THE REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN
CHURCH OF INDIA
FORM OF GOVERNMENT
OF THE REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF
1. We confess and believe that the church is not merely a human organization, but that it is the body of our Lord Jesus Christ. As such, the church is not to be governed by the ideas and imaginations of man but by principles that are revealed in Godís Word. We further believe that these principles are most accurately represented in the form of church government, historically known as Presbyterianism, to be distinguished from Episcopal, Independent and other such systems. For the harmonious functioning of the church it will be necessary to add or amend various rules and guidelines from time to time so long as they do not contradict those principles clearly revealed in scripture and stated below.
2. That Jesus Christ alone is the king and head of the church.
3. That the church is to be governed by elders (presbuteroi) who are also called bishops or overseers (episkopoi) or pastors.
4. That some elders have the primary responsibility of preaching and teaching the Word of God, and are, therefore, called Teaching Elders or Pastors, while other elders have the responsibility of administration of the congregation, and are, therefore called Ruling Elders. Both Teaching and Ruling Elders have the responsibility of looking after the welfare of the congregation.
5. That all elders are equal in status; no elder may on whatever ground lord it over another. This is not to deny the proper exercise of authority as
required by various offices or as necessitated by pastoral care and discipline by an appropriate body or bodies.
6. That there should be more than one Ruling Elder in every congregation.
7. That all matters of faith, life and discipline are to be decided by the courts of the church, namely, the Session, the Presbytery and the Synod.
8. That a member or a body has the right to appeal the decision of one court to a higher court and that if the decision of the highest court of the church is unacceptable, he or it shall have the full freedom either to abide by the decision or to join himself / itself with another church.
Name of the Church
1. The official name of the church shall be The Reformed Presbyterian Church of India (RPCI).
2. Each affiliated Presbytery and each Local Church affiliated to the Presbytery shall have its own name as decided upon by the particular body at the time of its incorporation. No two Presbyteries or two Local Churches within the Presbytery shall bear the same name. Any dispute concerning names should be resolved by a decision of the higher court.
The Local Church (Particular Church or Congregation)
1. A Local Church of this denomination shall consist of a group of least ten communicant members and two Ruling Elders. If, for some reason, only one Ruling Elder can be found, the Presbytery upon request from that church may assign a Ruling Elder from a neighbouring church affiliated to the Presbytery or a
Teaching Elder to help govern that particular body. The Presbytery may then designate such a body as a Local Church.
2. A group that consists of less than ten communicant members may be recognised by the Presbytery as a Fellowship.
3. A fellowship may send representatives to the Presbytery. They may take part in all deliberations but are not allowed to vote.
4. The Presbytery shall assign the session of an affiliated church to exercise pastoral supervision over the Fellowship and to oversee its ministry.
1. Four types of membership in the Local Church are recognized: Communicant, Non-Communicant, Associate, and Society Membership.
2. Communicant members are those persons who have been baptized into the name of the Holy Trinity, have made a credible profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, whose testimony of faith is not contradicted by flagrant or scandalous sin of false doctrine, who are willing to submit themselves to the government of the local church and of the denomination, and have been received into membership by the local Session.
3. It is the solemn responsibility of the local Session to examine the faith and life of those who would become communicant members. To such an end the elders are to conduct suitable instruction for those who desire to become communicant members.
4. The session shall have the sole power to receive communicant members into the church and to remove names from the communicantsí roll. Communicant members may be added by confession of faith, reaffirmation of faith, or by letter of transfer from a church not deemed heretical.
5. The session may remove names from the roll of communicants in five ways only: i) by record of decease, ii) by letter of transfer, iii) by record of the memberís uniting with another church, iv) by record of ordination to the ministry (as a Teacher Elder), or v) by disciplinary action. The first four of these ways may be delegated to the secretary of the Session without an action by the Session. A letter of transfer to another evangelical church may not be refused by the Session.
6. If a member absents himself from worship or does not take up membership responsibilities in the church for long periods without sufficient reason, the Session may bring him under disciplinary procedures. The Session must exercise pastoral supervision over members staying geographically far from the church. If a member does not keep in touch with the Session for a long period, the Session may initiate disciplinary action against him.
