Louisiana Presbytery’s Pleas

Posted by Bob Mattes

Updated slightly on 27 Jan.

This post at HaigLaw’s Xanga site has been up for a week, but no one active in these discussions, including myself, seems to have found it until now. A commissioner at the Louisiana Presbytery meeting on 19 January wrote a brief article about the proceedings. HaigLaw’s post is a good read, and his hit count will probably skyrocket now.

I’ll try to put the pleas into perspective. Louisiana Presbytery (LAP) had decided its answer to their indictment and citation by the PCA’s Standing Judicial Commission (SJC). LAP has pled “not guilty” to Charge 1 and “guilty” to Charge 2. I’ll offer a quick analysis of what that means and where it leaves us.

I’ll start with the most interesting, which is Charge 2, which is summarized in the indictment:

Louisiana Presbytery failed to find a strong presumption
of guilt that some of the views of TE Wilkins were out of
conformity with the Constitution, and thus was derelict in its duty under BCO 13-9, 40-4, and 40-5, and has thereby caused much unresolved pastoral confusion and harm.

LAP plead guilty to this and has referred the case to the SJC. That means that the SJC will hold a trial for TE Wilkins. I think this is a smart move on LAP’s part, something I think that they should have done last year. The indictment contained a host of Wilkins’ quotes that provide more than ample material to find a strong presumption of guilt–the standard that must be met before an officer can be tried. The LAP commissioner indicates that the discussion was long (4 hours) and involved many motions that failed.

I found this paragraph in HaigLaw’s post particularly interesting:

Pastor Wilkins and his supporters sought some kind of vote of confidence by the Presbytery that the delegates still thought his views were in accord with the Constitution, but the delegates were unwilling to do so, or at least unwilling to prejudge the matter in anticipation of a possible trial.

I would have expected nothing less from Federal Visionists than to try to further embarrass their Presbytery for their own gain. I also found this interesting:

But it is hard to construe the guilty plea to Count 2 as anything other than a tacit admission that Pastor Wilkins’ Federal Vision views should be subject to a trial over whether they conform to the Calvinistic Constitution, even if the LA Presbytery cannot get a majority vote to do so itself.

That speaks for itself, and vindicates my post here about objectivity and loyalties.

The SJC will now set a trial date, appoint a prosecutor, write up an indictment, and provide a fair and impartial trial for TE Wilkins. This will be the first PCA officer tried for actively advocating and teaching Federal Vision theology, which the 35th General Assembly almost unanimously condemned. Like the process with LAP to date, the PCA will scrupulous follow all appropriate procedures. I’m sure that won’t matter to folks like Wilson and Jordan whose favorite sport is trashing orthodox denominations like the PCA who oppose the Federal Vision teachings. Both have already come unglued several times during the process. It would be entertaining if it weren’t such disgraceful conduct for those who purport to represent the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Charge 1 was summarized as:

Louisiana Presbytery failed properly to handle TE
Wilkins’s differences (some of which are evidenced in the Appendix) to determine whether or not his views are out of accord at key points with the system of doctrine summarized in the Confessional Standards, which are “standard expositions of the teachings of Scripture in relation to both faith and practice,” and as such has failed adequately to protect the peace and purity of the Church. Please note that the term “differences” as used above does not assume pre-adjudication of the case. The term “differences” is
being used as defined by RAO 16-3(e)(5).

In a way, I’m surprised that LAP plead “not guilty” to this one since even a casual reading of their report on their examination of TE Wilkins shows that they did not use the Book of Church Order (BCO) criteria. The LAP commissioner indicates that the plea apparently centers on some technical issues, though I can’t image what they might be. None of the categories in RAO 16-3(e)(5) appear in their report to characterize each of Wilkins’ differences. Rather, it seemed like the LAP report was more designed to chastise Central Carolina Presbytery for questioning Wilkins’ conformity to our Constitution than to seriously evaluate TE Wilkins’ published views. Remember that the SJC indictment included extensive evidence that LAP should have found “a strong presumption of guilt” that Wilkins was out of accord with the Standards. Rather than probe deeply, according to LAP’s own report, they basically took Wilkins’ word that he was in conformity. That’s not the BCO standard, nor anyone else’s who comes to mind.

Every time a teaching elder comes up for examination in the PCA, whether initial ordination, transfer, or over questions about their views, a Presbytery must classify each and every difference found in accordance with RAO 16-3(e)(5):

Each presbytery shall record whether:
a) the candidate stated that he had no differences; or
b) the court judged the stated difference(s) to be merely
semantic; or
c) the court judged the stated difference(s) to be more than
semantic, but “not out of accord with any fundamental of
our system of doctrine” (BCO 21-4); or
d) the court judged the stated difference(s) to be “out of
accord,” that is, “hostile to the system” or “strik[ing] at
the vitals of religion” (BCO 21-4).

I sit on Potomac Presbytery’s Credentials Committee, and we do this scrupulously on a regular basis. Our dedicated and thorough Stated Clerk ensures that this is recorded in the Presbytery minutes as required. LAP found differences but did not evaluate or classify them vs. the RAO criteria. This is pretty much black and white, so again, I’m surprised that they picked this hill to fight on. Perhaps they were thinking ahead to their allies in the Missouri and Northwest Presbyteries, where other prominent Federal Visionists sit awaiting the outcome of this case and its wider repercussions. Update: HaigLaw provided some good insight in comment #18 below. I happily defer to an elder who was there and seems to have no dog in the fight. That said, NW and Missouri Presbyteries should be paying close attention.

So, it looks like we’re headed for two trials: One for LAP on Charge 1 to be held on 5 March as stated in the SJC citation (I presume); and one for TE Wilkins at a time yet to be determined due to LAP’s referral in connection with Charge 2. We all need to be in prayer for all involved.

Lastly, I want to thank the commissioners of Louisiana Presbytery for doing the right thing on referring TE Wilkins to the SJC for trial.

Posted by Bob Mattes

102 Comments

  1. January 26, 2008 at 10:12 pm

    So what do you expect to happen in all of this on charge 1 and charge 2?

    If the LAP pleads guilty to Count 1, what will happen in your estimation.

    With Count 2, what will happen in your estimation.

  2. January 26, 2008 at 11:52 pm

    […] January 26, 2008 in Covenant, Justification, Pastoral Ministry Tags: federal vision, presbyterian church in america Details from Bob Mattes at GB. […]

  3. anneivy said,

    January 27, 2008 at 1:49 am

    Does Pr. Wilkins have to cooperate in a trial? Were he to resign from the PCA couldn’t he avoid it?

  4. January 27, 2008 at 8:58 am

    Anne,

    According to the BCO:

    23-1. When any minister shall tender the resignation of his pastoral charge to his Presbytery, the Presbytery shall cite the church to appear by its commissioners, to show cause why the Presbytery should or should not
    accept the resignation. If the church fails to appear, or if its reasons for
    retaining its pastor be deemed insufficient, his resignation shall be accepted
    and the pastoral relation dissolved.

    38-3. a. When a member or officer in the Presbyterian Church in America shall attempt to withdraw from the communion of this branch of the visible Church by affiliating with some other branch (BCO 2-2), if at the time of the attempt to withdraw he is in good standing, the irregularity shall be recorded,
    his new membership acknowledged, and his name removed from the roll.
    But if at the time of the attempt to withdraw there is a record of an investigation in process (BCO 31-2), or there are charges (BCO 32-3) concerning the member or minister, the court of original jurisdiction may retain his name on the roll and conduct the case, communicating the outcome upon completion of the proceedings to that member or minister. If the court does not conduct the case, his new membership shall be acknowledged, his name removed from the roll, and, at the request of the receiving branch, the matters under investigation or the charges shall be communicated to them.

