Leithart and the Pacific Northwest Presbytery

I have to admit that I am somewhat flabbergasted that the Pacific Northwest Presbytery (of course, there was a minority that disagreed, and will push matters further) would so soon forget the lessons learned from the Louisiana Presbytery case regarding Steve Wilkins. In that case it was judicially decided that actual, verbal denials of the confession are not necessary for someone’s views to be out of accord with the confession. Any difference with the confession must be noted and catalogued according to the new regulations in RAO 16-3 (e) 5. Every difference must be ruled as to whether it is semantic only, an exception that does not strike at the system of doctrine, or hostile to the system of doctrine. In a case such as Leithart’s, this kind of care would be absolutely crucial. Instead, what happened was that the majority report went through all the differences and ruled that all of them were exceptions, none of which struck at the system of doctrine. The report that was approved at GA says differently. Let the PNW beware. They will be brought up on charges of negligence and refusal to find a strong presumption of guilt. It will happen in much the same way that the Louisiana case turned out, Rob Rayburn notwithstanding.

51 Comments

  1. its.reed said,

    October 4, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    Lane:

    We now have yet another opportunity to express our faith in God’s use of the officers of His church. May men on both sides remember that pursuing their convictions does not give license for dissinng their opponents. May men on both sides give their humble, gracious and vigorous efforts to defending their cause, trusting God to speak through His church.

    I for one am grateful for the example Jason Stellman is setting, for his testimony of Peter Leithart’s humble and gracious bearing, and for your example of how one can go about vigorously pursuing one’s convictions without “going off the reservation.”

    As to your observations here, I haven’t had a chance to read the majority and minority reports yet. Your conclusion is that that PNW fundamentally got it wrong, that they are in effect in the same place now as was LAP prior to the SJC case being entered against them? (Not to question your judgement, but rather trusting it, I want to make sure I understand your opinion at this point.)

    If so, if this does end up having to go to GA, how soon before it is placed before the SJC? (Note: my prayers are that God would grant unanimity of conviction prior to that. Yet speaking from the perspective of ordinary providence, this is not a strong likelihood.)

    reed

  2. greenbaggins said,

    October 4, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    Reed, thanks for your encouraging words. My guess is that this will come before the SJC before it comes before GA, since the complaint will come before the PNW presbytery in January (correct me if I’m wrong, Jason), and then the complaint will rise directly to the SJC from the presbytery. We actually have a somewhat similar case in our own Presbytery (and I won’t go into any details), but it is going straight to the SJC.

  3. October 4, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    Reed,

    The BCO gives us 30 days to register our complaint against the PNWP, which we expect to be dismissed at our stated meeting in January. At that point, we can take it to the next court.

    Independently of this, however, I am told (by someone who would know) that “a number of TEs and presbyteries are ready to file charges” against us.

    Not being a polity guy myself I could be wrong, but I would expect that this will be taken up at GA next summer.

  4. Andrew said,

    October 4, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    Fors those without, what is the ref. to Rob Rayburn? Is he in that presbytery?

  5. October 4, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    Andrew,

    Yes, Rob Rayburn is the pastor of Faith PCA in Tacoma, WA, and the author of the majority report.

  6. its.reed said,

    October 4, 2008 at 8:59 pm

    Jason:

    Not wanting to pick any fights, at this point I’d prefer these kinds of matters to be resolved quicker rather than slower. We are at a point where the boundaries of the debate are pretty well established. No need to stretch things out, allowing the weaker amongst more opportunity for rash behavior. Best we come to some conclusion implemented sooner rather than later.

    Again, a sincere thanks for your shouldering this burden. It is a service of honor to both those who agree and disagree, consistent with your vows. I’m grateful.

  7. October 4, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    Jason,

    I’m sure that you are already working this, but it would be helpful in your complaint to point out the eerie parallels between NWP’s approach and that of LAP. As you say on your blog, NWP used almost exactly the same reasoning that the SJC rejected in the LAP case.

    FWIW, I’d like to buy that faithful RE with the Trinity Hymnal lunch at next year’s GA if, Lord willing, we both attend. It’s a shame that you, he, and your other minority members were faithful voices in the wilderness.

    Also FWIW, the “denomination renewal” proponents argue very much like Rayburn and Frame while claiming to be “conservatives”. One gave a talk that in one major aspect was identical to Jeff Meyers’ FVish one last year in the pre-GA conference on the sacraments (along with Rayburn, BTW). They fawned all over Frames post there, in which he called into question the utility of confessionalism in general and our Confession in particular. It seems that a small group in the PCA is going Anabaptist and biblicist on us. Sad, but fixable…

  8. Anne said,

    October 4, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    Mercy Maud, if there’s a more pejorative term in the FV lexicon than “anabaptist”, I can’t think what it would be.

