Overtures Seek Clarity for Courts: Suncoast: Judicial Terms Need Clarification

Suncoast Florida Presbytery has submitted three overtures to the General Assembly that would add definitions for specific terms in the Book of Church Order. The new definitions would clarify which court has jurisdiction in the case of an appeal.

Bill Lyle, pastor of Marco Presbyterian Church, helped craft the overtures as a response to his experience on the Standing Judicial Committee (SJC). He said the SJC often wades through documents and evidence in appeals, only to discover the lower courts had never seen the new information the appellant has submitted to the SJC.

Once the SJC determines it is looking at information that should have been presented to the lower court, Lyle said, the SJC will typically remand the case to the original court, but that process can delay the case as long as six months or a year.

“In our opinion, it is unfair for a higher court to be looking at documents that the lower court has never seen,” he said.

Overtures 4, 5, and 6 add definitions for the terms “supporting reasons,” “reasons therefore,” “any papers bearing on the case,” and “papers bearing on the complaint,” as they are used in BCO 32, 42, and 43.

Because of the administrative nature of these overtures, Lyle expects no opposition at General Assembly.  The overtures simply emphasize the bottom-up nature of church government. “We are trying to give great deference to the lower courts by trying to define these terms,” he said.

To read the overture, please click here.

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