    LAP is the court of original jurisdiction. The chapter on references doesn’t mention original jurisdiction. Chapter 11 doesn’t mention original jurisdiction transferring either. So, it looks to me that LAP could accept Wilkins’ resignation, should he tender one, while a trial process is under way at the SJC. I assume that would halt the trial process.

  5. January 27, 2008 at 9:03 am

    Andrew,

    LAP has already plead “not guilty” to Count 1. That will lead to a trial in March.

    LAP has already plead “guilty” to Count 2, which means that they are now admitting that there is a strong presumption of guilt the Wilkins may not be in conformity with the church Constitution. They referred the case to the SJC for trial, so the SJC will review the status to ensure that the referral is in order, then set a trial date, appoint prosecutors, write up a certificate of indictment, etc., and Wilkins will be given a fair and impartial trial.

  6. Tim Harris said,

    January 27, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    I’m wondering, in view of the outcome of Count 2, might SJC decide to drop Count 1?

  7. January 27, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    Tim

    I’m wondering, in view of the outcome of Count 2, might SJC decide to drop Count 1?

    Why would they do that? It appears that there is at least a strong presumption of guilt for Count 1, otherwise LAP wouldn’t have been indicted on it. Although Counts 1 & 2 do have some relationship in the case, they are two separate and independent offenses.

  8. HaigLaw said,

    January 27, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    Thanks for the kind words and interesting responses to my blog on Federal Vision. I’ve gotten 182 hits today alone already.
    -HaigLaw

  9. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 27, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    Why would they do that?

    Because the likely outcome on that count is admonishment? Just guessing.

    Jeff

  10. Tim Harris said,

    January 27, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    Well, so far as the handling of Wilkins is concerned, they got the more difficult hurdle, namely, direct jurisdiction for a trial. Count 1 seems like a fall-back position in case they lost #2, and doesn’t add anything with respect to the case of Wilkins which cannot be achieved with the reference they gained in the disposition of Count 2. The only reason to prosecute Count 1, it seems to me, would be to send a warning shot to Presbyteries to take that part of their job more seriously in the future.

  11. January 27, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    Welcome, HaigLaw,

    I really appreciated the nature and tone of your summary, as well as you taking your time to write it. The meeting must have been painful for all concerned.

    I was joking with a friend last night that your hit rate would probably jump. This blog is quite a popular site for discussion on these issues.

  12. January 27, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    Jeff,

    Because the likely outcome on that count is admonishment?

    Agree that is the likely outcome: “Go forth and sin no more.” But it needs to be said officially.

    Tim,

    The only reason to prosecute Count 1, it seems to me, would be to send a warning shot to Presbyteries to take that part of their job more seriously in the future.

    Well, I implied that in my post, but the unemotional answer would be the the constitutional processes and procedures must be upheld for everyone equally. It has been alleged that LAP did not do that in Wilkins case, and that must be resolved IMO.

  13. Tim Harris said,

    January 27, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    Bob — I’m with you on the importance of the issue. I guess I was thinking that maybe the warning shot would be registered throughout the realm by virtue of Count 2 succeeding and the surrounding discussion, and if so, a lot of work could be saved by dropping Count 1. On the other hand, maybe the points registered in prosecuting Count 1 would save work later in the prosecution of the Wilkins case proper.

  14. January 27, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    Tim,

    Understand what you’re saying. Ultimately this case is about preserving the peace and purity of the church. I agree with the SJC that both of the counts on the table are necessary to do that properly. Beyond, or rather than, saving work in prosecuting Wilkins, which I think will take care of itself just fine, we must prevent other Presbyteries from protecting or overlooking error.

  15. January 27, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    I take issue with this conclusion:

    But it is hard to construe the guilty plea to Count 2 as anything other than a tacit admission that Pastor Wilkins’ Federal Vision views should be subject to a trial over whether they conform to the Calvinistic Constitution, even if the LA Presbytery cannot get a majority vote to do so itself.

    While that is one conclusion that can be drawn, I think it also deserves to be said that LAP could recognize that, while they do not believe Steve’s views warrant a trial, there is obviously no way of convincing the SJC of that fact. It seems pretty clear that defending against the charge of failing to find “probable cause” is a “lost cause” because what the SJC considers proof of LAP’s failure to find “probable cause” was the “probable cause” that formed the basis for that charge against LAP in the first place. In other words, LAP knows it would be found guilty, regardless of whether it actually is, and would prefer the road of lesser resistance. Sort of like going to the gallows without making a scene.

  16. HaigLaw said,

    January 27, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    I read with interest your November article about objectivity and loyalties and your comment about serving on your presbytery’s credentials committee.

    It was my sense that the commissioners at the January 2008 LAP meeting were not uniformly highly sophisticated in church polity, as your credentials committee appears to be. You thought it anomalous that we pled guilty to count 2 but not count 1, and in terms of logic, it appears to be, inasmuch as count 1 is arguably contained within count 2 (think concentric circles with count 1 as a circle inside count 2).

    My sense was that the vote on count 1 carried the day because of argument that, regarding count 1, we had taken all the procedural steps the GA authorities had advised us to take, and thus could not in good conscience agree we were wrong on that count.

    As to count 2, my sense is that the dominant concern was not so much loyalty to Rev. Wilkins, but rather fairness to him. That, and the sense that we felt we had done about as much as we could in investigating the matter.

    There was hardly any discussion at all on the merits of the question whether FV is consistent with our Calvinistic standards. There were those who indicated support for FV, and not, but the issue was not directly discussed, in my view.

    That’s why in my piece — at http://weblog.xanga.com/HaigLaw/638406856/federal-vision.html — I said the vote of guilty to count 2 was a “tacit” admission that the FV views need to be tried at the SJC level.

  17. HaigLaw said,

    January 27, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    We were told that someone on behalf of the SJC had said Count 1 will be dropped because of the guilty plea to Count 2.

    The prevailing view, I think, at the January 2008 LAP meeting was that Count 1 had to do with whether we went through all the required steps, whereas Count 2 had to do with whether we came to the right conclusion on the question of “presumption of guilt.”

    So I think the proper interpretation of the LAP’s decisions on the two counts is, yes we went through all the steps required of us at the time, or that we were advised to take by the SJC, but no, we did not take the FV matter seriously enough, and cannot do so now, so we hereby refer the matter.

  18. HaigLaw said,

    January 27, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    I wrote this comment a few minutes ago, but apparently it did post, so I am reposting it:

    I read with interest your November article about objectivity and loyalties and your comment about serving on your presbytery’s credentials committee.

    It was my sense that the commissioners at the January 2008 LAP meeting were not uniformly highly sophisticated in church polity, as your credentials committee appears to be. You thought it anomalous that we pled guilty to count 2 but not count 1, and in terms of logic, it appears to be, inasmuch as count 1 is arguably contained within count 2 (think concentric circles with count 1 as a circle inside count 2).

    My sense was that the vote on count 1 carried the day because of argument that, regarding count 1, we had taken all the procedural steps the GA authorities had advised us to take, and thus could not in good conscience agree we were wrong on that count.

    As to count 2, my sense is that the dominant concern was not so much loyalty to Rev. Wilkins, but rather fairness to him. That, and the sense that we felt we had done about as much as we could in investigating the matter.

