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The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

Chapter 33 : Special Rules Pertaining to Process Before Sessions

Paragraph 4 :

33-4. When it is impracticable immediately to commence process against an accused church member, the Session may, if it thinks the edification of the Church requires it, prevent the accused from approaching the Lord’s Table until the charges against him can be examined.

[Historical Summary : The current text remains unchanged from PCUS 1879.]

Background and Comparison :
1. PCA 1973, RoD, 7-4, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, p. 148
2. Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, RoD, 7-4, Proposed text, p. 46
3. PCUS 1933, §216
4. PCUS 1925, §216
5. PCUS 1879, VII-4

When it is impracticable immediately to commence process against an accused church member, the Session may, if it think the edification of the Church requires it, prevent the accused from approaching the Lord's table until the charges against him can be examined.

PCUS 1869 draft, VII-3
In cases in which it may be impracticable immediately to commence process against an accused Church-member, the Session may, if it think the edification of the Church requires it, prevent the accused from approaching the Lord’s table, until the charges against him can be examined.

PCUS 1867 draft, VII-3
In cases in which it may be impracticable immediately to commence process against an accused church-member, the session may,
if it think the edification of the church requires it, prevent the accused from approaching the Lord’s table, until the charges against him can be examined.

PCUSA 1858, Revised Book of Discipline, Chapter IV - Actual Process, paragraph 12

As cases may arise in which many days, or even weeks, may intervene before it is practicable to commence process against an accused church member, the session may, in such cases, if they think the edification of the church requires it, prevent the accused from approaching the Lord's table, until the charges against him can be examined. In case a party accused shall absent or secrete himself, so that process cannot be served on him, the judicatory shall enter on its records that fact, together with the nature of the offences charged, and shall suspend the accused from all church privileges, until he shall appear before the court, and answer to the charges against him.


COMMENTARY :
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order
(1898, p. 209-210), on VII-4:
195.--IV. When it is impracticable immediately to commence process against an accused church member, the Session may, if it think the edification of the Church requires it, prevent the accused from approaching the Lord's table until the charges against him can be examined.
This is an extreme measure, to be resorted to only when the known evidence is strong, and the offence is such that for the accused to communicate before his guilt or innocence is established will bring reproach upon the Church as permitting it. It would be inexcusable in a Session to prolong this prudential suspension from the Lord's table without immediately instituting process or beginning investigation. Ordinarily, this prudential measure will be taken privately.



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