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The Historical Development of the Book of Church Order

Chapter 4 : The Particular Church

Paragraph 3 : Its Joint Power

4-3. Its jurisdiction, being a joint power, is lodged in the church Session, which consists of its pastor, pastors, its associate pastor(s) and its ruling elders.

DIGEST: The substance of the text remains that of PCUS 1879, II-4-1. In 1974 (M2GA, 2-70, p. 55), a change was approved, from "consisting of..." to "which consists of...". Also, there has been the insertion of a comma after "jurisdiction". The distinction between joint and several power is not developed in the PCUSA texts, at least not prior to 1860.
Where the current PCA text at BCO 4-2 has been changed, the current BCO 4-3 still retains the seeming redundancy of "pastor, pastors,..." and even adds "..., its associate pastor(s)..." Would the sense of this paragraph be different if it was conflated to read "Its jurisdiction, being a joint power, is lodged in the church Session, which consists of its pastor (or pastors) and its ruling elders."?]

BACKGROUND & COMPARISON:
PCA 1973, 4-3, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, p. 129
and
Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, 4-3, Proposed text, p. 5
Its jurisdiction being a joint power, is lodged in the hands of the church Session, consisting of the Pastor, Pastors, and Ruling Elders.

PCUS 1933, ch. 5, §22
Its jurisdiction being a joint power, is lodged in the hands of the church Session, consisting of the Pastor and Ruling Elders.

PCUS 1879, II-4-3

Its jurisdiction being a joint power, is lodged in the hands of the Church Session, consisting of the Pastor and Ruling Elders.

PCUS 1869 draft, II-4-3
The jurisdiction of the Congregation is lodged in the hands of the Pastor and Ruling Elders thereof, as a joint power, in the Church Session.

PCUS 1867 draft, II-4-3
The jurisdiction of the congregation is lodged in the hands of the pastor or pastors and ruling elders thereof, as a joint power; these officers constituting the primary presbytery or court, known as the church-session.

COMMENTARY:
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order (1898, p. 31-32)
, on II-4-3 :
22. III.
And the Deacons have no authority of rule whatever.
Its jurisdiction being a joint power,
as is all ecclesiastical jurisdiction,
is lodged in the hands of the Church Session, consisting of the Pastor and Ruling Elders.
This jurisdiction is not committed to the Pastor acting severally, nor to the membership generally, but to the Session, which is a Presbytery, that is, a court of Presbyters. (Cf. par. 5) And no one can be a member of the Session, or have a vote therein, unless he is the Pastor or a Ruling Elder of the church.

OVERTURES & AMENDMENTS:

1988 - On recommendation from the Committee of Commissioners on Judicial Business [M16GA, 16-77, III, Item 3, p. 170], it was proposed in part to "a) Amend BCO 4-3 by omitting "pastors" and inserting "(s)" after "pastor".
Adopted and sent down to presbyteries for advice and consent.
1989 - Proposed amendment failed, on not being approved by a sufficient number of Presbyteries, with 26 Presbyteries voting in favor and 12 against the amendment. [M17GA, 17-6, Item 3, pp.43-44]

CONSTITUTIONAL INQUIRY:
1985 - Inquiry #7, from the Session of Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Levittown, PA [M13GA, Appendix I, Item 7, p. 241]
Question - Does the associate pastor, when he is not moderating Session, have a vote in that court?
Answer - The BCO 4-3, 12-1, 22-2 lists the member of Session which includes Pastors, Associate Pastors, and Ruling Elders. Every member of the Session, including the Moderator, is entitled to vote by virtue of his membership in the Session.
Action - That the advice regarding Inquiry #7 be ratified. Adopted. [M13GA, 13-45, III, 49, p. 109]

1985 - Inquiry #10, from the Session of Progressive Presbyterian Church, Princeton, NC
[M13GA, Appendix I, Item 10, p. 242]
Question - During a Session meeting, except in voting to break a tie vote, does the Moderator have a vote?
Answer - The BCO 4-3, 12-1, 22-2 lists the member of Session which includes Pastors, Associate Pastors, and Ruling Elders. Every member of the Session, including the Moderator, is entitled to vote by virtue of his membership in the Session.
The moderator may vote on all issues, not only in breaking or creating a tie vote.
Action - That the advice regarding Inquiry #10 be ratified. Adopted. [M13GA, 13-45, III, Item 52, p. 109]

