The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

Form of Government
Rules of Discipline
Directory for Worship
Polity Library
Project Orientation
Project History & Updates


Each paragraph in the PCA Book of Church Order will have its own page within the Project site, and on each page, the first text displayed will be the most current text in use in the PCA. That text will be followed by an historical summary note and then a listing of antecedent texts, beginning with the PCA's first approved edition in 1973, then the text of the Proposed Book of Church Order for the Continuing Presbyterian Church, also from 1973, then a set of texts from various editions of the PCUS BCO. These PCUS texts will focus on key years within that tradition.

1879 marked the publication of the first approved edition of the Book of Church Order for the PCUS. This first edition lacked a Directory for Worship, which was only added later in 1894. Few changes were made in this first PCUS edition until 1925, when a major revision was approved. Lastly, the 1933 PCUS BCO is significant as the edition that became the exemplar for the Continuing Presbyterian Church. It was from this 1933 edition that the Proposed Book of Church Order was formulated. Later editions of the PCUS BCO were seen as problematic and as having departed from sound moorings, and so the 1933 edition was utilized.

The final feature on each BCO page will be the pertinent section from the Rev. F.P. Ramsay's Exposition on the Book of Church Order, published in 1898. That work covers only the Form of Government and Rules of Discipline sections of the PCUS Book of Church Order. It should also be evident that not everything that Rev. Ramsay says will be applicable to the state of things in the PCA today. But there is some real worth to be found in his comments, and so it is reproduced here not solely for its historical value.