7. It is necessary that every communicant member submit to the doctrines of the church as stated in the Westminster Standards including the doctrines of covenant baptism and the sovereignty of God in salvation, not withstanding that the measure of understanding of these doctrines will vary from individual to individual.
8. Non-Communicant members of the church are natural or adopted children of communicant members who are baptized but have not yet made a public profession of his or her personal faith in Christ.
9. Non-Communicant members are not entitled to vote in any meeting of the church. Neither are they allowed to partake of the Lordís Supper.
10. These children, though non-communicant and non-voting, are still members of the church and included in the holy covenant which God has made with believers.
11. Associate Members are communicant members of another church temporarily residing away from their local church and who seek membership for pastoral care and means of grace.
12. Those who seek Associate Membership must produce before the session evidence of their membership in their local church.
13. In addition to the above (12), those who in good conscience are not able to agree with all the doctrines of the church but at the same time give evidence to the Session that they are baptized, evangelical believers may be admitted to Associate membership, whether or not they are members of another church.
14. When children of Associate Members are baptized, a record of the baptism should be sent to the Session of the local church of the member.
15. Associate Members may not vote in any meeting; neither may they hold any office in the local church. But they may enjoy all the privileges of fellowship, worship and service under the Session.
16. If Associate Members are to be brought under serious discipline the Session of their Local Church must be informed.
17. Communicant Members of a registered Local Church who are over 18 years of age are members of the Society. They are eligible to vote in the society meetings and hold offices of the Society. (Refer Article 8).
1. The Session of a particular church consists of the Pastor, Associate Pastors and Ruling Elders of the congregation.
2. Only communicant male members who are not under the disciplinary process in the congregation are eligible to be candidates for eldership. Only communicant members who are over 18 years and not under discipline may vote. Nominations for eldership may be received from the congregation by the Session, and the Session itself may nominate candidates. Nominations may be invited from
the congregation at least one month before the election and nominations must be closed two weeks before the election. All nominees must be prayerfully scrutinized by the Session, paying attention to the list of qualifications given in the pastoral epistles. The Session may require nominees to attend classes designed to prepare men for eldership. Only those whose names are cleared by the Session are to be declared candidates. Their names are to be announced to the congregation at least one week before the date appointed for election. No nominations may be entertained from the floor at the time of election. Elections are usually held at the Annual General Meeting of the congregation.
3. The Session may decide to field only the number of positions needed or it may choose to field mote candidates than needed to be elected. Whenever possible, the Session may give more candidates than the number of positions required. Each voting member votes for as many vacancies as declared by the session. A candidate must secure a minimum of ĺ of the votes in order to be elected. If, during the first round declared vacancies are not filled, a second round of elections may be conducted according to the same rules. Voting must be done by secret ballot.
4. Those elected as elders must be ordained and installed before they can assume office. Installation must be done within a period of two months. It is desirable that elders from other congregations also participate in the ordination and installation service. The office of a Ruling Elder is limited to the congregation which has elected him. A Ruling Elder who transfers his membership to another local church must be elected by the congregation before he can be installed as Ruling Elder of the present congregation. However, he need not be re-ordained.
5. A Ruling Elder serves for a period of three years after which he must step down from active eldership. However, non-active elders continue to retain their ordained status, and may be called upon by the session to serve in some particular capacity.
6. An elder stepping down after three years of service is eligible for re-election as an active elder. But whenever possible, opportunity must be provided for others to serve. Ordained elders re-elected need not be re-ordained but must be re-installed.
7. Ordinarily a Session must meet once a month at stated times and places. Under no circumstances should a Session refrain from meeting for more than three months. The Pastor or Moderator along with half the number of active elders shall constitute a quorum. All Session meetings must begin and end with prayer.
8. Ordinarily the Pastor of a congregation is the moderator of the Session. In the absence of a Pastor, the Session may elect any Teaching Elder of the denomination or a Ruling Elder to moderate the meetings. Such action should be reported to the Stated Clerk of the Presbytery, if done for more than one meeting.
9. The Session shall appoint the elders who represent the church in the Presbytery.
10. The Session shall elect as its Secretary an elder as competent as possible in the keeping of records. Every Session shall keep an accurate and clear record of its proceedings and an accurate and clear register or roll of the members of the particular church, including the names of the communicant members, the names and dates of birth of their children, and the names of former communicant members transferred to other churches, or suspended, or otherwise removed from the rolls. The Session records and rolls shall be open to the Presbytery or its duly appointed agents at all times, and a report reflecting the minutes and records of the church shall be submitted to the presbytery at least once a year.
