The Rules of Discipline Task Force presents the first draft of the proposed changes to the Rules of Discipline to the church for feedback. The draft is available for review online here. Feedback can be submitted using the online form that accompanies the draft until September 15, 2018. The task force is eager to receive comments and will use them to guide in final revision of the report, which is to be presented to the General Assembly in 2020.
The Rules of Discipline make up the fourth section of the Book of Order and provide the standards for accountability in the way individual members and the councils of the church carry out our life and witness. The bulk of the proposed changes to the Rules of Discipline are the task force’s attempts to simplify the document’s wording and organize it into processes that flow more smoothly and clearly, including the addition of new wording from various authoritative interpretations that are often quoted by judicial commissions in their rulings. At the same time, the proposal also includes several intentional changes to the current rules. Other proposed changes make it easier to elect members to permanent judicial commissions and provide for administrative review process.
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 that trust be restored within the community of faith.
In remediation processes, an additional preliminary question has been added, and the final question (related to stating a claim on which relief can be granted) has been significantly expanded. A section has also been added that would make declaratory relief optional (as opposed to mandatory).
The Rules of Discipline Task Force was created at the request of the 2016 General Assembly to respond to a request from Chicago Presbytery for a revision. It 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 alternate sentencing.”
The co-moderators of the General Assembly appointed task force members in late spring of 2017. The members are:
- Barbara Bundick, stated clerk, Chicago Presbytery;
- Greg Goodwiller, stated clerk, Presbytery of St. Andrew;
- Ruling elder Therese Howell, stated clerk, Presbytery of Middle Tennessee;
- Paige McRight, member of the permanent judicial commission, Central Florida Presbytery;
- Ruling Elder Doska Ross, retired stated clerk and executive of the Synod of Southern California and Hawaii;
- Donna Wells, stated clerk, Presbytery of Greater Atlanta.
The task force is staffed by Laurie Griffith, associate director of constitutional interpretation and Flor Velez-Diaz, manager, judicial process and social witness. Dan Saperstein is liaison from the Advisory Committee on the Constitution.
The task force has met seven times since its appointment, three times face to face and four times by electronic media. Members of the task force will be available at the General Assembly meeting in St. Louis in June of this year and will share the interim report on Saturday morning to anyone interested in dialogue about it; they will also meet with the Middle Governing Body Standing Committee to receive commissioners’ feedback on the proposed changes.
By Paige Maxwell McRight, for the Rules of Discipline Task Force
Click here to read the PROPOSED RULES OF DISCIPLINE
Presented by: Rules of Discipline Task Force