R. C. Sproul Jr. and the elders of St. Peter...

The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him. (Proverbs 18:17)

This shows that one tale is good till another is told.

He that speaks first will be sure to tell a straight story, and relate that only which makes for him, and put the best colour he can upon it, so that his cause shall appear good, whether it really be so or no.

The plaintiff having done his evidence, it is fit that the defendant should be heard, should have leave to confront the witnesses and cross-examine them, and show the falsehood and fallacy of what has been alleged, which perhaps may make the matter appear quite otherwise than it did. We must therefore remember that we have two ears, to hear both sides before we give judgment.

-Matthew Henry's comments on Proverbs 18:17

Note from Tim Bayly: One of our readers posted the following questions in the comment section of one of my posts and we're placing my response here, on the main page, since this information may be helpful to a broader group than is keeping up with those comments:
This came to my attention today and I was wondering if anyone can validate the truth of this:
"The CREC is taking oversight now over the congregation of Saint Peter (SP), while the session is still under the RPCGA. So no one from SP has to meet with the RPCGA representatives while they are here because the RPCGA does not have jurisdiction, due to the session never entering the congregation in the denomination according to the BOC of the RPCGA."
...What I am curious about is this....In the Presbyterian form of government, the ecclestical authority structure is not to be questioned, rulings up the chain of command are to be accepted. Why then is anyone questioning the presbytery in this matter? I was under the impression that those who hold to these views of church authority believe that it is mandatory to accept the rulings of other reformed bodies. What am I missing?

For the record, I have seen faithful pastors suffer for Christ. I have also seen faithful laymen suffer at the hands of unfaithful pastors and elders. Even Ken Sande and Peacemakers recognize this truth and are now offering teachings and workshops on spiritual abuse.

David and I are trying to think this matter through carefully. So far, only one side has been heard from and it's a basic rule of Scripture that in conflict, both sides must be heard before judgments are made. The side making the accusations and claiming they've arrived at a judgment seems quite official, especially given the vocabulary they've used for announcing their judgment and that the judgment was to defrock four men, all supposedly on the basis of those four men's self-accusations.

So we might be tempted to exclaim, "Well, that's it! What more is there to say?"...

Well again, both sides haven't been heard and that's why the right of appeal is always protected.

But anticipating the quandary the men of St. Peter church find themselves in, we wonder what the court of appeal could possibly be given that the men of Westminster Presbytery who claimed to defrock the men of St. Peter make up such a substantial part of the national denomination. In this sort of situation where the numbers are so tiny, one naturally questions the ability of an appeal to be heard and judged objectively on the national level. But leaving that to the side, for now...

Let's all pray that this matter will be resolved in peace and love.

David Bayly
Tim Bayly

PS: David and I remind our good readers that neither of us have, to this point, ever had any contact with R. C. Sproul Jr., whether E-mail, phone, or in person. So there's no prior commitment here on our parts, other than to fairness in process, truth in judgment, and love covering all.

* * *

Although I don't know how the Reformed Presbyterian Church General Assembly (RPCGA) differs from the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), my own denomination, it's generally true in presbyterian polity that judicial (disciplinary) actions may be submitted to, appealed, or the jurisdiction of the church, presbytery, synod, or general assembly may be renounced. Often those who renounce jurisdiction have no defense for doing so and are broadly viewed as contumacious, as having gone out from us because "they were not of us" (1John 2:19). But there are times when the renunciation of jurisdiction is to confess the True Faith. Think, for instance, of Martin Luther of "Here I stand" fame. Or J. Gresham Machen and his brothers-in-arms who were defrocked by the Presbyterian Church in 1935. Or the 2,000 Puritan pastors who were expelled from their churches in the Great Ejection of 1662.

In the case of R. C. Jr., it's best for us to be silent as the different courts do their work. To some, it may look like an open and shut case because of the way Westminster Presbytery has worded the judgment it released to the public. But there's more to the issue than their statement, hence the provision for appeal that is central to presbyterian polity. (To this point I have had no personal contact with anyone related to this case, nor have I been privy to any documents other than those put out by the presbytery.)

