The Book of Discipline of the American Presbyterian Church

Chapter 1

General Principles of Discipline

SECTION I : Discipline is the exercise of that authority and the application of that system of laws, which the Lord Jesus Christ has appointed in his church.

SECTION II : The exercise of discipline is highly important and necessary. Its ends are the removal of offenses, the vindication of the honor of Christ, the promotion of the purity and general edification of the church, and the benefit of the offender himself.

SECTION III : An offense is anything in the principles or practice of a church member which is contrary to the word of God; or which, if it be not in its own nature sinful, may tempt others to sin or mar their spiritual edification.

SECTION IV : Nothing, therefore, ought to be considered by any judicatory as an offense, or admitted as a matter of accusation, which cannot be proved to be such from scripture, or from the regulations and practice of the church, founded on scripture.

SECTION V : The exercise of discipline in such a manner as to edify the church requires not only much of the spirit of piety, but also much prudence and discretion. It becomes the rulers of the church, therefore, to take into view all the circumstances which may give a different character to conduct, and render it more or less offensive; and which may, of course, require a very different mode of proceeding in similar cases, at different times, for the attainment of the same end.

SECTION VI : All baptized persons are members of the church, are under its care, and subject to its government and discipline; and when they have arrived at the years of discretion, they are bound to perform all the duties of church members.

SECTION VII : Offenses are either private or public; to each of which, appropriate modes of proceeding belong.

Chapter 2

Of Private Offenses

SECTION I : Private offenses are such as are known only to an individual, or, at most, to a very few.

SECTION II : Private offenses ought not to be immediately prosecuted before a church judicatory, because the objects of discipline may be quite as well, and, in many cases, much better attained by a different course; and because a public prosecution, in such circumstances, would tend unnecessarily to spread the knowledge of offenses, to exasperate and harden offenders, to extend angry and vexatious litigation, and thus to render the discipline of the church more injurious than the original offense.

SECTION III : No complaint or information, on the subject of personal and private injuries, shall be admitted, unless those means of reconciliation and of privately reclaiming the offender have been used, which are required by Christ, Matthew 18: 15-16. And in cases of offenses, which, though not personal, are private, that is, known only to one, or a very few, it is proper to take the same steps, as far as circumstances admit.

SECTION IV : Those who bring information of private and personal injuries before judicatories, without having taken these previous steps, shall themselves be censured, as guilty of an offense against the peace and order of the church.

SECTION V : If any person shall spread the knowledge of an offense, unless so far as shall be unavoidable, in prosecuting it before the proper judicatory or in the due performance of some other indispensable duty, he shall be liable to censure, as a slanderer of his brethren.

Chapter 3

Of Public Offenses

SECTION I : A public offense is that which is attended with such circumstances as to require the cognizance of a church judicatory.

SECTION II : This is always the case, when an offense is either so notorious and scandalous, as that no private steps would obviate its injurious effects; or when, though originally known to one, or a few, the private steps have been ineffectual; and there is, obviously, no way of removing the offense, but by means of a judicial process.

SECTION III : An offense, gross in itself, and known to several, may be so circumstanced that it plainly cannot be prosecuted to conviction. In such cases, however grievous it may be to the pious to see an unworthy member in the church, it is proper to wait until God, in his righteous providence, shall give further light; as few things tend more to weaken the authority of discipline and to multiply offenses, than to commence process without sufficient proof.

SECTION IV : When any person is charged with a crime, not by an individual or individuals coming forward as accusers but by general rumor, the previous steps prescribed by our Lord in case of private offenses are not necessary, but the proper judicatory is bound to take immediate cognizance of the affair.

SECTION V : In order to render an offense proper for the cognizance of a judicatory on this ground, the rumor must specify some particular sin or sins; it must be general, or widely spread; it must not be transient, but permanent, and rather gaining strength than declining; and it must be accompanied with strong presumption of truth. Taking up charges on this ground, of course, requires great caution and the exercise of much Christian prudence.

SECTION VI : It may happen, however, that in consequence of a report which does not fully amount to a general rumor, as just described, a slandered individual may request a judicial investigation, which it may be the duty of the judicatory to institute.

Chapter 4

Of Actual Process

SECTION I : When all other means of removing an offense have failed, the judicatory to which cognizance of it properly belongs shall judicially take it into consideration.

