What We Believe
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Commentary on the Form of Government of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Chapter 13

Alan D. Strange

Chapter XIII
The Local Church and Its Session

1. The local church consists of a definite membership organized as a distinct congregation with its officers. Two or more local congregations may be associated together under the government of a single session. The membership of a local congregation consists of communicant and noncommunicant members, all of whom have the privilege of pastoral oversight, instruction, and government by the church.

Comment: The local church is a particularized, or organized, congregation that is ruled by its own governing assembly, the session. While each local church ordinarily has its own session, circumstances might necessitate two or more local congregations associating together under a single session, as noted in the second sentence of the section. One such circumstance might involve a mission work, a gathering of believers as a congregation not yet particularized: the mission work and the local congregation with which the mission work is associated would both be under the government of the same session.[1]

The session of a local church consists of all the ministers called by that church (the pastor, certainly; some churches have called other ministers to serve as associate pastors, teachers, evangelists, etc.), together with the local ruling elders in current sessional service. The local church has a membership that consists of a definite number of baptized and baptized/professing lay persons, which includes all the ruling elders and deacons of the church and excludes any ministers. While all ministers called by the local church serve on the session, ministerial members retain membership in the regional church and its presbytery.

The membership in every congregation falls into one of two classes, either communicant membership (those who are professing members of a local church) or noncommunicant membership, baptized children and youths who have not (yet) professed faith in Jesus Christ. There has been some confusion historically about the latter, leading some in the church misguidedly to speak of noncommunicants as if they are not members of the church. They are members as baptized: baptism is the solemn admission into the visible church of all those who are born within the covenant and who thus have a right to the outward sign and seal of baptism as testimony of their membership in the visible church.[2]

Baptized children and youth, even though they have not yet professed faith in Christ, as members of the visible church, are subject to all the pastoral care that communicants enjoy, including instruction and oversight of the local office-bearers. They are also properly under the government and discipline of the church and may be censured by admonition or rebuke as much as any communicant may.[3] It is thus incorrect to employ the parlance, all too sadly used, of “becoming a member of the church,” when a covenant youth professes faith. Upon profession, he becomes a communicant member and is removed by the clerk of session from the roll as a noncommunicant member, designated hereafter with all the other communicant members.

2. Communicant members are those who have been baptized, have made a credible profession of faith in Christ, and have been enrolled and admitted to all the rights of church membership by the session. Noncommunicant members are the baptized children of communicant members.

Comment: Keeping with the theme of communicant and noncommunicant members, let us drill down a bit into the meaning of such. The former, communicants, are those who have been baptized and have made a credible profession of faith in Christ. Some of those who are communicants in our churches were baptized upon a profession of faith, having never been baptized before. They were never validly baptized as infants, either because they were brought up in churches that did not teach and practice infant baptism or because they were not brought up in any Christian church at all.[4] These are those, customarily, who, never having been baptized, have come to the faith at some later point in their lives and have testified to their faith before the church and received baptism.

Among Presbyterians, such later-in-life baptisms characterize those who were not brought up in the church but converted to the Christian faith as youths or adults. Many communicants, especially in our churches, were baptized in infancy, in the Presbyterian or some other church, and came to profess their faith in Christ as young people and accordingly received as communicants. Communicants chiefly enjoy the right to table fellowship, i.e., to take the sacrament of holy communion, as well as all the privileges that appertain thereunto, especially the right to vote in congregational meetings on such things as election of ruling elders and deacons, calling of a pastor, etc.