It would be perfectly proper and would not reflect negatively on the men defrocked by Westminster Presbytery for them to appeal the defrocking to the RPCGA national level. Keep in mind that the judgment of Westminster Presbytery, though self-proclaimed as "unanimous" and called for by a "super-majority," was the judgment of a very small presbytery of a very small denomination. Westminster Presbytery only has four churches, one of which is St. Peter whose elders were defrocked. So if you add in the two mission churches within Westminster Presbytery's bounds, we may be talking about a unanimous, super-majority of what, six or eight men? Not to disdain small things--we've been a part of many of them through the years--but this is a very small group to try to handle an appeal objectively.

Keep in mind that Westminster Presbytery has mentioned the unanimity of its decision quite prominently in disseminating its judgments.

There's yet another matter to consider in this controversy. It may be perfectly proper for these men to complete a process of transferring their credentials into another denomination had that process begun prior to the initiation of disciplinary action by Westminster Presbytery. Disciplinary action ought not to be used as a method of keeping members, officers, or churches in a fellowship--as if the very act of leaving that fellowship is an indication of rebellion against the Lord. It may be; it may not be.

As for why people might question a presbytery (or any other judicatory, for that matter), it is basic presbyterian doctrine that, as the RPCGA's own Westminster Confession puts it:

Chapter XXXI, Section IV: "All synods or councils since the apostles' times, whether general or particular, may err, and many have erred; therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith or practice, but to be used as a help in both."

Notice also this statement from the Westminster Confession, giving particular attention to the part between asterisks:

Chapter XXXI, Section III: "It belongs to synods and councils, ministerially to determine controversies of faith, and cases of conscience; to set down rules and directions for the better ordering of the public worship of God, and government of his Church; to receive complaints in cases of maladministration, and authoritatively to determine the same; which decrees and determinations, ***if consonant to the Word of God***, are to be received with reverence and submission; not only for their agreement with the Word, but also for the power whereby they are made, as being an ordinance of God appointed thereunto in His Word. [Emphasis added.]

Individuals, churches, and councils err; and individuals, churches, and councils must be judged by the Word of God.

You mention that there is some discussion whether St. Peter church is under the jurisdiction of Westminster Presbytery. Given the official two-office view of the RPCGA (elders and deacons, not pastors, elders, and deacons), it may be that the four elders were members of the RPCGA while the congregation they served was not. This is called "laboring outside of ecclesiastical bounds" and it's quite common within reformed denominations. For instance, my own congregation is confessional, with all officers subscribing to the Westminster Standards, but it is not affiliated with a denomination. On the other hand, I hold my own credentials within the Presbyterian Church in America. Time will tell what exactly is the status of St. Peter church (beyond St. Peter church's elders).

Turning to your final point, yes of course there are pastors whose own sin is the cause of their discipline. Such pastors justly suffer, and through faith God is disciplining them for their own, and their congregation's, sanctification. Matter of fact, this happens all the time. There's no pastor who is no longer a sinner--not only in his private life but also in his performance of the duties attendant to his calling. So it is no cause for comment when Ken Sande and his Peacemakers ministry, Ron Enroth, or anyone else acknowledges this. Could anyone who has ever been under any authority, whether husband, father, professor, drill sergeant, judge, pastor, elder, president, or shop steward ever deny the sinfulness of the human heart and the dangers of power and authority?

And yet a critical question remains: today, is the greater danger that pastors are dictatorial, imperious, arrogant, manipulative, abusive, and authoritarian? Or that they're soft and effeminate, milking (not guarding) their sheep, crying "'Peace! Peace!' where there is no peace"? Elton Trueblood once wrote that it's the mark of wisdom that a man fights the battles of today rather than the battles of yesterday.

There may be some among our readers who would differ with me on this, but there's no doubt in my mind that the greater danger in the church today is shepherds who refuse to warn and correct and discipline their sheep, men called by God to preach who never blow the trumpet in warning--not even an indistinct note.

Finally, none of the above should be read as anything other than reasons to reserve judgment in this controversy. I am neither an acquaintance or friend of R. C. Jr. or Ken Talbot. I have no dog in the race. Let's pray that the Lord will be honored through this work, and that the truth will come out in such a way as not to cause scandal to the Name of Christ.

