Will the Real Elephant Please Stand Up?

The Strategic Plan will be one of the items talked over at the General Assembly this year. Andrew Barnes has some thoughtful ideas on it here.

When I read it, I had a couple of thoughts. One is that the categorization seemed to me to label all the confessional guys as “extreme.” Now, not all confessionalists actually agreed with me on this interpretation. Some think that the document was only referring to perceptions of confessionalists. That may be the case. But to me, the tenor of the document still seemed to point in the direction of confessionalists needing to compromise their beliefs if there is to be any unity in our denomination.

Secondly, I thought that this document had rather more description than prescription. Surely the best prescription of unity in the PCA is agreement on doctrine, is it not? How can two walk together unless they are agreed? To my mind, although several elephants in the room were noticed in this document, the real issue of doctrinal agreement centering on the Bible as primary standard and the confession as secondary standard was not really addressed much. I don’t think any true unity can come without a thorough discussion of doctrinal agreement. Ministry priorities cannot be divorced from doctrinal commitments. For our ministry stems from our doctrine. If there is no agreement in doctrine, then there definitely will not be agreement in ministry.

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93 Comments

  1. Matt Beatty said,

    April 14, 2010 at 11:52 am

    Lane,

    Who was responsible for producing this report?

    Thanks,
    Matt

  2. greenbaggins said,

    April 14, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    The Strategic Planning Committee, I believe. I understand that Bryan Chapell was one of the main authors.

  3. Andy said,

    April 14, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    i haven’t read the document nor have I spoke with those who put it together but I can only guess they assumed we are all agreed on doctrine since we’ve all taken vows the same confession. I’m just guessing they are for doctrinal agreement but assumed it was already present.

  4. Reed Here said,

    April 14, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    Lane: as one whose take on this document was that it is rather meaningless in the long run:

    1. I agree with your descriptive vs. prescriptive explanation. I described it to some as an exercise in sociological reflection. It does have some intended biblical interaction. As such, it is not fair to call this a veneer. Yet it does not seem to effectively connect with the documents’s points.

    2. I also agree with your doctrinal observation. A problem I see is that there appears to be both a difference in terms of awareness of this, and a difference in terms of approach to this. On the former, I get the distinct impression from the document that doctrinal unity is assumed, or better that suffficient unity is assumed. I’m not sure this is helpful.

    On the second, I also wonder whether or not there are two dramatically different approaches to doing theology in the first place, the confessional approach, and an evangelical approach. If this is true, it will significantly hinder efforts to acheiving any real doctrinal unity.

    3. The only truly actionable item is the proposal for funding GA/stated clerk’s office. I do have some sympathy with that question, if not yet persuaded of the mechanism proposed. If I might make what I hope is an appropriate analogy, our congregations promise to relieve us from concern for our worldly needs so that we can give exclusive attention to their spiritual needs (i.e., they pay us so we don’t have to work in a secular job). Similarly, if we are asking the staff of GA to support the work of our denomination, it is right for us to ensure their support in that work.

    4. I think a more helpful level of discussion is actually one which opens a can of worms. It seems to me that we still have some rather broad disagreements over what GA is actually suposed to do for us. To this end, the SP actually is helpful in that it brings focus on the GA’s activities. Note the sample budget included in the SP. This provides a “nuts and bolts” view, one which can be used helpfully in such conversations.

    (This is properly extended to a broader conversation about all the committees. Note that the SP does actually bring up this discussion in the suggestion that some committees need to go.)

    In the end, I was given the impression that this is a tool more intended to speak to the non-confessional types in the denomination, as they are the ones feeling most marginalized. If this is true then I am willing to bend some, at least in terms of forms used to communicate. As a former evangelical refugee I do sincerely sympathize with such folk, and believe it is possible to speak in a manner that is both consistent with our confessional committments and is sympathetic to their (post) modern ears (I mean no disrespect, just observing characteristics).

  5. pduggie said,

    April 14, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    Theres a lot of detail on “safe places”. I guess that’s good. Wonder why they identified that as need for the PCA?

  6. Bobby Avant said,

    April 14, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    “safe places”.

    Why is there a need for safe places? maybe thats b/e there are blogs where your words can be taken completely out of context and then used against you by your own brethren.

  7. Reed Here said,

    April 14, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    O.k. Bobby, we do understand your frustration about a prior thread. Please, however, do not hijack other threads to pound your drum.

    This is not an invitation for a response comment, but a polite moderating request to cease and desist.

  8. Bobby Avant said,

    April 14, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    I don’t believe it is hijacking the thread but a perfectly reasonable answer to why some feel a need for “safe places.” Seemed a simple answer to Mr. pduggie
    The Higgins situation on this blog and esp. on Mr. White’s blog is however a good example of someone being misrepresented.

    But since you don’t want to discuss this thats my final word unless asked to respond.

  9. Lee said,

    April 14, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    I have to say that I agree with Lane. I think this document is aimed a lot at the Confessionalists. The “safe places” is clearly a shot at you guys who are stopping new things like women deacons and maybe even the FV.

    I do disagree a little with Lane that this is descriptive and not prescriptive. There are a lot of details at the end of who does what and who gets what money. I think that is the real important part of this document. It seems like if passed it will greatly increase the power of the GA and its committees. I think that is one of the goals, and explains why it complains of being underfunded as one of the problems in the current PCA. It never stops to ask whether or not people are withholding money because they disagree with the GA or because they do not think the GA committees ought to be doing that sort of stuff. It is just a lack of “connectionalism” for you to not pay what you owe the GA.

    Interesting reading for sure.

  10. Reed Here said,

    April 14, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    Bobby, no.8: no, that is your final word unless the thread is about that subject.

    Thanks.

  11. Scott said,

    April 14, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    I have only looked at parts of this.

    It seems to be a “top heavy” centralized approach to funding central functions, perhaps even bureaucracy. This is not the tone to be setting now, in the current economic downturn, and probably not as a way of going forward.

  12. Frank Aderholdt said,

    April 14, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    I’m a Ruling Elder in the PCA, scheduled to attend General Assembly this year. I’ve had limited time to read the SP today. I have experienced the following
    emotions, however, in this order: Disbelief, Shock, Disappointment, Anger. I need a good’s night sleep and some serious prayer before I can calm down enough to write intelligently. What a mess this thing is.

  13. April 14, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    A safe place is like one day a month where you can cheat on your wife and not sin.

  14. K. H. Acton said,

    April 14, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    One sad result that will occur immediately if the SP is passed/received at GA this year is a snub to our brethren in NAPARC. The last part of the document (the one I received at Twin Lakes anyway) calls into question the usefulness of membership in that body and implies that it lacks the evangelical priorities of the PCA. Though actually pulling out would take a separate vote of GA, it looks bad having those sentiments on an official document. I think they have forgotten our chaplaincy program.

  15. David Gray said,

    April 14, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    Anyone who’s been reading things like “By Faith” can’t be all that surprised. Interesting question is whether NAPARC might not be better off without the PCA.

  16. Paul Meyer said,

    April 14, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    It’s really remarkable that this document would advocate affirmative action to allow more minority pastors (theme 2, means #6 – let’s be honest: lowering the standards) and withdrawing from “organizations with whom we share doctrinal history, but not ministry priorities currently draining our ministry energies (e.g. NAPARC)”

    I know most people in the PCA want the denomination to have more cultural influence, but this is the most blatantly I’ve ever seen that presented.

  17. Paul Meyer said,

    April 14, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    David, I guess I haven’t been reading “By Faith”!

    Whether it would be better or not if the PCA left NAPARC I can’t say, but I do know that while the PCA is still in step with the other denominations soteriologically, it is by and large far afield in ecclesiology, as we can see from this document. NAPARC would occupy a smaller section of the theological spectrum without the PCA, but I think the PCA would be worse off without NAPARC. I used to be in a large PCA church but I’m now very happy in the OPC; the PCA still annoys me, but for its sake I don’t want it to leave.

  18. David Gray said,

    April 14, 2010 at 11:08 pm

    Having read the bulk of it now it is even worse than most here have suggested. Much of it reads as if it had been written by an unrepentant federal bureaucrat. It isn’t so much that they say that it is overtly hostile to confessional Presbyterians it is the fiber of the document and the thought patterns and organization therein that screams that it is anti-confessional. It is like By Faith with aspirations to having authority.

  19. jared said,

    April 14, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    K.H. Acton,

    Withdrawing from the NAPARC for the stated reasons seems like a legitimate avenue of discussion. If the NAPARC really isn’t “on board” with our ministry priorities then what purpose is served by diverting resources to such an organization when those resources could be put to better use?

    Lane,

    I think your second observation is an important one. I got the impression from the SP that sometime in the near future the PCA needs to hunker down and really examine the relevancy of maintaining a doctrinal standard that has remained (largely) unchanged since it was originally formulated. Cries about the Creeds remaining unchanged for even longer will fall on deaf ears for the mere fact that the Creeds were not meant to be comprehensive systematic formulations of the content of Scripture. I think the SP recognizes the essential role that doctrinal agreement plays in the PCA and I think there’s an implicit plea to “confessionalists” to recognize the need for something more “user friendly” than the WCF. This is not to say that we need to water (or dumb) it down; no, that certainly will not do. But there is a legitimate concern about the building of an ivory tower, one in which the caretakers are more concerned with its height and whiteness than they are about accessibility to that which it purports to contain.