SECTION II : There are two modes in which an offense may be brought before a judicatory: either by an individual or individuals, who appear as accusers and undertake to substantiate the charge, or by common fame.

SECTION III : In the former case, process must be pursued in the name of the accuser or accusers. In the latter, there is no need of naming any person as the accuser; common fame is the accuser. Yet a general rumor may be raised by the rashness, censoriousness, or malice of one or more individuals. When this appears to have been the case, such individuals ought to be censured, in proportion to the degree of criminality which appears attached to their conduct.

SECTION IV : Great caution ought to be exercised in receiving accusations from any person who is known to indulge a malignant spirit toward the accused; who is not of good character; who is himself under censure or process; who is deeply interested, in any respect, in the conviction of the accused; or who is known to be litigious, rash, or highly imprudent.

SECTION V : When a judicatory enters on the consideration of a crime or crimes alleged, no more shall be done at the first meeting, unless by consent of parties, than to give the accused a copy of each charge, with the names of the witnesses to support it, and to cite all concerned to appear at the next meeting of the judicatory, to have the matter fully heard and decided. Notice shall be given to the parties concerned, at least ten days previously to the meeting of the judicatory.

SECTION VI : The citations shall be issued and signed by the moderator or clerk, by order, and in the name of the judicatory. He shall also furnish citations for such witnesses as the accused shall nominate to appear on his behalf.

SECTION VII : Although it is required that the accused be informed of the names of all the witnesses who are to be adduced against him, at least ten days before the time of the trial (unless he consent to waive the right and proceed immediately), it is not necessary that he, on his part, give a similar notice to the judicatory of all the witnesses intended to be adduced by him for his exculpation.

SECTION VIII : In exhibiting charges, the times, places, and circumstances should, if possible, be ascertained and stated, that the accused may have an opportunity to prove an alibi, or to extenuate or alleviate his offense.

SECTION IX : 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 confesses guilt, to endeavor to bring him to repentance, than to proceed immediately to citation.

SECTION X : When an accused person or a witness refuses to obey the citation, he shall be cited a second time, and if he still continues to refuse, he shall be excluded from the communion of the church, for his contumacy, until he repents.

SECTION XI : Although, on the first citation, the person cited shall declare in writing, or otherwise, his fixed determination not to obey it, this declaration shall, in no case, induce the judicatory to deviate from the regular course prescribed for citations. They shall proceed as if no such declaration had been made. The person cited may afterward alter his mind.

SECTION XII : The time which must elapse between the first citation of an accused person or a witness and the meeting of the judicatory at which he is to appear is at least ten days. But the time allotted for his appearance in the subsequent citation is left to the discretion of the judicatory, provided always, however, that it be not less than is quite sufficient for a seasonable and convenient compliance with the citation.

SECTION XIII : The second citation ought always to be accompanied with a notice, that if the person cited does not appear at the time appointed, the judicatory, besides censuring him for his contumacy, will, after assigning some person to manage his defense, proceed to take the testimony in his case, as if he were present.

SECTION XIV : Judicatories, before proceeding to trial, ought to ascertain that their citations have been duly served on the persons for whom they were intended and especially before they proceed to ultimate measures for contumacy.

SECTION XV : The trial shall be fair and impartial. The witnesses shall be examined in the presence of the accused, or, at least, after he shall have received due citation to attend, and he shall be permitted to ask any questions tending to his own exculpation.

SECTION XVI : The judgment shall be regularly entered on the records of the judicatory, and the parties shall be allowed copies of the whole proceedings, at their own expense, if they demand them. And in case of references or appeals, the judicatory referring or appealed from shall send authentic copies of the whole process to the higher judicatory.

SECTION XVII : The person found guilty shall be admonished or rebuked or excluded from church privileges, as the case shall appear to deserve, until he gives satisfactory evidence of repentance.

SECTION XVIII : As cases may arise in which many days or even weeks may intervene before it is practicable to commence process against an accused church member, the session may, in such cases, and ought, if they think the edification of the church requires it, to prevent the accused person from approaching the Lord’s table until the charge against him can be examined.

SECTION XIX : The sentence shall be published only in the church or churches which have been offended. Or, if the offense be of small importance and such as it shall appear most for edification not to publish, the sentence may pass only in the judicatory.

