On Apologies Offered, Accepted, and the Work Left to Do

About six weeks ago, I wrote a piece called “On the #PCUSA’s Irresponsible Choice to Use a Text of Terror for the Winter 2023 Exegesis Exam.” 

Today the entity responsible for writing the exam apologized. It’s significant. They spent a long time working on their apology*. There is great beauty in it. Here is the full text of the apology. Bolded emphasis is mine.

According to our practice, over the course of three years, we, the Presbyteries’ Cooperative Committee on Examinations for Candidates (PCC), engaged in a process of discernment that led to a decision to use Judges 19 as the text for the Winter 2023 Biblical Exegesis Exam. While it was not our intention, the choice of Judges 19, in the context of a senior ordination exam, resulted in candidates, exam readers, and others across our denomination feeling fearful, traumatized, and perhaps even victimized.

We believed that our decision was defensible; however, we acknowledge that it caused harm. Therefore, we offer our apology. We are sorry. We ask for your forgiveness.

We also acknowledge that for many, our choice of Judges 19 was a breach of the trust granted to us. In partnership with others across the church and led by the Spirit, it is now our responsibility to take steps forward that move us from this place of anger, pain, and frustration into a grace-filled space, where greater wisdom may guide our future words and deeds.

As a committee, we are committed not only to learning from this experience, but also to discerning how we may do things differently in the future. We extend our thanks to those individuals and groups who have reached out to us, who have shared their stories and who have offered their ideas for moving forward. We ask for your prayers not only now, but in the future. We offer our prayers for those harmed by our choice of Judges 19.

We are committed to our work of crafting exams that integrate critical thinking in the life and work of a pastor, while also partnering with our presbyteries to ensure equitable standards and a uniform basis for preparation.

May God’s grace and mercy surround us all today and for all our days to come.


This controversy has stirred up a lot of pain and anger in a lot of people around matters of sexual abuse, sexual violence, abuse of power, the ordination process, generational divides and more. It’s brought out a lot of discussion about a lot of things. No longer is the discussion about Judges 19. It’s now about “the thing behind the thing.” There are a lot of things. There is so much to say.

And yet, in my original piece, I talked about how insufficient the response was to the outcry. 

This response is very different. 

It says “we acknowledge it caused great harm.”

It says “we are sorry.” 

It says “we ask for forgiveness.” 

It says “it is our responsibility.”

I’ve always loved the quote “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” Is this a happy ending? It’s hard to say. The story’s not over yet. There is much work to be done. 

And so, my friends, hear this: there is power in repentance and repair. Deep power. 

To the PCC, who offered this apology: thank you. 

Thank you. 

*Lots of Presbyterian process in the editing of this apology! See it HERE beginning at one hour and ten minutes. 


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