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The Historical Development of the Book of Church Order

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

Paragraph 3 : Of Eligible Voters


24-3. All communing 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 respectively belong. A majority vote of those present is required for election.


[DIGEST : The first sentence of the current PCA text remains unchanged from that of PCUS 1925. The wording of the second sentence dates to 2005 [M33GA, 33-8, Item 1, p. 49-51]. A prior attempt at amendment of this paragraph had been defeated in 1997 [M25GA, 25-17, Item 2, p. 114]. The question of minimum voting age has arisen several times in reference to BCO 24-3, and the matter has been addressed by Constitutional Inquiry.

BACKGROUND & COMPARISON:
1. PCA 1973, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, p. 142
2. Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, 25-3, Proposed text, p. 33
3. PCUS 1933, XXVII, §145
4. PCUS 1925, XXVI, §145

All communing 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 respectively belong. When a majority of all the voters present cast their votes for a person for either of these offices, he shall be considered elected.

PCUS 1879

[no comparable text]

PCUS 1869 draft
[no comparable text]

PCUS 1867 draft
[no comparable text]


COMMENTARY :
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order
(1898)
[no comparable text for discussion]

CONSTITUTIONAL INQUIRY :
1982 - Reference #3
Question:

The Session of Vineville Presbyterian Church at its Stated November 1981 meeting requested that the General Assembly's Judicial Committee provide an interpretation of 24-3 and 34-4 of the Book of Church Order with respect to what constitutes a voter (one who casts a vote for one or more candidates or one who case a blank ballot).
Answer:
A person eligible to vote is defined in BCO 24-3 as a communing member in good and regular standing who is present at the congregational meeting called to elect officers. A majority vote of the voters present is required to elect.
Grounds:
This recommendation is a ratification of the answer already given by the Permanent Sub-Committee on Judicial Business.
Adopted. [M10GA, 10-75, III, Item 10, p. 101]

1984 - Constitutional Inquiry #9. From Texas Presbytery.
Question:

That the Presbytery ask the General Assembly's Permanent Committee on Judicial Business if a congregation may be permitted to set a minimum age for voting in view of BCO 6-2, 6-4, 24-3, 25-1 and 25-3.
Answer:
The BCO does not provide for the setting of minimum age for voting in congregational meetings even when constituted as a meeting of the corporation, except when the state provides for a minimum age for those voting in the corporation.
[Clerk's Note: BCO 25-11 indicates that congregations must act in accord with applicable civil laws.]
Adopted. [M12GA, 12-53, II, Item 60, p. 140].

ADOPTED AMENDMENTS :
2004 - Overture 2 from Eastern Canada Presbytery
"Amend BCO 24-3 Regarding Election of Ruling Elders and Deacons" [M32GA, 32-48, III, 2, p. 154]
Whereas, in the provisions for electing ruling elders and deacons, BCO 24-3 refers to the provisions for electing teaching elders, BCO 20-4, and
Whereas, the provisions of BCO 20-4 are also expressed in BCO 24-4, in a form specifically for ruling elders and deacons, and
Whereas, this redundancy suggests that a numerical error was made in inserting this reference, and
Whereas, BCO 20-5 gives directions about dealing with highly divided votes which are not found in BCO 24, and which might be to the point in elections of ruling elders and deacons as well as teaching elders, and
Whereas, this overture was referred back to the Presbytery of Eastern Canada by the 31st General Assembly, to refine it to avoid a conflict reported by the Assembly's Constitutional Business Committee,
Therefore the Presbytery of Eastern Canada overtures the 32nd General Assembly to amend BCO 24-3, by deleting "(See also BCO 20-5)"; and by adding BCO 24-5 (renumbering the following sections; "24-5. On the election of a ruling elder or deacon, if it appears that a large majority of the voters are averse to a candidate, and cannot be induced to concur in the choice, the moderator shall endeavor to dissuade the majority from prosecuting it further; but if the electors are nearly or quite unanimous, or if the majority insist upon their right to choose their officers, the election shall stand."; OR that the Assembly do otherwise as it sees fit to correct this reference (as it stands redundant) in BCO 24-3.
32-40 Report of the Committee on Constitutional Business, II. Advice on Overtures, B. Overture 2, p. 139
In the opinion of th CCB, Overture 2 is not in conflict with other parts of the Constitution, with the notation that in the second line of the "Therefore" paragraph the parenthetical to be deleted is "(See also BCO 24-4)" rather than "(See also BCO 24-5)" as the Overture indicates.
Adopted by CCB
32-48 Committee of Commissioners on Bills and Overtures, III. Recommendations, Item 2, pp. 153-154.

That Overture 2 from Eastern Canada Presbytery ("Amend BCO 24-3 Regarding Election of Ruling Elders and Deacons") be answered in the affirmative as corrected by the notation from the Committee on Constitutional Business that in the second line of th "Therefore" paragraph the parenthetical to be deleted is "(See also BCO 20-4)" rather than "(See also BCO 20-5)," and amended by striking in the last line of the "Therefore" paragraph, "OR that the Assembly do otherwise as it sees fit to correct this reference (as it stands redundant) in BCO 24-3."
Adopted.
Sent down to the Presbyteries for advice and consent by the 32nd General Assembly.
2005 [M33GA, 33-8, Item 1, p. 49-51].
Amend BCO 24-3 by deleting the parenthetical phrase as proposed in Overture 2
24-3 All communing 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 respectively belong. A majority vote of those present is required for election. (See also BCO 20-4.)
Approved by 55 of 63 presbyteries and adopted by vote of General Assembly.

DEFEATED AMENDMENTS :
1997 [M25GA, 25-17, Item 2, p. 114; cf. M24GA (1996), 24-58, III, Item 20, pp. 312ff.; M23GA (1995), 23-49, III, Items 19 & 20, pp. 244-245]
.
Item 2. That BCO 6-5, 20-3, 24-3, 25-1, 25-2 and 25-3 be amended as follows:
a. Add a new BCO 6-5 to read:
"6-5. A congregation may, at its discretion, set the minimum voting age for its communing members, provided it is not greater than eighteen (18) years of age. The congregation may also, at its discretion, set a different voting age for different matters provided it is not greater than eighteen (18) years of age."
b. Amend BCO 20-3 by adding to sentence 3, so as to read as follows:
"All communing members in good and regular standing, who have been entitled to vote by the congregation, but no others, are entitled to vote in the churches to which they are respectively attached."
Similarly, amend BCO 24-3 by adding to the first sentence so as to read as follows:
"All communing members in good and regular standing, who have been entitled to vote by the congregation, but not others, are entitled to vote in the election of church officers in the churches to which they respectively belong."
c. Add to BCO 25-1 the following sentence:
"However, the congregation may, at its discretion, set the minimum age for its communing mmbers in accord with BCO 6-5."
d. Add "voting" before "communing members" in BCO 25-2, a, b, c, d, and e.
e. Amend BCO 25-3 twice so that it reads:
". . . resident voting communing members . . ."
On Item 2, a parliamentary inquiry was raised concerning the counting of abstentions in the determination of an issue when a majority vote is required. The Moderator ruled that, according to Roberts Rules of Order Newly Revised, 1990 Edition, Sect. 43, p. 385, when a majority vote is required, it means more than half of the votes cast by persons legally entitled to vote, excluding blanks and abstentions. Based on this ruling, the votes of two Presbyteries (Fellowship and South Texas) were deemed to be "For", rather than "Against", thus providing the necessary number of Presbyteries in favor of this BCO amendment. [39 Presbyteries voted in favor, 11 against]
Nevertheless, on voting for these amendments, they were Defeated.


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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