SECTION XX : Such gross offenders as will not be reclaimed by the private or public admonitions of the church are to be cut off from its communion, agreeably to our Lord’s direction in Matthew 18: 17, and the apostolic injunction respecting the incestuous person in 1 Corinthians 5: 1-5.

SECTION XXI : No professional counsel shall be permitted to appear and plead in cases of process in any of our ecclesiastical courts. But if any accused person feels unable to represent and plead his own cause to advantage, he may request any minister or elder, belonging to the judicatory before which he appears, to prepare and exhibit his cause as he may judge proper. But the minister or elder so engaged shall not be allowed, after pleading the case of the accused, to sit in judgment as a member of the judicatory.

SECTION XXII : Questions of order, which arise in the course of process, shall be decided by the moderator. If an appeal is made from the chair, the question on the appeal shall be taken without debate.

SECTION XXIII : In recording the proceedings in cases of judicial process, the reasons for all decisions, except on questions of order, shall be recorded at length, that the record may exhibit everything which had an influence on the judgment of the court, and nothing but what is contained in the record may be taken into consideration in reviewing the proceedings in a superior court.

Chapter 5

Of Process Against a Ruling of Teaching Elder

SECTION I : As the honor and success of the Gospel depend in a great measure on the character of its ministers, each presbytery ought, with the greatest care and impartiality, to watch over the personal and professional conduct of all its members. But, as, on the one hand, no minister ought, on account of his office, to be screened from the hand of justice nor his offenses to be slightly censured, so neither ought scandalous charges to be received against him, by any judicatory, on slight grounds.

SECTION II : Process against a Gospel minister shall always be entered before the presbytery of which he is a member. And the same candor, caution, and general method, substituting only the presbytery for the session, are to be observed in investigating charges against him, as are prescribed in the case of private members.

SECTION III : If it be found that the facts with which a minister stands charged happened without the bounds of his own presbytery, that presbytery shall send notice to the presbytery within whose bounds they did happen and desire them either (if within convenient distance) to cite the witnesses to appear at the place of the trial, or, (if the distance be so great as to render that inconvenient) to take the examination themselves and transmit an authentic record of their testimony, always giving due notice to the accused person of the time and place of such examination.

SECTION IV : Nevertheless, in the case of a minister being supposed to be guilty of a crime or crimes, at such a distance from his usual place of residence as that the offense is not likely to become otherwise known to the presbytery to which he belongs, it shall, in such cases, be the duty of the presbytery within whose bounds the facts shall have happened, after satisfying themselves that there is probable ground of accusation, to send notice to the presbytery of which he is a member, who are to proceed against him, and either send and take the testimony themselves, by a commission of their own body, or request the other presbytery to take it for them and transmit the same, properly authenticated.

SECTION V : Process against a Gospel minister shall not be commenced unless some person or persons undertake to make out the charge, or unless common fame so loudly proclaims the scandal that the presbytery find it necessary, for the honor of religion, to investigate the charge.

SECTION VI : As the success of the Gospel greatly depends upon the exemplary character of its ministers, their soundness in the faith, and holy conversation; and as it is the duty of all Christians to be very cautious in taking up an ill report of any man, but especially of a minister of the Gospel, therefore, if any man knows a minister to be guilty of a private, censurable fault, he should warn him in private. But if the guilty person persists in his fault or it becomes public, he who knows it should apply to some other bishop of the presbytery for his advice in the case.

SECTION VII : The prosecutor of a minister shall be previously warned, that, if he fail to prove the charges, he must himself be censured as a slanderer of the Gospel ministry, in proportion to the malignancy or rashness that shall appear in the prosecution.

SECTION VIII : When complaint is laid before the presbytery, it must be reduced to writing, and nothing further is to be done at the first meeting (unless by consent of parties) than giving the minister a full copy of the charges, with the names of the witnesses annexed, and citing all parties and their witnesses to appear and be heard at the next meeting; which meeting shall not be sooner than ten days after such citation.

SECTION IX : When a member of a church judicatory is under process, it shall be discretionary with the judicatory whether his privileges of deliberating and voting, as a member, in other matters, shall be suspended until the process is finally issued or not.

