Update from the Review of Presbytery Records
By Staff
Review of Presbytery Records + apr

Editor’s note: ByFaith thanks the members of the committee for permitting us to observe their work and the warm reception which they extended throughout the week.

During its meeting this week, the Committee on the Review of Presbytery Records examined the minutes of the 88 presbyteries in the Presbyterian Church in America. The committee consists of 66 elders, each having been appointed to serve by their presbytery. The decisions of the committee will be considered and voted on by the upcoming General Assembly in Richmond. 

The committee started its work at 9 a.m. for three straight days, breaking for lunch and dinner provided by the Administrative Committee. Every session begins with a hymn, prayer, and reading of Scripture. The committee read through the entire book of Ephesians during the course of their business. Jon Anderson, pastor of Grace Community Church in Charlottesville, Virginia, served as chairman. 

Exceptions and citations 

In the PCA, the actions of lower courts are subject to the review of higher courts. RPR reviews the actions of presbyteries on behalf of the Assembly. By its nature, the committee functions as a quality control tool for the denomination. It inspects and notes items in need of correction and improvement. 

Specifically, the committee is tasked with examining the minutes of every presbytery for the following: 

  1. The presbytery’s conformity with the Scriptures as well as the constitution of the PCA.
  2. The presbytery’s conformity with the Assembly guidelines for keeping presbytery minutes. 

When the committee finds something that fails to confirm to the standards, it has to categorize the findings under one of the following categories:

  1. Exceptions of substance. These are matters which are deemed to be either violations of Scripture or serious irregularities from the PCA’s constitution. When the Assembly cites a presbytery with an exception of substance, the presbytery is required to provide a response.
  2. Exceptions of form. These are minor irregularities from a BCO provision or a violation of the guidelines for keeping presbytery minutes.The presbytery is not required to provide a response for these exceptions.
  3. Notations. These are typographical errors, misspellings, improper punctuation, and other variations. These notations are passed along to the presbytery clerk as advice. 

Of 88 presbyteries, the breakdown of citations is as follows:

  • 4 presbyteries had no notations, exceptions of form, or exceptions of substance.
  • 10 presbyteries were found to have no exceptions of substance, only exceptions of form and notations.
  • 72 presbyteries had at least one exception of substance in addition to exceptions of form and notations.
  • 2 presbyteries were not approved.

Here are some common exceptions of substance cited by the committee:

  • Notice for called meeting not in order.
  • Minutes of commission not properly entered.
  • Incomplete record of ordination exam.
  • No record of candidate’s endorsement by the session.
  • No record of report from TEs laboring out of bounds.
  • Candidate removed from rolls without explanation.
  • Stated differences not judged with prescribed categories.
  • Presbytery granted a doctrinal exception that appears to be out of accord with our system of doctrine.

40-5 Issues

A new pattern has emerged in recent years of RPR handling what is referred to as 40-5 issues. 

This has become a way used by individuals and churches to bring concerns about a presbytery to the attention of RPR. These are referred to as 40-5 issues because of BCO 40-5 in which the following statement is made:

When any court having appellate jurisdiction shall receive a credible report with respect to the court next below of any important delinquency or grossly unconstitutional proceedings of such court, the first step shall be to cite the court alleged to have offended to appear before the court having appellate jurisdiction … .

This year, RPR had three such reports brought before the committee. In each case, a letter was sent from a concerned individual reporting actions by a presbytery they believed to have violated the PCA’s constitution. 

  • In two cases (North Florida and North Georgia), RPR recommended that the Assembly not take up the report as an important delinquency or grossly unconstitutional proceeding.
  • In one case (Columbus Metro), RPR recommended that the Assembly cite the presbytery to respond to the report RPR received.

Metro New York Presbytery

Last year, the Assembly cited Metro New York Presbytery to appear before the SJC regarding a “grossly unconstitutional proceeding.” The presbytery appeared before the SJC, and the SJC gave the presbytery guidance on proper steps to address its violations and directed Metro New York to give a report to RPR regarding the steps that have been taken. 

The presbytery sent a report to RPR of its process since the prior Assembly. In its report, Metro New York noted that the pastor and the session of the church at the center of the issue informed the presbytery that they previously thought permitting a woman to deliver an occasional sermon was permissible. The church now realizes it is not constitutional, has changed its view, and has committed to proper compliance moving forward. 

RPR is recommending that the General Assembly find this response from Metro New York to be unsatisfactory. Committee members expressed concern that the presbytery failed to properly deal with a serious error confessed by the session and the pastor while also failing to adequately explore the views of the church’s pastor based on the information provided. 

Other Notable Issues

  1. Racial Quotas. RPR cited Missouri Presbytery with an exception of substance for setting racial quotas regarding membership for a presbytery committee. The presbytery’s standing rules state that Missouri must have at least one committee with a documented requirement regarding its racial composition. The presbytery is required to provide a response to RPR within the next year.
  2. South Coast Presbytery. The committee passed a recommendation to cite the presbytery to appear before the Standing Judicial Commission on account of its failure over the past three years to record whether candidates have stated differences or at least its failure to record the content of those stated differences.
  3. Korean Southwest: RPR decided to not approve the minutes of Korean Southwest Presbytery in their entirety. This decision stems from the quantity of exceptions of substances contained in the minutes. Additionally, RPR is recommending that the Assembly appoint a commission to assist the presbytery with improving its record keeping and addressing issues that have been cited over the past few years in need of correction.
  4. ByFaith Updates: The committee began its work with an hour-long discussion on whether or not to permit representatives from byFaith to be present during the meetings. After multiple motions, the committee decided to permit byFaith to be present and asked byFaith not to make any reports regarding the committee’s decisions until the committee concluded its business. The committee extended this same request to all committee members.
  5. Central Indiana: It was unclear whether the minutes provided to the committee had been properly approved by the presbytery. As a result, RPR recommended that the minutes provided not be approved. Instead, the RPR recommends asking Central Indiana to resubmit all 2023 minutes to next year’s Assembly for review with the minutes being properly approved and labeled.
  6. Assistant to Associate: It is somewhat regular for an assistant pastor at a church to be called by the same congregation as an associate pastor. When this happens, RPR debated whether the session is required to dissolve the minister’s call as an assistant pastor before the call as associate pastor can be approved. There is at least one instance in this year’s report where RPR cited the presbytery with an exception of substance for its failure to dissolve the call of an assistant in the process of becoming an associate at the same church.
  7. Minority Reports: On any of these actions taken by RPR, there is always the possibility of a minority report. A minority report is a report filed by at least six committee members within seven days of adjournment of the RPR meeting. When RPR presents its report to the Assembly, the minority report is also presented for consideration by the Assembly. As of the adjournment of business, no members of the committee had informed the chairman of their intention to file a minority report.

All the decisions and actions of RPR will be considered and acted upon by the 51st General Assembly at its upcoming meeting in Richmond, Virginia.


Scroll to Top