11. The Session shall regulate the uses of the property and buildings of the church. If written objection to the decision of the session is received from society members, the dispute may be resolved by the majority at a legally constituted meeting of the Society.
12. The Session shall be responsible for the total ministry of the church.
13. No Session shall interfere with the work of another Local Church or Fellowship except through the Presbytery.
1. A Presbytery consists of all the Teaching Elders ministering within the limits of the Presbytery and all active Ruling Elders of Local Churches affiliated to the Presbytery. All Teaching Elders who are members of the Presbytery, and all Ruling Elders who are delegated by the local Sessions may vote at Presbytery meetings. An officer of the Presbytery or an appointed member of Committee who is a Ruling Elder may not vote unless he is also delegated by a local session. However, he will have full rights to participate in the discussions.
2. Each Local Church may delegate two Ruling Elders to the Presbytery. Churches having over 200 communicant members on the roll may send more delegates at the ratio of one per every additional 200 members or parts thereof.
3. Any Teaching Elder who absents himself from the Presbytery for four consecutive meetings without giving an excuse before the meeting, considered valid by the Presbytery, may forfeit his membership in the Presbytery.
4. Any three Teaching Elders and one Ruling Elder delegated to the Presbytery shall constitute a quorum at a legally called meeting. Ordinarily, the Presbytery shall decide the venue and the date of its next meeting. The Standing Committee of the Presbytery shall have the right to make changes in the date and venue if the situation requires. Each session of the Presbytery shall open and close with prayer.
5. Boundaries of a Presbytery shall be recommended by the Presbytery and sanctioned by the Synod. Each Presbytery shall meet at least two times a year.
6. Any three Teaching Elders and two Ruling Elders from different churches may demand a meeting of the Presbytery by giving written notice to the Secretary of the Presbytery at least one month before the date of which the meeting is to be scheduled. If the Secretary of Moderator (Chairman) does not
follow upon such written request, the members may call a meeting of the Presbytery with at least 1/3 of the members of the Presbytery concurring. A minimum of three weeks of notice must be given for such meetings. If officers are not present, a senior Teaching Elder may preside and a temporary Secretary may be appointed. These appointments will be valid only for the particular meeting. The proceedings of such meetings are to be considered legally valid.
7. The officers of a Presbytery shall include a Moderator (Chairman), Vice-Moderator, a Secretary and a Treasurer. They shall be elected annually at the Annual General Meeting.
8. The Presbytery shall have the right to appoint committees for delegation of its work. Each Committee shall have both Ruling as well as Teaching Elders represented on it. The following committees are ordinarily recommended. The Standing Committee of the Presbytery shall consist of the officers of the Presbytery along with two (Ruling of Teaching) Elders. This Committee may function as the Executive of the Presbytery. The Candidates and Credentials Committee shall have a majority of Teaching Elders in it. The main function of this Committee is to look after the examinations of candidates for ministry and Teaching Elders from other Presbyteries of Denominations. This committee may be appointed for a suitable period of time by the Presbytery. The Judicial Committee may be appointed as need arises to hear arguments and evidences in a case of discipline where a formal charge has been brought. If a member of the Presbytery feels that a certain member of the Judicial Committee may not be able to maintain objectivity in a particular case, he may challenge the inclusion of that member. Unless the Committee member withdraws on his own accord, the Presbytery shall decide on his inclusion by a majority vote. However, no charge may be brought against a Committee member after the members are confirmed by the Presbytery.
9. A Local Church that defaults in any of the following may be denied the privilege of vote in the Presbytery and/or may be dropped from the membership roll: a) Not sending Ruling Elder delegates for more than four consecutive meetings without valid excuse; b) Not submitting reports of information as requested by the Presbytery for over a period of two years; c) Not paying membership fees or other ministry shares to the Presbytery. Teaching Elders who
are Pastors or Associate Pastors in such defaulting churches may be asked to give a report of the situation and encouraged to bring the church back to fellowship with the Presbytery. If their attempts fail, the church may be dropped from membership. But the Teaching Elders may continue to minister in such congregations. If they are granted permission by the Presbytery to labour out of bounds, and as a private arrangement between them and the Local Church.