    There was hardly any discussion at all on the merits of the question whether FV is consistent with our Calvinistic standards. There were those who indicated support for FV, and not, but the issue was not directly discussed, in my view.

    That’s why in my piece — at http://weblog.xanga.com/HaigLaw/638406856/federal-vision.html — I said the vote of guilty to count 2 was a “tacit” admission that the FV views need to be tried at the SJC level.

  19. January 27, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    Christopher,

    Were you there? HaigLaw was. If you weren’t there, I’d say he’s in a better position to gage the proceedings.

    Also, the standard for indictment isn’t “probable cause” but “strong presumption of guilt,” a harder standard to meet. To say that LAP would be found guilty regardless of whether it actually is, shows great contempt for the PCA’s orderly processes. If you feel that way about “law,” then why study it? If your client is found guilty despite your best efforts, will you condemn the system as unjust? How does that differ from supporting anarchy?

  20. HaigLaw said,

    January 27, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    I’m trying again to post a comment made earlier:

    I read with interest your November article about objectivity and loyalties and your comment about serving on your presbytery’s credentials committee.

    It was my sense that the commissioners at the January 2008 LAP meeting were not uniformly highly sophisticated in church polity, as your credentials committee appears to be. You thought it anomalous that we pled guilty to count 2 but not count 1, and in terms of logic, it appears to be, inasmuch as count 1 is arguably contained within count 2 (think concentric circles with count 1 as a circle inside count 2).

    My sense was that the vote on count 1 carried the day because of argument that, regarding count 1, we had taken all the procedural steps the GA authorities had advised us to take, and thus could not in good conscience agree we were wrong on that count.

    As to count 2, my sense is that the dominant concern was not so much loyalty to Rev. Wilkins, but rather fairness to him. That, and the sense that we felt we had done about as much as we could in investigating the matter.

    There was hardly any discussion at all on the merits of the question whether FV is consistent with our Calvinistic standards. There were those who indicated support for FV, and not, but the issue was not directly discussed, in my view.

    That’s why in my piece — at my blog xanga.com/HaigLaw/638406856/federal-vision — I said the vote of guilty to count 2 was a “tacit” admission that the FV views need to be tried at the SJC level.

  21. HaigLaw said,

    January 27, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    This is all very interesting to me. I would like to respond to your comment to Christoper, “Also, the standard for indictment isn’t “probable cause” but “strong presumption of guilt,” a harder standard to meet.”

    I don’t know whether that’s true or not. The way it was explained to us at the LAP January 2008 meeting, the two terms were synonymous, that is, “strong presumption of guilt” was an ecclesiastical way of saying “probable cause.”

    As you might have guessed from my username, I’m trained in the law, having practiced in Texas for 33 years and recently became an ALJ for a federal agency in LA.

    But I am not sophisticated in church law. Although I was a RE in the old PCA Texas Presbytery in the 70’s and 80’s, I was not experienced in the fine points of GA judicial commissions.

    So this is a real learning experience for me and I’m enjoying your discussion board immensely.

  22. January 27, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    Thanks for staying engaged with us, HaigLaw. Your comment #18 puts a different perspective to the outcome. I’ll make some changes in my post to reflect your comment.

  23. January 27, 2008 at 7:01 pm

    […] Louisiana Presbytery’s Pleas Posted by Bob Mattes This post at HaigLaw’s Xanga site has been up for a week, but no one active in these […] […]

  24. HaigLaw said,

    January 27, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    Regarding your comment on BCO 38-3, I might shed a ray of light on that. One of the last things the LAP heard in its January 2008 meeting, after pleading on counts 1 & 2, Pastor Wilkins asked for a ruling on whether he was “under process.” A resolution was passed, unanimously, I think, saying he was not. I think the sense was — to allow him to withdraw from the PCA in peace, if that becomes his decision.

  25. January 27, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    HaigLaw, RE #19,

    I did some research on “strong presumption of guilt” a while back and posted on it here. The bulk is in relation to previous church rulings. I believe when I wrote the original post, I read somewhere that “probably cause” was good enough for arrest but “strong presumption of guilt” was required for grand jury indictment. You may be able to shed more light on that with your background. I’m always willing to be corrected.

    I’m glad that you are enjoying the discussion. We try to keep thing on an even keel here. For clarification, Pastor Lane Keister is the blog owner. I and two others are honored to be guest editors or posters.

  26. January 27, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    HaigLaw, RE #21,

    I guess that’s LAP’s call. He is not under indictment yet, but soon will be under at the GA level. Even so, LAP has original jurisdiction over him. I guess if he decides to resign, it is up to LAP to decide what to do. Do you get the sense that Wilkins will bail rather than face trial? I didn’t see that in your original post.

  27. HaigLaw said,

    January 27, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    Re: #22: That’s above my pay grade — as they say. When I was in private practice, I did very little criminal defense, other than home-school truancy defense back in the 80’s, which never got into probable cause. I suspect probable cause is the only standard on criminal law — whether for arrest or indictment. But as I say, that is not my field of expertise.

    Re: #23: I did not even get to meet Pastor Wilkins, although I did sit with one of his sons at lunch and hear the son’s story. So I have no knowledge of his plans. I think the prevailing view of those I heard speak on it was that they think he will bail. I think the sense of the resolution saying he was not under process was to let him bail, if he wants to do that. With due respect to your story about the false alibi, I felt this decision to let him bail was more out of charity than out of justification. Pastor Wilkins is a gracious person. I think even those in the LAP who disagree with his views don’t doubt his sincerity. The question whether he may be sincerely wrong was never debated, per se, as I’ve indicated before. The numbers of commissioners who may privately think he’s sincerely wrong are probably growing in the LAP.

  28. January 27, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    RE #21 and 23,

    I just reread BCO 31-2, which contains the following:

    If such investigation, however originating, should result in raising a
    strong presumption of the guilt of the party involved, the court shall institute
    process, and shall appoint a prosecutor to prepare the indictment and to
    conduct the case. This prosecutor shall be a member of the court, except that
    in a case before the Session, he may be any communing member of the same
    congregation with the accused.

    By that description, given LAP’s guilty plea to Charge 2 and that it acknowledges a “strong presumption of guilt” that TE Wilkins may be out of conformity to the Constitution, I have to believe that he was under process as soon as LAP plead guilty. Smarter folks than me will have to settle that if it comes to it.

  29. HaigLaw said,

    January 27, 2008 at 7:51 pm

    Re: your comment, “I have to believe that he was under process as soon as LAP plead guilty.”

    I had thought of that issue too, but the SJC indictment was against the LAP, not Pastor Wilkins. There are many possible takes on the LAP actions in January 2008, but one clear result was that they are unwilling or unable to indict him. We could debate the reasons, but it wouldn’t matter on the point currently under discussion.

    Secondly, the SJC has NOT indicted him YET. Thus, the LAP voted to find he was not under process AT THAT TIME.

    I think when you are speaking of church discipline, which is analogous to criminal law, you are dealing with tangible things, not tantamount things. Something either is, or it ain’t. Tantamount ain’t good enough, in my view.

    There is another consideration beyond the wording of the BCO, and that is civil law saying church officers have civil liability for pursuing church discipline against members who have resigned from membership in the church in question. There was a famous case 25 years ago, I believe it was in the Supreme Court of Oklahoma, holding church officers liable for pursuing a case of excommunication for immmorality, after the person involved had resigned from the church. This might not apply to a minister; I don’t know.

