3.4-7 Process of Discipline

SECTION 4. Parties in Cases of Process

ARTICLE 125. Judicial proceedings against alleged offenders shall be instituted only on accusation by a communicant member or by a judicatory finding it necessary to investigate an offense.

ARTICLE 126. When an individual brings an accusation, he is named as the accuser; and when an accusation is brought by a judicatory of the Church, “The Reformed Church in the United States” shall be named as accuser. The person or persons against whom the accusation is brought shall be named as the accused.

ARTICLE 127. When an accusation has been brought by a judicatory, it shall appoint a committee of one or more of its members to conduct the proceeding in all its stages until the final issue is reached; but the judicatory which appointed the committee of counsel may change it, and may also appoint assistant counsel in the case at any stage of the proceeding, the same privilege either of engaging other counsel or of engaging assistant counsel being accorded to the accused.

ARTICLE 128. In cases of alleged personal injuries, a proceeding shall not be allowed unless those means for reconciliation have been tried and have failed which are required by our Lord (Matt. 18:15-17).

SECTION 5. Charges and Specifications

ARTICLE 129. The charge or charges shall be in writing and shall set forth the alleged offense, and the specifications shall set forth the facts relied upon to sustain the charge or charges. Each offense shall be set forth as a separate charge; and each specification shall declare, as far as possible, the time, place and circumstances of the offense, and shall be accompanied with the names of the witnesses.

SECTION 6. Process and Trial

ARTICLE 130. When charges are made that an offense has been committed, they must be filed with the Stated Clerk or Secretary of the judicatory to which they are directed, who shall give one copy to the accuser and one to the accused. The Stated Clerk or Secretary shall immediately inform the President of the judicatory of the filing of the charges or accusations.

ARTICLE 131. If charges are made against the Stated Clerk or Secretary of the judicatory, they shall be filed with the presiding officer, and he shall proceed to perform the duties of the Stated Clerk or Secretary in the matter until another Stated Clerk or Secretary shall have been appointed for the occasion; and if they are made against the presiding officer, the Secretary or Stated Clerk shall proceed to perform the duties of the presiding officer in the matter until the judicatory can meet and appoint a presiding officer for the occasion.

ARTICLE 132. The President of the judicatory in which the charges have been filed, or in case of his disqualification the Stated Clerk or Secretary, shall call a meeting for the hearing of the case, in the manner and form in which such judicatory is usually called for the transaction of business. The Secretary or Stated Clerk, or in case of his disqualification the President, shall issue a citation according to the form prescribed by the Synod. Such citation and one of the copies of the charges, with the names of witnesses, shall be served on the accused at least thirty days before the trial, in person if possible, otherwise either by leaving them at his last known place of residence with an adult member of his family or household, or by mailing them in a certified letter with return receipt requested. The accuser also shall be notified of the time and place of the trial by the Stated Clerk or Secretary, or in the case of his disqualification by the President, at least ten days previous to the trial.

ARTICLE 133. If the accused refuses to obey the citation, he shall be cited a second time to appear at such time as the judicatory may deem reasonable, but not within less than ten days. If he still refuses to appear, not only shall he be liable for censure for contumacy, but the judicatory may proceed with the investigation and decision of the case as if he were present, in which case the judicatory shall appoint some person or persons to represent him as counsel.

ARTICLE 134. The President, or the Stated Clerk or Secretary of the judicatory which is to hear the case shall, when requested, issue citation to the witness or witnesses according to the form prescribed by the Synod.

Such citation shall be served upon each witness in like manner as provided in Article 132 for service of citation upon the accused. A person disobeying a citation thus issued and served is guilty of disobedience and contempt, and may for such offense be suspended (if a member of the Church) from the rights and privileges of the Church, or be reprimanded by the judicatory.

