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The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

Chapter 30 : Church Censures

Paragraph 3 : Definite & Indefinite Suspension


30-3. Suspension from Sacraments is the temporary exclusion from those ordinances, and is indefinite as to its duration. There is no definite suspension from the Sacraments.
Suspension from office is the exclusion of a church officer from his office. This may be definite or indefinite as to its duration. With respect to church officers, suspension from Sacraments shall always be accompanied by suspension from office. But suspension from office is not always necessarily accompanied with suspension from Sacraments.
Definite suspension from office is administered when the credit of religion, the honor of Christ, and the good of the delinquent demand it, even though the delinquent has given satisfaction to the court.
Indefinite suspension is administered to the impenitent offender until he exhibits signs of repentance, or until by his conduct, the necessity of the greatest censure be made manifest. In the case of indefinite suspension from office imposed due to scandalous conduct, the procedure outlined in BCO 34-8 shall be followed.

[DIGEST: Changes from the 1973 text were instituted in 1990. The amendment had come before the 17th General Assembly (M17GA, pp. 47-48; see also 17-82, III, 13, p. 152 and pp. 153-155) as part of a larger set of proposed changes (Item 6 included amendments to 30-1; 30-2; 30-3; 34-8; 34-9 and 37-2). 35 Presbyteries had voted in favor of the amendment in the advice and consent stage, but noted errors in the drafting of the amendment deferred the matter to the 18th General Assembly, at which time the amendment was adopted. (cf. M18GA, pp. 46-50).]

ANTECEDENT TEXTS:
PCA 1973, RoD, 4-3, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, p. 146
Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, RoD, 4-3, Proposed text, p. 41
Suspension, with respect to church members, is their temporary exclusion from sealing ordinances ; with respect to church officers, it is their temporary exclusion from the exercise of their office. It may be either definite or indefinite as to its duration. Definite suspension is administered when the credit of religion, the honor of Christ, and the good of the delinquent demand it, even though he may have given satisfaction to the court. Indefinite suspension is the exclusion of an offender from sealing ordinances, or from his office, until he exhibits signs of repentance, or until, by his conduct, the necessity of the highest censure be made manifest.

PCUS 1879, RoD, IV-2

Suspension, with respect to Church members, is their temporary exclusion from sealing ordinances ; with respect to Church officers, it is their temporary exclusion from the exercise of their office. It may be either definite or indefinite as to its duration. Definite suspension is administered when the credit of religion, the honor of Christ, and the good of the delinquent demand it, even though he may have given satisfaction to the court. Indefinite suspension is the exclusion of an offender from sealing ordinances, or from his office, until he exhibits signs of repentance, or until, by his conduct, the necessity of the highest censure be made manifest.

PCUS 1869 draft, Canons of Discipline, IV-3
Suspension, with respect to Church members, is the temporary exclusion from sealing ordinances; with respect to Church officers, it is the temporary exclusion from the exercise of their office. It may be either definite or indefinite, as to its duration. Definite suspension is administered as an exemplary censure, when the credit of religion, the honour of Christ, and the good of the delinquent demand it, even though he may have given satisfaction to the court. Indefinite suspension is the exclusion of an offender from sealing ordinances or from his office until he exhibit signs of repentance, or until by his conduct the necessity of the higher censure is made manifest. A Minister may be suspended from his teaching functions, or from his ruling functions, or from both.

PCUS 1867 draft, Canons of Discipline, IV-3
Suspension, with respect to church-members, is the temporary exclusion from sealing ordinances; with respect to church officers, it is the temporary exclusion from the exercise of their office. It may be either definite or indefinite, as to its duration. Definite suspension is administered as an exemplary censure, when the credit of religion, the honor of Christ, and the good of the delinquent demand it, even though he may have given satisfaction to the court. Indefinite suspension is the exclusion of an offender from sealing ordinances or from his office until he exhibit signs of repentance, or until by his conduct the necessity of the higher censure is made manifest. A minister may be suspended from his teaching functions, or from his ruling functions, or from both.

OTHER COMPARISONS:
UPCNA, 1892, Government and Discipline, Part III, IX, Article III - Suspension.
1. Definition.--Suspension is a censure which may be inflicted on either a private member or an officer of the church. In respect to the former, it is a temporary exclusion from sealing ordinances; and to the latter, from the exercise of office, and, in ordinary cases, from sealing ordinances also.
2. When Necessary.--This censure becomes necessary when very gross offences have been committed, or when, notwithstanding admonition or rebuke, an offence is repeated or persisted in, or when probation is necessary to attest repentance and reformation.
3. Duration.--Suspension may be for a definite time, but generally it must be indefinite in duration, and its removal must depend upon evidence of repentance.
4. Public Announcement.--Suspension should be publicly announced, and it may be administered in the absence of the offender.

