Siouxlands Presbytery’s Report on the Internet and on the Nature of Presbytery Information

Report of the Committee To Formulate Policy on Use of Presbytery Information

Section 1

Statement from the Committee on Public Use of Presbytery Information

The committee urges the Presbytery to adopt the following policy: Members of and delegates to the Presbytery of the Siouxlands are charged with carefully understanding the biblical mandates found in the full text of Larger Catechism 144 and 145 to honor and protect one another’s reputation while in pursuit of truth and debating matters that come before the Presbytery. This mandate applies to both public and private communications:

Q. 144. What are the duties required in the ninth commandment? A. The duties required in the ninth commandment are, the preserving and promoting of truth between man and man, and the good name of our neighbor, as well as our own; appearing and standing for the truth; and from the heart, sincerely, freely, clearly, and fully, speaking the truth, and only the truth, in matters of judgment and justice, and in all other things whatsoever; a charitable esteem of our neighbors; loving, desiring, and rejoicing in their good name; sorrowing for, and covering of their infirmities; freely acknowledging of their gifts and graces, defending their innocency; a ready receiving of a good report, and unwillingness to admit of an evil report, concerning them; discouraging talebearers, flatterers, and slanderers; love and care of our own good name, and defending it when need requireth; keeping of lawful promises; studying and practicing of whatsoever things are true, honest, lovely, and of good report. Q. 145. What are the sins forbidden in the ninth commandment? A. The sins forbidden in the ninth commandment are, all prejudicing the truth, and the good name of our neighbors, as well as our own, especially in public judicature; giving false evidence, suborning false witnesses, wittingly appearing and pleading for an evil cause, outfacing and overbearing the truth; passing unjust sentence, calling evil good, and good evil; rewarding the wicked according to the work of the righteous, and the righteous according to the work of the wicked; forgery, concealing the truth, undue silence in a just cause, and holding our peace when iniquity calleth for either a reproof from ourselves, or complaint to others; speaking the truth unseasonably, or maliciously to a wrong end, or perverting it to a wrong meaning, or in doubtful and equivocal expressions, to the prejudice of truth or justice; speaking untruth, lying, slandering, backbiting, detracting, talebearing, whispering, scoffing, reviling, rash, harsh, and partial censuring; misconstructing intentions, words, and actions; flattering, vainglorious boasting; thinking or speaking too highly or too meanly of ourselves or others; denying the gifts and graces of God; aggravating smaller faults; hiding, excusing, or extenuating of sins, when called to a free confession; unnecessary discovering of infirmities; raising false rumors, receiving and countenancing evil reports, and stopping our ears against just defense; evil suspicion; envying or grieving at the deserved credit of any, endeavoring or desiring to impair it, rejoicing in their disgrace and infamy; scornful contempt, fond admiration; breach of lawful promises; neglecting such things as are of good report, and practicing, or not avoiding ourselves, or not hindering what we can in others, such things as procure an ill name.

Public forums on the internet are particularly prone to violating these biblical mandates because of their relatively impersonal nature. Things a person would not say face to face are more easily said in an internet posting. Hosts of such forums are responsible for all content, including comments and links posted to their forum. This responsibility consists of the timely removal of materials which violate the spirit of WLC 144-145. Presbyters should also refrain from providing source material to others that would violate these mandates.

Section 2

Suggested Guidelines for Internet Activity

1. Never say anything about anyone else that you wouldn’t be comfortable saying to them in person. This simple rule would probably eliminate 90% of internet fracases.

2. Consider that the entire world can read what you wrote.

3. Consider that no one can review beforehand what you write on a blog. This is not therefore peer-reviewed scholarship. It might become peer-reviewed after-wards, but it isn’t beforehand.

4. Ask yourself this question: does this post guard and protect my internet neighbor’s good name? The internet has a huge potential for good or harm, more so than almost any other media except television, and it’s giving TV a run for its money. Everything is simply out there.

5. Have I thought through the implications of what will happen after I hit the “post” button? Imagine the reaction of the person it most highly affects. Try to see the issue from the other person’s shoes.

6. Have I loved this person through what I am saying to that person?

7. Never write a post in anger. If you are angry with something that someone else has written, do not reply until you can write with a cool head. Otherwise, you will almost certainly overstate the case, thus polarizing the other person into a defensive mode.

8. Will what I’m going to say actually help other people, or am I just setting myself up to be a great professor of knowledge, or man-pleaser, or know-it-all?

