Unjust Weights and the 41st PCA General Assembly

By Bob Mattes

You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin:I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt. – Lev 19:36

Unequal weights and unequal measures
are both alike an abomination to the LORD. – Pro 20:10

Unequal weights are an abomination to the LORD,
and false scales are not good. – Pro 20:23

The 41st PCA General Assembly was quite a spectacle. The bulk of the business flowed routinely, and later quickly as we recovered from being over one-half of a day behind at one point. A few issues tied up the commissioners for an inordinate amount of time to cause the schedule digressions. I will only discuss two of these issues in this post. Probably more in a follow-on.

Two particular issues of contention follow from violation of the Scripture quotes above, and I’ll explain how. I’ve written before about the National Partnership, a secret (sorry, confidential) political party started last year in the PCA. I wrote my thoughts on that abomination here, where along with TE Kenneth Pierce I called it sinful. TE Andy Webb’s thoughts can be found here. The pleas of many against this sinful, secret political party went unheeded, and the poison flower bloomed during this GA.

It started in earnest during the PCA Nominations Committee meeting before the GA as documented at the Aquila Report. I also verified the events independently. Part of the plan, which came to the GA floor along with the Nomination Committee report, was to have the moderator change the voting order for some candidates on the fly from that historically used.

The proposed change to the order of voting for candidates for the Standing Judicial Commission (SJC) had one purpose – to defeat a candidate that the National Partnership conspired to replace by carefully arranging candidates and changing the voting order on the fly. They did not win the voting change they desired, but we debated it for a long time. The committee never provided any substantial reason for the change, which seems strange, especially given the length of the debate. I argued on the floor against any arbitrary changes in voting procedure which robbed presbyteries of predictable expectations when nominating candidates to the Assembly. That position eventually prevailed.

The fact that the National Partnership’s Chicago-style politics failed to hold sway doesn’t remove the odiousness of their attempt to fix voting outcomes by changing the rules on the fly. Such political maneuvering has no place in the body of Christ.

The second issue arose from the Overtures Committee (OC). Chapter 15 of the Rules of Assembly Order (RAO) clearly state that the OC makes their recommendations to the General Assembly (RAO 15-8 and 15-8a). The plain meaning as used elsewhere in the BCO and RAO holds that the “General Assembly” means the entire collection of commissioners.

On two overtures, one each concerning the Leithart and Meyers Federal Vision trials, the OC violated RAO 15-8 and 15-8a by making what amounted to a point of order directly to the moderator, thereby bypassing the Assembly. The moderator took the point of order well. I challenged the chair over that deviation from the RAO both times, but did not prevail. When challenging the chair, one can only state the underlying rules, not argue the case. My challenge failed on both attempts, largely I believe because a majority of the roughly 1,200 commissioners largely did not understand that their right to debate and even their votes were being stolen by a handful of commissioners in a slick political maneuver for which I cannot find a PCA precedent.

This Chicago-style approach has been the hallmark of liberals/progressives in the PCUS, PCUSA, and now PC(USA) as TE Reed DePace pointed out. It’s how they avoided meaningful debates and votes, thereby bypassed orthodox church officers to bring about women elders, homosexual elders, etc. Eventually, the orthodox officers and members started leaving, providing the liberals a Pyrrhic victory as their formerly God-honoring denomination became more and more apostate.

Acts 15 provides significant guidance on how to conduct our Assembly, from which I believe that our BCO and RAO largely take their cues. The apostles and early believers debated openly until everyone was heard. No secret political parties, no bypassing debate, no stolen votes. The just treatment instruction of Lev 19:36 was honored.

There are no Scriptures that directly address voting itself. That just wasn’t a feature of the ancient world. However, the idea of ensuring just treatment is enshrined throughout. The Scriptures at the top of this post show God declaring the use of unjust balances and weights an abomination. The use of unjust weights destroyed trust in the underlying economic system of trade upon which the ancient world depended. These abominations cheated people out of their rightful due. They stole the buyer’s God-granted capital.

Similarly, taking away PCA commissioners’ ability to debate and vote on issues in accordance with our RAO procedures destroys their trust in the underlying ecclesiastical system. Attempting to fix a vote’s outcome by changing voting order on the fly similarly erodes that same trust. Like unjust weights and balances, unjust political maneuvering should not be named amongst God’s people. Supporting and voting within established rules must be accepted and supported by all officers of God’s church. If one feels that the rules should be changed, then honestly and openly submit the appropriate overtures upon which we can all debate and vote. Chicago-style politics robs commissioners of their debate and votes, just like unjust balances and weights robbed buyers in the ancient world – through deceit.

