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the time, properly suspend him from special ordinances, not as their final act, but as a step towards it. For example : a member has often offended, and on the profession of repentance has often been restored. He offends again, and professes to repent. But the church are in doubt as to his sincerity, and think they ought to wait for a fuller exhibition of his character, that they may know whether they should restore him, or excommunicate him. During this season of trial, they may properly suspend him.
PROCESS OF DISCIPLINE.
1. An offence may be brought before a church, either by the complaint of individual members, or by common fame.
2. In order that a church may enter upon the consideration of an offence, it is indispensable, that the charges should be regularly presented, and the accused have a copy of each charge, and be cited to appear, at least a fortnight before the time of the meeting.
3. In exhibiting the charges, the times, places and circumstances should as far as practicable be stated, that the accused may be better able to meet them.
4. If the accused refuse to obey the first citation, he shall be cited a second time; and if he still refuse, the church may proceed to examine and issue the case, without his presence.
5. The trial of a member should be fair and impartial; and the witnesses should be examined in presence of the accused : and he should be permitted to ask any questions tending to his own exculpation.
6. The judgment shall be regularly recorded, and a copy allowed to the accused. If the charges against him are sustained, and he refuses to confess his guilt, and to manifest a spirit satisfactory to the church, they shall then proceed to admonish, or excommunicate him, as the degree of criminality may require.
7. In case of a remarkably gross and shocking offence, which is manifest to all, and not denied by the accused, and when the character of the church would suffer by
delay of sentence; a more summary process may be used.
1. The competence of any person to be a witness, and the weight of his testimony, must be left to the deliberate judgment of the church.
2. Either of the parties has a right to challenge witnesses for a sufficient cause; and the church should candidly consider and decide upon any exceptions taken.
3. The testimony of more than one witness is always necessary, to establish a charge against an elder or bishop. (1 Tim. v. 18.) And this rule should hold good in the case of private members, when the previous character of the accused is ground of presumption that his denial of the charge is as credible, as the witness's affirmation of it. Yet if several credible witnesses bear testimony to other similar acts, belonging to the same general charge, the crime may be considered as proved.
4. No witness, who is afterwards to be examined, shall, without the consent of both parties, be present during the examination of another witness, on the same case.
5. The church may allow oaths to be administered to the witness when in their judgment there are special and satisfactory reasons for it.
6. In examining witnesses and receiving testimony, the church shall conform, as far as circumstances will permit, to the established principles aud rules respecting evidence, which are observed in courts of law and equity.
7. A member of a church, refusing to appear as a witness when called for by the church, or refusing to testify when present, should be censured for contumacy.
1. The party or parties wishing for an ecclesiastical council, shall choose the members who are to compose it, from orthodox Congregational churches, with which they are in fellowship; and in the letter missive addressed to each of the churches invited, they shall make a definite
and full statement of the subject or subjects to be acted upon by the council.
2. The members of the council, when assembled, shall elect a moderator and a scribe or clerk. The duty of the moderator shall be to preside during the deliberations and transactions of the Council, and to preserve order, according to the common rules of ecclesiastical bodies, or according to the particular rules adopted by the Council. The duty of the scribe or clerk shall be to write the minutes of the transactions. There shall also be chosen a Register, whose duty it shall be to transcribe the records and minutes of the Council into a book,—which book shall be kept by him, or by the Register who may be chosen to succeed him.
3. The business which properly belongs to Ecclesiastical Councils is, to ordain and dismiss ministers of the gospel, to organize churches, and to act upon all matters of difficulty regularly brought before them.
4. To make any act of an Ecclesiastical Council valid, it must have a majority of the members present in its favor.
5. If it is found that a mutual council, when assembled, does not contain a majority of the churches invited, such council cannot properly act on the case submitted to them, unless the parties consent.
6. An Ecclesiastical Council, called to ordain or install a minister, shall examine the candidate for ordination or installation, in regard to his general qualifications for the office, and particularly in regard to his doctrinal belief and his evidence of personal piety; after which they shall determine by vote, whether they will proceed to set him apart to the work to which the church has invited him.
7. Every proposal for the dismission of a minister, whether on his part, or on the part of the church, shall be brought before an ecclesiastical Council, regularly convened for the purpose, who after a careful hearing of the case, shall decide on the question of his dismission.
8. If any minister or church member shall have cause of complaint against any minister of the gospel belonging to the Congregational order, and if after faithful Christian efforts in private he shall not obtain satisfaction; he shall
bring his complaint regularly before an Ecclesiastical Council, mutually chosen ; which Council shall go into a thorough examination of the charges brought against the minister, and shall decide whether he shall be pronounced innocent, or shall be admonished, or deposed.
9. The decision of the Council called for the trial of à minister shall be final, and shall be submitted to by all concerned, unless the minister or the party making the complaint against him shall, within four weeks, request a review by the same council, or shall appeal to another mutual council. If the appeal is made to another council, the appellate council shall be constituted in the usual manner. And the decision of this second council, or of the council that shall review the case, shall always be final, admitting of no further appeal, and shall be sustained and carried into effect by all other ministers and churches.
10. If the body of a church shall be guilty of heresy, disorderly conduct, or gross neglect of gospel precepts, it shall be the right and the duty of any minister or church acquainted with the offence, to make known to the offending church what is the ground of dissatisfaction, and shall labor in the spirit of love, for the removal of the offence. But if the offending church shall refuse to hearken to admonition and shall persist in the evil complained of, then the minister or church that has faithfully admonished them, may propose to bring the matter before an ecclesiastical council mutually chosen. And if the offending church shall refuse to join in such a council, the other party, whether a minister or church, may bring the matter before a regular council chosen by said minister or church. And if the offending church, having been seasonably cited to appear before such council for trial, shall refuse to appear, or shall refuse to put away the evil complained of, the council may declare the sentence of non-communion; and other ministers and churches shall join in sustaining and executing the sentence.
11. If any member of a church who has fallen under censure shall think himself injured, he shall have the right of appeal to a mutual council. And such council shall either approve and confirm the act of the church, or shall disapprove and reverse it; and this decision shall be final, if the parties previously agreed to this. If not,
then the result of the council shall be mere advice, and the church, having the full right of disciplining its own members, shall decide on the case ; and this decision of the church shall be final, admitting of no further appeal ; and no other churches shall do any thing to interfere with it.
12. A citation to a party complained of or appealed from, and also to witnesses, shall be made at least two weeks before the time appointed for the trial of the case by a council.
13. Any church member under censure shall give notice to the church of his intention to appeal, within one month after he was put under censure, and shall prosecute his appeal before a council within six months, or not at all.
14. If any person, whether minister or private Christian, who has been complained of to a regular council, and has had regular notification to appear before them, shall refuse or neglect to do so, he shall be judged guilty of scandalous contempt, and treated as such an offence requires.
15. If any pastor, who does not belong to any association, is apprehended to be guilty of an offence, it shall be the right and duty of any minister or private Christian acquainted with the case, to deal with him in private according to the spirit of the direction in Matt. xviii. And if the cause of offence be not removed, the case may be presented to the church of which he is a pastor, which church shall be considered as bound in duty to bring the matter for trial before a regular council. And if that church shall neglect to do so, they may be dealt with as a delinquent church. And in this case, it may be proposed to them and their pastor to bring the charge against them and against their pastor before a mutual council. If this is refused, the whole case may be brought before an ecclesiastical council, chosen by the complainant, which council shall judge what ought to be done.
16. If a Congregational minister not belonging to any association, and not connected as pastor with any church, shall be known to be guilty of heresy or immorality; any brother in the ministry acquainted with the offence, may,