This brief explanation has been able to mention only some of the more distinctive aspects of Presbyterianism and the Presbyterian Church of Australia. The Biblical heritage of the Presbyterian Church of Australia is exciting, and a strong foundation on which to build for the future.
Throughout the long history of the church, certain procedures and practices have retained their Latin names. In our day these Latin terms can seem strange, and in some States they are being replaced with English equivalents. What follows is a list of terms that people might encounter when serving within the Church:
AD HOC "for this purpose" The term is usually given to committees which are appointed for a special purpose.
AD VITAM AUT CULPAM "for life or until fault", and usually used of a term of office.
DE FIDELI "with faithfulness". A clerk makes the declaration De fideli on when appointed, promising to do his or her tasks faithfully as a servant of the court.
DE NOVO When a court considers a matter de novo it must always act as if it were deciding the matter for the first time.
EMERITUS A mark of honour granted by the Church to a minister (minister emeritus) or elder (elder emeritus) no longer in regular ministry but preserving the rights and privileges of office. Where applicable, the honour also grants a seat on a Session, Presbytery or Assembly.
IN HUNC EFFECTUM "for this purpose" - a term which describes a meeting called for a particular stated purpose only. No other business can be conducted.
IN RETENTIS "among things held back" Used to describe documents kept separately from the regular records of a court for special reasons.
NTER ALIA "among other things" - a term used in formal extract minutes to indicate that the minute quoted has been taken from a fuller record of other matters.
NEC TAMEN CONSUMEBATUR The Latin motto of many Presbyterian churches throughout the world, including Australia - literally "And yet it was not consumed" and refers to the Burning Bush of Exodus 3:2.
PRIMA FACIE "at first sight" That is, something might appear to be right, or worthy of appeal, etc. but on further examination, the opposite is the case.
PRO RE NATA "concerning a matter having come into being" Used to describe a meeting of a special Presbytery or Assembly called to discuss something new, and which was previously unforeseen (literally: "concerning a matter having been born").
PRO TEMPORE For the time being. Often abbreviated to pro tem.
QUORUM The number of members whose presence is required under the rules to make any given meeting constitutional.
REMIT That which is sent back - a question sent for report or reconsideration by a court to a lower court or to a committee.
ULTRA VIRES literally "beyond power". Used to describe an action done without proper authority, or acting without the rules. The term will most often be used in connection with appeals and petitions.
Being a part of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is a privilege, but it brings high responsibilities. As they take their place in the Church, all members, elders and ministers make certain promises to God. It is helpful for all in the Church to reflect on these promises from time to time. They remind us of our real purpose in the Church and prompt us to pray more specifically for the faithfulness of our Church leaders and for ourselves.
Some of the questions asked of ministers and elders are printed below.
• Do you believe the Word of God which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, to be the only rule of faith and practice?
• Do you accept the Westminster Confession of Faith as amended by the General Assembly and read in the light of the Declaratory Statement . as an exhibition of the sense in which you understand the Holy Scriptures, and as a confession of your faith; and do you engage [promise] firmly and constantly to adhere thereto and to the utmost of your power to maintain and defend the same?
• Do you own and accept the purity of worship as practised by this Church?
• Do you own the Presbyterian form of government to be founded on the Word of God, and agreeable thereto ?
• Are zeal for the glory of God, love to the Lord Jesus Christ and a desire to save souls . your great motives . to the work of the holy ministry?
• Do you promise to give conscientious attention to the courts of the Church ?
• Do you promise in the strength of divine grace, to lead a holy and circumspect life, to rule well your own house, and faithfully, diligently and cheerfully to perform all the parts of [your] ministry to [build up the Church] in love?
Those who become Communicants are usually asked questions which enable them to declare their Christian faith to the congregation. These questions will usually cover a clear statement of belief in the Triune God, and a willingness to contribute to and share in the life of the congregation. They will be similar to the following:
• Do you confess your faith in God as your heavenly Father, in Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord, and in the Holy Spirit as your Sanctifier?
• Do you promise, in dependence upon divine grace, to serve the Lord and to walk in His ways all the days of your life?
• Do you promise to make diligent use of the means of grace, to share dutifully in the worship and service of the Church and to give of your substance as the Lord may prosper you, for the advancement of His kingdom throughout the world?
Similar questions are also given when someone is baptized. If an adult is baptized, he or she will answer the questions directly. If a child is brought for baptism by one or two Christian parents, then the parent or parents will answer the questions. In this second case, there will also be a promise to train up the child in the truths of the Christian faith.