  30. January 27, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    RE #24 & 25

    I think the sense of the resolution saying he was not under process was to let him bail, if he wants to do that. With due respect to your story about the false alibi, I felt this decision to let him bail was more out of charity than out of justification.

    Copy all.

    I think even those in the LAP who disagree with his views don’t doubt his sincerity.

    I don’t know anyone out here that doubts his sincerity. As you indicate, many of us just think that he’s sincerely wrong, and to the detriment of the peace and purity of the church.

    RE #25, I understand that LAP may not disagree with my reasoning, but they just wanted to give TE Wilkins an out. I sincerely doubt that the SJC would pursue the matter given LAP’s original jurisdiction over TE Wilkins..

  31. Mark T. said,

    January 27, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    HaigLaw,

    Throughout this controversy there have been 8 presbyters who have consistently voted against Wilkins, while the number of presbyters supporting him has fluctuated between 10 and 13. I have four questions:

    1. How big was the shift in the number of men supporting TE Wilkins?

    2. How many churches in LAP have officers supporting him?

    3. What was the vote count on the failed motion to show a vote of confidence for TE Wilkins?

    4. Did any of the presbyters offer opinions regarding the recent AAPC where TE Wilkins and his fellow FVists donned rubber noses, ostensibly in contempt of the PCA?

    Given your relatively new membership in LAP, your testimony is remarkable. I really appreciate it.

    Thank you.

  32. January 27, 2008 at 8:25 pm

    RE #26,

    On the “under process,” I don’t have enough expertise to say, but I cannot fault your reasoning.

    There is another consideration beyond the wording of the BCO, and that is civil law saying church officers have civil liability for pursuing church discipline against members who have resigned from membership in the church in question. There was a famous case 25 years ago, I believe it was in the Supreme Court of Oklahoma, holding church officers liable for pursuing a case of excommunication for immmorality, after the person involved had resigned from the church. This might not apply to a minister; I don’t know.

    I don’t know about civil law, but the BCO 38-3 specifically says that a minister may be retained on the roles and tried even if he tries to leave. Since elders specifically vow that they accept the discipline of the church and be in subjection to the brethren in the Lord, I wouldn’t think they’d have a civil remedy, but I could be wrong.

  33. HaigLaw said,

    January 27, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    Well, I appreciate the editing, and while you’re at it, there seems to be a typo here, “I’ll try to put the pleas it into perspective.” Isn’t the “it” superfluous?

  34. anneivy said,

    January 27, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    Were Pr. Wilkins to resign from the PCA, thus avoiding a trial, he wouldn’t be able to continue as the pastor of AAPC, would he? I realize it’s not unknown for PCA churches to be pastored by non-PCA elders, but surely the PCA would frown on an elder remaining as pastor who’d left the PCA so as to avoid being tried by the SJC.

    Is it likely that the AAPC itself will leave the PCA so as to keep its current pastor?

    Anne

  35. HaigLaw said,

    January 27, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    re: “the BCO 38-3 specifically says that a minister may be retained on the roles and tried even if he tries to leave.”

    Yes, if he’s under process, it could be argued he’s contractually bound.

  36. January 27, 2008 at 8:53 pm

    RE #16,

    I don’t know how I missed it, but in rereading this discussion I found this in comment #16:

    We were told that someone on behalf of the SJC had said Count 1 will be dropped because of the guilty plea to Count 2.

    Now, I’m not on the SJC, but I do know how it works. It is really no different than any church commission. By that I mean that no one can speak for any court or commission. All decisions are made by vote. There’s no provision for plea bargaining in the BCO. Members may make motions that require votes and may so dismiss charges. But, no one can tell anyone anything on behalf of the SJC, or Session, or Presbytery, or General Assembly.

    Bottom line is that such a deal just could not happen. According to the indictment and citation, LAP will be tried in March on Count 1.

  37. January 27, 2008 at 9:00 pm

    HaigLaw, RE #30,

    A red-faced thanks to you! I just fixed it.

  38. Scott said,

    January 27, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    Mr Haig,

    The church discipline case you refer to involved the Collinsville, Oklahoma Church of Christ. Here is one summary of the legal holding:

    http://church-discipline.blogspot.com/2008/01/marian-guinn-vs-church-of-christ.html

    Basically, the case holds that, for purposes of Oklahoma, once a person “resigns” from a church, that person cannot be disciplined en absentia without risk of possible civil liability via tort law.

    The case does seem to establish as a general principle that churches can do discipline to members without civil liability.

    This appears to contradict our Book of Church Order and the practice of some denominations today.

    Keep in mind this was a state court proceeding, through the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

    Apparently, the US Supreme Court has not ruled on this.

  39. HaigLaw said,

    January 27, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    This is an attempt to answer Mark’s insightful questions, as I’m able.

    1. As you say, it’s been 10 or 13 vs. 8 in the past. There were so many votes taken, and so many shades of issues, that I cannot say exactly how many shifted. But my pastor, who’s been there the whole time and tried to defend the LAP at General Assembly even though not sympathetic to FV, feels the shift has been maybe only two votes overall. So that makes it about even. There were a lot of votes that went like 9 to 8. There were some votes that could be viewed as favorable to FV, and some not. When it’s a close vote, arguments like — where are we gonna find the $6,000 it would cost to conduct a trial? — can sway a result.

    2. I asked this question myself. My pastor thinks only one other church might leave with AAPC. And that the two other PCA churches near AA are solidly opposed, so dissenters at AA would have somewhere close by to go.

    3. That resolution was not couched in terms of supporting FV, it was couched in terms of condemning FV. It was brought by Pastor Wilkins’ associate pastor, so he was looking for a negative vote. There was a lot of discussion about — what would a vote either way mean? I spoke last, against the resolution, because I thought it was out of order, not because I opposed FV. The moderator had ruled it was in order, and I didn’t think fast enough to appeal the decision of the chair. This was early enough in the debate that a possible trial was still in view, and there were others besides myself who felt we should not vote to condemn FV, while a possible “fair and impartial trial” was in view. This is just one of many examples of how these issues were not as cut and dried as some of the writers here seem to think.

    4. No one commented on this. I am not familar with the incident you describe.

    Thank you for your kind remarks. I feel the PCA has matured a lot since my days in the old Texas Presbytery 25 years ago.

  40. HaigLaw said,

    January 27, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    This is in response to Anne Ivy, “Is it likely that the AAPC itself will leave the PCA so as to keep its current pastor?”

    I think it is assumed that the officers of AAPC and the great majority of its members are in agreement with their pastor.

  41. HaigLaw said,

    January 27, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    Scott and I are discussing the same case from Oklahoma. The delicate balancing in the BCO regarding letting a member go in peace if process has not begun is consistent with the Oklahoma civil case, in my view.

    Where the BCO may be in conflict with the Oklahoma case is in situations involving process against members who are not teaching elders, where they resign from the church after process begins. The rationale of the Oklahoma case, as I recall it from 25 years ago, was that church membership is voluntary, and can be withdrawn at any time.

    It has been my advice to my session that in situations like that, the BCO might permit chuch discipline to continue, but it would not be wise to do, in view of civil court precedent giving rise to exposure to civil liability. This issue has come up in my experience as a ruling elder twice, once in the Texas Presbytery and once in Louisiana.

    Cases like this are very unlikely to get heard at the U.S. Supreme Court, so a state Supreme Court case is like a word to the wise, even if it’s not in your state.

    When you are dealing with people’s lives, you don’t push things to the absolute legal limit.

