The Standing Judicial Commission (SJC) of the PCA met in Georgia this past October 18-19 to decide, among other things, whether or not the exoneration by the Louisiana Presbytery of Federal Vision Pastor and Auburn Avenue master of ceremonies, Steve Wilkins, will be allowed to stand. Previously the SJC directed the Louisiana Presbytery to reexamine Pastor Wilkins and they again found “ no strong presumption of guilt in any of the charges” as it relates to the neolegalism of Pastor Wilkins’ “Federal Vision.”
What this means, at least according to Dr. Jeff Hutchinson, Pastor of Trinity PCA in Ashville, NC, is that “the case before the PCA’s SJC is not about Steve Wilkins’ views directly, but is most directly about the fitness of the Louisiana Presbytery in their exoneration of Steve Wilkins . . . For a Presbyterian, that is the more important issue. Particular teachers and teachings come and go, but the integrity of a whole presbytery affects a whole region and culture and generation.”
Hutchinson’s point is that the SJC’s decision in this case has much wider ramifications for the PCA than if it was just deciding on, say, heresy charges against Pastor Wilkins alone. It should be noted that the SJC has already pronounced an overture from the Suncoast Presbytery to “Declare Auburn Avenue Session Heterodox; Appoint Commission to Discipline Auburn Avenue Session; Appoint Commission to Discipline TE Steve Wilkins” out of accord with the BCO (Book of Church Order).
With the Suncoast overture swept aside, and as I understand it, the decision that many of us are waiting for now is essentially whether or not the entire Louisiana Pres is out of order for failing to recognize and discipline the dangerous and heretical teaching of one of their own pastors under their care.
So I asked Dr. Huthinson if the LA Pres’ exoneration of Wilkins and his teaching is allowed to stand, isn’t the message the same and that according to the highest court in the PCA the Federal Vision will be allowed to be taught along side of the true gospel, nice reports notwithstanding? Also, if the PCA, in Huthinson’s words, “has now officially rejected the theological concepts behind the Federal Vision” with their near unanimous approval of the PCA report on the FV/NPP, then without any decisive action in this case, isn’t this really rejection of the FV/NPP in word only? Pastor Hutchinson replied:
I would say so, yes. So please do not interpret anything I wrote above to mean that this present case isn’t an absolutely critical, watershed moment for the PCA. I, too, am waiting to hear their decision (these sorts of things take logisitical time to collate even after the substantive determinations have been made, so I am not interpreting the “delay” as anything other than that).
Consequently, as the PCA waits to see how her court has decided and whether or not the false gospel of the FV will be permitted to continue being taught along side of the true Gospel, it might be helpful to consider a lesson from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC).
As some of you may already know, the OPC also has a nice report denouncing many of the FV/NPP doctrines (although they left the door wide open for the continued abuse of Romans 2:13 by Richard Gaffin and others and a few additional areas of wiggle room to allow the FV/NPP to continue to grow, see “The Orthodox Presbyterian Cover-Up” by Paul Elliott).
Unfortunately for those in the OPC and who think their denomination is sound on the question of justification, their courts have already decided that many of the FV doctrinal distinctives (or, better, novelties) are well within Confessional bounds per their decision in the John Kinnaird case. For those unfamiliar with the case, John Kinnaird is an OPC elder who was convicted on heresy changes at both the sessional and presbytery levels for teaching many of the doctrines made famous by that other false teacher previously in the OPC, Norman Shepherd. Unfortunately, Elder Kinnaird’s conviction was overturned by OPC GA with the help of Richard Gaffin (funny how that name always keeps popping up) and other big guns within the OPC.
For all practical and official purposes, the OPC report on justification served as a warning for FV/NPP men in the OPC to shut up and to keep a low profile. What the court basically said in the Kinnaird case is that if they behave themselves and don’t disrupt the peace of the church, the courts give them permission to continue to whittle away at its purity with impunity. The OPC report on justification created the illusion for the perpetually gullible that the OPC is sound on the biblical doctrine of justification which is by belief alone.
Make no mistake, the same thing could happen, and may have already happened, in the PCA if the SJC allows the “Presbytery’s Exoneration of Steve Wilkins” to stand.