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The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

Chapter 58 : The Administration of the Lord's Supper

Paragraph 4 :

Acts & Deliverances of Other Presbyterian Denominations : OPC Study on Fencing the Table.

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.

DIGEST :
The current text of this paragraph dates to 1975 [M3GA, 3-89, p. 96]. Additional changes to Chapter 58 were adopted in 1981 [M9GA, 9-65, Item 6, p. 140], but this particular paragraph was not affected, and so has stood unchanged since 1975. It should be noted that the middle section of BCO 58-4, the paragraph which begins "That this is an ordinance of Christ;..." has remained unchanged since the establishment of the first General Assembly on American soil, in 1797.
In 1992, a proposed amendment to BCO 58-4 was defeated
[M20GA, 20-12, Item 6, p. 54]. The matter had come before the 19th General Assembly [M19GA, 19-9, Item 5, pp. 54-55], but was deferred to the 20th General Assembly.
Then in 1993, Overture 25 from the Third Reformed Presbyterian Church, requesting that the requirement of
membership in an evangelical church be deleted, was answered in the negative. [M21GA, 21-56, III, recommendation 18].
On minor matters, a typographical error occurs in both PCA 1973 and the Proposed BCO, in that only the opening quotation mark is used and the closing quote mark is lacking: "to show forth His death till He come;. PCUS 1933 does not employ quote marks in this paragraph. PCUS 1925 employs quote marks for the first long paragraph, and so this may have been the basis for the quote marks mishandled in the early PCA texts.]

ANTECEDENT TEXTS :
PCA 1973, DfW, 12-3, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, pp. 159-160
and
Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, DfW 12-3, Proposed text, p. [73]
When the time for the administration of the Sacrament has come, the minister shall show:
That this is an ordinance of Christ; by reading the words of institution, either from one of the evangelists, or from I Corinthians XI, which, as to him may appear expedient, he may explain and apply; 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.
He shall invite to partake of the Sacrament all those who repenting of their sins, and trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, desire to live as becometh followers of Christ.
Since, by our Lord's appointment, this Sacrament sets forth the communion of believers, the minister, before the celebration begins, should invite all those who are communicants in good standing in any evangelical church, to participate in the Sacrament.

PCUS 1933, DfW XII, § 358
When the time for the administration of the Sacrament has come, the minister shall show:
That this is an ordinance of Christ; by reading the words of institution, either from one of the evangelists, or from I Corinthians XI, which, as to him may appear expedient, he may explain and apply; 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.
He shall invite to partake of the Sacrament all those who repenting of their sins, and trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, desire to live as becometh followers of Christ.
Since, by our Lord's appointment, this Sacrament sets forth the communion of believers, the minister, before the celebration begins, should invite all those who are communicants in good standing in any evangelical church, to participate in the Sacrament.

PCUS 1925, DfW XI-4, § 350
When the sermon is ended, the Minister shall show:
"That this is an ordinance of Christ; by reading the words of institution, either from one of the evangelists, or from I Corinthians xi, which, as to him may appear expedient, he may explain and apply; 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."
He is to warn the profane, the ignorant, and scandalous, and those that secretly indulge themselves in any known sin, not to approach the holy table. On the other hand, he shall invite to this holy table such as, sensible of their lost and helpless state of sin, depend upon the atonement of Christ for pardon and acceptance with God; such as, being instructed in the gospel doctrine, have a competent knowledge to discern the Lord's body, and such as desire to renounce their sins, and are determined to lead a holy and godly life.
Since, by our Lord's appointment, this sacrament sets forth the communion of saints, the Minister, before the celebration begins, should invite all those who profess the true religion, and are communicants in good standing in any evangelical church, to participate in the ordinance. It is proper also to give a special invitation to non-communicants to remain during the service.

