As many people already know, I moved my family to Bristol, Virginia in December, 2004, to become members of Saint Peter Presbyterian Church.
Significant among my reasons for joining Saint Peter Presbyterian Church is the fact that they are a member of the Reformed Presbyterian Church General Assembly, or at least that's what I had been led to believe (more on that later). There is no church denomination that I have higher regard for than the RPCGA. Also significant in my decision were the Saint Peter families, many of whom we have high regard for.
Saint Peter Presbyterian Church was founded by R.C. Sproul Jr. in 1997. Saint Peter Presbyterian Church is presently made up of three parishes. R.C. Sproul Jr pastors the parish in Mendota, Virginia. The Highlands Study Center also operates in Mendota, Virginia out of R.C. Sproul Jr.'s home.
On November 14, 2005 the Kershaws transferred out of Saint Peter Presbyterian Church, due to differences over doctrine and practice. Our differences were significant and irreconcilable. R.C. Sproul Jr. was not a significant factor in our transfer to Saint Peter Presbyterian Church, but he became a big factor in our transfer out.
Though I didn't depart Saint Peter Presbyterian Church under the Session's sanction, censure or discipline, it's apparent that they were every bit as pleased to see me go as I was eager to go.
Though we have now departed Saint Peter Presbyterian Church we're hopeful that we'll be able to maintain fellowship with various Saint Peter families that we had established friendships with. However, given the nature of our departure that might prove to be an awkward proposition, not so much for us but for them.
In order to prevent the possibility of "guilt by association," I was asked by the RPCGA to consider removing any articles on the Heal Our Land Ministries web site by R.C. Sproul Jr. (R.C.'s current standing in the RPCGA is tenuous, at best). However, R.C. Sproul Jr.'s articles (which he gave me permission to post here) do have merit.
I'm not one to "throw the baby out with the bath water." Nevertheless, a caveat emptor is much in order, so here it is:
R.C. Sproul Jr. is a gifted teacher and preacher. Nevertheless, not all preachers practice what they preach. Furthermore, there are competent Bible teachers who carry the title "Pastor" who may not be particularly pastoral in how they deal with their flock. Conflicts and disputes are inevitable in virtually any church. Therefore, every pastor must possess some basic conflict resolution skills, lest he risk turning conflicts into disasters. Moreover, a pastor should seldom ever be the source of conflict in his church. Pastors must be peacemakers, not agitators.
A number of former and current St. Peter Presbyterian Church members have asserted that there is a significant disconnect between what is taught by R.C. Sproul Jr., including what he teaches through The Basement Tapes, and what is actually practiced at St. Peter Presbyterian Church and the Highlands Study Center, and even in R.C. Sproul Jr.'s home.
The messages in The Basement Tapes, in my personal estimation, have considerable merit (at least the early Basement Tapes did). Nevertheless, those of us who, at great personal expense, moved across the country to join St. Peter Presbyterian Church, based upon the teachings of The Basement Tapes, of living a "simple, separate and deliberate" life in a covenantal community, soon enough may have found ourselves disillusioned. The message and the vision is compelling. The problem is that it's just not happening and probably never will. The chasm between the orthodoxy and the orthopraxy is not one that can probably ever be bridged.
In my case I've had to repent to my family for exercising poor judgment. I'm old enough to have known better. The lesson I have learned is that no preacher's teaching, of itself, should ever become a significant motivation to uproot your family, so that you can come and join his church. One should never assume that a preacher practices what he preaches; many do not. One should never assume that a man who carries the title "Pastor" necessarily has any pastoral abilities. Once you move you might discover (and it will probably take some time to sort it out) that things aren't what you expected they would be.