.

The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

Chapter 21 : The Ordination and Installation of Ministers

Paragraph 4 :

21-4. An intern applying for ordination shall be required to present a diploma of Bachelor or Master from some approved college or university, and also a diploma of Bachelor or Master from some approved theological seminary or authentic testimonials of having completed a regular course of theological studies, or a certificate of completion of and endorsement from a theological study program as approved by the General Assembly and one of the Presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church in America. No Presbytery shall omit any of these educational requirements except in extraordinary cases, and then only with a three-fourths (3/4) approval of the Presbytery. Whenever a Presbytery shall omit any of these educational requirements, it shall always make a record of the reasons for such omission and the parts omitted. The intern shall also present satisfactory testimonials as to the completion and approval of his internship in the practice of the ministry.
Every candidate for ordination shall ordinarily have met the requirements of the Assembly’s approved curriculum. Ordinarily, the intern shall have been examined in most of the following trials when he was licensed. If the Presbytery previously approved all parts of the licensure examination, it need not re-examine the intern in those areas at this time. If there were areas of weakness, which the Presbytery noted, or if any member of the Presbytery desires to do so, the intern may be examined on particular points again. Additionally, the intern shall be examined on any parts required for ordination which were not covered in his examination for licensure. In all cases, he should be asked to indicate whether he has changed his previous views concerning any points in the Confession of Faith, Catechisms, and Book of Church Order of the Presbyterian Church in America.
Trials for ordination shall consist of:
a. A careful examination as to:
1. his acquaintance with experiential religion, especially his personal character and family management (based on the qualifications set out in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, and Titus 1:6-9),
2. his knowledge of the Greek and Hebrew languages,
3. Bible content,
4. theology,
5. the Sacraments,
6. Church history,
7. the history of the Presbyterian Church in America, and
8. the principles and rules of the government and discipline of the church.
A Presbytery may accept a seminary degree which includes study in the original languages in lieu of an oral examination in the original languages.
b. He shall prepare a thesis on some theological topic assigned by Presbytery.
c. The candidate shall prepare an exegesis on an assigned portion of Scripture, requiring the use of the original language or languages.
d. He shall further be required to preach a sermon before the Presbytery or committee thereof, upon three-fourths (3/4) vote.
No Presbytery shall omit any of these parts of trial for ordination except in extraordinary cases, and then only with three-fourths (3/4) approval of Presbytery.
Whenever a Presbytery shall omit any of these parts, it shall always make a record of the reasons for such omissions and of the trial parts omitted.
While our Constitution does not require the candidate’s affirmation of every statement and/or proposition of doctrine in our Confession of Faith and Catechisms, it is the right and responsibility of the Presbytery to determine if the candidate is out of accord with any of the fundamentals of these doctrinal standards and, as a consequence, may not be able in good faith sincerely to receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and Catechism of this Church as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures (cf. BCO 21-5, Q.2; 24-5, Q.2).
Therefore, in examining a candidate for ordination, the Presbytery shall inquire not only into the candidate’s knowledge and views in the areas specified above, but also shall require the candidate to state the specific instances in which he may differ with the Confession of Faith and Catechisms in any of their statements and/or propositions. The court may grant an exception to any difference of doctrine only if in the court’s judgment the candidate’s declared difference is not out of accord with any fundamental of our system of doctrine because the difference is neither hostile to the system nor strikes at the vitals of religion.
The Presbytery, being fully satisfied of his qualifications for the sacred office, shall appoint a day for his ordination, which ought, if practicable, to be in that church of which he is to be the pastor.
The extraordinary clauses should be limited to extraordinary circumstances of the church or proven extraordinary gifts of the man. Presbyteries should exercise diligence and care in the use of these provisions in order that they not prevent the ordination of a candidate for whom there are truly exceptional circumstances, nor ordain (nor receive from other denominations (BCO 13-6)) a person who is inadequately prepared for the ministry.

DIGEST: Changes instituted in BCO 21-4 include:
1981 [M9GA, 9-65, Item 5, p. 136]
1982 [M10GA, 10-89, Item 4, p. 113]
1986 [M14GA, 14-19, Item 9, p. 93]
1988 [MGA, 16-10, Item 19, p. 110]
1989 [M17GA, 17-6, Item 7.1, 7.2 and 7.4, pp. 48-49 and Item 10, p. 52]
2003 [M31GA, 31-11, Item 2, p. 54-56]

Changes instituted in 21-4d: 1994 [M22GA, 22-10, Item 4, p. 57]
PCA 1973 and the Proposed BCO had a typographical error in the sentence "No Presbytery shall omit any of these parts of trial or ordination." whereas PCUS 1933, which served as the basis for the earliest PCA texts, had more understandably "No Presbytery shall omit any of these parts of trial for ordination."]

