The Power to Condemn Erroneous Opinions – A Follow Up

An interesting discussion was taking place on Wes White’s blog and I was about to respond to two posters, Andrew and Les, when Wes closed the combox.  Consequently, I decided to post my reply here in order to correct an error I made.

I had said in reply to Jerry Koerkenmeier that the Missouri Presbytery  was “made up largely of Covenant Seminary profs and former profs who have now twice exonerated FV poster-boy Jeff Meyers.”  I had also made reference to SJC decision in the Joshua Moon case coming from the Siouxlands Presbytery that upheld the position of the lower court that provided precedent to say that the PCA has allowed the teaching of a false gospel.

Andrew responded:

Sean,

Just to clarify, the Souixlands case that came before the SJC was denied on procedural grounds not as a determination of a man’s views. The SJC to my understanding actually stated something to the effect that it could certainly be brought back properly before the SJC.

MO Presbytery case is being brought before the SJC.

LES, this is what I found:

David Chapman a member of Chicago Metro Presbytery was an actual voting member on the committee that examined Meyers (and is faculty at CTS): http://tinyurl.com/3w6rzcj Under motion 1004-26

TE Bob Burns is a member of MO Presbytery, on the original committee, and on faculty at CTS.

So 2 CTS faculty were on the committee out of 11 (1 of those was an ex-officio member since he was moderator at the time).

I just went down through the list on CTS webpage where it gives presbytery membership descriptions and the following 9 men of 20 CTS faculty are members of MO Presbytery: Jack Collins, Michael Williams, Jay Sklar, Robert Peterson, Donald Guthrie, Phil Douglass, Jerram Barrs, and Brian Aucker, and Bob Burns.

Greg Perry is ordained in PCA (faculty at CTS) but it doesn’t state where he is a member.

In response to Andrew the number I had in mind was higher.  The following is from a discussion on Wes’ blog from January:

Wes White says:
January 10, 2011 at 9:17 PM

Archie,
Yes, that list is available. Here are the men who investigated Meyers:
The investigating committee includes TE Stephen Estock, TE Andrew Vander Maas, RE David Yates, TE Dr. Will Barker, TE Ryan Laughlin, TE Dr. David Chapman, TE Dr. Bob Burns, TE Mark Ryan, and RE Dr. Jay Wippold.

Burns, Yates, and Ryan actually investigated whether Meyers was aggrieved by the reports.

• Archie says:
January 10, 2011 at 9:23 PM
At least 5 out of 9 of that list teach Seminary students…

A majority of seminary profs made up the committee that investigated Meyers and concluded there was no strong presumption of guilt in the teachings of TE Meyers.

Concerning the make up of the MO Pres also from Wes’ blog:

• Elliott P. says:
January 11, 2011 at 5:31 AM
The CTS website and the PCA ministerial directory should answer the question pretty quickly about which professors are members of MOP. I would put the number around 33%, roughly.

• Dean B says:
January 11, 2011 at 6:27 AM
Wow 33% teach at Covenant. That provides insight why Rayburn would include MOP in the following statement, ““I was recently in St. Louis, and the men in Missouri Presbytery and at Covenant Seminary are fit to be tied.”
Covenant Seminary and the members of MOP are the same.

• Elliott P. says:
January 11, 2011 at 6:32 AM
Dean, you’re reading that backwards. 30-40 percent of CTS faculty are members of MOP; MOP is NOT 30% made up of CTS faculty. That percent would be much lower.

So I misspoke. Covenant Seminary professors made up a majority of the committee that investigated and cleared Meyers but do not make up a majority of the Presbytery.

I did not mean to impugn the entire MO Presbytery, just the members of investigative committee and every other member of the Presbytery that voted in favor of the committee’s report.

Finally, my understanding of the SJC’s ruling in the Siouxlands case is a bit different. I think the SJC’s decision was a major setback (see A Standing Judicial Setback). While I initially shared Andrew’s take that things weren’t really as bad as they seemed, I think the SJC made it much harder to rid the church of FV theology. The SJC reasoned:

During presbytery’s consideration of this matter, TE Moon specifically denied that he held the heterodox views alleged by the Overture. Following his denial, Presbytery allowed, and TE Moon answered, questions for clarification and concern from the floor. After a motion to close debate Presbytery found that “having hear [sic] testimony from TE Moon, we deem TE Moon’s testimony a satisfactory explanation concerning the report and find no strong presumption of guilt in TE Moon related to the report.

Couldn’t the same reasoning be used in the Meyers case? Didn’t Meyers specifically deny that he held heterodox views? The SJC also stated:

Against this reasoning stand TE Moon’s express and specific denials of the heterodoxy alleged in the Overture, and his affirmations of orthodoxy. The only question, then, is with respect to TE Moon’s credibility. The Standing Judicial Commission must defer to Presbytery’s judgment, unless there is a finding of “clear error” (BCO 39-3(3)). Nothing in the Record supports such a finding. Presbytery exercised its jurisdiction with respect to the theological questions at issue.

