Westminster Directory of Church Government

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VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
I may be forgetting or overlooking something, but in all my time on the Puritan Board, I cannot recall any discussion of the Westminster Directory of Church Government. It is a different document than the Form of Presbyterian Church Government which has often been reprinted in collections of the Westminster Standards, but unlike the Form, the Directory has never been reprinted in the United States to my knowledge and not in the last 200 years or so, according to Wayne Spear. The full title is: A Directory for Church-Government, Church-Censures, and Ordination of Ministers. It was produced by the Westminster Assembly in 1645 (approved on July 4), a year after the former document, and is a valuable resource that is more comprehensive and is more "polished" (Spear) than its predecessor.

A.F. Mitchell provides an historical account of this document in The Westminster Assembly: Its History and Standards, pp. 257-268. He notes:

It is practical and comprehensive, a storehouse of valuable counsels as to many things in government, and still more in discipline, not touched on in the propositions [i.e., Form of Church Government], and is well worthy of being studied by Presbyterian ministers still, who wish to do full justice to the system of government the Westminster Assembly sanctioned (p. 264).
It is largely the work of Alexander Henderson, and partially based on his earlier work The Government and Order of the Church of Scotland (1641) as well as the disciplines of the French and Dutch Reformed Churches. It lead to the creation of the London provincial assembly. The English Parliament approved the Form rather than the Directory and due to the opposition of David Calderwood, the Directory was not approved by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland; hence, this document, while a product of the Westminster Assembly, is little known today.

For those who are interested, it can be read in several places: (1) Wayne R. Spear, "The Westminster Assembly's Directory for Church Government," in Pressing Toward the Mark: Essays Commemorating Fifty Years of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, pp. 83-98; (2) at the Westminster Assembly Project website; and (3) in the 1764 edition of The Confessions of Faith, Catechisms, Directories, Form of Church Government, Discipline, &c. of Public Authority in the Church of Scotland.
 

ADKing

Puritan Board Junior
A wonderful resurce for further insight into the mindset of the presbyterianism of the Westminster era and a valuable docuement for comparing our modern practice of presbyterianism against. Thanks for posting the reminder.
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
Another useful reference in studying Westminster ecclesiology is the August 1648 ordinance for the Form of Church Government to be used in England and Ireland. It shows how the Church of England was based on Presbyterianism according to the advice of the Westminster Assembly, the names of those ministers and congregations reckoned among the various assemblies so established, the rules for examination and ordination of ministers, church discipline and related topics. It is available online here:

August 1648 - An Ordinance for The Form of Church Government to be used in the Church of England and Ireland, agreed upon by the Lords and Commons assembled in Parliament, after Advice, had with the Assembly of Divines. | British History Online
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
Do you know why Calderwood opposed it?
Not entirely but here is what Mitchell has to say about it, which may shed some light (Mitchell, The Westminster Assembly: Its History and Standards, pp. 262-263:

The Directory for Church-Government was brought down by the Scotch Commissioners Gillespie or Baillie, and laid before the Scottish Assembly in 1647, and by their orders it was printed (with the propositions prefixed, and in the exact shape in which it had passed the Westminster Assembly) before the close of the year, that it might be examined and reported on by presbyteries. Next year the consideration of the reports was again deferred, and in the confusions that followed no action may have been taken respecting it. Baillie says that with four or five reservations it would have been approved of by the Assembly but for the persistent opposition of Calderwood, who objected even to the propositions of which the Assembly had approved in 1645. Both sanctioned congregational elderships as distinct courts, whereas he maintained they were nothing more than committees of Presbytery. The latter provided that the provincial synods should consist not of all the ministers of the bounds, but of a certain number of ministers and elders chosen out of each presbytery, and that the National Assembly should not consist of delegates from the presbyteries, but of three ministers and three elders from each provincial synod, and five learned and godly persons from each university. To all these provisions we cannot doubt this uncompromising defender of old Scottish arrangements would resolutely object, particularly to the last,1 which had been opposed, but unsuccessfully, by the Scottish Commissioners at Westminster. But some of these provisions are not unworthy still of the consideration of the larger Presbyterian Churches, which feel that their supreme courts, as at present constituted, are somewhat unwieldly, and hardly so well adapted as they might be for the transaction of judicial business. And if ever the time should come when they should feel that the laity ought to be more directly represented than they yet are by idoneous persons as well as elders, it may cheer them to remember that the Westminster Assembly, notwithstanding the objections of our countrymen, did not hesitate to put on record their decision that 'synodical assemblies do consist of pastors, teachers, church governors, and other fit persons (when it shall be deemed expedient) where they have a lawful calling thereunto.'

1 Letters and Journals, vol. iii. pp. 11, 20, 21, 59. 'A full and perfect model of discipline,' 'a very excellent and profitable piece, the fourth part of our uniformitie was shuffled by through the pertinacious opposition of Mr. David Calderwood and two or three with him.'
 

py3ak

They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
Very interesting. Thanks for posting that.
 
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