Here is a bookevery ruling and teaching elder will want to have. I must confess as I read, it brought back memories when we were forming the first three years of our PCA existence. I chaired the Constitutional Documents Committee and worked very closely with Morton Smith in developing the Book of Church Order for the PCA. Along with Frank Barker, Don Patterson and John Barnes, that was actually a four-year process and I had to present each part to the General Assembly and allow discussion and questions before it was finally adopted. Morton Smith and I spent hours upon hours dealing with the very things Guy Waters writes about in this book.
Waters deals clearly and effectively, as well as biblically and theologically, with numerous issues that we had to work through back in 1973-1976. He refers to the PC BCO throughout this book. I am so glad that he is teaching a polity course at Reformed Theological Seminary with this material. It answers and documents so many issues that are constantly coming before our church. I will be careful not to get nostalgic with this review.
Waters explains the two different schools of thought regarding church government and why Presbyterians, and particularly the PCA has chosen the latter-jure humano (by human right) and jure divino (by divine right). He writes, “by jure divino we mean that the fundamental principles of Apostolic church government have been retained, and are legitimately applied in the circumstances and under the conditions which are peculiar to our own age and country (page 43).
From there he sets forth the principles of that government and polity but then helps us to understand how the application of those principles may vary from circumstance to circumstance just as the Westminster Confession of Faith 1:6 maintains, “and there are some circumstances concerning worship of God, and government of the church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.”
He deals with topics such as the number of offices in which he prefers the two office view, referring to the PCA position. (We actually called it the two and one half office view, practically speaking, but for parity sake we concurred in the beginning that the office of elder is one office with two functions, ruling and teaching). Waters also clearly points out the second major office, that of deacon, is a perpetual office and should be part of the churches structure. Growing out of that he explains the role of women, as it relates to teaching and serving the needs of the church –which underscores the PCA’s position on male officers for both elders and deacons.
You will appreciate Waters’ section on the theology of the church with some emphasis on the kingdom but also explaining the difference between ecclesiastical government and civil government. What he highlights fits nicely with our understanding of the spiritual mission of the church which is to make kingdom disciples who then in turn move into the broader kingdom to have a positive Christian witness and influence, a position which protects the church’s spiritual mission concept and the peoples’ responsibility of each member to live everyday as kingdom people, claiming and giving to God glory in whatever we do.
Finally, I appreciate, as you will also, Waters’ emphasis that church government is a topic that cannot be separated from kingdom discipleship. Operating on the jure divino concept we cannot ignore this part of God’s revealed will regarding the subject. He further points to why this should be viewed as part of the church’s discipleship training. If you are an officer, you need to constantly think about your responsibility as formal leaders in God’s church. If you are not an officer, you need to pray for those in authority in the church. And last, as you have the privilege of electing men to these perpetual offices, you need to know God’s qualifications and pray specifically that he will raise up godly men who excel in these character and skills traits.