Doesn’t Meyers paradoxically affirm orthodoxy out of one side of his mouth while denying it with another? Couldn’t the SJC similarly find that the MOP “exercised its jurisdiction with respect to the theological questions at issue”? Couldn’t the SJC conclude in Meyer’s case that they “must defer to Presbytery’s judgment, unless there is a finding of ‘clear error’”? The SJC should have recognized the “clear error” rests in Moon’s positive defense of Lawrence including his admissions that Lawrence’s views are his own. Yet, unbelievably, the SJC argued that the Complainants were guilty of a number of non sequiturs in their reasoning.

Whether someone wants to argue the Siouxlands case was decided on procedural grounds while ignoring the evidence (evidence which the SJC wrongly claimed did not follow), the SCJ in their ruling did turn a blind eye to the spread of FV theology.

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7 Comments on “The Power to Condemn Erroneous Opinions – A Follow Up”

  1. hughmc5 Says:

    More fundamentally, Wes saith:

    …It seems to me that the opinion that presbyteries or assemblies cannot condemn erroneous opinions without a judicial case before them is a novelty.

    First, we see in the Bible in Acts 15 that the Council… condemned an erroneous opinion of another…

    Second, the entire history of the Church proves this point. Councils have always been convened in order to decide matters of doctrine without having a judicial case before them.

    Third, it seems to be a logical outflow of the ministerial authority of the Church. If a minister can proclaim what the Bible says, condemning error and promoting the truth, then why can they not do it together in the presbytery or larger assembly?

    Finally, our [PCA] Church Order…

    I recall a fellow PCA seminarian (now, an OPC TE) who said he could not call the likes of Benny Hinn heretical UNTIL his presbytery or GA said it was
    so!

    We appear to live in a time of appeasement, fear, and confusion.

  2. raykikkert Says:

    Procedural grounds are one thing … no one is rejecting decency and good order … not having the fortitude to condemn clear error and heresy in FV theology and that by men who are given the serious responsibility to teach young seminarians at CTS is without excuse …

  3. Lauren Says:

    Presbyteries are by nature the political arm of the PCA. Since TE’s are not members of their local church, they are members of the presbytery. One TE views the presbytery as his church, so his loyalty is not to protecting the members of his congregation from error but rather to cover his buddies’ backs in his “church” presbytery.

    Presbyteries and church courts operate on procedure, not necessarily justice and truth. The Federal Vision made its way into the PCA through manipulating, and fudging BCO prodedures. There were countless BCO violations in our complaint to the presbytery; they were purposely ignored and never addressed for reasons of political expediency. It wasn’t until it was all over and the damage done that one of the presbyters on the commission called us to admit and apologize for their wrongdoing.

    There can’t possibly be two Bill Smith’s (on Wes’ blog) in the PCA who hold the same extreme views on the church and who would react so strongly to what I thought was a rather generic comment. My guess is that my statement that members were taking Scriptures seriously and leaving the church’s false teaching probably hit home. As far as I know, several members have left his church here in town; there are just a few diehard lifetime self-appointed elders and their families along with a few loyal fans.

  4. Sean Gerety Says:

    I’m not sure how much the church polity contributes to the old boy network and how much different it would be if TEs were also church members? REs are church members, aren’t they? Of course, the Scriptures know of only elders and deacons, so I’m no fan of the imagined division between ruling and teaching elder.

    As far as Bill Smith on Wes’ blog, he did say he is “not that Bill Smith,” so I guess I’ll have to take his word. After all, Bill and Smith are both very common names. Besides, we all know Federal Visionists don’t lie.

    I have no doubt that your comments on Wes’ blog hit home. Unfortunately, IMO Wes gets a little too caught up in playing the PCA polity game and gets very nervous when anyone starts naming names on his blog which is why he shut it down that thread. Which, of course, goes to your point. 🙂

  5. Lauren Says:

    RE’s are church members only. That’s why the RE’s at CPC are lifetime elders because if they had to face a term limit or a re-election they would lose their power.

  6. Hugh McCann Says:

    One TE views the presbytery as his church, so his loyalty is not to protecting the members of his congregation from error but rather to cover his buddies’ backs in his “church” presbytery.

    His BIGGEST loyalty, it sadly seems to me, is first to his own backside!

    Having watched a couple of discipline cases in the PCA (not re: FV-ers) get bungled like classic Keystone Cops comedy, I can vouch that fear of man often rules over loyalty to one’s fellow presbyters.

  7. Lauren Says:

    True. What often happens is what is called the win-win situation or “you cover my back and I’ll cover yours”. In the end, the saint in the pew groans and the church is scorned by the world. In the PCA community here, leaving the church has been the only option for those sheep who have heard the voice of the Shepherd and want to follow Him. We both grieve and rejoice with them.


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