The Context for Sam Duncan’s Comment on the SJC

Several blogs have noted Sam Duncan’s statement about no one from Louisiana Presbytery getting a fair trial with the SJC. Jeff Meyers, for instance, has commented on it, as has the Haig blog. It is starting quite a discussion over on the PB as well. That Sam said it is incontrovertible. The question is this: what did Sam mean by it? This post is based on a phone conversation that I just had with Sam.

Firstly, Sam was referring to two SJC opinions that he had written. The first is the Chin case (see the minutes of the 33rd GA, pp. 113-118). In this (dissenting) opinion, Sam wrote this:

The Chin family came to Covenant Presbyterian Church by transfer from the Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church of Monroe, Louisiana. The Chins were represented in this case by M. Dale Peacock, a Ruling Elder in the Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church. Dr. Chin stated that he was sympathetic to Paedocommunion. Some might say that the foregoing are not popular and/or are outside of the mainstream of the PCA. However, it should be noted that the Chins, recognizing the PCA’s position against Paedocommunion, did not allow their covenant children to take part in the Lord’s Supper at the Covenant Presbyterian Church. The majority opinion seems, in our view, to reach its result based on the people and issues involved, instead of the Constitution, and it would be a violation of our vows to judge without respect to persons or according to appearances to concur with the majority.

I don’t currently have access to the second case. Sam was referring to the fact that the SJC has made up its mind against the Louisiana Presbytery. What is important to note here is that Sam does not mean that the (unofficial) conclusion the SJC has come to regarding the Louisiana Presbytery is incorrect. Sam agrees with the SJC that the LAP was wrong. Otherwise, he would not have accepted the position as prosecutor! I fear that some are taking Sam’s statements as implying that the SJC is wrong. The issue can be clarified by reference to a normal court case. In a normal case, the facts of the case are not divulged to the judge and jury prior to the case. In fact, people with a knowledge of the case are usually not allowed to serve on the jury, for fear of being biased. In the LAP case, just about everyone in the PCA knows about it at least somewhat. It would be well-nigh impossible for the SJC to find anyone who hadn’t heard a thing about it, and hadn’t formed any opinions about who is right. This is what Sam means. Sam is a lawyer. In comparison to a normal civil case, the LAP could not expect to receive a fair “clean-slate” trial. The evidence has been before us and before the SJC for many months. This is what Sam means. He told me.

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