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The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

Chapter 24 : Election, Ordination and Installation of Ruling Elders and Deacons

Paragraph 1 :


24-1. Every church shall elect persons to the offices of ruling elder and deacon in the following manner: At such times as determined by the Session, communicant members of the congregation may submit names to the Session, keeping in mind that each prospective officer should be an active male member who meets the qualifications set forth in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. After the close of the nomination period nominees for the office of ruling elder and/or deacon shall receive instruction in the qualifications and work of the office. Each nominee shall then be examined in:
a. his Christian experience, especially his personal character and family management (based on the qualifications set out in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9),
b. his knowledge of Bible content
c. his knowledge of the system of doctrine, government, discipline contained in the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in America (BCO Preface III, The Constitution Defined),
d. the duties of the office to which he has been nominated, and
e. his willingness to give assent to the questions required for ordination. (BCO 24-5)
If there are candidates eligible for the election, the Session shall report to the congregation those eligible, giving at least thirty (30) days prior notice of the time and place of a congregational meeting for elections.
If one-fourth (1/4) of the persons entitled to vote shall at any time request the Session to call a congregational meeting for the purpose of electing additional officers, it shall be the duty of the Session to call such a meeting on the above procedure. The number of officers to be elected shall be determined by the congregation after hearing the Session's recommendation.


DIGEST:
This paragraph stood unchanged from 1973 until 1986 [M14GA, 14-19, Item 10, p. 94], was amended again in 1994 [M22GA, 22-10, Item 5, p. 58], then again in the year 2000 [M28GA, 28-12, p. 54 & 28-72, p. 275], and most recently was amended in 2006 [M34GA, 34-8, Item 1, p. 52-54].
The amendment adopted in the year 2000 began as a proposal from Prosperity Church in Charlotte, NC, one of the oldest churches in the PCA, organized in 1788. Approving the proposal, Central Carolina Presbytery brought Overture 25 before the 26th General Assembly (1998), seeking to amend BCO 24-1 "to close nominations one month prior to congregational meeting(s) [M26GA, 26-55, III, Item 14, p. 208-209]. Upon adoption, the matter was sent down to the Presbyteries for advice and consent. However, an insufficient number of presbyteries reported their votes at the 27th General Assembly [M27GA, 27-12, Item 4, p. 58], which deferred the matter until the next year. At the 28th General Assembly (2000), BCO 24-1 was amended [cf. M28GA, 28-12, Special Item, p. 54 and 28-72, p. 275]. The vote reported by the Presbyteries was 40 in favor, 13 against, with 39 required for approval.
In 2006, the 34th General Assembly adopted an amendment adding a new item, "b. his knowledge of Bible content," with subsequent items accordingly renumbered [M34GA, 34-8, Item 1, p. 52-54].

ANTECEDENT TEXTS :
PCA 1973, 25-1, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, p. 142
Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, 25-1, Proposed text, p. 32

Every church shall elect persons to the offices of Ruling Elder and Deacon in the following manner : Public notice shall be given of the time, place, and purpose of this meeting at least one month prior to the appointed time, during which time the congregation is asked to submit names to the Session, keeping in mind that each prospective officer should be an active male member who meets the qualifications set forth in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1. The Session shall examine those nominated and then report to the congregation on election day those eligible for election. If one-fourth of the persons entitled to vote shall at any time request the Session to call a congregational meeting for the purpose of electing additional officers, it shall be the duty of the Session to call such a meeting on the above procedure.


PCUS 1933, XXVII, §143
PCUS 1925, XXVI, §143
Every church shall elect persons to the offices of Ruling Elder and Deacon in the following manner : When it seems desirable for the church to have additional Ruling Elders or Deacons, the Session shall order a congregational meeting to convene at the regular place of worship. Public notice shall be given of the time, place, and purpose of this meeting at least one month prior to the appointed time. If one-fourth of the persons entitled to vote shall at any time request the Session to call a congregational meeting for the purpose of electing additional officers, it shall be the duty of the Session to call such a meeting.

PCUS 1879, VI-3-1

Every church shall elect persons to the offices of Pastor, Ruling Elder and Deacon in the following manner, viz : Public notice shall previously be given by the Session that the church is to convene at the usual place of public worship for such purpose ; and it shall always be the duty of the Session to convene them when requested by a majority of the persons entitled to vote.

PCUS 1869 draft, VI-3-1
Every Congregation shall elect persons to the offices of Pastor, Ruling Elder, and Deacon, in the following manner, viz : Public notice shall previously be given by the Session, that the Congregation is to convene at the usual place of public worship for such purpose; and it shall always be the duty of the Session to convene them, when a majority of the persons entitled to vote in the case shall, by petition, request that a meeting be called.

