Friday, January 29, 2010

Election of Ruling Elders in the ARP

The ARP Form of Government [link to PDF], 8.C.2.b reads:

"A congregational meeting may be held to select nominees [for Ruling Elders and/or Deacons] by ballot. A list of names of all persons eligible for nomination shall be provided, and at least twice the number of persons to be elected shall be nominated. The nominees shall be conferred with privately by the session, or Presbytery in the case of a new congregation, as to their qualifications and willingness to serve before being placed before the congregation for election. Any nominee receiving a majority of votes cast shall be declared elected." (emphasis added).

As I've been reading through the Form of Government of the ARP, several things have jumped out at me as, shall we say, curious. This is one of them. When a congregation is to elect new Ruling Elders, the ballot must contain twice as many names as REs to be elected. What that means is, if men in a congregation have discerned a call to the office of Ruling Elder and if a session, through much prayer and examination, has determined that these men are qualified to serve as REs, they are to nominate these men and then have half of them not be elected. How is this biblical? Half of the men who are otherwise qualified and deemed worthy by the session are told they cannot serve in the office to which God has called them.

My guess is that, at some point in ARP history, there was an abuse of the process for electing REs and this was the solution, but that's just my guess. I certainly cannot find a biblical rationale for this section of the Form of Government.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ruling Elders and Church Courts

Pastor Brian Carpenter, at The Happy T.R. has correctly pointed out that, in the PCA, the court of original jurisdiction for Ruling Elders is the session. He points this out to call to action Ruling Elders in that denomination who are otherwise ambivalent to ongoing theological controversies in the PCA. His admonition can be summarized as, "Hey Ruling Elders, charges can't be brought against you at Presbytery, which means you can act without fear of reprisal from opponents in other congregations." This is a very important point. It is also a wise way to distinguish between Ruling Elders and Teaching Elders in the PCA. It frees the REs from frivolous charges (not that TE Carpenter would know anything about that), thus enabling them to RULE. Interesting idea, isn't it.

I checked, and in my own denomination (the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church), the "original jurisdiction vested in the session of the congregation to which they belong." (Book of Disciple, 3.1, see PDF here). This is very important for REs in the ARP. When theological controversy arises, REs have a level of immunity, if you will, that TEs do not possess. This should embolden REs to defense of orthodoxy!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

From "The Form of Presbyterial Church-Government"

Other Church-Governors.
As there were in the Jewish church elders of the people joined with the priests and Levites in the government of the church;[1] so Christ, who hath instituted government, and governors ecclesiastical in the church, hath furnished some in his church, beside the ministers of the word, with gifts for government, and with commission to execute the same when called thereunto, who are to join with the minister in the government of the church.[2] Which officers reformed churches commonly call Elders.

Of the Officers of a particular Congregation.

For officers in a single congregation, there ought to be one at the least, both to labour in the word and doctrine, and to rule. [3]

[1] 2 Chron. 19:8,9,10.
[2] Rom. 12:7,8. 1 Cor. 12:28.
[3] Prov. 29:18. 1 Tim. 5:17. Heb. 13:7.