Ministry shall interview the applicant and come to a view on recognising him as a candidate for the ministry. The Board shall have the right to require an additional appraisal of the candidate including an assessment day or conference when gifts and calling may be tested. The Board are authorised to require medical information if they regard this as necessary to ensure that a candidate is able to carry out the duties of a minister or to ensure that adequate support and provision is made. The Board may require some candidates to undertake preliminary studies (which may be a first degree) or to take part in an apprentice in ministry post or the equivalent if they shall see fit. Candidates should demonstrate an ability to benefit from the ETS course. However, candidates are not required to hold a first degree. The Board may regard candidates over the age of 30 years as a mature student and may adjust the requirements of their course accordingly. In coming to a view on the application, the Board shall properly assess the candidate’s Christian character and temperament as well as his giftedness and sense of call.

1.4 Once a candidate is recognised the Board shall ensure that he receives adequate mentoring and oversight before and during his period of study. The candidates shall also receive pastoral oversight from his home Presbytery in accordance with Act XXXVIII, 2015. The Presbytery shall inform the Clerk to the Board of Ministry and the candidate’s Director of Studies at ETS of any concerns they may have concerning the welfare and the life and conduct of the candidate so that appropriate support may be provided and any necessary action taken.

1.5 All candidates for the ministry of the Free Church of Scotland shall normally pursue the full programme of studies at Edinburgh Theological Seminary. The General Assembly declare that, in normal cases, candidates for the Free Church ministry should obtain a B.Th., MTh or L.Th., or their equivalent as a necessary vocational qualification. The Board of Ministry may make alternative arrangements such as agreeing to bi-vocational training with the agreement of the relevant Presbytery, part-time studies or a modified training course in special cases.

1.6 Where a candidate has already completed first degree level theological studies and the Board of Ministry is satisfied as to the quality of both teaching and achievement, the candidate shall normally be required to study under the oversight of the Board for two academic years. The Board shall determine the nature of the course to be taken and what supplementary training the candidate may require in terms of academic and practical study and shall take note of requests from the candidate for particular areas of supplementary training. In exceptional cases the Board, with the agreement of the relevant Presbytery, may agree to reduce the necessary additional training to one academic year. This would normally only be applicable to a candidate holding a theological qualification at post-graduate level and possessing extensive pastoral or practical experience. The Board shall have regard to the theological content of any previous study to ensure that each candidate for the Free Church ministry is adequately prepared for ministry having obtained an adequate training that is Confessional and Reformed as a strong basis for their future pastoral ministry. In the case of a modified course of study, the Board of Ministry will liaise with the Senate of the Seminary to facilitate the delivery of the course and any necessary supplementary training.

1.7 Candidates for the ministry of the Free Church of Scotland shall normally be required to study courses in language and literature in both Old Testament (Hebrew) and New Testament (Greek) studies. The Board of Ministry, in conjunction with the Senate and teaching staff at ETS, may agree to concessions in language study particularly in the case of mature students.

1.8 Candidates for the ministry of the Free Church of Scotland shall normally be required to attend the Free Church Ministry Module and any other vocational training and instruction that may be arranged and required.

1.9 Candidates for the ministry of the Free Church of Scotland shall normally be required to participate in term-time and summer placements as arranged by the Board of Ministry.

1.10 Each candidate shall normally be required to submit a Dissertation as part of their studies in accordance with the regulations for the qualification they are enrolled in.

1.11 The Board of Ministry shall make appropriate financial provision for students and probationers in terms of the legislation of the church. Candidates who fail to enter the ministry may be liable for the repayment of funds received from SAAS or funds received from the Board in terms of the undertakings made between the candidate and the Church.

1.12 The General Assembly declare that the foregoing provisions contain all the legislation of the Church relating to Applications for Recognition as a Candidate for the Ministry of the Free Church of Scotland. The General Assembly repeal (in as much as they have not already been repealed) Act XX, 1985; Act XIX, 1987; Act XXIII, 1989; Act XXI, 1991; Act XVI, 1992; Act XV, 1996; Act XIX, 2001; Act XXVIII, 2004; Act XXXII, 2014 and Act XXXIII, 2014.