  42. HaigLaw said,

    January 27, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    Re RM’s 33 & 16:

    You may be right. LAP took no action to fight Count 1 at the trial date set in March. I do not know the basis of the belief that it will be dropped.

    There is an interesting procedural fact here — our LAP current stated clerk is a RE at AAPC. What happens if he and his whole church leave, and the SJC corresponds only with him?

    We might get convicted on Count 1 in default.

    Would the SJC dissociate with the entire LAP on those grounds, given a growing opposition to FV here?

  43. January 27, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    Re: 17

    To say that LAP would be found guilty regardless of whether it actually is, shows great contempt for the PCA’s orderly processes. If you feel that way about “law,” then why study it? If your client is found guilty despite your best efforts, will you condemn the system as unjust? How does that differ from supporting anarchy?

    I realize the discussion has evolved past this point, but I think it’s worth responding to this.

    You make a couple assumptions here which I don’t share, one of which is equating the PCA’s “orderly process” with the American justice system. The other assumption you make is that a criticism of any judicial system is a vote for anarchy. What if, for the sake of argument, the system really is unjust and its machinery were used to railroad an innocent man? Must we applaud the judgment so as not to support anarchy?

  44. January 27, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    RE #39,

    If LAP’s Stated Clerk resigns, I would assume that they’ll elect another one. The moderator can appoint an acting clerk until one can be elected. I’m sure that the folks on the SJC will do whatever is necessary to ensure a fair and impartial trial. They all take their oath very seriously.

    That said, if LAP isn’t preparing for 5 March, I’d highly recommend that they start. There’s no excuse not to be ready with a citation in their hands and a plea registered. I cannot see any kind of extension being offered for not being able to read the citation, and that’s the only official notice they have.

  45. HaigLaw said,

    January 27, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    I’m new to this blog, guys, so lemme ask this — is there a tutorial somewhere with the code for indentions, strikeouts, italics, links, etc.?

  46. January 27, 2008 at 10:24 pm

    Christopher,

    I think that you’ve been reading too much DW and Jordan.

    What if, for the sake of argument, the system really is unjust and its machinery were used to railroad an innocent man? Must we applaud the judgment so as not to support anarchy?

    Well, in a representative government, responsible citizens work to change and correct the system that’s broken. That often takes time and patience, but that’s what the rule of law is all about. No one person gets to decide to take the law into their own hands, nor do they get to ignore the law. That same rule of law applies in an orderly church that glorifies our Lord.

    Even good systems make mistakes, but they also have appeals processes and pardons to rectify those errors. That’s also an integral part of the rule of law.

  47. January 27, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    I agree with that completely. However, I do not think voicing one’s opinion about the justice or injustice done by a particular system rises to the level of taking matters into one’s own hands. Pointing out that a trial forum is, shall we say, less than objective is not tantamount to ignoring the law either. It’s simply an observation that the law is not always used lawfully. This is neither anarchy nor antinomianism.

    I also find a certain irony in your admission that an appeals process is integral to the rule of law. In at least one forum I can think of, there is no possibility of appeal. Unless I am mistaken.

  48. January 27, 2008 at 10:43 pm

    RE #43,

    The blog comments use straight html tags. Sometimes, though, if you use too many tags it will choke. I’ve had it refuse comments that, when stripped of html coding, work fine.

    The html code for indentions is blockquote in angle brackets. To close indentions use /blockquotes in angle brackets. Use the following others the same way in angle brackets:

    i = italics
    b = bold
    strike = strikeout

    Links are a bit tougher. You might want to check out this site for html details.

  49. January 27, 2008 at 11:02 pm

    Christopher,

    I also find a certain irony in your admission that an appeals process is integral to the rule of law. In at least one forum I can think of, there is no possibility of appeal. Unless I am mistaken.

    You really need to quit reading DW and Jordan and read the BCO for a change. You’d find it quite instructive. I hope that you approach your legal studies with more diligence than just reading blogs.

    BCO 15-5 clearly states that the entire General Assembly may direct the SJC to retry a case if they take exception. There are specific procedures for majority and minority opinions and how GA gets involved. The GA itself is the Supreme Court of the PCA, but it delegates to the SJC as its official commission all routine business because the Assembly is way too big to try cases itself plus conduct all its other business at its annual meeting.

  50. January 27, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    That’s interesting. If the GA were to direct the SJC to retry a case, do you suppose the SJC’s second ruling would be given the same respect as LAP when it was directed by the SJC to “retry” a “case”?

    I don’t intend to stop reading DW and Jordan. I agree with them. I can, however, guarantee that I am much more diligent in my school work than I am in reading the BCO of the PCA.

  51. January 27, 2008 at 11:24 pm

    RE #48

    I don’t intend to stop reading DW and Jordan. I agree with them.

    Then please don’t waste my time. I only have time for serious discussions with serious people.

  52. January 27, 2008 at 11:45 pm

    Mr. Meredith:
    If I misread you, please forgive me, but it might help to temper your criticisms if you knew that the PCA’s Book of Church Order stands firmly on 300 years of Presbyterian tradition. Many of the paragraphs retain a text that often dates back 150 years or more and in some instances is still unchanged from that of the PCUSA’s 1789 edition, with echoes back to Scottish Presbyterianism. In short, this is a time-tested document designed to protect the rights of both the court (the Church) and the accused.

  53. January 28, 2008 at 12:21 am

    I hope nothing I’ve said reflects a disdain for the BCO itself. My intent is not to criticize the system, merely the way it is being used in this particular instance. I can’t fathom how it could even be argued that the BCO or the “system” have protected Steve or LAP at any point along this whole sordid affair.

    Not that it matters all that much at this particular point in time anyway. There are quite clearly two sides to this and there isn’t much movement between the sides. This is quite clearly illustrated by Mr. Mattes’ comment above, implying that no one who disagrees with him is serious or is capable of having a serious discussion. Apparently it is a waste of time to talk to anybody whose mind he doesn’t think he can change. At least that’s how that comment came across. If there’s a more charitable reading of it, I’d be happy to stand corrected.

  54. Wayne said,

    January 28, 2008 at 12:27 am

    From what I have gathered from a Yahoo forum Moderator who stated that he had heard from a reliable source, the AAPC voted to leave the PCA and affilliate with the CREC and retain Steve Wilkins as Pastor sometime today.

  55. January 28, 2008 at 12:51 am

    RE #51,

    This is quite clearly illustrated by Mr. Mattes’ comment above, implying that no one who disagrees with him is serious or is capable of having a serious discussion.

    Well, at least I know where you learned your discussion skills. A number of FVers are active and welcome here with no problems. My only point in my statement is that if all you know and believe comes from DW, Jordan, and the like, then there’s no point in anyone else debating their talking points with you. What you show in these polity threads is that you don’t even take time to research the issues yourself, you just simply regurgitate the company talking points. I and most others here on all sides of the discussion spend a great deal of time researching our points and making cogent arguments.

    Asking honest questions is one thing, and all such are welcomed here on a regular basis. Repeating the mindless FV talking points is a waste of everyone’s time. You already know the blogs where you’d be a hero for reciting them and lamenting the imagined injustices of the PCA. It adds nothing to serious discussion here.

  56. January 28, 2008 at 1:00 am

    RE #26,

    Upon further consideration, TE Wilkins is not currently under process. In my original answer, I lost sight of the implications that the indictment was against LAP, not Wilkins. There is no current indictment against Wilkins. He will not be under process until such an indictment is drawn up. I don’t imagine that will happen until March. So, if he wanted to bolt the PCA between now and 5 March, he would be free to go if LAP agrees.