  20. Jason Petterson said,

    April 15, 2010 at 1:33 am

    I suspect the suggestion to leave NAPARC is motivated by the MNA’s (read: PCA’s) desire to plant churches in the backyard of other current NAPARC denominations. I suspect the current comity agreement among NAPARC denominations is probably seen by some PCA ilk as being too constrictive and thus inhibiting the expansion of the PCA. More and more, the MNA appears to be the tail that wags the PCA dog. By the way, maybe we should call this “The Strategic Plan (of Union).”

  21. Dean B said,

    April 15, 2010 at 6:20 am

    Jared

    “I think the SP recognizes the essential role that doctrinal agreement plays in the PCA and I think there’s an implicit plea to “confessionalists” to recognize the need for something more “user friendly” than the WCF.”

    If your above observations are correct then you have identified what is wrong with the SP. Those who want a more “user friendly” version of a confession are going to come from those whose beliefs are outside the confessions.

    It appears the left leaning element in the PCA have a desire to be the right leaning element for evangelicals. Somehow they believe the only way to be the right leaning influence for evangelicals is to first become broadly evangelical.

    Once the PCA becomes just like any other evangelical then their will not be anything to offer. Or is this some grand bait and switch tactic where they act like we are broadly evangelical for a time to gain some street cred then after it is established they can begin to be known as the right leaning element.

    Exactly how is that going to work? Who is going to give the signal when they think they have gained enough street cred so they can be right leaning again?

    What is more likely? They will not gain the street cred they desire because they do in fact emphasize something different to these “Reformed movements” or these differences are not important enough right now and they will simply assimilate into these “Reformed movements”. If you think it is the former then why isn’t it possible right now under the current organizational structure? Is this whole SP nothing more than a marketing gimmick?

  22. Mike said,

    April 15, 2010 at 7:09 am

    I fear we will hardly recognize the PCA in a few years. I can’t understand why the term confessionalist elicits such emotional and theological hubris. Accept, teach,and love the Standards that we confess to be the system of doctrine found in God’s Word. We need a regulative principle of interpretation – wolves arise from within and our hearts our idol factories.

  23. Deb W said,

    April 15, 2010 at 8:41 am

    I agree with Mike. It appears, and I hope I’m wrong, that the PDC model is going denominational. very grieved.

  24. jared said,

    April 15, 2010 at 10:19 am

    Dean B,

    You say, “Those who want a more “user friendly” version of a confession are going to come from those whose beliefs are outside the confessions.” And this is simply not true, a base assertion. I don’t think the SP wants to dilute the Confession or it’s doctrinal content.

    Further, I don’t think the SP aims at making the PCA more broadly evangelical as much as it aims to identify and address valid challenges and obstacles faced by the broader evangelical community. Some of the issues facing evangelicalism are issues that face the Church proper and the PCA, as a branch of that Church, needs to have a plan for meeting and overcoming those issues.

    And to those who fear the PCA is falling out of sorts, notice that one of the primary strengths of the denomination is our doctrinal clarity and the strength of our preaching from the Word what that Word actually says. To threaten this would be to threaten the very heart of the PCA, something the SP clearly has not set out to accomplish.

  25. Dean B said,

    April 15, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    Jared

    “And this is simply not true, a base assertion. I don’t think the SP wants to dilute the Confession or it’s doctrinal content. ”

    I understand the SP did not say they wanted to change the doctrinal content. I was simply responding to your statement that the WCF was not “user friendly” and your suggestion to Lane that the Confessions were becoming irrelevant because they had not been changed. For this reason I began my post with “If your above observations are correct then you have identified what is wrong with the SP.”

    If you interpreted the SP to communicate the above then I am sure others interpreted it in the same way and hence my comments.

  26. Martin said,

    April 15, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    Been thinking about this a lot since we got the preview at TLF. I’m very interested in the subject as one who has a master’s in strategic management and also a deep-seated desire for the PCA to be boldly and enthusiastically Presbyterian, and confessionally so. DV I’ll be able to put my thoughts together in writing in the near future…

    As someone noted above, there’s not much actionable in it, which in reality doesn’t make it much of a strategic plan.

  27. TE Stephen Welch said,

    April 15, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    I have perused the document but have not digested it in detail. I have two observations. 1. I am somewhat skeptical of it and it raises a few red flags for me. I have real reservations with pulling out of NAPARC and some other ideas that are in it. 2. As Martin has already said there is not much in the way of action. I would think that if an organization was going to plan for the future you would have specific action statements. The PCA does need a strategic plan for the future, but it needs to be stated very clearly. There are no specific statements as to what we plan to do. All of us in the PCA are aware of the Cooperative Ministries Committee, especially if we heard the report given at the last GA, but many of us were not aware of this strategic plan until recently. I certainly do not like the idea of having to vote on parts of this plan in Nashville this summer, without knowing what it is all about. I think they need to present it and allow for delegates to study it until a future GA. It seems to me that it is being rushed too quickly.

  28. jared said,

    April 15, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    Dean B,

    Thanks for your clarifications. The SP doesn’t say it out right, but if pressed you could probably get the authors to agree: the WCF isn’t user friendly and that is a problem. It’s also one that could be easily rectified even without drawing up a completely new document. I don’t believe the Confession is irrelevant as to what it contains (for the most part), but it’s presentation and style are in dire need of an overhaul. This suggestion by the SP, either overtly or covertly, is not a fault. The Confessions, such as it is, is hardly (if ever) read at all by the layperson; don’t you think this is a problem? I shouldn’t have to conduct a small-group study in order to facilitate interaction with my denomination’s confession.

  29. Phil Derksen said,

    April 15, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    Most people here will likely already know this, but TE Wes White also has some informative things concerning this whole issue on his blog, including here (be sure to look at the combox discussion between Wes and TE? Dave Silvernail, a member of the AC commitee):

    http://johannesweslianus.blogspot.com/2010/04/is-this-your-strategic-plan-for-pca.html

    and here:

    http://johannesweslianus.blogspot.com/2010/04/current-state-of-pca-strategic-plan.html.

  30. Ron Henzel said,

    April 15, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    Yes, the hallmark of a good confession of faith must undoubtedly be its user-friendliness. Does it have an intuitive interface? How many apps does it have? Are all its peripherals plug-n-play and, preferably, wireless? Does it appeal to the right-brained emerging crowd? Does it make you want to look at it?

    These are all questions we should all ponder over our caffè mistos and blueberry oat bars in the places people go to be seen web surfing on free wi-fi connections with an iPod bud in each ear. Can we shun knowledge that takes actual effort to acquire? Yes we can!

  31. April 15, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    # 30, great post, Ron. We’ll discuss the subject in a contemporary art gallery in a PCA narthex sometime.

    You know, some years ago when the Marines decided to only hire tougher people willing to go through tougher training, for some reason they found it easier to recruit quality people than the other branches … I wonder why…

  32. jared said,

    April 15, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    Ron,

    Of course; how shallow of me. God forbid our doctrinal statements make sense to our laypeople (much less to those outside). May He further forbid them from desiring to read those statements as well. And you’re accusing the FV folks of being Romish?

    Your “thesis” that anything worth knowing requires effort should be considered especially false when it comes to theology.

  33. jeffhutchinson said,

    April 15, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    There are things worth knowing that don’t require any effort to learn? What things?

  34. Reed Here said,

    April 15, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    Jared: in my experience the average lay person does not have a problem reading and digesting the Confession. The problem is actually that they tend not to be encouraged to do so by their shepherds.

    Given that many of our newer members are evangelical refugees, the whole idea of a confession is a little foreign to them. Having been one myself, I find it helpful to introduce the Confession to them as a statement of faith (something they may be more familiar with).

    Using this, the Confession only seems to be a bit more detailed than they are used to seeing. It is not substantially more difficult to follow. For those who have some struggles with some of the language, there is always the parallel study version put out by the OPC.

    I appreciate the desire of your post. I just think you’re over-stating the matter. The Confession is not in dire need of overhaul. I think if we pastors made it more of a priority for our folks we’d be pleasently surprised how well they take to it.

    There is no better summary of the doctrine of Scripture anywhere. Succinct and thorough, carefully crafted to stick with the Bible’s teaching, the Confession is still the best tool of its kind available.

    (Said with no apologies to me three forms or reformed baptist brethren. I’ll not take offense when they claim the same for theirs.)

  35. Andy said,

    April 15, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    Still haven’t read the document but I think some of the driving force behind this is sociological. In other words, many of the people behind this and even the jargon quoted in this thread has a metropolitan aroma. I’d be interested to know how many people who have voiced opposition are presently serving in a major metro areas?

    I’m not tryIng to justify either side but I do think there is an often overlooked and under-appreciated sociological divide in the PCA as much as anything. The denomination that was once dominated by churches in small to medium sized southern towns has an increasing number of urbanites from all over.

    No setting is better than the other but each has its own pressures, idols, and dynamics.

  36. jared said,

    April 15, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    Reed,

    Fair enough.

    Ron,

    Sorry for the gumption. ;-)

  37. K. H. Acton said,

    April 15, 2010 at 10:40 pm

    Andy:
    Just about exactly, only I think outsiders may be unaware that the General Assembly does not represent the PCA (nor do the committees, which may be the real reason for the strategic plan). The PCA is really a federation (confederation?) of many different outlooks, sub-cultures, histories, etc. Even in the South some presbyteries are made up of churches that are separatist, some of Evangelicals (think Wheaton but Reformed, even confessional), some of churches that are culturally the old mainline (without the liberalism and varying degrees of confessionalism). They each have their ministry focus, but mutual trust and charity in the church has been increasing over the last few years and it is a shame that this Plan may threaten that. I don’t see the need in a plan. Why try to heard the faithful into one continental wide mission when the hand of Providence has placed us in such a varied patchwork vineyards? The unifying focus should be our common commitments, which are clearly set forth in our Standards. The Strategic Plan should address how each of us in all our vast array of circumstances can be more faithful to those documents that unify us.

