Who can serve (distribute the elements) the Lord's Supper in the PCA?

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PCAdummy

Puritan Board Freshman
This question is in regards to the PCA, but application from another denomination is appreciated:

Who can distribute the elements of the Lord's supper?
Can a man who is not an ordained officer distribute the elements of the Lord's Table?
Can an Ordained Deacon distribute the elments?
Is the distribution (serving the elements) limited to only Teaching and Ruling Elders?

Please reference any BOC or scriptures.
Thanks,
L.L.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
A minister presides. The Book of Church Order supposes that the elders also should have a special role as it mentions them being "in a convenient place together." But I've not seen that it specifies that they ought to be the ones facilitating the distribution of the elements.

There might be good reasons to have them do so: It might help in fencing the table. It might signify the church's authority in providing the Supper. It might make them more readily available to minister to communicants who need to speak to someone. It might simply make them more visible.

But I don't believe any of this necessarily means others may not help pass the plates. In fact, in most PCA churches everyone (even a non-communicant) helps pass the elements from one person to another down the pew. The issue becomes who's standing in the aisles with a more visible role. I think it's wise that the BCO does not make a binding rule about this.
 

Kevin

Puritan Board Doctor
Only specific BCO rule is that a TE must be present. In practice in many established churches it is the elders that serve, or elders and deacons.

BTW one of the pragmatic reasons that some practice either (or both) coming forward and intinction in church plants is because there is only one elder present.
 

SRoper

Puritan Board Graduate
In the PCA I have seen both men and women distribute the elements even in cases where the congregation comes forward to receive them. Often the men or women distributing will pronounce a blessing to each of the recipients.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Presbyterian Church in America

Book of Church Order

CHAPTER 58
The Administration of the Lord's Supper

58-1. The Communion, or Supper of the Lord, is to be observed
frequently; the stated times to be determined by the Session of each
congregation, as it may judge most for edification.
58-2. The ignorant and scandalous are not to be admitted to the Lord's
Supper.
58-3. It is proper that public notice should be given to the congregation, at
least the Sabbath before the administration of this ordinance, and that, either
then, or on some day of the week, the people be instructed in its nature, and a
due preparation for it, that all may come in a suitable manner to this holy
feast.
58-4. On the day of the observance of the Lord's Supper, when the sermon
is ended, the minister shall show:
a. That this is an ordinance of Christ; by reading the words of
institution, either from one of the Evangelists, or from 1 Corinthians
11, which, as to him may appear expedient, he may
explain and apply;
b. That it is to be observed in remembrance of Christ, to show forth
His death till He come; that it is of inestimable benefit, to
strengthen His people against sin; to support them under
troubles; to encourage and quicken them in duty; to inspire them
with love and zeal; to increase their faith, and holy resolution;
and to beget peace of conscience, and comfortable hopes of
eternal life.
Since, by our Lord's appointment, this Sacrament sets forth the
Communion of Saints, the minister, at the discretion of the Session, before
the observance begins, may either invite all those who profess the true
religion, and are communicants in good standing in any evangelical church,
to participate in the ordinance; or may invite those who have been approved
by the Session, after having given indication of their desire to participate. It
is proper also to give a special invitation to non-communicants to remain
during the service.

58-5. The table, on which the elements are placed, being decently covered,
and furnished with bread and wine, and the communicants orderly and
gravely sitting around it (or in their seats before it), the elders in a convenient
place together, the minister should then set the elements apart by prayer and
thanksgiving.
The bread and wine being thus set apart by prayer and thanksgiving,
the minister is to take the bread, and break it, in the view of the people,
saying:
That the Lord Jesus Christ on the same night in which
He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He
broke it, gave it to His disciples, as I, ministering in His name,
give this bread to you, and said, "Take, eat; this is My body
which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me." (Some other
biblical account of the institution of this part of the Supper may be
substituted here.)
Here the bread is to be distributed. After having given the bread, he
shall take the cup, and say:
In the same manner, He also took the cup, and having
given thanks as has been done in His name, He gave it to the
disciples, saving, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood,
which is shed for many for the remission of sins. Drink from it,
all of you."
While the minister is repeating these words, let him give the cup.
58-6. Since believers are to act personally in all their covenanting with the
Lord, it is proper that a part of the time occupied in the distribution of the
elements should be spent by all in silent communion, thanksgiving,
intercession and prayer.
58-7. The minister may, in a few words, put the communicants in mind:
Of the grace of God, in Jesus Christ, held forth in this
sacrament; and of their obligation to be the Lord's; and may
exhort them to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith they are
called; and, as they have professedly received Christ Jesus the
Lord, that they be careful so to walk in him, and to maintain
good works.

