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The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

Chapter 14 : The General Assembly

Paragraph 1 : Principles and Constituency of Its Committees

Overtures

14-1. The General Assembly is the highest court of this Church, and represents in one body all the churches thereof. It bears the title of The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America, and constitutes the bond of union, peace and correspondence among all its congregations and courts.
Principles for the Organization of the Assembly
1. The Church is responsible for carrying out the Great Commission.
2. The initiative for carrying out the Great Commission belongs to the Church at every court level, and the Assembly is responsible to encourage and promote the fulfillment of this ministry by the various courts.
3. The work of the Church as set forth in the Great Commission is one work, being implemented at the General Assembly level through equally essential committees.
4. It is the responsibility of every member and every member congregation to support the whole work of the denomination as they be led in their conscience held captive to the Word of God.
5. It is the responsibility of the General Assembly to evaluate needs and resources, and to act on priorities for the most effective fulfillment of the Great Commission.
6. The Church recognizes the right of individuals and congregations to labor through other agencies in fulfilling the Great Commission.
7. The Assembly's committees are to serve and not to direct any Church judicatories. They are not to establish policy, but rather execute policy established by the General Assembly.
8. The committees serve the Church through the duties assigned by the General Assembly.
9. The Assembly's committees are to include proportionate representation of all presbyteries, wherever possible.
10. The committees are to be established on the basis of an equal number between teaching and ruling elders.
11. A Nominating Committee shall be comprised of one representative elected by each Presbytery in the following manner. Each Presbytery shall be assigned to a class by the stated clerk based on its date of formation. The members shall serve in classes of three year terms, alternating between ruling and teaching elders. When necessary, unexpired terms shall be filled by an elder of the same class, teaching or ruling.
This committee is to present all nominations for which it is responsible to the next meeting of the Assembly from a slate of men nominated by the Presbyteries. Presbyteries shall utilize the nominating forms provided by the stated clerk for their nominations. Each presbytery may present one teaching elder and one ruling elder for each committee or agency.
In addition to nominees for expired terms, the Committee shall nominate for each permanent committee one ruling and one teaching elder as alternates to fill any vacancies that may occur during the year. Each alternate should attend each meeting and fill any vacancy necessary to meet a quorum. In addition to the new nominees from the Presbyteries, alternates not assuming any vacancies during a year will be automatically considered by the Nominating Committee as candidates for nomination to that same committee.
12. The Assembly permanent committees are the Administrative Committee of General Assembly, Committee on Christian Education and Publications, Committee on Mission to North America, Committee on Mission to the World, and Committee on Reformed University Ministries.
The Administrative Committee of General Assembly shall consist of twenty (20) members:
a. Eleven Members in classes elected through the standard nomination and election procedure,
b. One member each from the following program committees or agencies:
1. Christian Education and Publication;
2. Covenant College;
3. Covenant Theological Seminary;
4. PCA Retirement & Benefits, Inc.
5. Mission to North America;
6. Mission to the World;
7. PCA Foundation;
8. Ridge Haven Conference Center;
9. Reformed University Ministries.
The eleven members at large shall serve a term of four years. The chairman of the Administrative Committee shall be one of its members at large.
Each program committee and agency shall designate its member each year at the last meeting of the committee or board before the meeting of General Assembly. The chief administrative officers of the program committees and agencies may attend any meeting of the Administrative Committee. They shall be entitled to the privilege of the floor but shall not have a vote and must be excluded when an executive session is called.
Committee on Christian Education and Publications, Committee on Mission to North American, Committee on Mission to the World, and Committee on Reformed University Ministries shall consist of fifteen (15) men divided into five classes of three men each, with two men being TEs and one RE or two men being REs and one TE on alternate years, elected to serve five-year terms. Committees on Christian Education and Publications, Mission to North America, Mission to the World, and Reformed University Ministries shall have one ruling and one teaching elder as alternates to fill any vacancy that may occur during the year.
Persons who have served for a full term, or for at least two years of a partial term, on one of the Assembly's permanent committees or agencies shall not be eligible for re-election to an Assembly's committee until one year has elapsed. (Exceptions may be permitted in agency bylaws approved by the Assembly.)
13. The General Assembly establishes personal salaries after hearing recommendations from the appropriate Committee.
14. The Assembly shall elect a six-man Theological Examining Committee (three teaching elders and three ruling elders of three classes of two men each). Nominations for this Committee will be presented by the Assembly's Nominating Committee.
This committee shall examine all first and second level administrative officers of committees, boards and agencies, and those acting temporarily in these positions who are being recommended for first time employment. They are to be examined in the areas of:
a. Christian experience,
b. Theology,
c. The Sacraments,
d. Church government,
e. Bible content,
f. Church history, and the
g. History of the Presbyterian Church in America.
No person will begin work or move on the field without prior examination and approval by the General Assembly's Theological Examining Committee. No first level administrative officer will be presented to the Assembly for election who has not met the approval of this committee.
15. All business shall ordinarily come to the floor of the Assembly for final action through committees of commissioners, except reports of the Standing Judicial Commission, the Committee on Constitutional Business, the Committee on Review of Presbytery Records, the Nominating Committee and Ad Interim committees, which shall come directly to the Assembly.


