F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order (1898, pp. 52-54), on IV-2-7 :
40.--VI. When a Minister is appointed to the work of the Evangelist, he is commissioned to preach the Word and administer the sacraments in foreign countries, frontier settlements, or the destitute parts of the Church; and to him may be entrusted power to organize churches, and ordain Ruling Elders and Deacons therein.
The philosophy of the matter is, not that the Evangelist has an office different in order, grade or nature from that of other Ministers of the Word, but that he is in a position calling specially for the use of those evangelistic functions which are inherent in the very office of the ministry, that is, to preach the Word and administer the sacraments, not in the organized or fully organized portions of the Church, but elsewhere : in countries where the Church is not yet organized; in countries where the Church is already organized, but in those parts where it is not organized; and in such parts of the organized Church as are not fully organized, lacking a settled ministry adequate to the work to be done. It is not here decided that it would be unscriptural to call a minister distinctively an evangelist who was engaged in fully organized parts of the Church in preaching specially to those who had not yet accepted the gospel; but that is not the sense in which the term is used in this paragraph.
The organization of churches and the ordination of officers, being an exercise of jurisdiction, is a function of joint power, for which the individual Presbyter as such is not competent; but the court having jurisdiction may commission him to do these things as its commissioner, his acts being the acts of the court through him. This may be made really the court's action by previous orders and subsequent validation or annulment; and the nature of these acts as joint and not several should always be thus preserved. The paragraph says that the court may entrust the Evangelist with power as its commissioner to organize churches, and to ordain Ruling Elders and Deacons in churches; but the power to ordain Ministers, while it might, without making the ordination a several act, be entrusted to the Evangelist, the Form of Government does not permit to be thus entrusted. Consequently, there is no way provided in the Form of Government for the ordination of Ministers unless the candidates to be ordained first come to the Presbytery. To meet this requirement, a candidate in a foreign land must come to where the Presbytery meets, or the Presbytery must hold a meeting where the candidate is, or the candidate must wait till there are several Ministers and a Ruling Elder in the country of the candidate, and these Presbyters are regularly constituted a Presbytery.
Scott, E.C., A Digest of the Acts and Proceedings of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, 1861-1944 (Richmond, VA : Presbyterian Committee of Publication, 1945), pp. 63-64 :
Form of Government, Par. 38.
Has the Evangelist any powers beyond those specifically given him?
[Ed. note : This question was debated from 1879 to 1887 without issuing in a single positively interpretative action by the Assembly.
The matter arose out of the ordination of a man to the ministry of the Gospel by Dr. J.L. Stuart, missionary and evangelist in China*. An adopted committee report in 1881, p. 387 said of the Evangelist : "When his field lies beyond the territory which the Church occupies, his powers are necessarily enlarged. There being no court to discharge these functions, the Constitution recognizes as inhering in his office all the powers that are necessary to constitute the Church."
This interpretation, however, met with disapproval throughout the Church, as evidenced by a flow of overtures in subsequent years. In 1883, p. 60, and 1885, p. 425, amendments to the Form of Government, seeking to enlarge the powers of the Evangelist along the particular line suggested by the debate were sent to the presbyteries. Neither of these was enacted. And in 1887, p. 230, the Assembly dropped the entire affair by saying : "The solution is found in recognizing the autonomy of the Church as a free Christian commonwealth, and investing it with the power of self-government as soon as it is organized." This last statement is tacit admission that the Evangelist's powers are limited by the Form of Government.]
*For one side of this debate, see John B. Adger's article, "The Recent Ordination at Hangchow," in The Southern Presbyterian Review, 30.4 (October 1879) 754-770.
CONSTITUTIONAL INTERPRETATION (PCA Digest, 1973-1993, pp. 259-260) :
1987, 15-83, III, 13, p. 172. That Constitutional Inquiry #7 be answered as follows :
Constitutional Inquiry #7. From Calvin Presbyterian Church, Phoenix, AZ, regarding the role of an Evangelist in disciplinary matters.
"May a man, called to the position of Presbytery Evangelist, who is granted the powers of receiving and holding members, also exercise discipline over those members in the following areas:
(1) grant requests for transfer of letter of membership to another church
(2) removed from the roll names of members who have indicated that they no longer intend to fulfill their vows of church membership (having no court available to act upon the situation), and
(3) discipline those who ignore the regular responsibilities of church membership (i.e., who have not been in attendance at worship for the past year)?"
1. Yes. See BCO 8-6.
2. and 3. No. See BCO 3-2, and BCO 5-5.
GROUNDS : The removal of a name from the church roll is an act of judgment, which is disciplinary, and should therefore be enacted by a court, not by a single individual (see BCO 3-2). Likewise, other acts of church discipline must be considered and addressed by the church courts, which have oversight of mission churches, and not by a single individual (see BCO 5-5).