9. The blogs from our presbytery should not be the place where presbyters are ridiculed, called names, or defamed in their reputation. The blogs from our presbytery should showcase the Gospel.

10. Blogs are not wisely used to short-circuit the judicial process, even though Presbytery actions are public, as are official Presbytery documents. Actions of the Presbytery are not above critique, however, any more than actions of General Assembly are above critique. If critique is necessary, it should not be derisively done, but can be done with measured and factual tone. Presbytery is a body worthy of respect, however imperfect may be its performance in its duties.

Section 3

Constitutional Principles Governing Church Courts

Principle #1: There are three courts of the church. These courts are the session, the presbytery, and the general assembly. These courts are of the same nature and function and have the same sorts of rights and powers. They differ only as the constitution explicitly provides. BCO 10-2 says: “These courts are church Sessions, Presbyteries, and the General Assembly.” And BCO 11-3 says: “All Church courts are one in nature, constituted of the same elements, possessed inherently of the same kinds of rights and powers, and differing only as the Constitution may provide.” Therefore, the regular procedures of the operation are consistent among the differing courts of the church, except in the places that the constitution specifically stipulates a difference. The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America is a public event. It is webcast for the whole world to observe on the internet. Guests may attend. Arguments and actions presented on the floor of the Assembly can and are debated and discussed in all sorts of forums, both by those present as presbyters, and by observers. There is no provision in the constitution to conduct a presbytery meeting or a session meeting any differently than the General Assembly conducts its business. Presbyteries and session meetings are normally to be conducted as public events. Statements made, arguments made, and actions taken may be debated and discussed in all sorts of forums, both by those present and by more remote observers.

Principle #2: Every Christian is bound to obey the Word of God. In addition, officers in the Presbyterian Church in America agree subscribe to and adhere to the explication of the scriptures we call the Westminster Standards. These standards are subordinate to the Word of God, and presbyters have the right to have certain differences with the Standards. But they must make these differences known to the presbytery and the presbytery must rule as to whether these differences are permissible. Beyond the Scriptures and these Standards, we do not allow the conscience to be bound by the commandments or judgments of men in matters of conscience. BCO Preliminary Principle 1 states: “God alone is Lord of the conscience and has left it free from any doctrines or commandments of men (a) which are in any respect contrary to the Word of God, or (b) which, in regard to matters of faith and worship, are not governed by the Word of God. Therefore, the rights of private judgment in all matters that respect religion are universal and inalienable.” And Preliminary Principle 3 states: “No church judicatory may make laws to bind the conscience.”

Principle #3: It is recognized that sometimes a court must deal with sensitive information. In order to facilitate this, there is a mechanism in place known as executive session. A court may enter executive session at its own discretion by majority vote. The proceedings of the court while it is in executive session are to be considered confidential and may not be discussed with any person who is not a member of the court. However, minutes of the proceedings and discussion of an executive session must be kept and submitted to the court above for proper review. RAO 16-3.e.6 states: “Minutes of executive sessions are not exempt from the general requirement that presbytery’s actions shall be recorded in the presbytery’s minutes and that these minutes (even if kept in a separate section on executive sessions) shall be submitted to the General Assembly for review (BCO 13-11; 14-6.c; 40-1). Presbytery may ask that the Committee on Review of Presbytery Records deal with these minutes confidentially. However, any exceptions to these minutes must be submitted to the General Assembly through the normal procedures.” In addition, Roberts Rules stipulates that any actions taken in executive session must be spread upon the regular minutes of the body. As such, they become the public acts of a court of the church.

Principle #4: A court of the church may not prohibit a member of the court from discussing the public business of the court. According to the Stated Clerk, to do so would be an attempt to bind the conscience contrary to the Word of God. Any court attempting to do so would be liable to correction from the next higher court through the judicial process.

Principle #5: Because the higher court has the right and duty of exercising oversight over a lower court, the proceedings of a lower court are to be recorded and submitted for review. The BCO recognizes that the minutes may not accurately reflect the proceedings of a court, or that they may not be sufficiently clear in their language to facilitate proper review and oversight. Therefore BCO 40-4 states:

Courts may sometimes entirely neglect to perform their duty, by which neglect heretical opinions or corrupt practices may be allowed to gain ground; or offenders of a very gross character may be suffered to escape; or some circumstances in their proceedings of very great irregularity may not be distinctly recorded by them. In any of these cases their records will by no means exhibit to the higher court a full view of their proceedings. If, therefore, the next higher court be well advised that any such neglect or irregularity has occurred on the part of the lower court, it is incumbent on it to take cognizance of the same, and to examine, deliberate and judge in the whole matter as completely as if it had been recorded, and thus brought up by review of its records.