ARTICLE 135. The testimony of witnesses who, on account of distance, ill health, or other unavoidable circumstances, cannot appear at the trial of a case, may be taken by either party before a notary public or a justice of the peace, or before a member of the Church designated as a commissioner by the judicatory, provided the part in whose interest the testimony is taken notifies the opposite party, at least ten days previously, when and where the testimony is to be given, and what it is expected to prove. The opposite party may be present and cross-examine the witness, or may send questions for such cross-examination. The testimony thus taken may be read at any and all stages of the trial, provided the notary or justice or commissioner has certified thereto that said witnesses were duly qualified, and that the testimony is their testimony and was reduced to writing by him and was taken at the time and place specified in the notice.

ARTICLE 136. Trials shall be conducted in open or closed session, as the majority of the judicatory may determine. Trials for heresy shall be conducted in open session.

ARTICLE 137. An accuser may be represented by counsel, but only ministers and elders of the Reformed Church in the United States, in good and regular standing, shall appear as counsel in a judicatory.

ARTICLE 138. Exceptions to the jurisdiction of the judicatory, to the regularity of its organization, to the sufficiency of the charges and specifications, must be made at the meeting named in the citations, either before or after the charges are made. The judicatory shall determine all such preliminary objections, and may dismiss the case, or, in the furtherance of justice, may permit amendments to the specifications or charges which do not change their nature.

ARTICLE 139. If the proceedings are found in order and the charges and specifications are considered sufficient to put the accused on his defense, and there is not an acknowledgment of guilt, the trial shall proceed; but if the guilt is acknowledged, the judicatory shall pronounce sentence without further process of trial.

ARTICLE 140. The witnesses, after being sworn or affirmed by the President or by any member of the body whom he shall appoint, shall be examined, and, if desired, cross-examined; and other competent evidence may be presented. Questions as to order or evidence shall be decided by the President, subject to exception by either of the parties at the time the decision is rendered; and such decisions, if it is desired by either party, shall be entered upon the records of the case.

ARTICLE 141. All persons, including the accuser and the accused, are competent witnesses, except such as do not believe in the existence of God or in a future state of reward and punishment, or have not sufficient intelligence to understand the obligation of an oath. Any witness may be challenged for incompetency, and the judicatory shall decide the question.

ARTICLE 142. A member of the judicatory may be one of the witnesses in a case which comes before it. He shall be qualified as other witnesses are, and after having given his testimony may immediately resume his seat as a member of the judicatory, but shall not have a vote in the case in any of the judicatories of the Church.

ARTICLE 143. Exceptions to any of the rulings or proceedings in the trial may be taken by either of the parties, and shall be entered on the record to be available in case of an appeal.

ARTICLE 144. The charge or charges and specifications and the decision of the judicatory and the notice of appeal, if any, shall be entered on the minutes of the judicatory, all of which together with the evidence in the case duly filed and authenticated by the clerk of the judicatory shall constitute the record of the case. If demanded, copies of the record shall be promptly furnished to the parties at their expense.

ARTICLE 145. Decisions in judicial proceedings must be rendered by a majority vote of the members of the judicatory present during the entire progress of the trial. A separate vote must be taken on each charge. A sentence, however, of excommunication of a member, or of suspension or deposition of a minister, elder, or deacon from office, shall not be valid except by concurrence of two-thirds of the members voting. The decision and the sentence shall be publicly pronounced by the President in the judicatory at the conclusion of the proceedings. Motion for a new trial or for a mitigation of sentence shall be heard and decided immediately after the conclusion of the trial. Decisions, sentence, exceptions, motions and further proceedings on them, and notice of appeal shall be duly recorded in the minutes of the trial in the order in which they occur.

SECTION 7. References

ARTICLE 146. A reference is a submission of a pending matter by a lower to the next higher judicatory and may be made either for advice or for ultimate decision by such higher judicatory.

ARTICLE 147. In matters of reference members of the lower judicatory may vote in the higher judicatory.

ARTICLE 148. A judicatory may refuse to give final judgment in a matter of reference, and may remit the whole case either with or without advice to the lower judicatory.

ARTICLE 149. In all cases of reference the record of the proceedings in the lower judicatory shall be transmitted to the higher judicatory, and the judicatory to which a reference is made shall determine the method of procedure to be adopted for hearing and disposing of such reference.

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