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The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

Chapter 32 : General Provisions Applicable to all Cases of Process

Paragraph 1 : A Biblical Injunction

32-1. It is incumbent on every member of a court of Jesus Christ engaged in a trial of offenders, to bear in mind the inspired injunction:
"Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in the spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted" (Galatians 6:1).


[DIGEST : The basic content of this paragraph dates to 1867, with the early PCUS drafts having "prosecution" instead of the later "trial". The text of PCUS 1879 has stood since its institution, with the single notation that the current PCA text adds "Brethren" at the beginning of the quotation and the parenthetical citation of Galatians 6:1 at the end. As of this date (12/12/07), I have not discovered where in General Assembly Minutes authorization was given for these two small emendations. The text of Galatians 6:1 does include the word "Brethren," but PCA 1973 and earlier texts did not include it.]

ANTECEDENT TEXTS :
1. PCA 1973, RoD, 6-1Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, p. 147
2. Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, RoD, 6-1, Proposed text, p. 43
3. PCUS 1933, RoD, VI-§193
4. PCUS 1925, RoD, VI-§193
5. PCUS 1879, RoD, VI-1

It is incumbent on every member of a court of Jesus Christ engaged in a trial of offenders, to bear in mind the inspired injunction: "If a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself lest thou also be tempted."

PCUS 1869 draft, Canons of Discipline, VI-1
and
PCUS 1867 draft, Canons of Discipline, VI-1

It is incumbent on every member of a court of Jesus Christ, engaged in the prosecution of offenders, constantly and prayerfully to bear in mind the inspired injunction, “If a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one, in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”

COMMENTARY:
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order (1898, p. ), on Rules of Discipline, VI-1:

OF GENERAL PROVISIONS APPLICABLE TO ALL CASES OF PROCESS.
Twenty provisions are given. The first ten look rather to the protection of the accused. The first two guard the court against a wrong temper in conducting a trial or commencing a process ; the other eight require sufficient citations. Paragraph 3 prevents undue haste at the beginning ; the fourth gives the accused, as well as the other party, the right of official citation of all witnesses wanted ; the fifth requires the indictment to be definite ; the sixth gives the accused the benefit of a second citation ; the seventh defines more closely the provision of the sixth ; the eighth forbids the taking of evidence at a distance without reasonable notice to the accused ; the ninth protects any person from being put on trial for offences alleged to have been committed at a distance without due investigation and safeguards ; and the tenth requires that the citations be served as well as issued. The other ten paragraphs look to the impartiality and fairness of the trial after the issue is joined. Paragraph eleventh defines the functions of the judicial committee ; the twelfth requires that a solemn charge be made to the members of the court as judges ; the thirteenth lays down the rule for the examination of witnesses ; the fourteenth prescribes how issues arising in the course of the trial shall be settled ; the fifteenth prescribes the order of procedure in the trial of a cause in a court of original jurisdiction ; the sixteenth lays down the rule to govern challenges ; the seventeenth states some requirements that a member must observe or lose his qualification for continuing as a judge in the cause ; the eighteenth defines the record of the cause and its uses ; the nineteenth gives directions as to counsel ; and the twentieth states and limits the time within which process must begin. These general regulations are not easily mastered and remembered always, but the observance of them is of great importance.
172.--I. It is incumbent on every member of a court of Jesus Christ engaged in a trial of offenders, to bear in mind the inspired injunction: "If a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself lest thou also be tempted."
The trial proper begins with the charge of the Moderator to the court (183), while the process begins with the determination of the court that there shall be a judicial prosecution, and judicial procedure begins with the determination of the court to investigate ; but this principle, while especially imperative during the trial proper, applies throughout the whole judicial procedure, as indeed in all dealing with offenders.



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I. King & Head of Church
.§1.
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RoD
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II. Preliminary Principles
§1
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DfW
47
48
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63
[FoG = Form of Government ; RoD = Rules of Discipline ; DfW = Directory for Worship]