The church, then, administers holy baptism to all who profess faith in Christ and to their children, who, as noted earlier, by virtue of their birth within the covenant, have a right to the sign and seal of baptism, the sacrament of initiation, as part of their “solemn admission” into the visible church.[5] All the ministry of the church with respect to noncommunicants has as its goal their coming to a credible profession of faith in Jesus Christ. If baptism is the sacrament of initiation into the life of God and his grace, then profession of faith involves the confession to the congregation that the grace of baptism has been made effectual in the life of the one professing. In other words, those professing faith wish to express that they love the Savior, who has all their lives expressed his love to them, beginning outwardly with their baptisms.[6]

It should be noted that profession of faith, whether as an adult convert or as noncommunicant youth, is qualified by the modifier “credible.” A credible profession of faith is a believable one. In the OPC, we regard a profession as credible if the one professing is able to take the five membership vows that affirm the basic doctrines of the faith and the commitment needed for godly living, all by God’s grace.[7] In some Reformed communions, a successful profession of faith includes a more or less explicit commitment to the relevant Reformed standards (the doctrinal standards of the particular church).[8] In the history of the Presbyterian Church in the mainstream in this country, we have reserved such commitment for the office-bearers.[9]

It has been the conviction of our churches that admission to communion should not be stricter than what we would regard as necessary for admission to heaven. It is the case that all communicants must be teachable, particularly as set forth in the fourth and fifth membership vows, requiring submission to and support of the local church. We find it sectarian, however, to require all members to make a commitment to the doctrinal standards, even as we earlier made it clear that it was partisan to make Presbyterianism pertain to the essence, or being, of the church (rather than its well-being) and thereby unchurch every other church.[10]

3. The officers in local congregations are ministers, ruling elders, and deacons. The number of each is to be determined by taking into account the needs of the congregation and the number of those to whom Christ has given the gifts required for such offices.

Comment: The session, as noted above, consists of the ministers called by the local congregation together with the serving ruling elders. The board of deacons consists of the serving deacons in that congregation. Elders or deacons who are not in current service are not thereby removed from office.[11] All of these form the body of officers in any given congregation. The first part of the second sentence reflects that the number of such in a particular congregation depends on the needs of the congregation. This is especially so with respect to ministers. A congregation of hundreds presents a challenge to only one pastor, and, increasingly, churches recognize that an additional pastor or two proves helpful in ministering to many larger congregations.

Similarly, a larger congregation needs more elders and deacons to meet the needs. This is why some congregations offer ongoing leadership training and not only training for those in the process of becoming officers: congregations often require a pool of potential candidates for the offices of ruling elder and deacon, especially if they have three-year terms of service. The second part of the second sentence should not be neglected, however. Note that the number of officers, especially elders and deacons, is also dependent on those having the gifts for such. A smaller congregation could have many men gifted for service as officers. Those men should be in office, and it should not be alleged that “we don’t need them.”

The church needs all those whom she determines are gifted for office in service in those offices. A church of one hundred members, e.g., may have six elders and a church of two hundred the same number: one should not conclude that the smaller church has too many elders in service or that the larger church ought to have more, regardless of whether she has more qualified men. Men should be qualified for office, and all who are (by the church’s judgment, not their own) should be encouraged to be in such service.

4. The session, which is the governing body of the local church, consists of its pastor, its other ministers, and its ruling elders. It shall choose its own moderator annually from among its members.

Comment: The session, the governing body of the local church, as noted above, consists of its pastor and other ministers called by that local body (these may be teachers, evangelists, or second or third pastors designated as “associate pastor”) and the ruling elders currently in service. The session elects, from its members, one who shall chair its meetings and perform other appropriate executive functions. This chairman in Presbyterianism is called “moderator.” Many, if not most, churches elect the sole or senior pastor to be moderator, but in the OPC, unlike some other Presbyterian bodies (the PCA, e.g.), any member of the session may be elected to serve as its moderator. Some would argue that it particularly pertains to the pastoral office for a minister to moderate the local session. It is the case that a pastoral sensibility should govern in any such case, whether the person elected to moderate is one of the pastors or one of the ruling elders. The election of a moderator is to occur every year. There is no “term limit” and many sessions customarily elect the moderator (and clerk as well) to serve multiple terms, especially if the senior or sole pastor is the one chosen to serve as moderator.[12]

5. The session shall convene at the call of the moderator, the presbytery, any two members of the session, or upon its own adjournment. A quorum of a session is two ruling elders, if there are three or more, or one ruling elder if there are fewer than three, together with the pastor or one of the pastors of the local congregation. In no case may the session conduct its business with fewer than two present who are entitled to vote.

