Senior Pastor Opening — Faith Reformed PCA

(Posted by Paige Britton)

On behalf of the pulpit committee at Faith Reformed Church (PCA), I’m pleased to announce that we are now  accepting application materials from those interested in our Senior Pastor position.  We are a nearly 500-member church located in the southern part of Lancaster County, PA, a rural/small town setting that also serves as a bedroom community for many who work in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and even NYC.  Eligible applicants (who are ordained by, or are ordainable by, the PCA) should seek more information and instructions at our web portal, Our current plan is to hold the position open to applicants until mid-October.

If you have any make-or-break questions that I can answer quickly, you are welcome to contact me OFFLINE. I would be happy to speak to you in person or by email about this (but not in the comments below).  My addy is paige, then a dot, then britton, and it’s a gmail address.  Our pulpit committee team is committed to the considerate and confidential care of all applicants.  Hope to hear from some of you, one way or another!

We’re excited to see God’s leading and provision in this process as it unfolds. 

A Reply to Lee Johnson

Lee Johnson wrote a post wherein he writes:

You see Lane and I put the blame in different places. Lane thinks the FV guys won and took over, and I think that a 3rd party took the opportunity run off the TR’s (for lack of a better term) and gain complete control. I think the “evangelical middle” as Lane refers to them has always had designs on running this denomination.

I think I have given sufficient credit to the evangelical big tent folks in my cwaga posts. I also qualified my statements about the FV winning the denomination by saying, in effect, that what they did was to make the denomination safe for them. Of course, they needed a lot of help in accomplishing that. However, the cwaga folks would not have helped the FV, if the FV had not assiduously courted them and convinced them that the issues were not really gospel issues. In other words, by “winning the PCA” I primarily meant that the FV carved out a safe haven for themselves, not that they completely took over. The cwaga folks most definitely are the majority of the PCA, and they hold most of the major positions of power.

In other words, I think that Lee and I are basically saying the same thing. There was an alliance fashioned between the FV and the cwaga folks, once it became clear that the confessionalists were actually going to go after the FV men. However, if there had been no FV to put pressure on the cwaga folks to be true to the big tent vision, the results might have been far different.

I should mention one other thing. I was investigated at my own request as to my views on the sacraments and on justification, since I had been accused of false doctrine. Siouxlands Presbytery was exceedingly reluctant to conduct an investigation, not believing me guilty of teaching false doctrine, and thinking the charges frivolous. But an investigation was conducted. No trial happened in that incident. The investigation resulted in no strong presumption of guilt being found. Lee’s post might give a slightly different idea as to what happened.

What About the Sheep?

I got an email from a friend recently, who will currently remain nameless, as he does not typically like to draw attention to himself. He said some things in it that were very important. I will paraphrase a bit, and add some thoughts of my own.

The work of church discipline can be divided into the “easy” part and the “hard” part. In the FV controversy, the easy part was passing the study committee report in 2007. Why was it easy? Because it was comfortably hypothetical, and mostly anonymous. Sure, there were names mentioned, but since the report did not have judicial teeth (except insofar as “due weight” was to be given to it, something that all the FV-friendly Presbyteries have ignored), it was something easy to pass.

The hard part comes when individuals are singled out for the judicial process, whether by their own initiative, as in Leithart’s case, or by some other way. Now kicks in the “brotherhood” problem, and this is what makes everything so much more difficult. It is very hard for teaching elders in particular (and this underscores the essential role that ruling elders play in any disciplinary proceedings) to be a part of disciplinary procedures that involve friends of theirs. In fact, it is very easy to play the coward in this regard. The consequences of discipline are oftentimes loss of friendship (because the person undergoing discipline tends to take everything personally), and friction among the other brothers. For teaching elders in the PCA, whose membership is not in the local church, but in the Presbytery, the Presbytery IS their church.