In order to address this concern, BCO 40-5 states:

When any court having appellate jurisdiction shall receive a credible report with respect to the court next below of any important delinquency or grossly unconstitutional proceedings of such court, the first step shall be to cite the court alleged to have offended to appear before the court having appellate jurisdiction, or its commission, by representative or in writing, at a specified time and place, and to show what the lower court has done or failed to do in the case in question. The court thus issuing the citation may reverse or redress the proceedings of the court below in other than judicial cases; or it may censure the delinquent court; or it may remit the whole matter to the delinquent court with an injunction to take it up and dispose of it in a constitutional manner; or it may stay all further proceedings in the case; as circumstances may require.

And BCO 34-1 says:

Process against a minister shall be entered before the Presbytery of which he is a member. However, if the Presbytery refuses to act in doctrinal cases or cases of public scandal and two other Presbyteries request the General Assembly to assume original jurisdiction (to first receive and initially hear and determine), the General Assembly shall do so.

Furthermore, BCO 10-4 states that it is the duty of the clerk, besides recording transactions, is to preserve the records carefully and to grant extracts from them whenever properly required. Morton Smith’s commentary on the BCO states that the clerk is the officer of the court who may grant extracts of the minutes of the court whenever called upon to do so. The 19th General Assembly instructed its committees to promptly furnish their committee approved minutes to any member of the PCA who so requests them. These minutes are to be provided at the expense of the one requesting them. Any attempt by a court to withhold legitimate public information concerning the actions of a body will serve to short-circuit this constitutionally mandated activity. This will prove very injurious to the peace purity and unity of the Church.

Principle #6: The gathering of the Lord’s people for the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments is a public event. This is called in our constitution “public worship.” All of BCO 47 is a description of the elements of public worship, and specifically says that public worship differs from private worship in the following manner:

Public worship differs from private worship in that in public worship God is served by His saints unitedly as His covenant people, the Body of Christ. For this reason the covenant children should be present so far as possible as well as adults. (BCO 47-7)

Statements made in the context of public worship are public statements.

Principle #7: According to our constitution there are four subcategories of sin. BCO 29-2 through 4 reads:

29-2. Offenses are either personal or general, private or public; but all of them being sins against God, are therefore grounds of discipline.

29-3. Personal offenses are violations of the divine law, considered in the special relation of wrongs or injuries to particular individuals. General offenses are heresies or immoralities having no such relation, or considered apart from it.

29-4. Private offenses are those which are known only to a few persons. Public offenses are those which are notorious.

As a general principle public offenses merit public repentance, while private offenses merit private repentance unless there is a willful contumacy and lack of repentance in the face of rebuke. Then we are to “tell it to the church” even if the initial offense is a private offense. The Bible and the BCO both mandate that personal sins which are either public or private must be dealt with according to Matthew 18. Private offenses, because of their interpersonal nature, ought to be dealt with privately if at all possible. One may only involve other people after the first step (instruction in the Word of God) and the second step (privately going to an offender) have been completed. Not to do so is a sin. General offenses differ from personal offenses and are not in view in Matthew 18. General offenses, and especially general offenses of a public nature require public rebuke and correction so that the people of God may be appropriately warned concerning the offender and his or her actions. While it is not wrong, and may even be wise to go privately to one who has committed a general offense, the Bible does not mandate it.

Principle #8: The church’s discipline derives its force, in part, from the “approbation of an impartial public. This can only happen if the proceedings of the church are made known to the public. Preliminary Principle #8 of the BCO reads as follows:

Since ecclesiastical discipline must be purely moral or spiritual in its object, and not attended with any civil effects, it can derive no force whatever, but from its own justice, the approbation of an impartial public, and the countenance and blessing of the great Head of the Church.

Principle #9: Defamation of another’s character is a great sin against the Ninth Commandment and ought not to be tolerated in the church, especially by her officers. In view of the far ranging reach of the internet this duty is intensified. All officers are exhorted to give careful attention to their duties under the Ninth Commandment in all areas of their lives, but especially where it concerns their speech on the internet.

Definition of DEFAMATION: n. The uttering of slanderous words with a view to injure another’s reputation; the malicious uttering of falsehood respecting another which tends to destroy or impair his good name, character, or occupation; slander; calumny. To constitute defamation in law, the words must be false and spoken maliciously. Defamatory words written and published are called libel (Websters, 1828).

