At the recommendation of the 40th General Assembly, Westminster Presbytery has modified its overture to add additional language to Book of Church Order 37-4.
Overture 10 would revise the BCO’s language on restoring an excommunicated member, making it clear that the Session that excommunicated the member should be the Session to restore the member. The overture argues that the BCO implies the original Session should restore an excommunicated member, but the revised language makes this authority explicitly clear.
Westminster Presbytery submitted a version of this overture to the 40th General Assembly; that Assembly returned it to the presbytery to clarify and perfect the language. Westminster Presbytery has added “Grounds” to the overture to clarify the intention of the amendment.
Westminster Presbytery Clerk Daniel Foreman said the presbytery wanted to clarify that the modified language would not negate BCO 37-7, which deals with how to proceed when an excommunicated member moves a great distance from the court of original jurisdiction.
“We revised it and added clarification … which will give the sense of what we’re intending to do. We’re not trying to say 37-7 can’t be done, but the court of original jurisdiction ultimately has the final say in that,” Foreman said.
Foreman, speaking on his own behalf and not for the presbytery, said he felt the overture “strengthens the process of discipline in order to keep the church pure and really bring true repentance about.” Without the clarifying language, Foreman said members who are excommunicated can move on to a new church, tell their side of the story, and be reinstated by a Session that does not have all the facts of the case.
“This [overture] will strengthen the disciplinary process of the church, and in turn promote the peace and purity of the church as that process is more effectively and properly administered,” he said.