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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 2 : Necessity of a Charge

32-2. Process against an offender shall not be commenced unless some person or persons undertake to make out the charge; or unless the court finds it necessary, for the honor of religion, itself to take the step provided for in BCO 31-2.

[DIGEST : Apart from the BCO citation and the spelling of "honor", this paragraph remains that of PCUS 1879.]

ANTECEDENT TEXTS :
PCA 1973, RoD, 6-2, Adopted text, M1GA, p. 147
and

Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, RoD, 6-2, Proposed text, p. 43
Process against an offender shall not be commenced unless some person or persons undertake to make out the charge; or unless the court finds it necessary, for the honor of religion, itself to take the step provided for in Chapter V., paragraph 2.

PCUS 1933, RoD, VI-§194
and
PCUS 1925, RoD, VI-§194

Process against an offender shall not be commenced unless some person or persons undertake to make out the charge; or unless the court finds it necessary, for the honor of religion, itself to take the step provided for in Chapter V., Paragraph 183.

PCUS 1879, RoD, VI-2
Process against an offender shall not be commenced unless some person or persons undertake to make out the charge; or unless the court finds it necessary, for the honour of religion, itself to take the step provided for in Chapter V., section II.

PCUS 1869 draft, Canons of Discipline, VI-2
and
PCUS 1867 draft, Canons of Discipline, VI-2

Process against an offender shall not be commenced unless some person or persons undertake to make out the charge; or unless the court finds it necessary for the honour of religion, itself to investigate the charge.

COMMENTARY :
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order (1898, p. 193-194), on VI-2:

173.--II. Process against an offender shall not be commenced unless some person or persons undertake to make out the charge; or unless the court finds it necessary, for the honour of religion, itself to take the step provided for in Chapter V., section II.
Since an offence is anything in principle or practice contrary to the Word of God, who of us is not an offender? Were it a duty to prosecute every offender, the Church would have no time or strength for anything else. Process shall not commence unless one of two conditions is fulfilled. The one of these conditions is, that some person or persons volunteer to prosecute in spite of the warning in 169 and after complying (if an injured party or one privy to a private offence) with 165 ; and even then the court may decline to allow process to commence, either from objection to the voluntary prosecutor (168), or because the thing charged is not an offence, or the evidence proposed is seen to be inadequate, or the evidence proposed is seen to be inadequate, or because the ends of discipline will not be promoted in the circumstances. The other of these conditions is that the court shall find it necessary, for the honor of religion, to take the step provided for in 162. This phrase, "the honor of religion," is not to be pressed, but is to be taken as a brief equivalent of the ends of discipline mentioned in 145. The whole tone of these Rules is evidently this : that judicial prosecution is not to be originated, either by a court or by a voluntary prosecutor, unless the honor of religion requires this step, all other means to this end having been first exhausted; but that this means is, of course, to be resorted to when the honor of religion does require it, the honor of religion to be preserved at every cost. And the honor of religion is synonymous with the holiness of the Church. (Cf. remarks on 146.)

JUDICIAL REFERENCES:

Cf. Judicial Case 92-4, 1992, p. 232, 20-69, III, 8.



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