PCUS 1867 draft, VI-3-1
Every congregation shall elect persons to the offices of pastor, ruling elder, and deacon, in the following manner, viz: Public notice shall previously be given by the session that the congregation is to convene at the usual place of public worship for such purpose; and it shall always be the duty of the session to convene them, when a majority of the persons entitled to vote in the case, shall by petition request that a meeting be called. This notice should, if possible, be given from the pulpit on the Lord’s day, at a sufficient time before the meeting to admit of its general circulation throughout the congregation.

PCUSA 1789, Chapter XII. Of Electing and ordaining ruling Elders and Deacons, Section 1.
Having defined the officers of the church, and the assemblies by which it shall be governed, it is proper here to prescribe the modes in which ecclesiastical rulers shall be ordained to the respective offices.


COMMENTARY :
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order (1898, pp. 125-126), on VI-3-1
Section III.--Of the Election of Church Officers.
This section treats of that part of vocation which is effected through the people ; and it treats, in the election of Ministers, only of their election to one sort of definite work, the pastoral office. There is neither here nor elsewhere any provision regulating the participation of the people in calling a Minister to the work of Evangelist, or Teacher, or Editor, or other like work. (Cf. pars. 37 and 38.)
The first four paragraphs give regulations for the election of Pastor, Ruling Elder, or Deacon ; the other five paragraphs give special directions concerning the election of a Pastor and the certification of his election to Presbytery. No regulations on this point are thought to be necessary in the case of a Ruling Elder or a Deacon, as the ordaining court, the Session, is supposed to be present. In the general regulations, the first concerns the meeting of the church ; the second, the Moderator of the meeting ; the third, the order of procedure ; and the fourth, the electors. In the special regulations as to a Pastor, the first prescribes the essential duty of the Moderator ; the second, the form of the call or communication from the church to the Pastor-elect ; the third, who shall sign this call, and how their signatures are to be certified ; the fourth, how the call is to be presented to Presbytery ; and the fifth, the mode of procedure when the Minister called belongs to a different Presbytery from the church.
102.--I. Every church shall elect persons to the offices of Pastor, Ruling Elder and Deacon in the following manner, viz : Public notice shall previously be given by the Session that the church is to convene at the usual place of public worship for such purpose ; and it shall always be the duty of the Session to convene them when requested by a majority of the persons entitled to vote.
The meeting must be at the usual place of public worship, and after public notice, that those entitled to vote may be able to attend ; and while the meeting must be called by the Session, the Session is bound to call such meeting when a majority requests it, that the right of the people to elect may not be infringed.


OVERTURES & AMENDMENTS:

1986 [M13GA (1985), 13-3, B, p. 45-46 and 13-45, III, Item 30, p. 106; M14GA, 14-19, Item 10, p. 94]
Overture 8 from the Presbytery of the Ascension
Whereas, there is uncertainty as to whether it is permissible in BCO 24-1 for the Session to report to the congregation only on the day of the election those eligible, or if it is permissible for the Session to report both prior to and on the day of election those eligible for election; and
Whereas, we are convinced that the people who will be voting on the prospective officers need to consider prayerfully those nominated to determine for whom they should vote in the affirmative;
Therefore, be it resolved that the Presbytery of the Ascension overture the Twelfth General Assembly (1984) of the Presbyterian Church in America to amend BCO 24-1 to add to the third sentence the words, "or before the Sunday prior to", so that the new third sentence would read:
"The Session shall examine those nominated and then report to the congregation on or before the Sunday prior to election day those eligible for election."
Adopted at the Stated Meeting on May 4-5, 1984. Attest: Frank D. Moser, Stated Clerk.
Answered in the affirmative as amended, 13-45, III, 31, p. 106:
"The Session shall examine those nominated and then report to the congregation before election day those eligible for election."
Approved and sent down to the Presbyteries for advice and consent. The Presbyteries reported voting of 39 in favor, none against, and the amendment was adopted.

