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#24209 Wed Apr 13, 2005 10:45 PM
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I found an article on The Highway that defined Presbyterianism:

Quote

"What Does It Mean That We Are Presbyterian?" Christ Covenant Reformed, PCA
.

The term "Presbyterian" refers to the form of government that is used by a church or a group of churches. It derives its meaning from the Greek word "presbuteros," which is used throughout the New Testament in connection with the rule of the church, and is usually translated "elder." A Presbyterian church governs its congregation by both teaching elders (the pastor) and ruling elders (mature Christian men in the congregation gifted accordingly). Together they make up the "Session" and join with "Sessions" of other regional churches in their denonminaton forming a "Presbytery."

I have further questions:

1. Is the Session self-perpetuating (e.g., voting to call and remove elders)?
2. Is there a separate Presbytery body independent of and above the Sessions?
3. Does the Presbytery exercise authority over the Sessions (e.g., disciplining, calling, removing Session elders)?
4. Does the Presbytery own and control the Session's church property?
5. Is the Presbyterian/Session system the only scripturally based form of church polity?

#24210 Thu Apr 14, 2005 4:10 AM
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Dear Speratus,

A quick reply

1. Elders are always elected by the congregation in the presbyterian system. They can be elected for life or a fixed term.

2. Yes.

3. It can do if the session can't sort things out. Presbyterian churches differ in whether the minister of a church (the teaching elder) is a member of the local church or of the presbytery. Depending on which way you go will affect the mechanics of how discipline is carried out.

4. Again this will vary. In most Reformed presbyterian churches the local congregation owns its property. Too many churches have been burned in liberal denominations, tried to leave, and found they couldn't take their property.

5. Let's say it's the most scriptural system! It would be a mistake to see precise details of how it works out in scripture, but the principle is there.

In Christ,

James.

James #24211 Thu Apr 14, 2005 5:46 AM
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James,

Thanks!

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1. Elders are always elected by the congregation in the presbyterian system. They can be elected for life or a fixed term.

By a voting assembly composed of adults males? Once elected, can they be removed by the congregation?

2. Is the Presbytery body elected for fixed terms or for life, like bishops?

3.& 4. I've heard that courts only recognize two systems: episcopal and congregational. If true, how church documents are written would probably determine the legal authority and power of the Presbytery.

5. From what you have written, it seems that Presbyterianism shares some features of both episcopal (hierarchy) and congregational (voters' assembly) systems and is somewhat flexible in adapting to changing circumstances while remaining scripturally based.

My chief concern would be removal from the teaching office by the Presbytery body without consultation/approval by the local congregation. It seems to me only the congregation can remove the man whom it has placed in the teaching office.

#24212 Thu Apr 14, 2005 7:49 AM
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You asked,
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By a voting assembly composed of adults males? Once elected, can they be removed by the congregation?

2. Is the Presbytery body elected for fixed terms or for life, like bishops?

3.& 4. I've heard that courts only recognize two systems: episcopal and congregational. If true, how church documents are written would probably determine the legal authority and power of the Presbytery.

5. From what you have written, it seems that Presbyterianism shares some features of both episcopal (hierarchy) and congregational (voters' assembly) systems and is somewhat flexible in adapting to changing circumstances while remaining scripturally based.

My chief concern would be removal from the teaching office by the Presbytery body without consultation/approval by the local congregation. It seems to me only the congregation can remove the man whom it has placed in the teaching office.

1) Although there are some disagreements, most if not all Presbyterian denominations allow for all communing members to vote for churh officers.

I do not have access to the BCO now, I would think there is a system for a local congregation to remove their Pastor or Elders. The system would include the Session and Presbytery, just not the congregation action alone.

2) I don't know of anyone in the Presbyterian system that is voted for life. Normally, in the local Session there is a rotation time of service for the an office (Ruling Elders and Deacons). It is not unusual for the officer to be re-elected. The Pastor(s) do not go through this process. He is only called onced. The Presbytery is made up of Teaching Elders (Pasters)and Ruling Elders within the Presbyteray boundary. Although each church normally has only a certain amount of voting Elders. There is a General Assembly above the Presbytery that meets annually. The Moderator is voted for a 1-year term. Then there are special courts (committees) under the authority of the GA.

3&4) Don't know.

