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The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

Chapter 37 : The Removal of Censure

Paragraph 4 :

37-4. When an excommunicated person shall be so affected with his state as to be brought to repentance, and to desire to be readmitted to the communion of the church, the Session, having obtained sufficient evidence of his sincere penitence, shall proceed to restore him. This may be done in the presence of the court, or of the congregation as seems best to the Session.
On the day appointed for his restoration, the minister shall call upon the excommunicated person and propose to him in the presence of the court or the congregation the following questions:
1. Do you, from a deep sense of your great wickedness, freely confess your sins in thus rebelling against God, and in refusing to hear His Church; and do you acknowledge that you have been in justice and mercy cut off from the communion of the Church?
Answer, I do.
2. Do you now voluntarily profess your sincere repentance and contrition for your sin and obstinacy; and do you humbly ask the forgiveness of God and His Church?
Answer, I do.
3. Do you sincerely promise, through divine grace, to live in all humbleness of mind and circumspection; and to endeavor to adorn by a holy life the doctrine of God our Saviour?
Answer, I do.
Here the minister shall give the penitent a suitable exhortation, encouraging and comforting him. Then he shall pronounce the sentence of restoration in the following words:
Whereas, you ____________________, have been shut out from the communion of the church, but now have manifested such repentance as satisfies the Church; in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by His authority, we, the Session of this church, do declare you absolved from the sentence of excommunication formerly pronounced against you, and we do restore you to the communion of the Church, that you may be a partaker of all the benefits of the Lord Jesus to your eternal salvation.
The whole shall be concluded with prayer and thanksgiving.


[Historical Summary : The current PCA text dates to ____. PCA 1973 and the Proposed Book of Church Order (1973) had the word "satisfied" in the penultimate paragraph, instead of the earlier "satisfies". This appears to have been a typographical error rather than a conscious change in the text, and the current text correctly reflects PCUS 1933 and earlier editions.]

Background and Comparison :
PCA 1973, RoD, 11-3, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, p.151
and
Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, RoD, 11-3, Proposed text, pp. 52-53
When an excommunicated person shall be so affected with his state as to be brought to repentance, and to desire to be readmitted to the communion of the Church, the Session, having obtained sufficient evidence of his sincere penitence, shall proceed to restore him. This may be done in the presence of the court, or of the congregation as seems best to the Session.
On the day appointed for his restoration, the Minister shall call upon the excommunicated person and propose to him in the presence of the court or the congregation the following questions:
"Do you, from a deep sense of your great wickedness, freely confess your sin in thus rebelling against God, and in refusing to hear His Church; and do you acknowledge that you have been in justice and mercy cut off from the communion of the Church? Answer, I do.
Do you now voluntarily profess your sincere repentance and contrition for your sin and obstinacy; and do you humbly ask the forgiveness of God and His Church? Answer, I do. Do you sincerely promise, through divine grace, to live in all humbleness of mind and circumspection; and to endeavor to adorn by a holy life the doctrine of God our Saviour? Answer, I do."
Here the minister shall give the penitent a suitable exhortation, encouraging and comforting him. Then he shall pronounce the sentence of restoration in the following words:
"Whereas, You, A.B., have been shut out from the communion of the Church, but now have manifested such repentance as satisfied the Church; in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by his authority, we, the Session of this church, do declare you absolved from the sentence of excommunication formerly pronounced against you, and we do restore you to the communion of the Church, that you may be a partaker of all the benefits of the Lord Jesus to your eternal salvation.
The whole shall be concluded with prayer and thanksgiving.

PCUS 1933, RoD, XI-§250
and
PCUS 1925, RoD, XI-§250
When an excommunicated person shall be so affected with his state as to be brought to repentance, and to desire to be readmitted to the communion of the Church, the Session, having obtained sufficient evidence of his sincere penitence, shall proceed to restore him. This may be done in the presence of the court, or of the congregation as seems best to the Session.
On the day appointed for his restoration, the Minister shall call upon the excommunicated person and propose to him in the presence of the court or the congregation the following questions:
"Do you, from a deep sense of your great wickedness, freely confess your sin in thus rebelling against God, and in refusing to hear His Church; and do you acknowledge that you have been in justice and mercy cut off from the communion of the Church? Answer, I do.
Do you now voluntarily profess your sincere repentance and contrition for your sin and obstinacy; and do you humbly ask the forgiveness of God and His Church? Answer, I do. Do you sincerely promise, through divine grace, to live in all humbleness of mind and circumspection; and to endeavor to adorn by a holy life the doctrine of God our Saviour? Answer, I do."
Here the minister shall give the penitent a suitable exhortation, encouraging and comforting him. Then he shall pronounce the sentence of restoration in the following words:
Whereas, You, A.B., have been shut out from the communion of the Church, but now have manifested such repentance as satisfies the Church; in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by his authority, we, the Session of this church, do declare you absolved from the sentence of excommunication formerly pronounced against you, and we do restore you to the communion of the Church, that you may be a partaker of all the benefits of the Lord Jesus to your eternal salvation.
The whole shall be concluded with prayer and thanksgiving.

