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The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

Chapter 14 : The General Assembly

Paragraph 6 : On the Powers of the General Assembly

14-6. The General Assembly shall have power:
a. To receive and issue* all appeals, references, and complaints regularly brought before it from the lower courts; to bear testimony against error in doctrine and immorality in practice, injuriously affecting the Church; to decide in all controversies respecting doctrine and discipline;
b. To give its advice and instruction, in conformity with the Constitution, in all cases submitted to it.
c. To review the records of the Presbyteries, to take care that the lower courts observe the Constitution; to redress whatever they may have done contrary to order;
d. To devise measures for promoting the prosperity and enlargement of the Church;
e. To erect new Presbyteries, and unite and divide those which were erected with their consent;
f. To institute and superintend the agencies necessary in the general work of evangelization; to appoint ministers of such labors as fall under its jurisdiction;
g. To suppress schismatical contentions and disputations, according to the rules provided therefor;
h. To receive under its jurisdiction, with the consent of three-fourths (3/4) of the Presbyteries, other ecclesiastical bodies whose organization is conformed to the doctrine and order of this Church; to authorize Presbyteries to exercise similar power in receiving bodies suited to become constitutents of those courts, and lying within their geographical bounds respectively;
i. To superintend the affairs of the whole Church;
j. To correspond with other churches; to unite with other ecclesiastical bodies whose organization is conformed to the doctrines and order of this Church, such union to be effected by a mode of procedure defined in BCO 26; and
k. In general to recommend measures for the promotion of charity, truth and holiness through all the churches under its care.
*Editor's note: "Issue" means "settling the issue of the case".


[DIGEST: The sole distinction between PCA 1973 and the Proposed text is the chapter reference--"Chapter XXVII" in PCA 1973 and "Chapter XXVI" in the Proposed text.]

ANTECEDENT TEXTS:
PCA 1973, 15-6, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, p. 136
14-6. The General Assembly shall have power to receive and issue all appeals, references, and complaints regularly brought before it from the lower courts; to bear testimony against error in doctrine and immorality in practice, injuriously affecting the Church; to decide in all controversies respecting doctrine and discipline; to give its advice and instruction, in conformity with the Constitution, in all cases submitted to it; to review the records of the Presbytery, to take care that the lower courts observe the Constitution; to redress whatever they may have done contrary to order; to concert measures for promoting the prosperity and enlargement of the Church; to erect new Presbyteries, and unite and divide those which were erected with their consent; to institute and superintend the agencies necessary in the general work of evangelization; to appoint Ministers of such labors as fall under its jurisdiction; to suppress schismatical contentions and disputations, according to the rules provided therefore; to receive under its jurisdiction, with the consent of three-fourths of the Presbyteries, other ecclesiastical bodies whose organization is conformed to the doctrine and order of this Church; to authorize Presbyteries to exercise similar power in receiving bodies suited to become constitutents of those courts, and lying within their geographical bounds respectively; to superintend the affairs of the whole Church; to correspond with other Churches; to unite with other ecclesiastical bodies whose organization is conformed to the doctrines and order of this Church, such union to be effected by a mode of procedure defined in Chapter XXVII, and in general to recommend measures for the promotion of charity, truth, and holiness through all the churches under its care.

Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, Proposed text, p. 19
14-6. The General Assembly shall have power to receive and issue all appeals, references, and complaints regularly brought before it from the lower courts; to bear testimony against error in doctrine and immorality in practice, injuriously affecting the Church; to decide in all controversies respecting doctrine and discipline; to give its advice and instruction, in conformity with the Constitution, in all cases submitted to it; to review the records of the Presbytery, to take care that the lower courts observe the Constitution; to redress whatever they may have done contrary to order; to concert measures for promoting the prosperity and enlargement of the Church; to erect new Presbyteries, and unite and divide those which were erected with their consent; to institute and superintend the agencies necessary in the general work of evangelization; to appoint Ministers of such labors as fall under its jurisdiction; to suppress schismatical contentions and disputations, according to the rules provided therefore; to receive under its jurisdiction, with the consent of three-fourths of the Presbyteries, other ecclesiastical bodies whose organization is conformed to the doctrine and order of this Church; to authorize Presbyteries to exercise similar power in receiving bodies suited to become constitutents of those courts, and lying within their geographical bounds respectively; to superintend the affairs of the whole Church; to correspond with other Churches; to unite with other ecclesiastical bodies whose organization is conformed to the doctrines and order of this Church, such union to be effected by a mode of procedure defined in Chapter XXVI, and in general to recommend measures for the promotion of charity, truth, and holiness through all the churches under its care.