5) In the Presbyterian system, there is only a few events where the Congregation votes. The ones that I can remember are the calling of the Pastor and issues regarding the church property. The congregation does not vote on budgets, membersship, etc.

Last edited by John_C; Thu Apr 14, 2005 7:52 AM.

John Chaney

"having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith . . ." Colossians 2:7
#24213 Thu Apr 14, 2005 7:58 AM
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My chief concern would be removal from the teaching office by the Presbytery body without consultation/approval by the local congregation. It seems to me only the congregation can remove the man whom it has placed in the teaching office.
From the PCA BCO.

Chapter 34

Special Rules Pertaining to Process Against a Minister (Teaching Elder)

34-1. Process against a minister shall be entered before the Presbytery of which he is a member. However, if the Presbytery refuses to act in doctrinal cases or cases of public scandal and two other Presbyteries request the General Assembly to assume original jurisdiction (to first receive and initially hear and determine), the General Assembly shall do so.

34-2. As no minister ought, on account of his office, to be screened in his sin, or slightly censured, so scandalous charges ought not to be received against him on slight grounds.

34-3. If any one knows a minister to be guilty of a private offense, he should warn him in private. But if the offense be persisted in, or become public, he should bring the case to the attention of some other minister of the Presbytery.

34-4. a. When a minister accused of an offense is found contumacious (cf. 32-6), he shall be immediately suspended from the sacraments and his office for his contumacy. Record shall be made of the fact and of the charges under which he was arraigned, and the censure shall be made public. The censure shall in no case be removed until the offender has not only repented of his contumacy, but has also given satisfaction in relation to the charges against him.

b. If after further endeavor by the court to bring the accused to a sense of his guilt, he persists in his contumacy, he shall be deposed and excommunicated from the Church.

34-5. Heresy and schism may be of such a nature as to warrant deposition; but errors ought to be carefully considered, whether they strike at the vitals of religion and are industriously spread, or whether they arise from the weakness of the human understanding and are not likely to do much injury.

34-6. If the Presbytery find on trial that the matter complained of amounts to no more than such acts of infirmity as may be amended, so that little or nothing remains to hinder the minister’s usefulness, it shall take all prudent measures to remove the scandal.

34-7. When a minister, pending a trial, shall make confession, if the matter be base and flagitious, such as drunkenness, uncleanness, or crimes of a greater nature, however penitent he may appear to the satisfaction of all, the court shall without delay impose definite suspension or depose him from the ministry.

34-8. A minister under indefinite suspension from his office or deposed for scandalous conduct shall not be restored, even on the deepest sorrow for his sin, until he shall exhibit for a considerable time such an eminently exemplary, humble and edifying life and testimony as shall heals the wound made by his scandal. A deposed minister shall in no case be restored until it shall appear that the general sentiment of the Church is strongly in his favor, and demands his restoration; and then only by the court inflicting the censure, or with that court’s consent.

34-9. When a minister is deposed, his pastoral relation shall be dissolved; but when he is suspended from office it shall be left to the discretion of the Presbytery whether the censure shall include the dissolution of the pastoral relation.

34-10. Whenever a minister of the Gospel shall habitually fail to be engaged in the regular discharge of his official functions, it shall be the duty of the Presbytery, at a stated meeting, to inquire into the cause of such dereliction and, if necessary, to institute judicial proceedings against him for breach of his covenant engagement. If it shall appear that his neglect proceeds only from his lack of acceptance to the Church, Presbytery may, upon the same principle upon which it withdraws license from a licentiate for lack of evidence of the divine call, divest him of his office without censure, even against his will, a majority of two-thirds (2/3) being necessary for this purpose.

In such a case, the clerk shall under the order of the Presbytery forthwith deliver to the minister concerned a written note that, at the next stated meeting, the question of his being so dealt with is to be considered. This notice shall distinctly state the grounds for this proceeding. The party thus notified shall be heard in his own defense; and if the decision pass against him he may appeal, as if he had been tried after the usual forms. This principle may apply, with any necessary changes, to ruling elders and deacons.


Reformed and Always Reforming,
#24214 Fri Apr 15, 2005 4:46 AM
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Dear Speratus,

I'm possibly duplicating other comments here but it is important to realise some of the quotes from a Book of Church Order are specific to one particular denomination. Others may choose to do things a bit differently.