Comment: The session of any given local church may be convened (brought together in a specific time at a particular place) by one of several parties: the moderator of the session may call a meeting, as may any two members of the session; the presbytery (in cases extraordinary, with a disabled session) may also do so. The session most commonly meets upon its own adjournment, which is to say, in the course of a regular meeting it is decided when the session will meet next.

The quorum of a session is the minimal number needed to transact business, and it depends on the size of the session. If a session has three or more ruling elders, at least two must be present for it to be a legitimate session meeting. If a session has less than three ruling elders, at least one must be present for there to be a sessional quorum. The pastor, or one of the pastors, must also, in addition to the required number for elders, be present for there to be a legitimate session meeting. At no time may the session conduct its business with fewer than two voting members present. This means, practically, that the least any church could have for a legitimate session meeting would be its minister and one elder.

6. When the pastor is unable to be present, or when for other reasons it seems advisable, another minister, normally of the same presbytery, acceptable to the session and the pastor, may be invited to be present for counsel; he shall be without vote, but may be elected to moderate the meeting.

When a church is without a pastor, the session shall request the presbytery to appoint a minister, normally of the same presbytery, to meet with them, or shall itself invite such a minister; he shall have the right to vote, and to be elected to moderate the meeting.

When it is impractical without great inconvenience for a minister to attend, those present may conduct business, but the grounds for the call of such a meeting shall be reviewed at the next meeting at which a minister is present.

Comment: When the pastor is unable to be present for a meeting of the session (perhaps he is ill, out of town, on sabbatical, etc.), another minister, normally of the same presbytery as that of the congregation, may be invited to be present. This provision presumes that the church needing a minister for its session meeting does not have another minister serving locally as an associate, teacher, etc. If the sole or senior pastor cannot be present to make it a valid meeting, then, of course, another minister who serves locally may do so. Many churches, however, have only one minister in the church or on the session and must look outside to secure the needed sessional services of a minister, because a session meeting ordinarily requires the presence of both orders: the elders that teach and govern (ministers) and the elders that govern (ruling elders).

Such outside ministers may also be invited to be present for counsel, not because the pastor is unable to be present, but because it is inadvisable for him to be there or to be an active participant in the meeting. Perhaps there are particular concerns that the session has with the pastor and finds it wise to have another minister in for counsel. This invited minister shall be without vote but may be elected to moderate the meeting. In any case, any such minister invited in for counsel must enjoy the mutual approbation of the pastor and the session. It should be noted that no member of a session, including its ministerial members, may be excluded involuntarily from any meeting of the session. In other words, a session may ask a member to absent himself but does not have the power to require a member to absent himself from a session of which he is a member. It may be wise for a member to absent himself to permit a discussion that his presence would render difficult, but he cannot be required to do so.

A church without a pastor needs a ministerial advisor and may ask the presbytery to appoint a nearby minister, mutually acceptable to session and presbytery, and usually of the same presbytery, to act as such. Alternatively, the session itself may invite a minister to act in such a capacity. The ministerial advisor may not only be asked to moderate the meetings (as may a consulting minister, in the paragraphs above) but also enjoys the right to vote in the meetings of the session.

The last paragraph of this section is quite important. It recognizes that at times a session needs to meet when it is quite impractical for any minister to be present. Note the language of “great inconvenience” suggests that session meetings should proceed to meet without a minister only under extraordinary circumstances. The session of a church without a pastor (or pastors) may have to meet under such circumstances. In any case, such a meeting needs to have the grounds of its call to such a minister-less meeting reviewed the next time a minister is present. It is presumed that the minister will confirm that a real exigency compelled the session to proceed without a minister. The FG does not say what happens if the minister refuses to recognize it as a legitimate meeting; at the very least such a refusal should be noted in the minutes, which presbytery may see upon review or visit.

