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Ruling Elders as Moderators

In Elders, Presbyterian Church in the U.S. [PCUS] on 02/08/2012 at 09:36

The moderator of the first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America was a ruling elder–the Hon. W. Jack Williamson. Since that time, the PCA has established a tradition of alternating between ruling elders and teaching elders in its nomination and election of moderators for the General Assembly. But this practice remains unusual among Presbyterian denominations. Even within our own ecclesiastical heritage, it wasn’t always so, as Rev. R.C. Reed explains in this review of the PCUS General Assembly of 1914 :

“The Assembly elected a ruling elder to preside over its sessions. The law which makes the ruling elder eligible to the moderatorship of all our church courts is but a corollary of a fundamental principle of Presbyterianism–the parity in authority of all Presbyters. Our church did right to put this corollary into the form of law, and it ought not to suffer the law to lapse into a condition of innocuous desuetude. We cannot be accused of working it overtime. The law was enacted in 1886. It was seven years after that date before it received its first practical recognition in the election of Hon. J.W. Lapsley. Only four ruling elders have presided over our Assemblies in the twenty-eight years since the way was open for them to be honored with this responsibility. Always there is good material among the ministerial members to fill the office, as there was in the last Assembly, and there is never any reluctance on their part to serve, but they, as well as others, allow the propriety of occasionally electing a ruling elder in order to do justice to the principle of parity.”

[excerpted from “The General Assembly of 1914” by R.C. Reed, in Union Seminary Review 26.1 (October 1914): 4.]

This change to the constitution of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. was enacted in 1886, as Rev. Reed notes. The overture to enact this change first came from the Synod of Virginia and from the Presbytery of Chickasaw, in 1884. The Minutes of the 1885 Assembly (p. 432) note that:

The Committee on Bills and Overtures reported on the overtures from the Synod of Virginia and from the Presbytery of Chickasaw, which were sent to the last Assembly and referred by it to this (see Minutes of 1884, pages 249 and 250), asking an amendment of the Form of Government in reference to the duties of ruling elders when elected moderators of church courts. Pending the discussion, a substitute was offered by the Rev. P.T. Penick, which was adopted, and is as follows:

That the request contained in these overtures be granted and that the Assembly hereby recommends and sends down to the Presbyteries for their advice and consent thereunto the following:

That to the clause in the Form of Government, Chapter IV., Section 3, Paragraph 2, stating that ruling elders “possess the same authority in the courts of the Church as the ministers of the word,” shall be added this sentence, “When, however, a ruling elder is moderator of a Presbytery, Synod, or General Assembly, any official duty devolving upon him the performance of which requires the exercise of functions pertaining only to the teaching elder, shall be remitted by him for execution to such minister of the word, being a member of the court, as he may select. Read the rest of this entry »

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Elders and Deacons in the Church of Scotland.

In Deacons, Elders on 26/05/2011 at 15:53

A timely review of some of the basics as we approach the time for General Assembly.

The First Institution of Elders and Deacons in the Church of Scotland, the Qualifications of these Office-bearers, and their Proper Functions, according to a Form of Church Policy submitted to the Convention of Edinburgh, 1560. From Spottiswood’s History, Edition of 1655. Published by the Evangelist.
[excerpted from
The Central Presbyterian 31.34 (19 February 1896): 2.]
Spelling has been modernized, for your convenience.

The eighth head concerning Elders and Deacons.

Men of best knowledge, of purest life, and most honest conversation that can be found in every Church, must be nominated for these offices, and their names publicly read unto the congregation, that from amongst those some may be chosen to serve as Elders and Deacons. If any be nominated, who is noted with public infamy, he must be repelled; for it is not seemly that the servant of corruption should have authority to judge in the Church of God: or if any man know others that are of better qualities within the Church, then those who are nominated, the same shall be joined to the others, that the Church may have the choice. If the Churches be few in number, so as Elders and Deacons cannot conveniently be had, the same Church may be joined to the next adjacent; for the plurality of Churches without Ministers and order doth rather hurt, than edify.

The election of Elders and Deacons ought to be made every year once, which we judge most convenient to be done the first of August yearly, lest men by long continuance in those Offices presume upon the liberty of the Church. And yet it hurts not, if a man be retained in office more years then one, so as he be appointed yearly thereto by common and free election: Providing always that the Deacons, and Treasurers of the Church be not compelled to receive again the same Office for the space of 2 years. How the suffrages shall be given and received, every several Church may take the order that seems best to them.

The Elders being elected must be admonished of their Office, which is to assist the Minister in all public affairs of the Church; to wit, in judging and discerning of cases, in giving admonition to licentious livers, and having an eye upon the manners and conversation of all men within their charge: for by the gravity of the Elders the loose and dissolute manners of other men ought to be restrained and corrected. The Elders ought also to take heed to the life, manners, diligence and study of their Ministers; And if he be worthy of admonition, they must admonish him; if of correction, they must correct him; and if he be worthy of deposition, they with the consent of the Church and Superintendent may depose him.

The Office of Deacons is to receive the rents, and gather the Alms of the Church, to keep and distribute the same as they shall be appointed by the Ministry and the Church; yet they may also assist in judgment the Minister and Elders, and be admitted to read in public Assemblies, if they be called, required and found able thereto. Read the rest of this entry »