Evangel Presbytery Stands to be Counted

On the Aquila Report, you can read of the latest development in the Leithart saga. The account points out the bind into which this decision puts Leithart. He will not be able to stay in the PCA, since he is required to have the “full concurrence” of Evangel Presbytery in order to labor out of bounds at that position at Trinity House. I wish to point out a few of the implications of this unanimous vote by Evangel Presbytery.

First of all, it is quite apparent that the “grass-roots” experiment, which I regard as a complete failure, is nevertheless a double-edged weapon in the hands of those who wish to see our denomination get broader and broader. My puny little comments on this blog are one thing. A court’s decision is quite another thing. All of those who wish me to shut up about Leithart are now going to have to say the same thing to an entire court of the church. I stand with Evangel Presbytery.

Secondly, for all those interpreting the SJC’s decision to be an exoneration of Leithart’s doctrine, please note that if you believe that, then you must also believe that Evangel Presbytery is in direct violation of the SJC’s decision. They are living in full-blown rebellion against a higher court of the church. How about them apples? It will be interesting to see if any of the FV-friendly Presbyteries decide to contest Evangel’s decision (which cannot be complained against, since it was unanimous). For anyone who believes that the SJC decision exonerates Leithart’s doctrine, you will need to do something about Evangel Presbytery.

Thirdly, and building on the previous point, this vote will probably have the effect of cementing the interpretation of the SJC’s decision in the Leithart case in a direction other than doctrinal vindication, especially if the FV-friendly Presbyteries do nothing about Evangel’s decision (which will amount to a tacit agreement that the Leithart decision was not doctrinal). This is, of course, what the authors of the decision intended, anyway. If that is the case (and that is a genuine “if,” since the jury is still out on that one), then the denomination has not publicly pronounced in favor of FV doctrine. The logic would then inexorably lead to this conclusion: the Leithart decision, because it is based on polity, and not the doctrinal issues at all, is a lost battle, and not the war. In that case, we will need to fight tooth and nail in the upcoming battles, and there will be more.

I want to say publicly that I applaud loud and long Evangel Presbytery, and I am thanking the Lord profusely for every member of Evangel Presbytery, who yesterday stood to be counted for the gospel. As for Evangel Presbytery, they will serve the Lord. I hope and pray that other Presbyteries will take similar action.

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51 Comments

  1. November 13, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    […] Evangel Presbytery Stands to be Counted.  Good news, and a glimmer of hope for the PCA. […]

  2. Keith Haas said,

    November 13, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    Won’t those FV’ers in the Pacific NW just allow him to labor out of bounds?

  3. Keith Haas said,

    November 13, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Sorry, I meant to say DID they allow him to labor out of bounds?

  4. greenbaggins said,

    November 13, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    My understanding is that PNW did not allow him to labor out of bounds. However, the point is actually moot, since the BCO clearly states that he needs full concurrence of BOTH Presbyteries in order to labor out of bounds where he is.

  5. Keith Haas said,

    November 13, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    Where you said that >>>He will not be able to stay in the PCA, since he is required to have the “full concurrence” of Evangel Presbytery in order to labor out of bounds at that position at Trinity House.<<< you implied that his laboring out of bounds was an option. But the PNWP already decided it wasn't an option.

    So Evangel decided not to allow him to transfer his ordination. They did NOT decide to deny a request to allow him to labor out of bounds, as there was no request. It wasn't an option in the first place, because the PNWP didn't allow the option.

  6. Jon Barlow said,

    November 13, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    Do you have any evidence, apart from the way the Aquila report story is worded, that Evangel gave any justification for its denial? I would love to see some kind of written statement, but I don’t think you’ll get one; I’d be happy to be proved wrong. The presbytery already allows ordained ministers to minister out of bounds at the local baptist seminary, Beeson, for instance. So what is their justification for denying Leithart the ability to minister out of bounds at the Trinity Institute? I’m not saying they don’t have one, I’m just saying that I have not seen one nor have you produced one.

  7. greenbaggins said,

    November 13, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    Jon, I don’t know whether one exists or not. You’d have to take that up with the clerk of their Presbytery.

