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The Historical Development of the Book of Church Order

Chapter 9 : The Deacon


Paragraph 3: Of the Character of the Deacons

9-3. To the office of deacon, which is spiritual in nature, shall be chosen men of spiritual character, honest repute, exemplary lives, brotherly spirit, warm sympathies, and sound judgment.

DIGEST: The current PCA text dates to 1922, with changes made to chapter 9 of the PCUS BCO.

BACKGROUND & COMPARISON:

1. PCA 1973, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, p. 131
2. Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, 10-3, Proposed text, p. 10
3. PCUS 1933, XI, § 46
4. PCUS 1922, XI, § 46
To the office of Deacon, which is spiritual in nature, should be chosen men of spiritual character, honest repute, exemplary lives, brotherly spirit, warm sympathies, and sound judgment.

PCUS 1879, IV-4-3

To this office should be chosen men of honest repute and approved piety, who are esteemed for their prudence and sound judgment, whose conversation becomes the gospel, and whose lives are exemplary ; seeing that those duties to which all Christians are called in the way of beneficence are especially incumbent on the Deacon as an officer in Christ's house.

PCUS 1869 draft, IV-4-3
To this office should be chosen men of honest repute and approved piety, who are esteemed for their prudence and sound judgment, whose conversation becometh the gospel, and whose lives are exemplary; seeing that those duties to which all Christians are called by the law of charity are, by divine vocation, especially incumbent on the Deacon, as an officer in Christ’s house.

PCUS 1867 draft, IV-4-3
For this office, men of honest repute and approved piety, who are esteemed for their prudence and sound judgment, whose conversation becometh the gospel, and whose lives are exemplary, ought to be chosen.

OTHER COMPARISONS:

ARP 2007, VII-A.2
To this office should be chosen persons* of good character, honest repute, exemplary life, brotherly love, sympathetic nature, and sound judgment, and who are qualified under the standards recorded in Scripture.
[* Circumstances of the local congregation shall require each session to determine the meaning of the word "persons."].

OPC 2005, XI-2
Those chosen to this office should be of great faith, exemplary lives, honest repute, brotherly love, warm sympathies, and sound judgment.


COMMENTARY:

F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order
(1898, p. 60-61), on IV-4-3 :
48.--III. To this office should be chosen men of honest repute and approved piety, who are esteemed for their prudence and sound judgment, whose conversation becomes the gospel, and whose lives are exemplary ; seeing that those duties to which all Christians are called in the way of beneficence are especially incumbent on the Deacon as an officer in Christ's house.
These are substantially the same as the qualifications of Ruling Elders, except that special emphasis is not here laid on soundness in the faith, nor quite so distinct a place given to wisdom as distinguished from prudence. Yet, soundness of judgment is insisted upon. As the Ministers are to stand forth as examples embodying the full truth in life, and the Ruling Elders examples embodying especially the idea of reverence for the law of Christ, so the Deacons are to stand forth as examples embodying especially the idea of beneficence for Christ's sake ; and they, therefore, need for their official work the whole complex of graces, without which beneficence loses its Christian significance.
All officers, then, are to excel in a living piety, deep and manifest, and in mental balance, or good sense; to these qualities Ruling Elders are to add pre-eminence in wisdom and a grasp of the system of truth ; and to all these qualities the Ministers are to add pre-eminence in learning and aptness to teach.

J. Aspinwall Hodge, What Is Presbyterian Law? (1882), p. 61.
Who may be chosen Deacons?
“In all cases the persons elected must be male members in full communion in the church in which they are to exercise their office.”[1]
A Minister, therefore, though without charge, not being a member of a particular church, cannot be elected Deacon. This was reaffirmed by the New School Assembly in 1865 and 1869;[2] and the principle is stated (the application, however, is to the eligibility to the office of Ruling Elder) by the General Assembly of 1874.[3]
[1] Form of Government, ch. xiii., sect. ii.
[2] Presbyterian Digest, p. 340.
[3] Minutes General Assembly 1874, p. 84.


OVERTURES ANSWERED IN THE NEGATIVE:

1984 - Overture 28 From the Presbytery of Delmarva [M12GA, 12-10, B, p. 42 and 12-31, III, 4, p. 102]
Whereas, there is much divergent opinion in the church concerning what the Bible actually says about women and the diaconate; and
Whereas, a young candidate for ordination in our denomination was denied his quest, with one of the reasons for this rejection being that his opinion on women and the diaconate was contrary to our BCO; and
Whereas, the possibility exists that our church is going beyond the requirements of Scripture and thereby may be impoverishing herself
Therefore, we the Delmarva Presbytery do overture the Twelfth General Assembly of the PCA to study the particular question of women in the diaconate.
Attest: Thomas G. Webb, Stated Clerk.
Answered in the negative, 12-31, III, 4, p. 102:
4. That Overture 28 (p. 42) be answered in the negative. Refer to I Timothy 3:8, 12; Acts 6:3 and BCO 9-3, 7. Adopted.
The following commissioners requested their negative votes recorded:

Eric Stedfeld
Maxwell Harris
Timothy B. Dobbins
Harold E. Burkhart
James Urish
Philip O. Evaul
David M. O'Dowd
C. Kenneth Kuyk
William H. Moore
Stephen W. Brown
Allan Baldwin
Egon Middelman
David W. Hall
Calhoun Boroughs
Hugh Wessel
Robert D. Hopper
Carl H. Derk
Robert P. Eickelberg
Daniel Bust
George M. Stulac
Thomas Wenger
Howard Griffith
Stephen P. Beck
Louis I. Hodges
Gordon W. Frost
Bruce Mawhinney
George Smith
Ronald C. Harding
Arnold L. Frank
Petros Reukas

A motion to add "Romans 16:1," to the references above was defeated. TE John Register and TE Bruce B. Howes requested the recording of their affirmative votes on the lost motion to include Romans 16:1. Permission to do so was granted.


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]

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