On the sad occasion that a church officer has been censured for scandalous conduct, “The Book of Church Order” currently allows a session or presbytery to restore the man, according to the following language:

“A deposed minister shall in no case be restored until it shall appear that the general sentiment of the Church is strongly in his favor, and demands his restoration; and then only by the court inflicting the censure, or with that court’s consent.”

According to Pacific Northwest Presbytery, a recent case illustrated that this language is subjective, confusing, and should be reevaluated. When a presbytery voted 19-17 to restore a deposed officer, the Standing Judicial Committee reversed the decision on the grounds that the vote did not seem to indicate “strong favor.”

Pacific Northwest Presbytery has submitted a recommendation to the 41st General Assembly to require a two-thirds majority vote to remove the censure of an officer who was deposed for scandalous conduct.

“It’s a joyous occasion when a censured officer has repented and is seeking restoration,” said Howard Donahoe, stated clerk for Pacific Northwest Presbytery. “But the ‘BCO’ is clear: The prerequisites are high. And they are also largely subjective. This overture seeks to set an objective and clear requirement in the restoration vote.”