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Review of:

CREC Letter to Ten Reformed Men

© 2006 by: Peter Kershaw

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of Peter Kershaw and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Heal Our Land Ministries

On or about May 15, 2006 the CREC Pastoral Commission to Saint Peter Presbyterian Church forwarded copies of it's Commission Report to ten Reformed Elders not affiliated with the CREC. Along with their Report On Saint Peter Presbyterian Church, the Commission included a cover letter in which it stated, "We are Asking for Your Assistance." This Review will analyze the CREC's letter, as well as the sort of assistance that the Commission sought.

Dealing first with the letter's closing statement:

"Having read the CREC Commission Report to SPPC, I hereby offer my support for their report as an example of sound pastoral counsel and urge the broader Church to pray for SPPC as they seek to learn through their trials, pursue peace and unity, and honor the Lord Jesus Christ."

No one can fault the CREC, or any of the ten Reformed men who have signed off on the letter, for requesting prayer for St. Peter Presbyterian Church. This is a worthy request for which a signed public statement isn't even necessary. I myself pray daily for my St. Peter Presbyterian Church brethren, as do most if not all former and current St. Peter members, and no doubt hundreds of other brethren who have never attended St. Peter Presbyterian Church.

However, I'm greatly troubled that the CREC Commission would attempt to gain credibility for its Report by obtaining the signatures of honorable men for a less than honorable Report. In some ways the letter is almost as problematic as the Report itself.

As I note in my Review of the CREC Commission's Preface letter to St. Peter Presbyterian Church: "No St. Peter Presbyterian Church member was asked to sign off on any similar statement. Instead, the Commission asked only men who had only partial second-hand knowledge to sign. Had St. Peter Presbyterian Church members been asked to sign a similar statement there likely would have been a number of men who not only would have refused to sign, but who would have repudiated it as a canard."

Even before obtaining the signatures of ten Reformed Elders, the CREC Commission attempted to first obtain the signatures of the Prebyters/Elders of Westminster Presbytery (RPCGA) for its letter. The RPCGA was greatly troubled by the CREC Commission's letter and objected to much of the language therein, which they viewed to be misleading and a blatant misrepresentation of the facts. However, the CREC Commission was unwilling to adequately amend its letter to make it in any way satisfactory to the RPCGA and, as such, the RPCGA refused to give their assent and sign it.

I will deal, point by point, with the statements in the CREC Commission's letter which I find the most problematic. The Moderator of Westminster Presbytery (RPCGA), along with his committee, also critiqued the CREC Commission's letter and provided me with a copy, and I have herein incorporated portions of their critique:

"Due to the fact that the exact membership vows, as required in the RPCGA Book of church Order, were not properly administered..."

The critical modifier in that sentence is "exact." The CREC Commission may wish to imply by the use of the phrase "exact membership vows" that the RPCGA is "nit-picky" for insisting that a specific vow be administered from the BCO, which the Elders themselves swore an oath to obey. However, the RPCGA, rather than being willing to play fast and loose, takes very seriously the matter of vows and oaths because they believe that the Word of God makes lawful vows and oaths a serious matter.

It was the responsibility of the St. Peter Presbyterian Church session to read the BCO which they vowed to obey. But how could they understand and obey something which they never read? How could they fulfill their ordination vows and govern St. Peter Presbyterian Church without studying the governing instrument which they swore oaths to obey?

This is a problem little different from our national leaders who swear an oath of office: "I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of _________________, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, so help me God." Yet, how many of our public servants have ever even bothered to read, let alone seriously study, the Constitution for the United States? R.C. Sproul Jr. himself has ridiculed civil government officials over this very issue of vow-taking in ignorance. Such hypocritical pastors are hardly in any position to serve as role models to our public servants and hold them accountable for trampling on our Constitution, and being ignorant of it, if they themselves are guilty of not reading their own church Constitutions and BCO's, which they too have sworn oaths to obey.

The problem wasn't that the St. Peter Presbyterian Church Elders didn't adminster the "exact membership vows." Rather, the problem was the vows they administered were totally different. Interestingly enough, it was R.C. Sproul Jr. who first brought the matter of the membership vows to Presbytery. He wouldn't have done so unless he himself recognized that he had created a big problem.

Because of the structure of the RPCGA, church members are also members of the Presbytery. Therefore, it's vital that the RPCGA's vows be taken to place the members under the jurisdiction of the RPCGA. Without the RPCGA's vows being taken one can't become a member of the RPCGA and cannot enjoy the protection of the RPCGA's Presbyterian polity and accountability. It's not unlike taking an oath of citizenship. You can't become a naturalized citizen of a country without taking the oath specified in that nation's laws (and yes, that means the exact vow). Just try substituting your own citizenship vows and see what happens!

Like most other Reformed Presbyterian denominations, the RPCGA is "confessionalist," in their case meaning that they subscribe to the Westminster Confession of Faith:

"III. Whosoever takes an oath ought duly to consider the weightiness of so solemn an act, and therein to avouch nothing but what he is fully persuaded is the truth..." WCF, Of Lawful Vows and Oaths

The St. Peter Presbyterian Church session's fast and loose approach to governing the church meant that no St. Peter member ever became a member of the RPCGA and, thus, even St. Peter Presbyterian Church was never a member of the RPCGA.

"...the moderator (by authority of the Presbytery) of the RPCGA nullified the membership of all the congregation of SPPC, leaving them without any denominational affiliation."

