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Act 7, 1846 (VII) (Class 1) – Act anent the Duties of Elders and Deacons. 30th May 1846.

WHEREAS it has become necessary, in consequence of the restoration of the scriptural order of Deacons, and in consequence of the late change in the outward condition of the Church, to point out and regulate the duties of Elders and Deacons respectively, and to define and describe the powers of the meeting of congregational office-bearers for secular business, the General Assembly, with consent of a majority of the Presbyteries of this Church, enact and ordain :—

I. Respecting the peculiar duties of ELDERS :-

1. That they sit in session along with the Minister, and assist in the administration of discipline, and in the spiritual government of the Church.

2. That they take a careful oversight of the people’s morals and religious principles, of the attendance upon public ordinances, and of the state of personal and family religion.

3. That they visit the sick from time to time in their several districts.

4. That they superintend the religious instruction of the young, and assist the Minister in ascertaining the qualifications of applicants for admission to sealing ordinances.

5. That they superintend and promote the formation of meetings within their districts for prayer, reading of the Scriptures, and Christian fellowship, among the members of the Church.

II. Respecting the peculiar duties of DEACONS :-

1. That they give special regard to the whole secular affairs of the congregation.

2. That they attend to the gathering of the people’s contributions to the general fund for the sustentation of the ministry ; and that they receive the donations which may be made for other ecclesiastical purposes.

3. That they attend to the congregational poor.

4. That they watch over the education of the children of the poor.

III. Respecting the duties which are common to ELDERS AND DEACONS :-

1. That both Elders and Deacons may receive the Sabbath collections of the people, according to such arrangements as shall be made by the Deacons’ Court.

2. That, for the better discharge of their peculiar duties respectively, as well as with a view to increased opportunities of doing good, both Elders and Deacons visit periodically the districts assigned to them, and cultivate an acquaintance with the members of the Church residing therein.

3. That it is competent for Elders to be employed as Deacons, when a sufficient number of Deacons cannot be had.

4. That Deacons may assist the Elders with their advice, whether in Session or otherwise, when requested so to do.

IV. Respecting the meeting of Minister, Elders, and Deacons, for secular affairs,—which meeting may be called the DEACONS’ COURT :-

1. That the Minister preside in said meeting, when he is present ; and, in his absence, any Elder or Deacon whom the meeting may fix upon.

2. That the said meeting, or Deacons’ Court, is convened by citation from the pulpit, or by personal notice to the members thereof, and is called by authority of the Minister, or at the requisition of any three members,— said requisition being addressed to the minister, or, in time of a vacancy of the pastoral charge, to the Clerk of the said court ; and the proceedings are opened and closed with prayer.

3. That this Court has the management and charge of the whole property belonging to the congregation, including church, session-house, manse, school-buildings, &c., and of all its secular affairs,—including, of course, the appropriation of seats, with the determination of all questions relating thereto ; and it is the province and duty of said Court to transmit, from time to time, to the Treasurer appointed by the General Assembly, or their Committee, the funds raised for the general sustentation of the ministry ; also to apply the remaining congregational funds, in fitting proportions, to the support of the minister, the payment of the salaries of the various subordinate functionaries, and the defraying of all necessary charges connected with the property, or with the dispensation of Christian ordinances ; to apply, moreover, any surplus, which may thereafter arise, to religious, ecclesiastical, educational, or benevolent objects ; likewise to make special collections at the church-door, as often as may appear to them to be necessary, for the temporal relief of poor members of the congregation, and for the education of the children of the poor; and, finally, to receive the Deacons’ reports of their proceedings, to give them such advice and instructions as may be required, and to decide as to the payments to be made by them for the relief of the poor and the education of  youth.

4. That while the church is solely at the disposal of the Minister for all religious purposes, the consent of the Deacons’ Court, as well as of the Minister, is necessary, before any meeting, not strictly of a religious, ecclesiastical, or charitable nature, can be held in it.

5. That the said Court shall have one or more treasurers, and a clerk, and a separate record for the minutes of its proceedings.

6. That the record of the Court, with the treasurer’s account of receipt and expenditure, after said account shall have been duly audited by appointment of the Court, shall be annually exhibited to the Presbytery of the bounds, at the first ordinary meeting thereof after the 15th of March, for the purpose of being examined and attested by the Presbytery at said meeting.

7. That on the first Monday after said attestation of the record and treasurer’s account, or on some convenient day of the first or second week following the attestation by the Presbytery, a congregational meeting shall be held, when the Deacons’ Court shall present a report of its proceedings for the preceding year, give such information and explanations as may be  asked for, and receive any suggestions which may be offered by the members of the congregation for the consideration of the Court, with reference to the future distribution of the funds. The congregational meeting shall be convened by intimation from the pulpit, and the Minister, if present, shall preside in it.

8. That to the said Court shall belong the appointment and dismissal of the church-officer and door-keepers.