PCA HISTORICAL CENTER
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The Historical Development of the Book of Church Order

Chapter 16 : Church Orders - The Doctrine of Vocation

Paragraph 2 : On the Consent of the Church

16-2. The government of the Church is representative, and the right of God's people to elect their officers is inalienable. Therefore no man can be placed over a church in any office without the election, or at least the consent of that church.

DIGEST: The current PCA text remains unchanged from that of PCUS 1925. The 1925 revision deletes a subordinate clause in the first sentence and updates the language, substituting "inalienable" in place of the earlier "indefeasible". This revision also made the final sentence inferential ("Therefore") instead of corollary ("Nor"). In doing so, the final sentence becomes illustrative or derivative of the larger principle stated in the first sentence. Ramsay's Exposition is valuable for pointing out the implied principle of submission to the brethren.

BACKGROUND & COMPARISON:
1. PCA 1973, 17-2, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly,
2. Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, 17-2, Proposed text, p. 20
3. PCUS 1933, XIX, § 97
4. PCUS 1925, XIX, § 97

The government of the Church is representative, and the right of God's people to elect their officers is inalienable. Therefore no man can be placed over a church in any office without the election, or at least the consent of that church.

PCUS 1879, VI-1-2

Since the government of the Church is representative, the right of the election of their officers by God's people, either immediately by their own suffrages, or mediately through church courts composed of their chosen representatives, is indefeasible. Nor can any man be placed over a church, in any office, without election, or at least the consent of that church.

PCUS 1869 draft, VI-1-3
Since all the power, which Christ hath committed to the Church and vested in His people, is exercised by them in the choice of their
officers; and since the government of the Church is representative; the right of the election of officers by God’s people, either immediately by their own suffrages, or mediately through Church-courts composed of their chosen representatives, is indefeasible. Nor can any man be placed over a Congregation in any office, without the election or at least the consent of that Congregation thereunto.

PCUS 1867 draft, VI-1-3
Since all the power which Christ hath committed to the church and vested in his people, is exercised by them in the choice of their officers; and since the government of the church is representative; the right of the election of officers by God’s people, either immediately by their own suffrages, or mediately through church courts composed of their chosen representatives, is indefeasible.
Nor can any man be placed over any congregation in any office, without the election or at least the consent of that congregation thereto.

COMMENTARY:
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order (1898, p. 122-123), on VI-1-2:
97.--II. Since the government of the Church is representative, the right of the election of their officers by God's people, either immediately by their own suffrages, or mediately through church courts composed of their chosen representatives, is indefeasible. Nor can any man be placed over a church, in any office, without the election, or at least the consent of that church.
The sole authority is Christ, and from this point of view the Church is a monarchy. But he administers the government solely by his Spirit working in all his people, and from this point of view the government is representative; for if the Holy Spirit calls any man to an office, he also calls the people to elect him thereto. It is observable, however, that this right of election has necessary limitations. If the members of a church differ, some choosing and some opposing the same man for an office over them, it must either be that no man is to be put in office without the unanimous voice of the people, or that over some, a man may be put in office without their consent. Here emerges the practical principle of submission to the brethren. But the particular church is made the sacred unit, whose voice, as such, must not be disregarded. (Cf. 77.12. [= PCA 13.9f, third clause].



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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