How could the Moderator nullify something that had never happened? The fact is the Moderator never "nullified" anything. The Moderator merely confirmed and affirmed what the facts in the case had made all too apparent -- St. Peter Presbyterian Church and its members had never become members of the RPCGA. They indeed took some vows, membership vows entirely of R.C. Sproul Jr's design, which probably made them members of St. Peter Presbyterian Church (but even that might be debatable). However, nobody but the St. Peter Presbyterian Church session had ever become members of the RPCGA.

"Subsequently, these four men were released from the general membership of the RPCGA without personal censure by erasure."

This phrase, and similar "deposed without censure" phrases, were contrived by the St. Peter Presbyterian Church session starting almost immediately after they were defrocked. These phrases have been repeated like a mantra, and have appeared numerous times on the internet, causing great confusion. The deposed St. Peter Presbyterian Church session has taken advantage of the confusion, confusion that they are responsible for creating, to spin several it's really not all that serious fables. See:

Addressing Inferences and Innuendos

In more recent weeks the deposed St. Peter Presbyterian Church session has been compelled to moderate their "deposed without censure" mantra to "released without censure," as though being released from general membership in the RPCGA, after they had already been defrocked, were something to boast in. Nevertheless, they chant the phrase like a mantra and at least some people have been misled thereby. The CREC Commission too, evidently, believes that being "released without censure," after the session had already been defrocked, is important or even relevant. The fact is that it's neither important nor relevant. However, it does make for useful spin.

"Our five-member-commission examined many documents, received many emails and phone calls. We also traveled to Bristol, TN to meet with the various members of SPPC, including the former session members."
One might easily assume from such language that the CREC Commission did a thorough examination of the RPCGA's case file, and that they examined the case witnesses. However, that's simply not the case:
  1. The CREC Commission didn't have access to the RPCGA case file.
  2. The CREC Commission did not interview a single person who brought case evidence and testimony before the RPCGA.

It's odd how the CREC Commission could have allegedly "examined many documents, received many emails and phone calls." If that in fact is true then very little of what they "examined" had any direct bearing on the RPCGA's case which resulted in the defrocking of the St. Peter session.

Only a small portion of the RPCGA's case file has been made public, and that's all the CREC Commission reviewed -- the same documents that everyone else has seen. The CREC Commission asked Westminster Presbytery (RPCGA) for a copy of the case file, and their request was denied. The RPCGA's concern was that the CREC Commission appeared to be conducting itself as though it were an appellate court, which it is not, nor is the CREC even a Presbyterian denomination. The RPCGA could not release the case file to the CREC without sending a message that the RPCGA believed itself to be subordinate to the CREC.

Though CREC Commission members came to Bristol more than once, and though their Commission was comprised of five members, they didn't interview, nor did they even attempt to interview, one single person who had brought evidence and testimony before the RPCGA which resulted in the defrocking of the St. Peter Presbyterian Church session. This calls into serious question the Commission's goal. If their goal had been an impartial and objective one, why with five men at their investigative disposal would they fail to interview any of the witnesses? No responsible investigator could consider such actions to be in any way credible.

"Given the climate of the Internet rumor mill. . ."

There is no question but that the "climate of the Internet rumor mill" specific to the R.C. Sproul Jr. defrocking has been lively, and in some cases even contentious. Now a member of the CREC Commission, Dennis Tuuri, has also engaged himself in the "internet rumor mill," and in a less than responsible and pastoral way.

The founder of the CREC, Doug Wilson, is himself a significant source in the "Internet rumor mill," as is evidenced in his "A Justice Primer" series which, less than coincidentally, had its origins in the very midst of what Doug Wilson characterized as a mere "flap" with the RPCGA, and this four days after R.C. Sproul Jr. had been defrocked. Wilson's inferences and innuendos in that series are egregious. I know that there are those who don't appreciate what I have published here, but I make a point of speaking directly, and not by inference, innuendo, or crytospeak.

"We are not asking you to reinvestigate the SPPC situation, nor even to concur with all of our counsel; we are asking you to support the pastoral efforts of the CREC Pastoral Commission..."

I find such don't investigate anything yourself, and you don't even have to concur with us, just sign here pleas nothing short of extraordinary. It puts honorable and godly Reformed Elders in the position of rubber-stamping whatever the CREC has laid before them. I'm especially concerned now to have discovered that I personally know one of the Elders who has signed the letter. He's a godly man that I highly esteem. I'm troubled to ponder how his endorsement of a process that many will view as dubious could potentially harm his otherwise stellar reputation, and I have the same concern for the other nine men.

"While honoring the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of other denominations, the CREC Pastoral Commission has provided appropriate, biblical direction and counsel to SPPC."

While perhaps not overtly dishonoring the RPCGA, to say that the CREC "honored the ecclesiastical jurisdiction" of the RPCGA would be quite a stretch. All other Reformed Presbyterian denominations do implicitly honor the RPCGA's ecclesiastical jurisdiction. All real Presbyterian denominations honor the judicial determinations of all the others. The only exception is where it can be demonstrated that some egregious injustice was done (the CREC Commission didn't even make an attempt at that). In judicial terms this is referred to as "comity."

Because of judicial comity it's questionable whether R.C. Sproul Jr, Laurence Windham, Wayne Hays, or Jay Barfield could ever become ordained in any legitimate Reformed Presbyterian denomination. However, one thing is for certain and that is that they would never be given a pass into any Reformed Presbyterian denomination like the Get Out Of Jail Free card they're getting from the CREC; and in the case of R.C. Sproul Jr he's "considered ordained within the CREC," even though he's just been defrocked! See:

Clearly, the CREC doesn't comprehend the first thing about judicial comity.

There is one positive thing that I can say about the CREC Commission's letter to the ten Reformed men -- at least it's a letter that's entirely consistent with the CREC Commission's Report.

Back to CREC Commission Report page

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