Pittsburgh Goes Three-for-Four


Louisville, Kentucky (June 17, 1999)-Three of the four overtures sent by Pittsburgh Presbytery with regard to amendments to the Book of Church Order (BCO) were approved by the 27th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). All four of the proposals had to do with judicial process.
The first one asked for clarification when a complaint is heard by the court of original jurisdiction. Originally, a complaint would go immediately to the next higher court. When the BCO was amended in the 1980s, so that a complaint would go back to the original court before being taken higher, not all of the terminology was changed to reflect the new situation. The proposed amendment would make clear that the court of original jurisdiction would have to appoint one or more representatives to defend its actions only "before the higher court."
The second amendment would provide that when a presbytery has appointed a commission to serve as an interim session, that interim session becomes the court of original jurisdiction. Technically, since a commission is the creature of the court which created it, the court of original jurisdiction in such a case would be the presbytery. However, five years ago, in Case 92-10, the Standing Judicial Commission ruled in effect that the commission, since it was functioning as a session, was the court of original jurisdiction. The new amendment would ratify the SJC's understanding of the Constitution.
The third amendment would clarify "Cases Without Process," so that it would be clear that a court may not accept an alleged "confession of guilt" unless the person "intends to confess and permit the court to render judgment without process." This, too, was approved.
The fourth proposed amendment was an attempt to clarify the distinction between suspension from office and from sacraments. In this instance, the Assembly agreed with the Bills & Overtures (B&O) Committee, that the recommended change was not helpful.
The three proposed changes which did meet with the approval of the Assembly now go to the presbyteries. If two-thirds of the presbyteries give their blessing, the 2000 Assembly would have to give final approval, by majority vote, for the changes to be enacted.