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Question and Answer

May a candidate for church office differ with the WCF?


How much can one disagree with the OPC's view of the covenants and still be eligible to be ordained to an office?


Thanks for your question. I assume by the "OPC's view of the covenants" you mean the doctrine of the covenants as taught in the Westminster Standards. So the question would be "May a candidate for church office differ from something taught in the Westminster Standards and to what degree?"

And the answer is that it is up to a presbytery, in the case of a minister, or a session, in the cases of elders and deacons, to determine whether, whatever differences the candidate may have with the Standards, he can honestly affirm the second ordination vow (FG XXII:13.c(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?"

If the presbytery judges that a ministerial candidate's view of the covenants differs from the Standards, it will have to determine whether those differences are such that permit him to take this vow with integrity. Such judgment (at either the sessional or presbyterial level) is always subject to complaint and appeal, of course, and consists in the relevant body determining whether the difference is something that would "constitute a violation of the system of doctrine contained in the Holy Scriptures as that system of doctrine is set forth in our Confession of Faith and Catechisms" (BD III.7.b.).

With specific regard to the doctrine of the covenants, should someone, for instance, be permitted to deny the covenant of works, not only as to its form but as to its substance? I do not think so and would argue that vigorously in presbytery, as I believe that it would constitute a violation of the system of doctrine. Someone may scruple at the language "covenant of works," however, and in substance affirm what such language intends to convey. Presbytery would have to listen carefully to the candidate and look carefully at what he teaches so as to make such a determination.

About Q&A

"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.

The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.

At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those people who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)

The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.

While we will respond to every serious questioner, we are not bound to give a substantive answer to every question, should we deem the question to be beyond the scope of our purpose or our own ability to answer.

You will receive an answer by e-mail. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two (2) weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.

Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been edited—all personal references are removed, Scripture references or from some source may be added, and sometimes portions are expanded—to make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.

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