OWLs for Priests, The GOE (General Ordination Exams)

The past week of my life has been spent taking a massive test.  The Episcopal Church requires that each person preparing for ordained ministry be examined in the areas of: Holy Scripture, Contemporary Society, Christian Theology & Missiology, Liturgy & Church Music, Christian Ethics & Moral Theology, the Theory & Practice of Ministry, and Church History.  So my seminary classmates and I sat, for 4 days, taking a three hour test in each area.  I am glad this is over.  It was kind of an adventure in writing out things that I have learned, and in trying to figure out exactly what is being asked.  All in all, except for the sheer physical discomfort of sitting for such a large percentage of a week, it wasn’t too painful.

This is a picture of my desk before the last question:

These were our questions:

Set 1: Holy Scripture

Monday, January 3, 2011, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Living with “the other”  the one from whom we differ culturally, politically, economically, theologically  has always created challenges for Gods people. From biblical times to the present day, living with “the other” has provided occasion for defining the nature of community, for addressing fundamental issues such as purity and holiness, and for determining who is “in” and who is “out.”

In both testaments of the Bible we find lively dialogues among communities with very different perspectives on the question of how to deal with “difference.” This question asks you to enter that conversation exegetically and theologically.

In a three-page essay:

A. Exegete, in no more than one page for each pair, the following pairs of biblical texts, comparing and contrasting their historical and theological characteristics:

Pair 1
Ezra 9:1-4 and Ruth 4:13-17

Pair 2
1 Corinthians 5:1-5 and Ephesians 2:14-18

B. Identify a situation in the contemporary world where “difference” presents a challenge, and, using your exegesis of either Pair 1or Pair 2, demonstrate how these texts might help to address this situation in a constructive way.

Set 2: Christian Ethics and Moral Theology

Monday, January 3, 2011, 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.


Is it ever permissible for Christians to be involved (directly, as agents of violence, or indirectly/complicitly) in violence?

In a four- or five-page essay, identify and make an argument both in the affirmative and an argument in the negative from the perspectives of Christian ethics and moral theology. For each argument, also make a rebuttal. Your essay will, therefore, have four parts: Argument 1 and rebuttal, and, Argument 2 and rebuttal.

Set 3: Christian Theology and Missiology

Tuesday, January 4, 2011, 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

LIMITED RESOURCES: A printed one-volume annotated Bible, a printed 1979 Book of Common Prayer and a printed Hymnal1982

Theological anthropology is the discipline of examining the nature and meaning of being human in the context of relationship with the Triune God. One Christian doctrine of human being, dating from the time of Justin Martyr, is the doctrine of theosis or deification. One of the most famous definitions of theosis comes to us from Irenaeus of Lyons by way of Athanasius, “God became man that man might become God.” (De Incarnatione 54)

In a four-page essay, using this doctrine as the starting point, sketch out the theological implications of theosis for a theology of ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church. The quotations below are provided to give you both theological and biblical texts which are the bases of the doctrine or which are theological expressions of the doctrine. The quotations are Biblical, Patristic, Anglican, and Orthodox. You are free to use these texts in whatever way(s) you choose. It is not expected that you say something about all of them.

Key Patristic Biblical Texts

Genesis 1:26a, 27a: Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness … ” So God created humankind in his image, in the image and likeness of God he created them; male and female he created them.

Psalms 82:6-7: I say, “You are gods, children of the Most High, all of you; Nevertheless, you shall die like mortals, and fall like any prince.”

2 Peter 1:4: “Thus he [Jesus] has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature.”

New Testament Texts

John 17:20b: As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

John 17:26: I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.

Patristic Texts

Irenaeus of Lyons: Because of his infinite love he became what we are in order to make us what he himself is. (Against Heresies 5, Preface)

Athanasius: God became man that man might become God. (De Incarnatione 54)

Maximus the Confessor: ” … the power of this reciprocal gift which deifies man for God through the love of God, and makes God man for man through his love for man, making through his noble exchange God to become man for the deification of man, and man to become God for the humanization of God. For the Word of God who is God wills always and in all things to work the mystery of his embodiment.” (from Ambigua 10, cited in Allchin, p. 70)

Anglican Texts

Richard Hooker: “Participation is that mutuall inward hold which Christ hath of us and wee of him, in such sort that ech possesseth other by waie of speciall interest propertie and inherent copulation. For plainer explication whereof we may from that which hath bene before sufficientlie proved assume to our purpose these two principles, that everie originall cause imparteth it selfe unto those things which come of it, and Whatsoever taketh beinge from anie other the same is after a sort in that which giveth beinge. (Lawes. V.56.30) … For wee have [on earth] onlie the beinge of the Sonnes of God, … yeat touching this that all are sonnes they are all equales, some happelie better sonnes that the rest are, but none any more a sonne then another. Thus wee see how the father is in the Sonne and the Sonne in the father, how they both are in all things and all things in them, what communion Christ hath with his Church, how his Church and everie member thereof is in him by originall derivation, and he personallie in them by way of mysticall association wrought through the guift of the holie Ghost, which they that are his receive from him, and together with the same what benefit soever the vitall force of his bodie and blood may yield, yea by steppes and degrees they receave the complete measure of all such divine grace, as doth sanctifie and save throughout, till the daie of their finall exaltation to the state of fellowship in glorie, with him whose pertakers they are now in those things that tend to glorie.”

