What We Believe
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Chapter XXIII Ordaining and Installing Ministers

11. When a minister of this Church is to be installed as the pastor of a congregation the installation may be performed either by the presbytery or by a committee appointed for that purpose, as may appear most expedient; and the following order shall be observed therein:

A time shall be appointed for the installation at such time as may appear most convenient and due notice thereof given to the congregation.

When the presbytery, or committee, shall be convened and constituted at the time appointed, a sermon shall be delivered by a previously appointed minister. Immediately thereafter the moderator shall state to the congregation the purpose of the meeting and briefly review the relevant proceedings of the presbytery. And then, addressing the minister to be installed, he shall propose to him the following questions:

(1) Are you now willing to take the charge of this congregation as its pastor, in agreement with your declaration when you accepted its call?

(2) Do you conscientiously believe and declare, as far as you know your own heart, that in taking upon you this charge you are influenced by a sincere desire to promote the glory of God and the good of his church?

(3) Do you solemnly promise that, by the assistance of the grace of God, you will endeavor faithfully to discharge all the duties of a pastor to this congregation, and will be careful to maintain a deportment in all respects becoming a minister of the gospel of Christ?

Having received satisfactory answers to all these questions, he shall propose to the people the following questions, to which they shall answer in the affirmative by holding up their right hands:

(1) Do you, the people of this congregation, continue to profess your readiness to receive __________________, whom you have called to be your minister?

(2) Do you promise to receive the word of truth from his mouth with meekness and love, and to submit to him in the due exercise of discipline?

(3) Do you promise to encourage him in his arduous labor and to assist his endeavors for your instruction and spiritual edification?

(4) And do you promise to continue to him, while he is your pastor, that worldly maintenance which you have promised, and whatever else you may see needful for the honor of religion and his comfort among you?

If these questions have been satisfactorily answered the moderator shall pronounce and declare the minister being installed to be regularly constituted the pastor of that congregation. Solemn charges in the name of God shall then be given to the newly installed pastor and to the people, to persevere in the discharge of their mutual duties, and they shall both, by prayer, be commended to the grace of God and his holy keeping. At the conclusion of the service the pastor shall dismiss the congregation with a benediction.

Comment: The focus of the FG shifts from ordination and installation of a man to be a pastor in a particular place to simply that of installation, i.e., a previously ordained and installed man subsequently takes another call into which he seeks now to be installed. Ordination is performed only for the first call, and any subsequent calls require only installation. This is why installation may be performed by the presbytery as a whole, as is an ordination, or may be assigned to a committee that holds an installation on its behalf in the local congregation to which the newly called, already ordained man is to be installed. The meeting for such installation occurs at mutually agreeable time and proceeds in a fashion similar to an ordination, for which see sections 8–10.

The difference between the two services (ordination/installation and installation only) obtains particularly in the vows administered to the new pastor to be installed: note that the vows are not of the general sort that mark ordination but have to do with the willingness of the minister to serve in the place that has now called him to be its pastor. Otherwise, things like a sermon being preached for the occasion, charges being given to pastor and congregation, and the benediction being pronounced by the newly installed pastor are the same as in a service of ordination. It should also be noted that this section assumes that the man being installed is already a ministerial member of the OPC, which is the significance of the first phrase, “a minister of this church.” If he is coming from another denomination, the next section (FG 23.12) pertains.

Note respecting the questions for the minister to be installed that the first focuses on his continued willingness to accept the call of the new congregation  and to serve there as its pastor (as did Question 8 at the time of his ordination); similarly the new Questions 2 and 3 mirror Questions 5 and 7 in the original ordination vows, focusing, respectively, on his motives for gospel ministry and his readiness to fulfill all the duties of his office in his new situation. The congregation is asked the same set of questions that a congregation is asked at an ordination/installation (see section 9 for comments thereon). The whole service then proceeds in the manner described in section 10 (above), except the laying on of hands only accompanies ordination and initial installation and does not occur at subsequent installations.

