July 24, 2021 Q & A

Are Church Records Public?


Are the proceedings of trials held in church courts deemed public records?


The church has records at every level that may be either “open,” if describing business conducted in open session, or “closed,” if detailing matters dealt with in executive session (closed and restricted). The church itself is the sole determiner of this. There is nothing historically that externally mandates the church to disclose the records of her business to external parties, which is the implication of “public records.” Entities of the state may have records that are, by law, public, but the church is not thus compelled, except in corporate matters (FG 31). Of course, whenever and wherever the church is under persecution, she has not disclosed any of her records voluntarily to civil authorities.

Having said all that, it is customarily the case that “the judicatories of the church shall ordinarily sit with open doors” (BD 4.A.1.b), and always do so in cases of heresy (since this involves open teaching/writing). The judicatory may determine “by a vote of three-fourth of the members present to sit with closed doors” in any case in which “the ends of the discipline seem to require it.” It is the case that any decisions taken in executive session are “reported out” and recorded in the minutes taken in open session.

So the answer to your question is that trials are normally open and thus minutes would be available from the judicatory, unless it decided to conduct such in closed session.

I trust that this answers your question.



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