Preface

It is our prayer that as this book is used in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the great King of the church, our Lord Jesus Christ, will use it in maintaining his Word as its supreme rule of faith and life. Although the standards of government, discipline, and worship are subordinate to the Word of God, they may not be neglected without resulting in serious impairment of the life of the Church. They have been adopted by the Church as part of its constitution. Moreover, they have been received as being based upon the Scriptures, and even the elements not drawn directly from the Word have been acknowledged as being in accordance with the general rules of the Word. Their design is not to take the place of the Word, but to provide effective means for the application of its teaching in the government, discipline, and worship of the Church.

These standards, while printed separately from the doctrinal standards, should not be isolated from them. In using this book, it should be borne in mind that certain sections of the Confession of Faith and of the Catechisms deal directly with the principles and practice of ecclesiastical government. In the Confession, Chapters I, XXI, XXIII, XXV, XXVII-XXIX, XXX, and XXXI—treating respectively of the Scriptures, Christian liberty and liberty of conscience, religious worship and the Sabbath day, the civil magistrate, the church, the sacraments, church censures, and synods and councils—are of the most immediate significance.

The Suggested Forms for Use in Connection with the Book of Discipline, included in this book, were approved "not as a part of the Constitution, but as forms that are suitable and convenient aids in connection with certain phases of judicial discipline." Similarly, the Suggested Forms for Particular Services were approved by the Seventh Assembly, "not as part of the Constitution of The Orthodox Presbyterian Church, but as ‘Suggested Forms' that are suitable and convenient aids in the conduct of the particular services." In like manner, the Recommended Curriculum for Ministerial Preparation, adopted by the Fifty-fourth Assembly, is described simply as an "attachment" to the Form of Government, not as a part of it; it "may be amended by a majority vote of a general assembly."

It seems well to include here a brief summary of the history of the adoption of these standards by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The formation of this book was begun at the First General Assembly, held in June 1936. That Assembly elected a Committee on the Constitution, composed of the Rev. Ned B. Stonehouse (who became chairman), the Rev. H. McAllister Griffiths, and ruling elder Murray Forst Thompson. The Committee was charged, in addition to its primary obligation to recommend the form of the doctrinal standards to be adopted at the Second Assembly, to "prepare for submission to the next General Assembly a Form of Government, Book of Discipline, and Directory for the Worship of God." Before the Second Assembly convened in November of that same year, the Committee was able to complete only the first of these documents. The Form of Government was considered and provisionally adopted at that time and at the Third Assembly, held in June 1937, finally adopted. The Directory for the Public Worship of God was submitted to the Fourth Assembly, and after discussion and revision at that Assembly and the Sixth Assembly, held in May 1939, it was adopted. The Book of Discipline, although adopted provisionally as early as the Third Assembly, was revised at the Fourth and Sixth Assemblies and finally adopted at the Seventh Assembly, held in June 1940. Others who served on that Committee, in addition to the original members, were the Rev. Messrs. Alexander K. Davison, R. B. Kuiper, Robert Strong, and Paul Woolley.

In 1948 the Fifteenth General Assembly elected a Committee on Revisions to the Form of Government, composed of the Rev. Messrs. John P. Galbraith (who became chairman), John Murray, and Ned B. Stonehouse. The Committee was charged with "reworking" the Form of Government and proposing amendments to the next Assembly. As the Committee engaged in its work, it became clear that extensive revisions would be necessary. Ultimately, its work was to span a number of years, five versions of a new Form of Government, additions and changes to the personnel of the Committee, and, finally, a virtually new Form of Government. In the course of its work, that Committee studied the governmental standards of other Presbyterian denominations and consulted with representatives of such churches. A source document of especial note was the original Form of Government that grew out of the Westminster Assembly, The Form of Presbyterial Church-Government and of Ordination of Ministers; its influence is seen clearly in Chapter I of the present Form of Government. The Committee presented to the Forty-fourth Assembly in June 1977 a text for a new Form of Government. It reported also its intention to recommend final amendment to the Forty-fifth Assembly in 1978, which it did. In both instances, the respective assemblies approved and the presbyteries concurred. The revision was completed at the Forty-sixth Assembly in 1979, and the Committee was discharged.

During the course of its work, the constituency of the Revision Committee underwent a number of changes. In all, 13 members served on the Committee over the years, only one of whom was on the original revision committee. In addition to the original members and those who were active members of the Committee when the revision was approved, given below, those who served at various other times were the Rev. Messrs. Jay E. Adams, Robert L. Atwell, John P. Clelland, and Robert S. Marsden. The active members when the revision was finally approved in 1979 were the Rev. Messrs. John P. Galbraith, chairman, Edmund P. Clowney, D. Clair Davis, Robert W. Eckardt, and John J. Mitchell, and ruling elders Richard A. Barker and Edward A. Haug.

