It is fairly common to hear men disparage the BCO exam. Some people think that it is the least important of the exams for Licensure and Ordination. None of the critics (that I have heard) doubt the value of the BCO itself; the exam itself is the object of criticism.
The thinking seems to go like this, “I have the binder/app and I can look anything up in a few minutes, why do I need to learn its content for an exam?” And lest you think that this is just the attitude of a handful of seminarians, I have heard this from long-time presbyters. including from members of the credentialing committee itself.
I disagree. The BCO exam is very important for both the candidates and for the committee members examining those candidates. The BCO exam covers a relatively small amount of information, only a couple of hundred pages. Your performance on this exam tells the committee a great deal about you. In fact, the BCO exam is really a test of several other important qualifications.
The BCO exam is a maturity test. How you approach this exam will tell the committee a great deal about you. Do you approach it in a serious and reverent matter? If a candidate shows by word or attitude that he does not consider it to be that important, then we should have serious reservations about his maturity and suitability for the office of TE.
Our church considers this important enough to make it one of the requirements for ordination. Are you mature enough to accept their wisdom? This is not the time to to say that you think that they made a mistake by requiring this exam.
This is a test of your study habits. Anyone can learn the BCO just by reading the book through once a day for two or three weeks. You may not be qualified to be the moderator of GA this summer, but you can pass the exam. Let’s be honest, if you read it every day for three weeks you can ace the exam.
So any man that shows up before the committee and doesn’t do well is revealing something about how he prepared for all of his exams. And that doesn’t instill confidence in the committee.
This is a test of compatibility with the PCA. There are dozens of Presbyterian denominations in the world. They all differ in some way from each other, sometimes in major ways, and sometime simply in minor matters of procedure and tone. The BCO is where you start to learn the culture of the PCA. These are the minor ways in which we differ from others of like faith.
What language we use to refer to each other, and the terms that we use- all of these are distinctive to us and our church. Is it a big deal that we call Pastors “Teaching Elders” and some other denominations call their Pastors “Ministers of the Word and Sacrament”? No it is not. But if you do not know that we use the term “Associate Pastor” in a way that has a significant variation in meaning from “Assistant Pastor” then you do not really know the PCA polity.
If you don’t take the BCO exam seriously, then you are demonstrating that you are not that interested in fitting into the culture of the PCA.
This is a test of how well you understand our form of Government. Knowing the details that distinguish a committee from a commission is important. But at the end of the day what we need are men that understand the biblical basis for Presbyterianism. And understand how it functions. The BCO exam, when well done, is a great place to evaluate this.