It may not be improper for the minister to give a word of exhortation
also to those who have been only spectators, reminding them:
Of their duty, stating their sin and danger, by living in
disobedience to Christ, in neglecting this holy ordinance; and
calling upon them to be earnest in making preparation for
attending upon it at the next time of its celebration.
Then the minister is to pray and give thanks to God,
For His rich mercy, and invaluable goodness, vouchsafed
to them in that Sacred Communion; to implore pardon for the
defects of the whole service; and to pray for the acceptance of
their persons and performances; for the gracious assistance of
the Holy Spirit to enable them, as they have received Christ
Jesus the Lord, so to walk in Him; that they may hold fast that
which they have received, that no man take their crown; that
their conversation may be as becomes the Gospel; that they may
bear about with them, continually, the dying of the Lord Jesus,
that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in their mortal
body; that their light may so shine before men, that others,
seeing their good works, may glorify their Father who is in
heaven.
An offering for the poor or other sacred purpose is appropriate in
connection with this service, and may be made at such time as shall be
ordered by the Session.
Now let a psalm or hymn be sung, and the congregation dismissed,
with the following or some other Gospel benediction:
Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead
our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the
blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every
good work to do His will, working in you that which is well
pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for
ever and ever. Amen.
58-8. As past custom has been found in many parts of the Presbyterian
Church, our congregations are urged to have a service of spiritual preparation
for the Lord’s Supper during the week previous to the celebration of the
Sacrament.

The constitutional authority, upheld by religious oath is led by a "minister" which is defined in other places of the Book of Church Order as a teaching elder.

The process prescribed very clearly prevents inventions like "intinction," because it very clearly (above) requires utmost care, and a separate contemplation of the elements.

Anything that bespeaks of casual practicality is shameful, and unconstitutional, and a matter of conviction of oath.

The spirit of the section, and there may be case precedent in the PCA, I think there is, is that the elements are to be distributed by the elders. If elders are not available, I think, but am not sure, deacons, but that is a concession. If no elders, and no deacons are available, the minister must distribute the elements himself.

This most important ordinance of worship, including its distribution, ought never be turned over to lay members. The section here encourages advance preparation.

It's the minister's responsibility to make sure elders are available to distribute the elements, that it is done according to the constitution, and in the fear of God.
 

Kevin

Puritan Board Doctor
Scott thanks for weighing in, I knew that you would. ;-)

As for you first point, of course. Does anyone, anywhere dispute this?

As to the second, you are begging the question and engaging in special pleading.

Thirdly, Huh? Do mean to say that if a session orders new communion cups because the old ones leak, they are engaging in "casual practicality (that) is shameful, and unconstitutional"?

Fourth, I get a bit creeped out whenever i hear the language of "spirit of.." or "penumbra" or "emanation". Our constitution is a black letter document. Period. It was written to encompass as many of the orthodox as possible. Not to write them out.

Fifth, Thank you for sharing your opinion. I do not mean to be trite, but what you just said would preclude laymen from passing a cup to the person sitting next to them. If your (innovative) opinion was to be adopted then 99% of PCA congregations would be guilty of violating our standards.

Six, What is a minister to do if he is a church planter and has no elders? Do you realize that your view as stated above would preclude all of those followers of Jesus that have been baptized and joined his Church in a church plant would be effectively excommunicated? Really, is that what you meant to say?
 

Christopher88

Puritan Board Sophomore
What is a minister to do if he is a church planter and has no elders? Do you realize that your view as stated above would preclude all of those followers of Jesus that have been baptized and joined his Church in a church plant would be effectively excommunicated? Really, is that what you meant to say?

That was going to some of my questions.
I would stretch this further to ask about secret churches over sea's; should they not partake of the sacraments because of their lack of ordained elders?
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Kevin,

The most important part is the care with which our Lord requires for administration of His Supper, and we cannot ignore the stern warnings of Scripture in this. It is something all of us, particularly leaders, need to be conscious of, for our Lord will not hold us guiltless.

A teaching elder is under vows and must take responsibility for the administration of the sacrament to see it is protected, and done decently and in good order.

It's not a matter of casualness, invention or practical convenience, just to get it out of the way.

