Churches' response to homosexuality
The Presbyterian Church (USA):
Over 3 decades (so far) of painful
conflict & evolution on gay ordination,
civil unions, and same-sex marriage.
On this web site the term "LGBT" refers to the Lesbian,
Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Transsexual community.
Note:The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) [a.k.a. PCUSA] is a mainline Christian denomination in the U.S.
Its name is often confused with the Presbyterian Church in America [a.k.a. PCA]. The PCA is a smaller and much more conservative denomination. It split from the PCUSA decades ago because it could not accept the concept of female clergy. The PCA's beliefs and practices concerning lesbian, gay and bisexual ordination are discussed in a separate essay.At the PCUSA's General Assembly in mid-2014, delegates voted to give the minister and session of each congregation the responsibility to decide whether or not to marry same-sex couples. At the time, such marriages could only happen in states that have attained marriage equality by legalizing same-sex marriage. A year later, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage everywhere in the U.S. except for American Samoa.
The delegates also approved an amendment to the denomination's definition of marriage in their Book of Order. It recognized marriage by both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. The change was sent to the individual presbyteries for ratification. By 2015-MAR, the majority of presbyteries had approved of the amendment.
Within U.S. Presbyterian denominations:
- A session is sometimes called a consistory or church board. It is a body of elected elders governing a local congregation.
- A presbytery is an administrative body within the denomination including all the local congregations within a defined geographical area. There are often more than one presbytery in a state.
Topics about the Presbyterian Church (USA) covered in this section:
Book of Church Order Questions
1. Q: Who is head of the PCA?
A: Jesus Christ (Preface 1)
2. Q: What documents make up the Constitution of the PCA?
A. Doctrinal Standards in the Westminster Confession, The Larger and Shorter Catechisms, and the Book of Church Order. ( Preface 111).
3. Q: What are the names of the officers of the church? A: Teaching Elder, Ruling Elder, and Deacon (1-4)
4. Q: May a church without a Teaching Elder hold services? A: Yes (4-5)
5. Q: Describe the differences between communing and non-communing members, A. Communing members have made a profession of faith, have been baptized, and have been admitted to the Lord's table by the Session. Non-communing members are children of believers. (6-1, 6-2).
6: Q: For how long is one a deacon or an elder? A: The office is perpetual (7-2, 24-6)
7. Q: Describe the duties of the elder. A BCO 8-3
8. Q: Do Ruling Elders have the same authority and eligibility to office in the courts of the church as Teaching Elders? A: Yes ( 8-9)
9. Q: How often is the Session of a church required to meet? A: At least quarterly (12-6)
10. Q: How many representatives may a church send to a meeting of Western Carolina Presbytery?
A All their Teaching Elders, I Ruling Elder for the first 350 members, and one for each additional 500 members or fraction of 500. (13-1)
11. Q: Describe the duties of the Deacon. A: BCO 9-2
12, Q: How often is the Board of Deacons required to meet? A At least quarterly. (9-4)
13: Q: How are meetings of church courts to be opened and closed?
A: With prayer. (10-5)
14 Q: Name the courts of the PCA?
A Church Session, Presbytery, General Assembly, (10-2)
5. Q: What is the difference between a committee and a commission?
A: A committee examines, considers, and reports; a commission deliberates, and
may conclude the business assigned to it. (15-1)
16. Q: To whom is the report of a commission to be submitted?
A To the court which appointed the commission (15-1)
17, Q: What is the difference between an assistant pastor and an associate pastor?
A An associate pastor is elected by the congregation and is a member of tire Session, an assistant pastor is called by the Session but is not a member of the Session. (22-2 and 22-3)
18. Q: May an associate or assistant pastor succeed a senior pastor?
A. Generally not without an intervening term of service in another field but is permissible with special exceptions. (23-1)
19~ Q: Describe these special exceptions.
A A 4/5 majority of the congregation in secret ballot vote and 3/4 majority of Presbytery. ( 23-1)
20. Q: What is a quorum of a congregational meeting?
A: For churches of 100 members or less 1/4 of the resident communing members, for churches of more than 100 members 1/6 of the resident communing members (25-3)
21 Q: What is an associate member?
A Believers temporarily residing away from their permanent homes, associate members have all rights and privileges with the exception of holding office and voting in congregational meetings. (46-4)
22. Q: What is the procedure for calling a congregational meeting?
A: Public notice of at least one week, normally called by the Session but the Session shall always call a meeting if requested by 114 of 100 member CIIUFCII~ 1/5 of 100-300 member church; 1/6 of300-500 member church; 1/7 of 500-700 member church; and 100 members of>700 member church. (25-2)
21 Q: Who may moderate a congregational meeting?
A: The pastor, any PCA minister, or any male member Of the ChUrch (25 4)
24, Q: Who may call a meeting of the church Session?