While it is clear how false information about another would be damaging, strictly factual statements or direct quotes may also be presented in a prejudicial manner so as to damage one’s reputation. The Larger Catechism Q 145 prohibits us from “speaking the truth unseasonably, or maliciously to a wrong end, or perverting it to a wrong meaning, or in doubtful or equivocal expressions, to the prejudice of the truth or justice;” this too must be studiously avoided by her officers.

Principle #10: The Church of Jesus Christ functions generally as a public entity. All meetings and records of its meetings are open to the public and to public scrutiny except where secrecy is absolutely necessary. When Paul made his defense before Festus and Agrippa he related the story of the founding of the church and insisted that Agrippa would have known about them because “these things were not done in a corner.” (Acts 28:26.) The Apostle Paul specifically renounced “secret and shameful ways” (2 Cor 4:2). As mentioned above, church courts do not differ from one another except as specifically provided for in the BCO. The RAO instructs the Stated Clerk to publish and update the minutes of the General Assembly and the Statistical Reports. RAO 3-2-h reads as follows:

He shall be responsible for publishing the minutes and statistical reports of the Presbyterian Church in America and periodically updating the digest of the minutes. There is no provision in the constitution for presbyteries and sessions to keep minutes private except as provided for under the seal of executive session. The universal practice of Presbyterians has been that the attendance on, but not participation in, the various courts of the church is open to all who come (implicit in BCO 13-12.) It is unreasonable and illogical that the event may be attended by any who come and the event may be spoken about and reported upon by an eyewitness, but the official documents recording the event are privileged.

According to J.A. Hodge’s What is Presbyterian Law? (Eighth Edition, revised and enlarged, 1905, pp 230-1), “…historically Presbyterians have held that in all circumstances, even those involving sensitive personal matters, The records of our church courts are public and not private documents.” According to Frank Smith’s History of the Presbyterian Church in America, p 491, (Silver Anniversary Edition) “So foreign is the making of church records private documents that even in the controversy which led to the founding of the PCA, the church courts of the PCUS never thought of restricting access to church records so as to impede the reporting of their actions by The Presbyterian Journal.” Therefore the minutes of the presbytery ought to be considered public documents except as provided for in the executive session clauses of Roberts Rules of Order.

Princ1iple #11: The official record of the court is subject to correction. The primary means of correction is the orderly and regular review of the minutes at the next stated meeting of the court. It is also possible that presbytery minutes may be corrected long after they are approved. If portions of any unapproved minutes are published, the writer should make known that these minutes are as yet unapproved and subject to correction by the court. If approved minutes are later corrected by the court, and a person has published portions which are corrected, it is incumbent upon the one publishing to notify his (or her) readership that the cited minutes have been corrected.

Principle #12: A court or her members may engage in various kinds of communication, such as phone calls and email exchanges, especially between meetings of the court. Some of these, such as committee meetings over the phone or committee business conducted via email, may be included as part of the record of the court, and as such are public in nature. Some communications are of a more personal nature. These are not generally considered to be a part of the record of the court and may be of a more private nature. Participants need to be careful to understand which category their communications fall into. Participants also need to beware of using personal or quasi-personal communications in such a way as might be construed to be circularizing the court or attempting to influence it before it can begin its orderly deliberations. If a presbyter wishes to convey something to the whole presbytery, the regular way of doing so is to submit it to the Clerk who will then distribute it subject to the moderator’s judgment. There may also be documents which circulate during a court meeting, such as prayer and praise reports. These documents generally ought not be considered or treated as part of the court’s official record, and normally ought not to be published without the permission of the one making the report. Presbyters are also advised to think carefully about any information they do reveal in praise and prayer reports because the presbytery is a public venue.

Principle #13: It is the duty of church courts to condemn erroneous opinions. BCO 11-4 reads, in part, “Every court has the right to resolve questions of doctrine and discipline seriously and reasonably proposed, and in general to maintain truth and righteousness, condemning erroneous opinions and practices which tend to the injury of the peace, purity, or progress of the Church.” And BCO 13-9.f reads in part that “the presbytery has the right and duty to: To condemn erroneous opinions which injure the purity or peace of the Church; to visit churches for the purpose of inquiring into and redressing the evils that may have arisen in them; In addition, the scripture enjoins all elders individually to the duty of refuting those who contradict sound doctrine.” Titus 1:9 reads: “[An elder must be one who is] holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.”


  1. Reed Here said,

    January 21, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    Looks like you need some indenting correction (missing some ends).

