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The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

Chapter 38 : Cases Without Process

Paragraph 3 :

38-3. a. When a member or officer in the Presbyterian Church in America shall attempt to withdraw from the communion of this branch of the visible Church by affiliating with some other branch (BCO 2-2), if at the time of the attempt to withdraw he is in good standing, the irregularity shall be recorded, his new membership acknowledged, and his name removed from the roll. But if at the time of the attempt to withdraw there is a record of an investigation in process (BCO 31-2), or there are charges (BCO 32-3) concerning the member or minister, the court of original jurisdiction may retain his name on the roll and conduct the case, communicating the outcome upon completion of the proceedings to that member or minister. If the court does not conduct the case, his new membership shall be acknowledged, his name removed from the roll, and, at the request of the receiving branch, the matters under investigation or the charges shall be communicated to them.
b. When a member or minister of the Presbyterian Church in America shall attempt to withdraw from the communion of this branch of the visible Church by affiliating with a body judged by the court of original jurisdiction as failing to maintain the Word and Sacraments in their fundamental integrity (BCO 2-2), that member or minister shall be warned of his danger, and if he persists, his name shall be erased from the roll, thereby, so far as the Presbyterian Church in America is concerned, he is deemed no longer to be a member in any body which rightly maintains the Word and Sacraments in their fundamental integrity, and if an officer, thereby withdrawing from him all authority to exercise his office as derived from this Church. When so acting the court shall make full record of the matter and shall notify the offender of its action.

[Historical Summary : The wording of the current PCA text dates to an amendment adopted in 1998 [M26GA, 26-17, Item 2, p. 57]. This amendment was the end result of efforts by the Committee on Constitutional Business to perfect the language of proposed amendments to BCO 38-3 that had first been presented in 1996 by Northeast Presbytery (Overture 6) and Potomac Presbytery (Overture 26).

Background and Comparison :
1. PCA 1973, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, p. 152
2. Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, Proposed text, p. 55
3. PCUS 1933, RoD, XII-§258
4. PCUS 1925, RoD, XII-§258
When a member or officer shall renounce the communion of this Church by joining some other evangelical Church, if in good standing, the irregularity shall be recorded, and his name erased. But if charges are pending against him, they shall be communicated to the church which he has joined. If the denomination be heretical, an officer shall have his name stricken from the roll, and all authority to exercise his office derived from this Church shall be withdrawn from him ; but a private member shall not be otherwise noticed than as above prescribed.

PCUS 1879, Rules of Discipline, XII-4
When a member or officer shall renounce the communion of this Church by joining some other evangelical Church, if in good standing, the irregularity shall be recorded, and his name erased. But if charges are pending against him, they shall be communicated to the church which he has joined. If the denomination be heretical, an officer shall have his name stricken from the roll, and all authority to exercise his office derived from this Church shall be withdrawn from him ; but a private member shall not be otherwise noticed than as above prescribed.


PCUS 1869 draft, Canons of Discipline, XII-4
When a member or officer renounces the communion of this Church by joining an evangelical Church, if in good standing, the irregularity shall be recorded, and his name erased. But if charges are pending against him, they may be prosecuted. If the denomination be heretical, an officer may be suspended, excommunicated, or deposed without trial; but a private member shall not be otherwise noticed than as above prescribed.

PCUS 1867 draft, Canons of Discipline, XII-4
When a member or officer renounces the communion of this church by joining an evangelical church, if in good standing, the
irregularity shall be recorded, and his name erased. But if charges are pending against him, they may be prosecuted. If the denomination be heretical, an officer may be suspended, excommunicated, or deposed without trial; but a private member shall not be otherwise noticed than as above prescribed.

COMMENTARY :
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order (1898, pp. 236-237), on XII-4:
237.--IV. When a member or officer shall renounce the communion of this Church by joining some other evangelical Church, if in good standing, the irregularity shall be recorded, and his name erased. But if charges are pending against him, they shall be communicated to the church which he has joined. If the denomination be heretical, an officer shall have his name stricken from the roll, and all authority to exercise his office derived from this Church shall be withdrawn from him ; but a private member shall not be otherwise noticed than as above prescribed.
This Church is a distinct "communion" in the sense that all its members have a certain communion with one another that they do not have with members of other denominations ; but it is not out of communion with all other denominations in a broader sense. When, then, a member of this communion joins another communion he passes out of this communion, in the special sense in which the word is used here. The regular way of doing this is by obtaining testimonials for that purpose from the proper authorities of this Church (Chap. XV.) ; and if done without first obtaining such testimonials, it is an irregularity, and an irregularity so serious as to receive here the epithet of renouncing the communion of this Church. In all cases, the fact is to be recorded and the name erased from our rolls. If charges are pending against him, they shall be communicated to the church or Church to which the renouncing member has gone. If he is an officer and that denomination is heretical, all authority to exercise his office shall be withdrawn, whether there are any charges to communicate or not. Charges are "pending," if they have been already presented to the proper court before information of the renunciation, and had not been finally disposed of ; and charges may be considered as "pending" if already known, although no formal notice had been taken of them.



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