DOES THE BCO (AND THUS THE PRINCIPLES OF BIBLICAL POLITY SET FORTH THEREIN) REQUIRE THAT A CONGREGATION HAVE DEACONS? YES, DEMONSTRABLY
Dr. David F. Coffin, Jr.
For Potomac Presbytery, January 2009
I. CHRIST, THE KING AND HEAD OF THE CHURCH
Jesus gives “all offices necessary for the edification of His Church and the perfecting of His saints.” BCO Preface, I.
Christ has ordained “His system of doctrine, government, discipline and worship, all of which are either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary inference may be deduced therefrom; and to which things He commands that nothing be added, and that from them naught be taken away.” BCO Preface, I.
“The ordinary and perpetual classes of office in the Church are elders and deacons. . . . In accord with Scripture, these offices are open to men only.” BCO 7-2.
“The office of deacon is set forth in the Scriptures as ordinary and perpetual in the Church. . . .” BCO 9-1.
“Its [the particular church’s] officers are its teaching and ruling elders and its deacons.” BCO 4-2.
“To the office of deacon . . . shall be chosen men. . . .” BCO 9-3.
QED: For a minister and/or Session to hold as policy that there shall be no ordained deacon in a congregation is to say that Jesus has not given the diaconate as necessary to the edification of the church and the perfection of His people, and is to take away from his commands concerning the church’s ordinary and perpetual officers.
II. THE DOCTRINE OF VOCATION
“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.
“Upon those whom God calls to bear office in His Church He bestows suitable gifts for the discharge of their various duties.” BCO 16-3
“Those who have been called to office in the Church are to be inducted by the ordination of a court.” BCO 17-2.
“Ordination is the authoritative admission of one duly called to an office in the Church of God. . . .” BCO 17-3.
QED: For a minister and/or Session to hold as policy that there shall be no ordained deacon in a congregation is to deny that God by the Spirit may call a man from that congregation to the office of deacon, or is to deny a man called and gifted of God by the Spirit his right to be elected and ordained to the office and exercise his gifts in the diaconal labor for which they were given.
III. THE POWERS OF THE CHURCH
“The officers of the Church, by whom all its powers are administered, are according to the Scriptures, teaching and ruling elders and deacons.” BCO 4-1.
“This power, as exercised by the people, extends to the choice of those officers whom He has appointed in His Church.” BCO 3-1.
QED: For a minister and/or Session to hold as policy that there shall be no ordained deacon in a congregation is to deny the congregation the Christ-appointed administrator of part of the church’s power, and to deny the right of the people to exercise their power in choosing deacons.
IV. THE RIGHTS OF MEMBERS SEVERALLY AND THE CONGREGATION AS A WHOLE
“At such times as determined by the Session, communicant members of the congregation may submit names to the Session, keeping in mind that each prospective officer should be an active male member who meets the qualifications. . . .” BCO 24-1.
“All communing members in good and regular standing . . . are entitled to vote in the election of church officers. . . .” BCO 24-3.
“If one-fourth (1/4) of the persons entitled to vote shall at any time request the Session to call a congregational meeting for the purpose of electing additional officers, it shall be the duty of the Session to call such a meeting on the above procedure.” BCO 24-1.
“The number of officers to be elected shall be determined by the congregation after hearing the Session’s recommendation.” BCO 24-1.
QED: For a minister and/or Session to hold as policy that there shall be no ordained deacon in a congregation is to transgress the rights of communicant members to nominate candidates for the diaconate and to vote on their election if found qualified; and to deny the right of the congregation to require the Session to hold an election for the diaconate, as well as the right of the congregation to set the number of deacons to be elected.
V. REASONS WHY A CONGREGATION MIGHT NOT HAVE DEACONS
“In a church in which it is impossible for any reason to secure deacons, the duties of the office shall devolve upon the ruling elders.” BCO 9-2.
What reason might make it “impossible”?
a. Jesus calls no man to be a deacon (possible, but unlikely).
b. No man is found qualified by the Session to be a deacon.
c. The Congregation recognizes no man as called of God to be a deacon.
But according to the BCO the pastor and/or the Session cannot antecedently decide, as a matter of policy, that there shall be no deacons. This is to violate the rights of Jesus, the rights of men called by Him to the office, and the rights of members severally, and of the congregation as a whole. Further, the required remedy in each case of impossibility is to pray that the Lord would provide what is “necessary for the edification of His Church and the perfecting of His saints,” and to labor diligently to see to it that the means of grace are so employed that men become suitably spiritual, are recognized as such by the people, and thus are nominated, trained, elected and ordained to serve as deacons.