  2. greenbaggins said,

    January 21, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Hmm. I didn’t see any that needed correction. To what are you referring?

  3. Reed Here said,

    January 21, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    After Principle #7, it goes into double/triple box indent. Is that what you intended?

  4. greenbaggins said,

    January 21, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    I have not found a way to have spaces in between statements and keep the indent. Spaces end the code (except in italics and bold). Spaces certainly end the indent code. So, the only way I could do that particular place was to have separate indents for the three quotes.

  5. Reed Here said,

    January 21, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    I think I just fixed it; two extra “blockquote” tags were in where you reference BCO 29.3 and 29.4. Taking those out fixed it, that is made the text after Principle #7 the same format as before.

    If that is not what you wanted, I can reverse it.

  6. proregno said,

    January 21, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    As a lurker from another part of the world, I did a ‘pca’ search to find out more about the PCA, and this is what I found:

    It looks like the health and wealth ‘gospel’ is working for you PCA bunch ?


  7. Reed Here said,

    January 21, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    Slabbert: yeah, all PCA pastor’s have one in the garage of their McMansions ;-)

  8. proregno said,

    January 21, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    Reed, a bit off topic: can you explain or refer me to a article why the PCA and OPC are not one denomination ?

  9. January 21, 2011 at 1:20 pm


    Interesting report. What’s the point of this report? It seems to simply rehash BCO quotes in Section 3. The Standards already say what’s in Section 1, and indeed Section 1 consists mostly of directly quoting WLC 145 & 146. Section 2 are nice opinions, but would constitute extra-constitutional bindings on presbyters and would therefore be unconstitutional and unenforceable. Am I missing something?


  10. Reed Here said,

    January 21, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    Slabbert: contact Wayne Sparks at the PCA Historical Center (you’ll find his email under “Contact Us” at the bottom of the page. He’ll direct you to the best pieces to answer your question.

    Short answer here, form my memory of my studies:

    First the OPC didn’t want to merge (concerns for the conditions of the merger). Then a few years later the OPC had internally worked out their objections and said yes to a merger. But then the PCA said no thanks.

    I honestly don’t have the pivotal issues boiled down. Although I can see in hindsight now how the inherent grass roots nature of the PCA would result in tensions with the OPC’s expresion of Presbyterianism.

  11. greenbaggins said,

    January 21, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    Reed, what was up there before was the way I wanted it, actually, since now, the three sections of the BCO quoted look different, when I wanted them to look the same.

    Bob, this is an in thesi report. It is not constitutionally binding. These are suggested guidelines. The report was received, not approved. Section 1 is primarily a reminder of what the WLC requires. Section 2 addresses some of the common sins committed on the internet. Section 3 deals with the nature of public and Presbytery information (what can be talked about on the internet).

  12. Reed Here said,

    January 21, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    O.k. Lane, I think I get it. Is this what you meant? If not, I’ll quit monkeying, and revert it with apologies to all.

  13. greenbaggins said,

    January 21, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    Yep. That’s it.

  14. Reed Here said,

    January 21, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    Whewww! :-)

  15. January 21, 2011 at 1:57 pm


    We received an OPC church into our Presbytery a while back. They left the OPC because, in their opinion, their presbytery wasn’t interested in outreach to their diverse community whereas the PCA heavily emphasizes outreach.

    The only significant difference that arose came from their BCO. The OPC apparently grants little authority to ruling elders (REs), whereas REs in the PCA have equal authority with teaching elders (though obviously different roles). I can’t say if that’s typically the only major difference. The OPC worship style is pretty uniform and conservative in my experience, but well within the PCA norm. I also think that they have strict subscription to the Westminster Standards, whereas the PCA has “good faith” subscription – a looser standard.

    That’s my cut, anyway. I don’t have any insight into specifically why the last merger talks failed.

  16. Jerry Koerkenmeier said,

    January 21, 2011 at 2:29 pm


    That is an outstanding report. Regardless of its adoption by Siouxlands Presbytery I intend to keep it and share it with fellow Elders as wise counsel. If you have opportunity, would you please commend the committee on my behalf, or just send me the name and contact information of the Committee Chair so I can do it myself?


  17. greenbaggins said,

    January 21, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    Jerry, Dan Franz was the chairman. His email is franzdan8 AT gmail DOT com

  18. Cris D. said,

    January 21, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    RE # 8 and #15

    That’s an old misconception about the OPC being uninterested in evangelism or outreach. It is pretty much unfounded; but every time an OPC church has jumped ship to the PCA they’ve tended to reinforce this misconception. Further it’s downright the wrong thing to do if it were true. If a particular presbytery really was not at all interested in outreach, then the Outreach-oriented OPC has the obligation to bring their brothers & sisters around, not to abandon them.