Comments

"There may be some among our readers who would differ with me on this..."

Not I...

Have you seen any of the letters of repentance which have been published (on the internet, which RC Jr., and also the session of Elders at St.Peter Presbyterian Church, wrote themselves concerning their own culpability, sin, "error",
"mishandling", etc.,in this situation? I only ask because someone here said that you had only read the "documents" published by the Presbetery.
The personal letters of confession and repentance asking for forgiveness from the Austins and from the RPCGA is what the judgement was based on. That, for all intents and purposes, IS hearing the "other side", and that is what is meant by RC Jr. "being his own accuser".
What RC wrote is pretty straightforward as to his admittance of his own guilt. Yes, obviously the other families involved have their own degrees of sin in all of this. It is very difficult to NOT sin,, in some manner, when caught up in something like this, even if it is just in the way that "we" respond.
However, when someone in a position of authority, and especially as an Elder in God's Church, sins grieviously, and repeatedly, against those "under" him, then that person bears much more accountability for his sins against those under his "care" than vise a versa, because of the greater accountability that GOD has placed on him.
Yes, RC Jr. and the other elders from St. Peter
Church, certainly deserve to tell their side, but THEIR OWN letters of confession and repentance (unless altered in some form, which I highly doubt) IS, in fact, them telling their side.Especially, in light of the fact, that they have now asked, and been granted, to be removed from the jurisdiction of the RPCGA. It would appear that the RPCGA no longer has any authority ove them and the "case is closed" as far as any further accountability or judgements are concerned.
Just something for FYI and for you to take into consideration.

Dear Marie,

Yes, I've heard of these things, and although I've not read them, directly, I have read reports concerning them and took this into consideration in what I wrote.

Elders and pastors must be accountable for their work, but our failures are constant--every one of us. Find a session that has not apologized for failures in pastoral care and my guess is that session (board of elders) is not doing pastoral care. As to the specific failures of the session of St. Peter church, I know not what they are. Certainly, they have admitted some but that's not proof positive that they--all four of them!!--should be defrocked.

Time will tell, but please do not think that I'm assuming the session of St. Peter has failed in their duties any less than our session or I myself have. And do keep in mind that failures of not doing what we know we should do as shepherds are much more insidious, but likely never apologized for, than failures in which we do what we know we should do, but in the wrong way. It's this second kind of failure that I'm guessing the St. Peter's session acknowledged.

Finally, the other members of Westminster Presbytery wrote what they did for the wider public knowing it would be the basis for that public's judgment of their action of defrocking (what, half?) their members.

Mr. Sproul and his session wrote what they wrote privately, I'd guess, and not with an eye to it being circulated in public and it forming the basis for the public judging the propriety of all of them being defrocked. That in itself is a major difference.

As to the men of St. Peter no longer being under the authority of their former presbytery, this can hardly be news since being defrocked means one may no longer be a member of a presbytery.

But enough for now. Thanks for your helpful comment.

Warmly in Christ,

Tim Bayly

There is a new statement posted on the HSC website.

Last week, Doug Wilson. This week, R.C. Sproul, Jr. Same question to Tim: what gives you the right or who has given you authority to publicly comment on the matter, and yet to tell the rest of us that publicly commenting at this point would be inappropriate?

For my part, when R.C. and his gang of common street thugs took their grievances to the Internet to slander the work of the presbytery, unquestionably spreading half-truths in an effort to defend their indefensible conduct, they lost all right to claim privacy. Now that they have been dismissed from the RPCGA (as of last Friday), most of what you say is moot.

Patrick,

"Last week, Doug Wilson. This week, R.C. Sproul, Jr. Same question to Tim: what gives you the right or who has given you authority to publicly comment on the matter, and yet to tell the rest of us that publicly commenting at this point would be inappropriate?"

With all due respect, there is a VERY distinct difference in what you are accusing and what is happening, sir. Tim and David are NOT publicly calling on anyone to take sides in this matter at all, and, in fact, have not done so anywhere on this blog. They are not pronouncing judgment on either side. Quoting Tim from above:

"...none of the above should be read as anything other than reasons to reserve judgment in this controversy. I am neither an acquaintance or friend of R. C. Jr. or Ken Talbot. I have no dog in the race. Let's pray that the Lord will be honored through this work, and that the truth will come out in such a way as not to cause scandal to the Name of Christ."

