PCA HISTORICAL CENTER
Archives and Manuscript Repository for the Continuing Presbyterian Church


The Historical Development of the Book of Church Order

Chapter 15 : Ecclesiastical Commissions

Paragraph 6 : Of Provisional Presbyteries

15-6. The General Assembly shall have power to commit to a commission, consisting of not less than three elders, the task of forming a provisional Presbytery in a foreign country where there exists no compatible indigenous presbyterian and reformed Church. Such a commission shall have authority to act as the Presbytery in all matters pertaining to the establishment and ordering of a national Church and shall report annually to the General Assembly. The commission shall be dissolved when there are at least three national teaching elders and three organized churches under its care, and these shall then constitute a separate national Church.

DIGEST: In the original edition of the PCA BCO, this chapter was designated as Chapter 16. In 1988, 15-1, 15-3, 15-4 and 15-5 were amended at the 16th General Assembly, the Presbyteries having first consented to the changes by vote of 29 to 13. See M16GA, pp. 88-89. A typographical error appears at 16-4 in the Minutes of the First General Assembly, with a comma inserted after the word "interests" M1GA, Appendix, p. 136.

Minutes of the 44th General Assembly, 44-32, III, 9, p. 39:
"By way of testimonial, in the 40 years that the PCA has been in existence, the provision in BCO 15-6 has rarely been exercised by the MTW community. It has become our working model over the years to:
a. Make every attempt to discover and develop working relationships with congregations, presbyteries, and Reformed denominations within a country rather than to multiply the number of denominations within a particular nation through the formation of provisional presbyteries. MTW has experienced numerous situations over the years where factions have wanted to begin their own denominations for no compelling theological reasons nor for reasons rooted in the desire to pursue the peace and purity of the church.
b. In cases where no Reformed and covenantal churches and/or denominations are present, to develop and recognize local leadership and to form local congregations and presbyteries in partnership with Reformed and covenantal denominations in neighboring countries in the region. This is an attempt to honor the guiding principles of locality (local resources, local community, local collaboration, etc.) and indigenization and to foster regional teamwork and partnerships. These principles have become increasingly meaningful to our international colleagues and partners over the years. Adopted.

BACKGROUND & COMPARISON:
PCA 1973, 16-4, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, p. 136
The General Assembly shall have power to commit the various interests, pertaining to the general work of evangelization to one or more committees. [Note: a typographical error appears here, inserting a comma after "interests..." No intentional change from the Proposed text was approved.]

Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, 16-1, Proposed text, p. 19
The General Assembly shall have power to commit the various interests pertaining to the general work of evangelization to one or more committees.

PCUS 1933, XVIII, § 95
and
PCUS 1925, XVIII, § 95
The General Assembly shall have power to commit the various interests pertaining to the general work of evangelization to one or more Commissions.

PCUS 1879, V-7-4
The General Assembly shall have power to commit the various interests pertaining to the general work of evangelization to one or more commissions.

PCUS 1869 draft, v-7-4
The General Assembly shall have power to commit the various interests pertaining to the general work of evangelization, to one or more commissions.

PCUS 1867 draft, V-7-4
The general assembly shall have power to commit the various interests pertaining to the work of systematic evangelization, to one or more commissions for each object, as that court may elect. These commissions shall be charged with carrying out the instructions of the assembly, and with executing any work which may be assigned to them. Of their diligence therein they must give account, subject to the review and control, in all respects, of the assembly, by whose authority they act. The number of members constituting these commissions shall be at the discretion of the assembly; but they shall consist of ministers and ruling elders, though the treasurers and auditing commitees may be deacons.

COMMENTARY:

F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order
(1898, pp. 120-121), on V-7-4:
95.--IV. The General Assembly shall have power to commit the various interests pertaining to the general work of evangelization to one or more commissions.
(Cf. 90:10)
This whole doctrine of commissions is to be put in practice with caution. On the other hand, there is danger that Presbyteries and the higher courts will call commissions executive committees, or simply committees, and forget that they are commissions, and many evils result. On the other hand, courts may often be tempted to do by commission, as more convenient or agreeable, what it were better for the court itself to do. But if the distinction between commissions and other sorts of committees is preserved, and commissions are used for those executive functions and special investigations which can be better done by a small number of specially fitted commissioners than by a large court, this section may be practiced with great gain to the Church.


Chapter Index [links are to Paragraph 1 in 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]

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