10. All Teaching Elders who are not Pastors of Local Churches, must give at the Annual Meeting of the Presbytery, a brief written report of their ministry and activities during the year.
11. All Teaching Elders who have retired and are not actively involved in a ministry, may be declared members emeriti. Such members shall have full rights to participate in all discussions of the Presbytery but shall have no right to vote.
1. The function of a Synod is (1) to provide opportunities for fellowship and interaction within the whole church (denomination), (2) to hear and decide on matters of appeal from lower courts, (3) to receive reports, statistics and other information which will help the church to function as a denomination, (4) to discuss, decide, and interpret doctrinal and ethical matters, and (5) to engage in any and all legal activities that are required for the welfare of the denomination.
2. The Synod shall consist of all the Teaching and Ruling Elders of the denomination. The number of voting delegates may be limited buy the Synod itself. Each Presbytery shall have an equal number of voting delegates. The voting delegates of each Presbytery are to be chosen by the Presbytery, and both Ruling and Teaching Elders are to be represented in more or less equal number.
3. Half the number of voting delegates shall constitute a quorum.
4. The officers of the Synod are: Moderator, Vice-Moderator, Secretary and Treasurer. The offices of Moderator, Vice-Moderator and Treasurer are for a
period of one year, and new officers may be elected at the end of each Synod. The Secretary may be elected for a longer period if the Synod so decides, to give continuity to the Synod. The Secretary shall be the Chief Functionary of the Synod and the Church, in which case his services may be financially remunerated. The officers of the Synod shall function as a Interim Committee between Synods. They shall collectively be responsible for all matters of administration between Synods, and also be responsible to call and conduct the next Synod.
5. The Synod may meet once a year. The gap between two meetings should be no more than three years.
6. All matters to be put on the agenda of the Synod must reach the Secretary at least two months before the date scheduled for its meeting. The agenda must be approved at the beginning of each Synod. No doctrinal or disciplinary item may be added to the agenda during the Synod. The Synod shall have the right to set procedures, appoint committees, or to take other actions for disposing matters that are on its agenda.
7. The Synod may not hear cases against a Local Church member, Teaching Elder or a Session unless the matter is brought to it as an appeal against the decision of the Presbytery or against unreasonable delay in resolving an issue in the lower courts. However, matters concerning a Presbytery may be heard by the Synod directly.
8. The decision of the Synod shall be binding on all Presbyteries and Sessions. If a Presbytery does not abide by or enforce the decision of the Synod, the Synod or any Presbytery may initiate proceedings against the Presbytery concerned, which may lead to the dismissal of the Presbytery including the Local Churches affiliated to it. The dismissal of a Presbytery should not necessarily mean deposing any of its Teaching Elders or dissolution of any of its local churches.
9. The Synod or its authorized agents shall be the sole agency in the denomination for conducting all official communication and business with interdenominational organizations. The lower courts shall have the freedom to
cooperate in the ministry with other denominations and organizations provided they are evangelical in their faith.
1. All bodies holding or planning to hold properties must be registered as Societies. The main function of the Society is to hold property on behalf of the Church. The Society shall not interfere with the spiritual ministry of the church which is under the direction of the session alone. The name of the Society shall be the same as the body for which the Society holds property. Membership in the society is as stipulated in Article 4/17.
2. Property belonging to bodies may not be registered in the name of individuals. However, this does not prohibit the churchís use of property owned by individuals. Before the construction of buildings or investment of common funds takes place the title of the property must be transferred to the Society of the particular body.
3. The Society shall elect its own officers: President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer. Active Ruling Elders and Deacons are also eligible to hold office of the Society. Teaching Elders, since they are not members of the local church, are not eligible to vote in Society meetings or hold office of the local church Society. However, a Teaching Elder may be consulted for advice or may be requested to chair a meeting of the Society until a President is elected.
4. No court or society or body of the church shall for any reason make any claim to property belonging to another society or court or body of the church.
5. In the event of a schism in the church due to doctrinal or other reasons, the society shall have sovereign rights to decide the status of the property irrespective of its affiliation or lack of it to the denomination. If the society decides to secede from the denomination, however, it will be obliged to change the name of the Society as per its constitution.
