Committee on Discipleship Ministries, Part 1, Chapter 9. Full Text The office of deacon is set forth in the Scriptures as ordinary and perpetual in the Church.

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Article Functional, yes. But worthy of affection? But after almost 20 years of reading our BCO, nearly 13 of them as a minister, I have developed a genuine affection for this royal blue, spiral-bound manual. How do I love the BCO? Let me count the ways. How does one go about establishing a new church? What are the duties of the local session board of elders? How does one examine a minister for ordination? What does one do when a minister wants to move from one congregation to another?

What happens when someone raises an accusation against another person in the church? What may I do if I think that the elders have erred in a matter of theology or discipline? Our BCO, like many other polity manuals, provides concise answers to such questions. The church should never be in the position of devising ad hoc standards and procedures to deal with the multitude of governance and disciplinary situations that routinely face her. Having agreed-upon rules helps to ensure consistency and equity on occasions when consistency and equity are most needed.

When the church faces a stressful situation that threatens to fracture her often fragile unity, what a relief it is to have recourse to standards and procedures that are already in place, that we have previously agreed to follow, and therefore stand at a healthy remove from the particular situation before us.

No set of rules, of course, can guarantee unity. But there is nothing like procedural anarchy to precipitate disunity in the church. Of course, the antiquity of any given provision of the BCO does not make it right. Neither does the fact that a provision of our polity has enjoyed the consensus of the ages render it true. By the same token, we should not despise this heritage. The generations of our brothers and sisters in Christ who have gone before us have experienced the same kinds of trials and difficulties that we face in the church today.

The rules that they have handed down to us were forged in the fires of trial and experience. To intentionally cut ourselves off from the biblical wisdom preserved in this heritage is to think more highly of ourselves than we ought.

Do we dare presume that wisdom has begun only with our own generation? We need the gifts of earlier generations of believers no less than we need the gifts of our own generation of believers. Each generation of the church has the privilege and responsibility to conserve the best of the past and to pass it on to the next generation. We do not print our BCO on golden plates but on three-ringed loose-leaf paper.

We do this because virtually every year the church amends something. When the church becomes persuaded that some provision of the BCO is mistaken, we seek to perfect it in accordance with the light given us in the Bible. We often have vigorous and protracted debates along these lines in our presbyteries and at our General Assemblies.

Some dismiss or even despair of such discussion. But I often find it heartening. After all, the church invests time and energy in these discussions because she cares about the authority of the Bible. She desires her corporate life to be conformed to the pattern that Jesus Christ, her Head and King, has given her in his Word.

In light of this conviction, the earliest American Presbyterian Forms of Government included biblical proof-texts in support of their specific provisions. The BCO, after all, seeks to realize biblical ideals for the church that all Christians share. All Christians desire unity in the church. We want the church to express the unity that is ours in Christ, yet we know this unity does not happen by accident.

And our BCO is intended to foster just that work. And when unity, order, and edification prevail in the church, then love is constrained to praise Christ for these his mercies to his church. Why love the BCO?


Readings in the Reformed Diaconate



Book of Church Order





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