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The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

Chapter 8 : The Elder

Paragraph 3 : Duties of the Office

8-3. It belongs to those in the office of elder, both severally and jointly, to watch diligently over the flock committed to his charge, that no corruption of doctrine or of morals enter therein. They must exercise government and discipline, and take oversight not only of the spiritual interests of the particular church, but also the Church generally when called thereunto. They should visit the people at their homes, especially the sick. They should instruct the ignorant, comfort the mourner, nourish and guard the children of the Church. They should set a worthy example to the flock entrusted to their care by their zeal to evangelize the unconverted and make disciples. All those duties which private Christians are bound to discharge by the law of love are especially incumbent upon them by divine vocation, and are to be discharged as official duties. They should pray with and for the people, being careful and diligent in seeking the fruit of the preached Word among the flock.

[Historical Summary : At the 14th General Assembly in 1986, an amendment was adopted adding the sentence "They should set a worthy example to the flock entrusted to their care by their zeal to evangelize the unconverted and make disciples.". Otherwise the current text dates to 1980, at which time chapters 8 and 9 of the BCO were combined and renumbered according.]

Background and Comparison :
PCA 1980 (M8GA, 8-88, p. 112)
It belongs to the office of elder, both severally and jointly, to watch diligently over the flock committed to their charge, that no corruption of doctrine or of morals enter therein. They must exercise government and discipline, and take oversight not only of the spiritual interests of the particular church, but also the Church generally when called thereunto. They should visit the people at their homes, especially the sick. They should instruct the ignorant, comfort the mourner, nourish and guard the children of the Church. All those duties which private Christians are bound to discharge by the law of love are especially incumbent upon them by divine vocation, and are to be discharged as official duties. They should pray with and for the people, being careful an diligent in seeking the fruit of the preached Word among the flock.

PCA 1973, 8-4, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, p. 131
When a minister is called to labour as a Pastor, it belongs to his office to pray for and with his flock, as the mouth of the people unto God ; to feed the flock by reading, expounding, and preaching the Word ; to direct the congregation in singing the praises of God ; to administer the sacraments ; to catechise the children and youth ; to visit officially the people, devoting especial attention to the poor, the sick, the afflicted, and the dying ; and with the other Elders, to exercise the joint power of government.

Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, 8-4, Proposed text, p. 8
When a minister is called to labour as a Pastor, it belongs to his office to pray for and with his flock, as the mouth of the people unto God ; to feed the flock by reading, expounding and preaching the Word ; to direct the congregation in singing the praises of God ; to administer the sacraments ; to catechise the children and youth ; to visit officially the people, devoting especial attention to the poor, the sick, the afflicted, and the dying ; and, with the other Elders, to exercise the joint power of government.

PCUS 1933, IX, § 36
When a minister is called to labor as a Pastor, it belongs to his office to pray for and with his flock, as the mouth of the people unto God; to feed the flock by reading, expounding and preaching the Word ; to direct the congregation in singing the praises of God ; to administer the sacraments ; to bless the people from God ; to catechise the children and youth ; to visit officially the people, devoting especial attention to the poor, the sick, the afflicted, and the dying ; and, with the other Elders, to exercise the joint power of government.

PCUS 1879, IV-2-4

When a minister is called to labour as a Pastor, it belongs to his office to pray for and with his flock, as the mouth of the people unto God ; to feed the flock by reading, expounding and preaching the Word ; to direct the congregation in singing the praises of God ; to administer the sacraments ; to bless the people from God ; to catechise the children and youth ; to visit officially the people, devoting especial attention to the poor, the sick, the afflicted, and the dying ; and, with the other Elders, to exercise the joint power of government.

PCUS 1869 draft, IV-2-5

The Pastor is he whom the Church places over a Congregation. It appertains to his office to pray for and with his flock, as the mouth of the people unto God; to read and expound the Scriptures publicly; to feed the flock by preaching the Word; to direct the congregation in singing the praises of God; to administer the sacraments; to bless the people from God; to catechize the children and youth; to visit officially the people, devoting especial attention to the poor, the sick, the afflicted, and the dying; and, with the other Elders, to exercise the joint power of rule.