6. In the event of membership declining below the required number of communicant members to be recognized as a Local Church (Art 3/1), the society must dissolve itself.
7. Any person or persons encroaching or illegally occupying the property of the church or stealing of misusing funds of the church shall automatically be subjected to the discipline of the church.
8. All societies of the church in their registered constitution or bylaws must have the provision under the section on ďDissolutionĒ that no member or members of the society shall benefit in any way from the assets belonging to the Society. Further, it should be clearly stated that the assets of the Society after satisfying all the debts and dues of the Society may be given to a Society or Societies similar in goals and objectives to the one dissolved. Such a decision should be made by a minimum of 3/5 of the members of the Society present at a legally called meeting.
9. Certified copies of the Memorandum of Association and Rules and Regulations of the Society and any amendments from time to time must be submitted with the higher court of the church.
10. Local Churches or bodies which have been previously registered may be accepted into the fellowship of the Presbytery or Synod upon approval of their registered Memorandum of Association and Rules and Regulations.
Rights, Duties and Relationships
1. Any individual, Local Church or Presbytery desiring to affiliate with the Reformed Presbyterian Church of India by its very application must affirm its full agreement with the doctrines taught in the Westminster Standards and with this Form of Church Government and any legally made amendments.
2. Individuals, Local Churches or Presbyteries may remain in association with the denomination only so long as they themselves desire. The relationship is purely voluntary. A body or an individual nay leave a higher body at any time for reasons which seem sufficient to itself by orderly ballot at a legal meeting of its congregation or Society.
3. A higher body or court shall have the right to review the decisions of its lower courts or examine their documents and records, and to require the lower bodies to report their accounts or statistics.
4. A higher body or court shall have the right to investigate any report of alleged wrongdoing or false teaching in the lower bodies or courts. Further, the higher courts or bodies shall have the right to require compliance of its decisions and suggestions from the lower courts and bodies.
5. Each body shall have the right to suspend, discipline or dismiss any member or members under its jurisdiction for whatever reason sufficient to itself provided such a decision is taken in a legally constituted meeting according to the Rules and Regulations of the body. However, it is expected that sufficient counsel, period of waiting and prayer must precede such decisions.
6. In case of differences in interpretation between members or bodies, such disputes must be referred to the church court having jurisdiction over the particular member or body. Every effort must be made to settle civil disputes believers in the church court, according to the Word of God.
Call, Ordination, Installation and Deposing
1. A person who feels called to the ministry must get in touch with the Session of the church of which he is a member. The Session must hear his testimony and call to the ministry. If the Session is satisfied with the genuineness of his profession and call, it may recommend him to the Presbytery. If a person
has not been a believer for at least one year, or if the person is immature or is too young, or if the personís life is contrary to the Word of God, the Session must refrain from recommending him to the Presbytery.
2. An applicant who is recommended by the Session must present himself before the Presbytery where he must share his testimony and his conviction that he is called to the ministry of the gospel. Members of the Presbytery may ask him questions about his faith and conviction is order to ascertain his genuineness. The examination at this stage primarily is not to test his knowledge, but his experience.
3. The Presbytery, if it is satisfied with the profession of the applicant, may decide to take the applicant Under Care. A candidate is taken Under Care for a period of three years which may be renewed at the discretion of the Presbytery. Such a person is usually asked to be under the supervision of his Session or of the Session of a church where he is an Associate Member. The Session shall provide him with opportunities for ministry and shall watch his conduct and abilities, giving counsel and evaluation from time to time.
4. After an appropriate period, the Session may recommend the candidate to be licensed. Ordinarily, he must have completed a minimum of two years of theological training before he can be licensed. Licensure examinations, conducted orally, must focus on ascertaining the orthodoxy of the applicant. An applicant may be brought Under Care and be licensed simultaneously if the conditions are met. A person is licensed for a period of two years which may be renewed by the Presbytery.
5. A minimum period of one year, during which time he can complete the prescribed examinations, must pass before a candidate can be ordained. The Presbytery has the full right to accept or reject any candidate for ordination or to postpone ordination. A candidate must have finished a minimum of three years of theological education at a recognized institution before he can appear for ordination examination.