DIGEST:
Changes instituted for 14-1 (11) in 1980 [M8GA, 8-88, Item 3, p. 113] ; 1981 [M9GA, 9-65, Item 4, p. 132] and 1991 [M19GA, 19-9, Item 1, p. 48]
Changes instituted for 14-1 (12): 1980 [M8GA, 8-88, Item 4, p. 113] ; 1982 [M10GA, 10-89, Item 3, p. 113] ; 1984 [M12GA, 12-14, Item 3, p. 86] ; 1989 [M17GA, 17-6, Item 1, p. 40] ; 1991 [M19GA, 19-9, Item 2, p. 49] ; 1995 [M23GA, 23-11, Item 3, p. 53]; 2001 [M29GA, 29-12, Item 3, p. 53] ; and 2002 [M30GA, 30-10, Item 2, p. 62]
Changes instituted for 14-1 (12b.4) : 2003 [M31GA, 31-11, Item 4, p. 59-61]
Changes instituted for 14-1 (14) : 1980 [M8GA, 8-88, Item 5, p. 113]; and 1990 [M18GA, 18-8, Item 3, p. 45]
Changes instituted for 14-1 (15) : 1993 [M21GA, 21-10, Item 1, p. 47]

ANTECEDENT TEXTS:
PCA 1973, 15-1, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, p. 134-135
The General Assembly is the highest court of this church, and represents in one body all the churches thereof. It bears the title of The General Assembly of the National Presbyterian Church, and constitutes the bond of union, peace and correspondence among all its congregations and courts.
Preliminary Principles
The National Presbyterian Church in presenting to the Christian public the system of union, and the form of government and discipline which they have adopted, have thought proper to state, by way of introduction, a few of the general principles by which they have been governed in the formation of the plan. This, it is hoped, will, in some measure, prevent those rash misconstructions, and uncandid reflections, which usually proceed from an imperfect view of any subject; as well as make the several parts of the system plain, and the whole perspicuous and fully understood. They are unanimously of opinion :
(1) That "God alone is Lord of the conscience..."
Principles for the Organization of the Assembly
1. The Church is responsible for carrying out the Great Commission.
2. The work of the church as set forth in the Great Commission is one work, being implemented on the General Assembly level through our equally essential committees.
3. It is the responsibility of every member and every member congregation to support the whole work of the denomination as they be led in their conscience held captive to the Word of God.
4. It is the responsibility of the General Assembly to evaluate needs and resources, and to act on priorities for the most effective fulfillment of the Great Commission.
5. The Church recognizes the right of individuals and congregations to labor through other agencies in fulfilling the Great Commission.
6. The initiative for carrying out the Great Commission belongs to the local and presbytery levels, and the Assembly is responsible to encourage and promote this. (See note.)
7. The Assembly's committees are to serve and not to direct any church judicatories.
8. The Committees serve the Church through the duties assigned by the General Assembly.
9. The Assembly's committees are to include proportionate representation of all presbyteries, wherever possible.
10. The Committees are to be established on the basis of a parity between teaching and ruling elders.
11. A nominating committee of 12 ruling elders and 12 teaching elders is to be elected annually by the General Assembly from a slate selected by the Presbyteries. This committee is to present the nominations for Assembly committees to the next meeting of the Assembly from a slate of men nominated by the Presbyteries.
12. The Assembly committees are to be made of three classes of four men each.
13. The General Assembly establishes personal salaries after hearing recommendations from the Committee.
The Assembly shall elect annually a six-man theological examining committee, (3 Teaching Elders and 3 Ruling Elders) to examine all administrative and program personnel being recommended for employment by Assembly Committees to the Assembly, in the areas of experimental religion, theology, the sacraments, church government, and English Bible. No person will be presented to the Assembly who does not meet the approval of this Committee. Nominations for this Committee will be presented by the Assembly's Nominating Committee.

Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, 15-1, Proposed text, pp. 16-17
The General Assembly is the highest court of this church, and represents in one body all the churches thereof. It bears the title of The General Assembly of the ________________________________________________, and constitutes the bond of union, peace and correspondence among all its congregations and courts.
Preliminary Principles*
_______________________________________________ in presenting to the Christian public the system of union, and the form of government and discipline which they have adopted, have thought proper to state, by way of introduction, a few of the general principles by which they have been governed in the formation of the plan. This, it is hoped, will, in some measure, prevent those rash misconstructions, and uncandid reflections, which usually proceed from an imperfect view of any subject; as well as make the several parts of the system plain, and the whole perspicuous and fully understood. They are unanimously of opinion : (1) That "God alone is Lord of the conscience..."
Principles for the Organization of the Assembly
1. The Church is responsible for carrying out the Great Commission.
2. The work of the church as set forth in the Great Commission is one work, being implemented on the General Assembly level through our equally essential committees.
3. It is the responsibility of every member and every member congregation to support the whole work of the denomination as they be led in their conscience held captive to the Word of God.
4. It is the responsibility of the General Assembly to evaluate needs and resources, and to act on priorities for the most effective fulfillment of the Great Commission.
5. The Church recognizes the right of individuals and congregations to labor through other agencies in fulfilling the Great Commission.
**6. The initiative for carrying out the Great Commission belongs to the local and presbytery levels, and the Assembly is responsible to encourage and promote this. (See note.)

* This introductory chapter, with the exception of the first sentence, was first drawn up by the Synod of New York and Philadelphia, and prefixed to the Form of Government, etc., as published by that body in 1788. In that year, after arranging the plan on which the Presbyterian Church is now governed, the Synod was divided into four Synods, and gave place to the General Assembly, which met for the first time in 1789.
** The initiative for carrying out the Great Commission belongs to the Church at every Court level, and the Assembly is responsible to encourage and promote this.

7. The Assembly's committees are to serve and not to direct any church judicatories.
8. The Committees serve the Church through the duties assigned by the General Assembly.
9. The Assembly's committees are to include proportionate representation of all presbyteries, wherever possible.
10. The Committees are to be established on the basis of a parity between teaching and ruling elders.
11. A nominating committee of 12 ruling elders and 12 teaching elders is to be elected annually by the General Assembly from a slate selected by the Presbyteries. This committee is to present the nominations for Assembly committees to the next meeting of the Assembly from a slate of men nominated by the Presbyteries.
12. The Assembly committees are to be made of three classes of four men each.
13. The General Assembly establishes personal salaries after hearing recommendations from the Committee.
The Assembly shall elect annually a five-man theological examining committee, (3 Teaching Elders and 2 Ruling Elders) to examine all administrative and program personnel being recommended for employment by Assembly Committees to the Assembly, in the areas of experimental religion, theology, the sacraments, church government, and English Bible. No person will be presented to the Assembly who does not meet the approval of this Committee. Nominations for this Committee will be presented by the Assembly's Nominating Committee.

1. PCUS 1933, XVII-§85
2. PCUS 1925, XVII-§85
3. PCUS 1879, V-6-1

The General Assembly is the highest court of this Church, and represents in one body all the churches thereof. It bears the title of THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN THE UNITED STATES, and constitutes the bond of union, peace and correspondence among all its congregations and courts.

PCUS 1869 draft,V-6-1
The General Assembly is the highest court of this Church, and represents in one body all the Congregations thereof. It bears the
title of THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN THE UNITED STATES, and constitutes the bond of union, peace, and correspondence among all its Congregations.

