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The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

Chapter 13 : The Presbytery

Paragraph 6 : On the Examination of Ordained Ministers

13-6. Ministers seeking admission to a Presbytery from other Presbyteries in the Presbyterian Church in America shall be examined on Christian experience, and also touching their views in theology, the Sacraments, and church government. If applicants come from other denominations, the Presbytery shall examine them thoroughly in knowledge and views as required by BCO 21-4 and require them to answer in the affirmative the questions put to candidates at their ordination. Ordained ministers from other denominations being considered by Presbyteries for reception may come under the extraordinary provisions set forth in BCO 21-4.

[Historical Summary : In 1989, the last sentence of the current text was added [M17GA, 17-6, Items 7.3 & 7.4, p. 49]. Then in 1997, Southwest Florida Presbytery brought Overture 1 before the 25th General Assembly (M25GA, III, 1, pp. 178-179). The overture was adopted and sent down to the presbyteries for advice and consent. At the 26th General Assembly, the presbyteries reporting a vote of 43 out of 44 in favor of the amendment, the matter was adopted into the BCO [M26GA, 26-17, Item 1, p. 56].

ANTECEDENT TEXTS:

PCA 1989, 13-6
[M17GA, 17-6, Item 7.3, p. 49. The resulting text stood from 1989-1998]
Ministers seeking admission to a Presbytery shall be examined on experimental religion, and also touching their views in theology and church government. If applicants come from other denominations, the Presbytery shall also require them to answer in the affirmative the questions put to candidates at their ordination. Ordained ministers from other denominations being considered by Presbyteries for reception may come under the extraordinary provisions set forth in BCO 21-4.

1. PCA 1973, 14-5, Adopted text, M1GA, p. 134
2. Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, 14-5, Proposed text, p. 14
3. PCUS 1933, XV, §74
4. PCUS 1925, XV, §74
Ministers seeking admission to a Presbytery shall be examined on experimental religion, and also touching their views in theology and church government. If applicants come from other denominations, the Presbytery shall also require them to answer in the affirmative the questions put to candidates at their ordination.

PCUS 1879, V-4-4

and
PCUS 1869 draft, V-4-5
Ministers seeking admission to a Presbytery are to be examined on experimental religion, and also touching their views in theology and Church government. If applicants come from other denominations, the Presbytery shall also require them to answer in the affirmative the questions put to candidates at their ordination.

PCUS 1867 draft, V-4-5

All applicants for admission to membership are to be examined at least on experimental religion, didactic and polemic theology and church government. When any minister shall thus apply and be rejected, it becomes the duty of the rejecting presbytery to report the case to the presbytery which dismissed him; and the rejected minister, if he feels aggrieved, may appeal to the synod. If applicants come from other denominations, the presbytery must not only receive satisfaction as to their general qualifications, but must require them to answer in the affirmative the questions put to candidates at their ordination. If they come from churches in foreign lands, they shall not be received without the advice and consent of the general assembly.

COMMENTARY :
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order
(1898, pp. 93-94), on V-4-4 :
75.--IV. Ministers seeking admission to a Presbytery are to be examined on experimental religion, and also touching their views in theology and Church government. If applicants come from other denominations, the Presbytery shall also require them to answer in the affirmative the questions put to candidates at their ordination.
This is simply an instance of Presbytery inquiring into the knowledge, principles, and Christian conduct of the ministers under its care (compare paragraph 67) ; and it would be altogether in harmony with the principles of the Book of Church Order for the Presbytery to make such inquiry on other occasions. This inquiry is prescribed at the transition of a minister into another Presbytery lest sometimes one should by change of Presbyteries escape discipline. Moreover, this regulation occasions a frequent recurrence of the question of the purity of their own life and doctrines to the members of Presbytery. It may therefore serve to confirm what is good as well as to prevent what is evil. The special requirement of applicants from other denominations simply requires of them what the others have complied with at their ordination.
If the Presbytery should reject an applicant who comes from another denomination, and take no further action, he would be left in ecclesiastical standing where he was before ; and there is no action that the Presbytery could take, unless to communicate its reasons to that ecclesiastical authority from which he came. But in the case of a Minister coming from a sister Presbytery of this Church, as his application could not be considered until it was ascertained that he had been regularly dismissed from that Presbytery to the one to which he applies, under the jurisdiction of which Presbytery is he, between the time of the acceptance of his certificate as a regular dismissal and his formal admission? Under the jurisdiction of the Presbytery from which he comes. Otherwise, he would, as soon as his certificate is acted upon, and before his examination, be a member of the Presbytery to which he applies (for he is a member of that Presbytery which has jurisdiction over him), and he could no longer be said to be seeking admission. But if the Presbytery refuses, after the examination, to admit him, the reasons for that refusal should be certified to the Presbytery that granted him his certificate. Then that Presbytery should either try and censure him by due process, or insist upon his admission into the other Presbytery, leaving the issue between the two Presbyteries, if they cannot agree, to be determined by the higher courts. For the unity of the Church is broken if it does contradictory things through two courts. (Cf. par. 67:4).

