.

The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

Preface to the Book of Church Order

I. King and Head
of the Church
II. Preliminary Principles
III. The Constitution Defined
         

Section 2 : The Preliminary Principles
Paragraph 2 : Terms of Communion

2. That, in perfect consistency with the above principle of common right, every Christian church, or union or association of particular churches, is entitled to declare the terms of admission into its communion, and the qualifications of its ministers and members, as well as the whole system of its internal government which Christ hath appointed: that, in its exercise of this right it may, notwithstanding, err, in making the terms of communion either too lax or too narrow; yet, even in this case, it does not infringe upon the liberty or the rights of others, but only makes an improper use of its own.

Background and Comparison :
PCA 1973, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, page 128
That, in perfect consistency with the above principle of common right, every Christian church, or union or association of particular churches, is entitled to declare the terms of admission into its communion, and the qualifications of its ministers and members, as well as the whole system of its internal government which Christ hath appointed: that, in its exercise of this right it may, notwithstanding, err, in making the terms of communion either too lax or too narrow; yet, even in this case, it does not infringe upon the liberty or the rights of others, but only makes an improper use of its own.

Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, Proposed text, Preface, Preliminary Principles, paragraph 2
That, in perfect consistency with the above principle of common right, every Christian church, or union or association of particular churches, is entitled to declare the terms of admission into its communion, and the qualifications of its ministers and members, as well as the whole system of its internal government which Christ hath appointed: that, in its exercise of this right it may, notwithstanding, err, in making the terms of communion either too lax or too narrow; yet, even in this case, it does not infringe upon the liberty or the rights of others, but only makes an improper use of its own.

PCUS 1879
PCUS 1869 draft
and
PCUS 1867 draft
[we have not located printed editions of the PCUS Constitution which include the Preliminary Principles. Reportedly the first edition, printed in 1861, did include the Principles, but we have been unable to locate subsequent editions with this material included.]

Commentary :
Hodge, J. Aspinwall, What Is Presbyterian Law? (Philadelphia, 1882, pp. 23-24) :

II. What is the second principle?
"Every Christian Church, or union or association of particular churches, is entitled to declare the terms of admission into its communion, and the qualifications of its Ministers and members, as well as the whole system of its internal government which Christ hath appointed." This principle is essential to all organizations. Men are at liberty to refuse to be connected with a society, but if they voluntarily enter, they must submit to its terms of admission and to its laws. So if any man's conscience will not permit him to concur with, or passively submit to, the standards of the Church, he "shall, after sufficient liberty modestly to reason and remonstrate, peaceably withdraw from our communion, without attempting to make any schism." Provided that which he cannot accept shall be judged by the Church to be indispensable to Presbyterian doctrine or polity.[1] This of course refers only to the officers of the Church, who are required to receive and adopt the standards of the Church.[2] But communicants are received on profession of faith in the Lord Jesus.[3]
May the Church err in the exercise of this right?
Churches, "in the exercise of this right, may, notwithstanding, err in making the terms of communion either too lax or too narrow ; yet even in this case they do not infringe upon the liberty or the rights of others, but only make an improper use of their own."
-----
[1]
Presbyterian Digest, p. 48.
[2]
Form of Government [PCUSA], chs. xiii. and xv.
[3]
Directory for Worship [PCUSA], ch. ix. ; Presbyterian Digest, p. 307. See p. 135.



©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]