Delegates Nearly Deadlock over Disciplining Classes

It took two votes using two voting methods to pass R 17-51

Date Posted: 
Saturday, June 10, 2017

Tellers tally the votes the old-fashioned way.


Delegates were doubly deadlocked on R 17-51, passing the recommendation by just one vote twice and using two different voting methods.

R 17-51 instructs the Commission on Church Order to investigate amending the Book of Church Order (BCO) to provide for the discipline of a classis. The investigation will include consideration of discipline initiated by another classis. 

An initial vote using keypads passed 111-110 in favor of the recommendation, but one delegate mentioned that her voting keypad was not working, saying that her vote would have made the vote a tie. (The president and vice president of synod are both allowed to vote and may use their votes to make or break a tie. In this case, both had already voted on the recommendation.)

To ensure everyone’s vote was counted, the president decided to do a second vote “the old fashioned way,” calling for a division of the house. (That’s when delegates vote by standing.) 

Delegates in favor stood first; then those opposed. Once again, just one vote divided those in favor and those opposed, with 114 in favor and 113 opposed. So by a razor-thin margin, R 17-51 passed. 

What could R 17-51 change? 

Currently, the BCO includes procedures for the discipline of a member, elder, deacon, commissioned pastor, minister, General Synod professor, and a consistory, but not a classis. Additionally, RCA polity only allows complaints—not charges—against a classis and those complaints must be initiated from within a classis or an immediate lower assembly. The BCO does not provide judicial procedures to address issues unless they are internally initiated at the local level.

R 17-51 instructs the Commission on Church Order to investigate whether there is a constitutionally appropriate way to discipline a classis when discipline is not initiated at the local level. The commission will report its findings to General Synod 2018.

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