.

The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

Chapter 33 : Special Rules Pertaining to Process Before Sessions

Paragraph 2 :

33-2. When an accused person is found contumacious (cf. 32-6), he shall be immediately suspended from the sacraments (and if an officer from his office) for his contumacy. Record shall be made of the fact and of the charges under which he was arraigned, and the censure may be made public, should this be deemed expedient by the Session. The censure shall in no case be removed until the offender has not only repented of his contumacy, but has also given satisfaction in relation to the charges against him.

[Historical Summary : In 1998, North Georgia Presbytery brought Overture 15 before the 26th General Assembly, seeking to amend 32-6, to clarify provisions for contumacy. The proposed change apparently mandated additional changes in BCO 33-2, 33-3 and 34-4, though these latter paragraphs were not specifically addressed in Overture 15. Presumably it was the Committee on Constitutional Business (CCB) that worked out the ramifications of an amended 32-6 and so wrote and presented additional amendments to 33-2, 33-3 and 34-4. The CCB noted in conclusion that "The proposed amendment makes clear that contumacy includes refusal to cooperate with lawful proceedings of a court, and makes clear that the court is to act immediately upon a finding of contumacy. Further, the proposed amendment clarifies the provisions for contumacy by bringing uniformity to the language of the various provisions." The matter was sent down to the Presbyteries for advice and consent (M26GA, p. 202-203) and following their vote (47 for; 4 against), the amendments were adopted by the 27th General Assembly (M27GA, pp. 60-62)]

Background and Comparison :
PCA 1973, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly,
Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, 7-2, Proposed text, p. 46
When an accused person, having been twice duly cited, shall refuse to appear before the Session, or appearing, shall refuse to plead, the court shall enter upon its records the fact, together with the nature of the offence charged, and he shall be suspended from sealing ordinances for his contumacy. The censure may be made public should this be deemed expedient by the Session, and shall in no case be removed until the offender has not only repented of his contumacy, but has given satisfaction in relation to the charges against him.

PCUS 1879, VII-2
When an accused person, having been twice duly cited, shall refuse to appear before the Session, or, appearing, shall refuse to plead, the court shall enter upon its records the facts, together with the nature of the offence charged, and he shall be suspended from sealing ordinances for his contumacy. This sentence shall be made public, and shall in no case be removed until he has not only repented of his contumacy, but given satisfaction in relation to the charges against him.

PCUS 1869 draft, VII-2
When an accused person, having been twice duly cited, shall refuse to appear before the Session, or appearing, shall refuse to plead, the court shall enter upon its records that fact, together with the nature of the offence charged, and he shall be suspended from sealing ordinances for his contumacy. This sentence is to be made public, and shall in no case be removed until he has not only repented of his contumacy, but given satisfaction in relation to the charges against him.

PCUS 1867 draft, VII-2
When an accused person, having been twice duly cited, shall refuse to appear before the session, or appearing, shall refuse to plead, the court shall enter upon its records that fact, together with the nature of the offence charged, and he shall be suspended from sealing ordinances for his contumacy. This sentence is to be made public, and shall in no case be removed until he has not only repented of his contumacy, but given satisfaction in relation to the charges against him.

COMMENTARY :
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order
(1898, p. 208), on VII-2:
193.--II.
When an accused person, having been twice duly cited, shall refuse to appear before the Session, or, appearing, shall refuse to plead, the court shall enter upon its records the facts, together with the nature of the offence charged, and he shall be suspended from sealing ordinances for his contumacy. This sentence shall be made public, and shall in no case be removed until he has not only repented of his contumacy, but given satisfaction in relation to the charges against him.
The entry upon the records is the "sentence" which is to be published ; and the court should be careful in making it up. The court is allowed to put merely the nature of the offence in the sentence, omitting the details ; but it may, in its discretion, copy the whole indictment into the sentence. If the accused repents of his contumacy, he then has the right to plead to the indictment as if he had not been contumacious ; that is, if he satisfies the court concerning his contumacy. Should he plead "not guilty," the trial will proceed. But he remains suspended until his acquittal, or, if convicted, until the censure of the court for the offence charged in the indictment is exhausted.

Overture 15 From North Georgia Presbytery
"Amend BCO 32-6 To Clarify Provisions for Contumacy"
Whereas, the honor of Christ and His church are damaged by persons who assail the rules to flout the court; and
Whereas, BCO 32-6 is vague, in that the provisions for contumacy are never clearly "hereinafter provided;" and
Whereas, the framers of the BCO intended that contumacy should be dealt with in a timely, and expeditious manner;
Therefore, be it resolved, that the session of The Rock Presbyterian Church overtures the twenty-sixth General Assembly to change the Book of Church Order 32-6 from its present reading :
"if he appear and refuse to plead he shall be dealt with for his contumacy, as hereinafter provided."
To read instead :
"if he appear and refuse to plead, or flout the court and/or otherwise reject its authority, he shall be dealt with for his contumacy immediately."

The Committee on Constitutional Business, in its report (M27GA, pp. 229-230), noted:
Overture 15 - from North Georgia Presbytery
"Amend BCO 32-6 To Clarify Provisions for Contumacy"
Response :
It is the advice of the Committee that Overture 15 is not in conflict with any portion of the Constitution.
The Committee also noted that, contrary to the second, "whereas" of the overture, the words "hereinafter provided" in BCO 32-6 refer to provisions for dealing with contumacy rather than provisions for defining contumacy. In addition, the Committee noted that the word "flout" may not be any clearer than the word "contumacy".



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