That means advance preparation, as in anything important.

Preparing for that in advance, is part of what communicates are to do, and the responsibility of church officers, and particularly those who would administrate it.

And this must be taught and exampled in every true church of our Lord Jesus Christ.

---------- Post added at 08:31 AM ---------- Previous post was at 08:19 AM ----------

What is a minister to do if he is a church planter and has no elders? Do you realize that your view as stated above would preclude all of those followers of Jesus that have been baptized and joined his Church in a church plant would be effectively excommunicated? Really, is that what you meant to say?

That was going to some of my questions.
I would stretch this further to ask about secret churches over sea's; should they not partake of the sacraments because of their lack of ordained elders?

Ultimately, the responsibility is on the minister who would administrate the Lord's Supper to see that the sacrament is protected, and done decently and in good order.

A church that has not been "particularized" (as we use that term in the PCA) and does not have any other elders or any deacons, of course, ought be moving toward particularization to complete its church government as quickly as possible. The amendments to Chapter 5 of the BCO are intended to facilitate, clarify and benchmark that process, which has always been the goal.

In a temporary, interim situation like you describe (one teaching elder, not one other elder, no deacons), the duties of administering the Lord's Supper (which remember is to members of an evangelical church in good standing) fall back on the minister (teaching elder).

Just as it is a temporary interim situation for a church not to have deacons (in the Presbyterian system) and those duties fall back on the elders, even more so without a single additional elder, the duty falls back on the minister.

Ruling and teaching elders from the presbytery can assist in such temporary situations. Failing all that, the minister administers the Lord's Supper himself.

Ruling and teaching elders from other PCA churches can assist churches in situations as you describe. It is a great blessing that some of the established ruling elders serve with distinction in such capacities, to help church situations like the one you mention.

---------- Post added at 08:44 AM ---------- Previous post was at 08:31 AM ----------

Sonny,

Your original post topic asked about process in the PCA, so I'm addressing that.

Who might administer the Lord's Supper or a sacrament in another denomination might be a topic for another thread.

But remember, in the PCA, officers and members are under vows. They confess a doctrine which is summarized by the Westminster Standards, and reflected albeit to some extent in the other part of their constitution, the Book of Church Order.

Officers or members are accountable for their vows, and that's really the key here in the question your post asks- Who can serve the Lord's Supper in the PCA?.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
But remember, in the PCA, officers and members are under vows. They confess a doctrine which is summarized by the Westminster Standards, and reflected albeit to some extent in the other part of their constitution, the Book of Church Order.

But to be clear... these vows do NOT require church leaders to exclude lay members from passing out the elements. There is NO such expressed stipulation in the BCO. Nor in the Standards. Nor in Scripture.

So when you say lay members ought "never" to be involved in distributing the elements, that's awfully strong language considering there's no expressed statement to that effect anywhere in the documents that govern us.

I point this out so that consciences might not be troubled. I would hate for someone to read that post and fear that for years they've participated in the Supper unworthily because they've been in churches that failed to follow your advice, or because they typically join in passing the elements to and from those in the pew beside them. I would also hate for PCA members to read that and think their church leaders are breaking their vows if those leaders don't follow your recommendation.

Don't get me wrong. I believe having elders take the lead in distribution is a wise practice for most churches. But the Supper is a communal meal that belongs to the whole church, and we shouldn't say that the participation of others in passing the elements to their brothers and sisters ought "never" to happen. We have enough issues getting churches to follow constitutional rules that actually exist.
 

Wayne

Tempus faciendi, Domine.
I am a big advocate of putting the elders out in front of the congregation whenever possible in spiritual matters of prayer, reading the Word, and distribution of Lord's Supper.

Every such opportunity should be taken. The elders are supposed to be the spiritual leaders of the church and should be seen in that light whenever possible.

That said, here is some advice from the old Southern Presbyterian Church (noting that this doesn't have constitutional authority for the PCA):

3. Deacons may assist in distribution of the elements in case of need.
1910, p. 67.
To an overture from the Presbytery of Western Texas touching the distribution of the elements at the Lord's Supper by others than elders,
we recommend that the Assembly reply that under the conditions specified it is permissible that the help of deacons or of worthy members be employed.
(The Assembly's Digest, 1945, p. 261)

The difficulty in the above however is that the Minutes of the Assembly do not provide us with the overture from the Presbytery,
so we don't know what the "conditions specified" might have been.
Safe to say their overture most likely addressed "extenuating circumstances (lack of elders, etc.)
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
I'm not sure we are thinking about this on quite the same lines, so I'll try to clarify the thoughts, please see comments below.