  38. K. H. Acton said,

    April 15, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    By the way, this whole thing may just be a byFaith bailout plan. I know that they have not been getting the subscriptions they hoped for (none of my people liked the patronizing tone of the mag). One of the thing the “dues” is suppose to pay for is a “free” subscription for every family in the PCA.

  39. Ron Henzel said,

    April 16, 2010 at 4:42 am

    Jared,

    Regarding comment 32: I understand your reaction to what I wrote.

    Regarding comment 36: no problem!

    I think Reed has summed up my thinking on this matter with precision and style.

  40. GLW Johnson said,

    April 16, 2010 at 7:12 am

    After reading this thing as well as the always insightful analysis of Wes White ( and Andrew Barnes) I couldn’t help but be reminded of Andrew Potter’s most recent book, ‘The Authenticity Hoax: how We Got Lost Finding Ourselves’.

  41. Rob said,

    April 16, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    Andy (35),

    I agree. I have been in the PCA for about 12 years, but the churches have all been urban areas in the Midwest or Northeast. Among us urban PCA folk, there is a general sense that the GA’s machinery (e.g., SJC) is crippled by cronyism and corruption. I have no sympathies whatsoever for FV theology. On the other hand, the “Confessionalists” have handled this alleged controversy with all the sophistication of Boss Hogg and Roscoe P. Coltrane.

    For a lot of urban PCA folk, the “Hazzard County” feel of the PCA has led us to be a bit less excited about our affiliation. I like confessionalists. In fact, I like confessionalists a lot better than I like FV folk. But I don’t want to live in Hazzard County. So, if these bumbling efforts to “purify” the denomination continue, I can see a day when more of us start joining the EP (even though it’s got its own set of problems).

  42. Phil Derksen said,

    April 16, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    Rob #41,

    With all due respect, and despite your professed dislike of the FV, it seems that you are more concerned that efforts to remove it from the PCA fit the urban perception of being “sophisticated” or some such thing, rather than having the error itself actually removed.

    Here’s another of my hick perceptions (yes, I attend a PCA church in flyover country-Pennington County, SD, to be exact). While many FV’ers are in fact in urban churches, these same churches and their leadership have been rather heartbreakingly silent and inactive, and sometimes even resistant to any efforts to actually address the problem.

    I would hope that rather than simply frowning down upon and hurumphing at the efforts of those who are actually willing and brave enough to be on the messy front lines, more urban PCA’ers would unfold their arms and contribute something constructive to the fight.

    If you think there is a better way to go about things, then why not offer some specific suggestions? Or better yet, get off your seat, roll up your sleeves and show the so-called Boss Hogg’s of the denomination how to do things better.

  43. Ron Henzel said,

    April 16, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    Rob,

    I have been in touch personally with people on the SJC. You know not whereof you speak.

  44. Rob said,

    April 16, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    Phil,

    The absence of sophistication is not among my chief concerns. It’s the blatant corruption of the adjudicative process that is most galling. On several occasions, I have read blog posts or comments in which someone admits to discussing a pending disciplinary action with a member of the SJC. Assuming that these statements are true, why is anyone on the SJC engaging in ex parte communication with someone regarding a controversy that may someday come before the SJC? Why are de facto prosecutors conducting extramural (i.e., blog-based) campaigns against fellow pastors to try to sway the outcome of the judicial process? And why do the Confessionalists keep over-promising and under-delivering? After all, if you’re going to allege publicly that someone is a heretic, you better be ready to bring home the goods (i.e., something more than petty quibbling over semantics).

    Maybe I have a fundamental misunderstanding of the way that church courts operate. But as a former commercial litigator, I do know how the US federal courts operate. And I expect church courts to operate with the same degree of integrity, professionalism, and mutual respect as the bar of any federal district or appellate court. The peace and purity of the church depends on it. Further, just as we presume that the accused criminal is innocent until proven guilty, we should be equally as zealous to preserve the good name of fellow elders until they are found guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction.

    I am not aware of any FV teachers in my midst, although I suspect that you would define FV more broadly than I do. I also tend to see Presbyterianism as more of a grass roots movement. While we are all generally moored to the Westminster standards, we understand that our churches will take a different shape in different cultural soil. (Yes, I agree with Kline that the culture is religiously neutral.) Before I would stick my nose into the happenings of others’ presbyteries, I would want to see a consistent pattern of error over a number of years in that presbytery.

    In a way, I tend to believe that ends don’t justify means. When we pour our efforts into achieving an idealized result, our sin can allow us to justify a multitude of sins as we pursue our (dis)illusions of grandeur.

    In summary, I guess I’m willing to let things sort themselves out over the course of years. I fear that we in the PCA are often too quick to accuse and are also too quick to presume guilt in advance of a trial on the merits. Many are also too quick to disparage presbyteries when the process when it yields an unsatisfactory result. So, I guess I’m willing to “do things better” by holding my tongue, presuming innocence, weighing evidence and counter-evidence judiciously, and waiting to see if a case develops, always being mindful of the need to protect others’ good name.

    I will say, though, that I oppose the use of the SJC as a kind of super-presbytery. I would prefer that disciplinary appeals be handled by a manner more similar to how arbitration works, where both parties would have to reach agreement on the composition of the review panel.

  45. Rob said,

    April 17, 2010 at 12:09 am

    Ron,

    I have no doubts that the men who serve on the SJC believe that they are serving faithfully and well.

    I’m just saying that we urban dwellers up North have a contrary perception, although it’s fair to say that our perception may be skewed or wrong. But if that perception is pervasive–whether true or not–it spells problems for folks in Lawrenceville.

  46. Rick Phillips said,

    April 17, 2010 at 7:55 am

    Rob,

    I could not agree more that the ends do not justify the means. I would say that if you have legitimate concerns regarding the SJC and its procedures, then you should raise them through legitimate channels. Indeed, I would encourage you to do so. I am amazed, however, that you state that the confessionalists control the machinery of PCA governance. We are, in fact, almost completely disenfranchised from most of the organs of power, the SJC being the only exception that I can think of. Meanwhile, brother, do you not see your cultural slurs for what they are? Boss Hogg and Roscoe P. Coltrane? Frankly, you seem more eager to find ways of dismissing others than to understanding them. During my three years in South Carolina, I have heard zero references to Hazzard County (I assume this is Dukes of Hazzard, but I’m not really sure). Our people are not hicks and the smugness of your charactizations is frankly offensive. Imagine the outcry if a Southern Confessionalist were to dismiss Northeast church concerns by a comparison to Sex in the City? You say that the appearance of sophistication is not important to you, but this is evident in what you have actually written.

  47. Andrew Duggan said,

    April 17, 2010 at 7:59 am

    After all, if you’re going to allege publicly that someone is a heretic, you better be ready to bring home the goods (i.e., something more than petty quibbling over semantics).

    So it seems the FV is really not important, it is just “petty quibbling over semantics”, and the hicks should stop wasting the time of the PCA and SJC. Nice!

  48. April 17, 2010 at 8:58 am

    Rob,

    I’ve been avoiding this discussion because I’ve not yet had a chance to read the SP. However, I find your characterization of our brothers in Christ offensive. I was born and raised in Phila, PA, but am a strong confessionalist. Have I been somehow corrupted? I have friends on the SJC, in the Admin Committee, and other part of the PCA. Some have different accents than mine, but all are men of faith and integrity. Should I dismiss them because they may sound more like your caricature of “Hazzard County” than me?

    What would you say about our Korean and Chinese churches? We have both in our area. They are far more confessional that most in the PCA. They have a deep love and regard for the faith delivered. Are their oriental flavors and accents subject to your ridicule? Since they aren’t erudite urban sophisticates, should they be marginalized?

    Do you know the history of the SJC and why it was formed? Are you aware that its members are elected by the GA at large? If the GA doesn’t like the court’s makeup, just vote differently. If you are an officer in the church, you can do so this year at GA.

    I’m greatly troubled at the attitude that you display towards our brothers who may look and sound different than you.

  49. Andrew Duggan said,

    April 17, 2010 at 9:30 am

    We [the confessionalists] are, in fact, almost completely disenfranchised from most of the organs of power, the SJC being the only exception that I can think of.

    So the question is what are you going to do in 5 to 7 years when those who think the FV is “petty quibbling over semantics”, have made sure that the SJC has no confessionalists sympathies, the confessionalists are completely marginalized? How long will it be before the majority tires of the “petty quibbling over semantics”, which is already being painted as a distraction from real work and mission of the PCA?
    Some have already answered that, with the Clarence Macartney solution, they will just focus on doing their own local evangelism in their own congregations, and otherwise keep at least relatively quiet on the larger stage.

    So, unless the confessionalists are already quietly implementing a plan to recapture the PCA machinery, then it looks like the outcome will differ little from the PCUSA in the 1920′s and 30′s, since current events in the PCA seem eerily parallel to those of the PCUSA circa 1900-1920.