SECTION X : At the next meeting of the presbytery, the charges shall be read to him, and he shall be called upon to say whether he is guilty or not. If he confesses, and the matter be base and flagitious, such as drunkenness, uncleanness, or crimes of a higher nature, however penitent he may appear, to the satisfaction of all, the presbytery must, without delay, suspend him from the exercise of his office or depose him from the ministry; and, if the way be clear for the purpose, appoint him a due time to confess publicly before the congregation offended and to profess his penitence.

SECTION XI : If a minster accused of atrocious crimes, being twice duly cited, shall refuse to attend the presbytery, he shall be immediately suspended. And if, after another citation, he still refuses to attend, he shall be deposed as contumacious.

SECTION XII : If the minister, when he appears, will not confess but denies the facts alleged against him; if, on hearing the witnesses, the charges appear important and well supported, the presbytery must, nevertheless, censure him and admonish, suspend, or depose him, according to the nature of the offense.

SECTION XIII : Heresy and schism may be of such a nature to infer deposition, but errors ought to be carefully considered, whether they strike at the vitals of religion and are industriously spread, or whether they arise from the weakness of the human understanding and are not likely to do much injury.

SECTION XIV : A minister under process for heresy or schism should be treated with Christian and brotherly tenderness. Frequent conferences ought to be held with him, and proper admonitions administered. For some more dangerous errors, however, suspension may become necessary.

SECTION XV : If the presbytery find, on trial, that the matter complained of amounts to no more than such acts of infirmity as may be amended and the people satisfied, so that little or nothing remains to hinder his usefulness, they shall take all prudent measures to remove the offense.

SECTION XVI : A minister deposed for scandalous conduct shall not be restored, even on the deepest sorrow for his sin, until after some time of eminent and exemplary, humble and edifying conversation, to heal the wound made by his scandal. And he ought in no case to be restored, until it shall appear that the sentiments of the religious public are strongly in his favor and demand his restoration.

SECTION XVII : As soon as a minister is deposed, his congregation shall be declared vacant.

Chapter 6

Of Witnesses

SECTION I : Judicatories ought to be very careful and impartial in receiving testimony. All persons are not competent as witnesses, and all who are competent are not credible.

SECTION II : A competent witness is one who ought to be admitted and heard. The competency of a witness may be affected by his want of the proper knowledge of the matter which he is called to establish, by weakness of understanding, by infamy of character, by being under church censure for falsehood or perjury, by nearness of relationship to any of the parties, and by a variety of considerations which cannot be specified in detail.

SECTION III : Where there is room for doubt with regard to any of these points, either party has a right to challenge witnesses, and the judicatory shall candidly attend to the exceptions and decide upon them.

SECTION IV : The credibility of a witness, or the degree of credit due to his testimony, may be affected by relationship to any of the parties, by deep interest in the result of the trial, by general rashness, indiscretion, or malignity of character, and by various other circumstances, to which judicatories shall carefully attend, and for which they shall make all proper allowance in their decision.

SECTION V : A husband or wife shall not be compelled to bear testimony against each other in any judicatory.

SECTION VI : The testimony of more than one witness is necessary in order to establish any charge, yet if several credible witnesses bear testimony to different similar acts, belonging to the same general charge, the crime shall be considered as proved.

SECTION VII : No witness, afterward to be examined, except a member of the judicatory, shall be present during the examination of another witness on the same case, unless by consent of parties.

SECTION VIII : To prevent confusion, witnesses shall be examined first by the party introducing them, then cross-examined by the opposite party, after which any member of the judicatory or either party may put additional interrogatories. But no question shall be put or answered, except by permission of the moderator.

SECTION IX : The oath of affirmation to a witness shall be administered by the moderator in the following or like terms: ” You solemnly promise, in the presence of the omniscient and heart-searching God, that you will declare the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, according to the best of your knowledge, in the matter in which you are called to witness, as you shall answer it to the great Judge of quick and dead.”

SECTION X : Every question put to a witness shall, if required, be reduced to writing. When answered, it shall, together with the answer, be recorded if deemed by either party of sufficient importance.

SECTION XI : The records of a judicatory or any part of them, whether original or transcribed, if regularly authenticated by the moderator and clerk or either of them, shall be deemed good and sufficient evidence in any other judicatory.