6. The examinations for ordination may be conducted by a Candidates and Credentials Committee of the Presbytery appointed for the purpose. The
Candidates are required to contact the chairman of this Committee for their examinations. Such a committee shall have the power to set dates, set question papers for written examinations and make assessments of the candidateís work. The committee shall present the results of their written examinations along with the papers which ate available to the members of the Presbytery for scrutiny.
7. Written examinations are conducted on the following subjects: Bible, Theology, Church History, Church Polity, and Indian Religions and Cults. For each subject there should be some research work as well as an examination. A candidate must secure a minimum of 60% marks in each subject to pass the examination.
8. In addition to the written examination, the candidate will be required to preach a sermon before the Presbytery or a congregation with the Candidates and Credential Committee or at least four Teaching Elders present, on a text assigned by the committee.
9. Candidates who pass written examinations may appear for oral examinations done before the Presbytery. The purpose of oral examination primarily is to ascertain the candidateís theological position and views rather than to test his factual knowledge (which, it is assumed, was done through written examinations). After the candidate had been sent out, the Presbytery shall discuss his performance. He would be considered to have sustained the examination if a minimum of ĺ of the members present approve his ordination.
10. The Presbytery may recommend ordination upon receiving evidence that a candidate has been called to a particular church or ministry. Persons working in or intending to work in situations other than pastoral ministries may be called by local churches as Associate Pastors with the primary responsibility to a particular ministry other than pastoring a Local Church (such as Seminary). Such letters of call must specify the duties and responsibilities of the church and the minister, including financial obligations, if any. Associate Pastors may attend Session meetings of the church which has called him, but may not vote. Although disciplinary actions against a Teaching Elder may be taken only by a Presbytery, the local Session if which he is a pastor or Associate Pastor is responsible to oversee his spiritual life and ministry.
11. The congregation through its Session may issue a call to a candidate approved by Presbytery. A call must be approved by a 3/5 vote at a duly called congregational meeting. The call shall specify the obligations of the candidate and the congregation to each other.
11b. The Presbytery shall have the right to call and appoint Teaching Elders for church planting ministries and also to appoint moderators for vacant pastorates until such time as they ate able t call their own Pastors.
12. Ordination may be given at the Presbytery or at a local church by a committee appointed by the Presbytery for that purpose. All Teaching and Ruling Elders of the denomination are eligible to lay hands upon the candidate during ordination. If desired, ordained ministers of other evangelical churches may also be invited to lay their hands on the candidate. The same committee or another committee may be authorized by the Presbytery to install the ordained person into the church or ministry to which he is called. Installation must be done locally. A record of the ordination and/or installation should be made in the minutes of the next scheduled meeting of the Presbytery.
13. In the service of ordination. There ought to be an exposition of the Word of God from an appropriate text along with a solemn charge to the person ordained. Before the elders lay their hands on the candidate and commit him in prayer, he is to give affirmative answers to the following questions:
(1) Do you feel in your heart that the Lord himself has called
you to this office?
(2) Do you acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New
Testaments to be the Word of God, the only infallible rule
of faith and practice?
(3) Do you sincerely receive and adopt the doctrinal standards
of this church, the Westminster Confession of Faith, and the
Larger and the Shorter Catechisms, as embodying the sys
tem of doctrine taught in the Scriptures?
(4) Do you acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ as the only
Redeemer and Head of His church, and do you accept the
of Church Government of the Reformed Presbyterian
Church of India as derived from the Holy Scriptures?
(5) Do you accept the office of a Teaching Elder, and promise
to perform faithfully all the duties thereof?
(6) Do you promise to submit to the discipline of the Reformed
Presbyterian Church of India in case your doctrine or life is
found to be contrary to the Word of God?
(7) Do you promise to uphold the truths of the gospel, and
maintain the purity, peace and unity of the church, what
ever persecution or opposition may come your way on that
14. An ordained Teaching Elder automatically becomes a member of the Presbytery until he is transferred to another Presbytery, is deposed, resigns or dies. Those Under Care and licensed are expected to attend the meetings of the Presbytery but shall not vote unless they are delegated by a Session as Ruling Elders.
15. An ordained Teaching Elder or Minister from another denomination or another Presbytery seeking membership in the Presbytery must be thoroughly re-examined for his doctrine and life. If such a person is lacking in any area, the Presbytery may declare him a probationer until such time as he satisfies the Presbytery. During the time of probation, he may minister within the Presbyter, but nay not be installed as a pastor. He need not be re-ordained provided he brings a valid certificate of ordination.