  50. Phil Derksen said,

    April 17, 2010 at 10:51 am

    Rob,

    The FV issue in the PCA is a far more serious matter than merely quibbling over semantics. I have made the point several times before on this blog and elsewhere, but it seems people easily forget (or ignore) the fact that the PCA has already “officially” determined that many FV doctrines are clearly un-scriptural, and hence harmful to the peace and purity of the church. Does this fact matter? I would also recommend brushing up on some recent church history by reading this article:

    http://thehappytr.blogspot.com/2009/10/decline-of-american-presbyterianism.html

    The SJC’s rulings in FV related cases certainly haven’t been reflective of any internal bias. Indeed, in order for it to be representative of the denomination’s determination at large, as expressed in the GA’s adoption of the FV report, then their rulings should generally be 21 to 1 (approx. 95%) in favor of making sure that those who persist in teaching FV errors are removed.

    It seems pretty clear to me that the real problem in dealing with the FV in the PCA is apathy and resistance, not the parsing of semantics or inappropriate vendettas.

  51. Andy said,

    April 17, 2010 at 11:35 am

    As someone raised on the Dukes of Hazzard, I will humorously note that the first time I ever attended a PCA presbytery meeting, the clerk was dressed identical to Boss Hogg, white suit with gold watch and chain. It was in the deep south and he could have easily won a Boss Hogg look-alike contest.

    I’m not trying to justify Rob’s analogy but find his reference to Hazzard a humorous providence. 10-4 good buddy.

  52. Rob said,

    April 17, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    Gentlemen,

    Thanks for the opportunity to engage. I’m just trying to give you a flavor of how many folks in growing urban churches in the North view the GA’s machinery. For most of us, we feel that the PCA works very well at the presbytery level, and are content to remain in the PCA for that reason. But if the SJC starts asserting itself as a kind of super-presbytery, then I suspect that some will see this as an infringement of local sovereignty. I’m not really interested in a “seat at the table” at GA or on the SJC, and I know of few who are. I’d simply settle for an overture that amended the BCO to limit the SJC’s jurisdiction, so as to ensure that individual presbyteries are given the opportunity to address issues in a manner that they believe fits best within their ministry context.

  53. Andy said,

    April 17, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    You may take offense at Rob’s analogy but don’t miss his main point: there is a significant sociological divide in the PCA and some of it involves perceptions, even false ones, by both sides.

    You may not think the PCA has cronyism but many urbanites do. It may be true that some of these urban churches have FV sympathizers in them but the perception of pastoral apathy in dealing with them is not necessarily a reality.

    I would say much of the present tension in the PCA is evidence of this. I can only guess that the “safe place” language in the strategic plan is meant to provide a forum to move us beyond our percetions to uncovering the realities of what is taught and practiced in settings different than our own.

  54. Reed Here said,

    April 17, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    Rob & Andy: as a born and raised northeastern (Philly area), I’m not all that familiar with what cronyism looks like. That might accounto for concern over the perception you propose is common among our urban brothers. I’d appreciate some more details as to how this expresses itself.

    I admit that there have been a few times when a blogger has referenced a contact with an SJC member prior to the settling of a particular matter. I note that these folks have been careful to observe that the SJC membe did not reveal any particular information to them. Still, I agree that such communications at least give an appearance that should be avoided.

    To go from such an example to suggest cronyism (crooked, good old boy, back-room dealings?) seems a bit over the top to me. Maybe you might give me some more insight (sincerely requested).

    As humorous as the good ole boys of Hazzrd County might, I cringe when I hear that even humorously applied to men under oath to God for their behavior. There’s not much funny about such a picture. If its called for, there is no laughing to be done, but rather sorrowing. If not, might not some other less perjorative and/or more correct terms be used?

  55. Rob said,

    April 17, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Phil,

    The local presbytery is the court of original jurisdiction for all disciplinary matters. The statements in the Study Committee Report cannot take the place of proper judicial process. Whenever someone is charged, the man is entitled–at a minimum–to face his accusers, clarify his positions, provide context for any past statements, present counter-evidence, and be judged by an impartial fact-finder. Period. Such procedural due process is central to historic Presbyterianism.

  56. Reed Here said,

    April 17, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    Rob: as to the appearance of impropriety in how the FV thing is playing out, I’ve heard it called lots of things. Probably the most unkind and unjust is “witch hunt.” Such an emotionally laden phrase is one of those thrown around with the effect of removing from the field all but the most committed and sometimes the truly rash and irresponsible.

    I know you did not use such a phrase, but your disdain (disgust?) for how you see the FV discussion playing out in the PCA seems to move in that direction.

    It appears you do not see the FV, even though you disagree with it, as something all that inimical, not that significant to the PCA. Clearly you do not see it as something as bad as denying the Trinity (overt heresy). Maybe you see it as mild as credo-baptism. or congretionalism? (I’m trying to guage your sense of the seriousness of the FV’s fault).

    Leave aside the original study committee process, as I do not think that discussion will go anywhere. Instead, take the adopted PCA report and coordinate it with the FV Joint Statement (arguably issued in response to said report). Here are some irenically asked questions for you:

    Suppose one of your brothers under vow to Christ (a TE or RE) has spent the better part of four yeard carefully reading, listening, and studying the subject.

    When this brother concludes that the FV fundamentally denies “the vitals” of our doctrinal standards, what should he do?

    If this brother concludes that the FV actually is hostile to justification by faith alone, what should such a brother do about his fellow brothers under vow who after the same period of time interacting with him, disagree and affirm the FV?

    Should the brother wait, not take any action? How long? When does he know he must take action? How does he know?

    Is he wrong to positively affirm his vows, that is take action consistent with his vow to abide by the strictures of BCO?

    I agree that too easily some of us confessionalist types look for boogey men in the minsitries of our urban brethren. It is unkind and unjust.

    I suggest brother that your characterization of the confessionalist types tends to do the same thing. I think in your expression of the frustration you feel with these things, you’re tending towards a characterization of your brothers that would not play out if you listened to them a little more fully and with some sympathy.

    Believe it or not, both sides really are motivated by what they believe is the most important thing(s) to be about in seeing the Kingdom of Christ advance. It is not as if either side wants to thwart that effort. Both are committed to the same cause, the same goal.

    Talking like this, I sometimes get the squinty eyed suspicious look from both sides. This is not new for me. When I was coming into the PCA (’99 – ’01) my presbytery worried that I might be another TR troublemaker. At the same time Iwas going through the MNA church planter assessment process. Those folks worried that my evangelical tendencies might get me squashed by some TR’s. I was blessed through that process to learn to listen better to both sides.

    We’re much closer than the extremes of either side truly see. And even with those extremes, I see in them the good will to actually listen to their opposites, and possibly even end up amening them on some things.

    By all means, please for the sake of understanding, spell out your frustrations and/or the frustrations you think are common to our brothers in your ministry setting. It will be helpful for us confessional types to hear and aknowledge any ways in which we are at fault. At the very least, it will help us understand “how” we’re being heard. I’m confident that we have the love of Christ sufficient to take such insights and correct/adjust our communication so that our urban brothers can better understand us.

    Maybe the Spirit would bless us to actually grow in unity, rather than apart.

  57. Reed Here said,

    April 17, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Rob, no. 55: do you see due process being thwarted anywhere in the PCA?

    Don’t think Phil disagrees with you.

  58. greenbaggins said,

    April 17, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    Rob, what would you do about a Presbytery that refuses to do its duty?

  59. Paul Meyer said,

    April 17, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    I don’t think that “confessionalist” / “non-confessionalist” is the best way to phrase the argument here. “Confessional,” at least as I understand it (which could be wrong), means more than just “opposed to FV theology.” Doctrines like justification are a huge part of it, but so are worship and missions.

    Confessional, as I understand it, means:

    - Highly valuing missions, but believing that the Great Commission was given to the church, not just to individual believers. Missionaries out to be sent out exclusively by the church/presbytery/denomination, not a parachurch missions agency, so that there is accountability and oversight from a body that actually has authority. Missionaries should primarily be ordained ministers, who seek to build local churches and eventually a local reformed denomination that we can have ecclesiastical relations with.

    - Similarly highly valuing evangelism here at home, but see that not as “by any/all means possible” but by the means God ordained in Scripture. This means that evangelism is done primarily by inviting our friends and neighbors and even strangers to come hear the word preached in the church, by catechising our children, and by planting conscientiously reformed, all-generational churches. We believe that God is sufficient to bring people to Himself through the means he has ordained. We don’t believe that we need to specifically target any group of people (minorities, the powerful or influential, etc.)

    - Also valuing mercy ministries, but not nearly to the extent that they overcome our focus on the church’s primary responsibilities of word and sacrament.

    - Emphasizing sound doctrine (orthodoxy), but not idolizing it (although this can be, of course, our weakness)

    - Believing that worship should be led by an ordained elder or pastor, not just by a guy (or girl) who’s musically gifted and “passionate”.

    - Not idolizing cultural relevance, not letting our churches grow to mammoth sizes so that a pastor is no longer able to shepherd his entire flock (anything larger than about 250 is too large in this sense (in my opinion)), and not idolizing celebrity pastors.

    I think these things, more than soteriology, is what this is all about. Soteriology definitely comes first and is most important, but worship, piety and missions are not “whatever works.” Scripture does indicate how these things should be done, even if 99.9% of American evangelicals disagree.

