Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Elder Training: Part III

The third major phase of elder training was on the Book of Church Order or BCO. The BCO is basically the official set of procedures for the PCA. There are three major sections on Form of Government, Discipline, and Worship. All are quite interesting to study - but then I'm a bit of a Hobbit in enjoying detailed procedures and ceremonies for things.

The section on Form of Government lays out how a church is formed, qualifications and duties of officers (and how to ordain them), the jurisdiction of the courts of the church (the local Session, the Presbytery, and the General Assembly), and items on pastoral candidates. Much of this is on how things should work and who has responsibility for what. I often wondered about many "church terms" like "licensed to preach" and "particularized church" and the difference in ordination and installation. All that is in here.

The part on Discipline is more sad and occasionally scary to read. But then, these procedures do not happen all that frequently. According to Matthew 18, trials at the level of the Session should only be used as the last resort, when the other methods of going to someone individually or with a small number have failed to bring repentance. I'm glad we have procedures in place for such things, and I'm glad they are very rarely needed as God's spirit works to bring repentance at much earlier stages.

The third part is on Worship. Much of this is suggested - only the parts on the Sacrements and Membership Vows are required. Still, there is much good guidance here on worship, particularly on preparing ourselves for it. I don't see the PCA instituting a standard worship procedure across all churches, partly due to the wide diversity we already have. I've seen this diversity myself in the few PCA churches I have been in. Still, there is much in common. If memory seves, they all sing hymns and/or psalms, all had corporate confession of sin, all had intercessory prayer for the people, all had a sermon, and all had a benediction.

While a bit dry in some places, I recommend my fellow members of the PCA to read our BCO to better understand how we operate.

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