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The Historical Development of the Book of Church Order

Chapter 20 : The Election of Pastors

Paragraph 1 : Of Calls to Definite Works

20-1. Before a candidate, or licentiate, can be ordained to the office of the ministry, he must receive a call to a definite work. Ordinarily the call must come from a church, Presbytery, or the General Assembly of this denomination. If the call comes from another source, the Presbytery shall always make a record of the reasons why it considers the work to be a valid Christian ministry. (See also BCO 8-7 and 21-1).
A proper call must be written and in the hands of the Presbytery prior to being acted upon by a Presbytery. It must include financial arrangements (such as salary, vacation, insurance, retirement, etc.) between those calling and the one called, and assurance that the definite work will afford the liberty to proclaim and practice fully and freely the whole counsel of God, as contained in the Scriptures and understood in the Westminster Confession of Faith. It shall be in accord with the BCO 8.

DIGEST: Amendments to this paragraph have been effected in 1979 [M7GA, 7-41, Recommendation 12, Item 3, p. 103] and 1985 [M13GA, 13-18, Item 8, p. 81].

BACKGROUND & COMPARISON:
1. PCA 1973, 21-1, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, p. 139
2. Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, 21-1, Proposed text, p. 26
3. PCUS 1933, XXIII, § 121
4. PCUS 1925, XXIII, § 121
Before a candidate, or a licentiate, can be ordained to the office of the ministry, he must receive a call to a definite work.

No comparable text in the following editions:
1. PCUS 1879, Chapter VI, Section V, Paragraph 1 [§116.]

I. No Minister or Probationer shall receive a call from a church but by the permission of his Presbytery. When a call has been presented to the Presbytery, if found in order and the Presbytery deem it for the good of the Church, they shall place it in the hands of the person to whom it is addressed.

2. PCUS 1869 draft
3. PCUS 1867 draft

COMMENTARY:
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order (1898),
p. 142.
I. No Minister or Probationer shall receive a call from a church but by the permission of his Presbytery. When a call has been presented to the Presbytery, if found in order and the Presbytery deem it for the good of the Church, they shall place it in the hands of the person to whom it is addressed.

The principle is fundamental, that neither Minister nor church may enter into the pastoral relation without the consent of Presbytery; and the establishment of what is virtually the pastoral relation without the regular process and installation, whatever the relation may be called, is subversive of our system. Even for the Minister to signify his own mind concerning his proposed relation to the church before the Presbytery has acted will often tend to render the interposition of the Presbytery impracticable. The ideal would be for the called to give no indication of his own mind, and not to be consulted at all, until after the Presbytery has put the call into his hands.

OVERTURES
1978 - Recommendation from the Committee of Commissioners on Judicial Business [M6GA, 6-111, Item 12, p. 111]

12. That the Book of Church Order 21-1 be amended by adding the following paragraph:
"A proper call must be written and in the hands of the Presbytery prior to being acted upon by a Presbytery. It must include financial arrangements (such as salary, vacation, insurance, retirement, etc.) between those calling and the one called, and assurance that the definite work will afford the liberty to proclaim and practice fully and freely the whole counsel of God, as contained in the Scriptures and understood in the Westminster Confession of Faith. It shall be in accord with the Book of Church Order, Chapter 8."
This proposed amendment to the BCO is to be sent down to the Presbyteries for their advice and consent.
Further it is recommended that the Sixth General Assembly instruct the Permanent Sub-Committee on Judicial Business to prepare amendments to the BCO defining what constitutes a valid ministry for a Teaching Elder from which a call to a definite work may be received.
Grounds: The lack of definition of what constitutes "a call to a definite work" is a source of anxiety in the Church. Adopted.
1979 - Adopted by the Seventh General Assembly [M7GA, 7-41, III, 12, Item 3, p. 103]

1985 - [M13GA, 13-18, Item 8, p. 81]

Item 8: The following proposed amendment to the Book of Church Order was approved by a majority of those present and voting at the Tenth General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America. It was inadvertently overlooked in 1982-1983, and was thus sent down to the Presbyteries during 1983-84. Since an insufficient number of Presbyteries voted on it for it to be placed before the Twelfth General Assembly, the Assembly directed that it be sent down again to those Presbyteries that have not reported their votes on this amendment.
Amend BCO 20-1 by adding after the first sentence, the following:
"Ordinarily the call must come from a church, Presbytery, or the General Assembly of this denomination. If the call comes from another source, the Presbytery shall always make a record of the reasons why it considers the work to be a valid Christian ministry. (See 21-1)." Adopted, following a reported Presbytery vote of 31 in favor, 4 against.