12. a. When a minister of another denomination is called to be the pastor of a congregation of this Church and has indicated his desire to accept the call, the presbytery shall require him to give evidence of possessing the qualifications in regard to piety, faith, and learning that are required of candidates for ordination as provided in Sections 3 and 6, above. This evidence shall include written testimonials from qualified persons of his satisfactory exercise of the gifts for the ministry of the Word.

In no case shall an examination on the floor of presbytery be waived. If one-fourth of the presbyters present are dissatisfied with the examination in theology the minister shall be required to undergo an examination in the subject again at a future meeting of the presbytery. If at the outset of such subsequent meeting one-fourth of the presbyters so request, a clear recording of this examination shall be made and filed with the presbytery.

The presbytery shall require him to answer affirmatively the following questions:

(1) Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice?

(2) Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures?

(3) Do you approve of the government, discipline, and worship of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church?

(4) Do you promise subjection to your brethren in the Lord?

(5) Have you been induced, as far as you know your own heart, to seek the office of the holy ministry from love to God and a sincere desire to promote his glory in the gospel of his Son?

(6) Do you promise to be zealous and faithful in maintaining the truths of the gospel, and the purity, the peace, and the unity of the church, whatever persecution or opposition may arise unto you on that account?

(7) Do you promise to be faithful and diligent in the exercise of all private and personal duties which become you as a Christian and a minister of the gospel, as well as in all the duties of your office, endeavoring to adorn the profession of the gospel by your life, and walking with exemplary piety before the flock over which God shall make you overseer?

b. After the fulfillment of these requirements the presbytery shall proceed to install the minister in the following manner:

A suitable time shall be appointed for the installation and due notice given to the congregation.

When the presbytery shall be convened and constituted at the time appointed, a sermon shall be delivered by a previously appointed minister. Immediately thereafter the moderator of the presbytery, or another appointed in his place, shall state to the congregation the purpose of the meeting and briefly review the relevant proceedings of the presbytery.

Then, addressing the minister to be installed, he shall propose to him the following questions:

(1) Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice?

(2) Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures?

(3) Do you approve of the government, discipline, and worship of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church?

(4) Do you promise subjection to your brethren in the Lord?

(5) Have you been induced, as far as you know your own heart, to seek the office of the holy ministry from love to God and a sincere desire to promote his glory in the gospel of his Son?

(6) Do you promise to be zealous and faithful in maintaining the truths of the gospel, and the purity, the peace, and the unity of the church, whatever persecution or opposition may arise unto you on that account?

(7) Do you promise to be faithful and diligent in the exercise of all private and personal duties which become you as a Christian and a minister of the gospel, as well as in all the duties of your office, endeavoring to adorn the profession of the gospel by your life, and walking with exemplary piety before the flock over which God shall make you overseer?

(8) Are you now willing to undertake the work of the ministry in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and do you promise to discharge the duties which may be incumbent upon you in that capacity as God may give you strength?

(9) Are you now willing to take the charge of this congregation as its pastor, in agreement with your declaration when you accepted its call?

(10) Do you conscientiously believe and declare, as far as you know your own heart, that in taking upon you this charge you are influenced by a desire to promote the glory of God and the good of his church?

(11) Do you solemnly promise that, by the assistance of the grace of God, you will endeavor faithfully to discharge all the duties of a pastor to this congregation, and will be careful to maintain a deportment in all respects becoming a minister of the gospel of Christ?

Having received satisfactory answers to all these questions, the moderator shall propose to the people the following questions, to which they shall answer in the affirmative by holding up their right hands:

(1) Do you, the people of this congregation, continue to profess your readiness to receive __________________, whom you have called to be your minister?

(2) Do you promise to receive the word of truth from his mouth with meekness and love, and to submit to him in the due exercise of discipline?

(3) Do you promise to encourage him in his arduous labor and to assist his endeavors for your instruction and spiritual edification?

(4) And do you promise to continue to him, while he is your pastor, that worldly maintenance which you have promised, and whatever else you may see needful for the honor of religion and his comfort among you?

