Why “The Historic Polity of the PCA” Contends Against Approving the BCO 25-11 Amendment

The proposed amendment to BCO 25-11 should not be approved in light of the history of BCO 25. At the very least the amendment is attached to the wrong provision.

The Presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church in America are voting on a proposed amendment to BCO 25-11. This is amendment should not be approved in light of the history and unique circumstances of BCO 25. In their book, “The Historic Polity of the PCA,” Robert C. Cannada and W. Jack Williamson review and explain the importance of the PCA’s historic polity and why BCO 25 should stand as it is presently drafted. The excerpts show that BCO 25 is a carefully crafted provision, and that it should not be amended as proposed. At the very least, the amendment is attached to the wrong part of BCO 25 and distorts its intended purpose.

 

Excerpts from The Historic Polity of the PCA by Robert C. Cannada and W. Jack Williamson (1997).

This book was written by the primary authors of BCO 25; it sets out the foundational historical principles by which BCO 25 is to be understood and how they guide the interpretation of the particular provisions in BCO 25 and other parts of the BCO.

(From pages 32-38)

II.

An understanding of the polity of any denomination is vital to its stability. It should be understood clearly by all Teaching Elders, all Ruling Elders, all Deacons, and hopefully, all members within the denomination. To this end the following constitutes a discussion of church polity, in general, and the PCA polity in particular.

A.

The “polity” of a local church and a denomination is the name applied to the form of government of the local church and of the denomination. The following constitute a short definition of some of the terms that are used in discussing church polity:

Civil Law: The law established by a political entity (a division of the State) which is applicable to those within its powers or jurisdiction.

Entity: Something or someone with a separate and distinct existence.

Civil of Legal Entity: An entity that is recognized as an entity by civil law—by the State.

A local church in the PCA should form and control a legal or civil entity which entity is recognized by the State.

The recommendation is that each local church in the PCA form a nonprofit corporation—an entity that is recognized by the State.

A Presbytery in the PCA should form and control a legal or civil entity which is recognized by the State. The recommendation is that each Presbytery in the PCA form a nonprofit corporation.

The General Assembly of the PCA should form and control a legal or civil entity which is recognized by the State

Accordingly, the General Assembly of the PCA has formed a nonprofit Delaware corporation.

B.

The civil government (the civil courts) recognize only two forms of church government. (1) Hierarchical or Unified and (2) Congregational or Separated. The civil courts do not recognize a third form of church government, which is sometimes referred to as Presbyterian or Connectional, as a separate of distinct form of church government. The reasoning for this conclusion by the civil courts is obvious. If there is a legal or civil connection between the civil entities within a denomination, then the denomination has, as a matter of fact, a hierarchical government—there is a civil connection between the entities. In that situation the civil courts must analyze this civil connection and interpret the relationships between the entities based upon that civil connection. This is the procedure followed, and which must be followed, with respect to all denominations which have a civil connection between the civil entities. A determination must be made of the civil relationship between the entities which normally leads to one civil entity having, to some extent, control or powers over another civil entity. Thus, the government of a denomination which has civil connections between the civil entities within the denominations is, as a matter of fact, a hierarchical government. The civil courts simply recognize that fact.

On the other hand, if there is no civil connection or relationship between the civil entities within a denomination, then the government of the denomination is classified by the civil courts as congregational or separate. There simply is no civil connection between the civil entities within the denomination and, as a matter of fact, the denomination has a congregational or separated government. The civil courts do nothing more than recognize that fact.

Failure to take into consideration the fact that civil government only recognizes these two forms of church government has led to many problems in the historic Presbyterian denominations. Regardless of the language used in the Book of Church Order of a denomination, the civil courts have only recognized there two forms of denominational government. This fact has presented problems since there are instances where the civil courts are not certain, from the documents describing the polity of the denomination, as to whether the government of the denomination is hierarchical or congregational. This uncertainty has led the civil courts to look to the past practices of the civil entities within the denomination. Accordingly, there have been instances where the civil courts have made decisions based upon these past practices of the civil entities within the denomination rather than upon a finding based upon whether there is a written civil connection between the civil entities.

The argument that the Presbyterian polity is “connectional” rather than hierarchical or congregational has only led to the civil courts attempting to determine the nature of that “connection”—whether the connection is between the civil entities or between the ecclesiastical church courts. If the connection is between the civil connection is between the civil entities, then the polity is “hierarchical.” If the connection is between the church courts then the connection is spiritual and the polity of the denomination, from a civil standpoint, is congregational. It is just that simple and must be understood. Failure to understand this concept has led to litigation in not only the Presbyterian denominations but in many other denominations.