    When I saw/heard this in action, I was visiting delegate from a Canadian Reformed Church (ruling elder), heard the minister make this pitch, and just couldn’t believe the level of insult he was heaping on that presbytery.

    I would not say across the board the OPC limits the ruling elder. There is variety within each particular Church and each presbytery. There are some hierarchical types and some less-so. I believe you find the same in the PCA. I think the Directory for Public Worship(DPW) (both the old one and the newly revised one) do use language that restricts certain things in public worship to either elders or ministers, but, in practice, the DPW does not function at the same level as the Form of Government (FOG) or the Book of Discipline(BD). The DPW states principles, but again, every session will implement those principles in its own context in its own way.

    I do believe the PCA Church Order is much more detailed that the the OPC Form of Government. The OPC has no standing judicial committees, at least none at the GA level. I suppose some Presbytery somewhere might. I dont know that there’s a prohibition of such a thing in the OPC FOG (don’t you just love that: OPC FOG?)

    One technical/historical aspect of why OPC & PCA aren’t one: The last time this was a option on the table, it was NOT a matter of merging. It was a 3-way dance between the OPC, the PCA and the RPCES. It was not a merger, but a “joining and receiving.” The brain-child of Dr. E Clowney, it was an attempt to get past all the possible wrinkles of negotiating this, that and the other thing. Just vote yourselves out of existence as the OPC and the RPCES and join into the PCA.

    I was merely an M.Div. student at the time, I cannot possible speculate on why folks in the OPC voted as they did; it was close, but not close enough (I think the vote required 2/3 majority and only had a simple majority). The RPCES voted themselves into the joining and so the PCA voted them into reception.

    Hope this sheds a little light. Off-topic as it is.

    Who is a member of his church’s Evangelism Committee and when leading worship will read an apostolic greeting (from Scripture, “Grace to you..”etc. Will read a benediction from Scripture, and announce it as such, reading from Numbers 6:24ff or 2 Cor 13:13. Further, some of the ruling elders will lead services, including sermon, at a local skilled nursing/long-term care facility. ALWAYS reminding one another (and the interns): this may be the last time someone in the audience will hear the Gospel presented.

  19. Wayne Sparkman said,

    January 21, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    When the PCA voted on Joining & Receiving in 1982, 18 presbyteries voted in favor and 7 voted against. 19 ayes were required for approval. One reason why there was not a stronger vote in favor had to do with the ongoing justification controversy at Westminster :

    Following the passing of the (1981) motion to invite the OPC the following motion was readily adopted without debate.
    “That while we are anxious to effect one church with you, we wish to make known to you our great concern in regard to the issue of justification by faith that has been raised at Westminster Seminary and in the [OPC’s] Philadelphia Presbytery. Our prayers will be with you for a definitive resolution of these matters.
    [Minutes of the 49th OPC GA, pp. 99-100.]

    “When the PCA decided not to invite the OPC to join them the Committee concluded its work on the matter for the present. The Committee now holds these papers in its files for use in the event of future need.”
    [Minutes of the 49th OPC GA, p. 97.]

    Subsequently pro-PCA men and churches left the OPC, which changed the voting ratio in the OPC and when the matter was taken up again in 1986, while the PCA then voted successfully in favor, the OPC declined.

    Cris: It might be arguable that the PCA’s BCO is more detailed. Most think the OPC’s is more principial. But I put the text of each into Word documents one time in order to see what the word count was, and surprisingly, they are about of equal length! The PCA’s looks bigger because we’ve got it in that three-ring binder and stick all sorts of other documents in there.

  20. January 21, 2011 at 5:40 pm


    Thanks for taking time to shed further light on this side discussion. It’s great to hear from a brother RE. My experiences visiting OPC churches when traveling have all been good. I have only one data point concerning transfers to the PCA. Your input provides another, valuable perspective.

    In Christ,

  21. January 21, 2011 at 5:49 pm


    Thanks for your excellent history lesson!

    So, Shepherd’s heresy has been haunting the PCA long before FV. Sad.

  22. drake said,

    January 21, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    I think there should be rules, or suggested protocol more for those who start blogs and post blogs. Rule #1. Don’t start a blog if you are not comfortable with and do not plan on answering objections. Rule #2. Don’t start a blog if you are not comfortable with and do not plan on answering objections. Rule #3 Don’t start a blog if you are not comfortable with and do not plan on answering objections….and so on.

