What is the value and purpose of position papers?

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Puritan Board Graduate
I am curious as to what is the exact nature of a denomination's position papers? How binding are they on individual presbyteries and churchs? What is there value and purpose? Are they voted on at GA to determine if the denomination will uphold their views?

Rich Koster

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
From my experience as a Baptist elder, we would publish a position paper to address something that the statement of faith/confession did not. This could be done to warn about a new fad or teaching that pops up from time to time. We were independent, so it would only apply to our congregation. It was not binding, just a loving expose to guard those who may stumble upon something potentially harmful.


Puritanboard Snowflake
I'm not sure what is the purpose or even if there is any binding nature to the position papers, but it sure feels good when one's position is the majority position. (As is mine in regards to the question of the validity of Romanist baptism.)


Puritan Board Junior
In the OPC, position papers are not binding -- only the primary, secondary, and tertiary standards are binding (different denominations are different on this point). Position papers are useful for study, demonstrating scriptural foundations for positions, and may include recommendations.


Puritan Board Post-Graduate
From the EPC website:

A Position Paper is intended to set forth the "mind" of the General Assembly of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church on some particular issue or subject. It is not intended to be a thorough theological statement nor a complete exegetical Biblical study on a particular issue.

The purpose of such a Position Paper is to enable the Evangelical Presbyterian Church to make a statement to itself, the Christian community or the world in general on a subject of recurring interest or one on which there is current compelling interest. Position papers are not constitutional. Neither do they represent in and of themselves "essentials" of the church.

Positions papers are first introduced in a preliminary form and circulated throughout the church for a period of comment. Thus, the majority votes of two general assemblies are necessary to become a position paper.


Tempus faciendi, Domine.

In the PCA, position papers and studies do not have constitutional authority. They are instead considered "pious advice"--something which should be seriously taken into consideration.

However, if a recommendation proceeding from a study is then adopted as part of the Book of Church Order, that portion of the study [i.e., the recommendation(s) ] would have constitutional authority.

PCA position papers are posted online here: PCA Historical Center: Index to the Position Papers of the Presbyterian Church in America

and the studies of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES), received by the PCA in 1982, are here:
PCA Historical Center: Documents of Synod (RPCES)


Puritanboard Commissioner
Every denomination will have its own polity regarding this.

In the PCA, they are to be given "due and serious consideration" by sessions or presbyteries trying to resolve difficult or complex issues.

They must be approved by General Assembly, by majority vote.

They can produce divided reports, e.g. a majority and minority report, which really makes them more of an "outlet" of opinion than guidance. But most reports are unanimous, and in that would carry more deliberative weight.
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