    Better be sure to walk in the middle of a group at all times. >;^>

  9. October 5, 2008 at 12:41 am

    […] Lane has a follow-up. […]

  10. David Gadbois said,

    October 5, 2008 at 3:50 am

    Dave Glasebrook,

    I unapproved your comment for several reasons. First, your comment was unarguably off-topic to this post. Second, you made vague public charges against Lane and Bob. Most of us have no idea what on earth you are talking about. If you need to be supplied with Lane’s e-mail address to directly communicate with him, you can request it and I’m sure it won’t be a problem.

    Lane – I unapproved Dave Glasebrook’s comment. It is in the “Awaiting Moderation” queue if you want to read it or want to re-approve it.

  11. Kevin said,

    October 5, 2008 at 6:55 am

    Hey, guys. Is Faith up in Anchorage part of the PNWP?

  12. October 5, 2008 at 6:56 am

    Anne,

    My comment about Anabaptists wasn’t directed at Leithart, but at those in the PCA who want to toss the Standards altogether or wholesale rewrite them, and who set up a false conflict between the Scriptures and the Standards. I realize that Anabaptists go much further afield in their theology, but it’s their approach to theology that I’m using here. It’s an inherently non-confessional stance that implicitly denies that our Standards contain the system of doctrine taught in Holy Scripture, and leads to an anything-goes biblicist approach. They plea for the freedom to do “cutting-edge” theology, which is really a euphemism for non-Reformed theology, while remaining in a confessional denomination.

    Sorry about the confusion. However strongly I may disagree with Leithart’s theology, I respect his openness in joining with Jason to request an examination before his presbytery. As best I can tell, he has been very forthcoming.

  13. Dave H said,

    October 5, 2008 at 8:20 am

    Blessings upon Dr. Leithart. This verdict was most encouraging for many of us wanting to bring the Reformed camps (and dang it, Christians in general) closer together; and show the non-reformed world that we don’t always make enemies out of those we are closest to. I hope this Presbytery action doesn’t need to be escalated, but perhaps by God’s providence, such action, if forced further, will only bring to light more truth, and better education to those who take their queues from misguided talking points. Should RSClark cross off one of the denominational acronyms from his oft-used alphabet soup list? I pray this is movement towards Truth and healing. And what finer man than Dr. Leithart, possessing great intellect and distinction as a man of God, to help lead in this matter, even if against his will. Blessings on this Lord’s Day

  14. October 5, 2008 at 9:16 am

    Kevin,

    Yes, Faith Anchorage joined our persbytery a couple years ago.

    JJS

  15. GLW Johnson said,

    October 5, 2008 at 9:54 am

    Gee David, you are echoing in erie fashion the sentiments of Simon Episcopius in his defense of that noted ‘Reformed’ theologian Jakob Hermandszoon.

  16. GLW Johnson said,

    October 5, 2008 at 10:19 am

    oh, ‘David’ is in reference to ‘Dave H’ and his comment #13.

  17. Anne said,

    October 5, 2008 at 10:51 am

    Re: #12

    I picked up on the “small group in the PCA” so was aware you weren’t referring specifically to Dr. Leithart. It was just a silly comment on my part, was all, anticipating your possible attendance at the next GA. My apologies if my joke fell flat.

  18. Dave Glasebrook said,

    October 5, 2008 at 10:54 am

    David Gadbois — Pastor Lane and I have corresponded off line about his breaches of Westminster Catechism Questions 144 and 145.

    My comment was an on topic steel on steel comment. Pastor Lane and Elder Bob Mattes consider that false resources and inflammatory language used to bolster their arguments is the right and proper thing to do.

    My concern is to keep my good name and to keep discourse civil and in a Godly manner rather than inflammatory. Elder Bob Mattes said that he finds it difficult to believe that the Pacific Northwest Presbytery overwhelmingly approved Dr Leithart. Pastor Lane was flabbergasted.

    I called them at the start of this thread. They are unwilling to keep my good name as required by scripture. They helped drag my name through the mud, yet they are unwilling to make things right. Now they are taking time to fuel another fire of speculation rather than substance.

    Read the answers to Catechism questions 144 and 145 before you get too upset. The blog world quickly forgets the requirements listed there. If they can’t fulfill the basics listed there they shouldn’t be blogging as they are.

    Happy Lord’s Day.

  19. GLW Johnson said,

    October 5, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    Dave G
    Does this apply to individuals who called this a ‘witch hunt’ or the one that alluded to the way the PCA addressed Wilkins matter in the LP as ‘bear skinning’?

