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Ramsay: The Office of Ruling Elder

In Franklin P. Ramsay on 20/06/2011 at 12:38

Church government, or polity, is one of my continuing interests, particularly in relation to the historical background of the PCA’s BOOK OF CHURCH ORDER. 
The following article by Franklin Pierce Ramsay [1856-1926] appeared posthumously in the July 1930 issue of CHRISTIANITY TODAY, as explained below. Ramsay had written a commentary on the Southern Presbyterian BOOK OF CHURCH ORDER, which was published in 1898 and so the article below can be seen both as an appendix to that volume and as a charge to a ruling elder. Much of the content of Ramsay’s EXPOSITION remains pertinent for the PCA’s BCO, since in many cases the text of the modern edition is still unchanged some 113 years later. Even where the comparable paragraph has changed, Ramsay’s comments still offer good insights into the underlying principles which remain. 

The Office of Ruling Elder : Its Obligations and Responsibilities
By the Rev. F.P. Ramsay, Ph.D.
[Christianity Today 1.3 (July 1930): 5-6.]

The following address was made by the late Dr. Ramsay on the occasion of the installation of his son, R.L. Ramsay, Ph.D., professor of English in the University of Missouri, as an elder in the First Presbyterian Church of Columbia, Mo., on March 25, 1925. It came into our hands through another son, the Rev. Mebane Ramsay of Staten Island, N.Y., who found it among the papers left by his lamented father.

As one is to be here inducted into the office of Ruling Elder of the Presbyterian Church, my remarks will seek to be appropriate to the occasion.

At this induction into office the elder makes a declaration of his doctrinal belief, that the Scriptures are the Word of God, and that the Confession of Faith (and Catechisms) contain the system of doctrine taught in the Scriptures; and he promises to study the (doctrinal) purity of the Church. This is the covenant that he enters into with the Church when inducted into this office. Here is the difference between an unofficial member and an officer in the Presbyterian Church : the member simply professes his personal faith in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ ; the officer professes his belief in the Church’s doctrinal system. One may become a member who does not believe that the Confession of Faith contains the system of doctrine taught in the Scriptures, or even that the Scriptures are the Word of God, if only he trusts in Jesus Christ and means to obey Him ; but one cannot become an officer in the Presbyterian Church without accepting its doctrinal system and intending to strive for the Church’s doctrinal purity–unless he is willing to come into his office on a false profession.

Let me stress this a little. Not the difference between the unofficial members, who are required only to profess faith in Christ, and the officers, who are required to profess acceptance of a body of doctrine. Thus the Presbyterian Church is both liberal and intolerant.

Not that it is intolerant of disbelief in its system of doctrine on the part of its officers. Why? The Church is a propagandist institution, an organization for the purpose of advocating and propagating certain beliefs. It is true that the Church’s end is to produce and nourish a certain life ; but belief is an inseparable element of that life and necessary to it. Or be that as it may, the Church is organized and works upon that assumption, and so sets itself to propagate certain beliefs. This system of beliefs its officers are required to accept and maintain and propagate. Read the rest of this entry »

Cry the Warning!

In Franklin P. Ramsay, Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., The Presbyterian on 25/04/2011 at 22:22

The General Assembly of 1926: A Warning

By the Late Rev. Franklin P. Ramsay, Ph.D.

[The following is part of a sermon preached by Dr. Ramsay on June 13, 1926, in his son’s pulpit at Calvary Presbyterian Church of Staten Island, New York, less than three months before his lamented death on September 30. After mentioning some of the outstanding features of the Assembly of 1926, Dr. Ramsay stated that he would confine himself for the most part, to thoughts suggested in connection with the Report of the Special Commission of Fifteen. After a careful analysis of the report, he said:]

The report was adopted almost unanimously.  I was present.  The report made a profound impression, and gave general satisfaction. Nevertheless, I fear that the church is headed toward a most dangerous conclusion.  The conviction did not come to me while I was under the spell of the report, but since I have come to reflect upon it.  There are three evils in the church to-day, against which I lift a voice of warning.

First. I warn against the suppression of discussion.

Read the rest of this entry »