1994
[M21GA, 21-56, III, Item 5, p. 120-121 and M22GA, 22-10, Item 5, p. 58]
Overture 5
from North Georgia Presbytery
"Amend BCO 24-1 To Be More Explicit on the Training of Officers"
Whereas, BCO 21-4 requires that all prospective officers in the PCA shall be examined as to their knowledge of the system of doctrine, government and discipline contained in the standards, and
Whereas,
there is at present no provision in the BCO for officer nominees to be prepared for such an examination, and
Whereas,
a lack of knowledge in these areas can be, and has been, the source of misunderstandings, disagreements and disunity in local churches among deacons, ruling and teaching elders, and
Whereas,
BCO 5-9.1 required all men of a mission church (unless they decline) to receive instruction in the qualifications and work of the office of ruling elder, and
Whereas,
BCO 21-4 a.1 requires a careful examination of a candidate for TE ordination as to 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), a candidate for RE ordination should be likewise examined.
Therefore be it resolved
that BCO 24-1 be amended as follows:
Amend by adding in line 7 after "Titus 1":
"Nominees for the office of ruling elder and/or deacon shall receive instruction in the qualifications and work of the office."
Amend 24-1 a. by adding after "his Christian experience" the words:
"especially his personal character and family management (based on the qualifications set out in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9).
Amend 24-1 b. by striking the word "standards" and replace with the words:
"in the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in America (BCO Preface III, The Constitution Defined)."
Be it further resolved that the General Assembly request the Christian Education and Publications Committee to prepare a bibliography of material which could be used by Sessions in the training of officer nominees that Sessions can use in preparing nominees for election eligibility.
Adopted by North Georgia Presbytery on October 20, 1992. Attested by /s/ Robert Valentine, Stated Clerk.
Adopted at the 21st General Assembly (1993) and sent down to the Presbyteries for advice and consent. Upon receiving reports from the Presbyteries of voting 46 in favor and 3 against, the 22nd General Assembly (1994) adopted the amendment.

2000 - Overture 25 from Central Carolina Presbytery
[M26GA, 26-55, III, Item 14, p. 208-209; M27GA, 27-12, Item 4, p. 58; M28GA, 28-12, Special Item, p. 54 and 28-72, p. 275].
"Amend BCO 24-1 to Close Nominations One Month Prior to Congregational Meeting"
Whereas,
BCO 24-1 requires public notice of the time, place and purpose at least one month prior to the appointed time of electing officers, during which time the congregation is asked to submit names to the Session, and
Whereas, BCO 24-1 requires the Session to examine those nominated and then report to the congregation before election day those eligible for election, and
Whereas, these two requirements can place undue time constraints upon the Session to examine candidates and report to the congregation before the election day;
Therefore,
The Session of Prosperity Church petitions the General Assembly through Central Carolina Presbytery to amend BCO 24-1 by substituting the following for BCO 24-1 [Note: material in bold is new material in the BCO]
A. Substitute the following for the first paragraph:
24-1. Every church shall elect persons to the office of ruling elder and deacon in the following manner: At such times as determined by the Session, communicant members of the congregation may submit names to the Session, keeping in mind that each prospective officer shall be an active male member who meets the qualifications set forth in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. After the close of the nomination period nominees for the office of ruling elder and/or deacon shall receive instruction in the qualifications and work of the office. Each nominee shall then be examined in:
[NOTE: continue with areas of examination.]
B. Substitute for second paragraph (i.e., "The Session shall examine. . .") the following:
If there are candidates eligible for election, the Session shall report to the congregation those eligible, giving at least 30 days prior notice of the time and place of a congregational meeting for elections.
Grounds:
BCO 24-1 requires public notice of the time, place and purpose at least one month prior to the appointed time of electing officers, during which time the congregation is asked to submit names to the Session.
BCO 24-1 requires the Session to examine those nominated and then report to the congregation before election day those eligible for election.
These two requirements can place undue time constraints upon the Session to examine candidates and report to the congregation before the election day.

2006 [M33GA, 33-51, III, Item 6, p. 200 and M34GA, 34-8, Item 1, p. 52-54]
Overture 10 from Ascension Presbytery
"Require English Bible Content Examination for Ruling Elders and Deacons"
Whereas, in the words of WCF 1.6, "the whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture" (2 Timothy 3:15-17); and
Whereas,
in the words of WCF 20:2, "God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are in anything contrary to his Word, or beside it, in matters of faith or worship" (Acts 4:19; 5:29); and
Whereas,
since Christ governs his church through his elders (1 Tim. 3:5; Heb. 13:7, 17; 1 Peter 5:1-3; WCF 31; BCO 3-2); and
Whereas,
BCO 8-1 instructs us that the one office of Elder has different Scriptural titles, expressive of the various duties, and accordingly 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:5, 9 require bishops/overseers and elders, respectively, to be able to teach, to hold fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that they will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict; and
Whereas,
Christ has also instituted the spiritual office of Deacon (Acts 6; 1 Tim. 3; BCO 9-3); and
Whereas,
in Acts 7 and 8, deacons Stephen and Philip are shown to have a good working knowledge of the Scriptures;
Therefore,
be it resolved, that BCO 24-1 be amended by adding a new item "b" his knowledge of English Bible content, with all subsequent items relettered accordingly; and
resolved, that this new requirement be applied only to those officers ordained after the adoption of this measure, and that all PCA courts and her officers presently ordained be exhorted to be diligent in their mastery of Bible knowledge and application.
Adopted by the 33rd General Assembly (2005), sent down to the Presbyteries for advice and consent, and adopted at the 34th General Assembly (2006), following a recorded Presbytery vote of 64 in favor, 1 against.