So, I’m encouraging all who participated in the secret schemes of the National Partnership – and anyone else – to defraud GA commissioners of their ability to debate and vote in accordance with RAO practices and procedures to repent of their sin. Repent of cheating your brothers in a way that parallels that which God calls an abomination – an epithet reserved for the most egregious sins in God’s eyes. Mere participants should repent to their brothers, REs their sessions, and TEs to their presbyteries as appropriate. The leaders of these movements – they know who they are and so do we – should have the courage to repent publicly.

The original National Partnership invitation email contained this observation” “One thing that has made the PCA a healthy denomination is the willingness to be ruled by Scripture.” Time, then, to eschew Chicago-style political maneuvering, pony up to what Scripture describes as an abomination and repent, or be named amongst the hypocrites.

By Bob Mattes

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35 Comments

  1. July 1, 2013 at 5:02 am

    […] Unjust Weights and the 41st PCA General Assembly. […]

  2. Reed Here said,

    July 1, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    Thank you Bob. I was not more direct in some of my challenges solely because I neither had first-hand knowledge nor was able to confirm things for myself.

    I strive to not knee-jerk react to one side of a debate or the other. However, when one side clearly is maneuvering to restrict debate I am robbed of my God-given calling as a GA commissioner. It matters not if the side seeking to silence debate has the right position or not – a right decision arrived at unjustly is UNJUST.

    We cannot expect God to honor our denomination if this continues.

  3. July 1, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    […] Unjust Weights and the 41st PCA General Assembly. […]

  4. July 1, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    Thanks, Reed. I carefully did not discuss the merits or lack thereof of any of the underlying overtures or candidates. They were not the point. I purposefully centered solely on the injustice of the political maneuvering. I have more to say on the National Partnership hypocrisy in a later post as I time allows.

  5. Hugh McCann said,

    July 1, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    Bob, Hear, hear!

    Did you mean PC(US)A here:

    “This Chicago-style approach has been the hallmark of liberals/progressives in the PCUS, PCUSA, and now PC(USA)…”?

  6. Reed Here said,

    July 1, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    Hugh!

  7. Michael said,

    July 1, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    Why is it difficult to find the names of SJC members? These men are public figures. Does anyone have a link or list that they can provide?

  8. Hugh McCann said,

    July 1, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    Hi, Reed. :)

  9. July 1, 2013 at 7:18 pm

    I have a question. How is it that this came to be? Whatever happened to the High Calling in Christ Jesus and the reverence we are to have for His Kingship? As sheep we are to consider the conduct of our Elders and follow them. Where does this leave us?

    Okay, I have a second and following rhetorical question. How is it that so many called men were duped and pulled into this sin? Aren’t we supposed to act with more wisdom and scholarship than this? This is very confusing to me.

  10. greenbaggins said,

    July 1, 2013 at 8:34 pm

    This is very disappointing, Bob, since I see we’re going to have to work overtime on making you more assertive. You’re so wishy-washy on this issue that I’m getting a bit queasy in the stomach. Grow a backbone, would you? I’m tired of the invertibrates all over my blog.

  11. July 1, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    Sorry, Lane. I’ll start taking more calcium to stiffen my backbone.

  12. Mark B said,

    July 1, 2013 at 10:16 pm

    I appreciate Bob’s bluntness, but other approaches can also be useful: http://theaquilareport.com/an-answer-to-parliamentary-proceduring-or-constitutional-compliance/

  13. greenbaggins said,

    July 1, 2013 at 11:01 pm

    Bob, you do that. You might want to start reading some vertibrate theologians like Berkhof and Calvin, because you’re an obvious nooby at that sort of stuff.

  14. July 2, 2013 at 1:55 am

    […] people in the PCA very relieved but severely rankled the tempers of others, as can be seen from this article on the Green Baggins blog. Bates feels strongly that the whole General Assembly was manipulated to […]

  15. tominaz said,

    July 2, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    Bravo, Bob. When I made the PCUS analogy on a social media site I was said to be using “scare tactics.”

  16. July 2, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    Thanks, tominaz. I believe the correct, official GA term would be “fear monger” for our position.

