Friday, September 12, 2014

A Remedial Case Against the ACC.

In case you are wondering if this blogpost is going to be about college football, the ACC in this instance refers to the General Assembly's Advisory Committee on the Constitution.

The Remedial Complaint, refers to the complaint that was just filed against the ACC by Cherokee Presbytery, three churches in Michigan, and one from Wisconsin.    The complaint is about this (all quotes in orange are from the remedial complaint itself):

That the ACC acted to instruct Assembly Committee 10 and then the plenary of the 221st General Assembly (2014) that the General Assembly had the authority to make an authoritative interpretation that effectively changes the plain and ordinary meaning the Directory of Worship and took other irregular actions after having previously instructed the General Assembly in writing that changes of that type cannot be done.  The outcome of the advice given by the ACC was that Assembly Committee 10 and General Assembly approved an authoritative interpretation that was and is in conflict with the provision of the Constitution being interpreted.
What that paragraph says is that the ACC reversed itself from the time it gave written guidance about the AI overture, to the time it was asked about the constitutionality of such a move at the Committee and at Plenary.

OK, so you're asking yourself why not just go after the AI if its felt to be unconstitutional.   Well, you see there's a slight problem.     There is no way to bring a remedial case against the General Assembly except by bringing one up to the NEXT General Assembly.    

That's right, there is no higher body to appeal to, unlike the US Government, where there's always the Supreme Court to go to in case the Legislative Branch overreaches when it writes a law.   In the Presbyterian System, the General Assembly is the final council/judiciary.     However, you may say, what about the GA Permanent Judicial Commission?    Ah yes .. what about it?      Note the very last work of the name of the GAPJC - Commission .    The GAPJC is, of itself, a commission of the General Assembly.    It, therefore, has no authority over the Assembly that created it.     It does have authority over the other commissions and committees that are created by the General Assembly, such as the Advisory Committee on the Constitution.

The complaint has a number of points, or irregularities, I'll cover two :
  • The actions of the ACC, that included and/or resulted in, the giving certain oral advice mentioned (previously in the complaint) to the Assembly Committee and/or plenary of the 221st General Assembly (2014) on item 10-03 constitued an irregularity.    Actions of the ACC that are alleged to be erroneous are proper subject for judicial review -- See Exhibit C1 - PJC 2008, 303, 218-03, Session of Palos Park v. ACC ("the propriety of the ACC's actions ... if alleged to be erroneous, are subject to judicial review by this Commission.") Alleged irregularities in Constitutionally mandated process are also proper subjects for judicial review. Id.
    Basically says that any meetings that may have occurred after the issuance of the written advice on the overture to the GA and before the oral advice given at the GA are irregular.  
  • The ACC committed irregularit(ies) when it acted to provide advice to the Assembly Committee and/or plenary of the 221st General Assembly (2014) on item 10-03 (and related items) that was contrary to existing Authoritative Interpretations and/or the sound and important principles of Church polity recited by the Report(s) of the Swearingen Commission (Exhibit A).  The ACC, for example, determined that the text of statements in the Constitution were "clear and unambiguous".  The ACC was also required by an existing AI to "exercise great care  to ensure that any interpretation remains true to the plain meaning and context of the provision interpreted."  See Exhibit I.  And, the ACC advised the Assembly Committee and plenary of the General Assembly that the Assembly may adopt an AI contrary to the "clear and unambiguous" meaning of the text.  Under such circumstances, the ACC's advice is a proper subject for judicial review.   To permit the ACC to act otherwise is tantamount to allowing the ACC to advocate for an amendment by indirection of the organic law of the Church.   Actions of the ACC that are alleged to be erroneous are proper subjects for judicial review. .... 

    What they're saying here is that the ACC violated an AI that required it to issue advice based on the existing text of the Constitution.  It also alleges that this also violated Presbyterian polity that had been in place for decades, and reiterated in the 1925 Swearingen Report.

There's a lot more to the complaint, and I can't include it all here.  Especially since its protected from standard cut and paste procedures.  I will be adding more information in later blog posts.    The full complaint text can be found here on

Suffice it to say that this complaint covers what I was talking about here when I wrote my blog post about the voting on the AI at the General Assembly, and what the Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Detroit, Ed Koster, had to say about it here.

I'll continue this on the next rock.

... and so it goes!