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The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

Chapter 26 : Amending the Constitution of the Church

Paragraph 1 : The Constitution Defined

26-1. The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in America, which is subject to and subordinate to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, the inerrant Word of God, consists of its doctrinal standards, set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith, together with the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, and the Book of Church Order, comprising the Form of Government, the Rules of Discipline, and the Directory for Worship; all as adopted by the Church.

[Historical Summary : The current PCA text has two added clauses over that of earlier editions. The first of these clauses has to do with the subjection of the Constitution to the Scriptures. The second additional and concluding clause states that the several parts of the Constitution are "all as adopted by the Church." This current text dates to 1989, having come before the 16th General Assembly (1988) as item 12 for consideration (M16GA, pp. 103-04), but then deferred until the 17th General Assembly (1989) when the vote of Susquehanna Valley Presbytery could not be attested (as per BCO 26-6; cf. M16GA, 16-10, p. 88). Note too that the vote of Korean Central is not stated in the record (p. 104), but the lack of that vote was not cited as reason for deferment. When all voting was attested, 31 Presbyteries were in favor of the amendment, with 12 against; of those 12, none were unanimous. Both Korean Central and Susquehanna Valley were unanimous in favor of the amendment. The General Assembly then voted to adopt the amendment. [See M17GA (1989), 17-6, Item 12, p. 54]

Background and Comparison :
PCA 1973, 27-1, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly,
The Constitution of the National Presbyterian Church consists of its doctrinal symbols, embraced in the Confession of Faith, and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, together with the Book of Church Order, which comprises the Form of Government, the Rules of Discipline, and the Directory for Worship.

Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, 27-1, Proposed text,
The Constitution of the _________________________ consists of its doctrinal symbols, embraced in the Confession of Faith, and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, together with the Book of Church Order, which comprises the Form of Government, the Rules of Discipline, and the Directory for Worship.

1. PCUS 1933, XXIX, §159
2. PCUS 1925, XXVIII, §159
and
3. PCUS 1879, VII-1
The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in the United States consists of its doctrinal symbols, embraced in the Confession of Faith, and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, together with the Book of Church Order, which comprises the Form of Government, the Rules of Discipline, and the Directory of Worship.

PCUS 1869 draft, VII-1
The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in the United States consists of its Doctrinal Symbols, embraced in the Confession
of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, together with the Book of Church Order, which comprises the Form of Government, the Canons of Discipline, and the Directory of Worship.

PCUS 1867 draft, VII-1
The constitution of the Presbyterian Church in the United States consists of its Doctrinal Symbols, embraced in the Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, together with the Book of Church Order, which comprises the Form of Government, the Canons of Discipline, the Directory of Worship, and the Rules of Parliamentary Order.

COMMENTARY :
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order
(1898, p. ), on VII-1 :
Of the three paragraphs the first defines the Constitution ; the second shows how one part of the Constitution may be amended ; and the third, how the other part may be amended.
141.--I. The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in the United States consists of its doctrinal symbols, embraced in the Confession of Faith, and the Larger and Shorter Catechism, together with the Book of Church Order, which comprises the Form of Government, the Rules of Discipline, and the Directory of Worship.
No other deliverances of church courts or of individuals form any part of the Constitution. Nor is the Bible any part of the Constitution. As a distinct organization, organizationally distinct from other church organizations, the parts of this Church stand together in this Constitution, accepted as binding law and covenant by all the constituent parts of this Church ; and the Bible is to this Church what this Constitution defines it to be. The fact that this Constitution subordinates itself to the Bible in every sense does not make the Bible technically the Constitution of the denomination. No one is compelled to become a constituent of this society, and no one ought to assume to do so, or to continue to do so, who is not willing to stand together with the others in this Constitution. But such acceptance does not mean the holding of this Constitution as infallible, or as in any sense equal in authority with the Bible, or as not needing improvement.



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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]