CONSTITUTIONAL INQUIRY:
1986 - Inquiry #9, from the Covenant Presbyterian Church, Columbia, SC. [M14GA, Appendix I, Item 9, p. 332].
Questions -
1. Are rotating Sessions permissible according to the Book of Church Order?
2. May the Session limit the number of officers standing for election?
3. May the names of those eligible for election be printed before the day of election?
4. What grounds are allowed the Session for disallowing the nomination of any men nominated by the congregation?
5. Are there any limitations with regard to when an election may be held, i.e., once a year or more or less often?
Enclosed please find a copy of the present procedures which are a part of our policy manual. We request that you review these procedures...."
Answers:
1. See M12GA, p. 127, Item 20.
2. The Session is to declare all of those who are eligible but may not otherwise determine the number of officers to be elected. The number of officers to be elected shall be determined by the congregation. (BCO 24-1).
3. Yes. (M7GA, p. 101, Item 4).
4. The grounds allowed the Session for disallowing the nomination of any man nominated by the congregation shall be their failure to conform to Biblical and constitutional standards. (BCO 24-1, M8GA p. 119, Item 19; M7GA, p. 80, Item 3).
5. There are no constitutional limitations other than the 30 day notice prior to an election.
The Committee declines to review the Bylaws submitted because it is not authorized to do so.
Recommended: That the answer of the Permanent Committee concerning Constitutional Inquiry #9 from the Covenant Presbyterian Church, be ratified.
Ratified.
[M14GA, 14-52, Item 17, p. 126].

M12GA, p. 127, Item 20.
20. That Overture 33, p. 71, from Central Carolina Presbytery to the Eleventh General Assembly be answered in the negative noting that the BCO was deliberately written neither to promote nor to prohibit the rotational system of church officers. The General Assembly has repeatedly affirmed this position (M1GA, 1-46, p. 35; 1-81, p. 64; M2GA, 2-98, p. 72; M7GA, 7-41, p. 105; M8GA, 8-88, p. 118). Adopted.
M7GA, p. 101, Item 4.
That answer 2 to Hubert C. Stewart concerning the constitutionality of announcing in the church bulletin prior to election day the names of thoswe who have been examined and approved by the Session for office, be amended as follows; and then answered in the affirmative:
The Committee answered that although the procedure in question is not specifically prohibited by BCO 25-1 [now 24-1], it also is not provided for in that section.
Therefore, the Session is given latitude in interpreting the procedure outlined in the Book of Church Order 25-1 regarding announcement of officer nominees prior to the day of election.
The Session is to examine all those nominated and report to the congregation those eligible for election at the time of the congregational meeting. This is to say the Session is providing the slate for elections.
Adopted.
Grounds:
1) Book of Church Order 25-1 does not state that an announcement is not to be made prior to the election of officers; only that one is to be made on the day of the election.

1988 - Constitutional Inquiry #2. From Covenant Presbyterian Church, Palm Bay, Florida.
Question - Re: Election of Officers under BCO 24-1.
"If a Session finds that four nominees for office adequately meet the Biblical requirements, may they, for the sake of limiting board size, only put two of those men on the ballot?
Answer - No.
1. BCO 24-1 requires that the Session shall report all eligible men to the congregation, after examination.
2. BCO 24-1 says that the congregation determines the number of elders to be elected.
3. BCO 24-1 allows the Session to recommend the number to be elected.
Recommended: That the advice of the Committee on Judicial Business regarding Constitutional Inquiry #2 be ratified.
Ratified.
[M16GA, 16-77, III, Item 26, p. 176].

Chapter 24 : Election, Ordination and Installation of Ruling Elders and Deacons

Paragraph 1 :




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Chapter Index [links to Par. 1 of each chapter]:
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25
26
I. King & Head of Church
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§5
RoD
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II. Preliminary Principles
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§8
DfW
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[FoG = Form of Government ; RoD = Rules of Discipline ; DfW = Directory for Worship]