PCUS 1867 draft, V-6-1
The General Assembly is the highest court of this church, and represents in one body all the congregations thereof. It bears the title of THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN THE UNITED STATES, and constitutes the bond of union, peace, correspondence, and mutual confidence among all its congregations.

PCUSA 1789, XI-§1

The General Assembly is the highest judicatory of the presbyterian church ; and shall represent, in one body, all the particular churches of this denomination ; and shall bear the style and title of The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.

COMMENTARY:
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order
, (1898, pp. 109-110) on V-6-1 :
86.--The General Assembly is the highest court of this Church, and represents in one body all the churches thereof. It bears the title of THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN THE UNITED STATES, and constitutes the bond of union, peace and correspondence among all its congregations and courts.
The title was not meant to deny that there are other Presbyterian Churches in the United States, but was selected as indicating that this Church is not sectional and as recognizing the duty of obedience to the government under which its members, in the providence of God, are placed. While it is manifestly the bond of union and peace among all its congregations and courts, and its dignity and efficiency should be cherished as such, it must be remembered also that it is the bond of correspondence. For as churches may not negotiate with one another, except under review of their Presbyteries, nor Presbyteries with one another, except under review of their Synods, so neither can Synods with one another, except under review of the Assembly.

OVERTURES & AMENDMENTS:
Changes instituted for 14-1 (11):
1. 1980 [M8GA, 8-88, Item 3, p. 113]
2. 1981 [M9GA, 9-65, Item 4, p. 132]
3. 1991 [M19GA, 19-9, Item 1, p. 48] - {see also, M17GA, 17-81, II, Item 7, p. 133]
Changes instituted for 14-1 (12):
1. 1980 [M8GA, 8-88, Item 4, p. 113]
2. 1982 [M10GA, 10-89, Item 3, p. 113]
3. 1984 [M12GA, 12-14, Item 3, p. 86]
4. 1989 [M17GA, 17-6, Item 1, p. 40]
5. 1991 [M19GA, 19-9, Item 2, p. 49]
6. 1995 [M23GA, 23-11, Item 3, p. 53]
7. 2001 [M29GA, 29-12, Item 3, p. 53]
8. 2002 [M30GA, 30-10, Item 2, p. 62]
Changes instituted for 14-1 (12b.4):
1. 2003 [M31GA, 31-11, Item 4, p. 59-61]
Changes instituted for 14-1 (14):
1. 1980 [M8GA, 8-88, Item 5, p. 113]
This amendment came before the Eighth General Assembly under recommendation from the Committee of Commissioners on Judicial Business:
Item 5 - Amend paragraph 15-1-14 to read as follows: "The Assemlby shall elect a six-man Theological Examining Committee (three Teaching Elders and three Ruling Elders of three classes of two men each). This Committee shall examine all Coordinators, Associate Coordinators, Assistant Coordinators, and those acting temporarily in these positions who are being recommended for first time employment by Assembly Committees to the Assembly. They are to be examined in the areas of Christian Experience, Theology, the Sacraments, Church Government, and English Bible. No person will begin work or move on the field without prior examination and approval by the General Assembly's Theological Examining Committee. No person will be presented to the Assembly for election who has not met the approval of this Committee. Nominations for this Committee will be presented by the Assembly's Nominating Committee.
Adopted.
2. 1990 [M18GA, 18-8, Item 3, p. 45]
The amendment first came before the 17th General Assembly as a recommendation from the Committee of Commissioners on Judicial Business [M17GA, 17-82, III, Item 11, p. 152]:
"14-1.14. The Assembly shall elect a six-man Theological Examining Committee (three Teaching Elders and three Ruling Elders of three classes of two men each). Nominations for this Committee will be presented by the Assembly's Nominating Committee.
"This Committee shall examine all first and second level administrative officers of committees, boards and agencies, and those acting temporarily in these positions who are being recommended for first time employment. They are to be examined in the areas of Christian experience, Theology, the Sacraments, Church Government, Bible Content, Church History and the history of the Presbyterian Church in America.
"No person will begin work or move on the field without prior examination and approval by the General Assembly's Theological Examining Committee. No first level administrative officer will be presented to the Assembly for election who has not met the approval of this committee."
The proposed amendment was adopted by the Seventeenth General Assembly, sent down to the Presbyteries, and then Adopted at the Eighteenth General Assembly, following a reported Presbytery vote of 32 in favor, 11 against.
Changes instituted for 14-1 (15):
1. 1993 [M21GA, 21-10, Item 1, p. 47], began in 1991 as an overture from Covenant Presbytery, but was received too late for consideration at the 19th General Assembly, and so came before the 20th GA in 1992 [M20GA, 20-51, Item 4, pp. 100-101].
Overture 6 from Covenant Presbytery: "Amend BCO 14-1 by Inserting RAO 13-1"
Whereas, the PCA has always desired for the Committees of Commissioners to provide a grassroots check and balance for General Assembly's permanent committees;
Whereas, the ability of the Committees of Commissioners to be an effective check and balance will be lessened if their role is changed from evaluation and recommendation to advice;
Whereas, the ability of the Committees of Commissioners to be an effective check and balance will be lessened if business no longer comes to the floor of the General Assembly through the Committee of Commissioners but through the permanent committees and agencies;
Whereas, the PCA must not so centralize power in the permanent committees in the name of practice efficiency as to tempt the permanent committees with elitism and hegemony;
Whereas, the PCA has historically agreed with the Thornwellian position that the work of the church is to be done by the church through committees under the direct oversight of the church and not through semi-autonomous boards;
Therefore Be It Resolved that Covenant Presbytery overture the Nineteenth General Assembly to begin the process of amending the Book of Church Order by adding the following paragraph:
14-1.15. All business shall ordinarily come to the floor of the Assembly for final action through Committees of Commissioners, except reports of the Standing Judicial Commission, the Committee on Constitutional Business, the Committee on Review of Presbytery Records, the Nominating Committee and Ad Interim Committees, which shall come directly to the Assembly.
Adopted at the Twenty-first General Assembly, following a reported Presbytery vote of 40 in favor, 6 against.