SECTION XII : In like manner, testimony taken by one judicatory and regularly certified shall be received by every other judicatory as no less valid then if it had been taken by themselves.

SECTION XIII : Cases may arise in which it is not convenient for a judicatory to have the whole, or, perhaps, any part of the testimony in a particular cause, taken in their presence. In this case a commission of the judicatory, consisting of two or three members, may be appointed and authorized to proceed to the place where the witness or witnesses reside and take the testimony in question, which shall be considered as if taken in the presence of the judicatory, of which commission and of the time and place of their meeting, due notice shall be given to the opposite party, that he may have an opportunity of attending. And if the accused shall desire, on his part, to take testimony at a distance for his own exculpation, he shall give notice to the judicatory of the time and place when it is proposed to take it, that a commission, as in the former case, may be appointed for the purpose.

SECTION XIV : When the witnesses have all been examined, the accused and prosecutor shall have the privilege of commenting on their testimony to any reasonable extent.

SECTION XV : A member of the judicatory may be called upon to bear testimony in a case which comes before it. He shall be qualified as other witnesses are, and, after having given his testimony, he may immediately resume his seat as a member of the judicatory.

SECTION XVI : A member of the church, summoned as a witness and refusing to appear, or, having appeared, refusing to give testimony, may be censured for contumacy, according to the circumstances of the case.

SECTION XVII : The testimony given by witnesses must be faithfully recorded and read to them for their approbation or subscription.

Chapter 7

Of the Various Ways in Which a Cause May be Carried From a Lower Judicatory to a Higher

SECTION I : In all governments conducted by men wrong may be done from ignorance, from prejudice, from malice, or from other cases. To prevent the continued existence of this wrong is one great design of superior judicatories. And although there must be a last resort, beyond which there is no appeal, yet the security against permanent wrong will be as great as the nature of the case admits, when those who had no concern in the origin of the proceedings are brought to review them and to annul or confirm them, as they see cause; when a greater number of counselors are made to sanction the judgments, or to correct the errors, of a smaller; and, finally, when the whole church is called to sit in judgment on the acts of a part.

SECTION II : Every kind of decision which is formed in any church judicatory, except the highest, is subject to the review of a superior judicatory and may be carried before it in one or the other of the four following ways.

Number 1 : General Review and Control

A. It is the duty of every judicatory above a church session, at least once a year, to review the records of the proceedings of the judicatory next below. And if any lower judicatory shall omit to send up its records for this purpose, the higher may issue an order to produce them, either immediately, or at a particular time, as circumstances may require.

B. In reviewing the records of an inferior judicatory, it is proper to examine, FIRST, whether the proceedings have been constitutional and regular; SECONDLY, whether they have been wise, equitable, and for the edification of the church; THIRDLY, whether they have been correctly recorded.

C. In most cases the superior judicatory may be considered as fulfilling its duty by simply recording, in its own minutes, the animadversion or censure which it may think proper to pass on records under review, and also by making an entry of the same in the book reviewed. But it may be, that, in the course of review, cases of irregular proceedings may be found so disreputable and injurious as to demand the interference of the superior judicatory. In cases of this kind the inferior judicatory may be required to review and correct its proceedings.

D. No judicial decision, however, of a judicatory shall be reversed unless it be regularly brought up by appeal or complaint.

E. Judicatories may sometimes entirely neglect to perform their duty, by which neglect, heretical opinions, or corrupt practices may be allowed to gain ground; or offenders of a very gross character may be suffered to escape; or some circumstances in their proceedings, of very great irregularity, may not be distinctly recorded by them. In any of which cases, their records will by no means exhibit to the superior judicatory a full view of their proceedings. If therefore the superior judicatory be well advised, by common fame, that such neglects or irregularities have occurred on the part of the inferior judicatory, it is incumbent on them to take cognizance of the same; and to examine, deliberate, and judge in the whole matter, as completely as if it had been recorded, and thus brought up by the review of the records.

F. When any important delinquency or grossly unconstitutional proceedings appear in the records of any judicatory, or are charged against them by common fame, the first step to be taken by the judicatory next above is to cite the judicatory alleged to have offended to appear at a specified time and place and to show what it has done, or failed to do, in the case in question; after which the judicatory thus issuing the citation shall remit the whole matter to the delinquent judicatory, with a direction to take it up and dispose of it in a constitutional manner, or stay all further proceedings in the case, as the circumstances may require.