PCUS 1867 draft, IV-2-5
The pastor is he whom the church doth place over a congregation. It appertains to his office to pray for and with his flock as the mouth of the people unto God; to read and expound the Scriptures publicly; to feed the flock by preaching the word; to direct the congregation in singing the praises of God; to administer the sacraments; to bless the people from God; to catechize the children and youth; to visit from house to house, devoting especial attention to the poor, the sick, the afflicted, and the dying; and with the other elders to exercise the joint power of rule.

COMMENTARY :
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order
(1898, pp. 49-52), on IV-2-4 :
38.--IV. When a minister is called to labour as a Pastor, it belongs to his office to pray for and with his flock, as the mouth of the people unto God ; to feed the flock by reading, expounding and preaching the Word ; to direct the congregation in singing the praises of God ; to administer the sacraments ; to bless the people from God ; to catechise the children and youth ; to visit officially the people, devoting especial attention to the poor, the sick, the afflicted, and the dying ; and, with the other Elders, to exercise the joint power of government.
All ministers are pastors, inasmuch as it is the duty of them all to feed the people of God with spiritual food (par. 35); but here the term is used of one appointed specially to this work in a particular church; and while what he is charged with, all ministers are charged with in their several positions, the duties that specially belong to him in his position are here enumerated. Seven things he is to do severally, or by himself. Some of these it may be proper for all saints to do according to their capacities and opportunities, and some of them it may be the duty of the Ruling Elders to do in their official capacity; but all of them it is the official duty of the Pastor to do. The first of these is not preaching, but prayer, both apart from his flock in intercession for them, and with them as their mouth unto God. The Pastor makes a mistake to put all his care upon the sermon and none upon the public prayer. Yet his distinctive work as Pastor is to feed the flock. This he is to do by reading the Word as well as by expounding it, and by exposition as well as by simply proclaiming what needs no further exposition. It is not enough to handle the Word ; he must cause them to eat it. Nor is it his whole work to do this in the public assembly. His third function is to direct the congregation in singing the praises of God. As there should be no singing that is not worship, so this part of the worship should be kept under the Pastor's direction; and it is a serious abdication of his official duty when he hands this over to those who are not qualified, as well as not duly authorized, to direct this part of the worship. How far he shall go in determining details is matter for wise discretion; but he and those who lead the music as such, and all the congregation, should recognize him as having this entire part of worship under his direction. It is the fourth function of the pastoral office to administer the sacraments. Accordingly, neither baptism nor the Lord's supper is to be administered in his congregation by another minister without his concurrence, and he should not for every cause remit to another the administration of baptisms, nor forego presiding at the Lord's Supper. It belongs to the Pastor to bless the people from God; wherefore the benediction is by him pronounced as an official declaration of the divine mind. The sixth function, to catechise the children and youth, he is to do as Pastor, and it is a deplorable disuse of official function when he leaves this work altogether to other agencies, as to Sunday-schools; for this is the Pastor's specific office for the young. His seventh function is happily described. It is not enough to visit the people, but he should visit them officially, that is, he should visit them as their Pastor, and in his visits pray with and for them, feed them with the Word, catechize the children and youth, and perform such like pastoral functions. Social visiting that is not also manifestly and really pastoral visiting is a substitution to be made only in order to official visiting. So far as a distinction is admissible, the people need to know him officially rather than socially. And in his official visitation he is to devote special attention to four classes : the poor, who cannot contribute much in the offerings; the sick, who cannot attend the public worship; the afflicted, who need special comfort, and the dying, who are both sick and afflicted. So far in the discharge of his duties severally; and, with the other Elders, he is to exercise the joint power of government, having, in this sphere, no more and no less authority and obligation than a Ruling Elder.

 



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Chapter Index [links to Par. 1 of 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]