PCA BCO and Constitutional Authority

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brianeschen

Puritan Board Junior
Does anybody know what the policy of the PCA is regards to exceptions in the Book of Church Order (BCO)? Specifically (albeit in a general sort of way), if a minister takes an exception to the BCO, is he allowed to change his practices to reflect that exception or must he abide by the BCO?

For instance, if a minister believed that Scripture teaches that "the ignorant and scandalous" may participate in the Lord's Supper contrary to BCO 58-2 and he takes an approved exception to that section, may he administer the Lord's Supper to an unrepentant member (a practice that would reflect his view of Scripture, but contrary to the BCO understanding of Scripture)?

**Please note that this situation is HYPOTHETICAL. I am trying to get an idea of the relationship of the BCO to the ordering of the church. Is it a standard that must be followed in all the areas to which it speaks, or can exceptions be taken and granted with practices implimented to reflect those disagreements?

Any input into this would be greatly appreciated.:scratch:
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
Brian,

If a minister takes exception to the BCO, he is not permitted to practice that exception. So for example, a man would not be permitted to:

  • avoid fencing the table of the Lord's Supper because he took exception to BCO 58-4
  • ordain women as deacons contrary to BCO 9 and 24
  • admit children who have not made a profession of faith to partake of the Lord's Supper
  • restrict voting in congregational meetings so as to deprive communing persons of a vote per BCO 25-1
Etc. The BCO is the governing authority of the Church. It cannot be laid aside, or chaos results.

Does that help? If you want more specific advice (perhaps with case citations) you may PM me.
 

raekwon

Puritan Board Junior
As far as I know, discretion is given to a minister's presbytery (or a ruling elder's session) as to which exceptions to the BCO and Westminster Standards he may teach and/or modify his practice for.

Good question, though. Maybe someone who's actually dealt with such a situation can chime in here.

(The example you mentioned would likely not even be approved in the most "liberal" presbytery... or at least I'd hope not.)

EDIT: Never mind... Fred answered and it looks like I'm wrong. :)
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
As far as I know, discretion is given to a minister's presbytery (or a ruling elder's session) as to which exceptions to the BCO and Westminster Standards he may teach and/or modify his practice for.

Good question, though. Maybe someone who's actually dealt with such a situation can chime in here.

(The example you mentioned would likely not even be approved in the most "liberal" presbytery... or at least I'd hope not.)

EDIT: Never mind... Fred answered and it looks like I'm wrong. :)
Yep. There was actually an instance in "old" Great Lakes where a minister took exception to fencing the table in 58-4 and the Presbytery allowed it, until they were told by the GA that they couldn't do that.
 

brianeschen

Puritan Board Junior
Brian,

If a minister takes exception to the BCO, he is not permitted to practice that exception. So for example, a man would not be permitted to:

  • avoid fencing the table of the Lord's Supper because he took exception to BCO 58-4
  • ordain women as deacons contrary to BCO 9 and 24
  • admit children who have not made a profession of faith to partake of the Lord's Supper
  • restrict voting in congregational meetings so as to deprive communing persons of a vote per BCO 25-1
Etc. The BCO is the governing authority of the Church. It cannot be laid aside, or chaos results.

Does that help? If you want more specific advice (perhaps with case citations) you may PM me.
Thanks. This answers my question. I have heard the exact opposite, but did not quite believe it. As you pointed out, it would lead to chaos.

How would/could I show this to a naysayer?
Fred, we can get around this by just not ordaining men or women as deacons, right?:gpl:
:flamingscot::mad:
haha
:lol:
 
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fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
ordain women as deacons contrary to BCO 9 and 24
Fred, we can get around this by just not ordaining men or women as deacons, right?:gpl:
WRONG! :judge:
Sterling,

How can you say "wrong?" You obviously don't have any authority, since your very office is one of service, and can be done by any member. In fact, there really is no need for you to be ordained at all. If you were really useful, you'd be a "warrior helper" woman like Eve (as described by Carolyn Custis James). :smug:
 

Presbyterian Deacon

Puritan Board Graduate
Fred, we can get around this by just not ordaining men or women as deacons, right?:gpl:
WRONG! :judge:
Sterling,

How can you say "wrong?" You obviously don't have any authority, since your very office is one of service, and can be done by any member. In fact, there really is no need for you to be ordained at all. If you were really useful, you'd be a "warrior helper" woman like Eve (as described by Carolyn Custis James). :smug:
Not on my authority. There's this little book that people like C. C. James seem to ignore. It's called the Bible. So, I guess I would assert I can say "NO,"....um, :think:







.......BECAUSE I KNOW THE AUTHOR of the BOOK!!!
 