In fact, to my memory, they did not raise the issue on the blog, either. It was raised by responses and became a subject of discussion before they posted on it at all.

All that is happening here is a plea to reserve judgment in this matter and to realize that, quite possibly, we may not have all of the information or have heard all of the facts. Tim and David are merely urging a patient and godly response to this conflict.

As with any conflict of this kind, this got ugly in a hurry. So much of American conflict from the political to the personal level rests not in fact but in the court of public opinion. If I can get the majority of the population to admit to the fact that I have a better case, then I have won, regardless of whether I do, in fact, have the better case or moral high ground or not.

This seems rather slimy to me. Rather than stand upon one's convictions and actions, we try to convince others that so and so is wrong by selectively bringing up facts. I have been just as guilty of such in the past as well.

Anyway, all that to say that I do not think that what has been written by David or Tim deserves your uncharitable tone or accusations. It is obvious that you have very strong opinions on this subject and have, in fact, voiced them. Do not come out with all guns blazing and attack the peacemaker who is simply urging restraint in tone and judgement.

I am certain as well that you did not intend to be uncharitable in your response above. This is, unfortunately, one of the downfalls of the internet. It is impossible to hear and see so much of our communication.

I don't know nuttin' about nuttin' in this contraversy beyond skimming the RPCGA report of the charges, but...

I think we should all pray and hope that both parties (the GA and the St. Peter's session) can work toward restoration. That, I think, should be the purpose of all church discipline. Including the discipline pastors. Why waste the gifts of one like Sproul Jr - whether or not the charges are true? And schism and division should be a very, very last resort as far as any church is concerned.

>when R.C. and his gang of common street thugs

Some might say this comment reflects a lack of class...

I'm very disturbed at the waffling here. The judgement was made. Certainly the defrocked men have the right to appeal. So why haven't they? If they don't, then what's the 'controversy'? All this looks like all the guys in the club just shrugging their shoulders and turning the other way; and yes, the discussion here on this blog does in principle call into question the actions of the RPCGA. And yet I don't see any reason presented to think their actions should be called into question. Thank you.

Michael M_________

Tim Writes:

"Time will tell, but please do not think that I'm assuming the session of St. Peter has failed in their duties any less than our session or I myself have."

So then you admit that you are fully disregarding the weight of a formal ruling by the RPCGA? Such a ruling does not give you any prima facie reason to suppose the four men might be guilty of something that you are not? How is this just? If these four men are not guilty of what the judicial ruling has promulgated, this is the last way we should be going about correcting such a ruling. This makes a sham out of any judicial process we might want to employ--if we don't respect the RPCGA delibrations, then why should we expect anyone to respect ours?

Yours

Michael M_______

Dear Brothers, last night Mr. Metzler and I spoke by phone. He convinced me that it would be good to be more direct here in acknowledging what I said to him on the phone--that I have never intended to be dismissive of Westminster Presbytery's action defrocking the four elders of St Peters. Westminster is a court of the church and, as such, must not simply be dismissed even when there seem to be obvious reasons for that judgment to be reviewed by another court. And it was for this reason that I referred to Mr. Wilson as "Pastor Wilson," while referring to Mr. Sproul as "Mr. Sproul."

Disgusting.

Wilson and now Sproul run BUSINESSES disguised as "ministries" and even "churches".

They are carny barkers, hucksters, and con men.

Read the pathetic first person accounts on-line from people who have moved accross country to sit at their feet and learn - and got sucked into cultic money grubbing machines.

The miasma of Calvinism must also deaden not only the spiritual sense of its' adherents but their common sense as well.

"Pastors" who sit around and drink booze and smoke tobaccy and prance around demanding total loyalty and "SHUNNING" those who don't obey them are simply false sheep.

R.C.'s daddy and those that continue to link up with him and in fact support him and his thugs are showing who they love and Who they don't love.

