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The Historical Development of the Book of Church Order

A brief history of the Ad-Interim Committee on the Number of Officers in the Church, 1973-1980.

1973 - First General Assembly
As the Presbyterian Church in America was forming in 1973, originally under the name National Presbyterian Church, one of the initial changes proposed for the newly adopted Book of Church Order was an amendment to BCO 20-1 [now 19-1]. The motion would have added "and in cases where an ordained minister of the Word is not available, he may also administer the Sacraments." While the Minutes themselves do not indicate who brought the motion of amendment, or precisely where this addition would have been placed within the paragraph, we presume the section would have read thus, if amended:

"To preserve the purity of the preaching of the Gospel in our Churches, no man is permitted to preach in the pulpits of our churches on a regular basis without proper licensure from the Presbytery of the National Presbyterian Church. The word and Sacraments are committed to the ordained ministry of the Word. Ruling Elders who have demonstrated their gifts are eligible for licensure by their presbytery to preach the Word, and in cases where an ordained minister of the Word is not available, he may also administer the Sacraments. Candidates for the Gospel Ministry, desiring to preach on a regular basis in our Churches, should be licensed."

The motion however was sufficiently controversial to prompt the erection of an Ad Interim Committee to Study the Question of Ruling Elders Administering the Sacraments. This Committee consisted of Teaching Elders Harold Borchert, Basil Albert and Donald C. Graham, together with Ruling Elders Walter Gwin, James Miller and William Stevenson. TE Borchert served as Convener of the Committee. [M1GA, 1-78, Report of the Nominating Committee, p. 63].

Additional to the motion to amend BCO 20-1, there was also before the First Assembly the motion presented in Overture 11:
Overture 11, from McIlwain Memorial Presbyterian Church, Pensacola, Florida [M1GA, 1-10, p. 21]
Whereas, there is not to be any differentiation between the office of ruling elder and teaching elder (Minister of the Word), and each is given equal authority in church government according to the Scriptures (Book of Church Order, III, page 20);
Whereas, the power of jurisdiction is to be equally exercised by ruling and teaching elders (ministers), but jointly in church courts (Book of Church Order, 1-4, 3-3, pages 22 and 23);
Whereas, the Minister of the Word and the ruling elder are to share equally in the governing of the church (Book of Church Order 9-3, page 32);
Whereas,
Christ has furnished others (ruling elders), besides the Minister of the Word, with gifts and commissions to govern when called and ordained thereto (Book of Church Order, 11-1, page 35);
Whereas,
in all courts of the church the ruling elders possess the same authority and the same eligibility to office as the Minister of the Word (Book of Church Order, 11-2, page 35);
Whereas,
the Session is the only court that is denied the right to elect its own moderator;
Whereas,
the office of Moderator of Session is the only office in the entire Presbyterian Church system of government to which an elder cannot be elected; and that in his own particular church;
Whereas,
the requirement that the Minister be the Moderator of Session (Book of Church Order, 13-2, page 38) denies the ruling elder (1) the exercise of his gifts and commission to rule; (2) to share equally in the governing of the church; (3) the same eligibility to office as the Minister of the Word and differentiates between the teaching and ruling elder in matters of church government--all contrary to the Book of Church Order. Furthermore, the principle implies ruling elders are not capable of moderating the Session (Book of Church Order, 15-4, page 42);
Whereas,
the appointment of a moderator of a session by a presbytery when a church is without a pastor (Book of Church Order, 15-4, page 42) denies the session the exercise of its proper and efficient jurisdiction and governing of its church. It is subject to the convenience and/or whims of a moderator who is generally already overburdened with responsibilities. It permits a presbytery to name a moderator unacceptable to a session because of his theological position, personality or availability;
Whereas,
the requirement that a Minister of the Word be the moderator of session under the Book of Church Order (13-2 and 15-4) places another unnecessary burden and additional responsibilities on a minister already encumbered so heavily that the minister of the Word is rendered less effective in his total ministry;
Whereas,
the minister of the Word is so encumbered that he ought to have relief from the task and responsibility of moderator of session;
Whereas,
the principal parity of the ruling and teaching elders is violated;
Whereas,
there is no Spiritual grounds for the teaching elder to moderate the session, only the tradition of men;
Therefore,
to rectify the inequities, to promote a more harmonious relationship in and between courts, to provide some relief to an encumbered ministry, and to maintain the parity of teaching and ruling elders, the Session of McIlwain Memorial Presbyterian Church overtures the first General Assembly of the Continuing Presbyterian Church to amend the Book of Church Order so that a session may exercise its right to elect its moderator.
*References are the BCOO copyrighted by the PCUS in 1965, 12th printing 1969, paperback edition.