  20. Dave H said,

    October 5, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    Gee GLWJ, sorry to frighten you so. Enhancing one’s skills in the art of discernment might alleviate your undue stress. (Somehow I knew you’d be the first to comment in such a manner. Thanks for your consistency and not letting me down.)

  21. GLW Johnson said,

    October 5, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    Dave
    I thought you would like to know that your concerns had a very telling historical precedent. In fact as I remember some those Calvinists were later responsible for establishing what came to be known as the Dutch Fur Trading company-i.e. Bear- Skinners

  22. October 5, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    Dave H..,

    Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, just not in the PCA. If church officers are outside of the Standards, which Leithart clearly is by his own writings, they should move on. We can help them move on, but it takes a while. The truth was brought to light at the 35th GA. It just takes longer to get to the darkest corners.

    Are you PCA, or just troubling the PCA for sport?

  23. Dave Glasebrook said,

    October 5, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    Bob, you are outside of church standards in protecting my good name.

    Luke tells us that whoever is faithful in little is faithful in much and whoever is not faithful in little is not faithful in much. My point is that you and Pastor Lane are unwilling to take care of my good name. You helped drag it into the mud and yet you are not willing to help clean my good name off.

    In like manner, you will not faithfully discharge your Biblical duties in this matter either. Your posts already clearly stated that. Christ is not the focal point in this matter — only the choice morsels descending to the innermost points of your soul are of interest.

    May the Lord bless and keep you on the Sabbath

  24. its.reed said,

    October 5, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    David Glasebrook:

    O.k. enough of this public admonishment over a matter that the rest of us have neither the awareness nor the interest to discuss.

    Your comments here admonishing brothers about their damage to your name are doing more to damage your name – and theirs – than anything they may have said. This is simply because you are referring to events that at the very least are minimally public, now long past in the archives, and not remembered by any save yourself.

    Your harping on them publicly (when obviously you have taken the opportunity to appropriately do so privately), is at least inappropriate, encouraging others to ruminations that are neither edifying or godly.

    Cease and desist. If Lane wishes to over-rule me and allow you to continue this discussion, he may say so. Otherwise, I’m exercising my moderator privileges and calling you to stop. Any further comments on this subject (whatever it is) will be deleted.

    Instead, please join with your brothers in the interests of well-meant debate and interaction, seeking to sharpen one another by the application of God’s mercy and grace in Christ.

  25. Stephen Welch said,

    October 6, 2008 at 9:50 am

    Jason Stellman, you mentioned that Robert Rayburn signed the majority report in PNW Presbytery. I assume as in the past he is not on the side of the FV issue. Can you explain briefly what the majority issue is or where I can go to read that report. I have not been following this as closely at Louisana Presbytery.

  26. greenbaggins said,

    October 6, 2008 at 10:29 am

    Dave Glasebrook, the original post has nothing to do with you, and therefore your bringing up this matter in a public forum is not appropriate, no matter what the form of the provocation took. You will not post on this issue on my blog again, since I certainly do not intend to address it on my blog.

  27. Stephen Welch said,

    October 6, 2008 at 10:54 am

    Pease disregard my request in # 25. I went to Jason’s blog and found both the minority and majority report. I am surprised at Robert Rayburn because he has always been regarded highly by many within the denomination. He has certainly drifited from where he was several years ago.

  28. Sean Gerety said,

    October 6, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    Let the PNW beware. They will be brought up on charges of negligence and refusal to find a strong presumption of guilt.

    Leithart should be charged with heresy for this comment alone cited in the minority report:

    “. . . . we do have the same obligation that Adam (and Abraham, and Moses, and David, and Jesus) had, namely, the obedience of faith. And, yes, covenant faithfulness is the way to salvation, for the ‘doers of the law will be justified’ at the final judgment. But this is all done in union with Christ, so that ‘our’ covenant faithfulness is dependent on the work of the Spirit of Christ in us, and our covenant faithfulness is about faith, trusting the Spirit to will and to do according to His good pleasure.”

    Salvation by faith and works could not be taught more clearly. This man should be defrocked and should have been years ago.

    Yet, instead of charging this brazen and proud heretic for advancing a false gospel, he’ll be squeezed out only to leave the PCA as a minister in good standing as he continues to teach his false gospel from the comfort of the CREC. The courts of the PCA will again remain moot on what ByFaith called the “issue of a generation.”

    Is this a mark of a healthy church where the preferred means of dealing with false teachers is to charge the Presbyteries that defends them?

