Confusion Regarding Appearance Before Review Committee?
One of the most perplexing questions coming from this year's General Assembly centers around the actions of the Stated Clerk with regard to the proposed appearance of a teaching elder before the Committee on Review of Presbytery Records (CRPR). That minister had sent a letter to the CRPR Chairman, TE Grover Gunn, prior to the Assembly, setting forth his concern that Heartland Presbytery may have violated the PCA Constitution in an action it had taken last summer.
Both by e-mail and "snail mail", Mr. Gunn circulated that letter to the members of his committee. Almost immediately, the Clerk of Heartland, TE Lawrence Lunceford, sent a letter to the Chairman. Mr. Lunceford stated that he had received answer from Dr. Paul Gilchrist, indicating that the appearance of a minister from a presbytery other than Heartland before the CRPR was not Constitutional.
According to Gunn, included in a stapled packet of material which he handed out to the members of his committee "was an email from Larry Lunceford to me as Chairman of the Review Committee. In the email, Larry stated that Dr. Gilchrist is authorized to give opinions on constitutional questions between meetings of the CCB [Committee on Constitutional Business]. He said that Dr. Gilchrist had verbally given the following answers to two questions he had posed to him:
Under what circumstances and what constitutional authorization does a teaching elder properly communicate (i.e. register an accusation) with the CRPR about a presbytery, not his own, whose records are about to be reviewed by the GA CRPR?
'Answer: There are no circumstances and no constitutional authorization to make such a communication properly before the CRPR.
If a presbytery has complied with BCO 13-11 and RAO 14-10, i, is it likely to be guilty of violating the PCA constitution when it seeks to control its own minutes otherwise (e.g. limiting publication and distribution)?
'Answer: It is not at all likely, given the compliance with the BCO and the RAO, that the presbytery would violate the PCA constitution merely by seeking to control it own minutes.'"
Mr. Gunn continues: "These, of course, are the same two questions answered by the CCB during GA. The above is Larry Lunceford's account of an opinion given to him verbally. I emailed the online committee members about the ruling, and I sent a copy of this email to both Larry and Dr. Gilchrist. So I assume Dr. Gilchrist knew what I understood his ruling to be." At some point during the Chairman's explanation of his actions in this matter, Dr. Gilchrist entered the room. According to Chairman Gunn, during the discussion, the Stated Clerk indicated that since he had "appealed" the matter to CCB, the Committee, under BCO 40-3, could not deal with it.
When P&R News contacted Dr. Gilchrist after the Assembly in order to try to obtain an official copy of his preliminary opinion, and in order to ascertain the Constitutional basis for his ruling, he said, "I referred that question to CCB." He stated that he did see written somewhere that he had offered a ruling; but then said, "I'm not sure that I did."
Besides the packet of material which Grover Gunn distributed to his committee on June 9th, he had also, the week before, sent an e-mail to the minister who had wanted to make a presentation to the committee, which e-mail was copied to Dr. Gilchrist. In that message, the Chairman, in light of the ruling from the Stated Clerk, apologized to his committee members for having distributed to them the initial correspondence from the minister. Despite the fact that the CCB ruled that there was no Constitutional bar to someone appearing before the Review Committee, the minister never was able to make a presentation to the committee.
[BCO 40-3 says, ". . . Proceedings in judicial cases . . . shall not be dealt with under review and control when notice of appeal or complaint has been given in the lower court. . . ." The word "appeal" in this paragraph is a technical term, referring to "the transfer to a higher court of a judicial case on which judgment has been rendered in a lower court, and is allowable only to the party against whom the decision has been rendered" (BCO 42-1). The relevance of BCO 40-3 to the appearance of a person before the Committee on the Review of Presbytery Records is not immediately apparent.
The CRPR is a Special Committee, and until the ruling by the CCB this year, there had been no definitive guidance regarding the appearance of non-members before it. However, the 3rd General Assembly voted that "the Assembly declare that all Permanent Committee meetings may be attended by any member of the PCA and that such members shall be afforded a place on the Committee's docket when a request to do so is received by the Committee at least ten days before the Committee meeting, and that the dates of stated Committee meetings must be published at least 30 days prior to the meeting."--Ed.]