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The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

Chapter 31 : The Parties in Cases of Process

Paragraph 1 : Original jurisdiction of ministers and members

31-1. Original jurisdiction (the right first or initially to hear and determine) in relation to ministers of the Gospel shall be in the Presbytery of which the minister is a member, except in cases as provided in BCO 34-1. Such original jurisdiction in relation to church members shall be in the Session of the church of which he/she is a member, except in cases as provided in BCO 33-1.

[DIGEST : The current text dates to the 1987 recommendation by the Ad Interim Committee on the General Assembly (M15GA, 15-55, Exhibit "P", p. 120). This recommendation concerned the jurisdiction of ministers and members, and it proposed changes to 33-1, 34-1 and 31-1 of the BCO. Absent the report of at least one presbytery's vote at the 16th General Assembly, the matter was deferred to the 17th GA (1989), where, by a vote of 29 to 14, the proposed change was adopted (M17GA, 17-6, Item 14, pp. 55-56. See also M16GA, 16-10, Item 14, pp. 105-106.]

ANTECEDENT TEXTS :
1. PCA 1973, RoD, 5-1, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, p. 146
2. Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, RoD, 5-1, Proposed text, p. 41
3. PCUS 1933, RoD, V-§182
4. PCUS 1925, RoD, V-§182
Original jurisdiction in relation to Ministers of the Gospel pertains exclusively to the Presbytery, and in relation to other church members to the Session, unless the Session shall be unable to try the person or persons accused, in which case the Presbytery shall have the right of jurisdiction.

PCUS 1879, RoD, V-1

and
PCUS 1869 draft, Canons of Discipline, V-1
Original jurisdiction in relation to Ministers of the Gospel pertains exclusively to the Presbytery, and in relation to other Church members to the Session.


PCUS 1867 draft, Canons of Discipline, V-1
In ordinary cases, original jurisdiction in relation to ministers of the gospel pertains exclusively to the presbytery, and in relation to other church-members to the session. But any court may take immediate cognizance of offences committed in its presence, and the higher courts may institute process in cases in which the courts below having been enjoined to do so shall have refused to obey; but in every case such process by the higher court shall be conducted according to the rules obligatory on the court below.

PCUSA 1858, Chapter III
[no comparable text]

OTHER COMPARISONS :
OPC 2005, Chapter II - Jurisdiction, A. General Provisions, 1.
Original jurisdiction over an individual belongs to the judicatory of the body of which the individual is a member. Original jurisdiction over judicatories belongs to the next higher judicatory.
and
OPC 2005, Chapter II, C. The Presbytery's Jurisdiction, 1 & 2.

1. Presbytery shall have original jurisdiction over all the members of the regional church not enrolled as members of a local church. The provisions of this chapter, Section B, Paragraphs 2 and 3, shall apply mutatis mutandis.
2. The presbytery shall have original jurisdiction over all the teaching elders who are on the roll of the presbytery. The names of teaching elders shall be placed on or removed from the roll of presbytery only by order of the presbytery, and according to the provisions of the Form of Government and this Book of Discipline. If a teaching elder has been dismissed to another presbytery, he shall be considered subject to the jurisdiction of the presbytery which dismissed him until the time when his name is placed on the roll of the presbytery (cf. Form of Government, Chapter XXIII, Section 20) to which he has been dismissed. The receiving body shall acquire jurisdiction over him when his name is placed on the roll of the presbytery (cf. Form of Government, Chapter XXIII, Section 20) and at that time he shall be invested with all the rights and privileges of membership therein, which rights and privileges shall not be impaired by the filing of a complaint, unless and until such complaint shall be sustained by the highest judicatory to which complaint is made.

COMMENTARY :

F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order
(1898, p. 185), on V-1:
CHAPTER V. - OF THE PARTIES IN CASES OF PROCESS.
Process is a technical term for the whole procedure from the determination of the court to put on trial to the end of the trial in sentence.
The first paragraph states what courts may try causes ; the second, within what limitations the court itself may appoint a prosecutor ; the third, which is the heart of the chapter, who are the "parties" ; the fourth, what shall be the form of indictment ; the fifth, who may not become prosecutor of personal or private offences ; the sixth, the absence of these limitations in the case of general offences ; the seventh, what special limitation the court may put upon itself before instituting process ; the eighth, what cautions the court should observe against receiving accusations ; the ninth, what warnings should be given to voluntary prosecutors ; the tenth, what is the status of an officer pending process over him ; and the eleventh, what are the rights of the accused pending process. The parties being the Church and the accused, the chapter shows how the Church may come to stand as accuser in a prosecutor, the responsibilities of the court and the prosecutor, and the status of the accused.
161.--I. Original jurisdiction in relation to Ministers of the Gospel pertains exclusively to the Presbytery (62 and 77), and in relation to other church members to the Session (62 and 67), unless the Session shall be unable to try the person or persons accused, in which case the Presbytery shall have the right of jurisdiction
(77 : 2).
Yet a Presbytery for a Session, or a Synod for a Presbytery, may try a cause upon reference from the lower court (247-254).



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