Tim, you say, "I have never intended to be dismissive of Westminster Presbytery's action defrocking the four elders of St Peters." Why then have you reposted the statements of Ken Griffith which accomplish the very thing that you claim you do not wish to do yourself?

Furthermore, as Mr. Griffith's acquaintance "Dante" acknowledged on Doug Wilson's blog (the same thread that you extracted Mr. Griffith's comment from), Mr. Griffith was [removed by Tim Bayly]. That's no slam against Mr. Griffith's character, just to say that, even though Mr. Griffith is a St. Peter member, this eye-witness account comes from a man who had been removed from the St. Peter scene up until just days before witnessing what he claims to have witnessed. Is such a man competent to lend proper interpretation to what he witnessed? And make no mistake, he is interpreting and giving personal opinions of matters for which he has very limited background information to support.

For example, "2 days later, Dr. Talbot sent a letter superceding the first one..." Mr. Griffith is saying the RPCGA's letter of dismissal annulled the Declaratory Judgment which had defrocked them, and as such, "they were not defrocked." Incredible!

Why, Mr. Bayly, would you post such dubious and deceitful testimony from such an questionable source?

Dante is the man's real first name. I'll vouch for that one. I know his middle and last names, too, but I don't believe it's my place to divulge other people's personal info on the Internet. Too bad that's not a universally observed courtesy.

If people are so confused about the meaning of the two documents from the RPCGA, by all means, I wish someone would contact Mr. Talbot's office and ask him to make a public clarification -- preferably on the RPCGA's own website, and not disseminated through other, biased venues.

Dear Mr. Horn,

Upon reading again what I posted above by Ken Griffin, I think you're right. His record of actions concerning St. Peters is not altogether objective, but contains judgments, also. So I've pulled it.

Its value to me was in the parts of his report that are objective, and which no one has contradicted here, at least. But I don't want to further exacerbate the situation by appearing to be an advocate for those parts of his report which are debatable, so I've removed his comments.

As for your mention of Mr. Griffin's past, I think it uncharitable and have removed it thinking you may very well be in agreement with that removal.

Warmly in Christ,

Tim Bayly

Perhaps you would like to have a look at the Whitefield Seminary website www.whitefield.edu.

It looks as though R.C.Snr has decided to spite the seminary where he received his PhD because of his son's lawful demission.

What does this say for a previously respected author and professor? Is discipline now ok for others but not for his anointed family?

Perhaps we should be boycotting Ligonier and buying from those who uphold in practice the doctrines they preach!

What a shame that there is all this infighting and "dissing" in the name of Christ--smacks of Phariseeism and slander to me. It's a sad day for Christianity, and I believe Christ would frown on it, and say, "you know not what spirit you're of." We need to immerse ourselves in the "love" chapter (1 Corinthians 13) and become more tolerant of those for whom Christ died! Can't Christians disagree without acting like a bunch of cannibals?! Again, what a shame; may our Lord have mercy on us and heal us.

Observant, you've raised an important issue and concern for us to consider. However with all due respect to you, RC Sproul Jr was "deposed." He did not demit, and therefore there was no "demission."

By definition, a demission could have only occurred had Sproul surrendered or renounced his RPCGA ordination. That never happened. Sproul was defrocked (also termed "deposed") by the RPCGA because he was deemed "disqualified" to be an Elder.

"Westminster is a court of the church and, as such, must not simply be dismissed even when there seem to be obvious reasons for that judgment to be reviewed by another court."

Pastor Bayly, if there are "obvious reasons for that judgment to be reviewed by another court" those obvious reasons aren't real obvious, at least to me. Would you be so kind as to give us the benefit of your insight on what those reasons are? I'm not saying that the RPCGA handled everything perfectly. I wouldn't know that. But I'm also not seeing anything in the way of judicial misconduct, procedural error or anything else that could justify any other tribunal stepping in and attempting to retry the case.

No one suggested retrial, but rather review. As to the reasons I thought review wise, I decline to state them now as I did when I originally wrote. If readers can read of the procudure and judgment without seeing them, my two cents won't change their mind. Suffice it to say that, looking completely from outside the matter with no prior commitments to either side, the judgment against these four men doesn't commend itself to me for my confidence given ONLY the reading of the RPCGA judgment--nothing else. This is not to say the judgment is meaningless or ought not to be the starting place for judicial review, but only that judicial review is needed.