1. Usually all members can vote, though some may do it differently.

2. The presbytery is composed of all those who are ruling elders of churches. Depending on how ruling elders are elected they may be members for life or a fixed term. Teaching elders are also members of presbytery. Since their calling as ministers is recognised in a general sense by the presbytery they will be members for life.

3. & 4. The courts in the UK would recognise all three forms.

5. I expect both can happen, for example if a man starts teaching error but his congregation adores him and takes no action, then presbytery could act.

I hope this helps.

In Christ,

James.
5.

John_C #24215 Fri Apr 15, 2005 3:01 PM
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I don't know of anyone in the Presbyterian system that is voted for life.

You do now!! <img src="/forum/images/graemlins/hello.gif" alt="" />

I'm a lifer. No re-elections in my congregation.


Jimbo

Revelation 4:11
Jimbo #24216 Fri Apr 15, 2005 8:22 PM
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Just for clarification on my part, all Elders are ordained for life. My point is that many churches use a time length where an Elder is ruling actively on the Session.

And, I think that is good in a church.


John Chaney

"having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith . . ." Colossians 2:7
James #24217 Fri Apr 15, 2005 10:01 PM
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James said:
5. I expect both can happen, for example if a man starts teaching error but his congregation adores him and takes no action, then presbytery could act.

I hope this helps.

Yes, it does. If a faithful Presbytery can remove a corrupt teaching elder without the consent of the congregation, I suppose a corrupt Presbytery could remove a faithful teaching elder. And the congregation could nothing about it except abandon its property and form a new church (assuming the faithful teaching elder was willing to leave his corrupt Presbytery). Correct?

I believe a lifetime or indefinite appointment is correct for elders. The Holy Ghost calls men to be overseers (Acts 20:28) using means of the Presbytery and the congregational vote. Just as the Holy Ghost calls, the Holy Ghost removes when the elder's unfitness is manifest. Setting an office term changes the nature of the office into a job with human limitations.

Similarly, when a teaching elder can be removed by either the Presbytery or the congregation and not both, the teaching elder is being treated like an employee who can be hired and fired, not a man holding a divine office by the call of God.

Jimbo #24218 Fri Apr 15, 2005 10:24 PM
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Jimbo said:
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I don't know of anyone in the Presbyterian system that is voted for life.

You do now!! <img src="/forum/images/graemlins/hello.gif" alt="" />

I'm a lifer. No re-elections in my congregation.

You know I had an old Navy Chief once tell me in language quite colorful and not fit for this company that the term "Lifer" was for inmates in a prison and not for someone who was a career officer. And I think that he may have that right. <img src="/forum/images/graemlins/scratchchin.gif" alt="" />


Peter

If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don't like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself. Augustine of Hippo
James #24219 Sat Apr 16, 2005 6:17 AM
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James said:

5. Let's say it's the most scriptural system! It would be a mistake to see precise details of how it works out in scripture, but the principle is there.

Although Episcopal and Congregational forms of church government were instituted with a good and useful intent, I believe the Presbyterian polity is superior. Any new congregation being organized into a church should seriously consider adopting the Presbyterian model. But existing churches need not alter their current system unless there are specific features that are contrary to scripture (e.g., Papism, Anabaptism, etc.).

#24220 Mon Apr 18, 2005 6:30 AM
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Whether the congregation would have to start all over again would depend on who owned the property in that denomination. Many of the conservative Reformed denominations in the US had bad experiences of this on leaving liberal mainline denominations in the past. Now property is often owned by the congregation to prevent such abuses in the future.

In Christ,

James.

Peter #24221 Mon Apr 18, 2005 2:59 PM
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I am a bond-servant of Christ.

In all seriousness... yes, you are correct about the lifer thing. <img src="/forum/images/graemlins/bingo.gif" alt="" />


Jimbo

Revelation 4:11
John_C #24222 Mon Apr 18, 2005 3:03 PM
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Funny thing, John, this came up about a week or three ago, ahem, someplace else we both frequent.

When I say I'm a "lifer" (not the criminal as noted below), not only do I mean that i'm ordained for life, but that there are no terms of office in our congregation. And personally, that's how I think it should be.


Jimbo

Revelation 4:11
#24223 Mon Jun 20, 2005 10:59 AM
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speratus said:
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James said:

5. Let's say it's the most scriptural system! It would be a mistake to see precise details of how it works out in scripture, but the principle is there.

