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Act 40, 2015 (XL) – Act anent Licensing of Students. 21st May 2015.

The General Assembly, recognising that only those who are duly qualified should be licensed to preach the gospel, ordain that:

1. A student applying for licence shall inform the Clerk of their presbytery and the clerk to the Board of Ministry, normally by 31st December in the year prior to licence. No student should be taken on trials for licence unless the Clerk to the Board of Ministry has circulated a minimum notice of three months to each presbytery.

2. If no objection is received from any presbytery before 30th April, or as a minimum within three months of notice being given, the licensing presbytery shall be entitled to proceed.

3. The Presbytery shall fix a date for trials for license observing the following directions:

3.1 the Presbytery shall meet in private when discussing each stage in the process;

3.2 if the student has been resident outwith the bounds of the Presbytery they shall satisfy themselves that the applicant is a proper person to be taken upon trials for licence;

3.3 no student shall be taken on trials for licence who is under twenty-one years of age;

3.4 no student shall be taken on trials for licence unless he has been a communicant member of the Free Church of Scotland (or a sister church) for a minimum period of two years prior to the date of his being taken on trials, or unless the presbytery has satisfied itself with the bona fides of the candidate and has obtained the agreement of the Board of Ministry to proceed;

4. Any presbytery that objects to the licensing of an applicant shall be entitled to send representatives to state its objections at the bar of the presbytery to which the student has applied. These objections shall be heard when the presbytery is considering the motion to proceed to trials. If these representatives find themselves unable to acquiesce in the presbytery’s decision they shall have the right to appeal; and such an appeal shall automatically sist procedure until a final decision is pronounced by the superior court.

5. Before proceeding to trials a presbytery must have before it the following documents:

5.1 a completion certificate from the Senate of Edinburgh Theological Seminary indicating that the applicant has satisfactorily completed his studies, including the Free Church Ministry Module; and that his conduct, so far as is known to the Senate, is consistent with the high office he has in view;

5.2 a completion certificate from the Board of Ministry;

5.3 a copy of his Seminary Dissertation duly sustained. At its discretion the Presbytery may also ask for copies of any essays or assignments submitted by the student as part of his programme of studies.

6. The Presbytery shall satisfy itself that the student is competent to preach and conduct public worship, and shall normally arrange for the student to conduct public worship, including sermon, and shall appoint representatives to attend and report on the competence of the student. If they report themselves dissatisfied, the presbytery shall resolve to proceed no further and inform the student that they cannot grant him a licence in his present circumstances.

7. The General Assembly remind presbyteries to bear in mind that the student has already satisfied both the Seminary Senate and the Board of Ministry as to his academic proficiency. Trials should accordingly normally consist of oral examination, making appropriate use of the Dissertation and other written assignments submitted by the student. Trials should seek to establish that the student is in a position honestly and intelligently to sign the Formula and is a proper person to be eligible for a call to a charge. The trials should establish that:

7.1 the student has a well-informed grasp of the whole doctrine of the Confession of Faith and is prepared to subscribe to it unreservedly;

7.2 he sincerely and intelligently adheres to the principles of the Free Church of Scotland;

7.3 he has a sound working knowledge of the Practice of the Free Church of Scotland and is able to play a part in church courts;

7.4 he has an evangelistic vision and sense of mission such that “zeal for the honour of God, love to Jesus Christ, and desire of saving souls” are “his great motive and chief inducement to enter the holy ministry”;

7.5 he has sufficient experience of human life, sufficient sympathy with his people and knowledge of practical theology to enable him to lead, counsel, encourage and warn the people of God;

7.6 he is firmly committed to maintaining the unity and peace of the Church and does not pursue practices likely to be divisive.

8. The student having gone through the trials for license, the Presbytery shall proceed as follows:

8.1 it shall take a careful and combined view of the trials;

8.2 if it forms the opinion that the student is not properly qualified to sign the Formula and to perform the duties of a minister of the Gospel it shall not grant him a licence. Since the Presbytery are the sole hearers of the trials (and therefore the only party competent to judge them) its decision shall be final. No member of the court shall have the right of Dissent and Complaint; and neither the student nor any other party shall have the right of Appeal. The Moderator of Presbytery shall, however, inform the student that he has the right to apply to be taken on trials again by this, or any other, presbytery of the Church, subject to the provisions of Paragraph 3 (2) above;

8.3 if, upon review of the trials, the Presbytery is fully satisfied with the student, the Moderator shall inform him and the presbytery shall record the decision in its Minutes;

8.4 the Presbytery shall then meet in open court;

8.5 the Presbytery shall then, or at a later public meeting of Presbytery, put to the student the Questions appointed for Probationers by Act XII, 1846. Having given satisfactory answers, the presbytery shall require the student to subscribe the Formula. No student shall be licensed will not give explicit and satisfactory answers and subscribe the Formula;

8.6 the Moderator, in the name and by the authority of the presbytery, shall solemnly license the student as a preacher of the Gospel; and the presbytery clerk shall issue him an extract of his Licence;

8.7 within one week the Clerk of Presbytery shall forward the name and address of the licentiate, with the date of his Licence, to the Principal Clerk of the General Assembly.

9. The General Assembly repeal Act XX, 2001, and any Acts not consistent with this Act and declare that this Act contains the whole of the Assembly’s directions relating to the Trials of Students and the Licensing of Probationers.

10. To ensure that this Act is observed, the General Assembly ordain: that it shall be printed among their other printed Acts; that it shall be made available by itself and copies shall be placed on appropriate websites and lodged with the Edinburgh Theological Seminary Senate and in the Seminary Library; and that a copy shall be transmitted annually by the Clerk to the Board of Ministry, and at the commencement of the Seminary session, to every candidate for the ministry who is entering his final year of study at Edinburgh Theological Seminary; and a copy shall likewise be sent to presbytery clerks for the use of their respective courts and members.