PCUS 1894, DfW XI-4
When the sermon is ended, the minister shall show:
"That this is an ordinance of Christ; by reading the words of institution, either from one of the evangelists, or from I Corinthians xi, which, as to him may appear expedient, he may explain and apply; 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."
He is to warn the profane, the ignorant, and scandalous, and those that secretly indulge themselves in any known sin, not to approach the holy table. On the other hand, he shall invite to this holy table such as, sensible of their lost and helpless state of sin, depend upon the atonement of Christ for pardon and acceptance with God; such as, being instructed in the gospel doctrine, have a competent knowledge to discern the Lord's body, and such as desire to renounce their sins, and are determined to lead a holy and godly life.
Since, by our Lord's appointment, this sacrament sets forth the communion of saints, the minister, before the celebration begins, should invite all those who profess the true religion, and are communicants in good standing in any evangelical church, to participate in the ordinance. It is proper also to give a special invitation to non-communicants to remain during the service.

PCUSA 1823, DfW, VIII-4

When the sermon is ended, the minister shall shew, 'That this is an ordinance of Christ; by reading the words of institution, either from one of the evangelists, or from 1 Cor xi. chapter; which, as to him may appear expedient, he may explain and apply; that it is to be observed in remembrance of Christ, to shew 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.
He is to warn the profane, the ignorant, and scandalous, and those that secretly indulge themselves in any known sin, not to approach the holy table.  On the other hand, he shall invite to this holy table, such as, sensible of their lost and helpless state by sin, depend upon the atonement of Christ for pardon and acceptance with God; such as, being instructed in the Gospel doctrine, have a competent knowledge to discern the Lord's body; and such as desire to renounce their sins, and are determined to lead a holy and godly life. 

PCUSA 1797, Directory for Worship, VIII-4
When the sermon is ended, the minister shall show:
"That this is an ordinance of Christ; by reading the words of institution, either from one of the evangelists, or from I Cor. xi. chapter ; which, as to him may appear expedient, he may explain and apply; 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."
He is to warn the profane, the ignorant, and scandalous, and those that secretly indulge themselves in any known sin, not to approach the holy table. On the other hand, he shall invite to this holy table such as, sensible of their lost and helpless state by sin, depend upon the atonement of Christ for pardon and acceptance with God; such as, being instructed in the gospel doctrine, have a competent knowledge to discern the Lord's body; and such as desire to renounce their sins, and are determined to lead a holy and godly life.

The Directory for the Publick Worship of God (1645), "Of the Celebration of the Communion"
, paragraphs 4 - 6 :
When the day is come for administration, the minister having ended his sermon and prayer, shall make a short exhortation:
"Expressing the inestimable benefit we have by this sacrament, together with the ends and use thereof: setting forth the great necessity of having our comforts and strength renewed thereby in this our pilgrimage and warfare: how necessary it is that we come unto it with knowledge, faith, repentance, love, and with hungering and thirsting souls after Christ and his benefits: how great the danger to eat and drink unworthily."
"Next, he is, in the name of Christ, on the one part, to warn all such as are ignorant, scandalous, profane, or that live in any sin or offense against their knowledge or conscience, that they presume not to come to that holy table; showing them, that he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment unto himself: and, on the other part, he is in an especial manner to invite and encourage all that labour under the sense of the burden of their sins, and fear of wrath, and desire to reach out unto a greater progress in grace than yet they can attain unto, to come unto the Lord's table; assuring them, in the same name, of ease, refreshing, and strength to their weak and wearied souls."

COMMENTARY:
[none available at this time]

CONSTITUTIONAL INQUIRY:

1986 - Constitutional Inquiry #2,
from the Westminster Presbyterian Church, Godfry, IL [M14GA, Appendix I, C, Item 2, p. 330].
"May the Session approve an individual to participate in the Lord's table who is not a member in good standing in an evangelical church?"
Answer: No. The minister may (at the discretion of the Session) invite participants to the Lord's Table by either of two methods (BCO 58-4):
1. He may invite "all those who profess...and are communicants in good standing..."
2. He may invite those approved by the Session. This later method refers to "closed communion", by which those who are members of particular churches other than the host church must be examined by the Session in order to be permitted to participate. In either case, membership in good standing in an evangelical church is required. (See WCF XXV 2-3, WLC Q&A 62 and 63. See also Warfield, Plan of Salvation, for the historical definition of evangelical.)
1986 - Assembly action on Inquiry #2
[M14GA, 14-52, Item 10, p. 125]
That the General Assembly answer Constitutional Inquiry #2 from Westminster Presbyterian Church, Godfry, IL, (regarding participation in the Lord's table) (Appendix I, I.C.2, p. 330) by saying, "This matter should be left to the spiritual discernment of the Session." Adopted.
[Defeated was a motion to "add following the word 'Session.', 'Sessions are to be guided in this matter by decisions of the Eleventh General Assembly (in Case 2, M11GA, p. 139ff.) and the Twelfth General Assembly (in Cases 4, 5, and 7, M12GA, p. 173ff) which address this issue. Such actions of previous General Assemblies are to be understood in light of BCO 14-7 as it has been adopted by this Assembly.'" Defeated.]