    Maybe more than anything this comes down to ask the question, “Why do I / do I not like Tim Keller?” If you would label yourself in this argument as “confessionalist,” you would certainly say something about how he is a little squishy on justification because he invited N.T. Wright to speak at a conference and because a few of his underlings have FV-leanings. I think he personally is solidly reformed soteriologically, though. But I think if we’re honest with ourselves, the far bigger reason why Tim Keller annoys us is that his ideas on what the church should do in terms of ecclesiology and missions are so different than ours.

    I guess my question whether you all would support this proposed strategic plan if it just was more (at all) emphatic about toeing the line against FV and other heresies. I would argue that even if it did it still wouldn’t be very confessional at all.

  60. Phil Derksen said,

    April 17, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    Reed #57,

    You are reading me correctly, and addressing many of the same issues that I would as the discussion has progressed.

    So while I kinda initiated some of this, at this point I am content to be an observer, and let the discourse be handled by others here who generally do a better job with these sorts of things than I tend to.

    Lane’s last question (58) is extremely pertinent.

  61. Ron Henzel said,

    April 17, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    Rob,

    I began writing this reply to your comment 44 not long after Andrew’s comment 47, and since then I’ve had to attend to other things. Now when I reload the page I see that much has been exchanged since then.

    In any case, you wrote:

    The absence of sophistication is not among my chief concerns. It’s the blatant corruption of the adjudicative process that is most galling.

    Wow! This is a pretty hefty charge. Would you mind providing specifics?

    You wrote:

    On several occasions, I have read blog posts or comments in which someone admits to discussing a pending disciplinary action with a member of the SJC.

    OK, this helps a bit, but it falls distinctly short of how I would define “specifics.” Who are these people making these posts? What did they explicitly say? Where can we find them?

    I have spoken on several occasions with two members of the SJC. At all times they have been careful not to discuss specifics of pending matters. I’ve heard a lot of charges against the SJC, but the one you raise now has not been one of them. One would think that the FV would have seized upon it by now and broadcast it to the four corners of the earth.

    You wrote:

    Assuming that these statements are true, [...]

    OK, you later identify yourself as a former corporate litigator. Please explain why we should make this assumption. If you were standing in a courtroom before a judge (and I realize we’re not doing that right now, but in a sense you are, after all, calling on us to reach the same verdict as you’ve reached), would you not raise a strong objection if the attorney on the other side of the case argued from his own assumption?

    You wrote:

    [...] why is anyone on the SJC engaging in ex parte communication with someone regarding a controversy that may someday come before the SJC? Why are de facto prosecutors conducting extramural (i.e., blog-based) campaigns against fellow pastors to try to sway the outcome of the judicial process?

    Again, would you not object to an argument from an unproven assumption? So I object to you doing it here. How is this any different in principle from the kind of rush to judgment that you accuse the anti-FV people of committing?

    You wrote:

    And why do the Confessionalists keep over-promising and under-delivering?

    With all due respect, you seem to be betraying a decidedly pro-FV bias at this point. (Note: this is different from saying that you are an adherent of the FV, although it leaves open that possibility.) Furthermore, I think your claim here needs to be evaluated against the fact that at least six NAPARC denominations (the OPC, PCA, RCUS, URCNA, OCRC, RPCNA) have officially found the FV to be outside the bounds of the Reformed confessional standards. In light of this, I hope you understand why confessionalists who have been making their case point-by-point for the past eight years would not give your particular evaluation of their success any weight at all.

    You wrote:

    After all, if you’re going to allege publicly that someone is a heretic, you better be ready to bring home the goods (i.e., something more than petty quibbling over semantics).

    Well, six denominations, along with various local presbyteries, seminaries, and so on, have concluded that there is more than enough evidence in FV writings to show that we are dealing with more than mere allegations and semantic issues here. The fact that you should characterize it in this fashion makes it appear that you have not adequately researched your case here.

    You wrote:

    Maybe I have a fundamental misunderstanding of the way that church courts operate. But as a former commercial litigator, I do know how the US federal courts operate.

    Well, perhaps you do have a fundamental misunderstanding on this point. You certainly seem to have several misunderstandings about this particular case. Perhaps you should inquire with those who know how church courts operate, as well as how they have handled the FV matter.

    You wrote:

    And I expect church courts to operate with the same degree of integrity, professionalism, and mutual respect as the bar of any federal district or appellate court. The peace and purity of the church depends on it.

    And, of course, you’re singing to the choir now. However, in the overall context of your comments you are, in fact, making an implicit charge (which you’ve already made explicitly) without presenting evidence. Is that ethical?

    You wrote:

    Further, just as we presume that the accused criminal is innocent until proven guilty, we should be equally as zealous to preserve the good name of fellow elders until they are found guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction.

    Are you aware of how many books, articles, blog posts, sermons, and videos have the Federal Visionists published in the past eight years for everyone to read? Did you already know before you wrote your comment how many Reformed denominations have condemned the FV as heretical according to the Reformed confessions and catechisms? This situation is not analogous to someone brought up on charges for a crime witnessed only by a few people. If you had taken the time to familiarize yourself with the paper trail, you would realize that it more than sufficiently demonstrates that not only was none of this was done in a corner, neither was any of it done in haste.

    You wrote:

    I am not aware of any FV teachers in my midst…

    I’m not aware of any in my midst, either, and I want to keep it that way.

    You wrote:

    …although I suspect that you would define FV more broadly than I do.

    In point of fact, we have been bending over backwards here to define the FV the same way its adherents define it, and proceed on that basis.

    You wrote:

    I also tend to see Presbyterianism as more of a grass roots movement. While we are all generally moored to the Westminster standards, we understand that our churches will take a different shape in different cultural soil. (Yes, I agree with Kline that the culture is religiously neutral.)

    While I’m sure it may be interesting to many how you view Presbyterianism, this has little bearing on how various Presbyterian denominations see themselves and their relationships to the Westminster Standards—which, apparently, at least six of them seem to take rather seriously. To what Presbyertianism may be considered “a grass roots movement” has no direct bearing on this matter. But if you’re correct, then it would seem to me to present a strong case that six major segments of this “grass roots movement” have categorically rejected the FV—unless you’re prepared to present evidence that in all six cases denominational processes were hijacked from their grassroots bases by corrupt manipulators.

    You wrote:

    Before I would stick my nose into the happenings of others’ presbyteries, I would want to see a consistent pattern of error over a number of years in that presbytery.

    I believe that this would be analogous to waiting to see a string of crimes before prosecuting one. But the issue here is not “the happenings of others’ presbyteries.” The issue is what ordained teaching elders in the PCA are publicly teaching, and whether or not it violates the Westminster Standards. This goes far beyond mere “happenings” in terms of category.

    You wrote:

    In a way, I tend to believe that ends don’t justify means. When we pour our efforts into achieving an idealized result, our sin can allow us to justify a multitude of sins as we pursue our (dis)illusions of grandeur.

    Since, once again, you continue to make implicit charges without backing them up with even the slightest evidence, I not only suspect that you are commenting unethically now, but also in virtual ignorance of the details of the actual FV discussion.

    You wrote:

    In summary, I guess I’m willing to let things sort themselves out over the course of years.

    Based on the quality of your contribution here, I think that would be a very good idea.

    You wrote:

    I fear that we in the PCA are often too quick to accuse and are also too quick to presume guilt in advance of a trial on the merits. Many are also too quick to disparage presbyteries when the process when it yields an unsatisfactory result.

    And you’re basing this on what specifically?

    You wrote:

    So, I guess I’m willing to “do things better” by holding my tongue, presuming innocence, weighing evidence and counter-evidence judiciously, and waiting to see if a case develops, always being mindful of the need to protect others’ good name.

    So then, the evidence needs to be in publication for how long, now, before it should be considered? Ten years? Twenty years?

    You wrote:

    I will say, though, that I oppose the use of the SJC as a kind of super-presbytery.

    You should define what you mean by “super-presbytery” and demonstrate how it is being used as one.

    You wrote:

    I would prefer that disciplinary appeals be handled by a manner more similar to how arbitration works, where both parties would have to reach agreement on the composition of the review panel.

    In other words, it seems you would prefer dealing with doctrinal matters as if they were on a par with contractual ones, and reduce the biblical mandate for elders to be on guard against those who would distort the truth of Scripture (Acts 20:28-31) to mere dispute resolution.

    To replace the current church court model for dealing with doctrinal violations with an arbitration model would have major corrosive ramifications that your suggestion fails to indicate. First of all, arbitration views any grievance it seeks to resolve between an offended party and an alleged offender only in terms of a “dispute” between those parties, one party of which is never the law or the state. This is why you cannot settle things like murder cases by arbitration.

    You can, however, submit things like contractual disputes (written, verbal, or implied) to arbitration. In fact, that’s what arbitration was designed for: primarily for resolving contractual disputes out of court. Thus the inevitable result of substituting arbitration for church courts would be to reduce violations of denominational doctrinal confessions to private disputes over interpretation under an implied contract that if we’re in the same denomination we should agree about this particular doctrinal interpretation.

    Now one may argue that this is all doctrinal disputes are in the first place, but that would be incorrect, because we are specifically talking about “disciplinary appeals,” and by the time a doctrinal issue becomes a disciplinary appeal, a church session has already decided that it is not merely a disagreement between two parties. They have concluded either that the teaching in question is in conformity to the standards or not in conformity to them, making it a question of the relationship between the teaching and the standards rather than a question of two people who disagree. Thus arbitration would be entirely inappropriate, because now the question is no longer how we can resolve a disagreement between two parties, but whether the session correctly defined the relationship of the teaching to the standards.

