.

The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

Chapter 39 : Modes in Which the Proceedings of Lower Courts
Come Under the Supervision of Higher Courts

Paragraph 3 :

39-3. While affirming that the Scripture is “the supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined” (WCF 1.10), and that the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in America is “subordinate to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, the inerrant Word of God” (BCO
Preface, III
), and while affirming also that this Constitution is fallible (WCF 31.3), the Presbyterian Church in America affirms that this subordinate and fallible Constitution has been “adopted by the church” (BCO Preface, III) “as standard expositions of the teachings of Scripture in relation to both
faith and practice” (BCO 29-1) and as setting forth a form of government and discipline “in conformity with the general principles of biblical polity” (BCO 21-5.3). To insure that this Constitution is not amended, violated or disregarded in judicial process, any review of the judicial proceedings of a
lower court by a higher court shall by guided by the following principles:
1. A higher court, reviewing a lower court, should limit itself to the issues raised by the parties to the case in the original (lower) court. Further, the higher court should resolve such issues by applying the
Constitution of the church, as previously established through the constitutional process.
2. A higher court should ordinarily exhibit great deference to a lower court regarding those factual matters which the lower court is more competent to determine, because of its proximity to the events in
question, and because of its personal knowledge and observations of the parties and witnesses involved. Therefore, a higher court should not reverse a factual finding of a lower court, unless there is clear error on the part of the lower court.
3. A higher court should ordinarily exhibit great deference to a lower court regarding those matters of discretion and judgment which can only be addressed by a court with familiar acquaintance of the
events and parties. Such matters of discretion and judgment would include, but not be limited to: the moral character of candidates for sacred office, the appropriate censure to impose after a disciplinary
trial, or judgment about the comparative credibility of conflicting witnesses. Therefore, a higher court should not reverse such a judgment by a lower court, unless there is clear error on the part of
the lower court.
4. The higher court does have the power and obligation of judicial review, which cannot be satisfied by always deferring to the findings of a lower court. Therefore, a higher court should not consider itself obliged to exhibit the same deference to a lower court when the issues being reviewed involve the interpretation of the Constitution of the Church. Regarding such issues, the higher court has the duty and authority to interpret and apply the Constitution of the Church according to its best abilities and understanding, regardless of the opinion of the lower court.


[Historical Summary : This paragraph was added to the PCA's Book of Church Order in 1997 [cf. M25GA, 25-17, Item 7, p. 123].

Background and Comparison :
No comparable text is provided in the following editions:
PCA 1973, Adopted text
Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, Proposed text
PCUS 1879
PCUS 1869 draft
PCUS 1867 draft
[no comparable text]

COMMENTARY :
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order (1898) :

[no comparable text for discussion]



©PCA Historical Center, 12330 Conway Road, St. Louis, MO, 2007. All Rights Reserved.


©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]