16. Ordinarily a minister may not entertain a call from another congregation of ministry for a period of two years after installation in a particular ministry. Any exceptions must be approved by the Presbytery. If a congregation within the Presbytery calls a Teaching Elder who is installed in a ministry, a copy of the call letter should be sent to the presbytery. A minister accepting a call to a new ministry must be properly installed by the presbytery and the matter recorded.
17. A Teaching Elder receiving a call from another Presbytery or denomination must give written notice to the Secretary of the Presbytery of which he is a member. The Secretary then shall call a meeting of the Standing
Committee of the Presbytery unless a meeting of the Presbytery is scheduled to take place within a period of no longer than two months. If the Standing Committee or the Presbytery gives its assent to the call, the Secretary of the Presbytery shall transfer the credentials of the Teaching Elder to the Presbytery to which he is called. The receiving Presbytery at its next meeting may examine the Teaching Elder to make sure of his doctrine and life. If the Presbytery is satisfied he may be installed to the new ministry without re-ordination.
18. The name of a Teaching Elder who leaves the denomination shall be dropped from the roll of the Presbytery. If a minister leaves the ministry of the gospel or if he joins a liberal or heretical denomination, the Presbytery may decide to depose him. A member of the Presbytery who leaves without informing the Presbytery, and receiving permission from it. May be considered as having deserted the ministry of the gospel, and may be considered for deposing.
19. A Teaching Elder whose life or doctrine is questionable, and if personal counsel as well as counsel from the session are ineffective in changing his life or doctrine, any two church members or the local session may bring written charge against him to the Presbytery. The Presbytery after ascertaining the seriousness of the charge, may decide to go into an executive session or appoint a judicial commission to investigate the matter and report to the Presbytery. The Judicial Commission shall have the right to call witnesses, hear the accused as well as the accusers, and to recommend appropriate action such as acquittal, waning, probation, suspension or deposal. The Presbytery has the right to implement, reject or take an action different from the recommendation of the Commission.
20. If a serious offense with regard to life or teaching is raised concerning a Teaching Elder the Standing Committee of the Presbytery will have the right to suspend him with immediate effect. This action will be in effect until the next meeting of the Presbytery or for six months whichever comes first.
21. If the accused Teaching Elder refuses to abide by the counsel of the Presbytery or if his life or teaching shows no indication of change or repentance, after a suitable period of time the Presbytery may decide to depose such a
minister. Any such action should have the approval of ĺ of the members present at a legally constituted meeting.
22. A Ruling or Teaching Elder who, in good conscience, finds himself unable to agree with a certain doctrine contained in the Westminster Standards, he may, without prejudice, request a clarification or revision of the particular doctrine by the Presbytery. If the Presbytery favours the argument of the Elder who raised the matter, it shall forward the matter to the higher court. If the Presbytery decides against any revision of the churchís official teachings, the Elder has the right to appeal the decision himself to the higher court or to accept the ruling of the Presbytery. In any case, he must hold firmly to his ordination vows, and not teach anything contrary to the accepted doctrine of the church.
23. If a problem other than disciplinary in nature arises between the pastor and the church (such as incompatibility, differences in philosophy of ministry, etc.), the matter may be brought to the attention of the Presbytery. The Presbytery may appoint a Pastoral Commission to work with the church and the Teaching Elder to bring reconciliation. If, after prolonged efforts, reconciliation does not take place, the Presbytery shall give consent to the church to terminate the contract with the Teaching Elder as specified in the call letter. If he remains without a call to another ministry for over a year (which may be extended by the Presbytery), the Presbytery may honourably discharge him from his ordination vows. If a Teaching Elder informs the Presbytery that he no longer feels called to the ministry, after appropriate counsel he may be honourably discharged from hid ordination vows.
24. A minimum interval of two years must elapse before a deposed Teaching Elder may be restored to ordained ministry. Such a person must be re-ordained after such steps as the Presbytery may prescribe. The decision for restoration tests entirely with the Presbytery.
1. The qualification and election of Deacons shall be similar to that of elders.
2. The Session shall have the right to determine the number of deacons required.
3. The Deacons shall work under the supervision of the Session, and may be invited to Session meetings if required.
4. The duties of deacons shall include taking care of the poor and needy in the congregation, maintenance of the church building and property, and helping in the smooth functioning of the church.
