PCA HISTORICAL CENTER
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The Historical Development of the Book of Church Order

Chapter 5 : The Organization of a Particular Church

Paragraph 8 :

5-8. B. The Organization of a Particular Church
A new church can be organized only by the authority of Presbytery. The Presbytery may proceed with the organization directly, or through an especially appointed commission, or through an evangelist to whom the Presbytery has entrusted the power to organize churches. In the organization of a church, whatever be the way in which the matter originated, the procedure shall be as follows:
1. The Presbytery shall receive and approve a petition subscribed to by those persons seeking to be organized into a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America, appointing a time and date for a service of organization.
2. At the service and following the preaching of the Word, testimonials shall be presented to the Presbytery by such persons as are members of the church, if there be any, and applicants for admission to the church on profession of faith in Christ shall, on satisfactory examination, be received.
3. These persons shall in the next place be required to enter into covenant, by answering the following question affirmatively, with uplifted hand:

Do you, in reliance on God for strength, solemnly promise and covenant that you will walk together as an organized church, on the principles of the faith and order of the Presbyterian Church in America, and that you will be zealous and faithful in maintaining the purity and peace of the whole body?

4. The presiding minister shall then say:

I now pronounce and declare that you are constituted a church according to the Word of God and the faith and order of the Presbyterian Church in America. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

5. Action shall be taken to secure, as soon as practicable, the regular administration of the Word and Sacraments.

[Historical Summary : Most of this chapter as it now stands is new cloth when compared to the original 1973 text. In that edition there was only one section, now repositioned here as BCO 5-8. The first seven paragraphs of the current chapter 5 of the BCO had their beginning with Overture 7 from Southwest Presbytery, as brought before the Ninth General Assembly (M9GA, 9-10, B, p. 48). That Overture requested clarification and instruction in the BCO regarding mission churches and the status of their members. In the MNA Report to the Tenth General Assembly (M10GA, Appendix F, p. 250), the proposed amendments were presented in reply to Overture 7. The matter was next sent to the Committee on Judicial Business (M11GA, 11-9, D, p. 56), and then presented under the Report of the Committee of Commissioners on Mission to North America (11-61, III.4, p. 122). The proposed text was adopted by the Eleventh General Assembly and sent down to the Presbyteries for their advise and consent. The Presbyteries affirmed the proposed Chapter 5 by unanimous vote, and the amendment received final approval at the Twelfth General Assembly (M12GA, 12-14, Item 1, pp. 83-85).]

Working Notes:

PCA 1973, 5-1 Has the same wording, except it adds “…as follows, namely:” No comparable text exists in the PCUS forms.

1. The Presbytery shall receive and approve a petition subscribed to by those persons seeking to be organized into a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America, appointing a time and date for a service of organization.

No comparable section is found in PCA 1973, or in any of the PCUS editions. This paragraph was added in _____

2. At the service and following the preaching of the Word, testimonials shall be presented to the Presbytery by such persons as are members of the church, if there be any, and applicants for admission to the church on profession of faith in Christ shall, on satisfactory examination, be received.

PCA 1973, 5-1-1 “Testimonials shall be presented to the Presbytery, or to the Commission by such persons as are members of the Church, if there be any, and applicants for admission to the Church on profession of faith in Christ shall, on satisfactory examination, be received.”

PCUS 1869 “In the organization of a congregation, the first step shall be to receive testimonials on behalf of such applicants as had previously been members of the church elsewhere; and in the next place, to admit to a profession of faith in Christ such candidates as on examination may be found qualified.”

PCUS 1867 draft has “…found qualified; administering baptism to such as need that ordinance.” The 1867 text continues essentially with what is now the PCA 2003 5-1-3 text.

3. These persons shall in the next place be required to enter into covenant, by answering the following question affirmatively, with uplifted hand:

Do you, in reliance on God for strength, solemnly promise and covenant that you will walk together as an organized church, on the principles of the faith and order of the Presbyterian Church in America, and that you will be zealous and faithful in maintaining the purity and peace of the whole body?

PCA 1973, 5-1-2 is comparable, but has “…with uplifted hand, namely:” and concludes with “…and that you will study the purity and harmony of the whole body?” The revised final clause was introduced in ___

PCUS 1869 draft, 2-5-2, reads:

“These persons should thenbe required to enter into covenant by answering the following question affirmatively with the uplifted hand, viz.: “Do you, in reliance on God for strength, solemnly promise and covenant that you will walk together as an organized congregation, on the principles of the faith and order of the Presbyterian church, and that you will study the purity and harmony of the whole body?”
PCUS 1867 draft has this section as part of its 2-4-1, following after “…as need that ordinance.” It is otherwise identical to the 1869 text, except for the reading “These persons should then be required to rise to their feet, and to enter into covenant…”

The text of 1867, 2-4-1 and 1869, 2-5-2 each continue in substance with what is now PCA 2003, 5-8.4.

4. The presiding minister shall then say:

I now pronounce and declare that you are constituted a church according to the Word of God and the faith and order of the Presbyterian Church in America. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

PCA 1973 and the Proposed BCO have the same above text, except of course that in 1973 the name of the denomination was the “National Presbyterian Church” and the text reflected that reading. With the 1974 name-change, this section was changed accordingly [ see M2GA, ___________]

PCUS 1969 draft 2-5-2 has “Congregation” instead of “church” and uses “Presbyterian Church in the United States:” instead of “Presbyterian Church in America”

PCUS 1867 draft continues its section 4-1 with:

“…The presiding minister shall then say: ‘I now pronounce and declare that you are constituted a congregation, according to the faith and order of the Presbyterian church of the United States and the word of God: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen’ Elders and deacons are then to be elected, ordained and installed.”

PCA 1973 also has a section 5-1.4, which was later deleted in _______:

(4) Ruling Elders and Deacons shall then be elected, if the way be clear, and steps taken for their in­struction, their examination, ordination, and installation.

PCUS 1869 draft has a similar text at 2-5-3:

“III. Ruling Elders and Deacons are then to be elected, ordained and installed.”

5. Action shall be taken to secure, as soon as practicable, the regular administration of the Word and Sacraments.

PCA 1973, 5-1.5 and the Proposed BCO both have “… , the regular ministration of the Word."

BACKGROUND & COMPARISON:
PCA 1973, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly
[no comparable text]

Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, Proposed text
[no comparable text]

PCUS 1879

[no comparable text]

PCUS 1869 draft
PCUS 1869 “In the organization of a congregation, the first step shall be to receive testimonials on behalf of such applicants as had previously been members of the church elsewhere; and in the next place, to admit to a profession of faith in Christ such candidates as on examination may be found qualified.”

PCUS 1867 draft
[no comparable text]

COMMENTARY :
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order (1898)
[no comparable text for discussion
]


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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