Ordination Vows

On August 16, I was ordained as a Teaching Elder and Evangelist in the PCA. (Pictures, video, details over at the family blog.)

Far from a mere formality, this worship service involved me taking vows that bind me for life– not unlike those I made almost seven years ago before God to Melissa. I plan to reread them often to remind myself of my calling from God, my obligation to keep my word, and my accountability to my brothers in the Lord. Following are the vows I took, with a couple of explanatory comments.

Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as originally given, to be the inerrant Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice? Since our denomination has a confession, it’s important to show that Scripture, not the Confession, is our ultimate standard.

Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures; and do you further promise that if at any time you find yourself out of accord with any of the fundamentals of this system of doctrine, you will on your own initiative, make known to your Presbytery the change which has taken place in your views since the assumption of this ordination vow? This one makes a couple of points:

  1. I agree that the Westminster Confession of Faith contains the system of doctrine taught in Scripture. Again, the authority is Scripture, not the Confession. Incidentally, this is why it matters when a Presbyterian minister teaches something out of accord with WCF: not because WCF has the same authority as Scripture, but because the minister has taken an oath affirming WCF as an accurate summary of Scripture.
  2. If my view changes (acknowledging that it could, as I’m bound by Scripture), I have the responsibility to report that to my presbytery so they can determine what the change means for my continued ministry. This applies only to the fundamentals of that system of doctrine.

Do you approve of the form of government and discipline of the Presbyterian Church in America, in conformity with the general principles of Biblical polity? I like this one because it doesn’t claim that the PCA has the only legit form of church government, only that I approve of it, and that it’s in line with the general principles of Biblical polity.

Do you promise subjection to your brethren in the Lord? This is because Presbyterian government is based on the plurality of elders. Each individual is accountable to the body as a whole.

Have you been induced, as far as you know your own heart, to seek the office of the holy ministry from love to God and a sincere desire to promote His glory in the Gospel of His Son? This one is a big deal. I thought about it a lot.

Do you promise to be zealous and faithful in maintaining the truths of the Gospel and the purity and peace and unity of the Church, whatever persecution or opposition may arise unto you on that account? Also a big deal. I now have a sworn responsibility, as a Christian and as a pastor, to preach the Word faithfully no matter what happens.

Do you engage to be faithful and diligent in the exercise of all your duties as a Christian and a minister of the Gospel, whether personal or relational, private or public; and to endeavor by the grace of God to adorn the profession of the Gospel in your manner of life, and to walk with exemplary piety before the flock of which God shall make you overseer?

Do you now undertake the work of an evangelist, and do you promise, in reliance on God for strength, to be faithful in the discharge of all the duties incumbent on you as a minister of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ? PCA trivia: Being ordained as an evangelist means that I’m not taking a charge at a particular PCA church, but am being sent outside the bounds of the presbytery (all the elders in a given geographic region) as a missionary. Otherwise question 8 would bind me to take charge of a specific church and keep the terms of the call they had offered me. As it is, it’s more broad, since the circumstances vary pretty widely for missionaries.

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