  8. Bob S said,

    November 13, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    6. Jon, umm, I think the immediate inference would be that Evangel thinks Beeson is acceptable and Trinity House is not.
    But your point was?

  9. Jon Barlow said,

    November 13, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    My point was that neither that conclusion nor the reason for that conclusion have been stated explicitly. That’s what you do when you make a decision – you give a rationale for it. Otherwise, people are only left to “infer,” as you say. It is, of course, fine for Evangel to have and employ a standard. I just think it needs to be explicit about that standard.

  10. Jeremy said,

    November 13, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    9. Jon – I think it means that the Evangel Presbytery (and interdenominational Beeson) are still Protesting…Leithart by his own admission is not

  11. Greg said,

    November 13, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    If this decision were a connect-the-dots picture puzzle, only a young child would sincerely wonder what the designer intended; especially as the lion’s head had already been drawn.

  12. Bob S said,

    November 13, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    12. Tank you. Velly interesting. We shall stay tuned.
    Though your last seems to be the real kicker parenthetical and anonymous as it is.

  13. November 13, 2013 at 6:31 pm

    Thanks, Evangel member, that’s a very helpful clarification.

  14. Scott T. said,

    November 13, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    “The committee recommends that TE Peter Leithart’s request to labor out of bounds with Trinity House and Trinity Presbyterian Church be denied because it is not with the full concurrence of and under circumstances agreeable to Evangel Presbytery (BCO13-2).”

    Assuming the motion is stated correctly, it sounds like the request did involve laboring out of bounds. Was that incidental to the request to transfer (PCA) Presbyteries?

  15. November 13, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    Great post, Lane. Evangel obviously has men with chests.

    Jon – It seems obvious from the motion that, rather than answering a call in one of the many PCA churches in that area, laboring in the heretical FV psuedo-seminary was “…not with the full concurrence of and under circumstances agreeable to Evangel Presbytery (BCO13-2).” Since Evangel rejected Lusk some years ago when he left LAP, I see a clear trend as two points do make a line.

  16. Mark Kim (Grace Toronto) said,

    November 13, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    This is going to be interesting. I’m glad that Evangel Presbytery is standing firm regarding what should be considered orthodox within the Reformed tradition. In fact, this is not only about defending Reformed orthodoxy in particular but evangelical orthodoxy in generally.

    I think some of you will find that what I wrote about the NPP/FV in my dissertation on Michael Horton’s covenant theology will quickly see that there is NO common ground between the Reformed revisionist view on justification (as set forth by Leithart, Sandlin, etc.) and the classic Reformed view stated in the orthodox confessions.

  17. Andrew Duggan said,

    November 13, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    So Leithart violates the BCO for laboring out of bounds without the concurrence of both affected presbyteries. He is still a member of the PNW. Leithart ignores the action of the Evangel Presbytery. So what does Evangel Presbytery do? File a complaint with the SJC? OK. SJC forces PWN to try him for violating the BCO on that point. PNW exonerates him. You expect them to honor the BCO on laboring out of bounds, when they ignore the scriptures on necessity of JBFA?

    Certainly it was the right thing for the Evangel Presbytery to do. But now you have a few more years of legal battles and false hope for a better outcome this time.

    Even if PL leaves the PCA over this, does that make everything OK in the PCA?

  18. Tim Harris said,

    November 13, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    The whole idea of having ministerial members of Presbytery that are working hard, not for the advancement of the holy catholic church in its instantiation qua PCA, but rather for the prosperity of a pseudo-church — that is, a body that the host church does not even recognize as a church — is troubling.

    Take the logical extreme — a Presbytery composed almost entirely of ministers “laboring outside the bounds.” Would I want to be a lay member of a congregation in such a presbytery? Where complaints and discipline would be adjudicated by men having no organic relation to the life of the church, other than their sitting on that judicatory and rendering their “expert opinion”?

    In other words, the very concept seems to fly in the face of the organic constitution of the church as understood by presbyterianism — and indeed, of any respectable model of the church. In converts the model from an organic representation of the church as such, into a panel of “experts” that gets to rule authoritatively over a church in which that is their only involvement.

