Friday, February 26, 2010

Thought's on Rev. White's Proposal for RE/TE Parity

Over at Johannes Weslianus, Rev. Wes White has posted a proposal for getting Ruling Elders more involved in Presbytery and denominational politics in the PCA. This has been an ongoing problem for the PCA (and not just the PCA). His idea is, in order to get a parity between Ruling Elders and Teaching Elders at Presbytery/General Assembly meetings, that the number of Teaching Elders allowed to vote at those meetings be reduced. He proposes doing this by changing the PCA BCO 13-1 from defining the Presbytery as comprising "all teaching elders and ruling elders as elected by their Session" to "all pastors, associate pastors, and ruling elders as elected by their Session." And changing the definition of the General Assembly in BCO 14-2 from "all teaching elders in good standing with their Presbyteries, and ruling elders as elected by their Session." to "all pastors and associate pastors in good standing with their Presbyteries, and ruling elders as elected by their Session."

As someone pointed out in a comment to his proposal, this would, in effect, prevent assistant pastors, chaplains, and other teaching elders not directly elected by a congregation from having a vote in Presbytery and General Assembly business. If this report is correct, the issue of limiting the voting of assistant pastors in the PCA is pertinent and it is something the PCA is going to have to deal with at some point.

I like Rev. White's thinking about this: "Since only men who have been elected by a congregation can govern a local Church so only those who have been elected by a congregation should govern the regional Church." It fits with the "grass roots Presbyterianism" that typifies the PCA. The problem I see is this: while this proposal would limit the number of teaching elders (and I think the votes of assistant pastors in the PCA need to be limited), it won't get Ruling Elders more involved. In other words, instead of lifting up the Ruling Elder to the task of denominational politics, it is dragging down the involvement of the teaching elder (even if, in my opinion, some of those teaching elders shouldn't be voting at these meetings in the first place).

The task of getting Ruling Elders more involved in the Church beyond their local congregation is certainly not easy, and I'm glad that men such as Rev. White are putting time and thought into this issue, but I am of the opinion that the Ruling Elder needs to be encouraged to participate, rather than have teaching elders prevented from participating. Rev. White's proposal would be a step in the right direction for limiting the involvement of assistant pastors in the PCA, but I don't believe it would do much, if anything, to get Ruling Elders more involved.


  1. Seth, I would actually agree with you on this. The proposal is designed to increase "parity" not "Ruling Elder involvement."

    I think that one real problem that we have is that all these TEs can take a week and go to GA without having to use vacation time. If they all had to use vacation time, how many would go?

    On the other hand, most REs have to use vacation time. I think this is a practical problem that needs to be worked out.

    The problem is particularly acute in our Presbytery. For many in the Presbytery, you cannot just take one day off and go to Presbytery. You have to travel and take two to three days off.

    However, in smaller Presbyteries, they can hold meetings on Saturdays, and that should make it easy for REs to participate.

    Thanks for giving this your thought and comments.


  2. Rev. White, I see your point about vacation time. Why is it that in your Presbytery 2 or 3 days are needed? Is it just the vast geographical area your Presbytery covers? I like the idea of holding Presbytery meetings on Saturdays, and I wonder if Presbyteries with a large geography might be able to schedule their meetings on holiday (that is, 3-day) weekends?

    Of course, I don't think all the blame necessarily lies on Presbytery's shoulders. I wonder how many REs "can't" take time off to go to Presbytery as opposed to those who "won't" take time off. I would think that if one RE from a Session could not get a day or two off, then perhaps a different RE could. But, the RE has to be willing to go and use his vacation time (if needed) in the first place. Yeah, it's a bummer to not get to spend vacation time with family on the lake, or going fishing, but being a RE isn't all fun and games.

    Actually, what part of being a RE *is* fun and games? :)

  3. Do you think that ruling elders would be more likely to attend if the commissioner's could be done away with?

  4. Seth, we have to spend two to three days because of the geographical distance. The problem with doing it on a holiday weekend is that you would have to do it over a Sunday and pastors would have to miss Church.

    In smaller Presbyteries, Saturday should be the rule.

    Wayne, I'm not sure what you mean by doing away with commissioners? If you did away with commissioners, who would be left?

  5. Revisiting this blog some months later: mea culpa, that was supposed to be "...if the commissioner's fee could be done away with?" I left out the word "fee".
    Of course by now, all know that the removal of the commissioner's fee is an aspect of the funding plan for the Administrative Committee, as presented in the 2010 Strategic Plan.