TimV

Puritanboard Botanist
Since Brian goes to one of the very few churches in his Presbytery that take the BCO seriously, I am guessing that the problem is not in his church, but perhaps one in his neighborhood. And indeed, in that Presbytery it is, for a fact, commonly the case that not only women, but Baptists and Arminians are regularly installed as "unordained" Deacons. Elders as well, unless things have changed in the last year, don't have to believe in infant baptism. No joke.
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
Since Brian goes to one of the very few churches in his Presbytery that take the BCO seriously, I am guessing that the problem is not in his church, but perhaps one in his neighborhood. And indeed, in that Presbytery it is, for a fact, commonly the case that not only women, but Baptists and Arminians are regularly installed as "unordained" Deacons. Elders as well, unless things have changed in the last year, don't have to believe in infant baptism. No joke.
Tim,

I don't have personal knowledge, but I certainly can sympathize. Let me say that where the BCO and case law is clear (as in the case of elders believing in infant baptism) there is no doubt in my mind that the process would work. It might take heartache, and to keep appealing, but I guarantee the SJC would uphold current ecclesiastical law on that issue.

I just dealt with a man who was disturbed by violations of the BCO, and helped him quietly and respectfully stand his ground, showing that he had the guts to see it through, and that he would win. The (potential) violators backed down.
 

TimV

Puritanboard Botanist
You are 100% right on that. My post was more of an encouragement to people like Brian. I was going to add something about All evil needs to succeed is for good men to do nothing, but it sounded kind of drippy :)

I'd gotten the Pastor to stop doing things like having Arminian Baptists from a "sister church" fill the pulpit, pushing the NPP etc.. and started on some other more serious things, but with the whole of the bureaucratic structure of that particular Presbytery actively working against me, and no one in my church lifting a finger to help me, and the family problems, I had change churches. Brian has a firm support base, though.
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
Correct me if I'm wrong on this, but the problem as I understand it is that the BOCO is the practical outworking of the confessional standards, which may not be simply set aside. Indeed, if someone's view of the standards have changed, he should make that known to his presbytery ...
 

ColdSilverMoon

Puritan Board Senior
Correct me if I'm wrong on this, but the problem as I understand it is that the BOCO is the practical outworking of the confessional standards, which may not be simply set aside. Indeed, if someone's view of the standards have changed, he should make that known to his presbytery ...
The problem is some issues, such as female deacons, are not addressed in the WCF but are addressed in the BCO. So one can take exception to the BCO and not the WCF.
 

brianeschen

Puritan Board Junior
Correct me if I'm wrong on this, but the problem as I understand it is that the BOCO is the practical outworking of the confessional standards, which may not be simply set aside. Indeed, if someone's view of the standards have changed, he should make that known to his presbytery ...
That is how I understand the relationship of the BCO to church practice. Even if you take an exception to the BCO because of a change of view, you are not free to practice that exception. In my mind, to do so would destroy the unity and peace of the church. The BCO is a statement of what the denomination has agreed on as to how the church is to be best governed by biblical principles.

What you often hear is people pitting the Bible against the BCO, which seems to be missing the point; namely that what is in the BCO has already been considered as the outworking of biblical principles in the ordering of the church (in the court of the General Assembly). If there are disagreements with the BCO, there are ways to appeal that and have it changed, but you are not free to ignore it as if it does not carry any binding constitutional authority. This leads to lawlessness, much like we have in the civil realm of our country . . . "this is what the Constitution means to me . . ." The possibilities are limitless. At least this is the way that I see it.
 

Archlute

Puritan Board Senior
Yep. There was actually an instance in "old" Great Lakes where a minister took exception to fencing the table in 58-4 and the Presbytery allowed it, until they were told by the GA that they couldn't do that.
Interesting. If I remember correctly, our presbytery ordained a man last year who was clear that he would offer the Supper to attending Roman Catholics if he felt that they were "believers", and who had a real problem with fencing the table in general. I had not thought that exceptions could be taken to the distribution of the elements as laid out in the BCO, but the attention was focused upon the applicable sections as they were laid out in the WCF, thereby allowing it as an exception. I don't remember the BCO being brought up in the discussion. Clever approach. I'd have to double check to make certain, but I don't believe that there were any restrictions given him regarding the practice.
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
Yep. There was actually an instance in "old" Great Lakes where a minister took exception to fencing the table in 58-4 and the Presbytery allowed it, until they were told by the GA that they couldn't do that.
Interesting. If I remember correctly, our presbytery ordained a man last year who was clear that he would offer the Supper to attending Roman Catholics if he felt that they were "believers", and who had a real problem with fencing the table in general. I had not thought that exceptions could be taken to the distribution of the elements as laid out in the BCO, but the attention was focused upon the applicable sections as they were laid out in the WCF, thereby allowing it as an exception. I don't remember the BCO being brought up in the discussion. Clever approach. I'd have to double check to make certain, but I don't believe that there were any restrictions given him regarding the practice.
Adam,

It is one thing to allow an exception to the Confession, another to the BCO. People think that naturally an exception to the Confession is "more serious" but not always. That is because an exception to the Confession (such as the belief that RCs can partake) is a matter of conscience. Allowing RCs to partake (contra BCO 58) is a matter of practice. The PCA has decided (for better or worse, I won't get into that now) that conscience permits or allows for exceptions. But it has never allowed for a change in practice by individuals. That would be chaos - if one church decided, for example, that it would not accept infant baptisms. Or if it decided that a quorum for a Session was one elder alone. Etc.
 
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