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The Historical Development of the Book of Church Order

Chapter 46 : Jurisdiction

Paragraph 7 : Of Certificates of Dismission

46-7. No certificate of dismission from either a Session or a Presbytery shall be valid testimony of good standing for a period longer than one (1) year, unless its earlier presentation be hindered by some providential cause; and such certificates given to persons who have left the bounds of the Session or Presbytery granting them shall certify the standing of such persons only to the time of their leaving those bounds.

DIGEST: Only minor differences of punctuation distinguish the current PCA text from that of PCUS 1879.

BACKGROUND & COMPARISON:
1. PCA 1973, RoD, 20-7, Adopted text, as printed in the Minutes of General Assembly, p. 155
2. Continuing Presbyterian Church 1973, RoD, 20-7, Proposed text, p. 62
3. PCUS 1933, RoD, XV-§301
4. PCUS 1925, RoD, XV-§301
No certificate of dismission from either a Session or a Presbytery shall be valid testimony of good standing for a period longer than one year, unless its earlier presentation be hindered by some providential cause; and such certificates given to persons who have left the bounds of the Session or Presbytery granting them, shall certify the standing of such persons only to the time of their leaving those bounds.

PCUS 1879, Rules of Discipline, XV-6

No certificate of dismission from either a Session or a Presbytery, shall be valid testimony of good standing for a longer period than one year, unless its earlier presentation be hindered by some providential cause; and such certificates given to persons who have left the bounds of the Session or Presbytery granting them, shall certify the standing of such persons only to the time of their leaving those bounds.

PCUS 1869 draft, Canons of Discipline, XV-8
No certificate of dismission from either a Session or a Presbytery shall be valid for a longer period than one year, unless its earlier presentation be hindered by some providential cause; and such papers given to their bearers, after they have left the bounds of the Session or Presbytery giving them, shall only certify the standing of such persons up to the time of leaving those bounds.

PCUS 1867 draft, Canons of Discipline, XV-8
No certificate of dismission from either a session or a presbytery shall be valid for a longer period than one year, unless its earlier presentation be hindered by some providential cause; and such papers given to their bearers, after they have left the bounds of the session or presbytery giving them, shall only certify the standing of such persons up to the time of leaving those bounds.

COMMENTARY :
F.P. Ramsay, Exposition of the Book of Church Order
(1898, pp. 263-265), on XV-6 [§281]:
281.--VI. No certificate of dismission from either a Session or a Presbytery, shall be valid testimony of good standing for a longer period than one year, unless its earlier presentation be hindered by some providential cause; and such certificates given to persons who have left the bounds of the Session or Presbytery granting them, shall certify the standing of such persons only to the time of their leaving those bounds.
If the person to whom the certificate is granted has already left the bounds, the certificate should state when he left and his standing up to that time ; but if the certificate fails to state the time of his leaving the bounds, the effect of the certificate is the same. The point is, that a person cannot be presumed to be in good standing if he has let a whole year pass since leaving the bounds of a court, or obtaining a certificate of dismission from it, without presenting his certificate of dismission to the court to which he comes. The certificate is, however, valid evidence of dismission after it ceases to be valid presumptive evidence of good standing.
The principles underlying these provisions may be stated thus:
1. One is a member or officer of the Church, which exercises its jurisdiction over him through the appropriate court ; and while the Church does not fix his residence, the Church does, with only limited choice to the individual, fix the court through which it exercises its jurisdiction. Members cannot arbitrarily choose the court to whose jurisdiction they will be subject.
2. Being subject to the jurisdiction of the Church, they cannot cast off that jurisdiction at will without sinning against the Church. And she may surrender her jurisdiction only in the way of censure by excommunication or deposition, or in the way of correcting a mistake made by both her and the person, as in demission, or i the way of fraternal recognition of some other Church by dismissing thereto. But no one may quit this Church without thereby violating his covenant with it, except with her consent ; nor is she permitted to give her consent, except when transferring to some other Church of Christ that can, all things considered, do as well for the member.
3. Neither in dismissing to another court of this Church, nor in dismissing to another Church, ought any court to dismiss one as in good standing when, in the mind of the court, there is a strong presumption that the person asking dismission is guilty of an offence deserving censure. (And an offence may just as truly lie in principle as in practice, in opinion as in deed.) When the strong presumption of guilt exists, the court should withhold dismission and institute process. The certificate ought to tell the truth.


Chapter Index [links are to Paragraph 1 in 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]

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