Although Episcopal and Congregational forms of church government were instituted with a good and useful intent, I believe the Presbyterian polity is superior.

I recently found this Martin Chemnitz quote dated 1593-1603. It seems Chemnitz was presbyterian before Presbyterianism.

Quote
Ministry, Word and Sacraments
24 Is a Christian magistrate, therefore, permitted to call and appoint ministers in the church without the will and consent of the ministry and the rest of the church?

As the Roman pontiff, with them who are his, has committed a great sacrilege in this, that he has taken the election and call of ministers away from the church and transferred [it] to himself alone, so a political magistrate also becomes guilty of the same offense when he takes for himself alone the power to appoint the ministries in the church, with the ministry and the rest of the church excluded. For a pious magistrate is not the whole church, but only part of it. Ps 47:9. nor is he the lord of the church, but nursing father (Is 49:23), in fact, its servant (Is 60:10).

25 But do Anabaptists do right, who entrust the whole right of calling to the common multitude (which they take the word ekklesia to mean), with the ministry and pious magistrate excluded?

By no means. For the church in each place is called, and is, the whole body embracing under Christ, the Head, all the members of that place. Eph 4:15-16; 1 Co 12:12-14, 27. Therefore as the call belongs not only to the ministry nor only to the magistrate, so also is it not to be made subject to the mere will [and] whim of the common multitude, for no part, with either one or both [of the others] excluded, is the church. But the call should be and remain in the power of the whole church, but with due order observed.

26 Ought then the whole multitude (especially where it is very large) indiscriminately and without order handle the matter of election and call?

God is not a God of confusion; He rather wants all things to be done and administered decently and in order in the church. 1 Co 14:40. Therefore to avoid confusion, at the time of the apostles and also after their time in the ancient and pure church, the matter of the election and call of ministers of the Word was always handled according to a certain order by the chief members of the church in the name and with the consent of the whole church. Thus the apostles first set forth a directive as to what kind of persons are to be chosen for the ministries of the church. Acts 1:15 ff.; 6:2ff. Then the church, according to that rule of the directive, chose and set forth some. But since the call belongs not only to the multitude or common people in the church, therefore they submitted those who were chosen and nominated to the judgment of the apostles, whether they be fit for that ministry according to the rule of the divine Word. And so the election of the multitude was confirmed by the approval of the apostles.

And thus finally the ministries are committed to those nominated, elected, and called, with the solemn prayer of the whole church and public testimony, namely the laying on of hands. Acts 6:5-6. But since the multitude of the church is not always such that it can search out and propose for election those that are fit, the apostles themselves often nominated suitable persons and proposed them to the churches. Tts 1:5; 1 Ti 1:3, 2 Ti 2:2.

Thus Paul sent Titus, Timothy, [and] Silvanus to churches. But the apostles did not thrust those persons on the churches without either invitation or consent, but nominated or presented them to the churches, which then approved and confirmed that nomination or election with their own free election, as Luke describes this custom with the word cheirotonia, Acts 14:23.

Finally, after the church had grown into a large multitude, a presbytery was arranged and set up already at the very time of the apostles to handle this matter. 1 Ti 4:14. In this [presbytery], according to the accounts of Tertullian and Ambrose, some were chosen and appointed, from all the orders or members of the church, to take care of and administer these and similar church matters in the name and with the consent of the whole church. And thus the call remained that of the whole complete church, yet with proper and decent order observed. The church immediately following diligently followed these apostolic footsteps. And since the government also began to embrace the doctrine of the Gospel, the whole matter of the election and call of ministers was ordinarily best distributed among the three chief orders of the church, namely, clergy, the pious ruler, and the faithful people. Many notable old canons are quoted regarding this rite, Dist. 23, 24, 62, 65, and 67. And the old church histories testify that at times the bishops and clergy proposed persons to be called, at times a pious ruler nominated [them], at times the people requested [them], but they then presented those proposed, nominated and requested persons to the other orders or members of the church, that the election might be approved and confirmed by their judgment and consent, Cyprian, Book 1, Ep. 4; Augustine, Ep. 100. From this there still remain the words nomination, request, presentation, consensus, confirmation, and conferring; from these words, rightly considered, it can be understood how and with what order the call of ministers of the church both was once regulated and ought to be properly administered in our time.

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