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Suggested Forms for Use in Connection with the Book of Discipline

 

I. CHARGE AND SPECIFICATIONS

_____________ [here insert the title of the trial judicatory] of The Orthodox Presbyterian Church charges ____________ with __________ [here name the alleged offense]: __________ [here give references to applicable portions of the Word of God, and, where pertinent, to relevant provisions of the constitution].

Specifications: That on or about __________ the said ________ did ________ [here set forth briefly the place and circumstances of the alleged offense].

Witnesses and/or Documents: ___________ [here set forth the names of witnesses and/or the titles of documents to be produced in support of the charge and specifications].

_______________ [Moderator]

_______________ [Clerk]

Date: ____________

 

II. CITATION OF ACCUSED

To ____________:

You are hereby cited to appear before _______, meeting on _______ at _________ o'clock at _________, then and there to hear and receive certain charges and specifications which have been preferred against you by ___________ [here insert the title of the trial judicatory] of The Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

[In the case of a second citation, add the appropriate warning prescribed by Chapter IV, Section A.1.e, of the Book of Discipline.]

By order of ___________ [here insert the title of the trial judicatory] of The Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

_______________ [Moderator]

_______________ [Clerk]

Date: ____________

 

III. CITATION OF WITNESS

To ____________:

You are hereby cited to appear before _________, meeting on _______ at ________ o'clock, at ________, then and there to give evidence in the trial of ___________ [here insert the name of the accused].

[In the case of a second citation of a witness who has failed to appear after a first citation, add the warning prescribed in Chapter IV, Section A.4.e, of the Book of Discipline.]

By order of __________ [here insert the title of the trial judicatory] of The Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

_______________ [Moderator]

_______________ [Clerk]

Date: ____________

 

IV. NOTICE OF INTENTION TO APPEAL (in Judicial Cases)

To ____________, Clerk [or Moderator] of ____________ [here insert the title of the judicatory from which the appeal is to be taken] of The Orthodox Presbyterian Church:

And now, this _______ day of _________, A.D. __________, comes ____________ and gives notice of intention to appeal to ____________ from the judgment of ___________ in the case of ____________ [here insert the name of the accused].

_______________, Appellant

Date: ____________

 

V. APPEAL (in Judicial Cases)

To ____________, Clerk [or Moderator] of _____________ [here insert the title of the judicatory to which the appeal is taken] of The Orthodox Presbyterian Church:

And now, this ___________ day of __________, A.D. _______, comes _______________ and appeals from the judgment of ___________ in the case of ___________ [here insert the name of the accused], and in support of said appeal sets forth the following specifications of error:

____________ [here insert the title of the judicatory from which the appeal is taken] of The Orthodox Presbyterian Church erred in __________ [here state concisely the error alleged to have been made].

[Additional specifications of error may be filed.]

_______________, Appellant

Date: ____________

 

VI
COMPLAINT

To ____________, Clerk [or Moderator] of _____________ [here insert the title of the judicatory to which the complaint is taken] of The Orthodox Presbyterian Church:

And now, this _______ day of _______, A.D. _______, comes ____________ and complains against the action [or delinquency] of ____________ in connection with _____________ [here state briefly the matter of which complaint is made].

In bringing this complaint I affirm that I believe that the session [or presbytery] has erred [or has been delinquent] and that this error [or delinquency] is serious; that I have tried to understand the session's [or presbytery's] point of view; that I have seriously examined, in prayer before the Lord, my willingness to be in subjection to my brothers in Christ; and that I have made a serious effort to correct the error [or delinquency] short of entering a complaint.

In support of this complaint I set forth the following grounds:

[Here set forth concisely in numbered paragraphs the grounds of fact, circumstance and law in support of the complaint.]

_______________, Complainant

Date: ____________

 

VII. APPEAL (in Administrative Cases)

To ____________, Clerk of _____________:

And now, this ____________ day of ____________, A.D. __________, comes __________________ and appeals from the decision of the ______________ on the enclosed complaint of _____________ against actions of the _____________, in order to bring that complaint to _____________ for adjudication.

_______________, Appellant

Date: ____________

 

VIII. THE PUBLIC IMPOSITION AND REMOVAL OF CENSURES

(This document was prepared for the use of sessions of local congregations. Presbyteries using it shall make appropriate adaptations.)

A. The Manner of Imposing Censure

The power which the exalted Christ gives the rulers of his church is for edification, not destruction. Therefore, when a member is found guilty of a fault deserving censure, the session shall proceed with all tenderness and in the spirit of meekness, each considering himself lest he also be tempted, with the hope of reclaiming or gaining the offender. They should impose censure with great solemnity, so that all might fear, so that it may be a means of impressing the offender's heart with a proper sense of his sin, and so that by God's gracious blessing it may lead him to repentance. They should do all this in accordance with the provisions of the Book of Discipline.

B. Indefinite Suspension

1. When the judicatory has passed sentence, indefinitely suspending an officer or a member of the church from privileges, it is fitting that when the sentence is announced, it be in a gathering of the congregation.

2. The one making the announcement may begin by setting forth the teaching of Scripture concerning God's fatherly discipline (cf. Heb. 12:7-11), the church as God's instrument in discipline (cf. Matt. 18:17ff.), and the obligation upon the church to fulfill this role (1 Cor. 5:1-13).