  17. Howard Donahoe said,

    July 2, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    Bob – You wrote: “…taking away PCA commissioners’ ability to debate and vote on issues in accordance with our RAO procedures destroys their trust in the underlying ecclesiastical system… Chicago-style politics robs commissioners of their debate…”

    While I won’t comment on SJC elections, I’d like to point out one thing regarding debate on several matters at GA, or the lack thereof. It involves the points of order raised. The parliamentary authority for GA is Robert’s Rules (per RAO 19-1 for the Assembly and 15-6 for the Overtures Committee). And Robert’s has a clear requirement on timeliness for a point of order: “If a question of order is to be raised, it must be raised promptly at the time the breach occurs… After debate on a motion has begun – no matter how clearly out of order the motion may be – a point of order is too late.” (RONR, 11th ed., p. 250, lines 17-25) So, it was not discourteous (nor Chicago politics) for a point of order to be raised immediately after the attempts by two RPR minorities to make substitute motions regarding the minutes of Missouri and Pacific NW Presbyteries, or immediately after the Assembly heard the SJC report referencing the CCB comments on the Bethel v. SE Alabama Case. Nor was it discourteous for the Overtures Committee to raise points of order on Overture 19 from Illiana and Overture 23 from Great Lakes, and to do so before any debate on the matters.

    And it should not have come as a surprise these points of order were going to be raised. In the May RPR meeting (a meeting attended by representatives from 58 Presbyteries and probably the largest RPR turnout in history), the same point of order was raised. The RPR minority heard it. And prior to GA, the CCB had already received a written response from the SJC regarding the CCB comments. And the Overtures Committee (102 men representing 67 of the 80 Presbyteries) had already discussed, at length, whether the two overtures were in order – and judged they were not – by votes of 71-27 and 76-15. So, contrary to your strongly worded assessment, the men who insisted on following our Constitution are probably not men you should accuse of using Chicago-esque politics.

  18. Greg said,

    July 3, 2013 at 8:06 am

    Mr. Donahoe, in your recent posts you’ve argued that procedure was followed. What we’ve not heard from you is whether or not you believe procedure should have the authority to keep the church courts from fulfilling their obligations to God (as described in BCO 27-3) in matters of proper church discipline. Again, no one is arguing for improper church discipline.

    A number of us have made comments about this, the latest being Scott Clark in comments #12 and #24 in the “Niceness or Love?”

    Please give us your thoughts.

  19. Howie Donahoe said,

    July 3, 2013 at 8:20 am

    Greg – I’m in favor of both – applying proper discipline and following constitutional procedures. I don’t grant the premise that there’s a conflict.

  20. Jared said,

    July 3, 2013 at 9:42 am

    I understand Howie’s points, and think they are reasonable, although debatable (which unfortunately did not happen at GA41). The one area I don’t see a reasonable case for a point of order (and I would love to be corrected on it to ease my mind in thinking it was unjust) is the BCO 45-4 objection. Historically, this has been used in judicial cases reaching the General Assembly as well as in presbyteries when a presbytery judicial commission is formed, as it states in BCO 45-4 “An objection is a declaration by one or more members of a court who did not have the right to vote on an appeal or complaint, expressing a different opinion from the decision of the court and may be accompanied with the reasons on which it is founded.” Since the SJC is an arm of the General Assembly, in the past objections have been made to judicial cases, which do nothing to change the decision but merely record disagreement.

    When a minister rose to file an objection this year at GA, if it was found respectful, there was a point of order raised to rule such an objection out of order since the minister who wanted to make it was not a member of the “court” of the SJC. When the point was raised that the SJC is not properly a court in itself (there are only three levels of courts according to the BCO 10-2: Session, Presbytery and General Assembly), but an arm of the court of the General Assembly, the objection was still ruled out of order. Now after the 41st General Assembly, an elder is not permitted to file an objection to an SJC case, although in my understanding this has been done since the reconstituting of the SJC, but in this one instance was not allowed. Anyone know why? Mr Donahoe?

  21. July 3, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    Howie,

    I don’t have time to write a full response to #17 at this sitting, but I can address the underlying issue. In engineering, the first step in looking at an analysis is to review the underlying assumptions. In the case of #17 dealing with Overtures 19 & 23, I believe that you made an assumption that I do not. I do not believe that any committee, including/especially Overtures, can or should make parliamentary motions. I do not believe that either the BCO or RAO permit it.

