Friday, July 02, 2010

The Constitution of The International Presbyterian Church

This is I believe the work of Francis Schaeffer. He started the IPC in Switzerland nut now most congregations are in England.

The Constitution of The International Presbyterian Church

The official name of this church is the International Presbyterian Church.

The subordinate standards of the International Presbyterian Church are the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms.

Local Churches and the Synod

Chapters 13, 14 and 15 of the Book of Acts together with the remainder of the New Testament make it clear that both local churches and synods (or councils) are pleasing to God and commanded by him.

Almighty God in his providence has allowed different parts of his church to be governed in varied ways. He has blessed churches of diverse government as his fruitful branches. Rejoicing in this and in no way casting reflections upon bodies differently governed, we nevertheless believe that government by presbyters is founded upon the Word of God and the practice of the early church and is highly expedient.

We believe that each local church may call one or more men to be 'pastor'. By this title we mean an elder who is able to devote much of his time and gifts to the teaching, shepherding, and ruling of the church, and who therefore should receive financial support from the church. However, the pastor(s) and other elders, as their New Testament description, 'bishop' (episkopoi), indicates, are joined together in the oversight of the church. The distinction between the two indicates no superiority one over another, as all together are responsible for the feeding and shepherding of Christ's flock. (While pastors are not necessary for the well-being of the church, it is evident from Scripture that pastors are most helpful to the well-being of the church.) Any distinction between pastors and elders is to be considered one of expedience and not of office. All presbyters are referred to in I Timothy 3:2 which says 'the bishop must be … a good teacher' (NEB), but this need not imply that all must preach (or that all must equally preach) in the public worship of the church.

Believing that local churches, presbyteries, and synods are founded upon and agreeable to the Word of God, we authorize the spiritual government of this Church by sessions, presbyteries, and synods, which are to be comprised only of presbyters.

These councils do not possess any civil jurisdiction, nor do they inflict any civil penalties. Their power is wholly moral and spiritual, only ministerial and declarative of the Word of God.

The synod, a presbytery, or a local church may own property in accordance with the laws of the country in which the property is situated.

A local church is entitled to keep or dispose of its property as it sees fit whether it remains within or chooses to withdraw from the International Presbyterian Church. This statement is to be construed as a solemn covenant by which the International Presbyterian Church as a whole undertakes never to attempt to secure possession of the property of any congregation against its will, whether or not the congregation remains a part of this body. All officers and agencies of the International Presbyterian Church are hereby prohibited from making any such attempt. These provisions concerning local church property are unamendable and irrevocable.

Officers of the Church

The officers of this church are presbyters (comprising pastors and elders) and deacons.

PRESBYTERS: The person who fills the office of presbyter receives in the Scriptures different names expressive of his various duties. As he has oversight of the flock of Christ, he is called pastor or shepherd. As he serves Christ in his Church he is named minister. As it is his duty to be mature and wise, living as an example to the flock and governing well in the household and kingdom of Christ, he is termed presbyter or elder. As he is sent to declare the will of God to sinners, urging them to be reconciled to God through Christ, entrusted with the Gospel, he is designated ambassador. As he dispenses the manifold grace of God, overseeing the ordinances instituted by Christ, he is entitled steward of the mysteries of God. In all he is in humility the servant of Christ, set apart for the work of his Gospel.

DEACONS: The Scriptures teach that deacons are called to a ministry of helpful service, according to the example of the Lord Jesus who himself 'went about doing good' (Acts 10:38). Their work of giving practical assistance to those in need lends visible expression to the unity of believers in the one Body of Christ.

Deacons are to help and comfort those in sickness, sorrow, difficulty or distress. They should promote love and generosity among the members of the church, maintaining trust and confidence in the integrity of their office as they oversee the collection and distribution of gifts and offerings with expedience and wisdom. They should keep financial records in good order, making regular report to the congregation of all income and expenditure, encouraging the practice of gracious and good stewardship. They are entrusted with the care and upkeep of property owned (or used) by the congregation, responsibly maintaining it as they enlist the time, effort, and resources of the entire membership.

In matters of consequence involving church property or finance the deacons cannot take final action without approval of the session and consent of the congregation. In all matters the deacons are under the supervision and authority of the session.

The qualifications for this office (I Timothy 3:8-13) indicate that it is spiritual in nature. Accordingly, those who fulfill it must be men and women of spiritual character, honest reputation, exemplary life, brotherly spirit, warm sympathy, and sound judgement.

The Church Session

The church session consists of all presbyters of a particular congregation. In the case of a church having only one presbyter, such 'borrowed' presbyters as agreed by the synod will (with him) form a session until additional presbyters are ordained or installed.

A pastor may be the moderator of a local session, but the session as a whole will be answerable to the synod for the teaching of the local congregation.

Every session must keep a clear record of its proceedings. It is to be submitted to the synod once a year for review and inspection.

Every session must keep a register or roll of the members of its congregation, both of believers and of their baptised children; of suspensions from the Lord's Table; of the deaths and other removals of church members. Such names may be entered in or removed from the register only by order of the session.

The Presbytery

When necessary a presbytery may be formed in a particular geographical location as an intermediate body between the local session and the synod. All presbyters in such an area will be members of the presbytery.

The Synod

The synod of this church consists of all presbyters of local congregations. If for good and acceptable reasons a presbyter ceases to be a member of a congregation of the International Presbyterian Church, the synod may invite him to continue as a member from year to year.

The officers of the synod will be the Moderator and the Secretary (Stated Clerk). They are to be elected each year.

The synod, in accordance with the presbyterian form of government, will have the power to do that which enables the International Presbyterian Church to function as a church. It will act as the final court of appeal in all matters affecting the doctrine or constitution of the church. The synod will review the records of each congregation; it will advise and instruct on cases submitted to it; it will constitute the bond of union, peace, correspondence, and mutual confidence among all congregations.

The synod has the power of deciding in all controversies respecting doctrine and discipline; of reproving, warning; of bearing testimony against error in doctrine or immorality in practice; of establishing or incorporating new local congregations; of corresponding with other church bodies on such terms as may be agreed by the synod and the corresponding body; of recommending and aiding the promotion of charity, truth, and holiness.

Electing and Ordaining Deacons

Each congregation may elect deacons in whatever manner it may approve. In all cases the person(s) elected must be a member in good standing in the congregation in which he/she is to exercise the office.

When a person has been elected to this office, and has declared willingness to accept it, he/she is to be ordained in the following manner:

After a sermon in which a presbyter outlines the nature of the office and the character required of the one who fulfills it, he will pose to the candidate the following questions, in the presence of the congregation:

1) Do you believe the Scripture of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice, without error not only where they speak of religious matters, but also where they speak of history, the cosmos, and ethical matters?

2) Do you approve of the presbyterian form of church government?

3) Do you accept the office of deacon in this congregation, and promise to faithfully perform all of its duties?

4) Do you promise to promote the purity, peace and unity of the Church?

The deacon-elect, having answered these questions in the affirmative, the presbyter concerned will pose the following questions to the congregation assembled:

1) Do you, the members of this church, acknowledge and receive this brother/sister as a deacon, and do you promise to give him/her all that honour, encouragement and obedience in the Lord to which this office, according to the Word of God and the constitution of this church, entitles him/her?

The members of the congregation having answered this question in the affirmative, by holding up their right hands, the session will proceed to ordain the candidate to the office of deacon by the laying-on-of-hands and by prayer.

Electing and Ordaining/Installing Presbyters

It should be noted that I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9 specify the qualifications for the office of presbyter. It is understood from these passages and from elsewhere in Scripture that presbyters must be men.

It is the duty of the session to convene a meeting to elect a presbyter if a majority of those entitled to vote in the case so wish. The session is encouraged to seek the advice of presbyters from another session at the time of such an election. In every case the new presbyter must have the approval of the presbytery.

All presbyters will be members of the congregation in which they serve.

When a congregation elects a presbyter and calls him to that office, he is to be examined by the presbytery (or synod), although this examination may well have taken place before the call was issued. A call which has been issued by a congregation and approved by the presbytery (or synod) is in itself a request for the ordination or installation of the presbyter-elect. If he has previously been ordained, he should be installed into office in the congregation which has called him. If he has not been ordained, then his ordination should normally be regarded as including installation within it.

A presbyter is to be ordained in the following manner:

In a service at which a presbyter from another session should be present, a sermon suitable to the occasion will be preached. The presbyter presiding will inform the congregation of the approval given to the candidate by the presbytery (or by the synod). He will explain the church's view of ordination, referring to the significance attributed by Scripture to the office. He will emphasize the seriousness of the commitments made by both the candidate and by the congregation. Then, addressing the candidate, he will pose 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, without error not only where they speak of religious matters, but also where they speak of history, the cosmos and ethical matters?

2) Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Westminster Confession of Faith as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures?

3) Do you approve of the presbyterian form of church government?

4) Do you promise such subjection to your brethren as is taught in the Word of God?

5) Do you seek the office of pastor/elder out of love for 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 and peace of the Church &endash; whatever persecution or opposition may arise against you on that account?

7) Do you promise to be faithful in your own walk with Christ, determining to live as an example of the Gospel you preach?

8) Are you now willing to take oversight of this congregation and do you promise to discharge the duties of a pastor/an elder as God gives you strength?

The candidate having answered these questions in the affirmative, the presbyter presiding will pose to the congregation assembled the following questions:

1) Are you, the members of this congregation, willing to receive ………………………..(name) as your pastor/elder?

2) Do you promise to receive his teaching from the Word of God with humility and love, and do you promise to give him all that honour, encouragement, and obedience in the Lord, to which his office, according to the Word of God and the constitution of this church entitles him?

3) Do you promise to encourage him in his difficult work and to help him as he ministers among you?

4) (where applicable) Do you promise to provide him with the financial support which Scripture declares to be your obligation?

In the case of both ordination and installation, the congregation having answered these questions by holding up their right hands, the candidate will kneel and the assembled presbyters will ordain him by the laying-on-of-hands and by prayer.

In the case of installation only, the congregation having answered these questions by holding up their right hands, the assembled presbyters will install the candidates by prayer alone.

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