ANTECEDENT TEXTS:
PCA 1973, 22-4, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, p. 140
and
Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, 22-4, Proposed text, pp. 28-29
Trials for ordination at a different time from that in which the candidate was licensed shall consist of a careful examination as to his acquaintance with experimental religion, as to his knowledge of Philosophy, Theology, Ecclesiastical History, the Greek and Hebrew languages, the English Bible, and such other branches of learning as to the Presbytery shall appear requisite, and as to his knowledge of the Doctrines, of the Sacraments, and the principles and rules of the Government and Discipline of the Church. The candidate shall prepare a thesis on some theological topic assigned by Presbytery. The candidate shall prepare an exegesis on an assigned portion of Scripture, requiring the use of the original language or languages. He shall further be required to preach a sermon before the Presbytery. No Presbytery shall omit any of these parts of trial or ordination except in extraordinary cases, and then only with three-fourths approval of Presbytery; and whenever a Presbytery shall omit any of these parts, it shall always make a record of the reasons therefor and of the trial parts omitted. Trials for ordination in the same Presbytery in which the candidate was licensed may be omitted when the examination for licensure has satisfied the Presbytery of his fitness for ordination. The Presbytery being fully satisfied of his qualifications for the sacred office, shall appoint a day for his ordination, which ought, if practicable, to be in that church of which he is to be the Pastor.

PCUS 1933, XXIV, §135
and
PCUS 1925, XXIV, §135 [cf PCUS Minutes (1914), p. 70 and Minutes (1920) p. 80a]
Trials for ordination in a different Presbytery from that in which the candidate was licensed shall consist of a careful examination as to his acquaintance with experimental religion, as to his knowledge of Philosophy, Theology, Ecclesiastical History, the Greek and Hebrew languages, the English Bible, and such other branches of learning as to the Presbytery shall appear requisite, and as to his knowledge of the Doctrines, of the Sacraments, and the principles and rules of the Government and Discipline of the Church. Or, in lieu of the examination in Philosophy, Ecclesiastical History, and the Greek and Hebrew languages, it may accept certificates of approved institutions of learning. He shall further be required to preach a sermon before the Presbytery. No Presbytery shall omit any of these parts of trial for ordination except in extraordinary cases ; and whenever a Presbytery shall omit any of these parts, it shall always make a record of the reasons therefor and of the trial parts omitted. Trials for ordination in the same Presbytery in which the candidate was licensed may be omitted when the examination for licensure has satisfied the Presbytery of his fitness for ordination. The Presbytery being fully satisfied of his qualifications for the sacred office, shall appoint a day for his ordination, which ought, if practicable, to be in that church of which he is to be the Pastor.

PCUS 1879, VI-5-3

Trials for ordination, especially in a different Presbytery from that in which the candidate was licensed, shall consist of a careful examination as to his acquaintance with experimental religion ; as to his knowledge of philosophy, theology, ecclesiastical history, the Greek and Hebrew languages, and such other branches of learning as to the Presbytery shall appear requisite ; and as to his knowledge of the doctrine of the sacraments, and the principles and rules of the government and discipline of the Church. He shall further be required to preach a sermon before the Presbytery. The Presbytery being fully satisfied of his qualifications for the sacred office, shall appoint a day for his ordination, which ought, if practicable, to be in that church of which he is to be the pastor.


PCUS 1869 draft, VI-5-3
Trials for ordination, especially in a different Presbytery from that in which the candidate was licensed, shall consist of a careful examination as to his acquaintance with experimental religion; as to his knowledge of philosophy, theology, ecclesiastical history, the Greek and Hebrew languages, and such other branches of learning as to the Presbytery shall appear requisite; and as to his knowledge of the rules and principles of the government and discipline of the Church. He shall be further required to present the Presbytery a written sermon. The Presbytery being fully satisfied with his qualifications for the sacred office, shall appoint a day for his ordination, which ought if practicable to be in that Congregation of which he is to be the Pastor. It is also recommended that a fast day be observed in the Congregation previous to the day of ordination.

PCUS 1867 draft, VI-5-3
Trials for ordination, especially in a different presbytery from that in which the candidate was licensed, shall consist of a careful examination as to his acquaintance with experimental religion; as to his knowledge of philosophy, theology, ecclesiastical history, the Greek and Hebrew languages, and such other branches of learning as to the presbytery may appear requisite; and as to his knowledge of the rules and principles of the government and discipline of the church. He shall be further required, in the presence of the presbytery, to deliver a sermon which has been carefully prepared and written, and also to give ex tempore, upon not more than six hours’ notice, an exegesis or critical exposition of two passages taken from those portions of the Old and New Testaments, which he has especially studied. The presbytery being fully satisfied with his qualifications for the sacred office, shall appoint a day for his ordination, which ought always to be in that congregation of which he is to be the pastor. It is also recommended that a fast day be observed in the congregation previous to the day of ordination.

