The Bible Presbyterian Church in setting forth the Form of Government which it maintains as being founded upon and agreeable to the Word of God, reiterates, by way of introduction, several great principles which are basic to and regulative of our form of church government:
- That “God alone is Lord of the conscience”; and “hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are in any thing contrary to his word, or beside it in matters of faith or worship”: Therefore we consider the rights of private judgment, in all matters that respect religion, as universal and unalienable: we do not even wish to see any religious constitution aided by the civil power, further than may be necessary for protection and security, and, at the same time, be equal and common to all others.
- That in perfect consistency with the above principle of common right, every Christian Church, or union, or association of particular churches is entitled to declare the terms of admission into its communion, and the qualifications of its ministers and members, as well as the whole system of its internal government which Christ hath appointed: that, in the exercise of this right it may, notwithstanding, err, in making the terms of communion either too lax or too narrow; yet, even in this case, it does not infringe upon the liberty, or the rights of others, but only makes an improper use of its own.
- That our blessed Savior, for the edification of the visible Church which is his body, hath appointed officers not only to preach the gospel and administer the Sacraments; but also to exercise discipline for the preservation both of truth and duty; and, that it is incumbent upon these officers, and upon the whole Church, in whose name they act, to censure or cast out the erroneous and scandalous; observing, in all cases, the rules contained in the Word of God.
- That truth is in order to goodness; and the great touchstone of truth, its tendency to promote holiness, according to our Saviour’s rule, “by their fruits ye shall know them,” and that no opinion can be either more pernicious or more absurd, than that which brings truth and falsehood upon a level and represents it as of no consequence what a man’s opinions are. On the contrary, we are persuaded that there is an inseparable connection between faith and practice, truth and duty. Otherwise it would be of no consequence either to discover truth, or to embrace it.
- That while under the conviction of the above principle, we think it necessary to make effectual provision, that all who are admitted as teachers, be sound in the faith; we also believe that there are truths and forms, with respect to which men of good character and principles may differ. And in all these we think it the duty both of private Christians and societies, to exercise mutual forbearance toward each other.
- That though the character, qualifications, and authority of church officers are laid down in the Holy Scriptures, as well as the proper method of their investiture and institution; yet the election of the persons to the exercise of this authority, in any particular society, is in that society.
- That the Bible Presbyterian Church’s Confession of Faith and its Form of Government and Book of Discipline require that ministers, church officers, missionaries, teachers, and all workers do maintain a lifestyle based on biblical standards of moral conduct (Westminster Confession 24.1; Westminster Larger Catechism 139). Moral misconduct, which violates the bona fide qualifications for Christian leaders and their duty to be role models includes, but is not limited to, promiscuity, homosexual behavior, or any other violation of clear biblical standards. The Bible Presbyterian Church believes that marriage is limited to a covenant relationship between one man and one woman.
- That the officers of the Bible Presbyterian Church are expected to maintain a biblically based lifestyle. Failure to do so will be considered behavior unbecoming a Christian and will be grounds for discipline according to the Book of Discipline. Therefore, no one who maintains or approves of such a lifestyle is eligible to serve as a minister, Church officer, missionary, teacher, or employee in any particular Bible Presbyterian Church.
- That all church power, whether exercised by the body in general, or in the way of representation by delegated authority, is only ministerial and declarative; that is to say, that the Holy Scriptures are the only rule of faith and manners; that no church court ought to pretend to make laws, to bind the conscience in virtue of its own authority and that all its decisions should be founded upon the revealed will of God. Now though it will easily be admitted, that all synods and councils may err, through the frailty inseparable from humanity; yet there is much greater danger from the usurped claim of making laws, than from the right of judging upon laws already made, and common to all who profess the Gospel; although this right, as necessity requires in the present state, be lodged with fallible men.
- Lastly, that, if the preceding Scriptural and rational principles be steadfastly adhered to, the vigor and strictness of its discipline will contribute to the glory and happiness of any Church. Since ecclesiastical discipline must be purely moral or spiritual in its object, and not attended with any civil effects, it can derive no force whatever, but from its own justice, the approbation of an impartial public, and the countenance and blessing of the great Head of the Church universal.
- All powers not in this Constitution specifically granted to the courts of the Church are reserved to the congregations respectively, or to the people.