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The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

Chapter 38 : Cases Without Process

Paragraph 1 :

38-1. When any person shall come forward and make his offense known to the court, a full statement of the facts shall be recorded and judgment rendered without process. In handling a confession of guilt, it is essential that the person intends to confess and permit the court to render judgment without process. Statements made by him in the presence of the court must not be taken as a basis of a judgment without process except by his consent. In the event a confession is intended, a full statement of the facts should be approved by the accused, and by the court, before the court proceeds to a judgment. The accused has the right of complaint against the judgment.

[Historical Summary : The first sentence of this paragraph dates to PCUS 1879. The remainder of the paragraph was added by amendment in 2000 [M28GA, 28-12, Item 3, pp. 59.]

Background and Comparison :
1. PCA 1973, RoD 12-1, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, p. 152
2. Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, RoD 12-1, Proposed text, p. 54
3. PCUS 1933, RoD XII-§255
4. PCUS 1925, RoD XII-§255
5. PCUS 1879, RoD XII-1

When any person shall come forward and make his offence known to the court, a full statement of the facts shall be recorded and judgment rendered without process.

PCUS 1869 draft, XII-1
and
PCUS 1867 draft, XII-1
In cases in which any person commits an offence in the presence of the court, or comes forward and makes known his offence to the court, a full statement of the facts shall be recorded, and judgment rendered without process, the offender always having the privilege of being heard. Should the sentence be appealed from, some member or members of the court shall be appointed to represent the appellee in the case.

PCUSA 1858, VI-1
There may be cases in which the guilt of an individual is conspicuous or manifest, his offence having been committed in the presence of the court, or in which a trial is rendered unnecessary by the confession of the party; in such cases judgment may be rendered without process.

PCUSA 1789, Forms of Process, Chapter 1, no. 5
The judicatory, in many cases, may find it more for edification, to send some members to converse, in a private manner, with the accused person ; and, if he confess guilt, to endeavour to bring him to repentance, than to proceed immediately to citation.

COMMENTARY :
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order (1898, pp. 231-232 ), on XII-1 :
Chapter XII.--Of Cases Without Process.
These are not acts of technical discipline, as there is no judicial prosecution ; and yet there is one part of process whenever a judgment of censure is rendered. Process is a means of determining whether to use censure, and may be dispensed with when not needed for this end.
Four cases are here enumerated : confession of guilt ; confession of an unregenerate heart ; confession of a lack of a call to office ; and renunciation of the communion of the Church.
234.--I. When any person shall come forward and make his offence known to the court, a full statement of the facts shall be recorded and judgment rendered without process.
It is essential that the person intends to confess and permit the court to render judgment without process. Statements made by him in the presence of the court must not be taken as the basis of judgment without process except by his consent ; for that would be to deprive him of his right. And the full statement of facts should be approved by him as correct before the court proceeds to render judgment. Against the judgment rendered the person condemned may complain. Of course, the words "any person" must be interpreted as meaning any person subject to judicial prosecution before the particular court.



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