Accordingly, there must be an understanding as to what is meant by the terms “civil connection” and “civil power.” Civil powers come from the State (the civil government) and the coercive powers of that government are available to a legal entity recognized by the State. As an illustration, if there is a civil connection between the civil entity formed by the General Assembly and the civil entity formed by the Presbytery so that the civil entity formed by the General Assembly has “civil powers” over the civil entity formed by the Presbytery to do a certain thing and the Presbytery refuses to comply with that order, the General Assembly can go to the civil courts and the powers of the civil court are available to the General Assembly to force or coerce the Presbytery to comply with its order. If there is no civil connection between the civil entity formed by the General Assembly and the civil entity formed by the Presbytery, the General Assembly does not have any civil powers over the Presbytery and the General Assembly cannot go to civil court with the request that the civil court enforce its “order.”

With reference to the PCA, its needs to be understood that in the PCA there are three separate levels of legal or civil entities: (1) the legal entity formed by the local congregation, (2) the legal entity formed by the Presbytery and (3) the legal entity formed by the General Assembly. Each entity is freestanding and functions in accordance with its internal rules and procedures as authorized by the civil laws. The PCA is a denomination made up of local congregations, Presbyteries and a General Assembly, and with no civil “connection” between or among the civil entities formed by the local congregations, the Presbyteries or the General Assembly.

The thing that is special about the PCA is that there is a clear and vital spiritual connection between the Congregations, the Presbyteries and the General Assembly. Accordingly, it is entirely proper to designate the polity of the PCA as being “connectional” as long as it is made clear that the connection is a spiritual connection between the Congregations, the Presbyteries and the General Assembly and there is no connection of any kind between the civil entities formed by them. The members of the Congregations, the Presbyteries and the General Assembly make up the membership of the respective civil entities formed by them and are, therefore, in complete control of those civil entities. Accordingly, since there is this vital spiritual connection between the Congregations, the Presbyteries, and the General Assembly in the PCA and each has completely control of the civil entity formed by it, the PCA does not consist of a group of independent local churches that are free to teach and promote whatever they see fit to teach. If the local church is to be a part of the PCA then the local church is to preach, teach and promote the theology of the PCA. Failure to do that should lead to a dismissal of that local church from its Presbytery and thus from the denomination. This is accomplished, from a civil standpoint, by the members of the Presbytery acting through their civil entity and the civil courts will enforce the dismissal, if necessary.

This same concept applies to the relationship between the General Assembly and its presbyteries ans between a local church and its members.

C.

Since there is no civil connection in the PCA between the separate civil entities form by the local church, the Presbytery or the General Assembly, a local church does not lose control of its civil entity. If it continues to approve of the denomination and values its affiliation with this denomination, then it can stay in the denomination until or unless it is dismissed from membership by the Presbytery. By the same token, the local congregation can withdraw or leave the denomination at any time that it sees fit so to do by simply withdrawing from its Presbytery. Insofar as the PCA is concerned this is set forth in Chapter 25-11 of the BCO. One of the statements setting this forth is as follows. “As long as such action is taken in compliance with such applicable civil laws, then such shall be the action of the local congregation or local church.”

D.

In the PCA, the congregation, as such, the Presbytery, as such, and the General Assembly, as such, do not constitute and are not separate entities. That is, a congregation, a Presbytery or a General Assembly, as such, are not recognized as entities by the civil courts. They are nothing more than a group of individuals drawn together by a common purpose to be governed by a set of rules and regulations which they prescribe but which rules cannot be enforced by coercion or by the civil courts. The obeying or complying with these rules and regulations depends entirely upon the voluntary action of the people involved. The entities that are recognized by the civil courts are those corporations formed by the congregations, the presbyteries and the General Assembly.

Thus any action taken by the group of people, whether by the Congregation, a Presbytery or the General Assembly, when acting outside of and separate from the legal entity that has been formed by such a group of people, carries with it only such “power” as has been agreed to by the people.

In the PCA this “power” is described as “spiritual power.” This is, as an illustration, when the General Assembly addresses a deliverance or resolution to a Presbytery, the message carries with it the spiritual power ascribed to it by the Denomination. It is this “spiritual power” that is to be acknowledged and honored within the PCA. In the PCA a higher court should never send a deliverance or resolution to a lower court that be interpreted as though the higher court has coercive powers to enforce its message. The church courts, with the PCA, possess only spiritual powers and the church courts should be conscious of this face in any and all actions that they take and their actions should clearly reflect this fact. Such actions should be “only ministerial and declarative” and “must be purely moral and spiritual” (Preliminary Principles 7 & 8).