OPC Book of Discipline (2005), VI. Censure and Restoration, B.3 - Suspension
[p. 109]
a. Suspension is a form of censure by which one is deprived of the privileges of membership in the church, of office, or of both. It may be for a definite or an indefinite time. Suspension of an officer from the privileges of membership shall always be accompanied by suspension from office, but the latter does not necessarily involve the former.
b. An officer or other member of the church, while under suspension, shall be the object of deep solicitude and earnest dealing to the end that he may be restored. When the trial judicatory which pronounced the censure is satisfied of the penitence of the offender, or when the time of suspension has expired, the censure shall be removed and the offender shall be restored. This restoration shall be accompanied by a solemn admonition. Restoration to the privileges of membership may take place without restoration to those of office.
c. When a minister has been indefinitely suspended, the judicatory shall immediately notify all the presbyteries of the church.

COMMENTARY:
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order
(1898, p. 183), on RoD, IV-3:
158.--III. Suspension, with respect to Church members, is their temporary exclusion from sealing ordinances ; with respect to Church officers, it is their temporary exclusion from the exercise of their office. It may be either definite or indefinite as to its duration. Definite suspension is administered when the credit of religion, the honor of Christ, and the good of the delinquent demand it, even though he may have given satisfaction to the court. Indefinite suspension is the exclusion of an offender from sealing ordinances, or from his office, until he exhibits signs of repentance, or until, by his conduct, the necessity of the highest censure be made manifest.
The sealing ordinances are baptism and the Lord's supper ; and exclusion from them is the exclusion of him from partaking of the Lord's supper himself and from having his children baptized upon his profession of faith. His child might be baptized while he is under censure upon the faith of the other parent.
The language requires that three conditions must exist before definite suspension is inflicted : that the credit of religion, the honor of Christ, and the good of the delinquent demand it. Definite suspension terminates at the time set, without formal act ; and the suspended person, being no longer under censure, resumes his use of the sealing ordinances or of his office. Definite suspension may be inflicted whether the offender has given satisfaction to the court or not ; as when, for instance, the censured is not convinced in his own conscience of sin, and the court is not willing either to indefinitely suspend or to stop with mere admonition.
A person under indefinite suspension may be excommunicated or deposed, without another trial, whenever it shall seem necessary to the court to proceed so far.
In the case of officers, suspension from sealing ordinances and suspension from office may be conjoined, or suspension from office may be inflicted without the other.


OVERTURES:
1989 [M17GA, 17-6, Item 6, p. 47]
Item 6. That BCO 30-1, 30-2, and 30-3 be replaced with the following:
30-2. Suspension from sealing ordinances is the temporary exclusion from those ordinances. It may be either definite or indefinite as to it duration. Suspension from office is the exclusion of a church officer from his office. This may be definite or indefinite as to its duration. With respect to church officers, suspension from sealing ordinances shall always be accompanied by suspension from office. But suspension from office is not always necessarily accompanied with suspension from sealing ordinances.
Definite suspension is administered when the credit of religion, the honor of Christ, and the good of the delinquent demand it, even though he may have given satisfaction to the court.
Indefinite suspension is administered to the impenitent offender until he exhibits signs of repentance, or until by his conduct, the necessity of the highest censure be made manifest.
Adopted. [the Presbyteries having previously voted 35 in favor, 3 against, with 3 votes deferred. The amendment had originally come before the 16th General Assembly (1988) as part of the Report of the Committee of Commissioners on Judicial Business; see M16GA, 16-77, III, Item 17.]

1990 [M18GA, 18-8, Item 4, p. 47]
Item 4. That BCO 30-1, 30-3, 34-7, 34-8, 36-4, 36-5, 37-1, 37-2, 37-3, 37-7, and 42-6 be amended to read as follows:
30-3. Suspension from the sacraments is the temporary exclusion from those ordinances, and is indefinite as to its duration. There is no definite suspension from the sacraments.
Suspension from office is the exclusion of a church officer from his office. It may be either definite or indefinite as to its duration. With respect to church officers, suspension from sacraments shall always be accompanied by suspension from office. But suspension from office is not necessarily accompanied by suspension from the sacraments.
Definite suspension from office is administered when the honor of Christ, the purity of the church, and the good of the delinquent demand it, even though the delinquent has given satisfaction to the court.
Indefinite suspension is administered to the impenitent offender until he exhibits signs of repentance, or until by his conduct, the necessity of the greatest censure be made manifest. In the case of indefinite suspension from office imposed due to scandalous conduct, the procedure outlined in 34-8 shall be followed.
Adopted. [the Presbyteries having previously voted 37 in favor, 6 against]
[This amendment had come before the General Assembly in the previous year, under report from the Committee of Commissioners on Judicial Business, as noted under M17GA, 17-82, III, 15, p. 153.

CONSTITUTIONAL INQUIRY:
None entered thus far.



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