    So one might argue, “There’s the real problem: local church sessions should actually begin the process of dealing with doctrinal disputes on the basis of an arbitration model so that appeals can be handled in like manner.” But his totally misconstrues the relationship between the church and the denomination where, in the PCA (and I am sure similarly in other Reformed denominations) the elders are charged with ensuring “that no corruption of doctrine or of morals enter[s]” the church (BCO 8-3) and church courts are empowered to “bear testimony against error in doctrine and immorality in practice” (BCO 11-2) as defined by Scripture with the understanding that the WCF, WLC and WSC constitute Scripture’s standard exposition for purposes of doctrine and practice (BCO 29-1). This is completely in keeping with the responsibility of elders before God.

  62. Andy said,

    April 17, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    In this thread, people keep referring to GA’s FV report and reccommendations from a few years ago. The way it is referred to makes it sound like law. My understanding of it and all other study committee reports is that it is “pious advice” and only the opinion of that GA.

    I was on the Overtures Committee during this process and this was how many of the PCA statesmen described it. Perhaps I am in error and someone can graciously correct me. If it is advice, then presbyters are bound to listen but not obligated to reach the same conclusion.

    If I recall correctly, Coffin feared that people would use it as the law of the land and not do the hard work of working through these matters on the local level.

  63. Rob said,

    April 17, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Reed,

    I appreciate your comments.

    I intended to refer to the PCA’s adopted Report. Sorry for the lack of clarity. Still, the adoption of that Report by the GA cannot supplant the need for judicial process in a forum where a man is able to face his accusers and speak for himself. If someone signed the Joint FV Statement without qualification, then that Statement is admissible evidence. But it is simply wrong to imply that someone within your communion is a heretic when he’s not been convicted of such.

    You ask whether I think that FV is “serious”? I don’t see the relevance of that. I will say that I do not believe that it is so serious that we can need to dispense with proper judicial process. After all, there’s a big difference between criticizing FV in the abstract and having to prove that a particular man holds to unorthodox views. Confessionalists clearly have an FV caricature in mind when they critique the movement. But if that caricature does not accurately describe the views of any TE in the PCA, then I dare say FV is not serious (at least insofar as the PCA is concerned). But you’ve got to examine the man (on a case-by-case basis) to see that the caricature fits. The GA Report was never intended to supplant the work of presbyteries or to infringe the rights of the accused to enjoy the full benefits of procedural due process.

    I agree with Andy that there is a sociological divide in the PCA. I don’t see that we’re going to change that. The best solution is to let local presbyteries make the judgments that they feel are best within their context.

  64. Rob said,

    April 17, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    Ron,

    As I said in response to you last night, I’m conveying the perception that a lot of urban PCA folk have. I also gave you the reasons why they have those perceptions. I even explained to you that I’m open to the notion that those perceptions may be inaccurate. I am making no charge against the GA or any of its committees. I’m just explaining why many urban PCA folks feel disenfranchised from the GA and the SJC. I thought that I made that clear.

    I also stated that I do not support FV. So, please take my words at face value, and do not presume that I’m lying.

    You make a good point about what to do when a presbytery consistently shirks its duty. I think that you have assessed my position correctly. If a particular presbytery demonstrates a pattern in which it fails to prosecute false teachers, then I believe that the GA would need to exclude the presbytery in its entirety. In this sense, justice would be delayed for those who were improperly exonerated by that presbytery in earlier proceedings (as the act of excluding the presbytery from the PCA would also have the effect of excluding the improperly exonerated members of the presbytery).

    Regarding arbitration, I was merely referring to the process of selecting membership on the panel. I was not proposing that the substantive rules of arbitration be employed. Sorry for not making that clear.

    Also, you still seem to be confusing GA Reports with trials. The adoption of the GA Report did not supplant the need for trials at the presbytery level.

    I’m done for the day. Godspeed.

  65. Ron Henzel said,

    April 17, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    Rob,

    In comment 64, you wrote:

    As I said in response to you last night, I’m conveying the perception that a lot of urban PCA folk have.

    Well, I hate to nit-pick, but what you actually said last night, in comment 45, was:

    I’m just saying that we urban dwellers up North have a contrary perception, although it’s fair to say that our perception may be skewed or wrong.

    So, no, you appeared to be conveying your own perception which you claimed is in keeping with the general consensus among northern urban PCA members, although you did not explain you obtained the representative sampling of the “general sense” of so many churches.

    You wrote:

    I also gave you the reasons why they have those perceptions.

    In the absence of hard data, and despite your current attempts to switch from first-person to third-person personal pronouns, I frankly think that what you were actually giving us were the reasons you and perhaps a few of your friends and acquaintances have those perceptions.

    You wrote:

    I even explained to you that I’m open to the notion that those perceptions may be inaccurate. I am making no charge against the GA or any of its committees.

    You are making no charge against the GA or any of its committees except, of course, “the blatant corruption of the adjudicative process” (comment 44)?

    You wrote:

    I’m just explaining why many urban PCA folks feel disenfranchised from the GA and the SJC. I thought that I made that clear.

    No, you didn’t make that clear at all. It was actually Rick was the one who claimed disenfranchisement—of confessionalists!—in comment 46. You can count me as skeptical of the notion that northern urban PCA churches, as, for instance, Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia or Tim Keller’s Reedemer Presbyterian in New York have been disenfranchised at the national level. That’s a tough sell for me.

    You wrote:

    I also stated that I do not support FV. So, please take my words at face value, and do not presume that I’m lying.

    Fair enough.

    You wrote:

    You make a good point about what to do when a presbytery consistently shirks its duty. I think that you have assessed my position correctly. If a particular presbytery demonstrates a pattern in which it fails to prosecute false teachers, then I believe that the GA would need to exclude the presbytery in its entirety. In this sense, justice would be delayed for those who were improperly exonerated by that presbytery in earlier proceedings (as the act of excluding the presbytery from the PCA would also have the effect of excluding the improperly exonerated members of the presbytery).

    This part seems to be addressed to Lane’s comment 58 rather than mine.

    You wrote:

    Regarding arbitration, I was merely referring to the process of selecting membership on the panel. I was not proposing that the substantive rules of arbitration be employed. Sorry for not making that clear.

    Still, even taking this one aspect of the arbitration process and grafting it into the church court process removes the latter at least one step away from adjudication and one step toward full arbitration, and I don’t believe it would be for the better. To give a person accused of a doctrinal violation the power to determine who will judge his case would potentially undermine and even corrupt a real adjudication process. It can easily create a nearly invincible stonewalling mechanism for the accused if that person is unhappy with the available choices, and in cases where a particular doctrinal deviation has become to some extent widespread (as in fact has been the case with the FV) it can actually exacerbate any perceived cronyism rather than safeguard against it.

    Each aspect of the arbitration process is designed to be an alternative to the courtroom, with the understanding that avoiding the courtroom provides incentive to cooperate to make the arbitration process as fair as possible. But to whatever extent you simply make adjudication more like arbitration, to that extent you reduce to the motivation for one or both parties to cooperate, since they will no longer worry about having to deal with traditional adjudication now that it has been replaced by whatever hybrid we’ve come up with.

    Bottom line: I think it’s a bad idea because I don’t think it will work.

    Also, you still seem to be confusing GA Reports with trials. The adoption of the GA Report did not supplant the need for trials at the presbytery level.

    I don’t think I wrote anything that would contradict this. I, for one, am eager to see either trials of FV TEs and REs, or their swift departure from the PCA.

  66. Todd Gwennap said,

    April 17, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    Andy #62,

    That is my understanding as well. Roy Taylor has written on article on precisely that topic, making clear that in thesi deliverances of a church court are not even “authoritative interpretations” of our constitution. It is available here at the PCA Historical Center website.

    BCO 14-7 tells us that deliverances of the General Assembly ought to be given “due and serious consideration when deliberating matters related to such action.” In thesi deliverances are not de facto amendments to the standards.

    It would be more proper to say that the 35th General Assembly of the PCA identified nine teachings of the Federal Vision that are in violation of our constitution.

    All this is not, of course, is not to distract from the main point. I do believe the FV to be in violation of our constitution. More a point of clarification.

  67. Todd Gwennap said,

    April 17, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    Ahh! HTML will be the death of me! Sorry for the crazy italics!

  68. Rob said,

    April 17, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    Ron,

    Just to clarify…since you seem to have a habit of editing my words selectively.

    When I referred to the “blatant corruption of the adjudicative process,” I was referring to everything that followed. It primarily bothers me that presbyters are blogging about judicial cases that are pending in their own presbyteries. Yet it also bothers me that judges on the SJC are engaging in ANY discussions related to the general topics that may be relevant to an appeal. After all, judges of the civil magistrate avoid all impropriety and all appearance of impropriety. I trust that the judges who interact with you are avoiding all impropriety. But it is questionable whether they are avoiding all appearance of impropriety, especially when one considers that you’ve not been too silent about your views on these matters.

    Andy and I have both given testimonial evidence of how the GA and its committees are viewed by many urban PCA folk in the North. You’ve determined that it’s not persuasive to you. Fine.

    And yes, I believe that churches like Tenth and Redeemer are relatively disenfranchised. Exhibit A: We don’t have a study committee on women deacons, do we?

  69. Ron Henzel said,

    April 18, 2010 at 5:23 am

    Rob,

    You wrote:

    Just to clarify…since you seem to have a habit of editing my words selectively.

