.

The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

Chapter 36 : The Infliction of Church Censures

Paragraph 2 : On the Administration of Censures

36-2. Church censures and the modes of administering them should be suited to the nature of the offenses. For private offenses, censure should be administered in the presence of the court alone, or in private by one or more members of the court. In the case of public offenses, the degree of censure
and mode of administering it shall be within the discretion of the court, acting in accordance with paragraphs below which deal with particular censures.


[Historical Summary : The current PCA text dates to the PCUS Revision enacted in 1925. Previously the substance of this paragraph had been placed first in this chapter, but with the 1925 Revision, the order of the first two paragraphs was reversed, the proper attitude of the court (BCO 36-1) being understood as foundational and prior to any actions it may take (BCO 36-2). This paragraph is not found in the PCUSA Revised Book of Discipline (1858), nor is it in earlier PCUSA editions. The several PCUS drafts prior to 1879 are shown in evidence of the process of change leading up to the text that was finally approved. Of particular note here is how the Book of Church Order continued to struggle with a consistent usage of "Church" versus "church." The lowercase usage should consistently refer to congregations and the capitalized form should always refer to the denomination or to the Church universal. However, in application such a rule is not always followed.]

Background and Comparison :
1. PCA 1973, RoD, 10-2, Adopted text (M1GA, Part IV, Appendix B, p. 150)
2. Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, RoD, 10-2, Proposed text, p. 50
3. PCUS 1933, RoD, X-§242
4. PCUS 1925, RoD, X-§242
Church censures and the modes of administering them should be suited to the nature of the offences; for private offences censure should be administered in the presence of the court alone, or in private by one or more members of the court, but in the case of public offences, the degree of censure and mode of administering it shall be within the discretion of the court, acting in accordance with paragraphs below which deal with particular censures.

PCUS 1879, Rules of Discipline, X-1

Ecclesiastical censures ought to be suited to the nature of the offence ; for private offences censures should be administered in the presence of the court alone, or privately, by one or more members on its behalf ; but for public offences, censures should be administered in open session, or publicly announced to the church. When there are peculiar and special reasons, the court may visit public offences, not very gross in their character, with private admonition, or with definite suspension in private ; but the censure of indefinite suspension should ordinarily be announced to the church, whilst those of excommunication and deposition should be either administered before the church, or else announced to it, at the discretion of the court.


PCUS 1876 draft, Rules of Discipline, X-1
Ecclesiastical censures ought to be suited to the nature of the offence ; for private offences censures should be administered in the presence of the court alone, or privately, by one or more members on its behalf ; but for public offences, censures should be administered in open session, or publicly announced to the Church. When there are peculiar and special reasons, the courts may visit public offences, not very gross in their character, with private admonition, or with definite suspension in private ; but the censure of indefinite suspension should ordinarily be announced to the Church, whilst those of ex-communication and deposition should be either administered before the Church, or else announced to it, at the discretion of the court.

PCUS 1869 draft, Canons of Discipline, X-1
Ecclesiastical censures ought to be suited to the nature of the offence: for private offences censures in the presence of the court alone,
or privately, by one or more members on its behalf; but for public offences, censures in open Session, or the public intimation of
the censure. In cases where there are peculiar and special reasons, the courts may visit public offences, not very gross in their character, with private admonition, or with definite suspension in private; but the censure of indefinite suspension shall always be intimated to the congregation, whilst those of excommunication and deposition shall be either administered before the congregation, or else intimated to the same, at the discretion of the court.

PCUS 1867 draft, Canons of Discipline, X-1
Ecclesiastical censures ought to be suited to the nature of the offence: for private offences censures in the presence of the court alone,
or privately, by one or more members on its behalf; but for public offences censures in open session, or the public intimation of the censure. In cases where there are peculiar and special reasons, the courts may visit public offences, not very gross in their character, with private admonition, or with definite suspension in private; but the censure of indefinite suspension shall always be intimated to the congregation, whilst those of excommunication and deposition must be either administered before the congregation, or else intimated to the same, at the discretion of the court.

COMMENTARY :
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order (1898, pp. 221-222), on X-1:
CHAPTER X. - OF THE INFLICTION OF CHURCH CENSURES.
After a preliminary paragraph on the use of the different kinds of censure, and one on the spirit that should actuate the court in inflicting them, a paragraph on each censure follows : admonition, definite suspension, indefinite suspension, excommunication, and deposition.
220.--I. Ecclesiastical censures ought to be suited to the nature of the offence ; for private offences censures should be administered in the presence of the court alone, or privately, by one or more members on its behalf ; but for public offences, censures should be administered in open session, or publicly announced to the church. When there are peculiar and special reasons, the court may visit public offences, not very gross in their character, with private admonition, or with definite suspension in private ; but the censure of indefinite suspension should ordinarily be announced to the church, whilst those of excommunication and deposition should be either administered before the church, or else announced to it, at the discretion of the court.
Admonition for private offences must be administered either by a committee in private, or before the court in private session ; all other censures must be administered in the presence of the court, but whether in open or private sessions is within the discretion of the court. Any censure, except private admonition, administered in private session, may be announced to the church (or Church, in the case of Ministers), and excommunication and disposition [sic] must be.



©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]