CONSTITUTIONAL INQUIRY & REFERENCES:
1983 - Reference #3, from the Presbytery of the Southwest [M11GA, 11-9, C, p. 51 and 11-36, III, 55, p. 101]
Question - At the Winter Stated Meeting of the Presbytery of the Southwest, a request was submitted to the Presbytery from one of our churches for permission to change the terms of call of its pastor. The matter was referred to the Committee of Churches, Ministers and Candidates. The recommendation of the committee, duly made and seconded was that 'the Desert Springs Church be commended in its diligence and thanked for its request, but that Presbytery approval is not required to amend the terms of call of a pastor.' A substitute motion was made and seconded that 'the Presbytery grant permission to the Desert Springs Church to amend its call as requested.'
Following discussion, motion was made, seconded and carried that the matter be referred to the Judicial Business Committee of the General Assembly for interpretation of the BCO in this question:
"Is Presbytery approval/permission required in order to properly amend a church's terms of call to its pastor?
Respectfully submitted, Rodney T. King, Chairman, Judicial Business.
Response
- That the following interim advice given to Southwest Presbytery in relation to Reference 3 (p. 51) concerning Presbytery approval of changes in the terms of ministers' calls be ratified:
'BCO 20-1 indicates that Presbytery must approve the call of a pastor. The call establishes the relationship of the pastor to the calling body. The BCO is silent concerning amending the call; however, in as much as the initial relationship must be approved by Presbytery, it would follow that if any changes are made in the original call, the Presbytery would necessarily have to approve the changes in the call for the protection of both the pastor and the calling body.' Adopted.

1989 - Constitutional Inquiry #5 from the Northeast Presbytery requesting advice concerning who must approve the changes in the terms of a pastoral call. [M17GA, 17-82, III, 21, p. 158]
Answer - The congregation must approve changes in the terms of a pastor's call (see BCO 20-6).
The 11th General Assembly has already spoken on the role of the Presbytery in this process [see Minutes of the 11th General Assembly, 1983, 11-36, III, 55, p. 101]
"BCO 20-1 indicates that Presbytery must approve the call of a pastor. The call establishes the relationship of the pastor to the calling body. The BCO is silent concerning amending the call; however, in as much as the initial relationship must be approved by Presbytery, it would follow that if any changes are made in the original call, the Presbytery would necessarily have to approve the changes in the call for the protection of both the pastor and the calling body." Adopted.

1999 - Inquiry #1 from Southeast Alabama Presbytery [M27GA, 27-43, First Supplemental Report, p. 150]
Question - "If a congregation desires to do so, is it possible under BCO chapter 20 for a call to be issued to a pastor for a specific period (e.g. three years, five years, etc.), and is it in order for a Presbytery to approve such a call? It is understood that such a term call would always be subject to the powers of Presbytery as set forth in BCO 13-9, c and 23-1."
Answer - Yes. The authors of the question note that, in any case, the call will always be subject to BCO 13-9, c and 23-1. BCO 20-1 and 20-6 require that "a proper call" must be written and in the hands of Presbytery. BCO 20-6 further stipulates some of the form of the call. It is in the power of the Presbytery to determine if the terms of the call, as written and delivered, are in fact "proper". So long as the dissolution of the pastoral relationship at the end of the term of the call is in accord with BCO 23, the congregation and pastor are in agreement with the terms of the call, and the Presbytery considers it to be a "proper" call, we see no constitutional bar to this practice
.


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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