.

The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

Chapter 33 : Special Rules Pertaining to Process Before Sessions

Paragraph 1 :

33-1. Process against all church members, other than ministers of the Gospel, shall be entered before the Session of the church to which such members belong, except in cases of appeal. However, if the Session refuses to act in doctrinal cases or instances of public scandal and two other Sessions of churches in the same Presbytery request the Presbytery of which the church is a member to initiate proper or appropriate action in a case of process and thus assume jurisdiction and authority, the Presbytery shall do so.

[Historical Summary : The first sentence of the current text remains unchanged from that of PCA 1973. The second sentence had its origin in the 1987 report of the Ad Interim Committee on the General Assembly, where amendments to BCO 33-1, 34-1 and 31-1 were suggested under "Exhibit P" (M15GA, p. 120). The proposal was adopted and sent down to the Presbyteries for their advice and consent. At the 16th General Assembly, the presbyteries recorded a vote of 28 to 14 (M16GA, pp. 105-106), and the matter was deferred to the 17th General Assembly, where 29 of 43 Presbyteries recorded votes in favor of the amendment. The proposed amendment was then adopted by the 17th General Assembly (cf. M17GA, pp. 55-56).
The changes instituted between 1933 and 1989 make for an interesting study. PCUS 1933 was the exemplar for the text of the Proposed BCO of 1973, and the 1933 text of this paragraph was unchanged from that of PCUS 1886. But the men drafting the Proposed BCO for the PCA knew from history that this paragraph might be abused, if a Presbytery were to declare a Session "incapable of exercising jurisdiction" in order to replace or subvert the Session and so implement the will of the Presbytery. Deleting the final clause found in PCUS 1933, VII-§213 was thus seen as necessary, but at the same time, they added the safeguard of a new final phrase, "except in cases of appeal." That safeguard remains, while the later change to the PCA text, the second sentence added in 1989, now makes provision for original jurisdiction in a manner parallel to that allowed for presbyteries (cf. BCO 34-1).

Background and Comparison :
PCA 1973, RoD, 7-1, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, p. 148
and
Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, RoD, 7-1, Proposed text, p. 46
Process against all church members, other than Ministers of the Gospel, shall be entered before the Session of the Church to which such members belong, except in cases of appeal.

1. PCUS 1933, RoD, VII-§213
2. PCUS 1925, RoD, VII-§213
3. PCUS 1886
Process against all Church members, other than Ministers of the gospel, shall be entered before the Session of the church to which such members belong ; except in cases in which the Session is rendered incapable of exercising jurisdiction, in which case process shall be entered before the Presbytery.

PCUS 1879, Rules of Discipline, VII-1

Process against all Church members, other than Ministers of the gospel, shall be entered before the Session of the church to which such members belong.

PCUS 1869 draft, Canons of Discipline, VII-1
Process against all Church members, other than Ministers of the gospel, shall be entered before the Session of the Congregation to which such members belong.

PCUS 1867 draft, Canons of Discipline, VII-1
Process against all church members, other than ministers of the gospel, shall ordinarily be entered before the session of the congregation to which such members belong.

COMMENTARY :
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order
(1898, pp. 207-208), on VII-1:
192.--I.
Process against all church members, other than Ministers of the gospel, shall be entered before the Session of the church to which such members belong ; except in cases in which the Session is rendered incapable of exercising jurisdiction, in which case process shall be entered before the Presbytery.
(Cf. 161.) After process has been entered, the court may transfer the case to another Session, according to 180, in cases to which that paragraph will apply. If a Session considers itself incapable in any case, it must refuse to let process commence before it, assigning its reason.



©PCA Historical Center, 12330 Conway Road, St. Louis, MO, 2007. All Rights Reserved.

Chapter Index [links to Par. 1 of each chapter]:
FoG..
1
2
3.
4
5.
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
I. King & Head of Church
.§1.
§4
§5
RoD
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
II. Preliminary Principles
§1
§2
§3
§4
§5
§6
§7
§8
DfW
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
[FoG = Form of Government ; RoD = Rules of Discipline ; DfW = Directory for Worship]