  29. greenbaggins said,

    October 6, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    Sean, you were banned, and I never lifted the ban. Now you come in here and blast the PCA without any thought as to the slowness of the process. Wilkins would have been defrocked had he stayed, so your argument is worthless. You are permanently banned from this blog.

  30. Todd said,

    October 6, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    That quote above of Leithart is unconscionable; the fight for the gospel goes on in every age; and it is almost always from within, as Galatians testifies. Yet Lane is right on the need for slow process. When people complain to our session about slow process in discipline; I ask them how they would want the session to proceed if we had an accusation against their own daughter. They usually admit then they would want the session to proceed as carefully as possible, not creating any shortcuts but offering their daughter full rights and proper procedure.

    Todd

  31. October 6, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    Looks like we’re either witch-hunters or witch-wrist-slappers, huh? Talk about being damned if you do, damned if you don’t….

  32. greenbaggins said,

    October 6, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    Exactly, Jason. May the Lord bless you for your labors in pursuit of the purity and peace of the church, despite the nay-sayers.

  33. October 6, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    Jason,

    Aesop’s fable of The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey comes to mind…

    Or, this Far Side cartoon.

    Hang with it brother. We’re praying.

  34. October 6, 2008 at 9:01 pm

    Jason,
    From the “appreciate it whatever you believe” door, I for one would appreciate your losing the idolatry on your blog. Not cool.
    LC 109.

  35. October 6, 2008 at 10:26 pm

    Chris,

    Was it really necessary to refer to the image on my latest post as “idolatry” in front of hundreds of people? Is that “cool”?

  36. October 7, 2008 at 7:49 am

    Probably not; but I was pretty offended to be referred to your blog by sites I trust to be met with such a thing. Thank you for removing it.

  37. David Gilleran said,

    October 8, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    Just a question, was this a trial or a committee asked to explore TE Leithart views?

  38. October 10, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    David,

    It was a study committee, not a trial.

    JJS

  39. Stephen Welch said,

    October 11, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    Jason, thank you for keeping us informed on this distressing issue, which does not seem to go away. Are most churches and ministers in PNW Presbytery sympathetic to Peter and the FV or is it a small number? I hope this has not affected all the congregations in this presbytery, but I would suspect it has.

  40. October 11, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    I would say that most churches are sympathetic to Peter, but not necessarily to his theological views. If you met him you’d swear there’s not a more mild-mannered man on the planet. So unless you have a grasp of the issues and a strong concern for the PCA’s confessional identity, your default will be to not want to rock the boat.

    I mean, I took no pleasure in making a big stink out of this issue, and I certainly didn’t win any friends in the process.

  41. Robin Collers said,

    January 21, 2010 at 9:23 am

    Lane,

    Here’s Rob Rayburn’s response to the SJC Panel:

    http://providencestlouis.squarespace.com/storage/Rayburn_SJC_Brief.pdf

  42. David Gray said,

    January 24, 2010 at 5:26 am

    What a powerful defense of the Reformed faith by Pastor Rayburn. It is a powerful rebuke of error.

  43. January 24, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    DG,

    You’re joking, right? That’s OK, I know better. Rayburn’s statement was just more weasel-worded, amorphous Jello concoction. I’m not surprised to see where it’s posted.

    The PCA doesn’t need any more Rodney King theology or sacerdotalism. We need men with spines who will stand for the gospel of grace and against the cancer of FV.

  44. Ken said,

    January 25, 2010 at 9:49 am

    What the PCA needs is to forget about FV and stiffen their collective spine towards the Kellers of the world who are pushing for women officers. I sometimes think that the reason the FV gets all the press here is because it wrestles with terms and definitions contained within the Westminster Confession, but because female officers aren’t a topic of discussion in the WCF, the reformedmusings of the world refuse to get their shorts in a bunch because they don’t perceive egalitarianism as striking at the vitals of religion.
    Musings, you’re tilting at windmills while the fox is in the hen house.

  45. greenbaggins said,

    January 25, 2010 at 10:46 am

    Ken, you are being a bit unfair here to Robert Mattes, who has posted more than a few things regarding women officers. I am quite sure that Robert Mattes views the FV and women ordination of officers as equally serious. The PCA cannot forget about FV teaching as long as there are FV teachers in her midst.

  46. January 25, 2010 at 11:11 am

    Thanks, Lane. Well said.

    Ken – Perhaps you should have done your homework. I have written a great deal against women officers/deaconesses on the web. Check this blog and my own for starters. I have spoken on the floor of the GA for two years against it and worked with my brother officers in the church. Can you say the same?

    I have done the same, even more, against the cancer of FV, which tears at the heart of the gospel. Is defending the gospel less important than the error of deaconesses? All are important and must be addressed.

