May 23, 2010 Q & A

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.



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