.

The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

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

Paragraph 10 :

34-10. 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 lack of acceptance to the Church, Presbytery may, upon the same principle upon which it withdraws license from a licentiate for lack of evidence of the divine call, divest him of his office without censure, even against his will, a majority of two-thirds (2/3) being necessary for this purpose.

In such a case, the clerk shall under the order of the Presbytery forthwith deliver to the minister concerned a written note 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 defense; and if the decision pass against him he may appeal, as if he had been tried after the usual forms. This principle may apply, with any necessary changes, to ruling elders and deacons.

[DIGEST: PCA 1973 retains the reading of PCUS 1933, 8-226, except for a comma in the second paragraph: “…the Clerk shall,…”. PCUS 1879, 8-10 employs the older language: “…upon which it withdraws license from a Probationer….” and also varies in its reading of the last sentence: “This principle may apply, mutatis mutandis, to Ruling Elders and Deacons.” The 1925 Revision instituted the changes reflected in PCUS 1933, VIII-226 and PCA 1973, 8-10.

ANTECEDENT TEXTS:
PCA 1973, 8-10, Approved text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, p. 149
Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, 8-10, Proposed text, p. 48
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 licentiate 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 defense; and if the decision pass against him he may appeal, as if he had been tried after the usual forms. This principle may apply, with any necessary changes, to Ruling Elders and Deacons.”

PCUS 1879, VIII-10

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.
This principle may apply, mutatis mutandis, to Ruling Elders and Deacons.


PCUS 1869 draft, Canons of Discipline, VIII-10
and
PCUS 1867 draft, Canons of Discipline, VIII-10
Whenever a Presbytery has strong grounds for believing that a Minister has been inducted into office without divine vocation, even though he may think himself called, it shall be its duty to divest him of his office without censure, and restore him to the position of a private member.
In such a case, a notice signed by the Clerk, under the order of the Presbytery, shall be delivered to the individual concerned, that at a given time, which shall be at least ten days subsequent, the question of his being so dealt with is to be considered. This notice shall state distinctly the grounds of 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 with all the usual forms. But this process shall never be used with any Minister who is regularly engaged in his covenanted work.


PCUSA 1821, V-8
When complaint is laid before the presbytery, it must be reduced to writing; and nothing further is to be done at the first meeting, (unless by consent of parties,) than giving the minister a full copy of the charges, with the names of the witnesses annexed; and citing all parties, and their witnesses, to appear and be heard at the next meeting; which meeting shall not be sooner than ten days after such citation.


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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