    Sorry about any confusion that I caused in #26. I have a wicked cold and didn’t adequately compensate for the medication-induced haze. My apologies to all.

  57. January 28, 2008 at 1:09 am

    RE #51,

    I can’t fathom how it could even be argued that the BCO or the “system” have protected Steve or LAP at any point along this whole sordid affair.

    I’ll make one last point for you. IMO, what you say in this excerpt is in part the case only because LAP did not faithfully carry out its duties under the BCO. The process, if properly used, will protect the rights and reputations of all involved. By not finding a strong presumption of guilt in TE Wilkins examinations, they denied TE Wilkins the opportunity to clear himself. In failing to do their duty as the indictments clearly lay out, LAP tarnished Wilkins’ and their own reputations. The CCP Memorial and the associated BCO processes have worked to put all issues on the table to be considered IAW the BCO. Now Wilkins has a chance to clear his name.

    I know that the spin machines want to blame the PCA and its proceses. But the fact is that LAP, by not faithfully executing their duties as enumerated in their indictment, allowed a situation to drag on for several years that could have been resolved in a few months. If LAP truly believed that TE Wilkins was innocent in all this, then they should have had no hesitation in providing him a proper forum to prove it.

  58. David Gray said,

    January 28, 2008 at 4:21 am

    >My only point in my statement is that if all you know and believe comes from DW, Jordan, and the like, then there’s no point in anyone else debating their talking points with you.

    With all due respect Christopher didn’t say that all he knows and believes comes from DW or Jordan.

  59. HaigLaw said,

    January 28, 2008 at 7:31 am

    Re: #52, could we get a link to that?

  60. HaigLaw said,

    January 28, 2008 at 7:32 am

    re: #56 etc: I know Jim Jordan, but who’s DW?

  61. January 28, 2008 at 7:49 am

    re #57. It was posted on the OPC list but others on other lists trying to post it have noted it is a closed archive. The text is brief enough:
    Sun Jan 27, 2008 9:19 pm
    “Dear Friends,

    The congregation of Auburn Ave. Presbyterian Church voted today to leave the PCA
    and affiliate with the CREC.

    The congregation also voted to retain Steve Wilkins as their pastor.

    I am informed from a reliable source.

    Jack Sawyer
    Moderator”

    RE #58. DW=Doug Wilson

  62. David Gray said,

    January 28, 2008 at 7:49 am

    >I know Jim Jordan, but who’s DW?

    Presumably Doug Wilson.

  63. GLW Johnson said,

    January 28, 2008 at 8:12 am

    The sin of sowing schism and division is going to haunt Doug Wilson and his fellow FVers in the CREC til their dying day.

  64. HaigLaw said,

    January 28, 2008 at 8:35 am

    Apropos to nothing in particular, but merely the musings of an old man — when I was a young lawyer, I thought everyone was entitled to my opinion, but over the years and particularly since becoming a judge, the Lord has healed me of that, and taught me to reserve judgment until it is timely.

  65. January 28, 2008 at 9:11 am

    The process, if properly used, will protect the rights and reputations of all involved. By not finding a strong presumption of guilt in TE Wilkins examinations, they denied TE Wilkins the opportunity to clear himself. In failing to do their duty as the indictments clearly lay out, LAP tarnished Wilkins’ and their own reputations.

    You have got to be kidding me. LAP tarnished Steve’s reputation by not finding a strong presumption that he was guilty of false teaching? LAP denied Steve the opportunity to clear himself? Did I really just read that? Let’s drop the act and be serious for a moment. Do you really think the FV critics would have taken an LAP acquittal any more seriously than you took LAP’s repeated exonerations? Admit it. You did’t want a trial, you wanted a conviction.

    Fortunately, as stated in #52, this has become moot. It should be very interesting to see what happens to the PCA at this point.

  66. Mark T. said,

    January 28, 2008 at 10:34 am

    Mr. Meredith,

    Please allow me to call you on comment 15, where you wrote,

    While that is one conclusion that can be drawn, I think it also deserves to be said that LAP could recognize that, while they do not believe Steve’s views warrant a trial, there is obviously no way of convincing the SJC of that fact. It seems pretty clear that defending against the charge of failing to find “probable cause” is a “lost cause” because what the SJC considers proof of LAP’s failure to find “probable cause” was the “probable cause” that formed the basis for that charge against LAP in the first place. In other words, LAP knows it would be found guilty, regardless of whether it actually is, and would prefer the road of lesser resistance. Sort of like going to the gallows without making a scene.

    You affirm the possibility that LAP believes Wilkins’ views do not warrant a trial, and this is exactly the case. But the only problem is that they could not arrive at their belief without blowing off the BCO. In other words, LAP has acted as though their belief trumps their obligation to follow procedure. It would be a different story if the LAP followed procedure to the letter and exonerated Wilkins, because then no one could challenge the process.

    Furthermore, you err when you write, “LAP knows it would be found guilty, regardless of whether it actually is, and would prefer the road of lesser resistance.” If they really believed Wilkins’ views were in accordance, then they should have stood their ground and proved it. And certainly they should have protected Wilkins from unjust persecution by proving the truth of his doctrine in broad daylight. Right is right. But they chose to send him to the gallows (as you put it), which is downright cowardly and evil if he’s as pure as you maintain. Consequently, Bob Mattes point is true when he wrote:

    The process, if properly used, will protect the rights and reputations of all involved. By not finding a strong presumption of guilt in TE Wilkins examinations, they denied TE Wilkins the opportunity to clear himself. In failing to do their duty as the indictments clearly lay out, LAP tarnished Wilkins’ and their own reputations.

    LAP ran interference for Wilkins rather than exonerate him pursuant to the BCO. They gave him a wink and a nod every time he called black white and white black instead of documenting each “quibble” and holding him to account as required by their COVENANTAL vows. HaigLaw put it this way:

    It was my sense that the commissioners at the January 2008 LAP meeting were not uniformly highly sophisticated in church polity, as your [Potomac Presbytery] credentials committee appears to be.

    HaigLaw couches his words well because most of us have simply concluded LAP a “good ol’ boys” network because of their negligence. Either way it doesn’t matter if LAP lacked the sophistication to know their responsibility or if they had a backroom deal to pull all the levers beneath the desk for Wilkins, because in the end they failed to do their duty by any reasonable standard. And this failure — whether intentional or not — damaged their reputation because it makes them look incredibly dishonest (or incompetent) and it damaged Wilkins’ reputation because they denied him the opportunity to prove in an open trial that black is white and white black (if you take issue with my metaphors, please read the Indictment).

    Bob is right. Process protects. And when men abuse process, such as Stalin’s show trials or LAP’s “exoneration” of Wilkins or the CREC’s “exoneration” of Burke Shade, everyone can see it.

  67. HaigLaw said,

    January 28, 2008 at 11:10 am

    Re: #67: Yes, process is important, but the goal of the process is either reconciliation or breaking fellowship, and sometimes the object of process decides on his own to break fellowship — which can make the process moot.

    I think it would be wise to assess the steps LaP took and perhaps disagree with some of them without finding them incompetent or lacking in integrity.

  68. January 28, 2008 at 11:56 am

    You affirm the possibility that LAP believes Wilkins’ views do not warrant a trial, and this is exactly the case. But the only problem is that they could not arrive at their belief without blowing off the BCO. In other words, LAP has acted as though their belief trumps their obligation to follow procedure. It would be a different story if the LAP followed procedure to the letter and exonerated Wilkins, because then no one could challenge the process.

