PCA HISTORICAL CENTER
Archives and Manuscript Repository for the Continuing Presbyterian Church


The Historical Development of the Book of Church Order

Chapter 1 : The Doctrine of Church Government

Paragraph 1 : Presbyterian Government

1-1. The scriptural form of church government, which is representative or presbyterian, is comprehended under five heads: a. The Church; b. Its members; c. Its officers; d. Its courts; e. Its orders.

[Historical Summary : The above text has been in use since 1974. However, citation for the amendment to the wording "representative or presbyterian" has not yet been located in the 1974 Minutes of General Assembly. In substance, if not in exact wording, the text dates to the PCUS draft of 1867.]

BACKGROUND & COMPARISON:
PCA 1973, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, page 129
The scriptural form of Church government, which is that [sic] Presbytery, is comprehended under five heads, namely, 1. The Church; 2. Its Members; 3. Its Officers; 4. Its Courts; and 5. Its Orders.

Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, Proposed text, 1-1
The scriptural form of Church government, which is that of Presbytery, is comprehended under five heads, namely, 1. The Church; 2. Its Members; 3. Its Officers; 4. Its Courts; and 5. Its Orders.

PCUS 1879, I-1.

The scriptural form of church government, which is that of Presbytery, is comprehended under these five heads of doctrine—viz.: 1. Of the Church; 2. Of its members; 3. Of its officers; 4. Of its courts; and 5. Of its orders.

PCUS 1869 draft, I-1.
The scriptural form of Church Government, which is that of Presbytery, is comprehended under these five heads of doctrine, viz: 1. Of the Church; 2. Of its Members; 3. Of its Officers; 4. Of its Courts; and 5. Of its Orders.

PCUS 1867 draft, I-1.
It is absolutely necessary that the government of the church be exercised under some definite form. The scriptural form, which is that of presbytery, is comprehended under these five heads of doctrine, viz: 1. Of the church; 2. Of its members; 3. Of its officers; 4. Of its courts; and 5. Of its orders.

COMMENTARY:
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order (1898, pp. 11-2), on I-1 :

The supreme standard, the one rule of faith and practice, of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, is the Bible. Its subordinate standards are the doctrinal symbols (which are the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms) and the Book of Church Order. This book has three parts: the Form of Government, which treats of the ecclesiastical organization, its parts and their functions; the Rules of Discipline, which gives special regulations for directing the exercise of the ecclesiastical power of censure; and the Directory for Worship, which gives special directions for the conduct of public worship.
The Form of Government has seven chapters: the first on preliminary definitions; the next five on the five heads of the doctrine of church government ; and the seventh on amending the standards.
Similarly, the first chapter,
CHAPTER I. - Of the Doctrine of Church Government,
has seven sections: one preliminary, one on each of the five heads of doctrine, and one on the relation of this doctrine to the existence and perfection of the Church :
I. The scriptural form of church government, which is that of Presbytery, is comprehended under these five heads of doctrine, viz.: 1. Of the Church; 2. Of its Members; 3. Of its Officers: 4. Of its Courts; and 5. Of its Orders.
However little the Scripture may lay down prescriptions in detail in the matter of church government, it teaches a form of church government; so that both those are in error who deny church government altogether, and those who, admitting that the Scripture teaches government, deny that it teaches any particular form of government. And the form of government is neither a form in which all are equally rulers nor a form in which one rules over many, but a form in which some rule over all. Neither any Congregational form in which the authority is in the body of the people, nor any Episcopal form in which the authority is in an individual, is scriptural, but only that form in which the authority is in a selected few acting together as a court. This is Presbytery, which means a court of elders. And the doctrine concerning this scriptural form of church government naturally falls under five heads. After telling what the Church is, it will be next in place to tell who constitute it, that is, of what members it consists. As it is governed by officers and not by the members, the next thing must be to tell what officers it has; but as these officers do not govern severally but jointly, the courts come next in place; and finally, when we have the courts for admitting to office, we may learn concerning orders, or how officers are ordained. It is this exhaustive and logical treatment that the Form of Government proposes.



Chapter Index [links are to Paragraph 1 in each chapter]:
FoG..
1
2
3.
4
5.
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
I. King & Head of Church
.§1.
§4
§5
RoD
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
II. Preliminary Principles
§1
§2
§3
§4
§5
§6
§7
§8
DfW
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
[FoG = Form of Government ; RoD = Rules of Discipline ; DfW = Directory for Worship]

©PCA Historical Center, 12330 Conway Road, St. Louis, MO, 2017. All Rights Reserved.