Thank you Pastor Bayly for your prompt reply. FYI I've done far more than just read the judgment itself. I've also reviewed the RPCGA BCO. From my read of things Westminster Presbytery followed very carefully the provisions of their BCO. This isn't to say they may not have made some procedural errors somewhere along the way, just that I haven't seen any inconsistencies that would warrant a judicial review. If anyone is going to claim they have a right to review the RPCGA's judgment it seems to me they ought to have a strong basis for doing so. No one has yet to go on the record and state what it is they object to in the RPCGA's judgment. It gives the appearance that some disagree only with the judgment itself (defrocking four RPCGA Elders), but not the evidence, facts, or even the accused own confessions.

It seems to me that RC Sproul Jr and his fellow defrocked Elders waived their right to a judicial review, or to any kind of appeal, when they pleaded to be released from the jurisdiction of RPCGA. If they wanted a judicial review they certainly didn't act consistent with that. If you disagree with a court's judgment, you don't just accept it and beg to be released from the court's jurisdiction. You remain under the court's jurisdiction so that you can appeal the judgment you disagree with. Isn't that part and parcel of Presbyterian government -- courts of appeal? If the appellate court also rules against you, then you've exhausted your remedies and you move on, but not before then. If you skedaddle before then you've sent a message to everyone that you're in agreement with the court's judgment. So on what basis could such men then claim that they have the right of judicial review?

Even if they had a valid basis to overcome that argument, which seems doubtful, what now would be their court of appeal? Or what judicial body would have legitimate jurisdiction to provide judicial review? Surely it would have to be some third-party, because I seriously doubt the RPCGA would be interested in taking those men back under its jurisdiction. Are you proposing that it would be appropriate for perhaps the CREC step into that role?

I keep checking back here to see if Tim will address my questions. I guess after almost two weeks I'd better stop holding my breath.

That's an interesting link you posted, Dante. Do you think that Kevin Swanson wrote that article you linked to specifically about the R.C. Sproul Jr. situation? I realize that he's blogging about a general principle, and that he hasn't named any names. But it sure seems like he's got a bee under his bonnet about a particular situation that he's got in mind. Is Mr. Swanson trying to say that he thinks that R.C. Jr. got defrocked by the RPCGA because of "Alexander the Coppersmith" bloggers reporting terrible things about him? I'd ask Mr. Swanson myself but, conveniently for him, he doesn't allow anyone to post comments or questions on his site.

But conveniently for you, Mr. Vance, he does have a contact page with five e-mail addresses, a phone number and a postal address: http://kevinswanson.com/Contact/Index.html

Thank you Valerie for noting the self-evident. I in fact emailed Pastor Swanson on February 23. His response was reasonably civil, but he also made the statement, "We have learned to never trust the ever-present bloggers with agendas. The 'Flesh' is horrifically present on the web and pours out like a sewer into the minds and hearts of thousands (especially within the reformed world)." Then only a few days later Swanson posts his "Alexander the Coppersmith" blog. Considering the tone of Swanson's blog article, one cannot help but notice the contradiction and irony.

I appreciate the fact that although I may not agree with Tim Bayly on certain issues, he at least is man enough to allow others to publicly challenge him. Then there are those other blogs that have a reputation for addressing certain issues in an undiplomatic and uncharitable way, and they don't afford the reader, or even the one who is the subject of the article, an opportunity to respond publicly. Scurrility is in the eyes of the beholder.

If it's okay I'd like to post some links to several articles relevant to all these goings on that might be helpful to your readers:

RC Sproul Jr Defrocked
RC Sproul Jr Defrocking Documents
The Austin Family Shunned
RC Sproul Jr Tax Fraud
RC Sproul Jr and the Paedo-Communion "Controversy"
Can RC Sproul Jr Be Restored?

I've seen Frank Vance's comments on another blog (that I was kicked off!). Can we e-mail about this privately. I don't want to get kicked off another one. I have some questions.