  19. Tony Phelps said,

    November 14, 2013 at 7:40 am

    Is it absolutely clear that Leithart “will not be able to stay in the PCA”? He cannot remain a member in good standing of the PNWP? Couldn’t they maintain his status there as “without call” (per BCO 34-10, which according to Morton Smith’s commentary, “does not *require* that the Presbytery depose a minister without a regular call…”)?

    This may be another case of “if you live by the procedural sword, you will die by it.” I think it’s a shame that the PCA has devolved into the politics of proceduralism – seemingly now, on both sides. Leithart’s Westminster-denying & Gospel-subverting errors should have been clearly and unequivocally condemned by the SJC / GA. Instead, the procedural games continue. Mt 15 comes to mind: “So for the sake of your tradition [BCO, anyone?] you have made void the word of God.”

  20. Tony Phelps said,

    November 14, 2013 at 8:13 am

    Another thought: What if Evangel had examined Leithart for transfer – and found his doctrine unacceptable and thereby denied his transfer? That would have provided opportunity, it seems, to directly address & condemn his errors.

  21. November 14, 2013 at 9:40 am

    Tony,

    He cannot be classified as without call because he has accepted a call to the FV Trinity. He is clearly laboring within the geographic boundary of Evangel, which puts him squarely under BCO 13-2.

    Sure, it would have been cleaner if PNWP had done their job right and condemned his heretical teachings, or if the SJC had not valued secular legal reasoning over the gospel, but here we are. To paraphrase Don Rumsfeld, we play the cards that we’re dealt, not the hand we wish we had.

    While the BCO requires that Leithart now go the way of Rick Lusk and take his heresy to the CREC where it belongs and where he’s been laboring for years, Leithart isn’t the only FVer in the PCA. There is still work to do.

  22. Tony Phelps said,

    November 14, 2013 at 9:50 am

    Thanks for your response, Bob. I guess I’m still concerned about further “BCO-wizardry” as someone here labeled it.

  23. November 14, 2013 at 9:59 am

    Tony, RE #20,

    Only if Leithart accepts a call in the presbytery. He has not been, and probably would not be, called by a PCA church in the presbytery. He wasn’t even called to a PCA church in PNWP. As best I can tell, he’s never pastored a PCA church, only Federal Visionist CREC churches. Having said that, I’m curious how he was ordained in the PCA in the first place.

  24. Tony Phelps said,

    November 14, 2013 at 10:20 am

    Bob, I think he originally served a PCA church in AL before going to the PNWP. So he transferred to PNWP to serve “out of bounds” in a CREC church there.

  25. Tony Phelps said,

    November 14, 2013 at 10:37 am

    Bob, RE #23, according to his faculty page at New St Andrews, he was “…pastor of Reformed Heritage Presbyterian Church, Birmingham, Alabama (PCA, 1989-1995).”

  26. November 14, 2013 at 10:45 am

    Tony, that church (Reformed Heritage Presbyterian Church) is now Trinity Presbyterian Church (Birmingham, AL). It is where Leithart has now gone back to serving again with Rich Lusk.

  27. tonyphelpsri said,

    November 14, 2013 at 10:52 am

    Ah, . Thanks, Andrew.

  28. greenbaggins said,

    November 14, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    FYI, the comment that was written by “Evangel member” was taken down by moderators because the concern expressed in it had been fixed on the Aquila Report to that member’s satisfaction. I am content from my own contacts in Evangel Presbytery that both the Aquila Report’s post and my own analysis of it are accurate.

  29. November 14, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    RE #25 & 26,

    So basically, Leithart got his ordination in the PCA, then took his church to the CREC. Nice.

  30. greenbaggins said,

    November 14, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    I could be wrong, Bob, but I think the church went CREC when Rich Lusk was refused transfer into Evangel Presbytery.

  31. David Gilleran said,

    November 14, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    Reformed Heritage was a PCA when Peter Leithart was the pastor. The church did not leave the PCA for CREC until Rich Lusk was not accepted into Evangel Presbytery.

  32. tonyphelpsri said,

    November 14, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    Whoa, I just noticed the glaring irony: Leithart was once the pastor of REFORMED HERITAGE!?

