Appeals: Possible Responses
Wherever there is an appeal, there are two disagreeing parties. This implies that when a decision is rendered, one party will be ‘wrong’ and one will be ‘right’. The original decision is either maintained or rejected. What should the party considered to be ‘wrong’ now do?
In an attempt to keep things clear this article speaks of assemblies A, B, C, D, and E. Assembly A is the assembly taking the original decision. Assembly B judges appeals against A. Assembly C judges an appeal once B has considered an appeal concerning the matter. Assembly D judges an appeal once C has dealt with it, and Assembly E once Assembly D has dealt with it. In most situations A would be a consistory or council, B a classis, C a regional synod, D a general synod, and E the next general synod. If A is a classis, B would be a regional synod, C a general synod, and D & E following general synods. If A is a general synod, B would be the following general synod, etc.
Convinced or Not Convinced
The party that is considered wrong can either agree or disagree with the judgment. However, this does not mean there are two possible responses. There are in fact three.
The party that is ‘wrong’ can be convinced by the judgment. That party abides by the decision of the assembly of appeal.
The party that is ‘wrong’ may also disagree with the judgment. That party will then have to decide whether to acquiesce in the judgment or to appeal it.
The party will acquiesce in the judgment if it decides it is not wise or responsible to pursue the matter further. It might not be wise or responsible if the situation that gave rise to the original decision has changed. The matter might also be of such a nature that expending time and energy on it would be irresponsible as it would come at the expense of time and energy spent on other things.
- For example (1): A brother is placed under discipline for fraud (sin against the 8th commandment). He appeals the decision to classis and his appeal is upheld as classis judges there is insufficient proof for the charge. While consistory remains convinced fraud has taken place it realizes it is not able to procure more evidence. Consistory can then acquiesce in the decision of classis.
- For example (2): A classis decides to admit a church to the bond of churches. Church X disagrees and appeals this decision to Regional Synod. The appeal is upheld. Church X can then acquiesce in the decision of Regional Synod.
- For example (3): General Synod decides that, instead of classes making arrangements for needy church, a federal committee will do this. Church Y disagrees and appeals this decision to the next general synod. The appeal is not upheld. Church Y can then acquiesce in the decision.
Compliance & Non-compliance
If the party that is ‘wrong’ acquiesces in the decision made by the assembly of appeal, it should accept the consequences of the position held by the party that is ‘right’ and comply with it.
- Example (1) continued: The discipline is lifted. However, consistory could decide to a period of simple suspension for the sake of peace in the congregation.
- Example (2) continued: Church X continues to object but deals with the received church as a sister church in the bond of churches.
- Example (3) continued: Church Y continues to object to the system but pays the assessment.
However, the party may feel that while an appeal is unwise, non-compliance is legitimate. The (type of) assembly which took the original decision will have to determined whether non-compliance is appropriate. This implies that the party should request permission not to comply. (If permission is not granted, the party could then appeal that decision.)
- Example (1) continued: The discipline is lifted. Non-compliance is generally not proper. It may only be proper if the accusations are widely known. In such a case, a temporary simple suspension for the sake of peace in the congregation might be wise.
- Example (2) continued: Where it is possible Church X refuses to recognize the received church as a member church of the bond of churches. For example, if the received church should be a needy church, Church X may be excused from paying the classis assessment for needy churches. There will be situations where this is not possible; for example, at classis Church X will have to recognize delegates from the received church.
- Example (3) continued: Church Y is excused from paying the assessment.
If the party that is ‘wrong’ decides to appeal the decision, the process of appeal more or less repeats itself.
If the final stage of appeal has been reached, the party that is ‘wrong’ will have to decide whether to acquiesce or separate from the church or bond of churches.
For more details see The Process of Appeals.
When a party is considered ‘wrong’ during an appeals process it can do one of three things: be convinced by the judgment, disagree but acquiesce in the judgment, or submit another appeal. If the party acquiesces, it can comply with the decision or receive permission not to comply.
The last article in this series deals with the process of appeals.
 “In that case the way of protest and appeal is open, and ultimately, if need be, acquiescence under protest, or if the voice of conscience will not permit this, separation.” Van Dellen, Idzerd and Martin Monsma, The Church Order Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1949), p. 319.