COMMENTARY:

F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order
(1898, p. ) on VI-5-3:
118.--III. Trials for ordination, especially in a different Presbytery from that in which the candidate was licensed, shall consist of a careful examination as to his acquaintance with experimental religion ; as to his knowledge of philosophy, theology, ecclesiastical history, the Greek and Hebrew languages, and such other branches of learning as to the Presbytery shall appear requisite ; and as to his knowledge of the doctrine of the sacraments, and the principles and rules of the government and discipline of the Church. He shall further be required to preach a sermon before the Presbytery. The Presbytery being fully satisfied of his qualifications for the sacred office, shall appoint a day for his ordination, which ought, if practicable, to be in that church of which he is to be the pastor.
It must be borne in mind that the one object of these trials is to satisfy the Presbytery of the probationer's qualifications for the ministry ; Presbytery is not to ordain until fully satisfied as to qualifications, and the trials should continue until this full satisfaction is reached, and need continue no further. But the Presbytery is not at liberty to omit altogether any part of the trials here prescribed, unless it be such part of the trials here prescribed, unless it be such part as has been had already before the Presbytery in trials for licensure ; and these need not be omitted.
These trials fall into three groups. The first is a careful examination as to his own inward experience. The question, not merely whether the probationer gives credible evidence of faith in Christ, but whether, having such faith, his religious experience is such as a Minister needs to have as a qualification for his office. For one may have some acquaintance with genuine experimental religion, and not have sufficient acquaintance for this office. As this is immeasurably more important than any learning, so upon this the chief stress ought to be laid. Whatever other trial is abridged or given little attention, this, which is put first and is first, should be thorough, and too great deficiency here should always arrest the trials for ordination, it not being worth while to go further, unless the probationer is qualified in this respect.
The second group is a careful examination as to knowledge. And the branches of knowledge are specified in three specifications. The first specification is philosophy, theology, ecclesiastical history, the Greek and Hebrew languages. Philosophy is named before theology, a man's philosophy having more to reveal of his mental make-up, and more to do with determining his theology, than his theology has to reveal of his mental make-up, or to do with his philosophy. and yet theology is the central subject, to which philosophy contributes on the one hand, and ecclesiastical history and the original languages of Scripture on the other. It must appear strange that knowledge of the Scriptures is not distinctly named, unless theology is understood to be another term for it. The second specification is such other branches of learning as to the Presbytery shall appear requisite. Requisite for what? Requisite for showing whether he has the qualifications for the office of the ministry. For one might be destitute of learning in some of the subjects named, and yet have such learning in subjects not named as would make him superior, in point of human learning, to many that have satisfactory learning in the subjects named. Now, it is manifest that the requirement to examine in these branches of learning that are named, is not a requirement that the probationer shall show a knowledge of them all. The Presbytery is to examine as to his knowledge ; but how much knowledge of this or that will be necessary to satisfy Presbytery of his qualifications the Presbytery must decide. The third specification is the sacraments and the government and discipline. These items are thrown off to themselves, that they may the more certainly receive distinct attention before Presbytery.
The third group of trials is the sermon ; and this the Presbytery is not at liberty to omit. For he is being tested as to his qualifications to preach.
The ordination must be in the presence of the church (paragraph 120) that he is to be pastor of, and therefore ought, if practicable, to be in the church building in which this church is accustomed to worship.


OVERTURES
1981 [M9GA, 9-65, Item 5, p. 136]
1982 [M10GA, 10-89, Item 4, p. 113]
1986 [M14GA, 14-19, Item 9, p. 93]
1988 [MGA, 16-10, Item 19, p. 110]
1989 [M17GA, 17-6, Item 7.1, 7.2 and 7.4, pp. 48-49 and Item 10, p. 52]
2003 [M31GA, 31-11, Item 2, p. 54-56]

Changes instituted in 21-4d: 1994 [M22GA, 22-10, Item 4, p. 57]

CONSTITUTIONAL INQUIRY:

2004 - Constitutional Inquiry #2, from the Committee on Review of Presbytery Records [M32GA, 32-36, II, Item 2, p. 133]
Question - What is the RPRC's responsibility under current BCO 21-4 in reviewing presbyteries' granting of exceptions to the Constitution? Is the action by a Presbytery reviewable by RPRC and "RAO" 14 and BCO 40? (Note: RPRC currently understands that "RAO" 14 and BCO 40 task it to review minutes and make recommendations relating to violations of the Constitution to GA.)
Response - In regard to BCO 21-4, the action of a Presbytery is reviewable by the Committee on Review of Presbytery Records (CRPR) to the extent of its authority in that the CRPR is charged to Constitution (BCO 40-2). If the Committee finds an entry that it believes does not conform, it is to report that apparent violation in accordance with "RAO" 14-6.c. Adopted by CCB.



©PCA Historical Center, 12330 Conway Road, St. Louis, MO, 2007. All Rights Reserved.

Chapter Index [links to Par. 1 of 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]