Documents of Synod:
Study Papers of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (1965 to 1982)


153rd General Synod Minutes, MAY 30, 1975, pp. 80-84, 86.

STUDY COMMITTEE ON GIFTS FOR ORDINATION.

The Committee Chairman, Rev. Egon Middlemann gave the report.

Fathers and Brethren:

The 151st General Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, meeting at Covenant College, Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, on May 18-24, 1973, in response to the first recommendation of the majority report of an earlier study, "Enlarging the Definition of Ministry to Include Counseling," requested a study committee to make a "careful, extended study of the Scripture with a view to discovering what gifts are
necessary for ordination and what callings, other than to a pastorate, may be considered valid for ordination" (cf. Synod Minutes, 1973, p. 95).

1. Introductory Remarks

A. According to Ephesians 4:11 Christ has given to the Church certain offices which by their charismatic character and their proper exercise within the Church call for ordination by the laying on of hands on the
part of elders. (1 Timothy 4:14) Consequently our FOG is correct in calling for the ordination not only of the pastor/teachers but also of the evangelist/missionary.

B. The question raised by the first recommendation of the majority report therefore does not touch on the evangelist/missionary but on those who though ordained as pastor/teacher are not installed in a pastoral charge although serving in some other professional capacity. How are we to understand the phrase "proper scope of the function of the ministry"? (FOG V,5s, p. 37f) How does the biblical teaching of the eldership relate to educators, counselors, and "administrators in Christian education and in missions"?

II. Scriptural Teaching

A. The Scriptures teach that elders fundamentally are shepherds of a flock of believers (John 21:15-17, Acts 20:28, 1 Timothy 3:5, Titus 1:7, Hebrews 13:17, 1 Peter 5:2). This shepherd office includes foremost the
teaching/preaching ministry (Acts 20:32, Ephesians 4:11, 1 Timothy 3: 1ff., 5:17, 2 Timothy 4:2, Titus 1:7-9) but also—as a necessary outflow of the proclamation of the Word—a ruling/disciplinary office (Matthew 16:19, 18:18, John 20:23, 1 Timothy 1:19, 2 Timothy 4:2) and a caring/edifying ministry (Acts 14:22, 20:28, Ephesians 4:12, 1 Timothy 3:5, 5:17f., Hebrews 13:7,17, James 5:14, 1 Peter 5:2). Our FOG recognizes this
shepherd office as comprising these multiple aspects when it requires of the licentiate a demonstration of his gifts of preaching, teaching, shepherding and soul winning" (FOG V, 5s, p. 36).

B. This shepherd office over the communion of the saints is exercised in its local manifestation. The apostles or their emissaries appointed or had the congregation elect elders "in every church" (Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5). Over and over again the shepherd/elder office is seen in its concrete responsibility to the manifestation of Christ's Body in the local church. (Acts 13:lf., Acts20:17, Philippians 1:1,Titus 1:5, Hebrews 13:17, James
5:14, 1 Peter 5: 1f.). Even if we understand the "church of Antioch" or the "church of Ephesus" as a term comprising more than one congregation, the shepherd office was seen as one on the part of several elders over the one manifestation of Christ's Body in a particular location.

C. Within the single shepherd office of the- local eldership, Scripture seems to indicate a diversity of tailings: those who teach and rule well (1 Timothy 3:2, 5:17, Titus 1:5), and those who "labor in the Word and
teaching" (1 Timothy 5:17f.). This diversity does not seem to point to a two-level spiritual oversight but rather indicates the real situation that only some of the local eldership will have been called by God to the full-time
ministry of teaching and preaching.

D. The office of teaching elder, therefore, is one characterized by the regular communication of God's Word, not only by teaching but also by preaching, and by the leadership of God's people in worship and in example of personal piety (Acts 6:4, 1 Timothy 4:12,15,16,Titus 2:7,8,Hebrews 13:7) in addition to the functions of pastoral care and discipline of a local manifestation of the Body of Christ.

III. Summary

A. Elders—both ruling and teaching—are to exercise the one shepherd office (teaching/ruling/caring) within the concrete manifestation of the Body of Christ, the flock entrusted to them by God.

B. Any specialization of the ordained elder is one within the context of the collective leadership over the local church, or churches as expressed by Presbytery. To function as an ordained elder in an individualized specialization apart from that collective leadership —whether educator, counselor, administrator, musician, or such—denies the one shepherd office of the eldership.

