Election of Pastors and of Ordination to the Ministry
When any of the people of any congregation appear prepared to elect a pastor, the session shall take measures to convene them for this purpose; and it shall always be a duty of the session to convene them, when a majority of the persons entitled to vote in the case, shall, by petition, request that a meeting be called.
When such a meeting is intended, the session may solicit the presence and counsel of some neighboring minister to assist them in conducting the election contemplated, but they may proceed without such assistance.
On a Lord’s Day it shall be intimated from the pulpit, that all the members of that congregation are requested to meet on ensuing, at the church, or usual place for holding public worship, then and there, if it be agreeable to them, to proceed to the election of a pastor for that congregation.
On the day appointed, the minister invited to preside, if he be present, shall, if it be deemed expedient, preach a sermon; and after sermon he shall announce to the people, that he will immediately proceed to take the votes of the electors of that congregation, for a pastor, if such be their desire, and when this desire shall be expressed by a majority of voices, he shall then proceed to take votes accordingly. In this election, no person shall be entitled to vote who is not a communicant member in good standing of the particular church.
When the votes are taken, if it appear that a large minority of the people are averse from the candidate who has a majority of votes, and cannot be induced to concur in the call, the presiding officer shall endeavor to dissuade the congregation from prosecuting it further. But if the people be nearly, or entirely, unanimous; or if the majority shall insist upon their right to call a pastor, the presiding officer, in that case, shall proceed to draw a call, in due form, and to have it subscribed by the electors or their duly authorized representatives; all which proceedings shall be laid before the presbytery, together with the call.
The call shall be in the following or like form:
* The congregation of __________ being, on sufficient grounds, well satisfied of the ministerial qualifications of you, __________, and having good hopes that your ministrations in the Gospel will be profitable to our spiritual interests, do earnestly call and desire you to undertake the pastoral office in said congregation; promising you in the discharge of your duty all proper support, encouragement, and obedience in the Lord. And that you may be free from worldly care and avocations, we promise and oblige ourselves to pay you the sum of __________ in regular __________ payments during the time of your being and continuing the regular pastor of this church, together with free use of a house and __________ vacation each year.
The call shall be subscribed to by the members of the church and shall be certified by the moderator of the meeting.
If any congregation shall choose to subscribe their call by their elders and deacons, or by a select committee, they shall be at liberty to do so. But it shall, in each case, be fully certified to the presbytery, by the minister, or other person who presided, that the persons signing have been appointed for that purpose by a public vote of the congregation; and that the call has been, in all other respects, prepared as above directed.
When a call shall be presented to any minister or candidate, it shall always be viewed as a sufficient petition from the people for his installation. The acceptance of a call, by a minister or candidate, shall always be considered as a request, on his part, to be installed at the same time. And when a candidate shall be ordained in consequence of a call from any congregation, the presbytery shall, at the same time, if practicable, install him pastor of that congregation.
The call, thus prepared, shall be presented to the presbytery, under whose care the person called shall be; so that, if the presbytery think it expedient to present the call to him, it may be accordingly presented: and no minister or candidate shall receive a call but through the hands of the presbytery.
If the call be to a licentiate of another presbytery, in that case the commissioners deputed from the congregation to prosecute the call, shall produce, to that court, a certificate from their own presbytery, regularly attested by the moderator and clerk, that the call has been laid before them, and that it is in order. If that presbytery present the call to their licentiate, and he be disposed to accept it, they shall then dismiss him from their jurisdiction, and require him to repair to that presbytery, into the bounds of which he is called; and there to submit himself to the usual trials preparatory to ordination.