PCUS 1879, Rules of Discipline, XI-3

When an excommunicated person shall be so affected with his state as to be brought to repentance, and to desire to be readmitted to the communion of the Church, the Session, having obtained sufficient evidence of his sincere penitence, shall proceed to restore him. In order to which, the presiding Minister shall inform the church of the measures which have been taken with the excommunicated person, and of the resolution of the Session to restore him.
On the day appointed for his restoration, the Minister shall call upon the excommunicated person and propose to him in the presence of the congregation the following questions:
"Do you, from a deep sense of your great wickedness, freely confess your sin in thus rebelling against God, and in refusing to hear His Church; and do you acknowledge that you have been in justice and mercy cut off from the communion of the Church? Answer.--I do.
Do you now voluntarily profess your sincere repentance and contrition for your sin and obstinacy; and do you humbly ask the forgiveness of God and His Church? Answer.--I do. Do you sincerely promise, through divine grace, to live in all humbleness of mind and circumspection; and to endeavor to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour, by having your conversation as becometh the gospel? Answer.--I do."
Here the minister shall give the penitent a suitable exhortation, encouraging and comforting him. Then he shall pronounce the sentence of restoration in the following words:
"Whereas, You, A.B., have been shut out from the communion of the Church, but now have manifested such repentance as satisfies the Church; in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by his authority, we, the Session of this church, do declare you absolved from the sentence of excommunication formerly denounced against you, and we do restore you to the communion of the Church, that you may be a partaker of all the benefits of the Lord Jesus to your eternal salvation."
The whole shall be concluded with prayer and thanksgiving.


PCUS 1869 draft, Canons of Discipline, XI-3
When an excommunicated person shall be so affected with his state as to be brought to repentance, and to desire to be readmitted to the privileges of the Church, the session having obtained sufficient evidence of his sincere penitence shall, with the advice and concurrence of the Presbytery, proceed to restore him, requiring him to make public confession. In order to which, the Moderating Minister shall inform the Congregation of the measures which have been taken with the excommunicated person, and of the resolution of the Session to receive him again to the communion of the Church.
On the day appointed for his restoration, when the other parts of divine service are ended, before pronouncing the blessing, the Minister shall call upon the excommunicated person, and propose to him, in the presence of the Congregation, the following questions:
“Do you, from a deep sense of your great wickedness, freely confess your sin in thus rebelling against God and in refusing to hear his Church; and do you acknowledge that you have been in justice and mercy cut off from the communion of the Church? Answer—I do. Do you now voluntarily profess your sincere repentance and contrition for your sin and obstinacy; and do you humbly ask the forgiveness of God and of His Church? Answer—I do. Do you sincerely promise, through divine grace, to live in all humbleness of mind and circumspection; and to endeavour to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour by having your conversation as becometh the gospel? Answer—I do.”
Here the Minister shall give the penitent a suitable exhortation, addressing him in the bowels of brotherly love, encouraging and comforting him. Then he shall pronounce the sentence of restoration in the following words:
“Whereas you, A. B., have been shut out from the communion of the Church, but have now manifested such repentance as satisfies the Church: in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by his authority, we, the session of this Congregation, do declare you absolved from the sentence of excommunication formerly denounced against you; and we do restore you to the communion of the Church, that you may be a partaker of all the benefits of the Lord Jesus to your eternal salvation.”
The whole shall be concluded with prayer and thanksgiving, and the people dismissed with the usual blessing.

