The 222nd General Assembly (2016) created a Rules of Discipline Task Force, that was charged with:

  • revising the entire Rules of Discipline to make the Rules of Discipline more accessible to the church,
  • to preserve and enhance the accountability of councils and individuals to the church,
  • to expand the role of mediation and alternate dispute resolution, and
  • to provide flexibility in crafting censures and remedies, particularly in light of recent learnings in ethical and social development and experiments by the secular legal system with alternative sentencing.

The Task Force, which was appointed by the 222nd General Assembly (2016) Co-Moderators, released its proposed revised draft in September 2017, and hosted a session on Saturday, June 16, 2018, at the 223rd General Assembly (2018) to review the proposed changes and to receive comments. I attended this session and was particularly impressed by the following intentional proposed changes:

REMEDIATION AND RESTORATION: The name of the “Disciplinary process” has been changed to “Restorative process”. One intent of this change is to stress that the discipline of the church is being exercised in both remedial cases and in cases currently called disciplinary. A second intent is to acknowledge that when trust has been broken by an individual, it is important that it be restored within the community of faith.

EVIDENCE-HEARSAY: In remediation, witnesses must have firsthand knowledge; that is, “hearsay evidence” is not allowed. In restorative processes, on the other hand, “hearsay evidence” is specifically authorized, and rationale is provided. (Hearsay evidence is not directly addressed in the current Rules of Discipline and is therefore not barred in either remedial or disciplinary processes.)

SPECIFIED CHARGES: There is a new requirement that each and every “charge” in a restorative process state the specific provision(s) of Scripture and/or the constitution which is alleged to have been violated constituting an offense.

STANDARD FOR FINDINGS OF GUILT: In restorative processes, a new standard for a finding of guilt is introduced, from our parliamentary authority, requiring that commission members must be “morally convinced,” rather than convinced “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The entire text of the Proposed Rules of Discipline is accessible at http://oga.pcusa.org. The Task Force has a related survey on the web site and will receive feedback through September 15, 2018. The Task Force will present a final report to the 224th General Assembly (2020).

Reflection on Saturday’s 223rd General Assembly Moderator Election

The election of co-moderators last night required four rounds of voting. A majority was required and the first three rounds resulted in an “almost but not a majority” to the final round of “just barely a majority”. The Rev. Cindy Kohlmann of the presbyteries of Boston and Northern New England attended the Presbyterian Foundation breakfast Sunday morning as a Mid-Council Staff member, but was recognized as a new co-moderator and offered the closing prayer.

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About Dan Rogers

Dan is a member of First United Presbyterian Church in Troy and has served as Stated Clerk of the Presbytery since November 2009. He has served the Albany Presbytery in many roles over the years. In 2004, he completed his career as a licensed professional engineer when he retired from Ryan-Biggs Associates, PC, as a Principal Structural Engineer specializing in the design of bridge structures. Dan and his wife, Laura, live in Latham. They have two sons and three grandchildren. In the summer months, he enjoys his summer home on Forest Lake which is east of Troy, NY.

The purpose of the Albany Presbytery Blog is to share information, tell stories, and promote the mission and ministry of the presbytery, synod and beyond. While the breadth of this medium is intentionally broad, it is not a platform for opinion pieces related to business coming before the presbytery unless designed as part of an initiative to provide a diversity of viewpoints at the direction of the presbytery. Exceptions to this policy may be brought to the presbytery officers who will determine appropriateness of submissions.