A Peacemaker Speaks

Posted by Dr. Jeff Hutchinson

(I have taken Rev. Reed DePace’s words out of one of our threads below, made some minor editorial [not content] corrections, and WITHOUT EVEN ASKING HIM, now post them here as something of a “final word” to some of our lines of inquiry here at Green Bagginses.  Now, if Reed objects to my having done so, that will bring him one of my dreaded “strike ones” :) .  Also, please note that Reed did not title this post, I did!) 

Rev. Wilson, I have strong sympathies for your concerns for justice. I think you continue to err by beginning with the assumption that there is some essential bent towards injustice on the part of those in the PCA who oppose FV teaching. Beginning with this assumption, you see boogey men everywhere you look.

You are a well seasoned churchman. You are also well seasoned at receiving and having to handle in a Christlike manner accusations you believe are spurios and/or frivolous. Finally, you are well seasoned at responding to and/or adjudicating such accusations in according to a pre-agreed upon set of procedures designed to ensure that justice is not simply the result but even the effect of the process every step along the way.

Take a step back from your concerns for a second and consider this. The PCA’s BCO is the direct historical descendent of the original Book of Church Order in Presbyterianism, going all the way back to the first Presbyterians in Scotland. That BCO itself was based on other church order documents, having a heritage that arguably goes back to the beginning of the Church. (If it is still available, David Hall has done an excellent job of tracing the history and the meaning of the BCO in Presbyterianism. I think it may still be available at CAPO). Finally, this BCO root is the same root for all the BCO’s used by the vast majority of Presbyterians still today.

The point is not that this heritage should automatically remove your concerns. Rather, if the PCA’s BCO can accurately be described as consistent with this original source (I believe this is true), then your concern for justice (at least in the process) applies to virtually all Presbyterian denominations.

Unless – you make the case that the PCA specific components of our BCO are the source of injustice. Even here however, such PCA specific components have been added in specific response to the ongoing effort to ensure that the whole process and the result itself really does achieve justice.  Knowing the origins of the PCA, it is clear that we have been especially alert (far more so than the PCUSA) to providing every reasonable degree of protection for innocent parties.

The strong presumption of guilt that the LAP faces is that it APPEARS (emphasis, not shouting), on the basis of Rev. Wilkins’ own published statements (where he himself states that some of his views differ from the Westminster Standards), that the LAP did not perform the appropriate examination of these views.

This is the QUESTION that must be proved. Please, do you not recognize the justice of this? Is not this similar to the grand jury process, or even the process of an appeal to an appellate court? A judge has to determine that the APPEARANCE, not the FACTof guilt, is present. Accordingly a trial is ordered for the prosecution to proves the appearance is fact, while the defense seeks to prove that the appearance is merely that and nothing more.

This is the essence of the SJC’s action. It is eminently just and reasonable. It neither goes too far nor ignores a valid complaint.

Note that Rev. Wilkins is not presumed guilty (contrary to many wild misunderstandings by many here and elsewhere). Note carefully that his views APPEAR TO DIFFER with the standards. There is expressly no conclusion that not only do they truly differ, but that they do in a substantial and serious manner.

To read anymore into these things, either by hyperbolic assumptive questions or outright maligning the motives of Christian brothers – is just sinful.

Please sir, are you an expert of PCA BCO and its procedures? If not, would it not have been a more circumspect course of action to either spend the time to examine them yourself or question numerous PCA men who have a reasonable understanding of these procedures? Would it not be in keeping with the peace and purity of the Church you are committed to consider carefully such answers as Bill Lyle’s, and maybe even engage him with your serious questions and concerns?

It is a fair observation, Rev. Wilson, to note that you have not done this, but have spoken rashly and unjustly about things you yourself admit you do not have the knowledge to know for sure. As well, you are a leader followed by others. The comments to your exasperations on your blog show that your disciples are following your example and engaging in even greater rashness and unjust observations of their brothers.

I want to be at peace with you and work for the glory of our Lord where and when we can, regardless of any disagreements we may have. How can there be such unity when you rashly and repeatedly insist that men whom you’ve never met are rigorously determined to engage in injustice, and you will do your duty to expose their nefariousness? How can we have any unity when you begin with assuming that the fix is in, and pursue such uninformed opinions.

A blog is not the format to engage in such studies and discussions. Once again many expose not simply their ignorance but even their immaturity. Having done thing similar myself (may God keep me from further) I have sympathy. That does not mean we should continue to behave rashly.

The SJC is a body of godly men, humbly seeking justice through a process rooted in faith that God continues to use His Church as the house of grace. Let not ignorance of procedure lead you to presume wickedness on the part of these men, and foolishness on the part of the rest of us who trust Christ to work through them.

Instead, seek understanding and pray for grace and mercy for all involved. And above all, cease from rash judgements. Surely you can see this is not just.

Rev. Reed DePace, PCA Teaching Elder, Elkton, MD