E.

In the PCA polity it is acknowledged that church courts may err. These church courts are to be distinguished from civil courts. As an illustration, the civil courts have the final authority and the final jurisdiction to make a decision which must be obeyed by the parties to whom it is addressed and can be enforced by the police powers of the state. On the other hand, /church courts in the PCA not only do not have the powers to physically require obedience to their messages but it is understood that the parties to whom the messages are addressed have the right, in fact they have the duty, to examine their own consciences and draw their own conclusions which may we may be in conflict with a message from the church court. The church courts do not have the power to bind the conscience of the individual.

Neither an individual nor a church court can be coerced through the civil court into abiding by and obeying a decision of a church court. This principle is clearly illustrated by the language in Chapter 25-11 of the Book of Church Order, as follows:

It is expressly recognized that each local congregation or local church shall be competent to function and to take actions covering the matters set forth herein as long as such action is in compliance with the civil laws with which said local congregation or local church must comply, and this right shall never be taken from said local congregation or local church without the express consent of and affirmative action of such local church or congregation.

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(From pages 43-48)

VI.

We suggest the following as a correct understanding of the PCA polity.

A.

The PCA has a polity in which the decisions of the higher courts carry the authority of the church, its spiritual power, and must be given a serious and careful consideration by the lower courts.

The decision of the higher court are to be respected and honored by the lower court in accord  with the concept of the exercise of spiritual powers. The PCA polity provides, however, that the higher courts have no civil authority over the lower courts.

B.

The concept expressed in 25-11 of the BCO dealing with the relationship between a Presbytery and its members is also the concept applicable to the relationship between a congregation and its members and between the General Assembly and the presbyteries. This is expressed in 25-11 as follows:

“Particular churches need remain in association with any court of this body only so long as they themselves so desire. The relationship is voluntary, based upon mutual love and confidence, and is in no sense to be maintained by the exercise of any force or coercion whatsoever. A particular church may withdraw from any court of this body at any time for reasons which seem to it sufficient.” (Emphasis added)

Likewise, a member of a congregation may withdraw from membership or may be dismissed from membership by appropriate action of the session, and a presbytery may withdraw from the PCA or may be dismissed by the General Assembly. This is in accord with the concept contained in the eight basic principles as approved by the first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America in 1789.

C.

The commitment of the PCA, from a constitutional standpoint, is to the fundamentals of the system of doctrine (the doctrinal standards) found in the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms and the commitment of the PCA, from a constitutional standpoint, is to the fundamentals of the system of government (the Form) found in the BCO. This is consistent interpretation. Accordingly, we are committed to the fundamentals of the system of polity or government found in the BCO but free to consider the procedural details as recommendations, advisory in character and helpful and to be seriously considered and respected but that strict adherence to the procedural provisions thereof is not obligatory. Each local church is unique and a provision which may be good for a local church with 25 members may not be workable for a church of 2,500 members. The higher court can always determine whether any deviations of a lower court are material and deal with them at the proper time and in the proper way.

D.

With reference to “church discipline” it seems to us that nothing more needs to be said other than to quote principle number 8 from the Preface to our BCO. That principle is as follows:

“If the preceding scriptural principles be steadfastly adhered to, the vigor and strictness of government and discipline, applied with pastoral prudence and Christian love, will contribute to the glory and well-being of the Church”; and “Ecclesiastical discipline must be purely moral or spiritual in its object.”

That concept has been supplemented by Chapter 27 of the BCO entitled “The Rules of Discipline.”

VII.

The concept of the relationship between the presbytery and the local church is the same concept that exists between the local church and its members as well as the General Assembly and its presbyteries.

We have always considered that the PCA polity is to be interpreted in light of the eight basic principles set forth in the Preface and that it was not necessary or even desirable to set forth with reference to the congregation and with reference to the Presbytery in Chapter 25 of the BCO. It was out thought at the time of the founding of the PCA and is our thinking now that the relation expressed as between the Presbytery and the local congregations sets forth the concept that should be practiced and is the concept that exists between the congregation and its members as well as the General Assembly and its presbyteries. We think the concept of the PCA is that we are a group of Christians who are drawn together and held together by what we believe and what we stand for and not by any force and coercion.