CONSTITUTIONAL INQUIRY:
14-1
1982, 10-23, p. 60.
At the Ninth General Assembly, the Permanent Sub-Committee on Judicial Business was asked to respond to the question whether or not the Committee of Commissioners has to make a recommendation concerning the new cooperative agreements of the Permanent Committee on Mission to the World.
In order to answer that question, the Permanent Sub-Committee on Judicial Business took notice of the following points:
(1) BCO
14-1-5 states that the General Assembly has the responsibility "to evaluate needs and resources."
(2) BCO
14-1-7 states "The Assembly's committees are to serve and not to direct any Church judicatories. They are not to establish policy, but rather execute policy established by the General Assembly."
(3) BCO 14-6 states that the General Assembly has the power "to institute and superintend the agencies in the general work of evangelization." The actions and activities of all the committees are always subject to the review of the General Assembly.
(4) Church courts have final responsibility in determining doctrinal compatibility (see BCO 12-5, 13-8, and 14-6). Each new cooperative agreement requires the acceptance of a doctrinal statement.
(5) The Committee of Commissioners is not envisioned in our system of government as serving as a commission but as a channel by which business is reviewed and brought to the floor for final action by the General Assembly (see RAO 8-1; M8GA, p. 239; and BCO 15-1).
Thus it is the opinion of the Sub-Committee on Judicial Business that the Committee of Commissioners must make a recommendation to the General Assembly regarding each new cooperative agreement of the Committee on Mission to the World.

14-1-12
1985, 13-27, p. 86. The following constitutional inquiry from the floor was referred to the Committee on Judicial Business:
"Does the Book of Church Order 14-1-12 permit a trustee of an agency whose term has expired to be nominated to fill the unexpired term of another trustee who has resigned from his position?"
1985, 13-31, p. 91 ...The following response was adopted:
"BCO 14-1-12 (4) permits such election only if the bylaws of the agency (as approved by the Assembly) so specify."



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Chapter Index [links to Par. 1 of each chapter]:
FoG..
1
2
3.
4
5.
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
I. King & Head of Church
.§1.
§4
§5
RoD
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
II. Preliminary Principles
§1
§2
§3
§4
§5
§6
§7
§8
DfW
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
[FoG = Form of Government ; RoD = Rules of Discipline ; DfW = Directory for Worship]