  23. Reed Here said,

    January 21, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    I’m not answering that objection.

    (oh wait …)

  24. January 21, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    Rule #1 if heresy and heretics run rampant, don’t say anything. You’re hurting the reputation of the PCA

  25. January 21, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    Rule #4 – There is no rule number 4. Thou shalt not go to rule 4 unless thou proceedeth on to rule #5.

    Rule #5 – Bloggeth not against the Federal Vision, for no one can knowest the Federal Vision except a Federal Visionist, and they wouldst certainly not bloggeth against the Federal Vision. Refereth to rule #5.

  26. Cris D. said,

    January 22, 2011 at 4:58 am

    Wayne #19:

    Ah, forgot about the 1986 attempt, about that time I was leaving the OPC for a lengthy sojourn in the Canadian Reformed Church. And as for the “Justification Controversy” – I’m not sure it was a real issue or a convenient issue to point to. I do recall that the tide finally and rapidly turned against Shepherd when Clowney finally decided against Shepherd. Perhaps pressure from the PCA was involved. There were always indications that more was going on than just the Justification issue, thus many were sympathetic to, supportive of Shepherd without inhabiting the exact same doctrinal grounds. I was a student in some of those years, I have an MAR signed by Mr Shepherd* and an MDiv with no signature representing Systematics. During that time I was equal parts informed and without a clue.
    (*and Frame and Godfrey, Strimple was already in California)

    The BCO vs FOG word count: interesting. I’ll have to do some investigating and re-evaluating. Not promising to do it today and immediately update my post.

    Seems ironic that WTS-East and Phila Presbytery (OPC) have been the bad boys with respect to Justification, when it would seem that for some time now, CTS and the St Louis area has been quite the comfort zone for FV tendencies (at a minimum) within the PCA.


  27. Cris D. said,

    January 22, 2011 at 5:08 am

    Bob #20

    I’ve encountered nothing but good things in my visiting of PCA churches. I am frequently in South Carolina, and have been to the Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah, GA; where the pastoral staff is all PCA, even though the Church is not. As a RE I’ve been jokingly accused of being a two-and-a-quarter office man, but that comes from my pastor who calls himself two-and-half or two-and-three-quarters guy, so it’s all good.



  28. Larry E Wilson said,

    January 22, 2011 at 8:41 am

    In 1975, the OPC voted to merge with the RPCES and was rejected (by a slim margin). The two denominations had been negotiating for years. The newly formed PCA said to the two denominations, why waste time with negotiation? Just join us and we’ll receive you and we’ll be one big dynamic nationwide Presbyterian denomination that won’t repeat the mistakes that you guys made. Lamentably (in my opinion), both the OPC and the RPCES dropped their almost consummated, negotiated merger and both voted to join the PCA. Are you counting? That’s the 2nd time the OPC voted itself out of existence for the sake of ecumenicity. This time (1982), the PCA presbyteries voted to receive the RPCES and to reject the OPC. There was hot debate in the pages of The Presbyterian Journal. I barely remember the Shepherd controversy being a factor, although it may have been for some. I do remember painfully reading a lot of arguments that the OPC’s Calvinism would quench the PCA’s zeal for evangelism, and that former OPCers would start heresy trials all through the PCA, and many other arguments along lines like that. The PCA re-invited the OPC in 1986, but this coincided with the OPC’s 50th Anniversary as that denomination was remembering God’s faithfulness amid the many sacrifices made when the denomination was formed in the middle of the Great Depression, with most of its congregations losing their buildings, etc. etc. This time the OPC voted, “No,” but expressed its willingness to try to negotiate a merger. Year after year for quite a few years following that, the OPC’s ecumenicity committee requested the PCA’s interchurch relations committee to work together towards a negotiated merger. The response always tended to boil down to, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.” As a young OP pastor during those years, I grieved and lamented the failure of our denominations to get together. But my mind began to change when an older and wiser minister reminded me that we (the OPC) had voted ourselves out of existence twice, and God had not permitted it; he must still have a role that we are responsible to play. I recount all this with prayers and hopes for all our NAPARC denominations. I hope this is helpful information.

  29. JWT said,

    January 22, 2011 at 9:03 am

    The majority of Suggested Guidelines are predicated on assertions, not facts. Moreover, their apparent slant indicates that someone (single or plural) has a vested interest in controlling a narrative.