If these questions have been satisfactorily answered the presiding minister shall solemnly pronounce and declare the minister being installed to be regularly constituted the pastor of that congregation. A charge shall then be given to both parties and prayer offered as directed in Section 10. At the conclusion of the service, the pastor shall dismiss the congregation with a benediction.

c. Under no circumstances shall a person be permitted to undertake any of the duties contemplated in the call nor to occupy living quarters that are to be provided by the calling body, and he shall be strongly advised not to change his residence in any case, until after the call has been approved and the presbytery has approved him for installation and reception.

Comment: This section addresses the situation in which a congregation calls a man who is a minister in another denomination. He has already been ordained, and in this case, his ordination is fully accepted by the OPC and thus no ordination is in view. Hodge argued for the acceptance of the ordination of other Protestants.[1] What of one coming from the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox churches? Certainly, those churches would not recognize Presbyterian ordination, since our ordination is not by a bishop enjoying apostolic succession.[2] This does not mean that we would automatically reject their ordination, misguided as it is, especially with its ontological emphasis,[3] any more than we would their baptism, though we would reject their view of baptismal regeneration.[4] This is a complex question—whose ordination do we recognize?—and is something with which every presbytery must wrestle and come to their own determination about, perhaps even differing from case to case.[5]

It is interesting to note that while most sessions and presbyteries in the OPC do not require a Roman Catholic to be baptized, that same posture may not be assumed if one of her priests wished to become a minister in the OPC. Surely, we would ask no one in NAPARC to be ordained who already had been, or even in many other churches (Baptists, Congregationalists, etc.), while we might a priest from the RCC or Eastern Orthodoxy. I think that this is a difficult question if we accept their baptisms, which tacitly implies that they have a valid ministry to administer such.

The presbytery then shall pose the seven questions to the minister that becomes eleven questions for those at the time of the installation. An affirmative answer to such questions moves forward, in the first case, the examination of the minister and, in the second case, his actual installation. Question 8, at the time of installation, has a focus that is assumed in the case of one already in the OPC but must be ascertained in the case of someone coming from outside the church: whether one is willing to labor in the OPC with all that entails. Further comment need not be made here about the questions, as the substance has been addressed, above.

All the requirements of section 3 and 6, above, pertaining to piety, faith, and learning would need to be ascertained with this candidate as with someone within the denomination. Testimonials and the like would be required. The exam in theology shall be conducted on the floor, and, as seen above, one quarter can arrest the exam and require further examination of the candidate at a future presbytery meeting. Here is a new stipulation: one-fourth of the presbyters can also request that a clear copy of the examination from this point forward be made and filed with the presbytery. This is so, presumably, a faithful record will be had in case of questions or complaints that might arise subsequently.

The rest of what happens, by way of completing his exams and taking vows before the presbytery, as well as what happens in the service of installation, mirrors (with additions appropriate to someone coming from outside the OPC) what happens to someone from within the OPC, already ordained, being installed in a charge. It should be noted that, as with the licentiate in FG 22.13.d (see comments on such), no man called from another denomination should undertake the duties of a call (including, usually, changing residences) without the presbytery approving his call and installation into the charge and reception into the presbytery.

13. When a licentiate has been called to be an evangelist, or teacher of the Word of God, and he has indicated his desire to accept the call, and the presbytery has been satisfied with his qualifications for ordination to the sacred office and for installation into the service to which he has been called, in the terms of Sections 1, 3, and 6, above, it shall appoint a time for him to be ordained and installed. It is fitting that these be done before a congregation at a service held for the purpose.

Comment: We now return to the call of a licentiate, but one who is called to be something other than the pastor of a local congregation. In this case the licentiate is called to be an evangelist (perhaps to serve as a chaplain in the U.S. Military) or a teacher of the Word of God (perhaps to serve as a professor in a theological seminary). Everything that was in view when a licentiate was called to be a pastor is still in view (in terms of Sections 1, 3, and 6 of this chapter) when he is called to these other forms of ministerial service. Though he is not being called to be pastor of a local congregation, it is still fitting that these be done before some congregation at a service held for the purpose of ordaining and installing him as evangelist or teacher.