Lancelot Andrewes: God is “to make us that to God that he was this day [Christmas Day] to man. And this indeed was the chief end of his being ‘With us’; to give us a posse fiery, a capacity, ‘a power to be made the sons of God’, by being born again of water and the Spirit; for Originem quam sunpsit ex utero Virgin’s posuit in fonte Baptismatis, ‘the same original that himself took in the womb of the Virgin to usward the same hath he placed in the fountain of Baptism to Godward’ … So his being conceived and born the Son of man doth conceive and bring forth (filiatio, filiationem) our being born, our being sons of God, his participation of our human, our participation of his divine nature.” (Complete Works. Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology (1841 – 54), vol. I, p. 122.

A. M. Allchin: “Without the doctrine of our deification by grace, the doctrine of the incarnation in the end loses its meaning and finality. For how can God enter into man unless man is made from the beginning to enter into God?” (Participation in God: A Forgotten Strand in Anglican Tradition, p. 6)

The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

Eucharistic Prayer I, Rite I: “And here we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, our selves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto thee; humbly beseeching thee that we, and all others who shall be partakers of this Holy Communion, may worthily receive the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son Jesus Christ, be filled with thy heavenly benediction, and made one body with him, that he may dwell in us and we in him.”

The Prayer of Humble Access: “Grant us, therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us.”

Orthodox Text

Norman Russell: “The fact that theosis encompasses the whole of the economy of salvation means that it is intended for all believers without exception. To live theosis, then, means to lead our life in an eschatological perspective within the ecclesial community, striving through prayer, participation in the Eucharist, and the practice of the moral life to attain the divine likeness, being conformed spiritually and corporeally to the body of Christ until we are brought into Christ’s identity and arrive ultimately at union with the Father.” (Fellow Workers with God: Orthodox Thinking on Theosis, p. 169)

Set 4: Contemporary Society

Tuesday, January 4, 2011, 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

LIMITED RESOURCES: A printed one-volume annotated Bible and a printed 1979 Book of Common Prayer

Is it responsible or not to bring children into today’s world? Christians in the United States are divided on this question. Those who feel it is responsible cite reasons such as God’s mandate to be fruitful and multiply and hope for the future. Those opposed cite problems such as climate change, economic uncertainty (poverty, illness and lack of healthcare resources, urban violence) and overpopulation.

In a three-page essay, show how a Christian might respond evaluatively and thoughtfully by elucidating both points of view.

Set 5: Church History

Thursday, January 6, 2011, 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.


Since the Church of England’s establishment in the early 16th century, several internal reform movements have arisen within it. Some of these movements have eventually led to enduring schisms and/or to the formation of distinctive internal wings that have lasted to the present day. These have included Puritanism in the late 16th and the 17th centuries, Methodism in the 18th century, and the Oxford Movement in the 19th century.

In a three-page essay, provide a brief historical background of each of these three movements and explain what issues involving the nature of the church and the Christian life were central to each. Conclude your essay by showing how these movements are manifested today both within and outside The Episcopal Church.

Set 6: Theory and Practice of Ministry

Thursday, January 6, 2011, 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.


You are the rector of a pastoral-sized predominately upper-middle-class congregation located in the center of town. The town is split socio-economically: the northern end is predominantly upper middle class and the southern end is predominantly lower middle class.

On a Friday morning a parishioner notifies you that a teenager in the local high school has committed suicide. The teenager was not a member of your congregation, but several members of your church’s youth group were friends of hers, and her math teacher sings in the choir. You discover through conversations with parishioners and through media reports that the suicide is related to severe bullying by several teenagers, all from families in the northern end of town. The young woman lived in the southern end of town.

In a three-page essay, identify the issues raised by this incident, then suggest the appropriate response of the faith community. Explain how you as priest and pastor would enable the congregation to respond.

Set 7: Liturgy and Church Music

Friday, January 7, 2011, 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

LIMITED RESOURCES: A printed 1979 Book of Common Prayer, a printed Hymnal 1982, a printed Wonder Love and Praiseand a printed Lift Every Voice and Sing.

Ritual can be one of the most important ways in which we teach people the Christian faith. In the ritual of The Episcopal Church, various practices have grown up around the celebration of Holy Communion designed to express different theological understandings of the Eucharist. Each of these theologies has an honored place in Anglican history and the life of the church.

A. In a two-page essay, explicate the following four theological understandings of the Eucharist: the real presence of Christ, transubstantiation, consubstantiation, and the memorial of the Lord’s Last Supper.

B. In a one-page answer in the form of a chart or annotation, use one of the six eucharistic prayers in the BCP, starting with theSursum Corda and ending with the Dismissal, to enumerate and explain the liturgical choices you believe would make one of these four theological understandings of the Eucharist in Part A vivid to the congregation. Your choices might or might not include the lavabo, orans position, a blessing, choreography, music, manual acts, incense, etc. Show how what people hear, see, taste, touch, smell or otherwise apprehend helps to make real the theology you have chosen. Be sure to cite BCP page numbers to tie your choices to specific phrases in the eucharistic rite. If you need a proper preface, use the Preface for Easter.

Published by Mike Angell

The Rev. Mike Angell is rector of The Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion in St. Louis.

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