Number 2 : Of Reference

A. A reference is a judicial representation, made by an inferior judicatory to a superior, of a case not yet decided; which representation ought always to be put in writing.

B. Cases which are new, important, difficult, or of peculiar delicacy, the decision of which may establish principles or precedents of extensive influence, on which the sentiments of the inferior judicatory are greatly divided, or on which, for any reason, it is highly desirable that a larger body should first decide, are proper subjects of reference.

C. References are either for mere advice, preparatory to a decision by the inferior judicatory, or for ultimate trial and decision by the superior.

D. In the former case, the reference only suspends the decision of the judicatory from which it comes; in the latter case it totally relinquishes the decision and submits the whole cause to the final judgment of the superior judicatory.

E. Although references may in some cases, as before stated, be highly proper; yet it is, generally speaking, more conducive to the public good that the each judicatory should fulfill its duty by exercising its judgment.

F. Although a reference ought, generally, to procure advice from the superior judicatory, yet that judicatory is not necessarily bound to give a final judgment in the case, even if requested to do so; but may remit the whole cause, either with or without advice, back to the judicatory by which it was referred.

G. In cases of reference, the members of the inferior judicatory making it retain all the privileges of deliberating and voting, in the course of trial and judgment before the superior judicatory which they would have had if no reference had been made.

H. References are generally to be carried to the judicatory immediately superior.

I. In cases of references, the judicatory referring ought to have all the testimony and other documents duly prepared, produced, and in perfect readiness; so that the superior judicatory may be able to consider and issue the case with as little difficulty or delay as possible.

Number 3 : Of Appeals

A. An appeal is the removal of a cause already decided, from an inferior to a superior judicatory, by a party aggrieved.

B. All persons who have submitted to a regular trial in an inferior may appeal to a higher judicatory.

C. Any irregularity in the proceedings of the inferior judicatory: a refusal of reasonable indulgence to a party on trial, declining to receive important testimony, hurrying to a decision before the testimony is fully taken, a manifestation of prejudice in the case, and mistake or injustice in the decision are all proper grounds of appeal.

D. Appeals may be either from a part of the proceedings of a judicatory or from a definitive sentence.

E. Every appellant is bound to give notice of his intention to appeal and also to lay the reasons thereof, in writing, before the judicatory appealed from, either before its rising or within ten days thereafter. If this notice or these reasons be not given to the judicatory while in session, they shall be lodged with the moderator.

F. Appeals are generally to be carried in regular gradation, from an inferior judicatory to the one immediately superior.

G. The appellant shall lodge his appeal and the reasons of it with the clerk of the higher judicatory, before the close of the second day of their session.

H. In taking up an appeal, after ascertaining that the appellant, on his part, has conducted it regularly, the first step shall be to read the sentence appealed from; secondly, to read the reasons which were assigned by the appellant for his appeal and which are on record; thirdly, to read the whole record of the proceedings of the inferior judicatory in the case, including all the testimony and the reasons for their decision; fourthly, to hear the original parties; fifthly, to hear any of the members of the inferior judicatory, in explanation of the grounds of their decision or of their dissent from it.

I. After all the parties shall have been fully heard, and all the information gained by the members of the superior judicatory from those of the inferior, which shall be deemed requisite, the original parties and all the members of the inferior judicatory shall withdraw when the clerk shall call the roll, that every member have an opportunity to express his opinion in the case, after which the final vote shall be taken.

J. The decision may be either to confirm or reverse, in whole or in part, the decision of the inferior judicatory, or to remit the cause, for the purpose of amending the record, should it appear to be incorrect or defective, or for a new trial.

K. If an appellant, after entering his appeal to a superior judicatory, fail to prosecute it, it shall be considered as abandoned, and the sentence appealed from shall be final. And an appellant shall be considered as abandoning his appeal if he does not appear before the judicatory appealed to on the first or second day of its meeting, next ensuing the date of his notice of appeal. Except in cases in which the appellant can make it appear that he was prevented from seasonably prosecuting his appeal by the providence of God.

L. Members of judicatories appealed from cannot be allowed to vote in the superior judicatory on any question connected with the appeal.

