Nomination of Elders in the PCA by the Session or Congregation?

Pilgrim_

Puritan Board Freshman
Has anyone ever heard of a PCA church nominating elders from the session? The congregation did nominate one person for elder as per BCO 24, but the elders also presented several man for nominees who were already interviewed and approved by the session. In the past, all nominees came from the congregation.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Has anyone ever heard of a PCA church nominating elders from the session? The congregation did nominate one person for elder as per BCO 24, but the elders also presented several man for nominees who were already interviewed and approved by the session. In the past, all nominees came from the congregation.
I don't know the BOCO well enough; does it allow the session to nominate?
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
My recollection is that the congregation recommends, the session vets and nominates, and the congregation votes. But I would have to look it up. From the brief description above, I don't see any glaring irregularities.

Correction: The BCO uses the term nomination for the recommendation part of the process. And reprort for where I used the word nominate.

So is the complaint that the session (which except for the pastor and any associate pastors, consists of members who could nominate) put a name into the hopper after the cut off period for nominations?
 
Last edited:

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
Congregants submit names to the session for men to be trained (BCO 24-1). The technical term for those men is "nominees," so I assume we would describe the congregants as "nominating" them. The session then trains and examines the men and puts them forward for election by the congregation. One another point: every RE in a church is a member who could submit/nominate a man for training/examination.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
The elders are members of the congregation and therefore are allowed to nominate just like any other member. In my PCA experience, existing elders are often the most likely members to nominate, sometimes after conferring with each other. This makes some sense. Existing elders are already involved in discipleship and may be best positioned to know which men would make good elders. Existing elders are also more invested in the process and aware of the need to nominate and train new officers.

I've been in several officer meetings where someone said something like, "Well, we're taking nominations, and so far we only have one response from the congregation. Who else do you guys think we ought to be looking at as a future elder or deacon?" Sometimes the answer is a guy the elders have had their eye on for some time and think is finally ready. I suspect this is pretty common. Is there a reason it troubles you?
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
Hey, what's with this impersonator? I read the OP and didn't remember posting it and thought I was losing it. :rofl:
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
The elders are members of the congregation and therefore are allowed to nominate just like any other member. In my PCA experience, existing elders are often the most likely members to nominate, sometimes after conferring with each other. This makes some sense. Existing elders are already involved in discipleship and may be best positioned to know which men would make good elders. Existing elders are also more invested in the process and aware of the need to nominate and train new officers.

I've been in several officer meetings where someone said something like, "Well, we're taking nominations, and so far we only have one response from the congregation. Who else do you guys think we ought to be looking at as a future elder or deacon?" Sometimes the answer is a guy the elders have had their eye on for some time and think is finally ready. I suspect this is pretty common. Is there a reason it troubles you?
I'm the OP (Original Pilgrim) and not the original poster, but I can see where some who are familiar with independent Bible and other congregations that have self-perpetuating elder boards might look askance somewhat at this. In those congregations, they rarely if ever vote on anything. The elder board will just announce that John Smith and Roger Jones have been selected as elders. (And in some I think all "nominations" come from the elder board as opposed to the congregation.) Then they'll have a period of a week or two in which members can raise concerns or have questions answered, but the men will typically be installed unless something truly scandalous emerges. I know of a church where an associate pastor was hired and there was virtually no input from the congregation whatsoever even though he had recently been trying to get ordained in a denomination with different doctrine. Then you have various charismatics and independent Baptists where the "Man of God" is not to be questioned. The other extreme is congregational governance with the preacher being reduced to a hireling.

Some have sold Presbyterianism as including the idea of the "consent of the governed." This was noted by the TE in the congregation we've been attending. (Many of the other non-Catholic congregations in the area have little congregational input.) Perhaps the perception on the part of the OP and/or other members of the congregation is that the elders doing this is "high-handed" in some sense whether it really is or not.
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
Another reason I had a double take at the OP was that so long ago that it seems almost like it was another life, a TE in the PCA told me he was going to nominate me for RE next time. I assume his wife or someone else would have had to do it since a TE is not a member of the congregation. (Due to some doctrinal shifts on my part, we ended up not joining there, so I don't know what would have happened.)
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Another reason I had a double take at the OP was that so long ago that it seems almost like it was another life, a TE in the PCA told me he was going to nominate me for RE next time. I assume his wife or someone else would have had to do it since a TE is not a member of the congregation. (Due to some doctrinal shifts on my part, we ended up not joining there, so I don't know what would have happened.)
When my church has a nominating season for RE (or deacon) it always comes with a stipulation to not nominate anyone for whom they have not received their assent. I've said no a few times over the years to such a query and no one has tried to pull a Farel, 'oh yes you are'.
 