This reflects the commitment of our FG for both orders (ministers and ruling elders) to be present at session meetings. They do not hold the same office, and a session cannot have a session meeting with no ruling elders (there must be a least one in the smallest congregations). Similarly, session meetings ought not to be held absent ministerial presence, except in emergencies, requiring subsequent ministerial oversight. Both offices are to be properly reflected in all of our judicatories: session, presbytery, and general assembly.

7. The session is charged with maintaining the government of the congregation. It shall oversee all matters concerning the conduct of public worship; it shall concert the best measures for promoting the spiritual growth and evangelistic witness of the congregation. It shall receive, dismiss, and exercise discipline over the members of the church, supervise the activities of the diaconate, the board of trustees and all other organizations of the congregation, and have final authority over the use of the church property. The session also shall appoint ruling elder commissioners to higher assemblies.

Comment: The session has oversight of everything that pertains to the life of the congregation, given a proper understanding of the nature and limits of church power (see comments for FG 4). This section proceeds to enumerate the ways in which the session maintains the government of the congregation. First of all, it oversees all matters concerning the conduct of public worship. This means that the session concerns itself with who, in addition to its minister(s), may come into the pulpit and preach God’s Word to the flock there. It also concerns itself with the content of public worship—the preaching, praying, and all the other elements of worship: Is the preaching faithful and clear, the prayers heartfelt, the songs appropriate, etc.? It orders the liturgy and determines baptisms, public professions of faith, and the observance of the Lord’s Supper.

Secondly, the session is to plan the best ways to evangelize internally and externally, as well as determine the measures most necessary for the maximal discipleship of the congregation. This usually involves specific outreach beyond the preaching of the Word alone: canvassing the neighborhood, holding conferences or other special meetings, sending out flyers, invite-a-friend days, etc. The spiritual growth, or discipleship, component of this may also involve men’s or women’s Bible study or fellowship groups, youth groups, conferences, or the like. The session is in charge of public worship, the center of all evangelism and discipleship, and all the other ways in which the local church might act in gathering and perfecting the saints, both at home and abroad.

The session receives and transfers members, examines those desiring to make profession of faith (both the unbaptized and noncommunicant members), and otherwise exercises discipline over both communicants and noncommunicants. It exercises informal discipline, in keeping watch over and bring exhortation as needed to the flock. When necessary, it may bring charges and hear a charge, engage in a preliminary examination, conduct a trial, and issue judicial censures (admonition, rebuke, suspension from office and/or membership, removal from office and/or excommunication). It also restores those that are penitent and receives them into the fellowship and communion of the saints.[13]

The session, as the church’s governing body, exercises authority over the diaconate, the trustees (if the church is incorporated, FG 31), and any other bodies that may function in the local church. It has final use over church property. Given especially the civil chaos of recent years, many churches have adopted procedures concerning property use (especially for marriages), childcare workers (some include background checks), emergency and security procedures (including evacuation plans and active shooter protocols), and the like. Some have working procedural manuals addressing such, in addition to local congregational by-laws or standing rules, which may address matters like term eldership, percentage required for the election of office-bearers, and any number of local concerns not addressed in the Form of Government, insofar as they do not contradict or violate the FG.