The General Assembly direct that all Applications from Ministers or Probationers of other churches seeking admission to the ministry of the Free Church of Scotland shall be processed by the Board of Ministry observing the following directives:

2.1 The Board of Ministry shall publish and regularly update a Minister or Probationer’s Application Form. The Form shall consist of Part A for the use of the minister or probationer and Part B to be completed by the Presbytery or committee of Presbytery through whom the applicant is making application. The Presbytery shall oversee the initial stages of the application process. To comply with civil legislation, the form shall include information on the immigration and nationality of the applicant. The form shall gather information on their previous education and experience, their previous experience or work and ministry, their understanding of the gospel and theological views, their vision for ministry including their wholehearted commitment to the authority of scripture and the doctrines of the Reformed faith, together their reasons for wishing to leave their previous church and enter the ministry of the Free Church. The application must be supported by suitable references. This will normally include certification of their credentials and good standing within their past denomination. The candidate must declare their compliance with PVG legislation.

2.2 If the Presbytery supports the application and is satisfied that the applicant is a suitable person to hold a ministerial charge in the Free Church of Scotland, and if the applicant gives an unqualified agreement to the questions put to licentiates and is willing to sign the formula, then the Board shall agree to interview the applicant and come to a decision on the application.

2.3 The Board shall have the right to require an additional appraisal of the candidate including an assessment day or conference if deemed appropriate. The Board are authorised to require medical information if they regard this as necessary to ensure that a candidate is able to carry out the duties of a minister or to ensure that adequate support and provision is made in each case. The Board may require some applicants to undertake further theological studies. In coming to a view on the application the Board shall properly assess the candidate’s reputation and history of service in the church of Jesus Christ along with their gifts and character.

2.4 Where the Board is satisfied with the applicant and approve the application they shall process the application through the General Assembly or the Commission of Assembly in terms of the following protocol:

2.4.1 The Board of Ministry shall give sufficient prior notification to Presbyteries of all applications from ministers of other churches being reported to the General Assembly or its Commission.

2.4.2 The relevant Presbytery and the Board of Ministry are responsible to process the whole application with due diligence on behalf of the denomination. For reasons of confidentiality nothing more than the name of the applicant, the Presbytery they are applying through, and the date when their application will be disposed of, is required by way of notification to other Presbyteries.

2.4.3 To assist all parties the following deadline shall apply to all applications. Papers relating to an application must be in the hands of the Board of Ministry not less than six weeks prior to the meeting of the General Assembly or its Commission. The Board shall be responsible to give notice to Presbyteries at least one month before the application is finally disposed of. Otherwise the application will await the next available Commission or General Assembly.

2.4.4 The full application papers need not be made available to the Assembly or its Commission in instances where the responsible Presbytery and the Board of Ministry has no hesitation in recommending that the application be received. A précis setting out the main aspects of the application shall be sufficient in such cases. In cases where dissent had been recorded, or reservations have been expressed, by either the Presbytery or the Board of Ministry, the full application shall come before the Assembly or its Commission.

2.5 In cases where it is clear that the applicant – either because of his age or particular circumstances – is neither interested in, nor able to take up a charge in the Free Church, then the decision to require a medical certificate or to interview the applicant shall be at the discretion of the Board.

2.6 The Board of Ministry shall not approve an application unless they are satisfied that the minister or probationer possesses educational qualifications and professional training comparable to those required of applicants for Licence by the Free Church of Scotland unless appropriate steps are taken to correct any deficiency. The Board shall ascertain that the minister is fully committed to maintaining the peace and unity of this Church and does not hold opinions or follow practices likely to be divisive.

2.7 The General Assembly directs the Board of Ministry that applicants for ministry in the Free Church from other denominations shall normally study the Free Church Ministry Module. The Board shall ensure that the minister or probationer has such knowledge of the Practice of the Free Church of Scotland as to render him a competent person to act as Moderator of a Kirk Session and to assume the responsibilities which normally fall upon Free Church ministers in the courts of the Church. The Board may also set suitable guided reading or require essays on aspects of Free Church history and theology or other relevant subjects, as they shall see cause. The Board may in certain circumstances require the completion of a placement under the supervision of an experienced minister of the Church.

2.8 The General Assembly declare that only the General Assembly or its Commission of Assembly shall admit ministers from other churches. The General Assembly authorise all future meetings of the Commission of Assembly to receive and dispose of all such applications as a matter of routine.

2.9 The General Assembly declare that the foregoing provisions contain all the legislation of the Church relating to Applications from Ministers or Probationers of other churches seeking admission to the ministry of the Free Church of Scotland and accordingly repeal Act XXXV, 2005; Act XXXIV, 2013; and Act XXXIII, 2014.