  33. November 14, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    Lane/Dave,

    Copy all, thanks for the clarification. I’m not sure how that changes my statement. Leithart obviously prepped the church for the switch, otherwise how would they even know that the CREC existed? They had to already be brain washed into FV by the time Lusk showed up. Besides, Leithart went directly to another CREC church in Moscow, ID. I see no value that Leithart added to the PCA, and certainly no loyalty. Is this the conduct that we desire from our officers? That was a rhetorical question and I know that I’m preaching to the choir.

  34. November 14, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    Tony,

    Yep, but that was back when they had a Reformed heritage. :-)

  35. Stephen Welch said,

    November 15, 2013 at 11:18 am

    Lane, I hope you will never shut up about Leithart and the FV heresy. As long as the Lord gives us breath we need to continue to address this issue. I appreciate the stand you have taken. I commend Evangel Presbytery for its decision. I hope this does lead to Leithart leaving the PCA. I do not know why he never left to join his friends like Lusk and Wilkins. By his remaining he has continue to disturb the peace and purity of the church.

  36. horace said,

    November 15, 2013 at 11:51 am

    I would second that, but also feel I need to add a caveat. Peter Leithart leaving the PCA, or even the PNWP, does not solve the problem, nor leave the church “happily ever after”. The culture and structure of influences in the PNWP that brought us to this point over the past 8 or 10 years remains in place. The TEs that quoted Leithart and other FV men, and NT Wright, as well as others like Peter Enns, will remain in their pulpits and retain their influence in the presbytery. They will continue to hold those beliefs, approve of others who hold them, and diminish those confessional folks who might still remain. They will continue to downplay the Westminster Standards, not only as the standard of belief in the churches for ordained men, but also to the flock as nothing more than a historical waypoint on the way to the modern, relevant, and culturally transformative PCA they desire. And they will continue to crow about “doing it all by the book, therefore we did it right”.

    No. Peter Leithart was simply a sign. Nothing has changed in the PNWP.

  37. Scott T. said,

    November 15, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    It was reported at one time this individual was on the Theological Examination committee for Pacific Northwest Presbytery. Does anyone know the background on how that happened?

  38. locirari said,

    November 15, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    I would second Horace’s comment @36. I live within the bounds of the PNWP and have attended a PCA church where the minister criticizes the Westminster Standards from the pulpit. This same minister (or TE) has said in a sermon, in so many words, that if you’re in the PCA and have a problem with the FV also dwelling in the PCA, “too bad, sucks to be you!” Go here: http://www.faithtacoma.org/content/2011-12-11-pm.aspx

  39. November 15, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    He was the reader for my sacraments exam! Sacraments.

  40. Howie Donahoe said,

    November 15, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    locirari @38 – Thanks very much for the link. I hadn’t read, nor was I aware of, that Sabbath evening teaching. I can honestly say I found it extremely helpful to my argument-craving heart. I’ve just sent it to my youngest son, who unfortunately inherited some of his father’s quarrelling DNA. But I can’t fathom how you could summarize it with the six words you put in quotes. Like you, I encourage all GB readers to review it.

    http://www.faithtacoma.org/content/2011-12-11-pm.aspx

  41. locirari said,

    November 15, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    Howie @40:

    What can I say but the divide between the Old and New Schools is very wide indeed. So now that you know that Dr. Rayburn takes the Westminster Standards to task in the pulpit, how do you fathom that?

  42. November 15, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    Howie,

    I read that piece by Rayburn. Two thoughts come to mind: 1) Rayburn apparently doesn’t read Federal Visionists much. The PCA’s report quoted them extensively, as have many in subsequent writings. The most damning of all is the collection of papers from the Knox Colloquium – in their own words. 2) Rayburn apparently doesn’t think that the gospel is worth the trouble, that we should go along to get along. That’s a shame, but not unexpected from what I’ve seen. R.C. Sproul, Sr., was correct when he observed at the 35th GA that nothing short of salvation by grace alone through faith alone is at stake in the FV controversy.

