.

The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

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

Paragraph 4 : On Convening the Meeting

24-4. The voters being convened, the moderator shall explain the purpose of the meeting and then put the question:
Are you now ready to proceed to the election of additional ruling elders (or deacons) from the slate presented?
If they declare themselves ready, the election may proceed by private ballot without nomination. In every case a majority of all the voters present shall be required to elect.


[DIGEST : The current PCA text is unchanged from that of PCA 1973 and the Proposed BCO (1973). In substance, if not the exact words, the paragraph still reflects that of the first PCUS draft in 1867.]

ANTECEDENT TEXTS :
PCA 1973, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, p. 142
and
Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, 25-4, Proposed text, p. 33
The voters being convened, the Moderator shall explain the purpose of the meeting and then put the question: "Are you now ready to proceed to the election of additional Ruling Elders (or Deacons) from the slate presented?" If they declare themselves ready, the election may proceed by private ballot without nomination. In every case a majority of all the voters present shall be required to elect.

PCUS 1933, XXVII, 146
and
PCUS 1925, XXVI, 146
The voters being convened, the Moderator shall explain the purpose of the meeting and then put the question: "Are you now ready to proceed to the election of additional Ruling Elders (or Deacons)?" If they declare themselves ready, the election may proceed by nominations, or by private ballot without nomination, as the congregation may prefer. In every case a majority of all the voters present shall be required to elect.

PCUS 1879, VI-3-3

The voters being convened, the Moderator shall put the question to them whether they are ready to proceed to the election. If they declare themselves ready, the Moderator shall call for nominations, after which the election shall immediately proceed, unless the electors prefer to postpone it to a subsequent day ; or the election may proceed by ballot without nominations. But in every case a majority of all the voters present shall be required to elect.


PCUS 1869 draft, VI-3-4
The Congregation being convened, the Moderator shall put the vote to the electors whether they are ready to proceed to the election. If they declare themselves ready, the Moderator shall call for nominations; after which the election shall immediately proceed, unless the meeting prefer to postpone it to a subsequent day. Or, the election may proceed by ballot without nominations. But in every case a majority of all the voters present shall be required to elect.

PCUS 1867 draft, VI-3-4
The congregation being convened, the moderator shall put the vote to the electors whether they are ready to proceed to the election of a pastor or of additional ruling elders or deacons, as the case may be. If they declare themselves ready, the moderator shall call for nominees; after which the election shall immediately proceed, unless the meeting prefer to postpone it to a subsequent day. Or the election may proceed by ballot without nominations. But in every case a majority of all the voters cast shall be required to elect. If no one is elected on the first ballot, the balloting must proceed, unless otherwise ordered by the meeting.


PCUSA 1789, CHAP. XII., Of Electing and ordaining ruling Elders and Deacons, Section 2.
Every congregation shall elect persons to the office of ruling elder, and to the office of deacon, or either of them, in the mode most approved, and in use in that congregation.

COMMENTARY :
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order
(1898, p. 127) on VI-3-4 :
104.--III. The voters being convened, the Moderator shall put the question to them whether they are ready to proceed to the election. If they declare themselves ready, the Moderator shall call for nominations, after which the election shall immediately proceed, unless the electors prefer to postpone it to a subsequent day ; or the election may proceed by ballot without nominations. But in every case a majority of all the voters present shall be required to elect.
We have said that the meeting is under the direction of the Session ; and who but the Session can determine who of those present are voters? The Moderator of the congregation is, at the same time, the Moderator of the Session in session at the same time, and he must ascertain who are voters, through the Session.
The first question to be ascertained is whether the voters are convened. Supposing a church has one hundred voters, would two of them be the voters? Surely not ; and yet it is impracticable to have all the voters convened. What, then, is a quorum of a church? In the absence of any regulation, it must be decided by general principles that it requires a majority to make a quorum. But always, when the question of a quorum is not raised, either at the time or within a reasonable time afterwards (cf. par. 258), less than a majority may act.
The second question must be decided by the voters themselves : whether they are ready to proceed.
The third question must also be decided by them : whether they will elect with or without nominations.
If it is decided to have nominations, the fourth thing is to hear nominations ; the fifth, to determine by the electors whether to vote at once or to postpone the voting. If the decision is to vote at once, the sixth thing is to determine, by the voters, whether to vote by ballot or in some other way ; but this question must itself be determined by ballot, if any insist upon a ballot upon this question, for otherwise the very reason of a ballot at all, secrecy in voting, would be taken away.
If no one receives a majority of the votes for a given office, no one is elected. Whether a second vote may be taken, with or without dropping one or more of the nominees or persons already voted for, is not prescribed ; but it would seem, from the principle that a church does not so much need officers, as qualified and acceptable officers, that there should be no second vote ; but of this the congregation must judge ; and sometimes the failure of any one to receive a majority may be due to what seems to the congregation a superabundance of suitable material.
The principle, that a majority shall rule, is a practical necessity rather than an inherent right ; and for this reason there should be a great desire to have the same mind. The failure to be unanimous is a failure that should be always lamented. And it would certainly be in order for a majority to recede from its own choice, just as it is in order for a minority to give up its opposition ; but either must judge for itself what is the will of Christ in a given case.

 



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