It seems to us that it is essential that the PCA members have a clear understanding as to this polity and be prepared to discuss its characteristics—its good points and its bad points—before any basic change is considered

CONCLUSION

From a purely legal perspective, that is, from a perspective of the civil laws of our nation, if a local congregation organizes a nonprofit corporation the only laws that the officers in that corporation are required to abide by and obey are the civil laws. The only rules and laws that will be enforced by the civil courts of the state are the civil laws of the state. The courts of the state, the civil courts, will not enforce spiritual laws of a denomination and this includes provisions of the Book of Church Order. Until and unless the civil courts of the state are convinced that the nonprofit corporation has agreed to abide by the rules and regulations set forth in the Book of Church Order and has agreed to permit the Presbytery and, if necessary, the General Assembly, to utilize the civil courts of the state to coerce the corporation into complying with the provisions of the Book of Church Order, then neither the Presbytery acting through its corporation, nor the General Assembly acting through its corporation, has any access to the Civil Courts of the States for that purpose. Membership in the denomination does not constitute such an agreement and if anyone seriously thinks that the Presbytery and/or the General Assembly has such authority then they should make this position known so that the matter can be faced and clarified. If the Presbytery or the General Assembly have such a power then they are vested with the “Power of the Sword” which concept the organizers of the PCA specifically rejected.

In short, in the PCA, the power and authority of the officers of a corporation to control the internal affairs of that corporation are limited only by the civil laws of the state in which the corporation is organized.

The PCA denomination is a spiritual organization and the power of those acting within the denomination, whether it be the General Assembly, a presbytery, or a local congregation, or some committee or commission, is purely and exclusively moral and spiritual. It is only when the officers are acting through a civil entity that their action involves the use of civil powers.

The civil power of the denomination is limited to removing the party from the denomination in the event a decision is made to the effect that this is for the best interest of the denomination. As an illustration, the congregation, acting through its corporation, can always remove a member; a presbytery acting through its corporation, can always remove a teaching elder member or a local church which is a member, and the General Assembly, acting thought its corporation, can always take the necessary action to withdraw its recognition of a presbytery which action will have the effect of dismissing the presbytery and all its members from the denomination.

This was the basic structure of the Presbyterian church when it was originally organized in the United States of America. What happened was that this structure was gradually changed I that the presbyteries acted as thought they had the power to order or coerce local congregations into taking certain internal actions. This was done over the period of many years with no objections by the Congregations so that some civil courts, when the issue was raised, reached the conclusion that by their actions the local congregations had agreed to be subject to the orders and directions of the presbyteries just as though the presbyteries actually had civil powers over them. Hence, some civil courts concluded that higher church courts could resort to the civil courts to enforce their “order” to a lower court.

Accordingly, it is essential, if this “polity” is to be maintained by the PCA, that the presbyteries, as an example, do not purport or act as if they have the civil powers to require or coerce a congregation to take any particular action. It is essential, in all actions in which the presbyteries address a congregation, that this be clearly identified as the exercise of a spiritual power and that it does not purport to act as though it has any civil powers over the congregation. The power of the civil entity formed by the presbytery to dismiss the congregation from its membership is a “power” that is of significance and the fact that this “power” does exist is all that is needed. If a lower court simply refuses to comply with a message from its higher court, then the lower court takes the risk of being dismissed from the denomination if the higher court concludes that compliance with its message is essential of the membership of the lower court in the denomination is to continue.

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(From pages 73-78)

IS THIS PCA POLITY UNIQUE?

The question has been raised as to whether this polity of the PCA is “unique.” Our response to this question is that the polity of the PCA, in our judgment, is in thorough  accord with the polity adopted by our Presbyterian forebears as they established this denomination in the United states of America. What is unique about the polity of the PCA, in our judgment, consists of the provisions adopted to maintain that polity. The Book of Church Order, in describing the polity adopted by the PCA, clearly sets forth and makes it clear that the church courts have only moral and spiritual powers. Their administrative and declaratory powers are moral and spiritual. In any attempt by a church court to exercise administrative or declarative powers over any other church court, it must be remembered and recognized that their statements, their “declarations” and any other directive can only be given in the exercise of these moral and spiritual powers. Accordingly, it is essential that this be made clear in every instance. No church court has the authority or power to call upon any civil authority to enforce upon a lower court any directive of the higher church court and no church court should pretend to use language that would indicate that it has such power. This means, of course, that a higher church court cannot actually act for, that is perform an act for, a lower church court. See Appendix 12 for the General Assembly approval of this principle.