At one time the General Assembly had added revision of the Book of Discipline to the task of the Committee on Revisions to the Form of Government. But when it became apparent to the Committee that the volume of its work would delay revision of the Book of Discipline, it recommended to the Thirty-fourth Assembly in April 1967 that it erect a separate Committee on Revisions to the Book of Discipline. The Assembly concurred, but then assigned to that Committee the task of revising the Directory for Worship and changed its name to the Committee on Revisions to the Book of Discipline and Directory for Worship. Elected to that Committee were the Rev. Messrs. Edwards E. Elliott (chairman), Edward L. Kellogg, and Lawrence R. Eyres. The Forty-first Assembly reconstituted the Committee and elected the Rev. Messrs. Donald J. Duff (chairman), Glenn D. Jerrell, and Jack J. Peterson as its members. That Committee recommended a major revision of the Book of Discipline, which was adopted effective with the Fiftieth Assembly in June 1983. The Directory for Worship was corrected in 1988 in regard only to reference citations in the Form of Government. That Committee continues to serve.

John P. Galbraith, stated clerk
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
September 1988

 

At the Fifty-sixth General Assembly in June 1989, the Committee on Revisions to the Book of Discipline and the Directory for Worship was renamed the Committee on Revisions to the Directory for Public Worship, and new members were elected. The Rev. Messrs. George R. Cottenden, John P. Galbraith, and John V. Yenchko were elected. Mr. Yenchko resigned in February 1990, and the Rev. Gregory E. Reynolds was elected by the Fifty-seventh General Assembly in June 1990 to replace him. He resigned and was replaced with the Rev. Bernard J. Stonehouse. At the Sixty-first General Assembly, the Committee was augmented with the Rev. Messrs. Robert D. Knudsen and Moisés Silva. Mr. John O. Kinnaird was elected as an alternate. Upon the death of the Rev. Bernard J. Stonehouse in June 1999, Mr. Kinnaird began to serve on the Committee. Dr. Robert D. Knudsen died in February 2000. Dr. Moisés Silva resigned from the Committee after the General Assembly in 2000, and the Rev. Larry E. Wilson, who had been elected as an alternate, began active service on the Committee. The Committee continues to serve.

Donald J. Duff, stated clerk
Willow Grove, Pennsylvania
January 2005

 

The Seventy-second General Assembly in June 2005 assigned to the Committee on Revisions to the Directory for Public Worship the task of preparing a series of suggested forms for the imposition and removal of censures to be used with the Book of Discipline.

The Rev. Danny E. Olinger had been elected as an alternate to the Committee beginning with the Seventieth General Assembly in June 2003. He became a full member when the Rev. John P. Galbraith retired from service in October 2006. From then until the completion of its work, the Committee consisted of Messrs. Cottenden (chairman), Kinnaird, Olinger, and Wilson.

The Committee presented its Amended Proposed Revised Version of the Directory, together with revisions to its suggested forms for particular services and suggested forms for the imposition and removal of censures for the Book of Discipline, to the Seventy-fourth General Assembly in June 2007. It also proposed the moving of certain sections relating to ordination and installation from the Directory to the Form of Government. After consideration at the 2007, 2008, and 2009 Assemblies, the Seventy-sixth General Assembly in 2009 approved the suggested forms and approved and sent the Final Proposed Revision of the Directory and amendments to the Form of Government to the presbyteries for their approval. The stated clerk reported to the Seventy-seventh General Assembly that the revisions and amendments had been approved by a majority of the presbyteries. The moderator of that Assembly therefore declared, in accordance with instructions adopted by the previous Assembly, that the amendments would take effect January 1, 2011. This brought to completion a process of revising The Book of Church Order that began in 1948.

This printing of The Book of Church Order has been prepared in accordance with instructions of the General Assembly, in consultation with the stated clerk of the Assembly. The Committee on Christian Education of the General Assembly has taken on the responsibility of publishing and distributing the book. It contains all the revisions to The Book of Church Order effective through the Seventy-seventh General Assembly and all those which take effect on January 1, 2011. In accordance with the Form of Government, Chapter XXXII, Section 2, it should be the book that is in use in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church until at least the year 2015.

George R. Cottenden, stated clerk
Willow Grove, Pennsylvania
September 2010

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