    Overtures is governed by RAO 15. RAO 15-8 governs how the committee reports to the Assembly. A report is made to the Assembly itself in 15-8 and 15-8a. As I indicated in my post, nothing in 15-8 or anywhere else discusses or anticipates that the committee will make a parliamentary motion to the moderator. That was the essence of my parliamentary inquiry and two challenges to the chair.

    Nor is it the role of the Overtures Committee to rule on the constitutionality of overtures. Those recommendations come from the CCB as that’s their explicit role.

    What the Overtures Committee should have done according to the RAO 15 is make a recommendation that the Assembly answer the overtures in the negative. That would allow the minority report to be presented and debated as well as the main motion. If Overtures wished to include in their grounds and presentation that they believed the overtures in question were out of order, so be it. Bottom line is that the commissioners of the Assembly at large would have the opportunity to debate the merits of the committee and minority reports and then vote. Because Overtures improperly made a parliamentary motion rather than a recommendation as RAO 15 requires, and because the moderator accepted that improper motion, the Assembly was denied its right to debate and vote.

    So the issue isn’t Robert’s Rules or what happens after a point of order is called, but rather that the point of order itself was improper. The RAO was not followed, but rather cleverly interpreted to squash debate and take the Assembly’s vote away.

    As for the interaction between the CCB and SJC, that disagreement, too, should have been debated on the floor. We don’t have a magisterium, so no PCA body is infallible. The Assembly properly makes the tough calls. It’s clear that some on the SJC sees it as an unaccountable body, but hopefully we’ll fix that next year.

    I don’t have time to get into the RPR stuff. Except that I’ll say, contrary to TE Coffin, the RAO is not constitutional and hence does not trump the BCO. Maybe more tonight or tomorrow.

  22. Reed Here said,

    July 3, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    Good stuff Bob.

  23. Greg said,

    July 3, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Howie– Point of clarification please. By not granting there is a conflict are you saying if constitutional procedures are followed they cannot (or will not) hinder/obstruct proper church discipline; or are you speaking instead to a specific instance, e.g., Leithart, in not granting there is a conflict?

  24. Reed Here said,

    July 3, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    I.e., Howie, is your denial specific or general?

  25. Todd Gwennap said,

    July 3, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    Bob, in #22 you wrote “Because Overtures improperly made a parliamentary motion rather than a recommendation as RAO 15 requires, and because the moderator accepted that improper motion, the Assembly was denied its right to debate and vote.”

    I think this is an interesting point (whether or not Overtures can make a parliamentary point), but I think it is improper to say that “the Assembly was denied its right to debate and vote.” If I remember correctly, the chair was challenged on his ruling on that particular point of order (by you, if I’m not mistaken). On a vote of the Assembly, he was sustained. The Assembly thus voted not to debate those overtures. Its right to debate was not, therefore, squashed, in my opinion. If the Assembly wanted to debate Overtures 19 and 23, they could have overruled the Moderator’s ruling and entered into debate.

    Overtures may well have been out of order, as may have been the Moderator, but the Assembly ultimately decided not to debate those overtures. I don’t think it fair to describe that particular action as unjust.

  26. Howie Donahoe said,

    July 3, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    Greg@24 and Reed@25 – I’m not sure I understand your question about specific v. general. But if it helps, I’ll say that sometimes there are constitutional procedures that may seem to “obstruct” justice. For example, in our BCO an accused person does not need to take the stand, his wife cannot be compelled to testify against him, there is a statute of limitations on charges, etc. And lastly, I don’t feel liberty to comment on any current case.

    Bob @ 22 – I honestly think you’re grasping at straws. If a lone individual GA Commissioner has the right to raise a point of order, then a Committee of 102 GA Commissioners, representing 66 of 80 Presbyteries, certainly does – especially when the point of order relates directly to an overture that’s been assigned to it. The point of order is certainly germane to the overture. In fact, it’s fundamentally germane to it. Let’s say some Presbytery filed an overture asking GA to immediately depose you as a ruling elder. I assume you’d agree the Overtures Committee should not debate the evidence as to why you should or should not be deposed without trial – regardless of the supporting reasons provided in the overture. I assume you’d agree it would be more appropriate for the Overtures Committee to not discuss the matter, since the overture was seeking something unconstitutional. And the best way for that Overtures Committee to serve the GA would be for it to adopt a motion asking the GA Moderator to rule it out of order. That would be appropriate, and something other than what you describe as “cleverly [interpreting the rules] to squash debate and take the Assembly’s vote away.” And as #22 points out, if GA wanted to debate it, GA could have voted against sustaining the Moderator’s ruling. I don’t think the vote was even close.