Comments from outside the Presbyterian world (I'm EFCA):

The elders of SPPC admitted culpability in the matters of which they were accused. That fact alone changes the nature of this case. They should have pled innocent if they were innocent. To plead guilty if you are in fact innocent, out of expediency or exhaustion with a process or exasperation with whoever's overseeing the process, is still making a false statement in God's sight, and then that would disqualify you for leadership.

You could possibly argue that deposing all four of them was uncalled-for. My personal belief is that the issue of bro. Sproul allegedly using the ARP's tax i.d. number would alone be sufficient to render a man no longer blameless.

Excessive and abusive 'disciplining' of church members would have been cause for correction and re-examination of how church discipline should actually work, but not deposing, at least at that time.

Using our freedom from the Law as a pretext for gratifying the flesh (the tobacco and alcohol-related issues) is a serious matter, since it would reflect antinominianism masquerading as "grace" and illegitimately justified as a vital expression of liberation from onerous Baptist fundamentalism. I would withdraw from any church where the use of addictive substances was braggingly celebrated as striking a blow against Fundamentalism -- that seems utterly juvenile to me. What kind of internal culture was being cultivated? Piety is just another name for living godly in this present evil age.

People who are being sinned against usually do sin, but it doesn't mean they're not legitimate plaintiffs. A plaintiff doesn't need to be a mature, sensible, or lovely person to be in the right, or at least have the right to be heard by competent authorities. Our emotional sensibilities want there to be a completely white hat and a completely black hat, but that's not a realistic expectation most times. In the same vein, a church body has the responsibility to warn, correct, rebuke, and remove, even though it's likely they'll sin and make mistakes in the process of doing those things.

The small size of the disciplining body is not cause for ridiculing them, since even large bodies have erred and do err.

The CREC may believe it is rescuing 4 good men from a small group of officious bunglers. I hope the CREC's eyes are not clouded by personal sentiments and pastoral sympathies. I also hope they actually look into the church's philosophy and practice of "discipline", its concept of how authority works, and its internal "more felt than telt" culture. The CREC may begin this relationship in sympathy, but have it end in rueful unhappiness, if they're not careful.

Carrie, getting kicked off a blog is no easy task to accomplish, but I understand why that can happen. I've only had it happen once, and amazingly enough it was a pastor who kept deleting my comments, even though all I was doing was asking honest questions. I've asked some real pointed questions here on Worldmagblog and haven't gotten booted for it (yet). So if you've got any questions, including any questions about me, ask away.

Jack, great comments! The CREC Report on St. Peter church and RC Sproul Jr has just come out (see http://hushmoney.org/crec_commission_report.htm ). Their findings are pretty strange.

Frank, I would like to communicate, privately. Can you get access to my e-mail through this blog? Carrie

Carrie, the only way to figure out someone's email address here is if they include it when they post (which is what I did above, but you didn't). Click on my name above and you'll have it. Don't click on my name in this post because Tim apparently doesn't allow anyone to use Yahoo as an email address any more. I don't know why he's now all of a sudden discriminating against we Yahoo email users, but oh well!

I look forward to hearing from you Carrie.

Frank, your guess is quite wide of the mark. All the filters that run on this blog, whether they reject comments with three consecutive periods as opposed to an ellipsis, or a yahoo E-mail address, are a function of the spam software that runs on whatever server "World" is using for their blogs. And not only do David and I have no control over them--we regularly suffer the same infuriating roadblocks you suffer.

So no, "Tim" has no control over these matters. And although I think discrimination is normally a good thing (with a couple obvious exceptions), I haven't been discriminating against you yahoo E-mail addresses.

Tim, I'm sorry to have in any way inferred that you were responsible for my posting problems. I should have blamed the worldmagblog admin Joe Carter, but I didn't realize until just now that Joe was the Admin, not you. I've since learned that worldmagblog on the whole is plagued by weird posting issues. So my apologies to you for inferring that this was something that you had any control over.

Frank, absolutely no offense taken. David and I understand people's frustration, and given the tension of some exchanges here, it's not surprising people regularly think we're doing editorial emmendations and deletions. But in fact, my guess is we've done this less than ten times in the year and a half this blog has been running. Anyhow, thanks for your kind note, brother.

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