DOCUMENTATION :
Overture 1 from Southwest Florida Presbytery
"Amend BCO 13-6 To Require Transfers from Other Denominations to be Fully Amended."
Whereas the provision of our Book of Church Order relative to the admission of ordained ministers from other denominations currently stipulates that they be examined only on their views, and
Whereas other denominations may not hold men to as high degree of knowledge which we demand of our own candidates, and
Whereas men might therefore enter the position of TE who could not sustain an ordination exam as expected of a candidate,
Therefore, we request that the Presbytery of Southwest Florida overture the 24th General Assembly to make the following changes to BCO 13-6: [additions are underlined; deletions struck through]
13-6. Ministers seeking admission to a Presbytery from other Presbyteries in the Presbyterian Church in America shall be examined on experimental religion, and also touching their views in theology and church government. If applicants come from other denominations, the Presbytery shall examine them thoroughly in knowledge and views as required by BCO 21-4 and also require them to answer in the affirmative the questions put to candidates at their ordination. Ordained ministers from other denominations being considered by Presbyteries for reception may come under the extraordinary provisions set forth in BCO 21-4.
Grounds:
As it reads it allows men to be ordained in the PCA without giving satisfaction to the Presbytery of their knowledge in any area. We are permitted to examine a man only with reference to his views whether he comes from another PCA Presbytery, a sister Reformed denomination, or an independent, Charismatic, Baptist, or some other denomination. This seems to be a weakness in our polity. We have sought to maintain the highest standards for a PCA teaching elder. It is our contention that the BCO should require that if a man is coming to us from another denomination he must sustain the same exam for ordination, in knowledge and views, as any candidate.
Adopted at the April 9, 1996, meeting of Southwest Flordia Presbytery.
Attested by: /s/ Michael A. Kendrick, Stated Clerk
NOTE: Received too late for 1996 General Assembly, held over for the 25th General Assembly in 1997. /s/ PRG [Paul R. Gilchrist].
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This amendment was adopted by the 26th General Assembly (1998) following a reported vote from the presbyteries of 43 in favor, one against [M26GA, 26-17, Item 1, p. 56].


INTERPRETATION (PCA Digest, 1973-1993, Vol. 1, p. 263):

(See also BCO 21-4, 1986, 14-52, 48)
1979, 7-41, III, 21, p. 104.
a) That BCO 13-6 states that anyone coming from another denomination must be asked the questions for ordination, and
b) That Presbytery also has the authority to require an ordination that is in accord with Scripture, if deemed necessary.
1985, 13-45, III, 56, p. 109
That the advice regarding Constitutional Inquiry 16 regarding the use of the "extraordinary clause" be ratified.
1985, Appendix I, 6, p. 246 Constitutional Inquiry 16 : From the Presbytery of the Western Carolinas.
The Presbytery respectfully requests the Judicial Business Committee of the General Assembly to advise when and if the extraordinary clause may be used regarding ministers transferring from another denomination.
ANSWER :
BCO 13-6, dealing with admitting ministers from other denominations, contains no reference to an "extraordinary clause." Neither does BCO 21-4 paragraph 1, (educational requirements) contain this clause. Therefore there is no applicable "extraordinary clause" to use in the admitting of ministers from other denominations.
Note: BCO 13-6 was amended in 1992 providing for the use of [the] extraordinary clause to apply to ministers transferring from other denominations. [Despite the statement here, no such amendment has been located at this writing, 02/12/08. Please inform if located.]



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