Credit/Background Check for Ministers Transferring into PCA Proposed at Stated Clerks' Meeting

Group Hears that Church Court Minutes are Confidential, and Committee and Board Minutes are Privileged

The annual Presbytery Clerks' meeting was held in Atlanta on December 12-13, 1997. Among the significant matters discussed were the following:

The minutes for the meeting state that "Bylaws of Presbytery could cover transfer of new members via Commission rather than full Presbytery meeting." [How this suggestion would comport with certain Book of Church Order provisions which seem to imply that the Presbytery as such should act, is not immediately clear.-Ed.]

Dr. Paul R. Gilchrist discussed Dr. John Johnston's dissertation on the issue of "Predictive Factors Regarding Extra-Marital Relationships in Ministers", which document could be used by Shepherding Committees.

Those assembled unanimously passed a resolution honoring Paul Gilchrist upon the announcement of his retirement as General Assembly Stated Clerk.

Dr. Don Clements "raised a question if a credit/background check could be done in [the case of an] individual transferring in. (Will need to check the legal ramifications of this and if appropriate provide address of credit bureau to clerks)."

Regarding the keeping of records, a question was "raised as to the appropriateness of maintaining personnel files to keep record of person's call, examination, etc. There seems to be some value in having everything in one place. Question was asked as to the legality of such a file, i.e. privacy act." The Stated Clerk's Office "will check on this."

Mr. Lyle Lagasse of Rocky Mountain Presbytery raised the question of how "to protect the church when [the Committee on Review of Presbytery Records] makes recommendations regarding Presbyteries taking exceptions and recommendations are removed by GA, i.e. matter of Creation?" The response was: "You don't adopt doctrine by review of records or by judicial process. Appropriate ways to change or clarify are via overture (ref to BCO 14-7). 'Binding' in this context is on parties themselves. To be 'binding' on GA must be via overture to change BCO and WCF." [While it is true that doctrine is not "adopted" by review of records or by judicial process, it is also true that doctrine is properly enforced through those methods. Moreover, it is interesting to note that this terminology agrees with that which is found in the Minutes of the 25th General Assembly under the Committee on Review of Presbytery Records (CRPR) report. In noting that an exception to James River's minutes was struck with regard to a licentiate's view that Genesis 1 was a "poetic account", the Minutes read: "General Assembly has not made a definitive determination that there is only one possible interpretation of Genesis 1." In noting that an exception to New Jersey's minutes was struck with regard to an adopted document which allows for non-literal days of Creation, the Minutes state that the proposed exception "was ruled out of order by the Moderator because it is not a 'serious irregularity' (BCO 403), nor has General Assembly made a determination that there is only one possible interpretation to the length of days in Genesis 1." According to TE Grover Gunn, who chaired the CRPR at the Assembly, those editorial comments do not reflect the action by the Assembly, and Dr. Gilchrist last fall indicated to him that those Minutes will be corrected to remove those comments. (See also the Winter 1998 edition of Presbyterian Witness magazine.)-Ed.]

TE Joe Foreman of Pacific Presbytery "raised question dealing with rapid church growth bringing with it the tension of diluting the distinctives. [Dr. Gilchrist] responded that this reinforces the necessity to keep focus on teaching and training leadership in reformed distinctives. He mentioned the simplicity and value of the BCO."

The minutes read: "In response to a number of questions over the last few months from sessions regarding the confidentiality of records, this issue was discussed. [Reference] was made to Robert's Rules of Order (9th Edition, 1990) pg 451. 'Any member has a right to examine the minutes of the society at a reasonable time and place, but this privilege must not be abused to the annoyance of the secretary. The same principle applies to the minutes of boards and committees, their records being accessible to members of the boards and committees but to no others.'

"Larry Lunceford [of Heartland Presbytery] raised concern of confidentiality of and access to Presbytery records. The above reference is applicable."

[The Third General Assembly declared "that all Permanent Committee meetings may be attended by any member of the PCA and that such members shall be afforded a place on the Committee's docket when a request to do so is received by the Committee at least ten days before the Committee meeting, and that the dates of stated Committee meetings must be published at least 30 days prior to the meeting" (M3GA, p. 90). The minutes of meetings open to a broad constituency normally would be regarded as being public.

The Presbytery Stated Clerks' meeting has no official status. Nevertheless, its proceedings may be reflective of the thoughts of the General Assembly Stated Clerk and many of the Presbytery Stated Clerks.-Ed.]