The last sentence in the section highlights again the nature of the office of ruling elder. It notes that the session shall appoint ruling elder commissioners to higher assemblies, which would include presbytery and general assembly. The session does not appoint ministers, because, while all ministers are permanent members of the presbytery, ruling elders are only members when commissioned. Similarly, presbyteries commission ministers to the general assembly, but the local session must commission them so that they may be selected by the presbytery in whatever fashion the presbytery employs to commission men to the general assembly. Note here that the language is that of “commission” not “delegate” as is the case in some Reformed churches. Commissioners serve in higher judicatories as those free to deliberate and follow their consciences in voting, whereas delegates may be instructed how to vote by the delegating bodies in the broader assemblies of the church.[14]

8. The session shall keep the following records: (1) minutes of its meetings, including a record of the administration of the sacraments and changes in the membership of the congregation; (2) minutes of the meetings of the congregation; and (3) rolls of the members of the congregation, both of communicant members and of their baptized children, with the dates of their reception. Such rolls shall designate those members worshiping with a mission work. Births, baptisms, censures, restorations, deaths, and removals shall be noted on these rolls. The session shall submit its minutes and the minutes of the congregation to the presbytery for review at least once every year.

Comment: The session is required to keep various records. Firstly, the session is to keep minutes of its meetings. Such minutes do not record all that takes place in a meeting as a transcript, or even summaries, of the discussions that took place would. Rather, minutes record actions of the session. Part of the actions that must appear in minutes are the session’s determination to administer baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Minutes should also reflect all changes in membership of the congregation, namely, transfers in and out, professions and reaffirmation of faith, censure, etc.[15]

Minutes should also be kept of meetings of the congregational meeting and read back for approval at the end of the meeting, since meetings of the congregation are generally too infrequent to allow easy recall at meetings distant from the time of the business transacted at earlier meetings. Further, a roll shall be kept of all communicant members, together with their baptized children, indicating the reception dates (by profession or reaffirmations of faith as well as transfers) for communicants. Historically the rules for keeping such rolls include the full names of all such persons, along with the maiden names of wives. Also on these rolls should be the dates of birth, baptism, censures, restoration, death, and removal from the rolls (with or without full process).

Sessional and congregational meeting minutes are to be submitted to and reviewed by the presbytery to which the session belongs. The presbyteries, as noted, generally have detailed rules for minute keeping, addressing matters of both style and substance, the latter generally drawn from this FG. Sessions also commonly have by-laws and/or standing rules that apply to their congregations. Such by-laws may never contradict the Form of Government, of course, but may specify things about which the FG is silent (e.g., simple or super majority for the election of local deacons and ruling elders) or gives a choice (e.g., term or lifetime service for officers).

The submission of sessional records to the presbytery is part of the process of review and control and is one way, other than by appeals (of complaints or judicial cases),[16] whereby the actions of the lower judicatories come before the higher. It is not the remit of the higher judicatory to correct what it regards as wrong judgments on the part of the lower judicatories (except in doctrinal cases) but to concern itself with procedural errors and lack of due process.[17] The presbytery may make notations about lesser matters and take exceptions to alleged violations of the constitution. The session is able to respond to exceptions, and the presbytery may take further actions if improprieties are not corrected.

9. The names of members shall be placed upon or removed from the rolls of the church only by order of the session, and according to the provisions of the Book of Discipline.

When upon the request of a member the session dismisses him to another congregation the clerk shall send a letter commending him to its care, and the clerk of the receiving church shall notify the dismissing church of the date of his reception. When notification is received the clerk shall remove his name from the roll and record the fact in the minutes.

Whenever a member desires dismissal to a church of which the session cannot approve, and he cannot be dissuaded, it shall grant him a certificate of standing, unless the session institutes disciplinary action against him; upon being informed that he has joined such a church the clerk shall erase his name from the roll.

Comment: This section describes matters pertaining to membership that are more fully addressed in the Book of Discipline.[18] Thus the brief treatment here. The first paragraph in this section asserts that it is the session alone that places or removes names upon the rolls of the church. Members do not do so on their own authority but only the session does, acting upon request and as it deems best, subject to appeal. A member seeking transfer to another congregation requests such from the session and remains on the rolls of the sending church until such church is notified by the receiving church of the date of his reception. Upon such notification the clerk removes his name from the roll and records it in the minutes.

