Revised Access Policy | Presbyterian Historical Society

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Revised Access Policy

July 9, 2021

PHS is pleased to announce a revised access policy. Official denomination records at the national agency level that are more than 20 years old (i.e., dated 2001 or earlier) may now be used by researchers. This includes records of the Office of the General Assembly, the Presbyterian Mission Agency, the Presbyterian Foundation, Presbyterian Women, Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program, the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, the Board of Pensions, and their antecedent bodies.

This revised policy opens for research 30 years of material that would have been embargoed under the previous 50-year restriction on national agency records. PHS worked closely with the Office of the Stated Clerk and the Administrative Services Group to make these Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) records more accessible.

Police accountability study guide, 2001 [Pearl ID: 177050]. Access to PC(USA) records created after 1971 would have been restricted under our previous access policy. 

Researchers will now find it easier to review more recent records on contemporary social issues and significant events of the late 20th century. Providing unrestricted accessibility to a longer range of records is important for examining the past, particularly as we work towards greater racial, social, economic, and environmental justice. PHS hopes decreasing the restriction period on national-level denomination records from 50 years to 20 years will benefit researchers working on any number of topics, from foreign mission history to LGBTQIA+ rights to corporate responsibility.

While transparency is valued, so is privacy—medical, educational, and personnel records of living individuals are closed. National agency records less than 20 years old (dated 2002 to the present) require permission to access from a representative of the creating body or its legal successor. And congregation, presbytery, and synod records less than 50 years old (1972 to the present) remain closed unless permission to access them is secured from a representative of the body that owns the records. Unpublished records of Permanent Judicial Commissions, Administrative Commissions, and the JarvieCommonweal Service likewise fall under a 50-year restriction.

More information about our access policy is on our website: