Sivut kuvina



I. JESUS CHRIST, who is now exalted far above all principality and power, hath erected in this world, a kingdom, which is his church.

II. The universal church consists of all those persons, in every nation, together with their children, who make profession of the holy religion of Christ, and of submission to his laws.

III. As this immense multitude cannot meet together, in one place, to hold communion, or to worship God, it is reasonable, and warranted by Scripture example, that they should be divided into many particular churches.

IV. A particular church consists of a number of professing Christians, with their offspring, voluntarily associated together, for divine worship, and godly living, agreeably to the Holy Scriptures; and submitting to a certain form of government.*

1. Mode of Organization of New Churches.

The Committee to whom was recommitted the report of the last Assembly, on the organization of new churches, reported again, and their report was read and adopted, and is as follows, viz.:

That a particular Presbyterian church, so far as adults are concerned, is constituted and organized as such, by a number of individuals, professing to walk together as the disciples of Jesus Christ, on the principles of the Confession of Faith and Form of Government of the Presbyterian Church, and the election and ordination of one or more ruling elders, who, by the ordination service become the spiritual rulers of the persons voluntarily submitting themselves to their authority in the Lord.

a. This organization ought always to be made by application to the Presbytery, within the bounds of which the church to be organized is found, unless this be exceedingly inconvenient, in which case it may be done by a duly authorized missionary, or a neighboring minister of the gospel.

b. At the time appointed for the purpose, after prayer for divine direction and blessing, the presiding minister, or committee appointed by the Presbytery should first receive from those persons to be organized into the new church, if they have been communicants in other churches, letters of dismission and recommendation; and in the next place, examine and admit to a profession of faith, such persons as may offer themselves, and may be judged suitable to be received on examination. If any of these persons admitted to a profession on examination, have not been baptized, they should in this stage of the business be made the subjects of Christian baptism.

c. The individuals ascertained in the foregoing manner to be desirous and prepared to associate as a church of Christ, should now, by some public formal act, such as rising, joining hands, or subscribing a written state

* A larger type is used to indicate to the reader that the parts thus printed re from the FORM OF GOVERNMENT, BOOK OF DISCIPLINE, or DIRECTORY FOR W'R

ment, agree and covenant to walk together in a church relation, according to the acknowledged doctrines and order of the Presbyterian Church.

d. The next step is to proceed to the election and ordination of ruling elders, in conformity with the directions given on this subject in the Form of Government of the Presbyterian Church.

Deacons are to be elected and ordained in like manner as in the case of ruling elders.

e. When a church has been organized in the manner already described, report of the same should be made, as soon as practicable, to the Presbytery within whose bounds it is located. And when a missionary, or other minister of the gospel, not especially appointed to the work by a Presbytery, has, in the manner above specified, organized a church, not within the known bounds of any Presbytery, the church thus organized should as soon as practicable make known to some Presbytery, with which it may be most naturally and conveniently connected, the time and manner of its organization, and desire to be received under the care of said Presbytery.

In cases in which churches are to be formed within the known boundaries of any Presbytery, it is most desirable that persons wishing to be organized as a Presbyterian Church, should petition that Presbytery to receive them under its care for the purpose of organizing them in due form. f. There may be people in destitute portions of our land, who may be disposed to associate for the purpose of forming a Presbyterian congregation, when no minister of the gospel can be obtained to aid them. The forming of associations for such a purpose, in the circumstances contemplated, should be considered not only as lawful, but highly commendable. And such associations, when formed, should, as speedily as possible, take measures for obtaining the preaching of the gospel, and for becoming organized as regular churches.

g. Cases may also occur, in various places, in which a collection or association of people may desire the preaching of the gospel, and be willing, in whole or in part, to support it, and yet may not have suitable men among them to sustain the office of ruling elders.

Such people may and ought to obtain a preacher of the gospel to labor among them, and occasionally to administer ordinances, under the direction of some Presbytery, till they shall find themselves in circumstances to make a proper choice of ruling elders, and to have them regularly set apart to their office.-1831, pp. 326, 327.