1974 - Second General Assembly
In 1974, TE Borchert presented the Committee's majority report to the Second General Assembly and Rev. Basil Albert gave the Minority Report. [M2GA, Appendix O, pp. 176-177 and 177-179, respectively]. Subsequently the entire matter was referred to an Ad Interim Committee to Study the Question of the Number of Officers of the Church, with the General Assembly providing instructions to this new Committee to "bring final recommendations on this issue to the General Assembly." [M2GA, 2-29, p. 44]

The Ad Interim Committee established that year consisted of Teaching Elders Donald K. Clements, A. Michael Schneider, III and Kennedy Smartt, plus Ruling Elders William Joseph Borden, Murdock Campbell, and Thurston Futch. TE Smartt served as Chairman. The matter of Overture 11, carried over from the First General Assembly, was committed to this Committee [M2GA, 2-70, pp. 54 and 61] and the Committee was also "instructed to include the study of the office of assistant minister in its assignment." [M2GA, 2-71, p. 61].

1975 - Third General Assembly
Then in 1975, the Ad Interim Committee presented its report to the Third General Assembly [M3GA, Appendix J, pp. 201-210]. Curiously, the Minutes of that Third General Assembly note that after discussion, the Assembly then adopted a motion that "The whole matter be committed to a new Ad Interim Committee which shall be elected after nominations by the Nominating Committee (3-45, 3-82)." [M3GA, 3-31, p. 61]. The Nominating Committee made reference to the Committee on Administration for advice on the size and financing of the Ad Interim Committee. Six men were selected to serve by the Nominating Committee:
Jules Vroon, Ruling Elder, Southern Florida
John C. Snyder, Ruling Elder, Ascension
Dr. O. Palmer Robertson, Teaching Elder, Ascension
Dr. Morton H. Smith, Teaching Elder, Mississippi Valley
Ligon Duncan, Ruling Elder, Calvary
Judge R.H. Kirksey, Ruling Elder, Warrior
Rev. Kennedy Smartt, Teaching Elder, Mid Atlantic
Additionally, three other men were nominated from the floor of the Assembly:
Rev. Gordon Reed, Teaching Elder, Southern Florida
Rev. Don Clements, Teaching Elder, Central Georgia
Rev. Donald Dunkerley, Teaching Elder, Gulf Coast

After some final considerations, this new Ad Interim Committee consisted of
Ruling Elders Ligon Duncan, R.H. Kirksey, John C. Snyder and Jules Vroon, with Teaching Elders Don Clements, Don Dunkerley, Morton Smith and R.C. Sproul. TE Dunkerley served as chair, and Sproul was still new enough that his last name was misspelled in the Minutes ["Sproule"]. The Assembly charged the Committee to include exegetical defenses of both two and three office views in its report. [M3GA, 3-82 and 3-83, p. 92].

It should also be noted that the Third General Assembly had recommitted various overtures to this Committee, enlarging the scope of their study:
3-33 Overtures Recommitted [M3GA, 3-33, p. 61]
That the answers to overtures of administration of sacraments by ruling elders (1974 Minutes 2-29); right of a session to elect its own moderator (1974 Minutes 2-70); office of Assistant Pastor, (1974 Minutes, 2-71); and one concerning the nature of ordination (1974 Minutes 2-98), be committed to the new Ad Interim Committee for their study and answer to the Fourth General Assembly.

1976 - Fourth General Assembly
Then at the Fourth General Assembly (1976), the Nominating Committee noted that Ruling Elders W.J. Borden and Richard Ayres had been added to the Ad Interim Committee to replace Duncan and Vroon. [M4GA, 4-36, p. 56]. Ruling Elder John Snyder brought the Committee's report [see M4GA, Appendix L, pp. 205-211] and the Assembly adopted the Committee's recommendations to be allowed to continue its work, while also soliciting suggestions from the Church at large by year's end.

