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The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

Chapter 12 : The Church Session

Paragraph 1 :

12-1. The church Session consists of the pastor, associate pastor(s), if there be any, and the ruling elders of a church. If there are three or more ruling elders, the pastor and two ruling elders shall constitute a quorum. If there are fewer than three ruling elders, the pastor and one ruling elder shall constitute a quorum. Assistant pastor or pastors, although not members of the Session, may be invited to attend and participate in discussion without vote.
When a church has no pastor and there are five or more ruling elders, three shall constitute a quorum; if there are less than five ruling elders, two shall constitute a quorum; if there is only one ruling elder, he does not constitute a Session, but he should take spiritual oversight of the church, should represent it at Presbytery, should grant letters of dismission, and should report to the Presbytery any matter needing the action of a Church court.
Any Session, by a majority vote of its members, may fix its own quorum, provided that it is not small than the quorum stated in these paragraphs.


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ANTECEDENT TEXTS:
PCA 1973, 13-1, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, p.133
The church Session consists of the Pastor or Pastors, Associate Pastor, if there be any, and the Ruling Elders of a church. If there are three or more Ruling Elders, the Pastor and two Ruling Elders shall constitute a quorum. If there are less than three Ruling Elders, the Pastor and one Ruling Elder shall constitute a quorum.
When a church has no Pastor and there are five or more Ruling Elders, three shall constitute a quorum; if there are less than five Ruling Elders, two shall constitute a quorum; if there is only one Ruling Elder, he does not constitute a Session, but he should take spiritual oversight of the church, should represent it at Presbytery, should grant letters of dismission, and should report to the Presbytery any matter needing the action of a Church court.
However, any Session, by a majority vote of its members, may fix its own quorum, provided that it is not smaller than the quorum stated in this paragraph.

Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, 13-1, Proposed text, pp. 12-13
The church Session consists of the Pastor or Pastor [sic], Associate Pastor and Assistant Pastor, if there be any, and the Ruling Elders of a church. If there are three or more Ruling Elders, the Pastor and two Ruling Elders shall constitute a quorum. If there are less than three Ruling Elders, the Pastor and one Ruling Elder shall constitute a quorum.
When a church has no Pastor and there are five or more Ruling Elders, three shall constitute a quorum; if there are less than five Ruling Elders, two shall constitute a quorum; if there is only one Ruling Elder, he does not constitute a Session, but he should take spiritual oversight of the church, should represent it at Presbytery, should grant letters of dismission, and should report to the Presbytery any matter needing the action of a Church court.
However, any Session, by a majority vote of its members, may fix its own quorum, provided that it is not smaller than the quorum stated in this paragraph.

PCUS 1933, XIV, 61
and
PCUS 1925, XIV, 61
The church Session consists of the Pastor or Pastors, if there be any, and the Ruling Elders of a church. If there are three or more Ruling Elders, the Pastor and two Ruling Elders shall constitute a quorum. If there are less than three Ruling Elders, the Pastor and one Ruling Elder shall constitute a quorum.
When a church has no Pastor and there are five or more Ruling Elders, three shall constitute a quorum; if there are less than five Ruling Elders, two shall constitute a quorum; if there is only one Ruling Elder, he does not constitute a Session, but he should take spiritual oversight of the church, should represent it at Presbytery, should grant letters of dismission, and should report to the Presbytery any matter needing the action of a Church court.
However, any Session, by a majority vote of its members, may fix its own quorum, provided that it is not smaller than the quorum stated in this paragraph.

PCUS 1879, V-3-1

The church Session consists of the Pastor or Pastors, if there be any, and the Ruling Elders of a church. Two Ruling Elders, if there be so many, with the Pastor, if there be one, shall be necessary to constitute a quorum.

PCUS 1869 draft, V-3-1
The Church-session consists of the Pastor or Pastors, if there be any, and the Ruling Elders of a Congregation. Two Ruling Elders, if there be so many, with the Pastor, if there be one, shall be necessary to constitute a quorum.

PCUS 1867 draft, V-3-1
The church-session consists of the pastor or pastors, if there be any, and the ruling elders of a congregation. Two elders, if there be so many, with the pastor, if there be one, shall be necessary to constitute a quorum.

PCUSA 1789, VIII-1
The church session consists of the minister, or ministers, and elders of a particular congregation.[a]
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[a] I Cor. 5:4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ.

COMMENTARY:
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order
(1898, p. 75-77), on V-3-1 :
Section III.--Of the Church Session.
The first paragraph shows who are members of the Session ; the next three paragraphs show who is Moderator in the absence of the Pastor, when there is no Pastor, and when there are more Pastors than one, it being already settled that the Pastor is the Moderator of the Session (paragraph 54); the fifth paragraph enumerates the rights and powers and duties of the Session, and the remaining paragraphs add some special regulations--one as to when meetings of the Session shall be held, one as to records of its proceedings, one as to certain items that are especially to be recorded, and one as to devotional exercises in connection with the meetings.
63.--I. The church Session consists of the Pastor or Pastors, if there be any, and the Ruling Elders of a church.
From this it appear that a church may have a plurality of Pastors. A Pastor is a member of the Session, having the same voice and vote, permanency and responsibility therein, as any other member, no more and no less.
Two Ruling Elders, if there be so many, with the Pastor, if there be one, shall be necessary to constitute a quorum. But the Pastor and one Ruling Elder may constitute a quorum in cases where there are only two Elders.
In this last sentence "Elder" must be understood to mean Ruling Elder as distinguished from Teaching Elder. We have then the following cases : When the Session consists of one or more Pastors and three or more Ruling Elders, then a Pastor and two Ruling Elders are a quorum ; if the Session consists of one or more Pastors and one or two Ruling Elders, then a Pastor and one Ruling Elder are a quorum ; when the Session consists of more than one Ruling Elder without a Pastor, then two are a quorum ; and when the Session consists of one Ruling Elder, one is a quorum. By analogy in the above sentences, we might write Pastor for Ruling Elder and Ruling Elder for Pastor. If the Session has both sorts of Elders, one at least of each sort is required to make up a quorum ; if the Session has a plurality of members, a plurality s required to make up a quorum, and if the Session has a plurality of Elders of one sort only, a plurality of that sort is required to make up a quorum.



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