Electing and Ordaining Ruling Elders and Deacons
- Every congregation shall elect persons to the office of ruling elder, and in ordinary circumstances to the office of deacon, in whatever manner it may approve. In all cases the persons elected must be members in full communion in the church in which they are to exercise their office. Candidates for either office must be men.
- When any person shall have been elected to either of these offices, and shall have declared his willingness to accept thereof, he shall be set apart in the following manner:
- After the sermon, the minister shall state, in a concise manner, the warrant and nature of the office of ruling elder or deacon, together with the character proper to be sustained, and the duties to be fulfilled by the officer elect; having done this, he shall propose to the candidate, in the presence of the congregation, the following questions, viz.:
- Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice?
- Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures?
- Do you approve of the government and discipline of the Bible Presbyterian Church?
- Do you accept the office of ruling elder (or deacon, as the case may be) in this congregation, and promise faithfully to perform all the duties thereof?
- Do you promise to study the purity, peace, and unity of the Church?
The elder, or deacon elect, having answered these questions in the affirmative, the minister shall address to the members of the church the following questions, viz.:
Do you, the members of this church, acknowledge and receive this brother as a ruling elder (or deacon), and do you promise to yield him all that honor, encouragement and obedience in the Lord, to which his office, according to the Word of God, and the Constitution of this Church, entitles him?
The members of the church having answered this question in the affirmative by holding up their right hands, the minister shall proceed to set apart the candidate, by prayer, to the office of ruling elder (or deacon, as the case may be), and shall give to him and to the congregation, an exhortation suited to the occasion.
- Where there is an existing session, it is proper that the members of that body, at the close of the service, and in the face of the congregation, take the newly ordained elder by the hand, saying words to this purpose—”We give you the right hand of fellowship, to take part of this office with us.”
- The offices of ruling elder and deacon are both perpetual, and cannot be laid aside at pleasure. No person can be divested of either office but by deposition. Yet an elder or deacon may become, by age or infirmity incapable of performing the duties of his office; or he may, though chargeable with neither heresy nor immorality, become unacceptable, in his official character, to a majority of the congregation to which he belongs. In either of these cases, he may, as often happens with respect to a minister, cease to be an acting elder or deacon.
- Whenever a ruling elder or deacon, from either of these causes, or from any other, not inferring crime, shall be incapable of serving the church to edification the session shall take order on the subject, and state the fact together with the reasons of it, on their records, provided always, that nothing of this kind shall be done without the concurrence of the individual in question, unless by a vote of the congregation.
- If any particular church, by a vote of members in full communion, shall prefer to elect ruling elders or deacons for a limited time in the exercise of their functions, this may be done; provided, the full time be not less than three years, and the session or board of deacons be made to consist of three classes, one of which only shall be elected every year; and provided, that elders, once ordained, shall not be divested of the office when they are not re-elected, but shall be entitled to represent that particular church in the higher courts, when appointed by the session or the presbytery.