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The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

Chapter 12 : The Church Session

Paragraph 6 : Of Stated and Called Meetings

12-6. The Session shall hold stated meetings at least quarterly. Moreover, the pastor has power to convene the Session when he may judge it requisite; and he shall always convene it when requested to do so by any two of the ruling elders. When there is no pastor, it may be convened by two ruling elders. The Session shall also convene when directed so to do by the Presbytery.

[DIGEST: The current PCA text remains, with very minor modification, that of PCUS 1879. The current text is broken into four sentences, where three were found in the PCA's first approved edition and its predecessors. This change dates to _______. The first approved PCUS edition saw the addition of the clause "and when there is no Pastor, it may be convened by two Ruling Elders..."]

ANTECEDENT TEXTS:
1. PCA 1973, 13-7, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, p. 133
2. Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, Proposed text, p. 14
3. PCUS 1933, XIV, 66
4. PCUS 1925, XIV, 66
5. PCUS 1879, V-3-6

The Session shall hold stated meetings at least quarterly. Moreover, the Pastor has power to convene the Session when he may judge it requisite; and he shall always convene it when requested to do so by any two of the Ruling Elders; and when there is no Pastor, it may be convened by two Ruling Elders. The Session shall also convene when directed so to do by the Presbytery.

PCUS 1869 draft, V-3-6
The Session shall hold stated meetings at least quarterly. Moreover, the Pastor has power to convene the Session, when he may judge it requisite; and he shall always convene it when requested to do so by any two of the Ruling Elders. The Session shall, also, convene when directed so to do by the Presbytery.

PCUS 1867 draft, V-3-8
The session shall hold stated meetings at least quarterly. Moreover, the pastor has power to convene the session, when he may judge it requisite; and he shall always convene it when requested to do so by any two of the elders. The session shall, also, convene when directed so to do by the presbytery.

PCUSA 1821, IX-7
The pastor has power to convene the session when he may judge it requisite; and he shall always convene them when requested to do so by any two of the elders. The session shall also convene when directed so to do by the presbytery.

PCUSA 1789, VIII-3

The minister hath a right to convene the session when he may judge it requisite.[f] And he ought, in all cases, to convene them, when requested by any two or more of the elders.
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[f] Acts 20:17
And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.

COMMENTARY:
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order
(1898, pp. 87-88), on V-3-6 :
68.--VI. The Session shall hold stated meetings at least quarterly.
The neglect of this rule when a church has a Pastor means the government of the church by him instead of by the Session, and his failure to convene the Session is presumptive evidence of his willingness to rule without his brother Elders. The neglect of this rule when the church has no Pastor means either anarchy or paralysis of church life.
Moreover, the Pastor has power to convene the Session when he may judge it requisite ; and he shall always convene it when requested to do so by any two of the Ruling Elders ; and when there is no Pastor, it may be convened by two Ruling Elders.
The lodging of this power in the hands of the Pastor is simply a matter of convenience ; for if a majority, counting him, do not desire to proceed to the business, nothing can be done ; nor can two Elders by calling a meeting, or having it called, carry any action, or even have the Session consider it, unless a majority are in favor of so doing. If a Pastor should refuse to convene a meeting when properly requested to do so, he would be censurable
upon conviction before Presbytery. It is always necessary in convening the meeting of any court, to give due notice to all its members ; and should it appear that any member was not given reasonable timely notice of the time, place and purpose of the meeting, the proceedings of that meeting would be null and void, should he call their validity in question. What would be timely notice the Session, or, on complaint, the Presbytery, would have to decide. In no case ought the validity of an action to be upheld, if there was a purpose to promote the absence of a member of the court by the imperfection of the notice.
The Session shall also convene when directed so to do by the Presbytery.
When the Presbytery gives such a direction, it should see that notice is given to each member of the Session. It is evident, from this regulation, that the Session is largely the Presbytery acting through a sort of commission.



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