In judicial discipline there are five degrees of censure: admonition, rebuke, suspension, deposition, and excommunication. Censures shall be pronounced by the moderator for the trial court in the name and by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, the church’s only Head and King.
If a person, adjudged guilty and remaining under the jurisdiction of this church, refuses or fails to present himself for censure, the trial court shall again cite the person to appear. If he does not appear after a second citation, the censure shall be imposed in his absence. Wilful refusal to appear may be deemed an aggravation of the original offense.
Admonition consists in tenderly and solemnly addressing the offender, placing his sin before him, warning him of his danger, and exhorting him to repentance and greater fidelity to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Rebuke is a form of censure more severe than admonition. It consists in setting forth the serious character of the offense, reproving the offender, and exhorting him to repentance and more perfect fidelity to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Suspension is a form of censure by which one is deprived of the privileges of communicant membership in the church, from office, or from both. It may be for a definite or an indefinite time. Suspension of an officer from the communion of the church shall always be accompanied with suspension from office, but the latter does not necessarily involve the former.
An office-bearer or other communicant member of the church, while under suspension, shall be the object of deep solicitude and earnest dealing to the end that he may be restored. When the trial court which pronounces the censure is satisfied of the penitence of the offender, or when the time of suspension has expired and no new offense has arisen, the censure shall be removed, and the offender shall be restored. This restoration shall be accompanied with solemn admonition. Restoration to the privileges of communion may take place without restoration to office.
Deposition of an officer consists in depriving him permanently of the exercise of his office, and may follow upon conviction of heresy or gross immorality.
Deposition of a pastor or his suspension for an indefinite time involves the dissolution of the pastoral tie. The sentence of deposition or suspension shall be read before the congregation, and the pulpit shall be declared vacant. In case of suspension for a limited period the presbytery shall decide whether the pastoral relation shall be dissolved.
When a minister has been deposed or has been suspended for an indefinite time, the court shall immediately notify all the presbyteries of the church.
Excommunication is the most severe form of censure and is resorted to only in cases of peculiar aggravation and persistent impenitence. It consists in solemnly excluding the offender from the communion of the visible church of Jesus Christ.
The suspension, deposition, or excommunication of an officer or other member of the church shall be announced to the church in which the officer concerned holds office, or in which the member concerned holds membership. Such announcement shall be accompanied with an urgent request for prayer for the offender to the end that he may be restored.
When, after the passing of a year, a suspended person has failed to repent, it may be the duty of the court to impose further censure and it may proceed to deposition or excommunication or both, after investigation of the present status of the person involved and consideration of the effect of the action upon the church.
The censures herein set forth shall always be accompanied with prayer to God that He may graciously use the act of discipline for the restoration of the offender, the edification of the church, and His own glory.
An officer deposed because of immoral conduct shall be restored only upon the most evident repentance, and after the court has assured itself that the restoration will not be attended by injury to the cause of the Gospel.
A minister, ruling elder, or deacon who has been lawfully deposed cannot resume his former office without again being ordained.
Restoration, which may be accomplished even after the extreme penalty of excommunication, shall always be accompanied with a prayer of thanksgiving to God for His redeeming grace.