    The only procedure LAP has been accused of failing to follow is failing to “believe” that there was probable cause for trying Steve. LAP did everything that was asked of them and they followed every procedure which governed their actions. What they failed to do was the share the same opinion of the evidence that is held by those in authority over them. If they had found a strong presumption of guilt in Steve’s teachings, had tried Steve, and found him “not guilty,” are you suggesting everyone would have been satisfied with that and we would not be having this discussion?

    Furthermore, you err when you write, “LAP knows it would be found guilty, regardless of whether it actually is, and would prefer the road of lesser resistance.” If they really believed Wilkins’ views were in accordance, then they should have stood their ground and proved it. And certainly they should have protected Wilkins from unjust persecution by proving the truth of his doctrine in broad daylight. Right is right. But they chose to send him to the gallows (as you put it), which is downright cowardly and evil if he’s as pure as you maintain.

    You err in overlooking the fact that LAP did stand their ground and they did prove it. Twice. But that wasn’t good enough. I also disagree that pleading guilty while believing Steve to be in the right is tantamount to cowardice. Jeff Cagle suggests in comment #9 (and Bob Mattes confirms in comment #11) that the most likely consequence of a guilty plea to count 2 would have been no more than an official admonishment. Don’t you think that’s a small price to pay for the peace and purity of the church, especially when the alternative is the possibility of the entire Presbytery getting booted from the PCA? Why is it that when FV advocates in the PCA stand their ground and fight they are accused of being divisive and schismatic, but when they are willing to accept admonishment rather than fighting they are accused of cowardice?

    Consider this video clip.

  69. Mark T. said,

    January 28, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    Christopher,

    You lost me on your first sentence because it demonstrates that you have not read the first charge of the indictment, which states, “Louisiana Presbytery has failed to understand properly (and appropriately act upon) what it means to have a ‘difference’ with the Constitution. . . .” The remainder of your first paragraph indicates that you have relied upon the false witness of a high-profile blogger who doesn’t know the difference between presbyterianism and Congregationalism for your information. And your second paragraph is predicated on the same errors as your first.

    I encourage you to read the Indictment in entirety. You are free to disagree with its conclusions, but it’s patently dishonest of you to deny its substance.

  70. January 28, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    RE #69,

    Jeff Cagle suggests in comment #9 (and Bob Mattes confirms in comment #11) that the most likely consequence of a guilty plea to count 2 would have been no more than an official admonishment.

    I think that you meant Count 1. That’s the purely procedural issue.

    PCA stand their ground and fight they are accused of being divisive and schismatic, but when they are willing to accept admonishment rather than fighting they are accused of cowardice?

    I can’t see where anyone accused anyone else of cowardice. That kind of accusation is usually directed from the FV fathers towards the PCA and its officers. However, I think your statement comes from confusing Counts 1 & 2. LAP plead guilty to Count 2, and the result will be a trial for Wilkins if he sticks around, not admonishment of LAP. LAP was merely asked to repent and show evidence thereof, which they apparently have. I could be wrong, but we’ll know in March.

  71. January 28, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    RE #69,

    Hilarious video! I think that you intended to apply it to the wrong side, though.

  72. Mark T. said,

    January 28, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    HaigLaw,

    I thought more than once on that line but stuck with it because of the Indictment. In hindsight I would qualify it by specifying the majority of LAP as opposed to the entire presbytery because a staunch minority have stood firm in their resolve to try Wilkins. Again, trials vindicate as much as they convict. LAP could have vindicated itself and Wilkins with a trial and at the same time they would have convicted Wilkins’ adversaries, which includes about 90% of the PCA. They could have established his teaching as in conformity to the Standards and removed all doubt.

    The question of “disagreeing” with LAP’s decisions becomes almost impossible with all the aggravating circumstances. And I am not alone in this opinion. The SJC did not indict LAP over a mere disagreement.

    One of the difficult things about disagreeing with you in public is that your witness is so free of guile and you don’t have a malicious bone in your body. It’s clear that you are a peacemaker at heart and want to attribute good motives to these men, but it appears that your knowledge of the history of this controversy is somewhat limited. For example, you said you were unaware of Wilkins’ rubber-nose routine two weeks ago and I suspect that you’re unaware of James Jordan’s unbelievable rampage 10 days ago as well. I note these events because they are indicative of the reprehensible conduct exhibited by Wilkins’ defenders for the last five years, which has forced many people to conclude that these are bad men with bad intentions.

    This is one of the things that make your testimony so remarkable. The PCA has never indicted an entire presbytery and your blog post appears utterly oblivious to this historical precedent, just as it appears oblivious to the historic nature of LAP’s meeting. Your objectivity is as apparent as your sincerity, and as I said, disagreeing with you is difficult. So I hope that to the extent you have incomplete knowledge of the history of this scandal, it is a mitigating circumstance between our disagreement.

  73. Mark T. said,

    January 28, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    Bob,

    I said that throwing Wilkins overboard was an evil act of cowardice for LAP to commit if they really believed he was right. They should have stood by their man, come what may, because right is right. I may be wrong, but I believe that the Bible tends to frown upon throwing innocent men to sharks as an act of convenience.

  74. January 28, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    I confess to confusing the counts of the indictment. That said, I don’t think it substantially affects my point, given the fact that Steve has never been and is not now afraid of a trial, at least in the sense of the ability to (yet again) defend his views publicly. The conclusion remains the same; the eventual verdict would not have surprised anybody.

    Mr. Mattes, I was referring to this statement above:

    But they chose to send him to the gallows (as you put it), which is downright cowardly and evil if he’s as pure as you maintain.

    If LAP believes itself to be innocent of charge 2 and pleads not guilty, it is being schismatic. If it believes itself innocent and pleads guilty, it is a coward. The only apparent “out” is for it to actually believe itself to be in the wrong and take its lumps with it’s tail between its legs.

  75. January 28, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    Hilarious video! I think that you intended to apply it to the wrong side, though.

    Maybe, maybe not. My intention wasn’t to analogize the positions but rather to illustrate the damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t situation I perceive being employed in the issue of LAP’s pleas. If they plead not-guilty, they are being obtuse. If they plead guilty, they are cowards for not standing by their convictions.

  76. Mark T. said,

    January 28, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    Christopher,

    Your statements are not verifiable and quite honestly they border on hysterics. For example, how do you know “that Steve has never been and is not now afraid of a trial, at least in the sense of the ability to (yet again) defend his views publicly”? It’s pretty clear that the last thing in the world Wilkins wants is a trial conducted pursuant to the PCA’s BCO. He could have demanded one from LAP and he could have cited the language found in the Indictment as his cause of action. After all, the words of the Indictment are taken straight from the BCO. Instead, he chose to brazen it out for five years and finish his career in the PCA by thumbing a rubber nose at his communion. Nice touch.

    And how do you know that if Wilkins allowed the PCA to try his doctrine, “the eventual verdict would not have surprised anybody”? unless you believe his views are out of accord with the Standards. Either that or you believe the PCA is corrupt. Regardless, he and his hardcore supporters in LAP appeared resolved that no one would ever put him on trial, most likely because his doctrine is in accord with Westminster.

    Finally, this statement is completely absurd: “If LAP believes itself to be innocent of charge 2 and pleads not guilty, it is being schismatic.” It’s absurd because LAP could plead not guilty and vindicate itself by the very process it refused to Wilkins.