M. If members of the inferior judicatory, in case of a sentence appealed from, appear to have acted according to the best of their judgment and with good intention, they incur no censure, although their sentence be reversed. Yet, if they appear to have acted irregularly of corruptly, they shall be censured as the case may require.

N. If an appellant is found to manifest a litigious or other unchristian spirit in the prosecution of his appeal, he shall be censured according to the degree of his offense.

O. The necessary operation of an appeal is to suspend all further proceedings on the ground of the sentence appealed from. But if a sentence of suspension or excommunication from church privileges or deposition from office be the sentence appealed from, it shall be considered as in force until the appeal shall be issued.

P. It shall always be deemed the duty of the judicatory whose judgment is appealed from to send authentic copies of all their records and of the whole testimony relating to the matter of the appeal. And if any judicatory shall neglect its duty in this respect, especially if thereby an appellant, who has conducted with regularity on his part, is deprived of the privilege of having his appeal seasonably issued, such judicatory shall be censured according to the circumstances of the case.

Q. An appeal shall in no case be entered except by one of the original parties.

Number 4 : Of Complaints

A. Another method by which a cause which has been decided by an inferior judicatory may be carried before a superior is by complaint.

B. 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.

C. The cases in which complaint is proper and advisable are such as the following: the judgment of an inferior judicatory may be favorable to the only party who has been placed at their bar, or the judgment in question may do no wrong to any individual, or the party who is aggrieved by it may decline the trouble of conducting an appeal. In any of these cases no appeal is to be expected. And yet the judgment may appear to some of the members of the judicatory to be contrary to the constitution of the church, injurious to the interests of religion, and calculated to degrade the character of those who have pronounced it. In this case the minority have not only a right to record in the minutes of the judicatory their dissent from this judgment, or their protest against it, but they have also a right to complain to the superior judicatory.

D. Notice of a complaint shall always be given before the rising of the judicatory or within ten days thereafter, as in the case of an appeal.

E. This complaint brings the whole proceedings in the case under the review of the superior judicatory, and, if the complaint appears to be well founded, it may have the effect not only of drawing down censure upon those who concurred in the judgment complained of, but also of reversing that judgment and placing matters in the same situation in which they were before the judgment was pronounced.

F. In cases of complaint, however, as in those of appeal, the reversal of a judgment of an inferior judicatory is not necessarily connected with censure on that judicatory.

G. None of the members of the judicatory whose act is complained of can vote in the superior judicatory on any question connected with the complaint.

Chapter 8

Of Dissents and Protests

SECTION I : A dissent is a declaration on the part of one or more members of a minority, in a judicatory, expressing a different opinion from that of the majority in a particular case. A dissent unaccompanied with reasons is always entered on the records of the judicatory.

SECTION II : A protest is a more solemn and formal declaration, made by members of a minority, as before mentioned, bearing their testimony against what they deem a mischievous or erroneous judgment, and is generally accompanied with a detail of the reasons on which it is founded.

SECTION III : If a protest or dissent be couched in decent and respectful language and contains no offensive reflections or insinuations against the majority of the judicatory, those who offer it have a right to have it recorded on the minutes.

SECTION IV : A dissent or protest may be accompanied with a complaint to a superior judicatory, or not, at the pleasure of those who offer it. If not thus accompanied, it is simply left to speak for itself when the records containing it come to be reviewed by the superior judicatory.

SECTION V : It may sometimes happen that a protest, though not infringing the rules of decorum, either in its language or matter, may impute to the judicatory whose judgment it opposes some principles or reasonings which it never adopted. In this case the majority of the judicatory may with propriety appoint a committee to draw up an answer to the protest, which, after being adopted as the act of the judicatory, ought to be inserted in the records.

SECTION VI : When, in such a case, the answer of the majority is brought in, those who have entered their protest may be of the opinion that fidelity to their cause calls upon them to make a reply to the answer. This, however, ought by no means to be admitted, as the majority might of course rejoin and litigation might be perpetuated, to the great inconvenience and disgrace to the judicatory.

SECTION VII : When, however, those who have protested consider the answer of the majority as imputing to them opinions or conduct which they disavow, the proper course is to ask leave to take back their protest and modify it in such a manner as to render it more agreeable to their views. This alteration may lead to a corresponding alteration in the answer of the majority, with which the whole affair ought to terminate.

