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The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

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

Paragraph 9 :

34-9. When a minister is deposed, his pastoral relation shall be dissolved; but when he is suspended from office it shall be left to the discretion of the Presbytery whether the censure shall include the dissolution of the pastoral relation.

[DIGEST: PCUS 1879, 8-9 has “…whether the sentence shall include…” The change in wording from “sentence” to “censure” appears to occur with the 1925 PCUS revision.] 1989 [M17GA, 17-6, Item 6, p. 47]

ANTECEDENT TEXTS:
1. PCA 1973, 8-9, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, p. 149
2. Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, 8-9, Proposed text, p. 48
3. PCUS 1833, VIII, 225
4. PCUS 1825, VIII, 225
When a Minister is deposed his church shall be declared vacant; but when he is suspended, it shall be left to the discretion of the Presbytery whether the censure shall include the dissolution of the pastoral relation.

PCUS 1879, Rules of Discipline, VIII-9

When a Minister is deposed his church shall be declared vacant ; but when he is suspended, it shall be left to the discretion of the Presbytery whether the sentence shall include the dissolution of the pastoral relation.

PCUS 1869 draft, Canons of Discipline, VIII-9
As soon as a Minister is deposed, his Congregation shall be declared vacant; but when he is suspended, it shall be left to the discretion of the Presbytery whether that act shall carry with it the dissolution of the pastoral relation.

PCUS 1867 draft, Canons of Discipline, VIII-9
As soon as a minister is deposed, his congregation shall be declared vacant; but when he is suspended, it shall be left to the discretion of the presbytery whether that act shall carry with it the dissolution of the pastoral relation.

PCUSA 1858, Revised Book of Discipline, V-14

As soon as a minister is deposed, his congregation shall be declared vacant; but when he is suspended it shall be left to the discretion
of the Presbytery whether his congregation shall be declared vacant.


1. PCUSA 1821, V-17
2. PCUSA 1815, 2-14
3. PCUSA 1789, Forms of Process, II-14
As soon as a minister is deposed, his congregation shall be declared vacant.

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. 258.
Immediately on the minister's being deposed by the presbytery, the sentence is to be intimate in his congregation, the church declared vacant, the planting thereof with another minister hastened, and never delayed on the expectation of his being reponed, it being almost impossible, that ever he can prove useful in that parish again.
[Ed.-- "reponed" = returned to his place or "re-positioned"]

COMMENTARY:
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order (1898, p. 214-215), on VIII-9 and 10 :
204.--IX. When a Minister is deposed his church shall be declared vacant ; but when he is suspended, it shall be left to the discretion of the Presbytery whether the sentence shall include the dissolution of the pastoral relation.
205.--X. Whenever a Minister of the gospel shall habitually fail to be engaged in the regular discharge of his official functions, it shall be the duty of the Presbytery, at a stated meeting, to inquire into the cause of such dereliction, and if necessary, to institute judicial proceedings against him for breach of his covenant engagement. If it shall appear that his neglect proceeds only from his want of acceptance to the Church, Presbytery may, upon the same principle upon which it withdraws license from a probationer for want of evidence of the Divine call, divest him of his office without censure, even against his will, a majority of two-thirds being necessary for this purpose.
In such a case, the clerk shall, under the order of the Presbytery, forthwith deliver to the individual concerned a written notice that, at the next stated meeting, the question of his being so dealt with is to be considered. This notice shall distinctly state the grounds for this proceeding. The party thus notified shall be heard in his own defence ; and if the decision pass against him, he may appeal, as if he had been tried after the usual forms.
Whenever there is the habitual neglect, it is the duty of Presbytery to make inquiry, which is tantamount to an investigation under 162. This investigation must issue in failure to raise a strong presumption of habitual neglect. When it results in raising such presumption, then the Presbytery must either institute judicial process, if the neglect does not appear to proceed from want of acceptance, or give notice of proceedings to divest without censure. The party, when heard in his own defence, may be allowed to introduce evidence of his attention to his calling and of his acceptance ; and in case of appeal or complaint, the record of such evidence should be sent up. It would not be improper for the Presbytery to appoint some one to present the evidence for the neglect and want of acceptability. The essential difference between this procedure and a judicial trial, process, lies in the absence of censure.
This principle may apply, mutatis mutandis, to Ruling Elders and Deacons.
That is, for Minister substitute Ruling Elder or Deacon, and for Presbytery substitute Session.
This divests of office ; paragraph 113 and paragraphs 126 and 128 dissolve official relations without divesting of office. One divested of office could not resume his office without re-ordination.



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