5. The manner of election of the treasurer may be decided by the congregation, but the work of the treasurer and all financial administration shall be under the direction of the Session.
6. Both men and women who meet the qualifications listed in the pastoral epistles are eligible to be elected to the office of deacons.
1. The purpose of church discipline is the preservation of the purity and good order of the church, for the spiritual welfare of its members, the restoration of its erring members, and for the effectiveness of its witness to the world. Church discipline is never to be engaged in to exercise vengeance.
2. In exercising discipline, the church or any court of the church must refrain from judging the motives, judgements, intents and thoughts of the heart
unless they are manifested in words, actions or teachings. God alone is the judge of oneís conscience. The ministry of the Word must address such sins that are known only to the sinner and God.
3. In exercising discipline. The power of the church is purely moral and spiritual.
4. The courts of the church are the Session, the Presbytery, and the Synod. As far as exercise of discipline is concerned, the Session has direct oversight over the members of the Local Church, the presbytery over its members and Local churches, and the Synod over the Presbyteries. The Presbytery as well as the Synod shall have the right to hear and judge cases of appeal of decisions made by the lower courts. Ordinarily, discipline case must be initiated at the court having jurisdiction over the person or body. However, if a lower court neglects its duties or has become corrupt, any member of the church shall have the right to bring charges against the erring person or body to a higher court. Before entertaining a case that properly belongs to a lower court, it is advisable appoint a commission of enquiry to verify that attempts have been made to initiate discipline at a lower level.
5. In the exercise of discipline, the procedure described in Matthew 18 must be observed. In cases of private offenses, if there is evidence of genuine repentance and if proper restitution has been done. The court may decide to drop charges against the repentant sinner. However, the court may decide to impose such restrictions or assign such exercises that may help the personís growth in Christ and establish him in righteousness.
6. No charge may be brought against an offense committed mote than two years earlier unless the particular offense has a continuing effect.
7. Any serious sin that has come to public knowledge or that will have an impact on the life, doctrine and witness of the church must not be dealt with in secret. The courts of the church must be open to all those who are members of such courts. The court shall have the right to allow or not to allow participation or observation by others.
8. When an offense of a serious nature is admitted, the court or a committee authorized by the court for the purpose may immediately suspend the person from the privileges of communicant membership. However, such decisions, if taken by a committee must be approved by the full court within a period of six months.
9. When an offense of a serious nature is alleged but contested by the person involved, the court shall not take any action against that person until the accusers as well as the accused have had the opportunity to present their cases (unless the accused refuses to cooperate). An allegation may be given in writing by any two members of the church (denomination) if they have direct knowledge of the situation. If the allegation is only in the nature of a rumour or hearsay, the interested parties, if they are nor satisfied with the answers given by the person concerned, may bring it to the attention of the concerned court. In such cases, it must be clearly pointed out that it is not a judicial case as such, bur that the enquiry is only for clarification. The court may take no action against that person unless charges have been made formally or guilt admitted voluntarily.
10. When an accusation is brought against someone, the court shall decide to proceed with the case in open session, to go into an executive session (in camera), or to delegate the matter to a judicial committee authorized to investigate and/or recommend proper actions and/or execute the said actions. The court shall decide the extent of the authority of the committee. Reasonable and fair opportunity should be given to the accused to be present at his trial and to make his defense. If the accuses refuses to cooperate in the trial, the court shall have the right to proceed with the case in his absence.
11. Persons bringing accusations against people out of vengeance or wrong intentions such as to malign oneís good name may themselves be brought into discipline by the court.
1. Any and all amendments to this form of government may be done in the following manner. The Synod shall, after due study and discussion, may approve amendments by majority vote. But they will not be valid until they have been approved in writing by a 2/3 majority of the Presbyteries before the next Synod. The approval of the Presbyteries, if obtained, must be declared at the Synod for the amendment to become valid. In the absence of a Synod, the Presbytery may make amendments with the approval of a majority of the Local Churches.
2. Amendments, alterations or additions to the doctrinal standards and of the forms of subscription, shall follow the same procedure as above, with a minimum of 2/3 of the Presbyteries approving any changes.