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Colonial Cases

Murray v. Burgers, 1866

[church governance]

 

Murray v. Burgers

Judicial Committee of the Privy Council
1866
Source: The Times, 12 November, 1866


JUDICIAL COMMITTEE OF THE PRIVY COUNCIL, Nov. 10
(Present - Lord Westbury, Sir J. Colville, Sir E. V. Williams, and Sir L. Peel.)
MURRAY AND OTHERS v. BURGERS.
  This was an appeal from the Supreme Court of the Cape of Good Hope by the Rev. Andrew Murray, Moderator of the Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa, and other clergymen, in their capacity as members of the Synodial Committee for the year 1864, against the Rev. Thomas Francis  Burgers, the minister of a congregation at a place called Hanover, in the colony, to reverse a decision of the Supreme Court, setting aside  a judgment of the Spiritual Court on the doctrines by the respondent.
  Sir Roundell Palmer, Mr. N. Campbell (of the Scotch Bar), and Mr. Wickens were for the appellants; Mr. Coleridge, Q.C.; Mr. Fitzjames Stephens, and Mr. Westlake appeared for the respondent, the Rev. Mr. Burgers.
  The case, on the part pf the appellants, was commenced and concluded at the rising of the Committee. In 1862 the respondent was duly endowed minister of the Reformed Dutch Church, and noted as the minister of Hanover, belonging to the Presbytery of Granff Reinet. In October of that year one of the members of the Synod laid before it a complaint. It accused the respondent of promulgating and supporting in his parish opinions on four cardinal points wholly at variance with those of the Dutch Reformed Church. Subsequent proceedings took place, and in July last year the Synodial Committee delivered their judgment, to the effect that Mr. Burgers had been guilty of denying both the personal existence of the devil, and the sinfulness of Christ's human nature, as taught by the Word of God, and unless he retracted he would be suspended.
  In September, 1864, the respondent commenced an action against the appellant in his capacity as Moderator of the Synod, on the ground that the judgment of the Synodial Committee had been communicated to the Consistory and members of his congregation, and that thereby his right to occupy the pulpit and to continue to receive the emolument belonging to him as minister of Hanover was put in jeopardy. The judgment delivered by the Judge of the Supreme Court was in favour of the present respondent, deciding that the decree or sentence of the Synodial Commission of July, 1864, was null, void, and of no effect.  The appellants now alleged that the judgment of the Supreme Court was erroneous for several reasons, including the one that the sentence complained of, being a spiritual sentence, passed for a spiritual offence, against a member of the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa, by the highest spiritual court of that Church, was not liable to be altered, set aside, or impugned by the Supreme Court.
  Sir R. Palmer and Mr. N. Campbell addressed their Lordships in support of the appeal, and concluded at the rising of the Committee.
  The further proceedings were adjourned, and on the next sitting Mr. Coleridge, Q.C., will be heard on the part of the respondents.


Source: The Times, 13 November, 1866
 


MURRAY AND OTHERS v. BURGERS.
  This case, reported in The Times of yesterday, was resumed, and the arguments were concluded, when the Committee rose. It was an appeal from the Supreme Court of the Cape of Good Hope for setting aside a decision of a Spiritual Court on the doctrines taught by Mr. Burgers in his church, as minister of the Dutch Reformed Church.
  The case on the part of the respondent, Mr. Burgers, was opened on the present occasion. For the appellants it was contended by Sir Roundel Palmer and Mr. N. Campbell that the judgment of the Supreme Court was erroneous and should be reversed.
  Mr. Coleridge, Q.C., today addressed their Lordships for the respondent, and prayed the dismissal of the appeal. The respondent has alleged that the Spiritual Commission were not legally constituted when they heard his case, and declared his suspension unless he retracted, and in his answer he denied that the charges made against him were proved by the statements made.
  Mr. N. Campbell replied.
  Lord Westbury, at the conclusion of the argument, said the case was of so much interest, not only to the parties, but to the public, as to the mode of procedure, that their Lordships would consider the points urged before they gave judgment.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School