This Booklet had its beginnings with a recognition by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Australia that with the changes in the composition of the nation and the coming into the Church of those with little prior knowledge of Australian Presbyterianism and its Scottish and Reformed heritage, there was an increasing need for a simplified statement explaining the constitution and some of the basic procedures of the Presbyterian Church of Australia.
The Presbyterian Church of Australia is a part of the Christian Church throughout the world. The Church's name comes from the Greek word presbuteros, which is the word for an elder or a mature Christian leader in the New Testament. The use of the name Presbyterian reflects the Church's aim to be faithful to the Bible's teaching on the Church, even in the 21st Century. In its wider use, the name Presbyterian has also come to include the distinctive doctrine, discipline, worship, laws and practice of the churches which returned to Biblical standards in Europe at the time known as the Reformation.
The highest standard by which the Church's belief and practice is to be measured is the Word of God; the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. So that others can clearly understand what the Presbyterian Church of Australia believes is taught in the Bible, the Church has adopted the Westminster Confession of Faith (with two minor amendments) as a statement of its key doctrines. While the Church believes the Confession sets forth Biblical doctrines accurately and reliably, the Confession is always referred to as the subordinate standard, and the Bible is the supreme standard. You will find the Church's doctrine of the Bible defined in Chapter 1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith. The Confession of Faith is quite detailed, and explains the Bible's teaching on God, Creation, the wonder of being human and the awfulness of sin, and the whole work of God in salvation. The Confession is careful to emphasise that this salvation is by the sovereign Grace of God. It also sets out clear positions on living the Christian Life, and worshipping as a part of the Church in society. The Confession ends with a simple statement on the expectation that Christ will one day return.
Much of the discussion so far has dealt with key constitutional and doctrinal matters. These are important, because the way in which a Church functions will be governed by what it believes and teaches. Some aspects of how the Church functions at local, regional and State levels are discussed below.
The Presbyterian Church of Australia has adopted some standard procedures for bringing issues of concern before its courts. These standard procedures ensure that all matters are dealt with openly, fairly and consistently. Some of these standard procedures are explained briefly below. There may be some slight variation from State to State, but the principles are the same.
This section will deal with Calls, Petitions and Overtures, Appeals and what is known as the Barrier Act procedure. A brief comment on Church Discipline is also included.