1977 - Fifth General Assembly
Two specific sets of actions took place at the Fifth General Assembly, and it may be easiest to simply reproduce the Minutes at these points, rather than to attempt a digest of the actions:
1. 5-37 Report of the Committee on Number of Offices [M5GA, 5-37, p. 65]
The report of the Ad Interim Committee to Study the Question of the Number of Offices in the Church was presented by the Rev. Don Clements. A minority report was distributed.
The Rev. Francis Nigel Lee presented a motion, which was debated to the statutory limit. The question being called, the Assembly adopted the following motion with the addition that Mr. Lee's paper, "The Triune God and the Triune Office", be added to the Committee's report and distributed to the Assembly:
That the General Assembly thank the present Ad Interim Committee to Study the Question of the Number of Offices in the Church for the presentation of their most instructive reports in the 1977 Handbook, but suspend discussion of its recommendations until the Sixth General Assembly, meantime authorizing the Committee to continue and to make an adequate study:
a. Of the Committee's Minority Report to the Fifth Assembly, advocating the two office view;
b. Of the classic three office view;
c. Of the Triune office view;
d. Of the office of Deacon (as reflected in Overture 6, pp. 29-30);
e. And of the view recognizing the great importance of the basic office of all Christians.
The Assembly adopted the motion to add the Rev. F. Nigel Lee to the Ad Interim Committee to Study the Number of Offices in the Church.

2. 5-45 Motion made on "Number of Offices" [M5GA, 5-45, p. 66]
The Assembly adopted a motion that the Committee on Number of Offices be asked to give specific attention to the question of who may administer the Sacraments, and to present to the next Assembly either a more thorough exegetical defense of the position of our Standards (Westminster Confession 27, IV), or an exegetical defense of such a position as the Scriptures may be found to support, together with suggestions for any necessary revisions of our Standards to bring them into conformity to such a position. And that the Committee be requested to include in its report to the next Assembly papers dealing with various views presented to it on this question, whether or not it adopts these views itself.

1978 - Sixth General Assembly
6-60 Report of the Ad Interim Committee on Number of Offices [M6GA, 6-60, p. 80]
The report of the Ad Interim Committee to Study the Question of the Number of Offices in the Church was presented by mr. A. Richard Ayres, after he led the Assembly in prayer.
A first Minority Report, consisting of the Minority Report to the Sixth General Assembly, was presented by Mr. John C. Snyder.
A second Minority Report, consisting of the Majority Report to the Fifth General Assembly, was presented by Mr. Thurston D. Futch, Jr.

6-64 Report of the Ad Interim Committee on Number of Offices Continued [M6GA, 6-64, p. 81]
After a variety of procedural discussions, the Rev. Don K. Clements moved that the second Minority Report be adopted. The order of the day interrupted the discussion, and no vote was taken at this time.

6-83 Report of the Ad Interim Committee on Number of Offices Continued (See 6-60, 6-64) [M6GA, 6-83, p. 90]
The Second Minority Report (the Fifth General Assembly Majority Report), as amended, was received in the stead of the Sixth General Assembly Majority Report. The First Minority Report failed to be received in the stead of the Second Minority Report. Thus, the Second Minority Report was received by the Assembly for perfecting.
The process of perfecting was in progress at the time of the recess. The Assembly determined not to consider Recommendation 9 of the Report until after the Report of the Committee of Commissioners on Judicial Business had been heard.
(Note: Because of time considerations, neither the Report of the Ad Interim Committee on Number of Offices nor the Report of the Committee of Commissioners on Judicial Business were completed by the Assembly. The text of the Number of Offices Report is included here [i.e., in the Minutes], to the point it reached at the end of this period of consideration. Some sections were deleted by the Assembly, and these have been included with lines through the text because the Assembly has not yet adopted the perfected Report as a whole. See § 6-119 for the motion to postpone consideration.)
6-119 Postponement of the Report of the Ad Interim Committee on Number of Offices (cf. § 6-83). [M6GA, 6-119, p. 124]
The Assembly postponed until the Seventh General Assembly further action on the Report on the Number of Offices. The Clerk was directed that only the text of the report currently on the floor be published in the Minutes.

1979 - Seventh General Assembly
7-23 Special Order - Report of the Ad Interim Committee on Number of Offices
At 9:00 p.m. the Rev. Donald A. Dunkerley presented the report of the Ad Interim Committee on Number of Offices carried over from the Sixth General Assembly, beginning with prayer.... [see the full text of the report here: http://www.pcahistory.org/pca/2-455.html]

With that report, the Committee's work was finally done and it was dismissed with thanks.



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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