  43. locirari said,

    November 15, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    Howie,

    It’s wonderful if you, your son, and everyone else who reads the sermon finds themselves spurred on to love their brothers in controversy. The irony is the application the author makes to the controversy we are discussing here at Greenbaggins. The author’s own role in the controversy makes his sermon even more ironic. I invite you to please consider that.

  44. November 16, 2013 at 9:33 am

    locirari – Good point, since Rayburn has made it a consistent practice of defending FV heretics at their trials.

  45. Andy Gilman said,

    November 16, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    At the beginning of the new millenium a group of “visionaries” begin to vigorously promote a new paradigm via conferences, and every publishing and internet tool available to them. They advance their new vision with bold confidence and a cocky arrogance that they have God and the Scriptures on their side, and they do so from the pulpits of churches in denominations whose confessional standards they begin to deride. Their innovative vision triggers a firestorm of criticism and disturbs the peace of the church for more than a decade, and now one of their chief defenders can only tell us how “dismayed” he is “to see how little care has been taken to make sure that a man’s views are accurately represented and not caricatured.” He also tells us that “There is a study now underway at Duke University on theological controversy on the internet and the Presbyterian Church in America is being used as an example of how it is not to be done.”

    I wonder if there are any studies being done about how to humbly present new paradigms and innovative biblical discoveries to the church, without stirring up theological controversy in the first place?

  46. Bob S said,

    November 16, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    Andy,
    Serious. The fatuous arrogance of these guys was over the top and then to have somebody say the godly and gracious thing to do is just stick your head in the sand and ignore these troublers of Israel is a bit much.
    If the PCA doesn’t really believe what it says it believes in regard to the WCF, the honest thing is to admit it, not double down on the love and tolerance schtick.
    True, there is an acceptable spectrum in reformed circles, but that baptism unites those who receive it head for head with Christ is beyond the pale. Do the right thing and buy a ticket for the ferry across the Tiber, friend.
    It’s been ages since I was a member of a congregation in NWP, but somehow the latitudinarianism doesn’t surprise me. Yeah, I may be unloving, but I am not stupid.

  47. Mark B said,

    November 16, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    @38
    I had read that sermon back when it was posted. My observation was of the scripture quoted. Almost every single one is either taken out of context and/or doesn’t support the point he wishes to make.
    (If someone feels I’m being too harsh here, I would be happy to take the references point by point and illustrate what I mean, if the moderators feel a lengthy comment of that nature would be appropriate)
    We have a former Baptist who is a member of our church, at the last session meeting where we had asked for input on future sermon series he asked why we do very few topical sermons but rather preach through various books of the Bible. This sermon is a good illustration of one reason why historically the reformed have done that.

  48. Mark B. said,

    November 16, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    Seriously Howie?
    To quote:
    “Whatever one’s opinions about the current dustup in the PCA, I have yet to hear or read a single persuasive argument that we need to contend about these things. I fear that what we are about nowadays in our church is recreational controversy, controversy for the fun of it…….I think what we are going through is an unseemly and childish spat….”

    I think this actually is a rather accurate summary:

    “This same minister (or TE) has said in a sermon, in so many words, that if you’re in the PCA and have a problem with the FV also dwelling in the PCA, “too bad, sucks to be you!”

  49. Howie Donahoe said,

    November 18, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    Mark – Referencing your final comment @ 47, at that particular link I think you’ll see it’s a teaching delivered on Sunday evening, which I believe is a different format than their mornings. A review of their website shows pretty clearly the minister’s practice is to preach through books of the Bible, and apparently has done so for the 35+ years he’s been there.

    http://www.faithtacoma.org/teaching/default.aspx

  50. November 18, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    Howie – That doesn’t change Mark’s basic point that Rayburn plays it loose with his citations. Same tune we heard on his paedocommunion paper. Nothing new.

  51. Ron Henzel said,

    November 19, 2013 at 2:55 am

    Robert Rayburn wrote: “I fear that what we are about nowadays in our church is recreational controversy, controversy for the fun of it.”

    Given the context of this alleged “fear” (which is actually a verbal assault), this is a despicable, deplorable, and demonstrably deceitful misrepresentation of reality couched in duplicitously sanctimonious language. .


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