    If I have been habitually editing your words selectively, that would be a very bad thing for me to do, indeed, and you surely must have taken offense to it before now. Please allow me to address this particular case; you wrote:

    When I referred to the “blatant corruption of the adjudicative process,” I was referring to everything that followed.

    OK, that was back in comment 44, and here is “everything that followed” in the same paragraph (which to me seems all that is directly relevant to the portion quoted):

    On several occasions, I have read blog posts or comments in which someone admits to discussing a pending disciplinary action with a member of the SJC. Assuming that these statements are true, why is anyone on the SJC engaging in ex parte communication with someone regarding a controversy that may someday come before the SJC? Why are de facto prosecutors conducting extramural (i.e., blog-based) campaigns against fellow pastors to try to sway the outcome of the judicial process? And why do the Confessionalists keep over-promising and under-delivering? After all, if you’re going to allege publicly that someone is a heretic, you better be ready to bring home the goods (i.e., something more than petty quibbling over semantics).

    I interacted in detail with this entire paragraph in comment 61, and as far as I can tell your sole response to my interaction was your claim in comment 64, “I am making no charge against the GA or any of its committees.” What? You don’t see any charges against a committee of the GA (viz., the SJC) in this paragraph? And how does that which follows it make the words “blatant corruption of the adjudicative process” any less of a charge against the SJC? Please explain.

    You wrote:

    It primarily bothers me that presbyters are blogging about judicial cases that are pending in their own presbyteries.

    Again, another charge. What’s the point of denying making charges when you continue to make charges?

    You wrote:

    Yet it also bothers me that judges on the SJC are engaging in ANY discussions related to the general topics that may be relevant to an appeal. After all, judges of the civil magistrate avoid all impropriety and all appearance of impropriety.

    Even the appearance of impropriety is a charge. I respectfully suggest that you drop your assertion that you are making no charges—along with your assertion that I selectively edit what you write.

    You wrote:

    I trust that the judges who interact with you are avoiding all impropriety.

    No, apparently you don’t, because in your very next sentence you write:

    But it is questionable whether they are avoiding all appearance of impropriety, especially when one considers that you’ve not been too silent about your views on these matters.

    There is no logical connection between what members of the SJC have not discussed with me (viz., the details of pending cases) and my opinion about the FV, which existed long before I was aware of the SJC’s involvement in the matter.

    You wrote:

    Andy and I have both given testimonial evidence of how the GA and its committees are viewed by many urban PCA folk in the North. You’ve determined that it’s not persuasive to you. Fine.

    Andy has gone so far as to say that many urbanites “think the PCA has cronyism” (comment 53), but he’s stopped short attributing “a general sense that the GA’s machinery (e.g., SJC) is crippled by cronyism and corruption” (comment 41). I hope you can see the huge difference between these two. This is not to justify cronyism, but simply to call into question your assessment that “urban PCA folk” share the “general sense” that the GA is currently parked in the handicapped zone. Your claims have been far more broad, sweeping, and accusatory than Andy’s. If urban PCA members share such a general sense of crippling corruption (and your choice of words certainly makes it sound quite pervasive), why do they remain in the PCA? (Not that I think you have data to answer this question; consider it rhetorical.)

    You wrote:

    And yes, I believe that churches like Tenth and Redeemer are relatively disenfranchised. Exhibit A: We don’t have a study committee on women deacons, do we?

    Whatever you may mean by the phrase “relatively disenfranchised” (I think you’ve reached your quota on weasel words with “relatively”), it does not provide us with a helpful category for analysis. I think you may be confusing the concept of getting a vote with getting one’s way. Are you saying that Tenth and Redeemer have not been given the opportunity to cast any votes in favor of their position at either the presbytery or GA level?

  70. Reed Here said,

    April 18, 2010 at 7:12 am

    Andy and Todd: I’ve not seen any Presbytery yet use the GA’s FV Report as anything more than pious advice. Have you? If not, why the anxiety?

  71. Reed Here said,

    April 18, 2010 at 7:22 am

    Rob: appreciate your concern about the integrity of process. So far, I’ve not seen anything that goes as far as your adjectives.

    There has been some public broadcasting that has made me wince at first. But after examination I note that it appears that the only thing that is being discussed is information that is already public knowledge. I have not seen/heard of anyone revealing or even discussing in hidden terms things that are confidential.

    I admit that some has an unseemliness about it (in my opinion), yet I do not believe that means these men have abused the system. To be sure, cronyism does not occur in the open such as this stuff, no?

    As well, so far we’ve seen two FV “cases” proceed: Wilkins and Leithart. We’ve seen two additional FV “matters” proceed: Lawrence and Meyers. So far I’ve witnessed nothing but the consistent application of BCO. Am I missing something?

  72. Todd Gwennap said,

    April 18, 2010 at 8:04 am

    Reed #70

    No anxiety here. Like I said, I think the FV is outside the bounds of our constitution. For me, it was more a point of clarification. Sorry if that wasn’t clear. I would be fine with presbytery’s adopting the report as a subordinate standard (i.e. for examinations). In fact, I believe my presbytery (Western Carolina) has done just that.

    I was more concerned about what we can say about the FV report on a macro scale. But again, it was more clarification than anxiety over what anyone is doing with the report, and in retrospect, probably not that helpful or germane to the discussion. Sorry for my lack of clarity.

    Thanks, Reed!

  73. Rob said,

    April 18, 2010 at 10:00 am

    Ron & Reed,

    I am not making “charges” because I’m not aware that any of the conduct I’ve described amounts to a chargeable offense.

    Forgive me for having been unclear, but I’ve been trying to address a different issue. That is, has the process of prosecuting alleged FV teachers been conducted in a manner that lends credibility to that process and to the institutions involved in that process? And yes, I’m asking that question as a white-collar corporate professional who’s spent the better part of my professional life working in New York, Chicago, and Boston (although I also spend time in NC). From that vantage point, I’d say that the process looks a bit more seamy than I’d like. So, I’ve tried to help you understand why my gut is becoming increasingly uneasy about these things.

    For example, it’s a bit discomforting to me that Ron–if I understand him correctly–is engaging in off-the-record communications with judges who sit on the SJC concerning the general subject matter of pending or to-be-pending cases. And as a further example, a January 26, 2010, post on this blog, entitled “An Answer to TE Rob Rayburn, Part I”, states that its author was in communication with one of the judges on the SJC concerning a pending appeal. (See the post itself for a more detailed description.)

    In my opinion, neither of these amount to chargeable offenses in the slightest way. But they don’t exactly lend credibility to the process either. So, I think that my concerns have some merit.

    In summary, I’ve tried to help you understand my viewpoint. I assure you that I am not alone in having these concerns. But what I’m hearing from you is, in my opinion, akin to: “Shut up or bring charges.” If this indeed is the prevailing attitude among TRs in the PCA toward those who raise concerns about current practices, then I wholeheartedly agree with those who believe that we need “safe[r] places” to discuss these kinds of matters.

    Peace in Christ, gentlemen.

  74. Ron Henzel said,

    April 18, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    Rob,

    In comment 73 you wrote:

    I am not making “charges” because I’m not aware that any of the conduct I’ve described amounts to a chargeable offense.

    Since I have never indicated to you that I am an attorney (and I am not), I don’t believe it was reasonable on your part to assume that I was using the word “charge” in the technical sense in which it is employed in your profession (i.e., as a formal assertion of illegality). Since this discussion is not taking place in a legal forum (such as a church court), nor was I commenting on any action you may have taken in such a forum, I think it was rather obvious that I was using the word in the informal sense of “a statement of complaint or hostile criticism,” which is virtually synonymous with “accusation.” And the fact that you have, indeed, made an accusation of corruption against both the GA and the SJC cannot be camouflaged by any appeal to legalese.

    Back in comment 43 I wrote:

    I have been in touch personally with people on the SJC. You know not whereof you speak.

    That’s all I wrote in that comment. If my response raised any red flags in your mind, you gave no indication of it in your follow up comment, #45. I did not say then, nor have I said since, that the contact I had with them was for the purpose of or resulted in “engaging in off-the-record communications…concerning the general subject matter of pending or to-be-pending cases” (per you in #73). But for some inexplicable reason, that is the way you are now choosing to characterize it, even though I explicitly wrote in comment 61:

    I have spoken on several occasions with two members of the SJC. At all times they have been careful not to discuss specifics of pending matters.

    I will add to what I wrote then that at no point in any of the discussions I’ve had with SJC members did they consult with or advise me concerning matters that might conceivably come before the SJC or discuss the merits of any case (per SJC Manual 7.1-4). So what does that leave us with here but another one of your unsubstantiated accusations, this time involving me personally?

    But lets try to push past that now and deal with what you wrote here:

    In my opinion, neither of these amount to chargeable offenses in the slightest way. But they don’t exactly lend credibility to the process either. So, I think that my concerns have some merit.

    And let us assume for the moment that your concerns have some merit. Are you a member in a PCA church? If so, when you became a member, was the following question put to you before the congregation?:

    Do you submit yourself to the government and discipline of the Church, and promise to study its purity and peace?

    If so, do you think that it would better promote the purity and peace of the church to bring your concerns here in the manner that you have (which I have gone on record as finding highly accusatory, denigrating of church officers, and tending to undermine the peace of the church), or would it perhaps be that the purity and peace of the church might be better served if you voiced these concerns through the appropriate denominational channels? I am not saying “Shut up or bring charges.” I am saying that the kind of sniping you’re doing here damages the peace of the church that, assuming you are a PCA member, you promised to studiously pursue, and that getting involved in the process would be a far better course of action.