If a member wishes to be dismissed to a church of which the session cannot approve—one not of like faith and practice and that is not considered beneficial to the would-be transferee—and the session cannot dissuade him of such, it shall furnish a certificate of standing, unless it determines to institute disciplinary action against him. Upon intelligence that he has joined such a church (not approved by the session), the clerk shall accordingly erase his name from the rolls and record the circumstances in the minutes.

10. If a session shall cease to exist or become so small as to prevent it from working effectively, the presbytery shall provide for an election and ordination of elders from within the congregation; or the presbytery, with the consent of the congregation, may appoint ruling elders or ministers, or both, normally from within the same presbytery, to be an acting session or to augment the existing session temporarily.

Comment: The session, as noted above, must have at least two members for it to be viable. When a session falls below this number, or when it may have such a number but clearly needs more members due to the circumstances of the local church, the presbytery may step in to help it. The presbytery may provide the help by facilitating an election and ordination of elders from within the congregation. This would occur in a circumstance in which the local congregation needs such help to get more elders, perhaps not being able on its own to provide training and needing the presbytery’s assistance in the process of actually getting more men into office locally.

If such men are simply not available in the local congregation, the presbytery can then render aid by appointing men from within the presbytery (ruling elders, ministers, or both) to serve on the session in need. Those appointed to such service are normally from within the same presbytery as the session to which they are appointed. This means that in some cases they may be appointed from a church in neighboring presbytery. In any case, such appointment must receive congregational approbation: it is never the case that governors may be imposed on local congregants without their consent. The appointment of such men to aid a local session, called augmentation, is not permanent but temporary: their service is continued only as long as they are needed and/or until the congregation is able to put more local men in sessional service.

Endnotes

[1] Those who are part of a mission work may have membership either on the rolls of some other local OPC (customarily the mother church that planted the mission work) or on the rolls of the regional church (and under the direct authority of the presbytery). See FG 29.A.1.

[2] OPC Directory for the Public Worship of God 3.B.1.b.(2) on “The Meaning and Nature of the Sacrament [of Baptism]” makes this clear. This is, arguably, even clearer in the 1645 (Westminster) Directory for the Publick Worship of God (in the section “Of the Administration of the Sacraments: And First, of Baptism”) that says that the “seed … of the faithful, born within the church … are Christians, and federally holy before baptism and therefore are to be baptized.” Baptism for such infants is a recognition of what is already true of them by virtue of their birth “within the church.”

[3] Peter Wallace, “Covenant and Conversion,” Ordained Servant 14.2 (Sept. 2005), 30–39, discusses the nineteenth century debate in the PCUSA Old School of whether discipline applied only to those professing faith or also to those who were baptized but had not (yet) professed faith. Wallace argues that it should apply to all since all are members of the church. He expands on this question as he deals with the revision of the Book of Discipline in the Old School Church in the late 1850s in chapter 9 of his dissertation, “‘The Bond of Union’: The Old School Presbyterian Church and the American Nation, 1837–1861.” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Notre Dame, 2004. The last sentence in this section of the FG makes quite clear the commitment of the OPC to minister fully to all members, communicants and noncommunicants.

[4] The validity of baptism presupposes three things: It is in the Trinitarian name, performed by an ordained minister, and with water. Baptisms performed in cults (such as Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses) are invalid as are those performed “in the name of Jesus only,” as characterizes some Pentecostal churches. The Reformers and their successors did not question the validity of Roman Catholic baptism, though they regarded parts of it as irregular. In nineteenth century American Presbyterianism the validity of Roman Catholic baptism was successfully challenged, though the rejection of RCC baptism was sharply contested by Charles Hodge and others, whose arguments later came to prevail, see Hodge, Church Polity, 190–215.

[5] So much more might be said about baptism as a seal or its general place in our theology. For a start, see two articles in New Horizons by Alan D. Strange, “Baptism as a Seal,” at https://www.opc.org/nh.html?issue_id=23, and “Baptism in our Confessional Standards,” at https://www.opc.org/nh.html?article_id=544.