C. A specialist is therefore only to be ordained as a teaching elder if he is called to and regularly exercises the common shepherd office in conjunction with other elders in the local church. In addition to the functions of pastoral care, ruling, and leadership of worship in the local church, it is essential to the office of the teaching elder that he engage in regular teaching of the Word, including preaching of the gospel.

D.If a teaching elder, following his ordination, feels called into a specialized ministry but does not receive a call as a teaching elder of a local church he may become a member of a local congregation and at its discretion may be elected to and installed in the position of ruling elder. (See recommendation C concerning an inactive status in Presbytery).

E. As the local manifestations of the one Body of Christ will not always be able to benefit fully from the specialization of some of their elders, the Presbytery has a legitimate interest and right to include those of its choice as members of Presbytery-and thereby teaching elders though they are not for the time being installed in a pastoral charge. This privilege on the part of Presbytery should be restricted to theological teachers, to principal administrators of the agencies of the denomination, and to other specialists who clearly have demonstrated their overriding value to the Church as a whole.

IV. Recommendations

A. Your committee recommends that FOG V, 5s (p. 370 be changed to read, "There are cases in which the ordination of a minister is not accompanied by installation in a pastoral charge, as when the candidate expects to serve as a pastor in some remote region, as a foreign missionary, as a missionary in national missions, as a chaplain, as an evangelist, or those whom Presbytery deems of overriding value to the ministry of the Church (as theological teachers, as principal administrators of the agencies of the Church or men who serve in some other capacity within the proper scope of the functions of the ministry). In such cases. .." (The parts deleted were the following: "as a teacher of biblical subjects, as an administrator in Christian education or in missions.")

B. Your committee recommends that FOG V, 6j (p. 40) be changed to read, "Ministers who are neither pastors nor evangelists/missionaries, but who are biennially recognized by their Presbytery as being genuinely engaged in the work of the ministry have exactly the same rank as the pastors in the courts of the Church. . ." (The part deleted was the following: "such as teaching, Christian educational or missionary administration and evangelism at home or abroad," and changed "are not pastors" to "are neither pastors").

C. Your committee recommends as a paragraph to be inserted between the two present paragraphs of FOG V, 6f the following paragraph: "If a minister in good standing is not exercising a recognized ministerial function, his Presbytery at its discretion may place him on a roll of inactive members of Presbytery. While in this status his exercise of the privileges and responsibilities of the teaching elder (sacraments, weddings, funerals, voting in Presbytery and Synod) is rendered inactive. He may become a member of a local congregation and at its discretion may be elected to and installed in the position of ruling elder. If appointed a delegate from the Session to Presbytery or Synod he may vote on issues before those courts." This amendment, if adopted, will make it necessary to omit the sentence, "They may not vote or hold office in any particular church, except as they may be called upon to serve as moderators." (FOG V, 6i)

D. Your committee recommends that in the first sentence of the last paragraph of FOG V, 6f the word "two" be inserted before "years" in accord with the Book of Discipline, VII/12.

E. Your committee recommends that Synod appoint a new committee to prepare a study of the scriptural teachings concerning the spiritual responsibility and authority for the ruling elder within the context of the over-
sight, preaching, and administration of sacraments in the local church.


Respectfully submitted,
 

William S. Barker
John W. Buswell
Arthur L. Kay
Robert G. Rayburn

Robert L. Reymond
Lynden H. Stewart
William J. Swenson
Egon A. Middelmann,
 

Chairman

ACTION

The recommendations (p. 64-65) were considered seriatum. Items A and B were approved as presented. An amendment to item C was moved, seconded and carried to strike the word "funerals" after the word "weddings." Twice during discussion on recommendations the time was extended for discussion. A third motion to extend time was lost.

Recommendation "C" of the committee was amended and adopted so that it reads as follows: "C. Your committee recommends as a paragraph to be inserted between the two present paragraphs of FOG V,6f the following paragraph: "If a minister in good standing is not exercising a recognized ministerial function, his presbytery at its discretion may place him on a roll of inactive status of the ministry. While in this status his exercise of the privileges and responsibilities of the teaching elder (sacraments, weddings, voting in
presbytery and Synod) is rendered inactive. He may become a member of a local congregation and at its discretion may be elected to and installed in the position of ruling elder. If appointed a delegate from the session to presbytery or Synod he may vote on issues before those courts. If such a man desires to return to the active status of the ministry, he may do so on the basis of an appropriate call and be reinstated after examination by presbytery without the necessity of re-ordination." Rev. Thomas Troxell requested that
his negative vote be registered. Item D was also passed. The several items of the report having thus been approved seriatum it was then approved in its entirety and will be sent down to presbyteries for action.

Recommendation "E" was approved.