1987 - Judgments 2 & 5 in Complaint of TE Carl Bogue, et al. vs. Presbytery of the Ascension
[M15GA, 15-63, III, pp. 134-135.]
2.
"...The Eleventh General Assembly's decision on Judicial Case 2 did interpret BCO 58-4 as requiring church membership for admission to the Lord's Supper; however, the Fourteenth General Assembly approved a broader interpretation, which appears to this Commission to be consistent with the grammatical construction of BCO 58-4. (Wording approved 14-2-0.)
5. "The Presbytery illegitimately reinterprets the BCO 58-4 which requires membership in an evangelical church, declaring its 'intent' is to not require membership in an evangelical church." Denied (4-11-1). The Judicial Commission's ruling on Case 2 adopted by the Eleventh General Assembly did indeed interpret BCO 58-4 as requiring church membership for participation in the Lord's Supper, and therefore the complainants legitimately pursued their complaint out of concern for due respect for ecclesiastical authority and out of concern for the importance of the relationship of church membership and the sacraments. However, on the basis of the Fourteenth General Assembly's decision allowing a broader interpretation of BCO 58-4, the "Session approval" position is now a legitimate basis for Presbytery's acceptance of Mr. Lutgen's views. It is not correct to say that Presbytery declared that BCO 58-4's intent is, "to not require membership in an evangelical church" since Presbytery recognized that in all but very extraordinary circumstances church membership would be required for admission to the sacraments. (Wording approved 14-2.)

1993 - 21-56, III, 18, p. 141
18. That Overture 25 from Third Reformed Presbyterian Church be answered in the negative, and instruct the Stated Clerk to communicate the following grounds to the Session of Third Reformed Presbyterian Church (in denial of their overture) and to Philadelphia Presbytery (in support of their action regarding this overture):
a. In recognition that this is the "Lord's table," 1 Corinthians 10:21, not the table of one church only, BCO 58-4 permits "open communion," that is, allowing members in good standing of any evangelical church to partake; and "close communion," which permits only those members of other churches who have been examined and approved by the Session to partake. (It does not permit "closed communion," the practice of excluding all but members of the particular congregation).
b. In the judgment of charity, we believe that other evangelical churches have examined and found credible the faith of their members and, on the basis of this presumed approval, in "open communion" we invite members of other churches to the Lord's table in our midst. In "close communion," the Session of a particular church itself determines the credibility of a visitor's profession of faith. There is no such available assessment in this life for members of the Invisible Church.
c. Baptism is into a community of believers, that is a church. Unbaptized people certainly should not be permitted to come to the Table. Of course unbaptized people credibly professing faith in Christ and seeking admittance to the Table should be baptized with all proper speed, and thereupon admitted to the Table. At this point, these communicants are baptized members of a visible church.
d. One cannot love Christ and eschew His bride. The credible profession of persons unwilling to unite to Christ's Church must be questioned. Any sinful unwillingness to unite with Christ's people should be addressed pastorally (Hebrews 10:25; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17). Those unwilling to unite to Christ's Church are outside the visible body of Christ.
e. One cannot be subject to Christ and not be subject to the government of He has appointed in His Church. Believers become subject to the government of the Church through their covenantal vows of membership (Ephesians 4:11-12; Hebrews 13:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).
f. Church discipline is necessary for properly maintaining the Lord's table; such discipline is unavailable apart from membership in a visible church.
g. This overture implies that there is no biblical ground for the keeping of a roll of members of the visible church, and therefore of people who may partake of the church's sacrament. However, the clear evidence of Scripture is that the church should keep a roll of members. The supreme model for our membership roll is the membership roll of heaven (Exodus 32:32, 33; Daniel 12:1; Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3; Revelation 13:8; 20:12, 15). The Biblical pattern is for new believers to be "numbered" or "added to" the rolls of the local church (Acts 2:41, 47; 6:7; 1 Timothy 5:9). Members could be taken away from the roll (1 Corinthians 5:2)--this indicates more than being physically barred since even unbelievers could attend Christian worship (1 Corinthians 14:23)--or reinstated (2 Corinthians 2:6-7); it is impossible to have coherent discipline without such a roll. There was a widow's roll for diaconal purposes (1 Timothy 5:9). Elders are to know their sheep, and are accountable for the care of the flock entrusted to them--this demands knowing who they are; that is, it demands a list or roll (Hebrews 13:7, 17-18; 1 Thessalonians 5:11-14; 1 Peter 5:2; Acts 20:28). The apostolic church utilized letters of transfer or commendation (Acts 18:27; Romans 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians 3:1; 8:23-24); examples of these letters include Philemon and 3 John. Interchurch business was conducted by people with reference letters (1 Corinthians 16:3; 2 Corinthians 8:16-24). We conclude therefore that requiring professed believers to be enrolled as members of an evangelical church as a condition for taking the Lord's Supper is consistent with sound Biblical practice.