  75. Andy said,

    April 18, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    Reed, no anxiety here nor did I state that presbyteries are using it in this way. I specified that people on this blog use it that way which is what some prophesied would happen. People talk as though the FV report is part of our constitution and I am just noting that it isn’t.

  76. Reed Here said,

    April 18, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Rob: respectfully, I think you’re reading more into my comments than I’ve sought to make. In particular I’ve asked exactly the opposite of “shut up or bring charges.” Instead I’ve asked, “please explain; I’d like to hear; I promise to listen.”

    I recognize that Ron has taken a stronger tone with you. Might I ask you to consider whether or not some of your way of expressing frustration with the appearances did contain a perjorative tone. If so, it does not support a responding in kind. It does help explain that there is misunderstanding occurring that can be avoided if we slow down and think a little more before we hit “submit comment.”

    I do appreciate the seamy appearances you note. Assuming as you have that those involved in the appearances have not in fact done anything wrong (I don’t have in view the charges notion. Never did. Merely one brother observing a sin in another and offering a loving admonition),

    Assuming this, what would you advise these brothers would be a way of removing these appearances? I.O.W., what would give someone struggling with the viewpoint you’ve outlined (cronyism, etc.), hope (if not confidence that this is not going on?

    The question is very a important one. The ordinary answer I’ve seen is for both sides of such an issue to solidify their own position, and deny the other any recourse but to come over to the other side.

    Can you offer any suggestions that will help those of good will avoid such a trap? (Sincerely asked. Not looking for anything to use to set you up with.)

    I for one am quite tired of the willingness of either side of such issues to place the burden of correction/reform squarely and exclusively on the shoulders of the other side. I’m hoping our conversation here might at least demonstrate a pattern for not repeating this.

  77. Reed Here said,

    April 18, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    Ron: I do recognize that some of Rob’s word choices carry with them a perjorative and inflammatory tone. Given his responses I think it is fair to say he has not intended this tone. Instead he seems to be trying to express the signficance of the feeling he and others he knows have with regard to some of these things.

    Might I suggest that you not take offense too quickly. Instead bear with some of the weaknesses of Rob’s phrasing and ask him to explain further. Such explanation can both eliminate unintended offense and provide a basis for possible rapproachment between sides.

    Not suggesting this always works. But with men responding to the Spirit’s ministry of Christ, it has a better chance than otherwise. I’m grateful to be able to write in this manner to you brother, knowing your sincere desire for Christ’s glory to shine forth.

  78. Reed Here said,

    April 18, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    Andy: I understand. I think this is one of those areas of disagreement as to the role of pious advice. One side is in danger of simply taking this to mean it can be ignored. The other side of treating it as if this to having constitutional authority. (I take it this is your concern – I agree with you.)

    The latter error has been evidenced by some who comment here. They have regularly been corrected. I note that this is not the action of the majority commenting here. Instead, most here use the report as it is intended, advice from a court of Christ’s church that can be be trusted in what it says to provide a commentary on the Scripture on the subject.

    One’s use of it is then similar to a member’s submission to their elders in a local church. Such pious advice is something to be listened to, even heeded, as far as it is consistent with the facts.

    Most who comment here follow this usage. I suspect you may disagree. I’m open to hearing why, if so.

    In particular I note that all that happens here is conversation. To the comment concerning cronyism, I note that no presbytery use of this report deserves such approbation, at least in my opinion. If cronyism is defined by the conversation here, that seems too broad a criticism.

  79. Andy said,

    April 18, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Let me be clear, as Ron noted, I have not levelled charges of cronyism only that this is the “perception” of some in more urban contexts. My point is that much of the discussion in the PCA about differences involves perceptions, not necessarily realities. Even the title of
    this post regarding an “elephant” has subtle undertones of my concern.

  80. Reed Here said,

    April 18, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Andy: completely get it. I’m not asking where the cronyism is. I keep asking why this perception. Does this make sense?

    What actions are giving the perception of cronyism? You’ve already clarified that it is not the actions of any presbyteries. Thanks.

    Rob has suggested some comments on blogs. I don’t get that. I’d like to so I can help remove it.

    I agree that mistrust on both sides is based on misperceptions. I suspect you agree that such misperceptions are owned by both those who give and those who receive the misperception.

    As someone on the giving side, I’d like to know what I am doing, or what I am supporting in others that is responsible for such misperceptions.

    A charge (not to be understood in BCO terminology) of cronyism is serious. Even when talking about perceptions, we are talking about actions that challenge an elder being above reproach. If a member of our church or a member of my presbytery accused me of that, I’d take it seriously and seek to reddress the issue.

    Rob has offered that criticism. You have agreed with it. I’ve not argued against it. Instead I’ve sought to understand it. I’m showing you and Rob nothing but the sincerity of a brother who wants to correct a wrong you perceive.

    So, can you tell me how the perception of cronyism is made in these things?

  81. Ron Henzel said,

    April 18, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    Reed,

    I will take your words to heart.

    If cronyism exists in the PCA, I think we all want to get to the bottom of it and see something done about it. I believe Rob is sincere in his remark at the end of comment 73 to the effect that he does not want to see us address all our problems through the church courts.

    Even if only the perception of cronyism exists, it could be indicative of some other problem that needs to be addressed. And it seems to me that the place to begin is with the perception.

    How can we create a safe environment to discuss this issue? What would such a safe environment look like? How and where do people who have these issues feel comfortable discussing them?

  82. Bobby Avant said,

    April 18, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    “How can we create a safe environment to discuss this issue? What would such a safe environment look like? How and where do people who have these issues feel comfortable discussing them?”

    probably not on the internet. Not on a blog. That seems to be part of the problem.

  83. Reed Here said,

    April 18, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    Bobby: understand your conviction. I agree blogs have downsides. It seems we may disagree as to whether or not they have upsides, and if so, whether or not those outweigh the downsides.

    Sincere question: if you think blogs are a part of the problem, what is your reason for commenting on them?

  84. Brad B said,

    April 18, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    Well moderated and respectable blogs are useful places for interacting and are a convenient way to stay up on topics of interest with a high degree of accuracy. When I say respectable, I mean those committed to allowing open discussion from all interested parties–and there are many that qualify for that definition. There’s going to be a learning curve in protocol since the media is still relatively new. People need to be just as precise in what they want to say on blogs as they would in any other arena, but we participants usually are the problem–it’s not the blogosphere, it is the user.

    In the case of this topic, I have gotten information that wouldn’t have normally been easy to obtain and to see what called men have to say about it. Even if I ask our RE and TE who attended the Twin Lakes meeting how it went, I would not have known what to ask like I would now. If this isn’t an upside I dont know what would be.

  85. Rob said,

    April 18, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    Reed,

    Thanks for the helpful advice. Also, sorry for lumping you into my comment. That was improper of me.

    All the best…

  86. Reed Here said,

    April 18, 2010 at 11:38 pm

    No offense taken Rob.

  87. Reed Here said,

    April 18, 2010 at 11:40 pm

    Brad: if I might hijack M. McCluhan in the direction of Jesus’ teaching:

    It’s not the medium (blogs), its the messenger (the blogger), that is the problem.

  88. Bobby Avant said,

    April 19, 2010 at 11:36 am

    if you think blogs are a part of the problem, what is your reason for commenting on them?

    Blogs are kind of like TV. A few good things but a lot of junk. Sometimes this blog is good but then you will have a post that is outrageous. My point was that blogs are not especially helpful or safe when discussing the work of the church or for hosting serious theological debate. Perhaps with this opinion I shouldn’t comment on blogs.

    I think blogs have their place. They are especially good for light news and reflection. But as far as serious theological discussion they seem to lead to confusion and division more than they help. There are exceptions such as Ref 21 & the Gospel Coalition. (Plus I think a lot more ministry would happen if more pastors would step back from the keyboard; thats a general observation not an accusation against anyone in particular)

    Its one thing to put an article on a blog but many blogs in the rush to have daily or regular posts rush to put something out. Far too many are shooting from the hip with no real reflection. The rough draft becomes the final draft. The comment section is even worse when commntators put down their first thoughts and are quick to jump to conclusions. The comment section looks similar to the seminary pub where seminary students are discussing and debating theology over a beer.

    There was a time when one PCA TE would give another the benefit of the doubt at least at first. Or he would read him in the best light possible. Now we look for heresy in the comment section.

  89. Martin said,

    April 21, 2010 at 9:32 am

    The comments seemed to have morphed in a different direction from the strategic plan. It took me awhile to get into the reading of the documents, but if I may here are some thoughts on the strategic plan as presented: http://missionpca.wordpress.com/2010/04/21/thoughts-on-proposed-pca-strategic-plan/

  90. Dean B said,

    April 21, 2010 at 10:05 am

    Pastor Martin

    Thank you for your insight and analysis of the strategic plan. Very helpful!

  91. missionpca said,

    April 22, 2010 at 9:56 am

    FWIW – here’s more on the plan: http://missionpca.wordpress.com/2010/04/22/more-on-pca-strategic-plan/

  92. April 23, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    [...] Reformed and Presbyterian churches. You can read some of the more substantive critiques here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. There are others in the denomination commending it as [...]

  93. Jay said,

    May 7, 2010 at 11:17 am

    And here is the video version of the PCA Strategic Plan in three minutes or less: http://vimeo.com/11501569
    (It’s meant to be funny)


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