14. At the time for ordination and installation the moderator of the presbytery, or another appointed in his place, shall preside over the meeting of the presbytery with the congregation present. A minister previously appointed shall preach a sermon appropriate to the occasion. Afterwards the moderator shall briefly inform those assembled, in the following or similar language, concerning the warrant and nature of the office of minister of the Word of God and concerning the duties which the minister's service will place upon him:

The Word of God clearly teaches that the office of minister was instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul declares that our Lord “gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ.”

The duties of the minister of Christ may briefly be set forth under the following heads: the faithful exposition of the Word of God and its application to the needs of the hearers, in order that the unconverted may be reconciled to God and that the saints may be built up in their most holy faith; the offering of prayer to the Lord on behalf of the congregation; the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper; and the exercise, in conjunction with the ruling elders, of the government and discipline of the church.

The office of the minister is first in the church for dignity and usefulness, for, by our God's sovereign design, the ministry of the Word is the primary instrument in our Lord's gathering and perfecting of his church. The person who fills this office is designated in Scripture by different names expressive of his various duties. As he has the oversight of the flock of Christ, he is termed bishop. As he feeds them with spiritual food, he is termed pastor and teacher. As he serves Christ in his church, he is termed minister. As it is his duty to be grave and prudent, and an example to the flock, and to govern well in the house of God, he is termed presbyter or elder. As he is sent to declare the will of God to sinners, and to beseech them to be reconciled to God through Christ, he is termed ambassador. As he is commanded to warn the house of Israel against the enemies of God and his Word, he is termed watchman. And, as he dispenses the manifold grace of God and the ordinances instituted by Christ, he is termed steward of the mysteries of God.

He shall endeavor to give the people a proper sense of the solemnity of both ordination to the office and installation in his field of service.

Then addressing the candidate he shall propose to him the following questions:

(1) Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice?

(2) Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures?

(3) Do you approve of the government, discipline, and worship of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church?

(4) Do you promise subjection to your brethren in the Lord?

(5) Have you been induced, as far as you know your own heart, to seek the office of the holy ministry from love to God and a sincere desire to promote his glory in the gospel of his Son?

(6) Do you promise to be zealous and faithful in maintaining the truths of the gospel, and the purity, the peace, and the unity of the church, whatever persecution or opposition may arise unto you on that account?

(7) Do you promise to be faithful and diligent in the exercise of all private and personal duties which become you as a Christian and a minister of the gospel, as well as in all the duties of your office, endeavoring to adorn the profession of the gospel by your life, and walking with exemplary piety before those among whom you labor wherever you may be?

(8) Do you conscientiously believe and declare, as far as you know your own heart, that in taking upon you the work of an evangelist (or a teacher of the Word of God) you are influenced by a sincere desire to promote the glory of God and the good of his church?

(9) Are you now willing to undertake the work of an evangelist (or a teacher of the Word of God), and do you promise to be faithful in the discharge of all the duties of this ministry as God may give you strength?

Comment: Again, a service of ordination and installation is held for the licentiate to be placed in these non-pastoral callings of evangelist and teacher. Everything that was in view earlier is in view here, except he is not taking up the charge of a particular congregation, and, consequently, there are not the four questions posed to the congregation at the time a man assumes pastoral service in a particular local congregation. I have already commented upon the activities that take place in a service of ordination and installation (including the preaching of a sermon and the setting forth of the warrant and nature of the office of gospel minister) and will not repeat them here.

15. The candidate having answered these questions in the affirmative, he shall then kneel, and by prayer and the laying on of the hands of the presbytery, according to the apostolic example, he shall be solemnly ordained to the holy office of the gospel ministry. Prayer being ended, he shall rise and the moderator shall declare him to be ordained a minister of the Word of God and installed as an evangelist (or teacher of the Word of God). The presbytery shall then extend to him the right hand of fellowship.

The moderator, or another appointed for the purpose, shall give a solemn charge in the name of God to the newly ordained and installed minister to persevere in the discharge of his duties, and shall then, by prayer, commend him to the grace of God and his holy keeping. The newly ordained and installed minister shall close the service with a benediction.

Comment: The candidate, in the service of ordination and installation, as noted previously, enjoys the laying on of hands, the pronouncement of ordination and installation, with prayer, the right hand of fellowship, charge to the minister (as an evangelist or teacher), and the new evangelist or teacher closing the service with a benediction.

16. When a minister of this Church is called to be an evangelist, or a teacher of the Word of God, and he has indicated his desire to accept the call, the presbytery shall satisfy itself that he has the qualifications for that service. If it is satisfied it shall appoint a time for his installation by the presbytery or by a committee appointed for that purpose. It is fitting that the installation take place in the presence of a congregation at a service held for that purpose.

The time being come, and the meeting convened, a sermon shall be preached by a previously appointed minister. The moderator of the presbytery, or another appointed in his place, shall then briefly inform those assembled concerning the purpose of the meeting and concerning the relevant proceedings of the presbytery.

Then addressing the minister to be installed, he shall propose to him the following questions:

(1) Do you conscientiously believe and declare, as far as you know your own heart, that in taking upon you the work of an evangelist (or a teacher of the Word of God) you are influenced by a sincere desire to promote the glory of God and the good of his church?

(2) Are you now willing to undertake the work of an evangelist (or a teacher of the Word of God), and do you promise to be faithful in the discharge of all the duties of this ministry as God may give you strength?

Affirmative answers to these questions having been made, a solemn charge in the name of God shall be given to the newly installed minister to persevere in the discharge of his duties. Prayer shall then be offered, commending him to the grace of God and his holy keeping. The newly installed minister shall close the service with a benediction.

Comment: Now we move to a case in which the candidate to be installed as an evangelist or teacher is already a minister in the OPC. The bounds of this service can be within or outside of the church. In the first case, let us suppose that a pastor of a particular OP church is called by another OP church to plant a church as an evangelist, or a presbytery calls him to be its Regional Home Missionary. In the second case let us suppose he has been a pastor of an OPC and is now seeking to serve as a chaplain in a prison or as a professor in theological seminary. He only needs to be installed into the position that the new call defines.

It should be noted that a call always comes from within the church. A minister may be hired, in other words, to teach in a seminary, but only a presbytery can give him a call as a teacher to perform such a function on behalf of the church. The hiring process of the prison or the seminary does not constitute a call but may prompt the church to issue a call for such service. A specific call to such new work is not so necessary, though, that a candidate could not enter such service without it, since the church can always grant someone who has been in a ministerial call (say, serving as a pastor) permission to accept an appointment for what the presbytery judges to be the work of the ministry (FG 24.4).

17. When a minister of another denomination is called to serve as an evangelist, or as a teacher of the Word of God, and the provisions of Chapter XXII, Section 13, have been fulfilled, the presbytery shall install him in the following manner in the service to which he has been called:

A time shall be set for the installation at which the moderator of the presbytery, or another appointed in his place, shall preside. It is fitting that the installation take place in the presence of a congregation at a service held for that purpose.

The time being come and the presbytery convened, a sermon shall be preached by a previously appointed minister. The moderator shall then briefly inform those assembled concerning the purpose of the meeting and concerning the relevant proceedings of the presbytery.

Then addressing the minister to be installed, he shall propose to him the following questions:

(1) Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice?

(2) Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures?

(3) Do you approve of the government, discipline, and worship of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church?

(4) Do you promise subjection to your brethren in the Lord?

(5) Have you been induced, as far as you know your own heart, to seek the office of the holy ministry from love to God and a sincere desire to promote his glory in the gospel of his Son?

(6) Do you promise to be zealous and faithful in maintaining the truths of the gospel, and the purity, the peace, and the unity of the church, whatever persecution or opposition may arise unto you on that account?

(7) Do you promise to be faithful and diligent in the exercise of all private and personal duties which become you as a Christian and a minister of the gospel, as well as in all the duties of your office, endeavoring to adorn the profession of the gospel by your life, and walking with exemplary piety before those among whom you labor wherever you may be?

(8) Are you now willing to undertake the work of the ministry in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and do you promise to discharge the duties which may be incumbent upon you in this capacity as God may give you strength?

(9) Do you conscientiously believe and declare, as far as you know your own heart, that in taking upon you the work of an evangelist (or a teacher of the Word of God) you are influenced by a sincere desire to promote the glory of God and the good of his church?

