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The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

 

Updates:

Project Description:

The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order is designed to provide a convenient summary of the history of each of the paragraphs in the BCO. The primary point of this exercise is to show where we've come from and how we got here, to point out the value of the text we have inherited, and to perhaps help churchmen in their consideration of future changes in the Book of Church Order. For one, when it becomes evident that a particular reading has served the Church well for over 150 years, it should give us pause before we rush ahead to change that reading. The Book of Church Order is not inspired, but it is well-crafted and a great deal of thought has been put into it already. We must not ignore the wisdom of our fathers in the faith, much less the wisdom of their fathers and grandfathers.

The comparisons provided in this Historical Development also serve in part to demonstrate the ecumenical relation of our several Presbyterian denominations. In many cases we share the exact same wording in our various Books of Order, from 1789 forward.

Organization:

Each paragraph in the BCO will have its own page within the site, and on each page, the first text displayed will be the most current text in use in the PCA. That text will be followed by an historical summary note and then a listing of antecedent texts, beginning with the PCA's first approved edition in 1973, then the text of the Proposed Book of Church Order for the Continuing Presbyterian Church, also from 1973, then a set of texts from various editions of the PCUS BCO. These PCUS texts will focus on key years within that tradition.

1879 marked the publication of the first approved edition of the Book of Church Order for the PCUS. This first edition lacked a Directory for Worship, which was only added later in 1894. Few changes were made in this first PCUS edition until 1925, when a major revision was approved. Lastly, the 1933 PCUS BCO is significant as the edition that became the exemplar for the Continuing Presbyterian Church. It was from this 1933 edition that the Proposed Book of Church Order was formulated. Later editions of the PCUS BCO were seen as problematic and as having departed from sound moorings, and so the 1933 edition was utilized.

The final feature on each BCO page will be the pertinent section from the Rev. F.P. Ramsay's Exposition on the Book of Church Order, published in 1898. That work covers only the Form of Government and Rules of Discipline sections of the PCUS Book of Church Order. It should also be evident that not everything that Rev. Ramsay says will be applicable to the state of things in the PCA today. But there is some real worth to be found in his comments, and so it is reproduced here not solely for its historical value.

Administrative History:

The idea of this project began around 2001, when Mr. Jordan Siverd came to the PCA Historical Center with a research question focusing on Chapter 35 of the Book of Church Order. Wayne Sparkman, director of the PCA Historical Center, began to sketch out the basic concept of the project and also began acquiring original editions of many of the texts cited in the project. Dr. Jack Maddex was gracious in providing photocopies of the 1867 and 1869 PCUS drafts. From these photocopies transcriptions were then made and computer files established. Other, published editions were digitized using OCR software.

Between 2002 and 2006, Mr. Sparkman continued to digitize selected editions and began to compile paragraph by paragraph comparisons. That material is now being posted to this Project web site as the first information in this Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order.

Posting of the BCO Project to the Internet began in April of 2007, followed by public announcement of the Project in May of that same year.
Posting Order & Progress Update :

Due to the size of this project, it will post to the web in stages :
Stage 1 : Current PCA BCO text, compared with antecedent texts.
Stage 2 : Tracking of Amendments to the BCO since 1973.
Stage 3 : Reference to relevant judicial cases; possible inclusion of Scripture proofs.



©PCA Historical Center, 12330 Conway Road, St. Louis, MO, 2007. All Rights Reserved.

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]