  77. January 28, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    I’m glad you appear to honestly believe that Steve could have had a fair, objective trial. I remain unconvinced. I’m not going as far as to say that the PCA is corrupt, but I do believe the deck was stacked significantly against Steve and I also believe that Steve was in the right. If this ongoing debate has proven anything, it’s that the FV has had a very hard time convincing its critics that it is within the bounds of orthodoxy, and I don’t believe that the reason for this is that the FV is outside the bounds of orthodoxy. Without speculating about the actual reason, I don’t think the trend would have changed magically in the context of a trial before the SJC.

  78. greenbaggins said,

    January 28, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    I think that it will be unprofitable now to speculate on what kind of a trial Wilkins would have had, since he will not be tried. In all reality, this is the most peacable solution, even though many might wish that they had done this sooner. Trials are often messy in terms of people’s emotions. AAPC has now done the right thing. We can just leave it at that, now.

  79. January 28, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    Point well taken.

  80. David Gilleran said,

    January 28, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    Lane, I must respectfully disagree with your post 79. There is past case in the PCA where a TE left the PCA and GA/SJC still followed through with the case.

  81. greenbaggins said,

    January 28, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    Yes, but in this case, it is not Wilkins on trial, but the LA Presbytery. And, in fact, what will happen with regard to these charges has not yet been set in stone. The second charge will obviously not be tried, since they pled guilty. But the first charge is still floating right now.

  82. January 28, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    David,

    Was the case already pending when he left?

  83. January 28, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Slow on the uptake again!

  84. David Gilleran said,

    January 28, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    The case was in a state of flux at the time. Most commissioners felt the right thing to do in that case was to drop it but someone wanted to make a point about Theonomy

  85. HaigLaw said,

    January 28, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    Re: #73: I appreciate the kind words, and it is true I was unaware of all the things you said I’m unaware of. It was my first LaP meeting, although my pastor had briefed me on the prior history. He had previously represented LaP before the SJC defending LaP’s procedural steps. Yet he also had previously voted with the minority at LaP saying FV was out of accord. It was his dissent that the LaP wrote a response to. But he also says many of the 9 points in the GA’s ad-interim committee’s report are factually incorrect. So there is a lot here, over which reasonable, orthodox minds can differ.

    But I do know some of the players, as I was a RE in the old Texas Presbytery (TP) in the 70’s and 80’s, and, e.g., defended Ray Sutton’s former PCA church in Tyler against the TP’s actions, at a time when Jim Jordan was a member there, before Sutton’s church withdrew.

    In the interim, we lived in a city where there was no PCA, and I was a reformed presbyterian ambassador in churches where the pastor was the pope and nobody was accountable to anybody. So I think with all our polity problems, we have a lot going for us.

  86. January 28, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    […] that the LA Presbytery pled not guilty to? I am not sure. I think It was alluded to at Green Baggins "Perhaps they were thinking ahead to their allies in the Missouri and Northwest Presbyteries, […]

  87. HaigLaw said,

    January 30, 2008 at 4:09 am

    Re: #87: I tried to respond to #87 earlier and it did NOT post, so I’m trying again.

    The quoted language has been struck in reliance upon some earlier assurances I made. There was nothing said at the Jan. 19 LaP meeting about running interference for “allies” on FV anywhere else.

    I sense that sympathies for FV have diminished in the LaP. As I wrote in my original blog on Jan 19 at xanga.com/haiglaw about the LaP meeting, I find it hard not to construe the guilty plea to Count 2 as a tacit admission that Pastor Wilkins’ FV views merited a trial on faithfulness to the confessional standards, whether LaP could get a concensus to try them itself or not.

    Of course, I think a trial of Pastor Wilkins is moot now that he has left the PCA.

    What the PCA SJC may do with the LaP is still not moot, however.

  88. HaigLaw said,

    March 5, 2008 at 10:35 am

    LaP members are leaving today for the SJC trial tomorrow in Atlanta.

  89. HaigLaw said,

    March 7, 2008 at 6:18 am

    The PCA SJC trial of the LaP over the Wilkins FV matters started yesterday, but no one present has been in a position to say anything publicly as to what has happened yet, to my knowledge.

  90. Scott said,

    March 7, 2008 at 8:03 am

    Thanks Mr Haig for updating us about this trial.

    I have been praying for peaceful, clear, biblical resolution of all this for a while.

    GI Williamson, who authored the study guide for the Westminster Confession, has written an article about vows which relates to this situation.

    http://www.opc.org/os9.html?article_id=93

    As I read his article, I realized again how important vows are, by officers, even church members. This relates to the Pastor leaving our denomination immediately before process was to begin in his case. It may relate even to church members who probably unknowingly enabled it.

    It also shows how casually many of us take their promises to submit to authority within a connectional church, that is the Body of Christ.
    But God takes them seriously.

    Blessings

  91. Howard Davis said,

    March 7, 2008 at 8:28 am

    Scott,

    I think that is a great point. The only problem is that many on the SJC make vows that they are not keeping up either. The whole situation is a HUGE mess on both sides of the fence.

  92. GLW Johnson said,

    March 7, 2008 at 9:26 am

    Mr. Davis
    That is a very bold assertion and tars and feathers a lot of people who are i acting in strict accordance with the BOC but who will now be viewed by a host of people reading this blog with agreat deal of suspecion. Because of your previous association with the SJC, I personally find your remarks very inappropiate.

  93. David Gilleran said,

    March 7, 2008 at 9:37 am

    I would encourage the owner of this site to close this thread.

  94. March 7, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    Re #94,

    I personally don’t see any reason to close it. New, pertinent information is still being posted.

  95. David Gilleran said,

    March 8, 2008 at 8:49 am

    Bob, TE Davis’ comments #92 should be reason enough to close it. If there is new information post under the new thread,

  96. HaigLaw said,

    April 20, 2008 at 7:14 am

    I suppose this thread is as good a place as any to update the story and say that the Louisiana Presbytery of the PCA has reversed its 2007 position on Federal Vision and is now opposing it, as I explain on my Xanga blog of yesterdayabout the April 19 meeting of LaP.

  97. April 20, 2008 at 7:31 am

    HaigLaw,

    Great news! Thanks for the update. I also posted a link to your update on my blog.

  98. HaigLaw said,

    April 20, 2008 at 7:36 am

    Re: #98. Thanks! You said, “…and abide by the 5 approved recommendations in the study report.” Actually that did not come up. No one yesterday had the study report handy, except someone had the 9 points copied, and we couldn’t remember the name of the committee correctly, but I have emailed the Clerk with the link, so hopefully the minutes will eventually be correct. I’d have posted this comment on your blog, but I can never figger out how to post a comment on yours. :(

  99. April 20, 2008 at 7:39 am

    Re #99,

    Thanks, I’ll fix my post accordingly. The only way to leave me a message on my blog is to comment on the About page. It’s moderated, so the comments will not appear, but I will get them.

  100. HaigLaw said,

    April 20, 2008 at 7:45 am

    Re: #100: Alright; I’ll try to remember that. Thx!

    I don’t doubt the 5 recommendations would have been “affirmed,” if they had come up. I resisted the temptation to take my laptop to the meeting and obsess about every jot and tittle. Instead, i’m looking for a 12-step group for that OCD condition. :)

  101. April 20, 2008 at 7:48 am

    RE #101,

    They have amazing new medication to help with that now! ;-)


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