[6] And such as profess their faith come to the Lord’s Table to partake of the sacrament of continuation. Baptism signifies and seals the beginning of God’s grace and the Lord’s Supper signifies and seals its ongoing progress in the life of the Christian. See J. V. Fesko, “The Sacraments as Visible Words,” New Horizons, at https://www.opc.org/nh.html?article_id=611, and Larry Wilson, “Signed, Sealed, and Delivered,” New Horizons, at https://www.opc.org/nh.html?article_id=18.

[7] OPC Directory for the Public Worship of God, 4.B.2. (1–5).

[8] The URCNA Church Order, Article 43, sets forth that “public profession of faith” shall occur “with the use of the appropriate liturgical form,” which is found in Liturgical Forms and Prayers of the URCNA (2018): Proper profession requires that one “wholeheartedly believe the doctrine contained in the Old and New Testament, and in the articles of the Christian faith, and taught in this church” (“Public Profession of Faith: Forms 1 and 2”). These words are variously interpreted among the churches, some assuming that they bind all the members in some sense to the doctrinal standards of the church. It is the case that Calvin in Geneva, for instance, “advocated the formal adoption of a Catechism … by all citizens” (in D. Hall, ed., The Practice of Confessional Subscription, 2).

[9] By the “Presbyterian Church in the mainstream,” I mean those churches that emerged from the Church of Scotland, whatever its original practices may have been, like the PCUSA and PCUS (and ultimately the OPC and PCA), not the churches like the RPCNA and ARP that emerged from the offshoot Covenanter and Seceder lines. Some of these churches required some sort of subscription to the Westminster Standards, unlike the mainline Presbyterian churches (including their confessional offspring, the OPC and PCA) which have only required a “credible profession of faith.” See for this latter, e.g., The Constitution of the RPCNA, D-1, which requires all members not only to give a “credible profession of faith” but also “acceptance of the Covenant of Church Membership,” with 1–7 making it clear that “Ministers, Elders, Deacons, and Members of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America,” all swear to the same set of doctrinal beliefs and practices.

[10] Hodge, Church Polity, 218–224. Hodge is adamant, as are the Princetonians generally, that “the Lord’s Table is for the Lord’s people—and we commit a great sin, if we presume to debar any man, giving credible evidence of being a child of God, from our Christian fellowship” (218).

[11] FG 25.2.

[12] For greater detail on how a session meeting might work well, see Alan D. Strange, “How to Run the Session Meeting,” Ordained Servant, at https://www.opc.org/os.html?article_id=356.

[13] All of this is set forth in greater detail in the appropriate chapters in the BD (especially chapters 2–6) and will be duly commented on at those places.

[14] See the “The Report of the Committee to Study the Views of Creation” (at this point: https://www.opc.org/GA/creation.html#Credentialing) for a further discussion and elaboration of what it means, in the Presbyterian system, to be a “commissioner” (and not a “delegate”).

[15] Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised, 12th edition (New York: Public Affairs, 2020) details the taking of minutes generally (446–53), though most presbyteries adopt their own conventions for keeping sessional minutes and the general assembly has its own “Rules for Keeping Presbyterial Minutes,” in the Standing Rules and Instruments of the General Assembly of the OPC, 18.

[16] See BD 7 and 9.

[17] In cases of life (morals), as opposed to doctrine, appellate judicatories are not to retry the case (they are at a remove from the evidence, witnesses, etc.) but are to attend to whether the charges were properly formed and brought, the case was fairly handled, and like matters of due process. Much more on this in later commentary on the BD.

[18] See BD 2 and 5.

Alan D. Strange is a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and serves as professor of church history and theological librarian at Mid-America Reformed Seminary in Dyer, Indiana, and is associate pastor of New Covenant Community Church (OPC) in Joliet, Illinois. Ordained Servant Online, February 2021. A list of available installments in this series appears here.

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