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The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

Chapter 10 : Church Courts in General

Paragraph 3 :

10-3. The pastor is, for prudential reasons, moderator of the Session. The moderator of the Presbytery may be elected at each stated meeting of the court, or for a period of time up to one year. The moderator of the General Assembly shall be chosen at each stated meeting; he, or in case of his absence the last moderator present or the oldest minister longest a member of the court, shall open the next meeting with a sermon unless it is impracticable, and shall hold the chair until a new moderator be chosen.
The moderator has all authority necessary for the preservation of order and for the proper and expeditious conduct of all business before the court, and for convening and adjourning the court according to its own ruling. In any emergency, he may by circular letter change the time or place, or both, of meeting to which the court stands adjourned, giving reasonable notice thereof.


[Historical Summary : The current PCA text dates to 1992 [M20GA, 20-12, Item 1, p. 48]. Prior to that, an amendment to this paragraph was adopted in 1983 [M11GA, 11-9, Item 1, p. 66]

Background and Comparison :
PCA 1973, 11-3, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, p. 132
and
Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, 11-3, Proposed text, p. 11
The Pastor is, for prudential reasons, Moderator of the Session. The Moderator of the Presbytery, and the General Assembly, shall be chosen at each stated meeting of these courts ; and the Moderator, or, in case of his absence, the last Moderator present, or the oldest Minister in attendance, shall open the next meeting with a sermon, unless it be highly inconvenient, and shall hold the chair until a new Moderator be chosen. Provided, however, that when the Moderator of one of the higher courts is a Ruling Elder, the preaching of the opening sermon, or any other official duty, the performance of which requires the exercise of functions pertaining only to the Teaching Elder, shall be remitted by him for execution to such Minister of the Word, being a member of the court, as he may select.
The Moderator has all authority necessary for the preservation of order and for the proper and expeditious conduct of all business before the court, and for convening and adjourning the court according to its own ruling. In any extraordinary emergency, he may, by circular letter, change the time or place, or both, of meetings to which the court stands adjourned, giving reasonable notice thereof.

PCUS 1933, XII, § 53
and
PCUS 1925, XII, § 53
The Pastor is, for prudential reasons, Moderator of the Session. The Moderator of the Presbytery, the Synod, and the General Assembly, shall be chosen at each stated meeting of these courts ; and the Moderator, or, in case of his absence, the last Moderator present, or the oldest Minister in attendance, shall open the next meeting with a sermon, unless it be highly inconvenient, and shall hold the chair until a new Moderator be chosen. Provided, however, that when the Moderator of one of the higher courts is a Ruling Elder, the preaching of the opening sermon, or any other official duty, the performance of which requires the exercise of functions pertaining only to the Teaching Elder, shall be remitted by him for execution to such Minister of the Word, being a member of the court, as he may select.
The Moderator has all authority necessary for the preservation of order and for the proper and expeditious conduct of all business before the court according to its own ruling. In any extraordinary emergency, he may, by circular letter, change the time or place, or both, of meetings to which the court stands adjourned, giving reasonable notice thereof.

PCUS 1879, V-1-3 and V-1-4

The Pastor is Moderator of the Session. The Moderator of the Presbytery, the Synod, and the General Assembly, shall be chosen at each stated meeting of these courts ; and the Moderator, or in case of his absence, the last Moderator present, or, the oldest minister in attendance, shall open the meeting with a sermon, less it be highly inconvenient, and shall hold the chair until a new Moderator be chosen.
and V-1-4
The Moderator possesses all authority necessary for the preservation of order, and for convening and adjourning the court, according to his own ruling. He may also, on any extraordinary emergency, convene the court by his circular letter before the ordinary time of meeting. And in case of the failure of the appointed meeting, he may convene the court at a suitable time and place.