3. He may then announce the censure using the following or similar words:

Whereas [name] has been found guilty by (his/her) own confession, or by sufficient proof (as the case may be), of the sin of [here name the particular offence], we have suspended (him/her) from the privileges of church membership [and/or, as appropriate, the privileges of his office], until (he/she) gives satisfactory evidence of repentance.

4. To this the judicatory shall add such advice, admonition, or rebuke, as it may judge necessary; and it shall conclude the whole with prayer to almighty God, that he would accompany this act of discipline with his blessing.

5. The indefinite suspension of an officer or other member of the church shall be announced to the church in which membership or office is held.

6. After a person has been thus suspended, the minister and elders should frequently converse with him, as well as pray for him in private, that it would please God to grant him repentance. And, especially in connection with celebrating the Lord's Supper, they should offer up public prayers for any who have shut themselves out from this holy communion.

7. When the judicatory is satisfied as to the reality of the repentance of any such suspended member, it shall permit him to profess his repentance, and restore him to fellowship (and/or, as appropriate, the privileges of office) in the presence of the church.

8. If a suspended person fails to manifest repentance for his offence, and continues in impenitence, it may become the duty of the judicatory to excommunicate (and/or, as appropriate, depose him from office) without further trial.

C. Excommunication and Deposition

1. When the judicatory has passed sentence imposing excommunication, with or without previous suspension, it is fitting that when the sentence is announced, it be in a gathering of the congregation.

2. The minister should then make a brief statement of the several steps which have been taken, with respect to the offender, announcing that the session has found it necessary to excommunicate him. He should begin by showing from Scripture (for example, Matthew 18:15-18 and 1 Corinthians 5:1-5) the power of the church to cast out unfaithful members. He should briefly explain the nature, use, and consequences of excommunication.

3. He shall then announce the censure. He may use the following or similar words:

Whereas [name] has by (his/her) own confession, or by sufficient proof (as the case may be), been found guilty of [here name the particular offence], and after much admonition and prayer refuses to hear the church and manifests no evidence of repentance; therefore, in the name and by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, (he/she) has been excluded from the communion of the church.

4. He may instruct and warn the congregation in the following or similar words:

Beloved congregation, [name] may no longer use the sacraments. (He/she) has no part any more in the spiritual blessings and benefits which Christ bestows upon his church. As long as (he/she) persists in sin, let (him/her) be to you as an unbeliever. We exhort you, beloved Christians, do not wash your hands of (him/her). On the contrary, pray for (him/her) with lamentation. Try to evangelize and warn (him/her) as you would a lost sheep. But do not associate with (him/her) as a fellow believer, that (he/she) may be ashamed and be brought to repentance. This excommunication, beloved, is a warning for us all. Let us fear the Lord and be cautious, for he who thinks he stands must take heed lest he fall. Continue in the true fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ, and also with all faithful believers, so that we may obtain eternal salvation. "Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith."

5. He should then lead the congregation in prayer for the conviction and reclaiming or gaining of the excommunicated person, and for the establishment of all true believers.

6. When an officer is to be deposed, these provisions should be appropriately modified.

D. Readmission of an Excommunicated Person

1. When an excommunicated person is so affected by his state that he is brought to repentance and desires to be readmitted to the privileges of the church, the session of the church which excommunicated him, being satisfied of the evidence of his repentance and contrition, shall proceed to readmit him. It is fitting that the sentence of restoration be openly pronounced by the minister in a service of public worship on the Lord's Day.

2. It is well that the elders stand with the minister before the congregation.

3. The minister may address the congregation in the following or similar words:

[Name] was excluded from the communion of the church, but (he/she) has now given satisfactory evidence of repentance to the session. Therefore, in the name and by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, we declare (him/her) absolved from the sentence of excommunication, and we do restore (him/her) to the communion of the church, that (he/she) may be a partaker of all the benefits of the Lord Jesus, to (his/her) eternal salvation.

4. The minister may then address the restored believer in these or similar words:

Beloved (brother/sister), be assured in your heart that the Lord himself has received you in grace. Be diligent to guard yourself against the subtleties of Satan, the wickedness of the world, and the folly of the flesh, lest you again become entangled in sin. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit again. I charge you to continue steadfastly in the confession which you have made, humbly relying upon the grace of God in the diligent use of the means of grace—especially the Word of God, the sacraments, and prayer.

5. The minister may then address the congregation in these or similar words:

Beloved Christians, receive this (brother/sister) in love. Rejoice and be thankful, for this (brother/sister) was dead and is alive. (He/she) was lost and is found. Rejoice with the angels, for our Lord Jesus said, "I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance" (Luke 15:7). Do not look on (him/her) any longer as a stranger, but as a fellow citizen with the saints and a member of the household of God.

6. The congregation should then be led in prayer. It is well in such prayer to thank and praise God for granting repentance and restoration to the one who has been restored; and to pray that he may grow in assurance and joy; that he may walk faithfully, and that just as he has previously caused grief, so now may he be the cause of great joy and edification; that God may graciously enable us to forgive and receive; and that he would enable us all to persevere in faith, hope, and love.

E. Other Censures

Censures other than indefinite suspension from church privileges, or deposition, or excommunication, shall be imposed in such manner as the judicatory may direct.

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