In fact, as previously discussed, principle number seven of the eight principles set forth as the “Introduction” to “The Form of the Government and Discipline of the Presbyterian Church in the United states of America” adopted in the 1789 provided expressly that “no church judiciary ought to pretend to make laws.” Accordingly, a church should not pretend that it has legislative powers over another church court. This elimination of any civil powers over another civil entity by any civil entity in the denomination was clearly a basic and fundamental concept of Presbyterian polity when the Presbyterian Church in America was established in 1973. There are several provisions in the BCO of the PCA designed to maintain the polity based on that concept which provisions may be considered as “unique”; but the polity itself is the same as that adopted by the first General Assembly in 1789.

History reveals that since 1789, some Presbyterian denominations began to shift from this basic concept and the church courts in those denominations began to give “orders” or “directives” to lower church courts. There were interpreted as “civil orders” and were obeyed by the lower church courts without question. This practice led to some civil courts holding that even though this may be at variance with the specific provisions of the Book of Church Order of the denomination (that the church courts only possessed spiritual powers), these actions of the higher church courts and the failure to resist by the lower church courts led to the conclusion that higher church courts were acting within their authority within their authority in exercising civil authority over the lover church courts. Accordingly, it is important that the higher church courts not act as if or pretend in any manner that they have civil power over lower church courts.

This history presented a challenge to those organizing the new denomination known as the PCA. It wasn’t a question of having a different “polity” or a polity that was “Un-Presbyterian.” The challenge was devise a means and method to protect and preserve the polity as originally established for the Presbyterian Church in America in 1789. The basic approach adopted was (1) to go back and resurrect the Eight Basic Principles, (2) to reiterate in the Book of Church Order that the power of church courts was exclusively moral and spiritual, and (3) set forth what may be considered as “unique” specific provisions in Chapter 25 of the BCO. The provisions of Chapter 25 were designed to attempt to provide what was needed to maintain the polity of our forefathers which had been adopted by the PCA. A unique provision was the provision that any congregation could withdraw from the denomination at any time that it saw fit to do so and for any reason that it thought proper with the only requirement being that the congregation would, of course, have to comply with the civil laws under which its legal entity was organized. In other words, the denomination, as such, has no control over nor voice in the decision of the congregation to withdraw from the denomination. This decision is to be made by the members of the legal entity acting in accordance with the civil laws under which the legal entity was recognized as a legal entity.

This provision can truly be considered as being “unique.” It was not designed to change or alter the polity of the denomination, but was assigned to assist in maintaining the polity. If that concept is understood, then it can be used effectively to prevent the concentration of powers in the hands of the higher courts and, ultimately, in the hands of a limited number of people or the development of a “unified” polity or governance—the Episcopal or hierarchal type of government. On the other hand, if the Book of Church Order is used in such a way as to limit or circumscribe the power of the local congregation to be in control of and responsible for the conduct of its internal affairs, then this “unique” provision may be of little value in preventing this gravitation of power.

Another “unique” provision in Chapter 25 is the recognition of the fact that the PCA was created by congregations that had been organized and existed for years. These congregations bound themselves together in the PCA in a relationship which is voluntary, based upon mutual love and confidence, and in no sense to be maintained by the exercise of any force or coercion.

In our opinion, if the provisions of the BCO are changed or interpreted so as to limit or destroy the control of the congregation over its internal affairs then the basic polity of the PCA will have been changed. We submit that any such change or interpretation must be resisted. The “power,” as such, must remain in the local congregations and they must be challenged to assume the responsibilities that go with that “power.” In the PCA the legal entities are separate insofar as civil power is concerned—this concept is essential to its Form of Government. It does not have a unified form of government. In the event the desired objective cannot be accomplished by the exercise of moral and spiritual, then the legal entity, acting for the higher court, can exercise its civil powers to control its internal affairs which it obtained from the State and remove the legal entity formed by the lower court—and thus the lower court itself—from its membership. This is the ‘balance” that was designed by the founders of the PCA and must be preserved. In all actions of the higher court addressed to the lower court it must be made clear that the higher court is acting in the exercise its spiritual powers and it must never attempt or pretend to exercise any civil powers over the lower court. Nor should the denomination attempt to or pretend to legislate or pass laws pertaining to the internal affairs of a church court with the intent that the denomination can require the church court to comply therewith by, if necessary, “resorting” to the civil courts.