(10) Are you now willing to undertake the work of an evangelist (or a teacher of the Word of God), and do you promise to be faithful in the discharge of all the duties of this ministry as God may give you strength?

Affirmative answers to these questions having been made, a solemn charge in the name of God shall be given to the newly installed minister to persevere in the discharge of his duties. Prayer shall then be offered, commending him to the grace of God and his holy keeping. The newly installed minister shall close the service with a benediction.

Comment: Finally, we come to the situation in which we have a call to a man who has already been ordained to the ministry, serving at present outside the OPC, now receiving a call to service within the OPC as an evangelist or teacher. The questions to him reflect his coming from outside the OPC, as noted above in the comments on Section 12, similar to a minister coming from elsewhere to serve as a pastor in the OPC.

18. If a minister of another denomination, though not having a call to service in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, desires to labor in the gospel in this church, the presbytery to which he applies shall require him to give evidence of possessing the qualifications, in regard to piety, faith, and learning, that are demanded of candidates for ordination as provided in Sections 3 and 6, above. The evidence shall include written testimonials from qualified persons of his satisfactory exercise of the gifts of the ministry of the Word.

In no case shall an examination on the floor of presbytery be waived. If one-fourth of the presbyters present are dissatisfied with the examination in theology the minister shall be required to undergo an examination in the subject again at a future meeting of the presbytery. If at the outset of such subsequent meeting one-fourth of the presbyters so request, a clear recording of this examination shall be made and filed with the presbytery.

If the presbytery is satisfied as to the ministerial qualifications of the candidate but finds that he lacks competency in the Hebrew and Greek languages, or one of them, it may judge by a three-fourths vote of the members present to waive these requirements without referring this question to the general assembly for advice. Such action shall be taken only when the applicant has given affirmative answer to the following question:

Do you agree that you will make a continuing endeavor, under the direction of the presbytery, to attain competency in those languages until the presbytery is satisfied?

Although such a minister may not be received as a minister of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church until the favorable judgment of the presbytery has been confirmed by his receiving a call to specific service the presbytery, after approving his examination, shall require him to give affirmative answer, before the presbytery, to the following questions:

(1) Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice?

(2) Do you sincerely approve the Confession of Faith and Catechisms of this Church as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures?

(3) Do you approve the government, discipline, and worship of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church?

(4) Will you, if you become a minister of this Church, be willing to be in subjection to your brethren in the Lord?

(5) Are you induced, so far as you know your own heart, to enter the ministry of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church from love for God and a sincere desire to promote his glory in the gospel of his Son?

(6) Will you, if you become a minister of this Church, be faithful and diligent in the exercise of all private and personal duties which become you as a Christian and a minister of the gospel, as well as in all the duties of your office, endeavoring to adorn the profession of the gospel by your life, and walking with exemplary piety before those among whom you labor wherever you may be?

(7) Will you, if you become a minister of this Church, be zealous and faithful in maintaining the truths of the gospel, and the purity, the peace and the unity of the church, whatever persecution or opposition may arise unto you on that account?

(8) Will you, if you become a minister of this Church, undertake and discharge the duties which may be incumbent upon you as an Orthodox Presbyterian minister, as God may give you strength?

The candidate having been approved and having answered the above questions in the affirmative, the fact shall be recorded in the minutes of the presbytery, and the clerk shall promptly inform the other presbyteries of the church of this fact. Normally the minister will remain in his denomination while he seeks a call to service in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. However, if such continued membership is unacceptable to him the presbytery may, at his request, enroll him as a member of the regional church; he shall thus not be enrolled as a member of the presbytery, and the presbytery shall hold his ministerial credentials in suspense while he seeks a call to service. The presbytery, having approved his qualifications for the ministry, shall authorize him to preach in the church as a candidate for a call to service. If and when he receives a call to service his ministerial credentials shall be restored and he may be installed for his service.

If after a period not to exceed two years gifts for the ministry are not confirmed by receipt of a call to service the presbytery shall consider divesting him from office in accordance with Chapter XXVI, Section 3, of the Form of Government. If the presbytery divests him of office, presbytery shall require him to seek membership in a particular congregation.

