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The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

Chapter 29 : Offenses

Paragraph 2 : Types of Offenses

29-2. Offenses are either personal or general, private or public; but all of them being sins against God, are therefore grounds of discipline.

HISTORICAL SUMMARY:
The current PCA text remains unchanged from that of the PCUS draft edition of 1876. The first approved PCUS edition, in 1879, had an additional comma after the word "are", but as the 1876 draft version and all subsequent PCUS editions did not have this comma, its insertation in the 1879 edition may well have been a printer's error.]

ANTECEDENT TEXTS:
1. PCA 1973, RoD, 3-2, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, p. 146
2. Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, RoD, 3-2, Proposed text, p. 40
3. PCUS 1933, RoD III-2
4. PCUS 1925, RoD III-2
Offenses are either personal or general, private or public; but all of them being sins against God, are therefore grounds of discipline.

PCUS 1879, RoD III-2

Offenses are either personal or general, private or public; but all of them being sins against God, are, therefore grounds of discipline.

PCUS 1876 draft, Rules of Discipline, III-2

Offenses are either personal or general, private or public; but all of them being sins against God, are therefore grounds of discipline.

PCUS 1869 draft, Canons of Discipline, III-2
and
PCUS 1867 draft,
Canons of Discipline, III-2
Offences are either personal or general, private or public, but all being sins against God are grounds of discipline as such.

PCUSA 1858, Revised Book of Discipline, II-1
Offences are either personal or general, private or public.

OTHER COMPARISONS:
OPC 2005, Chapter III - Steps in the Institution of Judicial Process
, Par. 4
Offenses are either public or private. Public offenses are those which are commonly known. Private offenses are those which are known to an individual only, or, at most, to a very few individuals. Private offenses may or may not be personal, a personal private offense being one which involves injury to the person bringing the charge.

COMMENTARY:
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order
(1898, pp. 180-181), on II-2:
153.--II. Offenses are either personal or general, private or public; but all of them being sins against God, are, therefore grounds of discipline.
The meaning is not that every offence should be judicially prosecuted, for judicial prosecution is not the only method of discipline, nor is the only end of judicial prosecution the rebuke of offences ; but the meaning is, that the real ground of discipline is that the offence is a sin against God, and not its mere relation to the rights or knowledge of men.

Charles Hodge, on Chapter 2 of "The Revised Book of Discipline" (1858), pp. 694.
The object of this chapter is to classify offences. In the present Book they are distinguished as private and public; here the discrimination is carried further. They are distinguished, 1. As personal, when committed against one or more individuals; such as acts of defamation, or defrauding. 2. As general, when they have no such relation to individuals, as drunkenness. 3. As private, when known only to a few persons. 4. Public, when they are notorious. These distinctions are important, as they become the grounds of different modes of proceeding.

Constitutional Inquiry:
PCUS, 1881—
The answer to overture No. 16 was adopted, and is as follows :
No. 16: From the Presbytery of Mecklenburg, asking,
1: Do the provisions of our book (Rules of Discipline, Chapter 6, Sec. 6, and Chapter 3, Sec. 2,) apply to the case of a member of the church who refuses to obey the citation of the Session to appear for conference concerning matters affecting the Christian character, when no formal charge has been preferred?
2. If they do not, by what means must the Session deal with resistance of its authority when it exercises the power conferred in Chapter 5, Sec. 3, Par. 5, Form of Government, and endeavors to perform the duty therein devolved on it of inquiring into the knowledge, principles and Christian conduct of the church members under its care by directing the members to appear before the Session ?
The Committee recommend the following answer :
Chapter 6, Sec. 6, Rules of Discipline, refers only to formal judicial prosecution, and requires that charges be preferred and the offender formally cited to appear before the Session for the purpose of answering the charges.
Chapter 3, Sec. 2, Rules of Discipline, refers to offences which may call for judicial prosecution, or may not, according to the nature of the case; and of this the Session is to be the judge. The authority of the Session, as defined in Chapter 5, Sec. 3, Par. 5, Form of Government, allows the Session to enquire into the "knowledge, principles and Christian conduct of the members under its care," without formal judicial process. If its authority is resisted when so exercised, the Session may then proceed to cite the offender to appear, as provided in Chap. 6, Rules of Discipline. If, after two citations, its authority is still resisted, the Session may proceed to deal with the offender for contumacy, as provided in Chapter 7, Sec. 2, Rules of Discipline.

 




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