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The Historical Development of the PCA Book of Church Order

Chapter 43 : Complaints

Paragraph 1 :

43-1. A complaint is a written representation made against some act or decision of a court of the Church. It is the right of any communing member of the Church in good standing to make complaint against any action of a court to whose jurisdiction he is subject, except that no complaint is allowable in a judicial case in which an appeal is pending.

[Historical Summary : 1984 [M14GA, 12-14, Item 5, p. 89] and 2002 [M30GA, 30-10, Item 3, p. 65].

Background and Comparison :
1. PCA 1973, RoD, 17-1, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, p.154
2. Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, RoD, 17-1, Proposed text, p. 59
3. PCUS 1933, RoD, XVII-§284
4. PCUS 1925, RoD, XVII-§284

A complaint is a written representation made to a higher court against some act or decision of a lower court. It is the right of any communing member of the church in good standing to make complaint against any action of a lower court to whose jurisdiction he is subject, except that no complaint is allowable in a judicial case in which an appeal is taken. A complaint shall not be made to any other court than the next higher, except with its consent.

PCUS 1879, Rules of Discipline, XIII-4-1

A complaint is a representation made to superior court against an inferior court. Any member of the Church, submitting to its authority, may complain against every species of decision, except where a party, against whom a decision has been rendered, takes his appeal against it. But the complaint shall not suspend, while pending, the effect of the decision complained of.

PCUS 1869 draft, Canons of Discipline, XIII-4-1
and
PCUS 1867 draft, Canons of Discipline, XIII-4-1
A complaint is a representation made to a superior against an inferior court. Any member of the church, submitting to its authority,
may complain against every species of decision, except where a party, against whom a judgment has been rendered, takes his appeal against it. But the complaint shall not suspend, while pending, the effect of the decision complained of.

PCUSA 1858 draft, Revised Book of Discipline, VIII-4-2
A complaint is a representation made to a superior by any member or members of a minority of an inferior judicatory, or by any other person or persons, respecting a decision by an inferior judicatory, which, in the opinion of the complainants, has been irregularly or unjustly made.

OTHER COMPARISONS:
OPC 2005, Book of Discipline, IX-1
A complaint is a written representation, other than an appeal or protest, charging a judicatory with delinquency or error. It may be brought by an officer or other member of the church against the session or the presbytery to which he is subject, by one session against another session, by a session against the presbytery which has jurisdiction over it, or by one presbytery against another presbytery.

COMMENTARY :
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order (1898, pp. 252-254), on XIII-4-1 :
SECTION IV.--OF COMPLAINTS.
After stating the nature and effect of a complaint, and the requirement as to notice, the order of proceeding is laid down, and the sphere of action permissible to the superior court is given. there is added the rule for sending up the records.
267.--I. A complaint is a representation made to superior court against an inferior court. Any member of the Church, submitting to its authority, may complain against every species of decision, except where a party, against whom a decision has been rendered, takes his appeal against it. But the complaint shall not suspend, while pending, the effect of the decision complained of
.

A complaint differs from general review in these particulars: it may bring a decision made in a judicial case (except where an appeal is taken) as well as any other decision ; it brings the issue by express action of a party, and not by the records as a matter in course ; and it does not permit the inferior court to be censured for its decision. It differs from reference in these particulars: it brings an issue already decided ; and it is not the court itself that brings the issue. It differs from an appeal in these particulars: an appeal may be taken only from decisions in judicial processes, but a complaint may be taken against every sort of decision (for a complaint may be taken against a decision against which an appeal may be taken, if the appeal is not taken) ; an appeal may be taken only by the party condemned on trial, including a court, but a complaint may be taken by any person (though never by a court) who is a member of the Church and submissive to its authority ; and an appeal suspends partially the effect of the decision against which it is taken, but a complaint does not suspend the effect of this decision at all. But the essential difference is this: that an appeal removes the cause to the superior court without changing the parties, but a complaint presents an issue with new parties. True, the court complained of cannot be censured, nor the complainant ; for the complaint is not a continuance of process, as an appeal is ; and no party can be censured without process or confession. But the court, as judge, is a party. In an appeal, the court, as accuser, is a party, the appellee ; but in a complaint, the court, as judge, is a party, the respondent. In an appeal, the accused is a party, the accused ; but in a complaint, the accused is not a party at all. Even if the person that was accused should complain, he does not appear as the accused. And that a complaint is not judicial process is evident from these two considerations : that no one can be censured by the issue of a complaint ; and that questions that were not connected with a judicial cause may be the subjects of complaint.



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