PCUS 1933, XVII, 90
PCUS 1925, XVII, 90
The General Assembly shall have power to receive and issue all appeals, references, and complaints regularly brought before it from the lower courts; to bear testimony against error in doctrine and immorality in practice, injuriously affecting the Church; to decide in all controversies respecting doctrine and discipline; to give its advice and instruction, in conformity with the Constitution, in all cases submitted to it; to review the records of the Synods; to take care that the lower courts observe the Constitution; to redress whatever they may have done contrary to order; to concert measures for promoting the prosperity and enlargement of the Church; to erect new Synods; to institute and superintend the agencies necessary in the general work of evangelization; to appoint Ministers of such labors as fall under its jurisdiction; to suppress schismatical contentions and disputations, according to the rules provided therefor; to receive under its jurisdiction, with the consent of three-fourths of the Presbyteries, other ecclesiastical bodies whose organization is conformed to the doctrine and order of this Church; to authorize Synods and Presbyteries to exercise similar power in receiving bodies suited to become constitutents of those courts, and lying within their geographical bounds respectively; to superintend the affairs of the whole Church; to correspond with other Churches; to unite with other ecclesiastical bodies whose organization is conformed to the doctrines and order of this Church, such union to be effected by a mode of procedure defined in Chapter XXVIII, Paragraph 162; and in general to recommend measures for the promotion of charity, truth, and holiness through all the churches under its care.

PCUS 1879, V-6-5

The General Assembly shall have power to receive and issue all appeals, references, and complaints regularly brought before it from the inferior courts ; to bear testimony against error in doctrine and immorality in practice, injuriously affecting the Church ; to decide in all controversies respecting doctrine and discipline ; to give its advice and instruction, in conformity with the Constitution, in all cases submitted to it ; to review the records of the Synods ; to take care that the inferior courts observe the Constitution; to redress whatever they may have done contrary to order ; to concert measures for promoting the prosperity and enlargement of the Church ; to erect new Synods ; to institute and superintend the agencies necessary in the general work of evangelization ; to appoint Ministers to such labors as fall under its jurisdiction; to suppress schismatical contentions and disputations, according to the rules provided therefor ; to receive under its jurisdiction, with the consent of a majority of the Presbyteries, other ecclesiastical bodies whose organization is conformed to the doctrine and order of this Church; to authorize Synods and Presbyteries to exercise similar power in receiving bodies suited to become constitutents of those courts, and lying within their geographical bounds respectively; to superintend the affairs of the whole church; to correspond with other churches; and in general, to recommend measures for the promotion of charity, truth, and holiness through all the Churches under its care.

PCUS 1869 draft, V-6-6
The General Assembly shall have power to receive and issue all appeals, references and complaints regularly brought before it from the inferior courts; to reprove, warn, and bear testimony against error in doctrine and immorality in practice, injuriously affecting the Church; to give its advice and instruction in conformity with the Constitution in all cases submitted to it; to review the records of the Synods; to take care that the inferior courts observe the Constitution; to redress what-ever they may have done contrary to order; to take such order in gen-eral with respect to them as may be in conformity with the Word of God and the constitutional rules; to concert measures for promoting the prosperity and enlargement of the Church; to erect new Synods; to institute the agencies, and superintend the general work of evange-lization; to appoint Doctors and Evangelists to such labours as fall under its jurisdiction; to suppress schismatical contentions and dispu-tations according to the canons provided therefor; to receive under its jurisdiction other ecclesiastical bodies, whose organization is conformed to the doctrine and order of this Church—in doing which the provi-sions of the Constitution shall be carefully observed; to authorize Sy-nods and Presbyteries to exercise similar power in receiving bodies suited to become constituents of those courts, and lying within their geographical bounds respectively; to correspond with other Churches; and in general to recommend and attempt the promotion of charity, truth and holiness through all the Congregations under its care.

PCUS 1867 draft, V-6-6
The general assembly shall have power to receive and issue all appeals, references and complaints regularly brought before it from the inferior courts; to reprove, warn, and bear testimony against error in doctrine and immorality in practice, injuriously affecting the church; to give its advice and instruction in conformity with the constitution in all cases submitted to it; to review the records of the synods; to take care that the inferior courts observe the constitution; to redress whatever they may have done contrary to order; to take such order in general with respect to them as may be in conformity with the word of God and the constitutional rules; to concert measures for promoting the prosperity and enlargement of the church; to erect new synods; to institute the agencies, and superintend the whole work of systematic evangelization; to appoint doctors and evangelists to such labours as fall under its jurisdiction; to suppress schismatical contentions and disputations according to the canons provided therefor; to receive under its jurisdiction other ecclesiastical bodies, whose organization is conformed to the doctrine and order of this church, in doing which the provisions of the constitution must be carefully observed; to authorize synods and presbyteries to exercise similar power in receiving bodies suited to become constituents of those courts, and lying within their geographical bounds respectively; to correspond with other churches; and in general to recommend and attempt the promotion of charity, truth and holiness through all the congregations under its care.