  47. Ken said,

    January 25, 2010 at 11:37 am

    Robert,
    I gladly stand corrected regarding your efforts on the deaconess front, and I hope your efforts are ultimately successful.
    I’ll play my cards up front: I’m an FV sympathizer and my definition of the gospel is likely more expansive than yours. And so I would say that egalitarianism is a heresy that threatens the gospel every bit as much as an incorrect view of the ordo salutis.
    As such, I think my original thrust was correct: Leithart is called a heretic because he’s challenging either the WCF or the PCA’s understanding of the WCF and Reformed tradition, and Keller doesn’t get the heretic tag because egalitarianism fortunately was not a 17th issue: fortunately for the Westminster divines anyway. Whether or not Leithart stands in the PCA stream or within the Scottish presbyterian current is, I agree, open to debate, and I don’t think his views are mainstream within the PCA and maybe he should leave (though I believe the PCA would be the poorer for it); but Leithart is definitely within the pale of a wider Christian orthodoxy. Keller allows his female “deeks” to teach and counsel men; something which orthodox Presybterians and the Church catholic have always rejected. Even the Pope reads scripture more correctly than does Keller on this issue, [As a point of context, I believe that a scriptural case for deaconesses could be made, a la Rev. Tim Bayly’s view.]
    If you’ve referred to Keller’s views as heresy then good. I’ll continue to disagree over your views of Leithart, but at least I can believe you to be consistent.

  48. January 25, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    Ken,

    I have not called Keller’s views heresy. I do disagree strongly with him on the role and titling of women in the church. I’ll continue to oppose such views everywhere the Lord provides me opportunity. But Dr. Keller is not ordaining women as deacons or to any other office in the church. Maybe I’m misunderstanding you, but that’s how I interpret your comments. I can easily disagree with a brother over many issues without labeling them a heretic.

    FV is heresy because again, it tears at the heart of the gospel with sacerdotalism and works-righteousness couched in the euphemism of “covenantal obedience” to a mythical “objective covenant.” Leithart’s comments to his Presbytery are tame by comparison to what he’s written in Credenda Agenda. He’s more articulate that Wilkins, but is saying the same things that Wilkins does. There’s no place in the PCA or the broader Reformed world in general for sacerdotalism. He’s already serving in the CREC, so I don’t understand why he just doesn’t move there. This will inevitably end in the same way as the LAP case did.

    FWIW, I’ve decided to write a few critiques of Rayburn’s whiny letter. They should start appearing here sometime this week.

  49. David Gray said,

    January 25, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    Ken is fair as genuine rebellion gets handled with kid gloves. The PCA might as well apply to rejoin the PCUSA, it would simply speed things up.

  50. David Gray said,

    January 25, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    >Rayburn’s statement was just more weasel-worded, amorphous Jello concoction.

    You shouldn’t harden your conscience when your brother helps you.

  51. Ken said,

    January 25, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    Robert,

    As I don’t want to hijack the thread (apologies if I’ve already done so), let me finish by saying that I think Keller’s practice belies his “official” support of the BCO. His letter to you regarding the infamous video is a perfect illustration: he alludes to a baptism event that wasn’t done according to the BCO as something similar to their ordination/commissioning of women “deeks.” This is a red herring; his baptism error was procedural and not one that struck at a core doctrine of scripture whereas the women deacons issue strikes right at the heart of the biblical teaching regarding men’s and women’s roles in the church. I agree that disagreeing with a brother often precludes the term heresy; I disagree with Keller’s preaching on a number of points, but I don’t lob those into the “heresy” category. I do think his position on women’s roles is heretical because I believe that egalitarianism “tears” at the fabric of the created order and is the most pernicious movement within the PCA today. I guess we’ll see what happens at this year’s GA and the subsequent fall out.

    As to Leithart, I think his views are contrary to the WCF in some areas, but just about every PCA officer I’ve ever met does the same (albeit on topics that we’ve all seem to have agreed don’t rise to the level of heresy – Sabbath keeping for example) the PCA generally doesn’t hold a 17th century view in the first place, nor has it ever asserted it did.

    I would agree as well that Leithart would find a more welcome home in the CREC, but we both know that his influence will continue to impact evangelicalism far beyond provincial Moscow. Isn’t it telling that the more expansive Christian world (Leithart in Touchstone and First Things; Wilson as CT’s opponent of choice vs. Hitchens) recognizes the unique talents that some FV proponents have brought to the clash between our Lord’s kingdom and that of our great adversary, Satan? As such, I’ll be grateful for both Keller and Leithart’s positive contributions.


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