In all of this, who gets forgotten? The sheep! If there is false doctrine being promulgated in one of our churches, it is the sheep who are getting poisoned. If we would remember the sheep in cases of doctrinal discipline of teaching elders, we would be much less likely to take things personally, and we would be much more diligent about following through, because of the terrible consequences of allowing sheep to be poisoned. Instead, people who are concerned about the sheep tend to get lectured about how they’re not being charitable towards the teaching elders. This really ought to stop. We could turn the whole thing around and ask the question: what about charity towards those who are concerned about the sheep? What about not jumping on the 9th commandment as a knee-jerk reaction to cases of doctrinal commitment? How about assuming that such people are trying to ensure that the sheep aren’t getting poisoned?

How the FV Won the PCA

Before getting into the way the FV won the PCA, it is necessary to state why I believe the FV has won the PCA, because that is, of course, a controversial claim. The reason I say that the FV has won the PCA is that the PCA is now a FV-friendly denomination. The final tale has not perhaps been spoken. That will be in October. However, unless a miracle happens (and I’m certainly praying for one!), nothing will change in October. Of course, there are Presbyteries that would never allow in a FV man. But the FV doesn’t need those Presbyteries. They have Pacific Northwest, Missouri, Siouxlands, and Metro New York Presbyteries. That’s enough space for anyone, surely (7 states and one of the largest metropolitan areas in the entire world)! Those Presbyteries are absolutely safe for FV men.

So how did the FV win the PCA? Well firstly, they learned fast, for one thing. Instead of trying to avoid judicial procedure, they learned that it was actually necessary to jump the gun on a trial, because then they could choose the battlefield and have all the advantages. Get a Presbytery to exonerate a man, and the SJC will be under enormous pressure to give a free pass to the Presbytery. Rush everything so that the prosecutor wouldn’t have enough time to do it right. Make it all about personalities and martyrdom. Everyone loves a martyr. Don’t let it be about doctrine. In terms of the doctrinal points that they do address, they introduce just enough “counter-evidence,” which is actually contradictions of previous material in some cases, and bare assertions about confessional adherence in others, so that people can be bamboozled into using that as an excuse not to rule the right way.

Secondly, they pulled an enormous amount of their internet stuff, because that was the forum where they made the most “far-out” claims. Tis the nature of the internet. Get rid of the incriminating evidence, and you make the prosecutor’s job a whole lot harder.

Thirdly, they kept their heads low when the discussion got hot. When there was nothing for it, they lit into the accusers with the ninth commandment club like there was no tomorrow (as all heretics everywhere have ALWAYS done). But in all other instances, they said nothing except this: that SAYING one’s theology is compatible with the Westminster Standards proves it beyond any shade of reasonable doubt. They just kept on claiming that, despite the clear evidence to the contrary that they actually hate the guts of the Westminster Standards, because they know good and well (as James Jordan so honestly told them) that their doctrine goes with the Westminster Standards about like asparagus goes with ice cream (that’s something of a paraphrase of James Jordan, as anyone in the know will readily perceive). But if one gets rid of all the evidence, then people are much more likely to believe their claims.

Fourthly, they never gave up. They were incredibly tenacious, with a very few exceptions, and those were already lost causes. They can afford to lose on Rich Lusk or Steve Wilkins, if they win on Peter Leithart and Jeff Meyers.

Fifthly, they actively courted the evangelical middle of the PCA. They tried very hard (and successfully) to convince the evangelical middle that the FV issues were not gospel issues, but peripheral issues. This was done by the cherry-picking out-of-context quoting of the Reformed fathers that tried to make the case that the FV was within the Reformed tradition (whatever that means!). Once that was done, the evangellyfish (trademark somewhat ironically Doug Wilson) middle completely flipped sides. If it is a gospel issue, the middle generally votes with the confessionalists. However, if they are not convinced that it is a gospel issue, they will vote to keep the peace (whatever that means! There is FAR less peace in the PCA now than there was, say, 8 years ago. Witness everyone talking about it). They will be cwaga folks.

