40. The Removal of Censure

  1. A person who has been definitely suspended from Sacraments or office shall be restored by the court at the end of the term of his suspension by declaring words of the following import to him:

    “Whereas, You, ____________________, have been debarred from the Sacraments of the Church [and/or from the office of Minister or Ruling Elder or Deacon], but have now fulfilled the time of your censure, we, of the __________________ [Presbytery or Church Session] do hereby, in the name and by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, absolve you from the sentence of suspension and do restore you to participation in the Sacraments [and/or the exercise of your said office, and all the functions thereof].”

  2. After any person has been indefinitely suspended from the sacraments, it is proper that the rulers of the church should frequently converse with him as well as pray with him and for him, that it would please God to give him repentance.
  3. When the court shall be satisfied as to the reality of the repentance of an indefinitely suspended offender, he shall be admitted to profess his repentance, either in the presence of the court alone, or publicly, and be restored to the sacraments of the Church, and, if appropriate, to his office, if such be the judgment of the court, which restoration shall be declared to the penitent in words of the following import:

    “Whereas, You, _____________, have been debarred from the sacraments of the Church [and/or from the office of the Gospel Ministry or Ruling Eldership or Deaconship], but have now manifested such repentance as satisfies the church, we, the Session [or Presbytery] of ________________, do hereby, with great joy, in the name and by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ absolve you from the said sentence of suspension from the Sacraments [and/or your office], and do restore you to the full communion of the Church [and/or the exercise of your said office, and all the functions thereof].”

    After which there shall be prayer and thanksgiving.

  4. When an excommunicated person shall be so affected with his state as to be brought to repentance, and to desire to be readmitted to the communion of the Church, the Session, having obtained sufficient evidence of his sincere penitence, shall proceed to restore him. This may be done in the presence of the court, or of the congregation as seems best to the Session.

    On the day appointed for his restoration, the Minister shall call upon the excommunicated person, and propose to him in the presence of the court, or of the congregation, the following questions:

    “Do you, from a deep sense of your great wickedness, freely confess your sin in thus rebelling against God, and in refusing to hear His Church; and do you acknowledge that you have been in justice and mercy cut off from the communion of the Church? Answer.—I do.”

    “Do you now voluntarily profess your sincere repentance and contrition for your sin and obstinacy; and do you humbly ask the forgiveness of God and His Church? Answer.—I do.”

    “Do you sincerely promise, through divine grace, to live in all humbleness of mind and circumspection; and to endeavor to adorn by a holy life the doctrine of God our Savior? Answer.—I do.”

    Here the Minister shall give the penitent a suitable exhortation, encouraging and comforting him. Then he shall pronounce the sentence of restoration in the following or like words:

    “Whereas, You, _______________, have been shut out from the communion of the Church, but have now manifested such repentance as satisfies the Church; in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by His authority, we, the Session of this church, do declare you absolved from the sentence of excommunication formerly pronounced against you; and with great joy we do restore you to the communion of the Church, that you may be a partaker of all the benefits of the Lord Jesus to your eternal salvation.”

    The whole shall be concluded with prayer and thanksgiving.

  5. The restoration of a deposed officer, after public confession has been made in a manner similar to that prescribed in the case, of the removal of censure from an excommunicated person, shall be announced to him by the Moderator in the following form, namely:

    “Whereas, You, ______________, formerly a Minister of this Presbytery [or a Ruling Elder, or Deacon of this church], have been deposed from your office, but have now manifested such repentance as satisfies the Church; in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by His authority, we, the Presbytery of __________________, [or the Session of this church], do with great joy declare you absolved from the said sentence of deposition formerly pronounced against you; and we do furthermore restore you to your said office, and to the exercise of all the functions thereof, whenever you may be orderly called thereto.”

    After which there shall be prayer and thanksgiving, and the members of the court shall extend to him the right hand of fellowship.

  6. When a Ruling Elder or Deacon has been absolved from the censure of deposition, he cannot be allowed to resume the exercise of his office in the church without re-election by the people. The removal of deposition requires a three-fourths (3/4) vote of the court inflicting the censure, or a three-fourths (3/4) vote of the court to which the majority of the original court delegates that authority.
  7. When a person under censure shall remove to a part of the country remote from the court by which he was sentenced, and shall desire to profess repentance and obtain restoration, it shall be lawful for the court, if it deems it expedient, to transmit a certified copy of its proceedings to the Session (or Presbytery) where the delinquent resides, which shall take up the case and proceed with it as though it had originated with itself.
  8. In the restoration of a Minister who is under indefinite suspension from the Sacraments, and/or his office, or has been deposed, it is the duty of the Presbytery to proceed with great caution. It should first admit him to the sacraments, if he has been debarred from them, and afterwards should grant him the privilege of preaching on probation for a time, so as to test the sincerity of his repentance and the prospect of his usefulness, and when satisfied in these respects the Presbytery shall take steps to restore him to his office. But the case shall always be under judicial consideration until the sentence of restoration has been pronounced.
  9. In the case of the removal of censures from, or the restoration of, a minister, jurisdiction shall be as follows:
    1. If the censure(s) does not include excommunication, the presbytery inflicting the censure(s) shall retain the authority to remove the censure(s) and, at its discretion, restore him to office. This authority is retained by the presbytery even when a divested or deposed minister is assigned, under the provisions of BCO 49.7, to a session.
    2. If the censure includes excommunication, the penitent may only be restored to the communion of the church through a session (BCO 1.3; 7; 62, 63). Once the penitent is restored, and therefore a member of a local church, the authority to remove any other censure(s) in respect to office, concurrently imposed with that of excommunication shall belong to the court originally imposing such censure(s).

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