Comment: Previous sections of this chapter have addressed the ordination and installation of men inside and outside the denomination to the offices of pastor, evangelist, and teacher. Now a rather distinct matter comes into view: A minister of another denomination wishes to pursue gospel ministry in the OPC but does not have a call from any congregation, presbytery, or other agency of the OPC. Lacking such a call, he cannot be installed in the OPC and cannot become a ministerial member of the presbytery until such time as he does receive a call.

He is permitted, however, to come into the OPC at this point after a fashion, in this way permitted by section 18. The term employed here is that his ministerial credentials are held “in suspense” for now, awaiting a call. That his credentials are held in suspense means that he is not a ministerial member of the OPC. It does not mean that he may not administer the means of grace: Word, sacraments, and prayer. He may do so because he is already, and remains, a minister of Word and sacraments, associated with the OPC.

The customary ordination/installation requirements apply here. The piety, faith, and learning required for ministers are required for men who come in and have the presbytery hold their credentials in suspense awaiting a call in the OPC. Sections 3 and 6 are in view here as well as the required testimonials. Again, as always, there must be a theological exam, with one-quarter of those present able to ask for continuance and recording of any future exams. As also noted in section 3, the presbytery may, by a three-fourths vote of those present, waive the biblical language requirements without reference to the general assembly as long as the applicant agrees to make “a continuing endeavor” to attain competency in such “until the presbytery is satisfied.”

Though not a member of the presbytery proper until receiving a call, the candidate answers the eight questions that ordinarily accompany ordination/installation. This is recorded in the minutes, and the clerk notifies the other presbyteries that such a man has been received under this rubric and is eligible for call. Normally, he remains in his denomination while seeking a call to service in the OPC. However, if he desires to come into the OPC at this point, he shall be enrolled as a member of the regional church, though, again, not of the presbytery unless and until he receives a call into which he is installed.

He is fully authorized to preach and perform all the functions of a minister (including administering the sacraments), all of which pertains to his office, regardless of where his membership lies. If a man in such a situation does not receive a call within two years, the presbytery is to consider divesting him of office in keeping with FG 26.3. If the presbytery divests him, it shall also require him to seek membership in a particular congregation and not remain on the roll of the regional church.

19. If a minister is to be installed in a position that is a change of function from his previous service the presbytery shall weigh his qualifications for the new function when consideration is given to approval of his call. Such change of function, if approved, shall be noted in the records of the presbytery.

Comment: If a minister is to be installed in a position that is a change of function from his previous service, the presbytery shall be informed of such, judge whether his qualifications fit the new function, approve such, and record it in the minutes of the presbytery. An example of this would be a minister in a congregation who receives a call upon retirement as senior pastor to continue service in the local congregation as a teacher or evangelist instead of pastor. The presbytery needs to express its judgment as to whether the minister properly possesses the qualification for the new function.

20. When a presbytery has ordained or installed a minister a record of the fact shall be made in the minutes of the presbytery.

The presbytery's decision to install shall be regarded also as its decision to receive the minister into the presbytery if he had been a licentiate or was coming from another presbytery or denomination. Upon installation his name shall be placed on the roll of the presbytery.

If the newly enrolled minister has come from another presbytery of this Church the clerk of the installing presbytery shall notify promptly the presbytery from which the minister has come so that his name may be removed from the roll of his former presbytery. If the minister has come from another denomination the clerk of the installing presbytery shall notify the proper authority of the minister's former denomination.

Comment: Ordination and/or installation is one of the most important ordinary acts that a presbytery performs. A record of all that precedes and includes such should be made in its minutes. Any decision to install a man into a duly processed call shall be also a decision to receive a man as a ministerial member of that presbytery. Such membership is effectuated at the end of a service of ordination and installation, in the case of a licentiate, or at the end of an installation, in the case of one already ordained, upon the pronouncement of the apostolic benediction by the newly installed minister. The name of such minister is then and there placed on the roll of the presbytery.

