PART ONE

DOCTRINE, GOVERNMENT, and OFFICES

 

 

Chapter 1 : DOCTRINE AND GOVERNMENT

1.1 Doctrine

.01 Westminster Presbyterian Church (which hereinafter may also be called, "this church", or "this denomination", or "WPC") is a branch of the visible Church, Reformed in doctrine and Presbyterian in government.

.02 The supreme standard of this denomination and the only infallible rule of faith and life by which in every case this denomination as a branch of the visible Church is to exercise its ministry is the written Word of God, the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.

.03 The Westminster Confession of Faith (or, WCF) is accepted as expressing the system of doctrine taught in the Scriptures and is the subordinate standard of this denomination.

.04 The form of the Westminster Confession of Faith adhered to is that adopted by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian Church in America. This is the same form as the one that was adopted by the first American Presbyterian Assembly of 1789, with two exceptions, namely, the deletion of strictures against marrying one's wife's kindred (XXIV: 4), and of the reference to the Pope as the Antichrist (XXV: 6). The American amendments of Chapter XXIII on the civil magistrate (adopted in 1789), as well as the following minor revisions to remove the powers of the civil magistrate, have been applied to the version of the WCF adopted:

Other than these changes, this is the WCF as agreed upon by the Assembly of Divines at Westminster that met from 1643-1647.

.05 Later sections of this BCO set forth details of the structures and procedures of this denomination.

1.2 Government

.01 General Concepts in Presbyterian church government.

.02 Fundamental principles of Presbyterian church government.

.03 The Vision Statement and Connectionalism.

.04 The constituent entities of WPC and their scriptural bases.

    (1) The local churches, the sessions (local elderships), the presbyteries (regional elderships), the national assembly, or Synod (national eldership).

    (2) Scriptural basis for the organisation of the local church: Christians are enjoined not to neglect local assembly but to counsel, comfort, and encourage one another (Hebrews 10:24, 25; 1 Thessalonians 4:18). Paul directed that elders be ordained in every church (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5; 2 Timothy 2:2). The first day of the week, "the Lord's Day", is regularly the day for local Christian assembly (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2).

    (3) The scriptural basis for the organisation of regional churches: the church at Ephesus had more than one congregation: the church in the house of Aquila and Priscilla is mentioned as a local church (1 Corinthians 16:19), a part of the church of Ephesus (Acts 20:17). The New Testament church in Rome also included more than one local church (Romans 16:5).

    (4) The scriptural basis for a general synod of presbyters representing different regional presbyteries is found in the example of the apostolic church as recorded in Acts 15:1-35 and Acts 16:4-5.

 

 

Chapter 2 : OFFICES

2.1 Gifts and Offices

The Scriptures teach that God has given men of differing gifts and offices for the government of the Church. See, for example, Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 7:7; 12:1-31; Ephesians 4:7-16. Some of these ceased at the close of the Apostolic Age. Perpetual offices for the Church are those of the presbyter (elder) and the deacon.

2.2 The Presbyterate

.01 The qualifications of presbyters are outlined in the Scriptures, especially in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9.

.02 Presbyters are to guard, guide, feed, oversee, and rule the flock of God by teaching, exhortation and godly example.

.03 The official authority of presbyters is exercised in the assemblies of the denomination – sessions, presbyteries, the synod – and by authorization by the appropriate assembly.

.04 The system of local and wider assemblies is not an hierarchical system but a more general exercise of the office of presbyter in a wider sphere of the church.

.05 A presbyter who is not at a particular time an active member of any assembly may nevertheless be called upon to serve in a special role and be accountable to the appointing assembly.

.06 No presbyter may be removed from office except as provided for in this BCO.

.07 There is complete parity of authority, but not of function, among the presbyters.

.08 Teaching elders are presbyters with a special gifting and calling in the church to preaching and teaching. A teaching elder has particular responsibility to: faithfully minister the Word, both publicly and privately; conduct public worship (including administration of the sacraments); care as a pastor for his people; visit the people, especially the sick; instruct the young; conduct marriages and funerals; aid in the government of the church, and provide a Christian example at all times.

.09 The ministry of the Word and sacraments, and prayer, are the primary functions of the teaching elder. Local churches must recognise this and ensure that other functions do not unduly impact upon this primary role. Teaching elders share with ruling elders the pastoral responsibility for the care and government of the church.

.10 Ruling elders are presbyters who are not ordained to the special gifting and calling in the church to preaching and teaching, but share with teaching elders the other responsibilities of presbyters in the care and government of the church.

.11 A local church finding itself without a teaching elder must not be satisfied with its circumstances but must seek God's provision of a teaching elder.

.12 If a local church is temporarily without a teaching elder, and if no teaching elder is available for a particular occasion, the session and presbytery together may authorize a ruling elder to preach and administer the sacraments on that occasion.

2.3 The Diaconate.

.01 The qualifications of deacons are outlined in the Scriptures, especially in 1 Timothy 3:8-13 and Acts 6:1-6.

.02 The exact nature of the relationship between the diaconate and the session shall be determined by consultation with the session in the local church in which they serve. The session should encourage the deacons to be creative in their ministries. Deacons are not assistant presbyters nor do they exercise rule in the congregation. Though their work is under the oversight of the presbyters they do not need the immediate involvement of the presbyters in all their work. Some, but not all, meetings of the diaconate require attendance by one or more presbyters. This can be negotiated in each local church. Minutes of meetings of the diaconate must be accessible by the session. The diaconate is to be accountable to the session for the ministries in which it engages.

.03 Diaconal work, historically, has chiefly been in the field of ministry to the needy and in administration of finances {see, for example, chapter 8 of The Second Book of Discipline (1578)}. Deacons have precedent and scope to develop specific ministries of mercy and administration and stewardship relating to both inside and outside the congregations in which they serve.

.04 Ministry to the needy need not be understood as fulfilled only by supplying money or goods to people in financial hardship. Physical, social, mental, emotional, and psychological needs of various age groups are concerns for deacons to consider. Deacons should look for untapped resources of skills and willingness, and endeavour to harness them to the ministries of compassion and the building up of the church.

.05 The functions of the deacon are performed through the diaconate (board of deacons) and not individually except as authorized by the diaconate.

.06 A deacon not actively engaged in a local church diaconate may be appointed to a special task and be accountable to the appointing body.

.07 No deacon may be removed from office except as provided for in this BCO.

.08 It is often expedient that the session of a church should select and appoint godly women and men of the congregation to assist the deacons in their work.

2.4 Officers' Ordination and Installation Questions.

.01 All presbyters, deacons, and licentiates of this denomination shall give affirmative answers to the following questions at ordination, installation, or appointment.