It is certainly a good thing for the FV that the evangelical middle has such a short memory (does anyone know what happened in 2007?). It is also a good thing for the FV that the evangelical middle has so much fear of man infecting it. The middle has no stomach for what would need to happen to certain Presbyteries for real discipline to occur. That’s because real discipline is always painful. And who has the endurance for something like that?

Can the situation be salvaged? It is highly unlikely. There are too many egos on the line, and there is too much defensiveness, especially on the part of the SJC members, many of whom cannot possibly be happy with the outcome of the Leithart case, but who are now committed, and cannot admit to being wrong about something. I can’t imagine the discomfort, having one’s conscience gnaw at them all the time about it.

I would, however, like to ask the SJC this simple question: is your interpretation of the polity of the PCA putting polity higher in importance than the gospel? If God were to ask you why you allowed a heterodox teacher to remain in the flock, are you going to feel comfortable telling God that the polity of the PCA couldn’t be violated (and this is even assuming that you are interpreting the polity correctly!)? Have you elevated the BCO over the Bible? One of the principles of Robert’s Rules is that if any of Robert’s Rules come into conflict with a society’s bylaws, then Robert’s Rules gives way, and the bylaws of that society take precedence. Extending this principle a bit further, we arrive at this principle: if anything in the BCO prevents us from doing what the Bible tells us to do, then so much the worse for the BCO. The Bible is not only the highest authority, but also demands our highest allegiance. This doesn’t mean we ignore a BCO. But if a situation arises when the BCO would seem to prevent us from doing what the Bible clearly tells us to do, then we must obey God rather than men.

So Cultured I’m Yogurt

Most of my readers are probably familiar with the categories of Niebuhr regarding Christ and culture. There’s Christ against culture, Christ of culture, Christ above culture, Christ and culture in paradox, and Christ transforming culture. What many pastors claim to be advocating today is the last option: Christ transforming culture. It sounds great, doesn’t it? It sounds like the gospel is doing its work. The problem is that it is not always personal. The shift from personal evangelism to an impersonal “engaging the culture” oftentimes leaves the gospel out of the mix. It is parallel to the social gospel (and in many cases is equal to it) of the old liberal stream. Theoretically it is Christ transforming culture. Functionally, it winds up being the Christ of culture.

The other problem is this: all non-Christian culture is fundamentally idolatrous. All too often, “engaging the culture” is a euphemism for “caving in to the culture.” I am not for a moment claiming that culture always produces bilge. There are a myriad of great works of art out there, fashioned according to the gifts of common grace. They can and should be appreciated. I am referring to more problematic phenomena, like using movie clips as the text of the sermon. Surely, in that case, we have substituted man’s words for God’s words. I suggest that those who are so enamored of culture that they are yogurt need to step back for a moment and ask the tough questions: is this phenomenon I am studying really conducive to evangelism, personal holiness, progress in the Christian walk? Or am I merely using this “engaging culture” mantra as a smokescreen to disguise my own idolatrous fascination with an idolatrous culture? Am I using the mantra “engaging culture” to mask, disguise, and even justify my own sinful propensities?

Most of the time that I see this, I also see someone who is soft on sin. They will typically redefine sin so that what they are doing (conveniently enough) doesn’t fall under the Bible’s strictures. They become functional antinomians.

Now, let us not throw the Christian-in-culture baby out with the idolatry bathwater. Should Christians, in their various fields of art and science seek to produce that which is Christian in those fields? Undoubtedly. Alas that Reformed folk fall so far short of doing these things, most of the time. There are always exceptions. However, one could wish that there were more great Reformed artists, sculptors, musicians, and scientists that would produce work that is Reformed, bringing glory to God. Again, it is not common grace that I am arguing against, nor a Christian’s desire to produce works of art that I would in any way hinder. Rather, it is the sinful fascination with the idolatrous culture that I am seeking to expose.