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The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

Chapter 20 : The Election of Pastors

Paragraph 3 :

20-3. When a congregation is convened for the election of a pastor it is important that they should elect a minister of the Presbyterian Church in America to preside, but if this be impracticable, they may elect any male member of that church. The Session shall appoint one of their number to call the meeting to order and to preside until the congregation shall elect their presiding officer. All communing members in good and regular standing, but no others, are entitled to vote in the churches to which they are respectively attached.

[Historical Summary : The current text of this paragraph dates to 1975 [M3GA, 3-89, p. 114]. Another amendment to BCO 20-3 was proposed in 1997 [M25GA, 25-17, Item 2, p. 114], but that amendment failed.]

Background and Comparison :
PCA 1973, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, p. 139
When a congregation is convened for the election of a pastor it is important that they should elect a minister of the National Presbyterian Church to preside, but if this be impracticable, they may elect any male member of that church. The Session shall appoint one of their number to call the meeting to order and to preside until the congregation shall elect their presiding officer. All communing members in good and regular standing, but no others, are entitled to vote in the churches to which they are respectively attached.

Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, Proposed text, p. 26
When a congregation is convened for the election of a pastor it is important that they should elect a minister of the ________________ _______ to preside, but if this be impracticable, they may elect any male member of that church. The Session shall appoint one of their number to call the meeting to order and to preside until the congregation shall elect their presiding officer. All communing members in good and regular standing, but no others, are entitled to vote in the churches to which they are respectively attached.

PCUS 1933, XXIII, §123
and
PCUS 1925, XXIII, §123
When a congregation is convened for the election of a Pastor it is important that they should elect a Minister of the Presbyterian Church in the United States to preside, but if this be impracticable, they may elect any male member of that church. The Session shall appoint one of their number to call the meeting to order and to preside until the congregation shall elect their presiding officer. All communing members in good and regular standing, but no others, are entitled to vote in the churches to which they are respectively attached.

PCUS 1879, VI-3-4

All communicating members in good and regular standing, but no others, are entitled to vote in the election of church officers in the churches to which they are respectively attached ; and when a majority of the electors cast their votes for a person for either of these offices, he shall be considered elected.


PCUS 1869 draft, VI-3-4
All Communicating members of the Church, in good and regular standing, but no others, are entitled to vote in the election of Church-officers in the Congregations to which they are respectively attached. In the election of a Pastor, when a majority of the electors case their votes for a candidate, he shall be considered elected; but a separate vote may also be taken of the non-communicating adult members of the Church, who are regular in their attendance on the common ordinances in that Congregation, and of all other persons who regularly contribute to the support of the Pastor, in order to be laid before the Presbytery as a representative of their desires in the premises.

PCUS 1867 draft, VI-3-4
All communicating members of the church, in good and regular standing, but no others, are entitled to vote in the election of church officers in the congregations to which they are respectively attached. In the election of a pastor, when a majority of the electors cast their votes for a candidate, he shall be considered elected; but a separate vote shall also be taken of the non-communicating adult members of the church, who are regular in their attendance on the common ordinances in that congregation, and of all other persons who regularly contribute to the support of the pastor, in order to be laid before the presbytery as a representation of their desire in
the premises.

COMMENTARY :
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order (1898, pp. 129-130) on VI-3-4 :

105.--All communicating members in good and regular standing, but no others, are entitled to vote in the election of church officers in the churches to which they are respectively attached ; and when a majority of the electors cast their votes for a person for either of these offices, he shall be considered elected.
Here a majority of electors must mean a majority of those present ; for no one can vote who is not present, and no one is present unless present in his own person and by his own consent counted as present. (Cf. 105.)
Here appears the necessity for the Session to be in session and to conduct the election as a part of the business of the Session. Then, also, the proceedings of the congregational meeting, as what is done under the supervision of the Session, will be recorded in the records of the Session, and the Clerk of the Session will be the clerk of the congregational meeting. (Cf. 105.)
Those not members of the Church are excluded from voting for its officers, as a matter of course ; for nothing can entitle him who will not acknowledge Christ to the right of participating in the government of his Church. Those not members of the particular church are excluded, for otherwise the individuality of the particular church would perish. Those not communicants are excluded, for the reason that only those who are themselves endeavoring to obey Christ can be qualified to act as his agents in pointing out what men he would put over his people. For the same reason, none under censure can be allowed to vote. A member of the Session (except a Minister) has the same right as any other member of the Church to make a nomination or motion, and to vote.
Has the Session authority to make nominations? Yes, unless the church decides to elect without nominations ; but for the Session to announce nominations before the congregation has decided this point is to take away from the congregation the decision of this point. But it must be remembered that the Session has the right to refuse installation to those chosen by the congregation ; and this right should always be exercised when there is need thereby to preserve the church from having officers not qualified.



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