    There was no reason for the Overtures Committee to debate the Illiana or Great Lakes Overtures. At best, it would have been a waste of the Lord’s time, since the Committee overwhelmingly believed they were constitutionally out of order and should be, and likely would be, ruled that way.

    Even if Overtures recommended answering in the Negative, and the OC Minority recommended a substitute answering in the Affirmative, someone would have raised a point of order and the Moderator would have ruled as he did. Regardless of how you think the matter should have come to the floor, there would not have been any debate on the matter. The scenario you hope for would never have played out.

    I think people forget, the CCB did not report any advice on Overtures 19 or 23. CCB did not say they were constitutional. Not sure why, but I assume it’s because the overtures were probably filed after CCB met in Atlanta at the end of April. But CCB could have reported its advice in its Supplemental Report to GA.

  27. Martin said,

    July 3, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    Howie,

    You raise a fair point about someone rising for a point of order even with majority/minority reports from Overtures.

    However, there would be a key difference: those voting on the point of order would have had in their possession both the majority and minority reports, which may have informed their vote as to whether or not to sustain the moderator. Given the close vote as it was, that additional information could have changed things and possibly enabled debate to occur.

  28. July 4, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    It is striking how things have changed in 3 years. In 2010, when Lane and I were discussing the FV in the PCA, the question seemed to be “how long before the FVists leave for the CREC?”

    In case you’re interested in these blasts from the past they’re online again:

    http://heidelblog.net/the-heidelcast

    Here’s the first of 4 episodes we did:
    http://rscottclark.org/wp-content/audio/heidelcast-24-keister-fv.mp3

  29. July 5, 2013 at 10:07 am

    Howie, RE #27,

    I appreciate the discussion and your thoughts.

    To quote Adam’s t-shirt from Mythbusters, I reject your reality and substitute my own. Again, your underlying assumption seems to be that the SJC is not accountable to the GA at large, which I totally reject. The SJC is in its Robert’s Rules essence a committee of the Assembly. According to Robert’s section 1, page 9, lines 25-18:

    Committees, on the other hand, are bodies…that are subordinate instruments of an assembly or are accountable to a higher authority in some way not characteristic of a assembly.

    Thus by Robert’s Rules, the SJC is by its very nature subordinate and accountable to the GA. It would therefore not be a waste of the Overtures Committee (OC) or the Assembly to debate the merits of an SJC decision. I could not make that point when I challenged the chair because I could not argue my case, only simply state my challenge.

    The problem with points of order is that the GA has no opportunity to debate and hear a case presented from both sides as they would while considering committee and minority reports in accordance with RAO 15. They basically vote on a challenge to the chair without knowing or understanding the underlying issues. If I had been able to quote the above from Robert’s and offer that by upholding the chair, the Assembly would be declaring the SJC as unaccountable to the Assembly at large and forfeiting their chance to debate and vote on the underlying issues, I believe the Assembly may have overturned the chair. Speculation, admittedly, but possible.

    As to the OC itself. it is not a substitute for the Assembly at large and its membership could be manipulated by a secret political party with tentacles in enough presbyteries. The OC merely helps to streamline the floor debates on overtures. Again, they are bound by RAO 15-8 to make their recommendations to the Assembly at large for debate and vote. Because of improper parliamentary manipulation, that didn’t happen. And no where in Robert’s, the BCO, or the RAO does it say that a committee has all the rights and privileges of a commissioner. Committees exist for limited, specific purposes with limited, specific authorities, all overseen by the Assembly at large.

    I know that we’ll have to agree to disagree on the details. In the end, procedures can be used for good or evil, subject to the intent of those who working the system. This year, in my opinion, sin prevailed and the PCA’s witness for the gospel suffered. Some may be pleased or even proud of the outcome, but I and others grieve.