1986 - Inquiry #1, from the Gainesville Presbyterian Church [M14GA, Appendix I, 9, p. 329 and 14-52, Item 9, p. 124]
Question
- As we have read the Book of Church Order we cannot find any rule that forbids us from having several pastors on the staff of our church (as opposed to associate and assistant pastors). . . . If there is something in our standards that prohibits this practice, please inform us of it.
Answer - The PCA BCO 4-3 reads "Its jurisdiction, being a joint power, is lodged in the church session, which consists of its Pastor, Pastors, its Associate Pastor(s) and its Ruling Elders." BCO 12-1 (4) reads "The church Session consists of the Pastor, Associate Pastor(s), if there be any, and the Ruling Elders of a church." The the BCO is consistent.
PCA practice has been to recognize one pastor as the "senior pastor" in churches served by multiple pastors. (See BCO 12-1 and 23-1,3)
Since the BCO makes no specific provision for co-pastors, various sections which clearly envision a single pastor would cause difficulties for which the BCO provides no solution (e.g., the Moderator of the Session, succession to the Senior Pastor).
On the principle of plurality of elders, the concept of co-pastor would not be inimical to presbyterianism. That "multiple pastors" or "co-pastors" have historical precedent in presbyterianism is found in What is Presbyterian Law?, by J.A. Hodge, 1903 edition, p. 49: "What are co-pastors? They are two or more Ministers associated together as Pastors of one or more churches, having equal authority." The BCO of the PCUS, 1932, XIV, 64 reads "In churches where there are 2 or more Pastors, they shall, when present, alternately preside" (at a Session meeting).
Therefore, the General Assembly instructs the Committee on Judicial Business to prepare language to clarify the procedures for utilizing co-pastors in a manner consistent with Biblical teaching on the plurality of elders as has been recognized in Presbyterian polity."
Grounds - The recognition of ambiguity in the BCO and the absence of specific provisions for the functioning of co-pastors is insufficient reason to advise against the practice of co-pastors which both the majority and minority reports recognize as having Biblical warrant and historical Presbyterian precedent. The BCO Chapter 1 specifically addresses the priority of Scripture and the obligation of church courts to uphold the laws of Scripture.
[Note 1: the response adopted, as per page 129 indicates that the concluding statement on p. 329, to wit, "...the use of multiple pastors should be avoided..." must be seen as superceded by the wording in the Grounds portion of the above answer.]
[Note 2: In 1988, BCO amendments were sent down to presbyteries (see M16GA, 16-77, III, 3, p. 170), but defeated in 1989 (see M17GA, 17-6, Item 3, p. 43).

1986 - Inquiry #16, from Faith Presbyterian Church, Brandon, MS [M14GA, Appendix I, Item 16, p. 336 and 14-52, Item 45, p. 128]
Questions -
1. Does the Teaching Elder have full voting rights in the Session?
2. Secondly, we need to know whether or not a raise or reduction in the pastor's salary is subject to congregational approval.
Answers -
1. The BCO 4-3, 12-1, 22-2 lists the members of the Session which include Pastors, Associate Pastors, and Ruling Elders. Every member of the Session, including the moderator, is entitled to vote by virtue of his membership in the Session.
The moderator may vote on all issues, not only in breaking or creating a tie vote. M13GA, Appendix I, Item 10, p. 242.
2. The BCO is not explicit on this matter of changes in terms of call. Since BCO 20-6 requires that terms of call be determined by the congregation (including financial stipulations) any changes in those terms may also be approved by the congregation.
Grounds - This response is supported by the prior action of the General Assembly in the parallel matter of Presbytery approval of changes in the terms of call: BCO 20-1 indicates that Presbytery must approve the call of a pastor. The call establishes the relationship of the pastor to the calling body. The BCO is silent concerning amending the call; however, inasmuch as the initial relationship must be approved by Presbytery, it would follow that if any changes are made in the original call, the Presbytery would necessarily have to approve the changes in the call for the protection of both the pastor and the calling body. [M11GA (1983), 11-36, III, Item 55, p. 101].
Adopted, 4-3, 1 abstention
.


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]

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