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The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

Chapter 12 : The Church Session

Paragraph 2 :

12-2. The pastor is, by virtue of his office, the moderator of the Session. In his absence, if any emergency should arise requiring immediate action, the Session may elect one of its members to preside. Should prudential reasons at any time make it advisable for a minister other than the pastor to preside, the pastor may, with the concurrence of the Session, invite a minister of the same Presbytery to perform this service.

[DIGEST: Apart from differences of capitalization, the current PCA text remains that of PCA 1973 and the Proposed text from 1973, and the wording dates to PCUS 1925.]

ANTECEDENT TEXTS:
PCA 1973, 13-2, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, p. 133
and
Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, 13-2, Proposed text, p. 13
PCUS 1933, XIV, § 62
and
PCUS 1925, XIV, § 62
The Pastor is, by virtue of his office, the Moderator of the Session. In his absence, if any emergency should arise requiring immediate action, the Session may elect one of its members to preside. Should prudential reasons at any time make it advisable for a Minister other than the Pastor to preside, the Pastor may, with the concurrence of the Session, invite a Minister of the same Presbytery to perform this service.

PCUS 1879, V-3-2

In case of the absence of the Pastor, or when for prudential reasons it may appear advisable that some other Minister should preside, such Minister, belonging to the same Presbytery, as the Pastor with the concurrence of the Elders may designate, shall be invited to preside in his place.

PCUS 1869 draft, V-3-2
In case of the sickness or absence of the Pastor, or when from prudential reasons it may appear advisable that some other Minister should preside, such Minister, belonging to the same Presbytery, as the Pastor, with the concurrence of the Elders, may designate, shall be invited to preside in his place. The same rule shall be observed in the meetings of the Congregation.

PCUS 1867 draft, V-3-3
In case of the sickness or absence of the pastor, or when from prudential reasons it may appear advisable that some other minister should be invited to preside, such minister as the session may designate, belonging to the same presbytery, and not unacceptable to the pastor, may be invited to preside in his place. The same rule shall be observed in the meetings of the congregation.

PCUSA 1821, IX-3
The pastor of the congregation shall always be the moderator of the session; except when, for prudential reasons, it may appear advisable that some other minister should be invited to preside; in which case the pastor may, with the concurrence of the session, invite such other minister as they may see meet, belonging to the same presbytery, to preside in that case. The same expedient may be adopted in case of the sickness or absence of the pastor.

COMMENTARY:
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order (1898, pp. 77-78), on V-3-2 :

64.--II. In case of the absence of the Pastor, or when for prudential reasons it may appear advisable that some other Minister should preside, such Minister, belonging to the same Presbytery, as the Pastor, with the concurrence of the Elders may designate, shall be invited to preside in his place.
There are two cases when some one not the Pastor may preside, in cases where the church has a Pastor : in the absence, of the Pastor, so that his attendance is impracticable ; and when, for prudential reasons (for he cannot lose his right to preside while remaining Pastor), it appears advisable that another preside. Appears advisable to whom? To the Pastor, and the other Elders consent ; or to both the Pastor and the other Elders. But neither can the other Elders forbid the Pastor to preside, nor can the Pastor require them to permit some one else to preside. Four things must be true of the substitute Moderator : he must be a Minister ; he must belong to the same Presbytery as the church ; he must be designated by the Pastor ; and he must be acceptable to the rest of the Elders. Of course, by common consent, any member of the Session may preside in the Pastor's presence, by way of relieving him from labor ; but in case of any dispute of his ruling, the Pastor must resume the chair and make the moderatorial ruling. No provision is made for the case in which a church has a Pastor that has become incapacitated for designating a substitute, as by illness or mental derangement ; but in such case the church is really without a Pastor, and the next paragraph would apply ; but, in case of doubt or dispute, the Presbytery would have to determine whether the emergency and conditions are such as require this.
When the Pastor is going to be absent for a length of time, and it is probable that there will be need for sessional action before his return, he and the other Elders may agree beforehand what Minister shall be invited to preside in his place.



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