2. Who are the Constituent Members of a Church?

"A particular church consists of a number of professing Christians, with their offspring, voluntarily associated together for divine worship, and godly living, agreeably to the Holy Scriptures; and submitting to a certain form of government."-Form of Government, Ch. ii., Sec. iv.

b. "Children, born within the pale of the visible church, and dedicated to God in baptism, are under the inspection and government of the church."-Directory, Ch. ix., Sec. i.

[ocr errors]

C. Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, .. for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible church...."-Confession, Ch. xxviii., Sec. i.

d. "Not only those that do actually profess faith in, and obedience unto Christ, but also the infants of one or both believing parents are to be baptized."--Ib., Ch. xxviii., Sec. iv.

3. Of Trustees and Charters.

a. It is not inconsistent with the Presbyterian plan of government, nor the institution of our Lord Jesus Christ, that Trustees, or a committee

chosen by the congregation, should have the disposal and application of the public money raised by said congregation, to the uses for which it was designed; provided that they leave in the hands and to the management of the deacons, what is collected for the Lord's table, and the poor. And that ministers of the Gospel, by virtue of their office, have no right to sit with or preside over such trustees or committees.-1752, p. 249.

b. Considering that it is necessary to the due and orderly maintenance of the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in its various provisions, that care be taken, in obtaining legal enactments of a secular kind, that they be so formed as not to come in conflict with any such provisions-and whereas, it is known, that instances have existed, and probably do still exist, in which the charters of churches, and perhaps other legal instruments, are so framed that the laws of the Church and the laws of the land are not reconcilable with each other: Therefore,

Resolved, That the General Assembly earnestly recommend it to all the congregations under their supervision, that in resorting to the legislatures or tribunals of our country, they use the utmost care to ask nothing which, if granted, will in any respect contravene the principles or order of our Church; and in any cases in which civil enactments, heretofore obtained, do militate with any of the principles or order of our Church, they endeavor, as soon as possible, to obtain the repeal or modification of such enactments, so as to make them consistent with the ecclesiastical order and principles of the Presbyterian Church.-1838, p. 26, O. S.

4. Control of Trustees over a House of Worship.

Supposing that a musical convention desire the use of the Church for its sessions and exhibition; can the Board of Trustees give the use of the house of worship for that purpose without the consent of the session ?

Resolved, That the trustees of a church hold the property for religious purposes; and their legal rights are only to be determined by the State laws and charters under which they act as custodians of the church. Still, they have no moral right to convert the house of God into a place of business or amusement.-1860, p. 53, 54, O. S.

5. Respective Rights of Trustees and Session in Controlling the House.

a. Overture No. 14, being a request from the Presbytery of Cincinnati, that the Assembly define the respective rights of the trustees and session in the control of the edifice used for public worship, and direct what steps be taken in case of disagreement or collision between them, with a report thereon as follows:

Where a church edifice is held by trustees, the legal title is vested in them; and having the title, the custody and care of the property pertains to them, for the uses and purposes for which they hold the trust. These uses and purposes are the worship of God, and the employment of such other means of spiritual improvement as may be consistent with the Scriptures, and according to the order of the church: to which may be added, congregational meetings for business relating to the church or corporation. By the constitution of the Church, the session is charged with the supervision of the spiritual interests of the congregation; and this includes the right to direct and control the use of the building for the purposes of worship, as required or established by the special usage of the particular church, or the Directory for Worship. This being the principal purpose

of the trust, the trustees are bound to respect the wishes and action of the session as to the use and occupation of the house of worship. The session is the organ or agent through whom the trustees are informed how and when the church building is to be occupied; and the trustees have no right to refuse compliance with the action of the session in this regard. These are general principles applicable to all cases, except, perhaps, in some localities where special statutory enactments by competent authority may confer other rights, or prescribe other duties.

