Ordination Process

Ordination is usually required prior to the acquisition of full-time pastoral ministry. This section covers the ordination process of major Presbyterian denominations, and describes where you can find information about the ordination process for some other denominations.

It is advisable to begin the ordination process as early in your Westminster career as possible so that you can tailor your time to best meet the requirements for ordination. If you begin the steps early, you may find that you are eligible for ordination soon after graduation. This is particularly true for denominations that require a mandatory waiting period between the initial stages of pursuing ordination and ordination itself. Beginning the process while you are in the later stages of your time in seminary may significantly delay ordination, resulting in an uncomfortable interim period between graduation and full-time ministry.

Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC)

The following steps are required for ordination in the OPC. For more detailed information, consult the Book of Church Order.

  • Overview of Process

    1. Church Membership

    2. Come Under Care

    3. Licensure

    4. Calling

    5. Ordination

    6. Installation

  • Church Membership: The first step in becoming ordained is membership in an OPC church (ordinarily in the presbytery in which the candidate is taken under care).

  • Under Care: Next, a candidate is taken under care of a presbytery. He must provide his testimony, sense of inward calling, and reasons he has chosen to pursue ordination in the OPC.  The session of his local congregation then certifies that the candidate’s faith and potential gifts qualify him to be taken under the care of the presbytery with a view to ordination.

  • Licensure: After a candidate has been taken under care, the next step is licensure. The candidate is eligible for licensure after earning a Bachelor’s degree and completing a year and a half of study at a theological seminary. The candidate is examined by the presbytery in the English Bible, ecclesiastical history, theology, and the original languages of Scripture. He must also prepare a sermon, a theological essay, and an exegetical essay on a passage from Scripture.

  • Calling: A licentiate may be called into ministerial service by a congregation prior to ordination. 

  • Ordination: According to the OPC Book of Church Order, “Ordination is that act by which men are set apart to the offices of deacon, ruling elder, and minister. It is the church's solemn approval of and public attestation to a man's inward call, his gifts, and his calling by the church.”  Ordination occurs after a call is issued to a qualified licentiate for his installation.

  • Installation: The OPC Book of Church Order defines installation as  “the act by which a person who has been chosen to perform official work in the church, having been ordained, is placed in position to do that work. When a man receives his first call to a service his ordination and installation shall be performed at the same time.” This is the final step in the pursuit of ordained ministry in the OPC.

Presbyterian Church in America (PCA)

The following steps are required for ordination in the PCA.  For more information, refer to the PCA Book of Church Order.

  • Overview of the Process

    1. Church Membership

    2. Coming Under Care

    3. Licensure

    4. Internship

    5. Calling

    6. Ordination

    7. Installation

  • Church Membership:  Before beginning the ordination process, a candidate must be a member of a PCA church for at least six months.

  • Under Care: The next step in ordination is to come under care of a PCA presbytery. This involves providing a testimony, demonstrating a sense of inward calling, and explaining the reasons for choosing the PCA.

  • Licensure: Prior to eligibility for ordination, a candidate must be licensed by his presbytery. This requires an examination, including a personal statement of Christian experience and inward call, basic knowledge of biblical doctrine as outlined in the Confession of Faith and Larger and Shorter Catechisms, practical knowledge of the Bible, and basic knowledge of PCA church government as outlined in the Book of Church Order.

  • Internship: In addition to licensure, a candidate must serve in an internship.  This is a trial period that helps the church judge the candidate’s qualifications for service.  The internship must last for at least a year and may occur during the candidate’s time in seminary.

  • Receiving a Call: Before a licentiate can become ordained, he must receive a call to definite work. This call comes from a church, presbytery, or General Assembly.

  • Ordination: The PCA Book of Church Order defines Ordination as “the authoritative admission of one duly called to an office in the Church of God, accompanied with prayer and the laying on of hands, to which it is proper to add the giving of the right hand of fellowship.” After a candidate has met the requirements for ordination and received a call, he is examined in several areas and then ordained.

  • Installation: Once the candidate has been ordained, he is eligible for installation into the office of minister at the church that has called him.

Other Presbyterian and Reformed Denominations

Below you will find websites containing information on ordination in other Reformed denominations.

Other Denominations

A good place to look for information on the ordination process in other denominations is their websites. You should be able to locate information about the steps you must complete in order to qualify for ordination. Make sure that you are aware of all the necessary steps before you begin the process, especially if you are planning to use your degree from Westminster to satisfy any education requirements.


Handbook Sections:

1. Introduction
2. Calling
3. Ordination
4. Finding Open Positions
5. Applying for Positions
6. Candidating