A candidate for ordination must have completed a full three-year seminary Master of Divinity degree or its equivalent. This requirement may only be set aside for extraordinary circumstances, and only by a three-fourths vote of the Presbytery members present. Trials for ordination, especially in a different Presbytery from that in which the candidate was licensed, shall consist of a careful examination as to his acquaintance with experimental religion; as to his knowledge of philosophy, theology, ecclesiastical history, the Greek and Hebrew languages, and such other branches of learning as to the Presbytery may appear requisite; and as to his knowledge of the Constitution, the rules and principles of the government and discipline of the Church; together with such written discourse, or discourses, founded on the Word of God, as to the presbytery shall seem proper. The Presbytery, being fully satisfied with his qualifications for the sacred office, shall appoint a day for his ordination, which ought to be, if convenient, in that Church of which he is to be the minister.
The day appointed for ordination being come and the presbytery convened, a minister, previously appointed to that duty, shall preach a sermon adapted to the occasion. A member of the presbytery appointed to preside, shall afterwards briefly recite from the pulpit, in the audience of the people, the proceedings of the presbytery preparatory to this transaction; he shall point out the nature and importance of the ordinance; and endeavour to impress the audience with a proper sense of the solemnity of the transaction. Then addressing himself to the candidate, he shall propose to him 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 promise such subjection to your brethren as is taught in the Word of God?
Have you been induced, as far as you know your own heart, to seek the office of the holy ministry from love to God, and a sincere desire to promote his glory in the Gospel of his Son?
Do you promise to be zealous and faithful in maintaining the truths of the Gospel, and the purity and peace of the Church; whatever persecution or opposition may arise unto you on that account?
Do you engage to be faithful and diligent in the exercise of all private and personal duties, which become you as a Christian and a minister of the Gospel; as well as in all relative duties, and the public duties of your office; endeavoring to adorn the profession of the Gospel by your conversation; and walking with exemplary piety before the flock over which God shall make you overseer?
Are you now willing to take charge of this congregation, agreeably to your declaration when you accepted their call? And do you promise to discharge the duties of a pastor to them, as God shall give you strength?
The candidate having answered these questions in the affirmative, the presiding minister shall propose to the people the following questions:
Do you, the people of this congregation, continue to profess your readiness to receive whom you have called to be your minister?
Do you promise to receive the word of truth from his mouth, with meekness and love; 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?
Do you promise to encourage him in his arduous labor, and to assist his endeavors for your instruction and spiritual edification?
And do you engage to continue with him, while he is your pastor, that competent worldly maintenance which you have promised; and whatever else you may see needful for the honor of religion, and his comfort among you?
The people having answered these questions in the affirmative, by holding up their right hands, the candidate shall kneel down in the most convenient part of the church. Then the presiding minister, shall, by prayer, and with the laying on of hands of the presbytery, according to the apostolic example, solemnly ordain him to the holy office of the Gospel ministry. Prayer being ended, he shall rise from his knees; and the minister who presides shall first, and afterward all the members of the presbytery in their order, take him by the right hand, saying, in words to this purpose, “We give you the right hand of fellowship, to take part of this ministry with us.” After which the minister presiding, or some other appointed for the purpose, shall give a solemn charge in the name of God, to the newly ordained minister, and to the people, to persevere in the discharge of their mutual duties, and shall then, by prayer, recommend them both to the grace of God, and His holy keeping. Finally, at the conclusion of the whole service, he shall dismiss the congregation with the usual blessing. And the presbytery shall duly record the transaction.
As a candidate who has not received a call to be the pastor of a particular congregation may be called to engage in the work of the holy ministry, it is proper that he should be ordained, and, in this case, the last of the preceding questions shall be omitted, and the following used as a substitute, viz.: “Are you now willing to undertake the work of the Christian ministry, and do you promise to discharge the duties which may be incumbent upon you in this character as God may give you strength?”
When an ordained minister of another denomination seeks admission to the Bible Presbyterian Church, the presbytery to which he applies shall require him to give evidence of possessing the qualifications, in regard to piety, faith, and learning, which are demanded of candidates for ordination as given above; and it shall require him to answer affirmatively the questions appointed for the ordination of candidates in section 12 of this chapter.