  30. Howie Donahoe said,

    July 5, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    Bob – I’ll try to respond more fully later, but the problem in your argument is that Robert’s doesn’t mention Commissions. Even when Robert’s discusses Boards and Executive Committees, these don’t even have nearly the authority of a Commission in the PCA. Robert’s doesn’t seem to know the animal. And as you know, a Commission is much different than a committee (regardless of how many letters are shared in their spellings).
    You said the SJC is subordinate to the GA. I contend the SJC IS the GA (for judicial matters). And, according to our current constitution, it’s accountable in two ways. 6 of the 24 SJC positions are elected each year and thus the GA can put anyone it wants on the Court – and can even replace a majority in just two annual elections. And, if the CCB finds an error in procedures (i.e., non-compliance with SJC Manual) it can “cite” the SJC and, in such a circumstance, the GA can remand a case to the SJC to follow proper procedures (which is quite different than directing the SJC to reach a different decision).
    I understand you and others would like the SJC to be more “subordinate” and would like the GA to have more say in final decisions, but that’s simply not the constitution we have. But men are certainly free to propose changes to the constitution. They’re even free to seek to return the procedures to their pre-1997 setting.

  31. Reed Here said,

    July 5, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    Howie: beg to differ but PCA commissions are different from committees in only ONE (significant) way: a commission acts in the name of the court which established it, that is, in its name, with authority.

    Even the authority to act in the name is submissive to any strictures placed on the commission by the convening assembly. At the very least there are some issues with the extent of authority vs. overview that the SJC has relative to the GA.

  32. July 6, 2013 at 7:25 pm

    Howie,

    Still appreciating the dialog, Following Reed’s insighful comment in #32, a commission is simply a specialized committee. Like I said in #30, the SJC is simply a special committee under Robert’s Rules with limited and specific purpose. That doesn’t leave it unaccountable to the body that created it as I cited above. The same arrangement at the presbytery level requires the presbytery as a whole to approve the actions of their judicial commissions. There’s no provision in Robert’s or in presbyterianism for creating a small committee/commission equivalent to the assembly that created it. That’s a feature of congregationalism, not presbyterianism.

    I believe that we can take it for granted that I and others, hopefully many others, will coordinate and propose RAO changes and perhaps BCO changes that make clear the SJC is subordinate to the General Assembly as a whole. As always, I value your thoughts and insights as I proceed.

  33. Howard Donahoe said,

    July 6, 2013 at 8:37 pm

    Your readers might not know there’s a significant difference between a Presbytery judicial commission and the GA’s Standing Judicial Commission. A Presbytery must approve the judgment of its judicial commission, which is proposed via a non-debatable motion. But the GA does not do likewise. The SJC is certainly accountable, but not in the way you might have implied by using the analogy. The SJC is accountable, but its decisions are not approved, or adopted, or even reviewed, by the body that appointed it. Simply put – the PCA acts when the SJC acts. Decisions are final when announced to the parties.

    “It is well known that our ecclesiastical courts have often appointed such bodies, and that the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland annually appoints a commission, to which all unfinished business is referred. It is, therefore, a mere question of expediency. Something must be done to relieve the Assembly of the pressure of judicial business. The appointment of a commission is a long tried and approved method of relief, and we hope it will ultimately be adopted, not only by the Assembly, but by Synods and Presbyteries.” (Life of Charles Hodge, by AA Hodge, p. 404)

    “Not only did the judicatories above mentioned annually appoint a commission with full power for general purposes, but the original Presbytery of Philadelphia, the Synod of Philadelphia, the Synod of New York, and the united Synod of New York and Philadelphia, were uniformly in the habit of appointing special committees with full powers (i.e., commissions) to act in their name and with their authority, in any matter, executive or judicial. The Assembly would be fatigued by the citation of all the cases on record bearing on this subject.”
    Hodge then cites 22 cases, starting in 1713 through 1766 and ends by saying “From all these cases it is apparent that from the beginning, the right has been claimed and exercised by our primary courts of appointing committees with full powers, (i.e., commissions) to act in their name and authority, in all kinds of cases, executive and judicial.” (Discussions on Church Polity, by Charles Hodge, p. 356-58)

    And, on the second subject, as you know, I’m not averse to overtures …

  34. July 6, 2013 at 10:49 pm

    Howie,

    The SJC is accountable, but its decisions are not approved, or adopted, or even reviewed, by the body that appointed it. Simply put – the PCA acts when the SJC acts. Decisions are final when announced to the parties.

    If their decisions are unreviewable, then they are by definition unaccountable. Whether or not they must face election periodically or not doesn’t affect their accountability individual decisions. This isn’t a secular court where judges face popularity contests in many jurisdictions. This is a church court sworn to uphold the peace and purity of the gospel. Letting heretics slide on technicalities falls way short of that responsibility. Acting moderators allowing committees to violate RAO 15-8 to avoid holding the SJC accountable does as well.


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