.

The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

Chapter 34 : Special Rules Pertaining to Process Against a Minister
(Teaching Elder)

Paragraph 5 :

34-5. Heresy and schism may be of such a nature as to warrant deposition; but errors ought to be carefully considered, whether they strike at the vitals of religion and are industriously spread, or whether they arise from the weakness of the human understanding and are not likely to do much injury.

[DIGEST: The current PCA text remains identical with that of PCUS 1879. Earlier PCUS drafts and PCUSA texts back to 1789 had "infer" in place of the later "warrant". Also, use of the word "injury" dates to the 1821 revision of the PCUSA text.
The phrase "vitals of religion" appears elsewhere in BCO 21-4 and in the Rules of Assembly Operation 16-3e(5d). The earliest appearance of that phrase located thus far is in a fast sermon by Thomas Manton, dated 28 June 1648, and the earliest appearance of the fuller phrase, "strike at the vitals of religion," thus far appears to be in the first PCUSA Constitution, which was composed in 1788.]


ANTECEDENT TEXTS:
1. PCA 1973, 8-5, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, p. 149
2. Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, 8-5, Proposed text, p. 47
3. PCUS 1933, VIII-§220
4. PCUS 1925, VIII-§220

5. PCUS 1879, Rules of Discipline, VIII-5

Heresy and schism may be of such a nature as to warrant deposition; but errors ought to be carefully considered, whether they strike at the vitals of religion, and are industriously spread, or whether they arise from the weakness of the human understanding, and are not likely to do much injury.

PCUS 1869 draft, Canons of Discipline, VIII-5
and
PCUS 1867 draft, Canons of Discipline, VIII-5

Heresy and schism may be of such a nature as to infer deposition; but errors ought to be carefully considered, whether they strike at the vitals of religion, and are industriously spread, or whether they arise from the weakness of the human understanding, and are not likely to do much injury.

PCUSA 1858, Revised Book of Discipline, V-11
and
PCUSA 1821, Forms of Process, II-13

Heresy and schism may be of such a nature as to infer deposition; but errors ought to be carefully considered; whether they strike at the vitals of religion, and are industriously spread; or, whether they arise from the weakness of the human understanding, and are not likely to do much injury.

PCUSA 1789, Forms of Process, II-10
Heresy and schism may be of such a nature as to infer deposition : but errors ought to be carefully considered ; whether they strike at the vitals of religion, and are industriously spread ; or whether they arise from the weakness of the human understanding, and are not likely to do much hurt.

Steuart, Walter, Collections and Observations Concerning the Worship, Discipline, and Government of the Church of Scotland (1709; reprinted 1770), Chapter VII, Concerning Process Against a Minister, p. 257.
If the matter laid to the minister's charge be such practices as in their own nature manifestly subvert that order, unity, and peace, which Christ hath established in his church, or unsoundness and heterodoxy in doctrine, then great caution should be used, and the knowledge and understanding of witnesses much looked into ; and withal, if the errors be not gross and striking at the vitals of religion, or if they be not pertinaciously stuck unto, or industriously spread, with a visible design to corrupt, or that the errors are not spreading among the people, then lenitives, admonitions, instructions, and frequent conferences are to be tried to reclaim without cutting off, and the advice of other presbyteries sought ; and unless the thing be doing much hurt, so as it admits of no delay, the Synod or General Assembly may be advised with in the affair, and the same intimate to the minister concerned.

COMMENTARY:
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order (1898, p. 212), on RoD, VIII-5 :
200.--V. Heresy and schism may be of such a nature as to warrant deposition; but errors ought to be carefully considered, whether they strike at the vitals of religion, and are industriously spread, or whether they arise from the weakness of the human understanding, and are not likely to do much injury.
This paragraph should be observed by the Presbytery both in instituting or permitting process and in fixing the censure after conviction. It is constitutional to let men remain in the ministry with erroneous views, provided said views do not strike at the vitals of religion and are not industriously spread. If a view does logically strike at the vitals of religion, but is not industriously spread, and does not practically destroy the piety or usefulness of the Minister, it may be tolerated. But in the case of the Minister especially, the influence of his views upon his teaching must be considered.



©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]