1999 - Reference 5 from Great Lakes Presbytery, re: BCO 58-4
[M29GA, 29-28, III, pp. 135-136]
Question 1: What issues or concerns should a presbytery consider when it decides whether to allow an exception to BCO 58-4 in the use of "communicants in good standing in any evangelical church"?
Response: BCO 58-4 does not require the use of the exact terms of 58-4 but allows no exceptions of practice in the administration of the Lord's Supper. "The minister may either invite all those who profess the true religion, and are communicants in good standing in any evangelical church or may invite those who have been approved by the Session, after having given indication of their desire to participate." (BCO 58-4)
If a Presbytery considers receiving a TE who has expressed an exception in his views with respect to the language of BCO 58-4, then Presbytery should be guided by BCO 34-5.
Note that the Introduction to the Directory for the Worship of God indicates that BCO 56, 57, and 58 have been given full constitutional authority by the 11th General Assembly. Adopted by CCB.
Question 2: Do previous actions of the GA imply that presbyteries should not allow an exception to BCO 58-4 in the use of "communicants in good standing in any evangelical church"?
Response: Yes, particularly with regard to practice. Refer to M21GA (1993) 21-56, III, 18, p. 141; M14GA (1986) Appendix 1, 10, p. 330; and M15GA (1987) 15-63, p. 129. Adopted by CCB.
Question 3: If Presbyteries may allow an exception to BCO 58-4 in the use of "communicants in good standing in any evangelical church", may the Teaching Elder practice this exception?
Response: A Presbytery may allow an exception as to views, but not as to practice. Presbytery must be guided by BCO 34-5 in terms of teaching of the view. Adopted by CCB.
Question 4: Since Sessions have the authority over the Sacrament, what should a Session do if it will not require teaching elders to use the full language of BCO 58-4 when the Lord's Supper is administered under this provision?
Response: See our response to questions 1 and 3, above. Adopted by CCB.
Question 5: What should Presbytery do if a Session takes exception to BCO 58-4 in the use of "communicants in good standing in any evangelical church", either in belief only or in belief and practice?
Response: See our response to questions 1 and 3 above. Adopted by CCB.
Question 6: If a particular teaching elder was granted an exception to BCO 58-4 in the use of "communicants in good standing in any evangelical church" at the time of his ordination or reception into his current presbytery (as applicable), does he have permission to practice it?
Response: See our response to questions 1 and 3, above. Adopted by CCB.
Question 7: If a given teaching elder did not previously take exception to BCO 58-4 in the use of "communicants in good standing in any evangelical church" but now does, should he make this known to his presbytery?
Response:Yes. Adopted by CCB.



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Chapter Index [links to Par. 1 of each chapter]:
FoG..
1
2
3.
4
5.
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
I. King & Head of Church
.§1.
§4
§5
RoD
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
II. Preliminary Principles
§1
§2
§3
§4
§5
§6
§7
§8
DfW
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
[FoG = Form of Government ; RoD = Rules of Discipline ; DfW = Directory for Worship]