    Presbytery should limit itself to enforcing the Ninth. If a violation occurs, presbytery should remedy it pursuant to the Constitutional Principles Governing Church Courts. It certainly should not attempt to quash violations in venues where they may possibly occur, because this may also result in stifling the truth.

    People who overreach invariably produce more instances of the thing they seek to eliminate. In this case, the overreach would simply result in more websites hosted by friends of the repressed. And there’s nothing presbytery can do about that.

  30. Cris Dickason said,

    January 22, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Getting back to the subject of Siouxlands Presbytery’s proposals regarding activities and communications on the world wide web, I’m not sure it’s wise to adopt a set of proposals specific to a certain mode or means of communication. There was no need for new rules when the telephone came along, yet it certainly facilitated some gossiping and spreading news injudiciously, and since not quite face-to-face, some might be emboldened to speak differently over the phone than in person.

    If men broadcast or leak or publish via the web documents and information that is by definition not public, there are means in place to address that, and the internet isn’t the cause of the problem. Siouxlands Presbytery, of course, does have the freedom to adopt its own local guidelines if they wish.

    And finally, in the spirit of this topic I will give full name disclosure (as if y’all care, right).

    Cris A. Dickason
    Ruling Elder, OPC

  31. Reed Here said,

    January 22, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    JWT: agree with your cautions about over-reaching. Given my experience here at Green Baggins, I don’t read the slant you do. Not to say the guidelines are perfect. Yet they are addressed at real world scenarios anyone who blogs regularly will recognize,

    Another word for “guidelines” is advice. As long as the Presbytery understands that guidelines are not a basis for either charges or judgment in a matter of discipline, then I think the advice intent of the guidelines are well worth it.

    This is one of the things elders in the Church are called upon to do, advise how God’s word applies to real world situations that are not spelled out in Scripture. The danger of such guidelines becoming “law” is always present. This is a common error that ends in legalism in some circles.

    Yet the correct response to the failure on the part of some is not to over react and deny the legitimate functioning of God’s shepherds. It only calls for more prayer for humility and grace to rule in the elders’ rule.

    Not saying this is what you were saying. I am more responding to an inference I think might be drawn from what you said.

    Advice is good, as long as eveyrone agrees to not make it equal in authority with God’s law.

  32. greenbaggins said,

    January 22, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    Firstly, the guidelines suggested in section 2 were my contribution. Secondly, this report was not adopted but received. Big difference. Adoption is binding, reception is not. These are suggestions that were made primarily to bring down the heat of many blog discussions and internet fracases. We want more light, not more heat, although I have no objection to heat per se, when it seems to be required. Heat for its own sake is despicable.

  33. Reed Here said,

    January 22, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    “Heat for its own sake is despicable.”


  34. January 22, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    Well said, Lane. I didn’t know the report was only received vs. adopted until your post #11 above. With that caveat, FWIW I have not qualms with the report. I especially like the reminder about church government being an open, public process.

  35. January 22, 2011 at 4:33 pm


    In the section quoting the RAO, you have some of my words (I was the author of the third section) formatted as though they belonged in the RAO. I’m flattered, but I apparently don’t have that power in reality.

    Darn it.

    Kindest Regards,

  36. Frank Aderholdt said,

    January 25, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    Regardless of what one might think of this or that detail of the received (not adopted!) Report, it’s an example of Reformed “casuistry” at its best. Think of Richard Baxter’s “Christian Directory,” with its hundreds of examples of solutions to various cases of conscience. We need more close, careful, Biblical and confessional reasoning like this. It’s a practice that we need to recover.

  37. August 25, 2012 at 9:56 am

    (Mods, you can disregard the comment I tried to post on this string from my phone. And you can delete this paranthesis).

    ” Hosts of such forums are responsible for all content, including comments and links posted to their forum.”

    This is a good acknowledgement, Lane. As harsh as I have been on all internet communicators, I want to humbly thank all you active internet people, for friendship, learning, and little endorphin rushes, as I publish my deepest thoughts and nonsensical drivel for the world to see.

    I’ll see you all around the golf course. You’re the next on the tee!

  38. August 25, 2012 at 10:04 am

    PS if any reader of this comment knows Dr. Trueman, you can let him know what a gem ‘minority report’ is. I read ‘theater of the absurd’ last night, which should be required reading for all bloggers and commenters. Of the few other essays I read, ‘is the devil in the details’ was also fantastic! If you are reading, Trueman, you should post a comment somewhere in this blog.For ‘ol times sake. High five!

  39. August 25, 2012 at 10:08 am

    From one zen-calvinist to another ;-)

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