But there are other purposes for which the use of the church edifice is sometimes desired, which, though they partake of a religious or intellectual character, do not fall within the class of objects which are properly described as belonging to the worship of that congregation. The house may not be used for such purposes without the consent of the trustees; and this consent they may properly, in their discretion, refuse. As the function to determine what is a proper use of the house is vested in the session, the trustees have no legal right to grant the use of it for purposes which the session disapprove. And as the strict rights of those who are represented by the session to the use of the house, are limited to the worship of that congregation, the trustees are under no obligation to grant it for any other purpose.

When the trustees grant the use of the house to others, contrary to the expressed wishes of the session, and, as they suppose, to the prejudice of the cause of religion and of that church, the proper appeal is, first, to the persons composing the congregation to whom the trustees are responsible; secondly, to the Presbytery, for their advice; and finally, if necessary, to the legal tribunals.

The report was accepted and adopted.-1863, pp. 43, 44, O. S.

b. The Commissioners from the Presbytery of Wilmington have been instructed to ask information of the Assembly on the following points: 1. Who are voters in an election for trustees of a church?

2. Who have power to call a meeting for the election of trustees of a church?

3. Who have power to close and hold possession of a church-the trustees or the session?

The Committee reported:

1. That the questions asked are wholly legal questions, to be determined by the local laws, relating to church property, in the State where the church lies.

2. That, in the absence of any statutory law relating to the mode in which trustees shall proceed, the by-laws of the corporation shall govern the mode of proceeding.

3. That in the absence of any specific rules of proceedings, the general principle of law, that the trust shall be executed for the sole use of those for whom it is held, shall govern the case.

The report was adopted.-1864, p. 478, N. S.

6. Congregations acting through Trustees not Responsible as such to the Presbytery.

The Judicial Committee report a paper from T. C. Connelly, of Washington, D. C., calling attention to an alleged case of injustice on the part of a congregation, in that city, toward one of its members.

No specific action of the Assembly is asked for. Nor does it appear that the case is under the control of any ecclesiastical court. Congregations. acting through a Board of Trustees, are not, as such, responsible to the Presbyteries.

On recommendation of the Committee, the whole matter was dismissed. --1869, p. 270, N. S.

7. Relative Rights of Session and Trustees over Houses of Worship. In the use of the Property for all Religious Services or Ecclesiastical purposes, the Trustees are under the Control of the Session.

[The following extract from the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, in the Louisville Walnut Street Church case, is inserted by order of the General Assembly, and answers clearly and authoritatively most of the questions asked above. See the whole decision under Form of Government, Chap. xii., Sec. v.]

"One or two propositions, which seem to admit of no controversy, are proper to be noticed in this connection. 1. Both by the act of the Kentucky Legislature, creating the trustees of the church a body corporate, and by the acknowledged rules of the Presbyterian Church, the trustees were the mere nominal title-holders and custodians of the church property; and other trustees were, or could be elected by the congregation, to supply their places, once in every two years. 2. That in the use of the property for all religious services or ecclesiastical purposes, the trustees were under the control of the church session. 3. That by the constitution of all Presbyterian churches, the session, which is the governing body in each, is composed of the ruling elders and pastor; and in all business of the session a majority of its members govern, the number of elders for each congregation being variable.

The trustees obviously hold possession for the use of the persons who, by the constitution, usages, and laws of the Presbyterian body, are entitled to that use. They are liable to removal by the congregation for whom they hold this trust; and others may be substituted in their places. They have no personal ownership or right beyond this, and are subject, in their official relations to the property, to the control of the session of the church.

The possession of the elders, though accompanied with larger and more efficient powers of control, is still a fiduciary possession. It is as a session of the church alone that they could exercise power. Except by an order of the session in regular meeting, they have no right to make any order concerning the use of the building; and any action of the session is necessarily in the character of representatives of the church body by whose members it was elected.

If, then, this true body of the church-the members of that congregation-having rights of user in the building, have in a mode which is authorized by the canons of the general Church in this country elected and installed other elders, it does not seem to us inconsistent or at variance with the nature of the possession which we have described, and which the Chancery Court orders to be restored to the defendants, that they should be compelled to recognize these rights, and permit those who are the real beneficiaries of the trust held by them to enjoy the uses to protect which that trust was created.-1872, p. 181, Appendix.

« EdellinenJatka »