Two words are important – relational and incremental. Current leaders should be diligent to watch for those God is preparing to use in the ministry of the congregation. Leaders should take the initiative to speak with potential leaders, develop a relationship with them, and find ways to use their gifts. An incremental process (e.g., part-time leading to full-time, assistant role leading to leader role) allows a potential leader to gain experience, confidence, and credibility with the congregation, while at the same time giving the experienced leader an opportunity to observe and evaluate the person in an area of ministry. In many churches, potential leaders begin by serving on ministry teams or as assistant teachers.
The issue of a limited term for church officers has been debated throughout the history of the PCA, but there is no definitive statement in the Book of Church Order (BCO) or from the General Assembly. BCO 24-7 states that ordination to an office is perpetual; however, an officer may be released from the active duties of his office. Some congregations use this principle as justification for allowing a man to remain ordained to the office of elder/deacon but not active in his service as an elder/deacon (i.e., “rotate off” the Session or Diaconate). Other congregations emphasize the perpetual nature of the office and decide to have an officer serve as long as he is able/willing to serve. If a congregation decides to have terms for the officers, it is prudent for the policy to be included in the church bylaws.
The Session has the authority to determine who is able to teach in the educational ministry of the local church (BCO 12-5). The PCA General Assembly has not adopted any statement regarding this issue, nor has there been a judgment rendered by the Standing Judicial Commission (SJC).
In 1976, the General Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES) received a committee report describing various ways that the gifts of women can be utilized in the life and ministry of the local church. In 1981, the 9th General Assembly of the PCA adopted the “Joint Statement on Joining and Receiving,” which declared the historical documents of the RPCES are “valuable and significant material which will be used in the perfecting of the Church.”
In the RPCES report, the issue of women teaching in Sunday school was addressed:
“If the Sunday school time is a primary teaching time of the church, the elders (who are to be apt to teach) ought to teach the adult classes. This is not basically a sex-role matter but an elder-role matter. If, as is often the case, the Sunday school teachers are conceived as being under the direction of the elders, but somehow nonetheless quite authoritative, it would seem more definition is necessary. If they are clearly under the elders, then, in principle, any non-elder could be appointed to teach; if they are clearly authoritative, only elders should teach. If there is uncertainty as to the nature of “Sunday school,” it might be wise to avoid further confusion and not to appoint women to teach adult men until matters are further clarified in the minds of the congregation. The question of the appointment of women to teach Sunday school is thus one of the definition of the nature of Sunday school rather than one of the role of women.”
“Ordinary vocation to office in the church is the calling of God by the Spirit, through the inward testimony of a good conscience, the manifest approbation of God’s people, and the concurring judgment of a lawful court of the church” (BCO 16-1). When the Holy Spirit is calling a man to serve as an officer, he gives that man a desire and ability to serve. Other people in the congregation acknowledge that desire and ability, ultimately leading to the man’s nomination. A Session determines that a man is biblically qualified and competent to serve the church as an elder or deacon and places his name before the congregation for election. If the man is elected by the congregation to be an officer, the Session then ordains and installs him in the office.
The Constitution of the PCA consists of the doctrinal standards set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith, together with the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, and the Book of Church Order. The Bible is not part of the Constitution because the Constitution is subject to and subordinate to the Scriptures since they are the inerrant Word of God (Preface to the BCO, Section III).