CONCLUDING THOUGHT

Every act by a church court can be designated as a spiritual or ecclesiastical act—certainly each such act has spiritual or ecclesiastical overtones. Therefore when the term “civil” is used in this paper it refers to an act that includes within it some exercise of civil power.

There is really no room for compromise with reference to the location of the “power” to control the internal affairs of a civil entity in this denomination. The denomination has either adopted a unified, prelatical or aristocratic Form of Government under which it has vested the higher church court with the “power of the sword” (civil powers) with respect to the lower church court; or it has adopted a separated or democratic Form of Government in which the power of the church court is exclusively spiritual. For example, if the denomination can require or coerce a congregation of a presbytery to do or perform some act that it does not want to do, or can act for the congregation of Presbytery if it refuses to act, then the denomination will have adopted a unified type of civil polity. The higher court in this case has the “power of the sword” and the question then is the extent of that power. If the more democratic form of Presbyterian polity with reference to the exercise of civil powers is to be maintained—separated powers as distinguished from unified power—then the power to control its internal affairs must remain in each civil entity. However, the lower court must voluntarily abide by those articles in the confession of Faith, the Catechisms, the Form of Government, the Rules of Discipline and the Directory for Worship that the higher court considers to be essential and necessary or expect to be dismissed from the denomination.

We believe that the following language sets forth the proper interpretation of PCA polity:

a. The power of a session of a local church, a presbytery and the General Assembly when acting as a church court is only ministerial and declarative but when acting through its civil entity they have access to the civil powers of the State to the extent necessary for their protection and security. No presbytery has any coercive or civil power over any session or local church and it should never act as if or pretend that it has such power. Likewise, the General Assembly has no coercive or civil power over any presbytery, and it should never act as if or pretend that it has such power. See Appendix 13 for a chart demonstrating this principle.

b. Church courts should be mindful of the fact that even though no other church court has any civil power over it and therefore they cannot be forced into complying with some provision in the Book of Church Order, Rules of Discipline or the Directory for Worship, the content of these documents has been adopted by the denomination for the guidance, instruction and use of its members and should be observed as near as circumstances will allow and Christian prudence direct.

c. Church Courts should respect the decisions of other church courts. Lower courts should comply with the applicable decisions of higher church courts subject to the ultimate guidance of the Scriptures and of Christian conscience. Each presbytery and each session has the power, acting through the civil entity that each has formed and organized, to dismiss members from its membership for such reason as it determines to be appropriate subject to the applicable civil laws of the State.

We again pose the question: Is this polity which was adopted by the PCA “Presbyterian” or “Un-Presbyterian”? We submit that it is “Presbyterian” and fully consistent with historic Presbyterianism. In addition it contains some unique features designed to assist in the maintenance of that polity.

It is our prayer that, with the blessings of Almighty God, the PCA will observe and protect this “Presbyterian Polity.”

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(From pages 169-170)

A portion from Appendix 12

This Committee worked many hours and days for two years and made its partial report and recommendations to the 14th General Assembly (1988). By a vote of 454 to 277 (62%-38%), the General Assembly adopted Exhibit A of the Committee’s Report, “The Philosophical and Theological Basis of Our PCA Structure.” This Exhibit A contained the following refining and clarifying language, to wit:

“…It seems that most confusion has arisen regarding the instances where proceedings of a lower court came under the supervision of a higher court…Much of this confusion seems to be over what authority the higher court has over the lower court to enforce its judgments and pronouncements. The courts of the PCA have a spiritual/moral relationship with one another with regard to their separate responsibilities, or accountability toward one another even though each of them does have a civil relationship with the state with regard to their property, charter of incorporation, and other state and/or federal laws…

(1) A higher court may not ‘act for’ a lower court.

(2) A higher court may “act on’ an issue or case properly before it relating to a lower court. In such instances, the lower court (a) ordinarily shall accept the lawful injunction of the higher court and “act thereon,’ or (b) possibly might withdraw from the fellowship under the higher court’s censure, or (c) possibly it might do nothing.

(3) In the event the lower court does nothing, by virtue of its ecclesiastical authority the higher court may (a) ignore the failure to act, or (b) counsel, advise, exhort, and urge the lower court to comply, or (c) reprimand or rebuke the lower court, or (d) suspend one or all of the ecclesiastical privileges of the lower court with reference to the higher courts—e.g., to overture or reference a matter to the higher courts, to vote upon amendments to the Standards, to vote at the higher courts, or (e) as a last resort ‘act against’ the lower court by dismissing it from the fellowship.”