The way the PCA deals with ministers “without call” is confusing, according to an overture recently submitted by Tidewater Presbytery to General Assembly. The overture proposes a reworking of the language in The Book of Church Order (BCO) 13-2, 34-10, 24-7, and 24-9 regarding teaching elders, ruling elders, and deacons without call.

The current language states that a teaching elder can be divested without censure at any time “not exceeding three years” with a two-thirds vote from the presbytery.

According to those who authored the overture, many men fall through the cracks as a result of this lack of precision. Currently, there are more than 300 ministers without call, not counting ruling elders without call. The overture was prompted by discussions with experienced presbyters who face the challenge of overseeing these ministers and assisting them. According to the authors, the current language of BCO 13-2 does little to facilitate this.

“In addition, [BCO 34-10] does not give resolution to the issue if presbyteries fail to reach a two-thirds vote to remove a man from office,” says teaching elder David Dickson of Tidewater.

Such men then remain in a strange limbo of being both without call and under the presbytery’s oversight indefinitely.

The proposed new wording would require a man who is without call to report to his presbytery each year. If he hasn’t found a call after three years, his office would automatically be divested unless the presbytery votes by a simple majority to extend his without call status for another year. After that, the presbytery can continue to extend this status on a year-by-year basis.

“This overture helps foster better shepherding relationships between presbyteries and men without call,” Dickson says. “It allows presbyteries to take into account the particular circumstances of a man without call and easily extend the ‘without call’ status year to year, by a simple majority vote of presbytery as the case may warrant.”

The overture also makes similar recommendations for sessions dealing with ruling elders and deacons who have been without call for three years.

To read the overture, click here.