If the newly installed minister comes from another presbytery of the OPC, the clerk of the installing presbytery shall notify the presbytery from which he has transferred that he is now a member of the installing presbytery and that his former presbytery may remove his name from its roll. If the minister has come from another denomination, the clerk of the installing presbytery should likewise notify whatever the proper authority is in the newly installed minister’s former denomination or congregation.

21. If a minister enrolled in a presbytery (a) desires to engage in a ministry not under the jurisdiction of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church within the bounds of another presbytery, or (b) desires to transfer to another presbytery for other purposes for which a call and installation are inappropriate, such transfer may be effected without a call and without installation, provided the minister's reasons are satisfactory to both the dismissing and the receiving presbytery (cf. Chapter XX, Section 8).

Comment: A man may be enrolled in a presbytery, say, as a pastor and desire to change his service, as letter a. has in view, perhaps becoming a chaplain or a teacher at a local institution (prison, hospital, seminary, college, etc.) within the bounds of another presbytery. He may do such if his reasons are deemed appropriate to both the dismissing and receiving presbytery. Further comments will be made on the general subject of ministers laboring outside the church at FG 28.

A man may also have, in accordance with letter b., no particular service in view, like seminary or college teaching, but desire to transfer to another presbytery in which he has no call, so installation would be inappropriate: perhaps he has family in that area and intends to seek a call while living there (and perhaps pursuing temporary employment outside the church), while still engaging in supplying pulpits in the new presbytery, seeking and awaiting a future call. He may transfer into the presbytery without a call from a church in that presbytery, again, if both the dismissing and receiving presbytery find his reasons satisfactory.

22. If a retired minister of another denomination desires to transfer his ministerial credentials to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, he may be enrolled as a member of the presbytery without a call and without installation, provided his reasons are satisfactory and he is received in accordance with the relevant provisions of Section 18 of this chapter.

Comment: This section addresses the situation in which a retired minister of another denomination, perhaps with which he has come to have differences that prompt him not to remain in such, even though he is retired and no longer actively serving in it, wishes to associate with the OPC. He may have his ministerial credentials transferred to the OPC and enrolled as a member of presbytery without call and installation, provided that his reasons for seeking such a transfer are deemed satisfactory by the presbytery. This situation (being enrolled as a member of presbytery without a call and without installation) obtains only in this circumstance and not when he is seeking a call and his credentials are held in suspense. Such a retired or superannuated minister would be otherwise received in accordance with the relevant provisions of Section 18 of this chapter, about which comment is made above.

Endnotes

[1]  Charles Hodge, “Reordination,” in Discussions in Church Polity (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1878), 316.

[2] The necessity of a bishop who is a proper successor to the apostles (as defined by the RCC) for valid ordination is everywhere assumed and taught in the RCC, seen, e.g., in Susan K. Wood, Sacramental Orders, Lex Orandi Series (Collegeville, Minn.: The Liturgical Press, 2000); see also The Catechism of the Catholic Church (Liguori, Missouri: Liguori Publications, 1994), 394: “Validly ordained bishops, i.e., those who are in the line of apostolic succession, validly confer the three degrees [bishop, priest, and deacon] of the sacrament of Holy Orders” (1576).

[3] Allan J. Janssen, Kingdom, Office, and Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 13–15, distinguishes ontological from functional views of office. The RCC see Holy Orders as sacramentally creating a different sort of person in ordination, part of the reason they cannot recognize Presbyterian ordination (such sacramental transformation has never occurred, they think. Marjorie Warkentin, Ordination: A Biblical-Historical View (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), page 71 notes, “The Presbyterians [at the Westminster Assembly] equated the offices of bishop and presbyter and so did not deny the validity of episcopal ordination.”

[4] Charles Hodge, “Validity of Romish Baptism,” in Discussions in Church Polity (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1878), 191–215.

[5] A more modern, and fascinating, engagement of the question may be seen in “On the Necessity of Reordaining a Roman Catholic Priest,” at https://www.pcahistory.org/rgo/rpces/docsynod/330.html (the website of the PCA Historical Center, St. Louis, Missouri).

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, January 2022. A list of available installments in this series appears here.

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Ordained Servant: January 2022

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