PCUS 1867 draft, Canons of Discipline, XI-3
When any one who hath been excommunicated shall be so affected with his state as to be brought to repentance, and to desire to be readmitted to the privileges of the church, the session having obtained sufficient evidence of his sincere penitence shall, with the advice and concurrence of the presbytery, proceed to restore him, requiring him to make public confession. In order to which, the moderating minister shall inform the congregation of the measures which have been taken with the excommunicated person, and of the resolution of the session to receive him again to the communion of the church.
On the day appointed for his restoration, when the other parts of divine service are ended, before pronouncing the blessing, the minister shall call upon the excommunicated person, and propose to him, in the presence of the congregation, the following questions:
“Do you, from a deep sense of your great wickedness, freely confess your sin in thus rebelling against God and in refusing to hear his church; and do you acknowledge that you have been in justice and mercy cut off from the communion of the church? Answer—I do. Do you now voluntarily profess your sincere repentance and contrition for your sin and obstinacy; and do you humbly ask the forgiveness of God and of his church? Answer—I do. Do you sincerely promise, through divine grace, to live in all humbleness of mind and circumspection; and to endeavour to adorn the doc-trine of God our Saviour by having your conversation as becometh the gospel? Answer—I do.”
Here the minister shall give the penitent a suit-able exhortation, addressing him in the bowels of brotherly love, encouraging and comforting him. Then he shall pronounce the sentence of restoration in the following words:
“Whereas you, A. B., have been shut out from the communion of the church, but have now manifested such repentance as satisfies the church: in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by his authority, we, the session of this congregation, do declare you absolved from the sentence of excommunication formerly denounced against you; and we do restore you to the communion of the church, that you may be a partaker of all the benefits of the Lord Jesus to your eternal salvation.”
The whole shall be concluded with prayer and thanksgiving, and the people dismissed with the usual blessing.

COMMENTARY :
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order (1898, pp. 227-228), on XI-3:
229.--III. When an excommunicated person shall be so affected with his state as to be brought to repentance, and to desire to be readmitted to the communion of the Church, the Session, having obtained sufficient evidence of his sincere penitence, shall proceed to restore him. In order to which, the presiding Minister shall inform the church of the measures which have been taken with the excommunicated person, and of the resolution of the Session to restore him.
On the day appointed for his restoration, the Minister shall call upon the excommunicated person and propose to him in the presence of the congregation the following questions:
"Do you, from a deep sense of your great wickedness, freely confess your sin in thus rebelling against God, and in refusing to hear His Church; and do you acknowledge that you have been in justice and mercy cut off from the communion of the Church? Answer.--I do.
Do you now voluntarily profess your sincere repentance and contrition for your sin and obstinacy; and do you humbly ask the forgiveness of God and His Church? Answer.--I do. Do you sincerely promise, through divine grace, to live in all humbleness of mind and circumspection; and to endeavor to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour, by having your conversation as becometh the gospel? Answer.--I do."
Here the minister shall give the penitent a suitable exhortation, encouraging and comforting him. Then he shall pronounce the sentence of restoration in the following words:
"Whereas, You, A.B., have been shut out from the communion of the Church, but now have manifested such repentance as satisfies the Church; in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by his authority, we, the Session of this church, do declare you absolved from the sentence of excommunication formerly denounced against you, and we do restore you to the communion of the Church, that you may be a partaker of all the benefits of the Lord Jesus to your eternal salvation."
The whole shall be concluded with prayer and thanksgiving
.
Here again it is to be noted that restoration is not necessarily to follow immediately after satisfactory evidence of repentance. (Remark under 228.) The presence of the offender in the congregation is not indispensable, in such a sense that he could not be restored while unable to attend ; but in that case it should be certified to the church publicly that the offender is not able to be present and that he has given the right answers to these questions.
It is noteworthy that a suspended member is spoken of as suspended (224) or debarred (228) from the sacraments of the Church, and an excommunicated person as cut off from the communion of the Church (225, 229). The suspended offender is still a member of the Church, participating in the communion of life and sympathy of the brotherhood as one of them, while excluded from the sacraments for the time by the way of reproof and in hope of his restoration ; but the excommunicated member is no longer a member of the Church. Ought he, then, to be baptized at his restoration? By no means ; since his baptism at first did not make him a member, but only recognized his membership (paragraph 3, remarks) ; and the sin that has unmade him a member, ceasing with repentance, ceases to effect this result. One does not shake off the obligations of membership by being excommunicated, but does indefinitely lose all its privileges. The suspended loses them tentatively.



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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]