Amend BCO 24-1 to Specify Good Faith Subscription

Whereas the purity and unity of our church require her to establish that her officers sincerely receive and adopt the Westminster Standards as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures, and for those officers to declare if at any time they find themselves out of accord with any of the fundamentals of this system (BCO 21-5; WCF XXXI.2);

And, whereas the purity and unity of the church also require that her leaders understand both the restrictions and allowances of her Standards that are derived from Scripture but, unlike it, are not the only infallible rule of faith and practice (WCF I.8, 10; XX.2; XXXI.3; WLC # 3; BCO Preface II. 7);

And, whereas there is a longstanding tradition within American Presbyterianism, including the PCA, that officers may in good faith take exception to certain particulars of the Westminster Standards, if such particular exceptions are not inimical (i.e. hostile or injurious) to the more comprehensive system of doctrine;

And, whereas the PCA's original Good-faith subscription position has served the church well, but recently been challenged by some who desire either a more Broad- or Strict-subscription position;

And, whereas the church must guard against a broad, "substance-of-doctrine" subscription approach, which has no definitive meaning and leaves to the candidate himself rather than to the wisdom of the presbytery to determine what areas of his disagreement with particular statements of the Constitution are inimical to the system of doctrine and what are allowable differences with the Westminster Standards;

And, whereas the assertion that the PCA was consciously founded as a Strict-subscriptionist Church in 1973 cannot be sustained (Minutes of the Twenty-First General Assembly, cf. pp. 89 and 149 with pp. 146 and 166-168); And, whereas the General Assembly of the PCA did not declare itself to be a Strict-subscriptionist Church in the joining and receiving process with the Reformed Presbyterian Church Evangelical Synod in 1982;

And, whereas attempts to change the PCA into a Broad- or Strict-subscriptionist Church are a departure from the original position of the PCA, and such attempts may bring discord and possibly division within the Church;

And, whereas the inclusion of a Good-faith subscription statement in our Book of Church Order is needed to state explicitly what has been the understanding and practice of the majority of the PCA from its beginning;

, to clarify and support the original ordination standards of the PCA, ___________Presbytery overtures the General Assembly to amend the Book of Church Order by inserting the paragraphs in bold below as new paragraphs of BCO 21-4 between the following sentences, as indicated:

"Whenever a Presbytery shall omit any of these parts, it shall always make a record of the reasons for such omissions and of the trial parts omitted.
[Insert new paragraphs (in bold below) here]
"The Presbytery being fully satisfied of his qualifications for the sacred office...."

While our Constitution does not require the candidate's affirmation of every statement and/or proposition of doctrine in our Confession of Faith and Catechisms, it is the right and responsibility of the Presbytery to determine if the candidate is out of accord with any of the fundamentals of these doctrinal standards and, as a consequence, may not be able in good faith sincerely to receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and Catechisms of this Church as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures (cf. BCO 21-5, Q. 2; 24-5, Q.2).

Therefore, in examining a candidate for ordination the Presbytery shall inquire not only into the candidate's knowledge and views in the areas specified above, but also shall require the candidate to state the specific instances in which he may differ with the Confession of Faith and Catechisms in any of their statements and/or propositions. The court may grant an exception to any difference of doctrine only if in the court's judgment the candidate's declared difference is not out of accord with a fundamental of our system of doctrine because the difference is neither hostile to the system nor strikes at the vitals of religion.