A The pastor, any two ruling elders, or Presbytery. ( 12-6)
25. Q: Who may call a meeting of the Board of Deacons?
A: The Session (9-4)
26. Q: Who can vote in a congregational meeting?
A: All Communing members (25-1)
27. Q: What notice is required for congregational meetings?
A One week public notice(25-2)
28. Q: What limitation is placed on business that may be conducted at a congregational
A: Only that stated in the announcement of the meeting (25-2)
29 Q: Who owns the property of a PCA church?
A The particular church (25-9)
30, Q: How is the Book of Church Order amended
A: A proposed change is approved by a majority of commissioners present and voting at a meeting of the General Assembly, advice and consent of 2/3 of the Presbyteries, and approval of a majority of commissioners present and voting at a subsequent General Assembly. (26-2)
3 1. Q. How is the Westminster Confession amended?
A: A proposed change is approved by 3/4 of the commissioners present and voting at a meeting of General Assembly, advice and consent of 3/4 of the presbyteries, and approval of 3/4 of the commissioners present and voting at a subsequent General Assembly (26-3)
32. Q: Who are the members of the visible church?
A: All persons, together with their children, who make a profession of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and promise submission to His laws. (1 3)
31 Q: Within the office of elder there are two orders, what are they?
A Teaching Elders and Ruling Elders. (7-2)
34. Q: Who is moderator of the Session?
A~ The pastor (10-3)
3 5. Q: What are the duties of the moderator?
A BCO 10-3
36. Q: Who are the members of the church Session?
A: The Pastor, Associate pastor(s), and the Ruling Elders? (12-1)
37. Q: What is a quorum of a meeting of the Session?
A 11`3 or more ruling elders, the pastor and any 2 ruling elders, 117<3 ruling elders; the pastor and one ruling elder. the Session may set their own quorum, provided it is not less than this. (12-1)
38. Q: How often must Session minutes be submitted to Presbytery?
A Once a year. (12-7)
39 Q: To whom are minutes of the Diaconate submitted?
A To the Session. (9-4)
40~ Q. Is an assistant pastor a member of the Session?
A: No (22-3)
41 ~ Q: How does the Constitution of the church differ from the constitution of the state?
A The constitution of the church derives from Divine revelation, the constitution of the state from human reason. (3-4)
42~ Q: What is a particular church?
A: A number of professing Christians, with their children, associated together for Divine worship and godly living according to the scriptures and submitting to the lawful government of Christ's kingdom (4-1)
43 Q: How does a mission church differ from a particular church?
A It has no permanent governing body and must be governed or supervised by others. (5-1)
44, Q: Who is usually responsible for oversight of a mission church?
A: Presbytery (5-2)
45. Q: What are the duties of the clerk of a court?
A To record transactions, preserve records, and grant extracts whenever proper required. ( 10-4)
46, Q: Describe the jurisdiction of each of the church courts.
A: The Session (a single church), the Presbytery (a prescribed geographical district), the General Assembly (the whole church) (11-4)
47, Q: Other than the pastor, who may serve as moderator of the Session
A A member of the Session, an assistant or associate pastor, a minister of the same Presbytery. (12-2 12-3, 12-4)
48. Q: When an elder attends a meeting of a court, such as Presbytery or General Assembly, who is responsible for his expenses?
A: The body he represents. (10-6)
49. Q: Can a teaching elder work with an organization outside the jurisdiction of the PCA? A: Yes (8-7)
50, Q: May a teaching elder be member of a Presbytery in which he does not reside? A: Yes (13 -2)
Who are the members of the Presbytery?
A All the teaching elders and churches within its bounds. (13-1)
What is a quorum of Presbytery?
A Three ruling elders and 3 teaching elders (13-4)
53, Q: How often must Presbytery minutes be submitted to General Assembly~ A Annually. (13-10)
How often is Presbytery to meet?
A: At least twice a year (13-11)
How often is General Assembly to meet?
A Annually (14-2)
How many commissioners may a church send to General Assembly
A All teaching elders, 2 ruling elders for first 350 communing members or one additional elder for each additional 500 communing members or
fraction thereof. (14-2)
57, Q: What is P. quorum of General Assembly? A: 100 Commissioners, 1/2 Ruling Elders and 1/2 Teaching Elders from 1/3 of the presbyteries. (14-5)
58. Q: What are some of the actions within the powers of the Session' A BCO 12~5
59, Q: How often must Presbytery minutes be submitted to General Assembly? A Annually(13-10)
60. Q: What is ordination? A Authoritative admission of one duly called to an office in the church of God accompanied by prayer and laying on of hands. and giving of the right hand of fellowship(17-2)
73. Q: Does the BCO require ruling elders to improve their ability to teach the Bible?
A: Yes (8-9)
74, Q The subject of a sermon is to be what?