SECTION VIII : None can join in a protest against a decision of any judicatory, excepting those who had a right to vote in said decision.

Chapter 9

New Testimony

SECTION I : If, after a trial by any judicatory, new testimony be discovered, which is supposed to be highly important to the exculpation of the accused, it is proper for him to ask and for the judicatory to grant a new trial.

SECTION II : It sometimes happens in the prosecution of appeals, that testimony, which had not been exhibited before the inferior judicatory, is represented to exist and to be of considerable importance in the case.

SECTION III : Representations of this kind ought not to be lightly, or, of course, sustained. But the superior judicatory ought to be well satisfied that the alleged testimony is of real importance before they determine to put the inferior judicatory to the trouble of a new trial.

SECTION IV : When such testimony, therefore, is alleged to exist, either by the appellant or the judicatory appealed from, it will be proper for the superior judicatory to inquire into the nature and import of the testimony: what is intended to be proved by it and whether there is any probability that it will really establish the point intended to be established.

SECTION V : If it appear that the fact proposed to be established by the new testimony is important, that is, if it appear to be such a fact as, if proved, would materially alter the aspect of the cause, and if there be any probability that the testimony in question will be sufficient to establish the alleged fact, then the superior judicatory ought to send the cause back to the inferior for a new trial.

SECTION VI : Cases may arise, however, in which the judicatory appealed from and the appellant may concur in requesting the superior judicatory to take up and issue the appeal, with the additional light which the new evidence may afford. In this case, and especially if very serious injury is likely to happen, either to the appellant or to the church, by the delay which a new trial would occasion, the superior judicatory may proceed to hear the new testimony and to issue the appeal, with the aid of the additional light which that testimony may afford.

SECTION VII : When, however, the judgment of the inferior judicatory is reversed, and it is apparent that the new testimony had considerable influence in procuring the reversal, it ought to be so stated in the decision of the superior judicatory, inasmuch as it would be injustice to the inferior judicatory to reverse their decision upon grounds which were never before them, without explaining the fact.

Chapter 10


SECTION I : When a member shall be dismissed from one church, with a view to his joining another, if he commit an offense previous to his joining the latter, he shall be considered as under the jurisdiction of the church which dismissed him, and amenable to it, up to the time when he actually becomes connected with that to which he was dismissed and recommended.

SECTION II : The same principle applies to a minister, who is always to be considered as remaining under the jurisdiction of the presbytery which dismissed him, until he actually becomes a member of another.

SECTION III : If, however, either a minister or a private member shall be charged with a crime which appears to have been committed during the interval between the date of his dismissal and his actually joining the new body, but which did not come to light until after he had joined the new body, that body shall be empowered and bound to conduct the process against him.

SECTION IV : No presbytery shall dismiss a minister, or licentiate, or candidate for licensure, without specifying the particular presbytery or other ecclesiastical body with which he is to be connected.

Chapter 11

Limitation of Time

SECTION I : When any member shall remove from one congregation to another, he shall produce satisfactory testimonials of his church membership and dismissal, before he be admitted as a regular member of that church, unless the church to which he removes has other satisfactory means of information.

SECTION II : No certificate of church membership shall be considered as valid testimony of the good standing of the bearer if it be more than one year old, except where there has been no opportunity of presenting it to a church.

SECTION III : When persons remove to a distance and neglect, for a considerable time, to apply for testimonials of dismissal and good standing, the testimonials given them shall testify to their character only up to the time of their removal, unless the judicatory has good information of a more recent date.

SECTION IV : If a church member has been more than two years absent from the place of his ordinary residence and ecclesiastical connections, if he apply for a certificate of membership, his absence and the ignorance of the church respecting his demeanor for that time shall be distinctly stated in the certificate.

SECTION V : Process, in case of scandal, shall commence within the space of one year after the crime shall have been committed, unless it shall have recently become flagrant. It may happen, however, that a church member, after removing to a place far distant from his former residence and where his connection with the church is unknown, may commit a crime, on account of which process cannot be instituted within the time above specified. In all such cases the recent discovery of the church membership of the individual shall be considered as equivalent to the crime itself having recently become flagrant. The same principle also applies to ministers if similar circumstances should occur.


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