By: Priscilla Andre-Colton and Debbie Hough


The mission of APCE is to connect, enrich, empower and sustain. The APCE organization strives to accomplish this in a variety of ways—through events, this publication, regional gatherings, and the Endowment Fund. APCE is committed to excellence in the educational ministry of our several and diverse denominations. It is what we are called to do. One of the things APCE does not do is certify educators.

In the Presbyterian Church (USA) this is accomplished through the Educator Certification process. Currently certification is rooted in the process established in the Presbyterian Church US over 35 years ago. With reunion in 1983 the process was embraced by the newly-formed denomination – the PC(USA). It has undergone several revisions in the years since and is still evolving. At each turn the driving force was to make the process responsive to and reflective of the needs of the church and the educators who serve in that ministry.

“But what has that to do with being connectED?” you ask. The Educator Certification process connects educators with their presbytery, the larger church, and other educators by the very nature of the requirements of the process. Within the larger church, educator certification is overseen by the Educator Certification Committee, a ministry arm of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Office of the General Assembly. The members of this committee are elected by the General Assembly and act as the certifying body on behalf of the General Assembly. Educators are also connectED with their presbyteries, as well. Each presbytery nominates Educator Certification Advisors, who work with the educator, the congregation and the appropriate presbytery committee on behalf of that educator. When an educator has achieved certification the presbytery recognizes the accomplishment and enrolls the educator in its Certified Educator roll. Many presbyteries grant certified educators voice on the floor of presbytery and vote, if they are also an ordained ruling elder. Educators who join the certification process find themselves connected to other educators in new ways, too. As they take the courses required for certification they meet and work with educators from across the country and life-long friends ships, collaborations and support networks are formed. Educators involved in the certification process are required to take courses and demonstrate competency in seven knowledge and skill areas: Biblical Interpretation, Reformed Theology, Religious Education Theory and Practice, Human Growth and Faith Development, Presbyterian Polity, Worship and Sacraments and Presbyterian Program and Mission. Through these courses and the related work educators gain a deeper understanding of faith and ministry. They have greater confidence in their ability to make a larger contribution to the education ministry of the church, in their local congregation and beyond. And so, in an ever-changing world, through certification, educators have a special opportunity to connect and empower the faith communities they serve to the story of the Gospel of Christ.

Five educators were recognized for achieving certification at the APCE Annual Event in Orlando. Those achieving Certified Christian Educator are Cheryl Carlson, South Atlantic/Puerto Rica, Ann Graham, Mid-Atlantic, Mary Beckhusen, East, and Jacob Bolton, Northeast. Susan Topmkins, South Atlantic/Puerto Rico, achieved Christian Education Associate. We congratulate them all on this accomplishment.

For more information about the Educator Certification process, visit

Priscilla Andre-Colton serves on the APCE cabinet where she is a member of the Advocate team.

Debbie Hough, director of Christian education at Derry Presbyterian Church in Hershey, PA, is a graduate of the Presbyterian School of Christian Education and Princeton Theological Seminary. She is an elder, Certified Christian Educator, APCE member and currently serves on the Educator Certification Council.