A* Some verse or verses of scripture. (53-2)
75 Q: What are the elements to be included in a worship service?
A Reading of Holy Scriptures, singing of Psalms and hymns, offering of prayer, preaching of the Word, presentation of offerings, confessing the faith, observing the Sacraments, and on special occasions taking oaths. (47-9)
What translation of the Scripture is to be used for public reading?
A: Any good translation in the language of the people, but not a paraphrase ( 50-3)
There are four permanent committees of General Assembly, what are they?
A Administration, Christian Education and Publications, Committee on Mission to
North America, Committee on Mission to the World (14-1-12)
Is it scriptural that the church be divided into many individual churches?
A: Yes ((2-3)
May none communing members (children) receive the Lord's Supper?
A: No (58-4)
What is the basis of all church discipline:
Is an officer elected to a second active term of office to be ordained again?
A: No (24-7)
Do courts of the church have my political or civil jurisdiction?
A: No (11-1)
83. Q If the pastoral relation between a Church and the Senior Pastor is dissolved, does the relation of associate or assistant pastors also dissolve?
A: No (23-1)
84, Q Who is subject to the discipline of the Church?
A All baptized persons, being members of the church (27-2)
85. Q: What is maintained through proper usage ofdiscipline:
A: The glory of God, the purity of His church, the keeping and reclaiming of disobedient sinners. (27-3)
86, Q: What is the basis of all church discipline?
A: Scriptural law (27-5)
8T Q: May an~unbaptized personjoin the church?
A: No f57-3)
89. Q: No one may preach at a PCA church without what?
A: Perritission of the Session (53-6)
89, Q: A candidate for an office is to be approved by which court of the church?
A: The court by which he is to be ordained. (16-3)
V 90. Q: Examination for ordination shall include what subjects?
91. Q: Examination for licensure shall include what subjects?
92. Q: What is licensure?
A: Permission to preach in the pulpits of the PCA on a regular basis. (19 1)
93. Q: What is the length of a licensure?
A: 4 years (19-6)
94. Q: What is the purpose of internship?
95, Q: What is the minimum length of internship?
A: I year (19-7)
96 Q: Describe the procedure for election of a pastor
97. Q: Who determines how often the Lord's Supper is to be observed?
A: The Session (58-1)
98, Q: What is an offense?
A: Anything in the doctrine or practice of church members contrary to the Word of God. (29-1)
99, Q: What are the types of censure that may be administered by church courts?
A- Admonition, suspension from the Sacraments, excommunication, suspension from office, and deposition from office. (30-1)
100. Q: What is a dissent9
A A declaration on the part on one or more members of a minority, expressing a difrerent opinion from the majority in its action on any issue before the court. (45-2)
101 ~ Q: What is the process for calling a special meeting of presbytery?
A: Request of or concurrence with 2 teaching elders and 2 ruling elders from at least 3 different churches. (13-11)
101 Q: What notice is required for a special meeting of presbytery?
A Not less than 10 days (13-11)
103, Q: What is the process for calling a special meeting of General Assembly?
A: At the request of or concurrence with 10% of the commissioners who had seats at the preceding meeting of General Assembly, of whom at least 10 shall be teaching elders and 10 ruling elders representing at least 113 of the presbyteries. (14-3)
104~ Q: What notice is required for a special meeting of General Assembly?
A, Not less than 20 days. (14-3)
105. Q: What notice is required for a congregational meeting for election of'officers?
A: At least one month. (24- 1)
106. Q: On what topics are nominees for the office of Ruling Elder and Deacon to be examined?
A: His Christian experience, knowledge of the system ofdoctrine, government, and discipline contained in the Constitution of the PCA. The duties of the office to which he has been norninated, his willingness to give assent to the questions required for ordination. (24-1)
107. Q Who is entitled to vote in the election of church officers,
A: All communing members in good and regular standing, (24-3)
108. Q: At what age may a deacon or ruling elder be honored with the designation deacon
or elder emeritus?
A: Age 70 (24-9)
109. Q: May a deacon or elder emeritus attend meetings of the diaconate or Session?
A: Yes, they may attend, participate in discussion but may not vote unless they were granted emeritus status prior to June 22, 1984. (24-9)