COMMENTARY :
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order
(1898, pp. 112-116), on V-6-5 :
90.--V. The General Assembly shall have power, 1, to receive and issue all appeals, references, and complaints regularly brought before it from the inferior courts ;
(Cf. 77, 1 ; and 84, I.)
2. to bear testimony against error in doctrine and immorality in practice, injuriously affecting the Church ;
(Cf. 77 : 10.)
3. to decide in all controversies respecting doctrine and discipline ;
This is a power peculiar to the Assembly ; for, while the other courts decide in the sense of rendering a judgment, that judgment, if controverted, is not the DECISION of the controversy ; but the Assembly's judgment is the judgment of the Church, and is, therefore, the end of the controversy. When, then, the Assembly has decided, is that a prohibition of further discussion? By no means. But the Assembly's decision in a controversy respecting doctrine is thenceforth the doctrine of the Church ; and further opposition to this doctrine is opposition to the doctrine of the Church, and is permissible only within the limitations within which opposition to the doctrine of the Church is permissible. And the decision of the Assembly in a controversy respecting discipline fixes the status of the parties affected, and they are to be treated accordingly in their ecclesiastical relations by all who prefer to remain in this Church and free from its censure.
4. to give its advice and instruction, in conformity with the Constitution, in all cases submitted to it ;
Such judgments given by the Assembly are not decisions in the sense of the preceding paragraph, because there is here no controversy ; nor could any one be charged with contravening the doctrine of the Church, or disobeying its authority, on the ground of teaching or acting contrary to such judgments. At the same time, these judgments should be treated with respect, even by those who are constrained to controvert them ; and the utmost care should be taken in rendering such judgments, that they may be such as will command respect for the consideration and intelligence and earnest love of truth manifest in them.
5. to review the records of the Synods ;
(Cf. 77:5, and 84:2.)
6. to take care that the inferior courts observe the Constitution;
(Cf. 77:5, and 84:2.)
7. to redress whatever they may have done contrary to order ;
(Cf. 77: 5, and 84:2.)
8. to concert measures for promoting the prosperity and enlargement of the Church ;
without as well as within its existing borders. (Cf. 77:14, 15, and 87:4.)
9. to erect new Synods ;
which includes the power of uniting and dividing Synods, with or without their consent. (Cf. 77: 12, 13, and 84:4.)
10. to institute and superintend the agencies necessary in the general work of evangelization ;
(Cf. 90:8.) The Assembly is to superintend as well as to institute these agencies.
11. to appoint Ministers to such labors as fall under its jurisdiction;
(Cf. 84:5.)
12. to suppress schismatical contentions and disputations, according to the rules provided therefor ;
What contentions and disputations are schismatical the Assembly must judge. In the exercise of this power and that named in 90:6, 7, it is not necessary for the Assembly to wait till one of the parties to a controversy brings it before the Assembly ; but the Assembly must not, in the exercise of this power, proceed without rule, nor according to any rules but those provided for this very purpose in the Book of Church Order. Otherwise, the Assembly violates law in order to uphold law.
13. to receive under its jurisdiction, with the consent of a majority of the Presbyteries, other ecclesiastical bodies whose organization is conformed to the doctrine and order of this Church;
14. to authorize Synods and Presbyteries to exercise similar power in receiving bodies suited to become constitutents of those courts, and lying within their geographical bounds respectively;
In these two clauses a peculiar power of the Assembly is presented. It is the power to receive under its jurisdiction bodies which, being received, become incorporated in this Church as it is, with no change in its Constitution ; and even this the Assembly cannot do without the consent of a majority of its Presbyteries. But, to unite this Church and another into a Church having a Constitution differing, however slightly, from the existing Constitution of this Church, is beyond the power of the Assembly, even with the consent of a majority of its Presbyteries. If this Church is to be united with another into a Church having a Constiution differing from the existing Constitution of this Church, the new Constitution must first be adopted by this Church according to the provisions laid down in Chapter VII. Where there is to be union without change of Constitution, and the body to be thus incorporated into this Church lies geographically so that it would be merged into some existing Synod or Presbytery, that Presbytery or Synod receives the body, but not wihtout being first authorized by the Assembly ; but in such a case, where only a Presbytery or Synod is directly affected, it is not necessary to obtain the consent of a majority of all the Presbyteries. But there can be no absorption of larger or smaller bodies, unless they are conformed to the doctrine and order of this Church ; for otherwise the doctrine and order of this Church would be acknowledged as not justifying a denominational existence to maintain them.
15. to superintend the affairs of the whole Church;
For this superintendence is not to be left unprovided for and liable to be assumed by irresponsible parties.
16. to correspond with other Churches;
With what Churches is left to the discretion of the Assembly, except that paragraph 80 implies that there will be no correspondence except with Evangelical Churches.
17. and in general, to recommend measures for the promotion of charity, truth, and holiness through all the Churches under its care.
Things which the Assembly may not enjoin, either because it lacks the authority or because it deems it inadvisable to go so far as to enjoin, it may recommend.



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FoG..
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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]