But remember, in the PCA, officers and members are under vows. They confess a doctrine which is summarized by the Westminster Standards, and reflected albeit to some extent in the other part of their constitution, the Book of Church Order.

But to be clear... these vows do NOT require church leaders to exclude lay members from passing out the elements. The PCA BCO does require church leaders to properly handle and administer the elements. So does the Westminster Standards. So does Scripture.

And Scripture issues some stern warnings about improper use of the sacrament.
There is NO such expressed stipulation in the BCO. Nor in the Standards. Nor in Scripture.

So when you say lay members ought "never" to be involved in distributing the elements, I'm not sure what you are understanding by "involved in distributing the elements." I mean they ought not be passing them out during their consecration by the minister. I do not mean passing them down the row when handed to them by the elders. I'm not sure if that is what you have in view.

that's awfully strong language considering there's no expressed statement to that effect anywhere in the documents that govern us.

The language of Scripture (and the BCO) is commensurately strong to protect the spiritual aspect of Christ's presence.

I point this out so that consciences might not be troubled. I would hate for someone to read that post and fear that for years they've participated in the Supper unworthily

Not sure where you are drawing the inference that the communicant is "unworthy." we're talking about the minister, and church officer's responsibility to protect the Lord's Supper generally.

because they've been in churches that failed to follow your advice,
It's not a matter of advice, Chapter 58 is constitution, upheld by vow. We're not free to follow mere advice (that's why inventions like "intinction" are offensive)

or because they typically join in passing the elements to and from those in the pew beside them.

see comment above, I'm not sure we are talking about the same thing.

I would also hate for PCA members to read that and think their church leaders are breaking their vows if those leaders don't follow your recommendation.

Again, Chapter 58 is not recommendation. And church officers inventing "intinction" or turning over distribution to lay people because they did not prepare for administration of this most important ordinance are.

Don't get me wrong. I believe having elders take the lead in distribution is a wise practice for most churches.

Since the post topic is specifically about the PCA, which is governed by constitution and confession, upheld by vows of officers, my comments are confined to that.

But the Supper is a communal meal that belongs to the whole church, and we shouldn't say that the participation of others in passing the elements to their brothers and sisters ought "never" to happen. We have enough issues getting churches to follow constitutional rules that actually exist.

It has become apparent that some are not following constitutional rules, and need to repent.:)

Recently, attending the funeral of a long time PCA ruling elder it came to light, unknown to many, that this dear brother had served as a help for churches that were in temporary situations without elders. A wise and trusted resource to other churches in temporary or unique situations that needed an elder.

This is biblical, and the way historical presbyterianism is set up to work.
 

Kevin

Puritan Board Doctor
Scott you are incorrect.

BCO 58 does not require what you seem to think that it does. It doesn't. I know (and agree with) the standard practice of RE's assisting, but bco 58 does not require it.

I am glad for those brothers that live in the South where there are planty of Re's nearby to help out church plants. But that is not the case elsewhere.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
there are planty of Re's nearby to help out church plants. But that is not the case elsewhere.

There might not be plenty of ruling elders nearby, and region does not excuse the principles or the responsibility.

The BCO does not require a fixed frequency for administration of the Lord's Supper, other than a general principle that it is to be frequently.

On the occasions it is scheduled (ordinarily, with at least one weeks advance notice), it is duty to prepare for it properly.

If a church has only a minister, and no elders, no deacons, and no way to secure even one other elder from its presbytery or "out of bounds" or even "without call" to assist in a proper protection of and distribution of the elements,

And if, after due diligent preparation, all of that is not available, the minister may administer the elements himself, and ought do so.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
So Scott, let me try to understand you.

Is it your position that we ought to read the BCO as prohibiting lay members from passing out the elements... even though the BCO doesn't directly say that? It sounds like you start with an assumption that a lay member passing out the elements is by nature careless or a sign of unpreparedness, and therefore contrary to the BCO. Is this your stance?

Or are you just agruing that if it were up to you, you'd like the BCO to prohibit lay members from passing out the elements? But you admit it doesn't actually say that.

---------- Post added at 04:29 PM ---------- Previous post was at 04:27 PM ----------

Time for a study committee.

Please... no.
 
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