PCUS 1869 draft, V-1-3
The Pastor is ex officio Moderator of all congregational assemblies. The Moderator of the Presbytery, the Synod, and the General Assembly, shall be chosen at each stated meeting of those courts ; and the Moderator, or in case of his absence, the last Moderator present, or, if there be none, then the oldest Minister in attendance, shall open the meeting with a sermon, unless it be highly inconvenient, and shall hold the chair until a new Moderator be chosen.
and V-1-4
The Moderator possesses all authority necessary for the preservation of order, and for convening and adjourning the court, according to its own ruling. He may, also, on any extraordinary emergency, convene the court by his circular letter, before the ordinary time of meeting. And in case of the failure of the appointed meeting, he may convene the court at a suitable time and place.

PCUS 1867 draft, V-1-3
The pastor is ex officio moderator of all congregational assemblies. The moderator of the presbytery, the synod, and the general assembly, shall be chosen at each stated meeting of those courts; and the moderator, or in case of his absence, the last moderator present, or, if there be none, then the oldest minister in attendance shall open the meeting with a sermon, unless it be highly inconvenient, and shall hold the chair until a new moderator be chosen.
and V-1-5
The moderator possesses all authority necessary for the preservation of order, and for convening and adjourning the court, according to its ruling. He may, on any extraordinary emergency, convene the court by his circular letter, before the ordinary time of meeting. And in case of the failure of the regular meeting he may convene the court at a suitable time and place.

COMMENTARY :
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order (1898, pp. 63-65), on V-1-3 and V-1-4:

54.--III. The Pastor is Moderator of the Session.
The real ground for this regulation is, that the Moderator is accountable to the court appointing him, and a Ruling Elder, being directly accountable to the Session, would be himself too far removed from the control of Presbytery ; and this and other regulations proceed upon the assumption that the Session may not be as well qualified to handle weighty matters as the Presbytery.
The Moderator of the Presbytery, the Synod, and the General Assembly, shall be chosen at each stated meeting of these courts ; and the Moderator, or in case of his absence, the last Moderator present, or, the oldest minister in attendance, shall open the meeting with a sermon, less it be highly inconvenient, and shall hold the chair until a new Moderator be chosen.
The court may have several Moderators at the same time, provided their respective functions are defined, and to no one of them is assigned any function not properly pertaining to a Moderator. (Cf. 56 ; but as to Session, see 63.) While no explicit provision is made for the removal of a Moderator during his term, it lies in the nature of the case that the court may revoke its own appointment. The election of a new Moderator at each stated meeting is a prudential regulation, that the court may not practically lose the power of appointing its own Moderator, and come to be, in reality, but a counsel of advice to him as a superior ; but it is a matter of discretion with the court to re-elect the same man, or to elect another. It lies with the court to determine at what point in the proceedings of its stated meeting the election of Moderator shall occur. The Moderator retains all his authority as Moderator until the election of his successor ; but, if he should, at any time during his moderatorship, not be a member of the court, he would have no vote as a member, and therefore no casting vote in case of a tie. The opening sermon may be omitted when circumstances make it highly inconvenient to have it, of which the Moderator is the judge. The Moderator, as there is no prohibition of it, may appoint another to act in his place, the court not objecting.
55.--IV. The Moderator possesses all authority necessary for the preservation of order, and for convening and adjourning the court, according to his own ruling.
This gives to the Moderator very great authority, but it must not be so understood as to give him absolute power. He has no authority beyond other members to determine the actions of the court, but only to preserve order ; and his power to convene and adjourn the court, according to his own ruling, does not mean independently of the order of the court, but independently of what any one, not the court, may order, or may rule that the court orders.
He may also, on any extraordinary emergency, convene the court by his circular letter before the ordinary time of meeting. And in case of the failure of the appointed meeting, he may convene the court at a suitable time and place.
Of the extraordinary emergency, and of the suitable time and place, he is, of course, to be the judge ; but see paragraph 79. if it should happen that this regulation, which is designed to provide for necessary meetings that the court did not foresee to provide for, fails to thus provide, it must be remembered that the court exists when not in session, and that, in the nature of the case, a majority of the court may always call a meeting, in the absence of all express provisions to the contrary.
The Moderator, if a member of the court, has the same right to vote on all questions as any other member, but he can cast only one vote; and he cannot vote at all if he is not himself a member of the court.




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I. King & Head of Church
.§1.
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RoD
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