Lane as Assistant Prosecutor: Good, Bad, or Ugly?

Posted by Dr. Jeff Hutchinson

Lane was asked, and has agreed to serve as an Assistant Prosecutor in the PCA’s Judicial Case against the Louisiana Presbytery (Case 2007-14).  All may agree that it would likely be a bad, or even ugly thing for him to have been asked were he known “to indulge a malignant spirit towards the accused,” were he “not of good character,” were he “himself under censure or process,” or were he “known to be litigious, rash, or highly imprudent” (Book of Church Order 31-8).  But of course–by God’s grace (as Lane would be the first to say)–none of those things are true.

But what about the other phrase in 31-8, that “Great caution ought to be exercised in receiving accusations from any person who…is deeply interested in any respect in the conviction of the accused”?

First, note that even were a prosecutor “deeply interested in the conviction of the accused”–however that may be understood–even then he may still be fit to be a prosecutor, if the court so judges with all due caution.

Second, note that this wise caution comes in the context of references to “VOLUNTARY” and not appointed prosecutors (I am sure all you expert BCO exegetes out there had already noted this).  Sam Duncan, Lane Keister, and every other Assistant Prosecutor Sam Duncan may ask to serve with him, did not volunteer, they were asked, and they agreed.  This is an important distinction, and it helps to keep uninformed and reactionary charges of “bias” at bay.

Finally, though, being “deeply interested in the conviction of the accused” is not to be confused with having a deep interest in the theological issues or matters of church doctrine or government involved in the case!  Our Constitution’s caution is with regard to fleshly motivations that are personal and not impartial, it is not a codified enthronement of the ignorant and indifferent, and only the ignorant and indifferent, to positions of authority in judicial matters!  Now THAT would be ugly!

Though Lane is not a member of the SJC, the principles governing that Commission govern Lane’s service as an Assistant Prosecutor.  And one of the principles makes this final point crystal clear, “A member is not disqualified merely because he has previously expressed opinions on theological issues or matters of church doctrine or government involved in the case” [SJC Manual 6.2(c)].

Thank you, Lane, for all your clearly expressed opinions to this point!  Keep it up!  Of course, do not comment to anyone outside the process with regard to the merits of this particular case, Case 2007-14, but please keep preaching and teaching the doctrines and government of our church, even (and especially) those that are “involved in the case.”

Lane Keister as Assistant Prosecutor?  Good.

Posted by Jeff Hutchinson

New Blog Title

You may have noticed the change in blog title. This is to reflect that there is now a plurality of authors on this blog. Gary Johnson, Jeff Hutchinson, David Gadbois, and Bob Mattes have graciously agreed to post on this blog. I have a few more names of people who have not gotten back to me yet.

New Book on Barth

There is a new book on Barth coming out in January, edited by David Gibson and Daniel Strange. The contributors are top-flight scholars. This will be a milestone in Barth scholarship, especially at the point where evangelicals are trying to engage Barth’s theology. Authors include Carl Trueman, Paul Helm, Donald MacLeod, A.T.B. McGowan, Sebastian Rehnman, and Henri Blocher (and others).