Posted by Bob Mattes
The thread on the Context of Sam Duncan’s Comment on the SJC has topped 700 comments! Yesterday I found another great thread, this one over at the PuritanBoard, on the situation inside LAP. The interaction between SemperFideles and HaigLaw there provides more information on the human side of the equation, something often lost in this debate. Well worth the read.
Both HaigLaw’s comments on the PuritanBoard thread and Pastor Davis’ comments starting here highlight the wisdom of my earlier post about not being loyal to the wrong people. I caught more heat for that post from the Federal Vision mini-empire than any other post I’ve written, and it’s clear why. I struck at the heart of the issue. Federal Visionists in the PCA rely on their personal relationships inside their Presbyteries to protect them from the required discipline at the point of original jurisdiction. When that happens, the only place an impartial trial can take place is at the Standing Judicial Commission of the General Assembly, just as it was with Wilkins. Hence the spew of venom against the PCA and its SJC–the latter established by the will of the commissioners of the PCA General Assembly–as the only remaining threat to them.
Leadership is tough, but it’s even tougher when you compromise your core principles, consciously or unconsciously. Personal relationships must not interfere with one’s leadership duties. That cuts at the heart of impartiality. The rule of law through the guiding Constitution must take precedent over personal feelings. That is perhaps one of the most difficult lessons for any leader to master.
This is a painful lesson that I have had to relearn a few times in my 30-year military career. I confess that I haven’t always acted wisely, but God by His grace has imparted the mental toughness necessary for each successive challenge, maturing me for even tougher challenges in the future. And so it can be for commissioners in Federal Vision-infected PCA Presbyteries. Hebrews 12:5-11 teaches us that sometimes love is expressed as discipline.
I believe that this is, in part, the point being made by SemperFideles on PuritanBoard. Although the PCA doesn’t have commanders at each level as we do in the military, that doesn’t excuse officers in the church. Each ordained, orthodox officer must make the tough decisions and take the difficult actions within the constraints of the Constitution. Rather than looking to a single leader, we must look around us to lead with our fellow commissioners and stand together against error, even if it is our friends who must be held accountable.
This argument has a core Scriptural basis. In the first commandment, God commands us not to have other gods before Him. Friendship, even loyalty to a beloved teacher or pastor, can be such an idol when it prevents us from acting to preserve the gospel and protect God’s flock from error. It is uncomfortable to take necessary action against those we count as friends or teachers, but they are not real “friends” who take advantage of their relationships to promulgate false teachings to God’s precious flock whilst avoiding accountability for the same. As the current example in Louisiana Presbytery shows, Federal Visionists have no problem sacrificing their friends to protect themselves and their erroneous teachings. When called to face the music, they quickly bolt to safety and leave their loyal friends to take the brunt of the blowback. The loyalty shown to them is not returned.
Some may say “Isn’t it easier for Federal Visionists to just leave the PCA?” Yes, but they should leave before processes against them or their Presbyteries are started, not when indictments are impending. They should save their Presbyteries and the PCA the pain and expense of the judicial process if possible. However, once process is under way or an indictment is pending, as it was against Wilkins, they are honor-bound to stand trial. What difference does it make? Just look around Louisiana Presbytery today for the answer. Wilkins has left LAP to pick up the pieces and pay the price for his ego and erroneous teachings. Where is the honor in that?
Wilkins’ flight from accountability and Federal Visionist blog comments about it tells us more about Federal Vision than any trial ever could have. Once LAP plead guilty to count 2 of their indictment, the burden was transferred from LAP to Wilkins himself, posing a risk that Wilkins proved unwilling to shoulder. Federal Visionists’ talk was indeed proven cheap. Let other Presbyteries learn this lesson well. Federal Visionists in and out of the PCA have made it clear that they do not respect the processes of our Book of Church Order or our courts, and with one exception, those in the PCA that they will not be held accountable.
So here’s some friendly advice to FV-infested Presbyteries: we must learn from the mistakes of others because we don’t have the time or resources to make them all ourselves.
As for the orthodox officers and members of Louisiana Presbytery left to clean up after Wilkins’ and his followers, please pray that God will be merciful in giving them a quick recovery, healing the wounds dealt by those they thought were their friends. Those are the unkindest cuts of all.
Posted by Bob Mattes