wyattchosen

Puritan Board Freshman
There are many things about the Presbyterian hierarchy I don’t like or agree with, but that is not the argument here. I don’t see in Titus where the congregation is electing Elders. The congregation would know who in the congregation is the husband of one wife, and respected for his honesty within and without in his life and should make recommendations when appropriate. But, Paul told Titus to elect Elders in every church. Elders elect Elders as God's Shepherd not based on popularity but meeting Godly standards. Men who have been in the trenches should pick men capable of taking on the task of Shepherd. The congregation can tell you who the good men are, the Elders can tell you who the qualified men are.
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Junior
There are many things about the Presbyterian hierarchy I don’t like or agree with, but that is not the argument here. I don’t see in Titus where the congregation is electing Elders. The congregation would know who in the congregation is the husband of one wife, and respected for his honesty within and without in his life and should make recommendations when appropriate. But, Paul told Titus to elect Elders in every church. Elders elect Elders as God's Shepherd not based on popularity but meeting Godly standards. Men who have been in the trenches should pick men capable of taking on the task of Shepherd. The congregation can tell you who the good men are, the Elders can tell you who the qualified men are.
Wyatt, I'm not sure you are grasping Presbyterian polity here, or the history. In the past, in the UK the system of patronage meant that congregations had no say in their pastors. As a result, the right of congregations to vote for their shepherds is a precious part of Presbyterian structure. It is not a democracy, however, in which the congregation rules. Anyone elected by the congregation then has to be examined by the Session for competance, character and gifting before they can be ordained and serve. But it is important that if you are going to ask people to submit to the elder's rule that they have formally indicated their willingness to do so. Would you install a pastor in a congregation without a congregational vote of approval? Why not the same for ruling elders as well?
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
There are many things about the Presbyterian hierarchy I don’t like or agree with, but that is not the argument here. I don’t see in Titus where the congregation is electing Elders. The congregation would know who in the congregation is the husband of one wife, and respected for his honesty within and without in his life and should make recommendations when appropriate. But, Paul told Titus to elect Elders in every church. Elders elect Elders as God's Shepherd not based on popularity but meeting Godly standards. Men who have been in the trenches should pick men capable of taking on the task of Shepherd. The congregation can tell you who the good men are, the Elders can tell you who the qualified men are.
Wyatt,

I also don't think you understand Presbyterian polity. The congregation nominates men, and then the elders train and examine those men. Only qualified men are put before the congregation for a vote.
 

wyattchosen

Puritan Board Freshman
I understand the logic behind what you and Iain Duguid saying, but is that what scripture is saying. Is it good for a congregation to agree with who are the Elders? Yes, that is why they nominate the men having many times a clearer understanding of the nominees day to day testimony then the Elders may have. But really from what I can see from scripture that is where their input in the process ends and from there they trust the current Elders to properly vet and choses the new Elders. I spent twenty two years on various presbyterian denominations, ( PCA, URC, OPC, Dutch Reformed) and all did what you are saying, my point is I don't see the final vote in scripture. 1 Peter 2:13-25, says you submit to individuals as unto God not the individual, I believe that is in every level and relationship in life. When someone joins a church first and foremost it should be because the word of God is taught there, and staying as members should be for the same reason. I will bet in any congregation where there are multiple Elders there are also multiple opinions about the qualifications and likability of the Elders. We submit to the Elders because we are submitted to God and whether I give a final vote of approval or not I am required to do so. I'm not saying congregations can't do what you are doing just if you are doing it, it is not because you are following scripture more likely you are following tradition.
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Junior
Hi Wyatt,
Thank you for your thoughtful answer. You are probably right that there isn't a specific verse supporting this practice. The same is true for much of the contents of Book of Church Order: it seeks to be consistent with Scriptural principles, but doesn't claim inspired status. Where would you find the right number for a quorum for a congregational meeting in Scripture, for example? That's why we separate the BCO from our Confessional Standards in our ordination vows and make it much easier to emend the BCO. Is the BCO "tradition"? That would be one way of looking at it; another would be to see in it the distillation of 250 years of painful experience into best practices. It's not inspired by any means, and can surely be improved in places, but I've never seen a church get themselves in trouble by following it and repeatedly seen churches that ignore it dig a hole for themselves.

Would you extend the same logic of refusing a vote to calling a pastor? Would it be a good idea for a pastor to receive a call if he had significantly less than 50% of the congregation in favor of his ministry? To be sure, in Presbyterianism the congregation has no right to fire their pastor, or individual elders; as I said earlier, the church is not a demoncracy and sometimes Sessions have to make extremely unpopular decisions (which the congregation may appeal to Presbytery). The system is designed to prevent churches abusing their elders and elders abusing their churches, both of which are expected realities given the Biblical teaching about the nature of the church, as well as personal experiences. But it would seem to me very unwise for a Session to insist on ordaining a man that not even 51% of the congregation thinks to be qualified.

If you must have a Bible verse, I think there are a couple if inferences from 1 Timothy 3 that point in this direction. First, an elder is to be above reproach (v. 2). I'm hard pressed to see how a man who cannot win a bare majority on votes in the congregation can be said to be above reproach: there must be something about his character or actions (present or past) that trouble the flock. What is lost by saying, at the least, this is not the right time for him to become an elder? Second, v.7 suggests that he must be of good reputation with outsiders - how much more, then must he be of good reputation with his fellow Christians?
 

wyattchosen

Puritan Board Freshman
There are other way to deal with finding out if anyone has anything against a man being considered for Elder. You have the peroid from when the Elder's put before the congregation the suggestion they have received and the man the Elder's themselves believe should be considered. You install an examination peroid a week, a month, whatever the Elder's think is sufficient to allow member to come to them with concerns about the candidates. From there the Elders investigate any chargers eliminate any man not qualified and chose how ever many they need to meet the congregations needs. I am not a fan of the book of Church Order because more than once I have seen it used to settle a dispute because they had no scripture to defend their position. There are many ways I think the congregation should have more say in Presbyterianism then they do. Elder rule should be loving shepherding which I never personally beleived I saw.
 
Top