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The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

Chapter 6 : Church Members

Paragraph 1 : Of Children

6-1. The children of believers are, through the covenant and by right of birth, non-communing members of the church. Hence they are entitled to Baptism, and to the pastoral oversight, instruction and government of the church, with a view to their embracing Christ and thus possessing personally all benefits of the covenant.

DIGEST:
In 1974, the Constitutional Documents Committee recommended the substitution of "children" in place of "infant seed", and this change was then adopted by the Second General Assembly [M2GA, 2-70, p.56].
Overture 1 from Southeast Alabama Presbytery, to be considered at the Thirty-sixth General Assembly (2008), if approved would be the first amendment to this paragraph since 1974, and amendment of the full Overture would involve renumbering this paragraph as BCO 6-2.

ANTECEDENT TEXTS:
PCA 1973, 6-1, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly,
The infant seed of believers are, through the covenant and by right of birth, non-communing members of the Church. Hence they are entitled to baptism, and to the pastoral oversight, instruction, and government of the Church, with a view to their embracing Christ, and thus possessing personally all the benefits of the covenant.

1. Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, Proposed text, p. 7
2. PCUS 1933, VII, § 27
and
3. PCUS 1879, III-1

The infant seed of believers are, through the covenant, and by right of birth, members of the Church. Hence, they are entitled to baptism, and to the pastoral oversight, instruction, and government of the Church, with a view to their embracing Christ, and thus possessing personally all the benefits of the covenant.


PCUS 1869 draft, III-1
The infant seed of the faithful are federally holy, and by birth-right members of the Church. Hence, they are entitled to baptism, which is the seal of the covenant, and the outward badge of membership in the visible Church. It is the duty of Christian parents to present their children for baptism within a reasonable time; nor can they neglect this duty without sin. Notwithstanding such neglect by parents, their children are entitled to the pastoral oversight, instruction, and government of the Church, with a view to their embracing the covenant personally, and on arriving at years of discretion, receiving the seals thereof.

PCUS 1867 draft, III-1
The infant seed of the faithful are federally holy, and members of the church. Hence, they have an interest in the covenant, and are entitled to baptism, which is the seal thereof, and the outward badge of membership in the visible church. It is the bounden duty of Christian parents to present their children for baptism within a reasonable time, and should they neglect this duty they must be visited with discipline. Notwithstanding this sinful neglect of their parents, these little ones are lambs of Christ’s flock, and entitled to the pastoral oversight and religious instruction of the church, with a constant view to their embracing the covenant personally, and on arriving at years of discretion receiving the seals thereof.

COMMENTARY:

F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order
(1898, pp. 42-43), on III-1 :
This chapter is but an enlargement of paragraph 3, entering more minutely into the privileges of the different sorts of members. As these are infants, adults that, being members as infants, have not made a profession of faith, and professors of faith, the chapter falls into three paragraphs.
29.--I. The infant seed of believers are, through the covenant and by right of birth, members of the Church.
And this is true whether or not their membership is acknowledged, and whether or not they are members of some organized church.
Hence they are entitled to baptism,
which does not render them members, but the administration of it to them recognizes that they are members,
and to the pastoral oversight, instruction and government of the Church, with a view to their embracing Christ, and thus possessing personally all the benefits of the covenant.
The obligations of the covenant of Jehovah with parents that have faith, to be a God to them, and their children, remains in full force of its obligation upon both him and the children; but he must, by the very terms of that covenant, exclude from eternal salvation all who will not embrace Christ. And the Church is bound to give to these children pastoral oversight, instruction and government, with a view to their embracing Christ. The children of the saints are to be to the Church and its officers somewhat different from the children of the profane. It is a grievous omission when no teaching is provided for the one except what is provided for the other class of children; and thus the very advantage of persuading them through their covenant obligations is lost.


OVERTURES:

To be presented before the Thirty-sixth General Assembly this June:
2008 - OVERTURE 1 from Southeast Alabama Presbytery (to: CCB and OC)
“Amend BCO 6-1, 6-2, 6-4, 6-5 to Define Methods by Which People Are Received into the Church”
Whereas, members of other churches seeking membership in our church may join by a “letter of dismissal” or by reaffirmation of faith (BCO 57-6),” yet our Book of Church Order nowhere defines these terms more specifically to be of use to our church, and,
Whereas, in our church there is widespread inconsistency and confusion regarding the method by which members join and are dismissed from our church,
Therefore, be it resolved that BCO 6 be amended as follows (new text in
bold):
6-1. Persons may enter into church membership by Profession of Faith, Reaffirmation of Faith, or Transfer of Letter from some other church. Those only who have made a profession of faith in Christ, have been baptized, and admitted by the Session to the Lord's Table, are entitled to all the rights and privileges of the church. (See BCO 57-4 and 58-4)
6-2. The children of believers are, through the covenant and by right of birth, non-communing members of the church. Hence they are entitled to Baptism, and to the pastoral oversight, instruction and government of the church, with a view to their embracing Christ and thus possessing personally all benefits of the covenant. (See BCO 56). It is their duty and privilege personally to receive and rest upon Christ, to confess Him before men, and seek admission to the Lord’s Table (See BCO 57).
6-3. Communing members are those who have made a profession of faith in Christ, have been baptized, and have been admitted by the Session to the Lord's Table. (See BCO 46-4 for associate members).
6-4. When persons who have not been baptized desire to profess their faith in Christ and be incorporated into the life of the church as believers, they may be received by Profession of Faith. They shall do so by making public their profession of faith and receiving baptism in accordance with BCO 57 after appropriate instruction and examination by the session.
6-5. Persons who have previously made a profession of faith and have been received into membership in a particular church may be received by the session by Letter of Transfer if the church is recognized to be a true branch of Christ’s Church (BCO 2-2). When the person who previously made a profession of faith and became a member in a particular church is unable to secure a Letter of Transfer or if their church is not recognized to be a true branch of Christ’s Church (see BCO 2-2), they shall be received by Reaffirmation of Faith. Members received by Letter of Transfer or by Reaffirmation of Faith shall be received in accordance with the procedure in BCO 46-6. [Note: The reference to BCO 46-6 assumes passage of Overture 3. Present BCO 57-6 deals with receiving of members by Letter of Transfer or Reaffirmation of Faith.]
6-6. All baptized persons are entitled to the watchful care, instruction and government of the church, even though they are adults and have made no profession of their faith in Christ.
And be it further resolved that the Stated Clerk be authorized to make any changes in denominational certificates necessary to bring them into conformity with the provisions of this overture.
Rationale:
The commonly used terms of membership (Reaffirmations of Faith, Transfer of Letter, etc.) are defined nowhere in our constitution. Therefore, the above overture seeks to correct this by defining in the chapter on membership (BCO 6) the ways one may join our church and refer the reader to the appropriate place in the BCO for receiving the member.
Adopted by The Presbytery of Southeast Alabama at its stated meeting, October 25, 2007
Attested by: /s/ TE Henry Lewis Smith, Stated Clerk



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11
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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
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§5
§6
§7
§8
DfW
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
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