Should we call City Church's Fred Harrell "honorable" in his departure from the PCA?

(by Tim) Deep in the comments under my brother David’s post, “Sincere Questions…,” a dear brother made a glancing reference to the departure from the PCA last year of City Church in San Francisco. Pastor Fred Harrell and his session petitioned Northern California Presbytery to allow them to transfer into the Reformed Church of America so they could be free to have women deacons, elders, and pastors. The deed was done and Mr. Harrell and his flock are now happily ensconced in the RCA.

Which all led Pastor Ron Gleason, one of the pastors most concerned and active in opposing feminism’s encroachments in our own denomination, to write: “What Fred Harrell did in San Fran was really honorable. He wanted to ordain women Elders; he understood that within the confines of the PCA that was impossible; therefore, he withdrew his congregation—relatively quietly—and went to the EPC.”

No, not “honorable;” and certainly not “really honorable.” In the Church, we can’t speak of a man’s tactics apart from his cause...

Mr. Harrell has led his flock into error while claiming his error to be God’s truth. He’s calling God’s “yes” “no,” and God’s “no” “yes.”

Scripture explicitly condemns Mr. Harrell’s error, lodging that condemnation in the pre-Fall order of God’s creation. And this error has the gravest consequences for every man and family, every moment of our lives. Sexuality is at the very core of man’s existence and God’s decree concerning it is lodged in the glorious Name and authority of the One to Whom our hearts cry out “Abba, Father.”

So exactly how do we call Mr. Harrell’s denial of the Fatherhood of God write large in creation and the Church, let alone his leading of hundreds of God’s “little ones” off this precipice, “very honorable?”

Well, we have accepted the status quo on this one, haven’t we? It’s not that any of us, let alone Ron Gleason, wants to join Mr. Harrell in his error, but that we no longer believe this doctrine to be central to Scripture, at the heart of sanctification or discipleship, or even useful in Gospel proclamation.

Mr. Harrell is not honorable. He’s a man claiming to be a true shepherd of Christ’s Bride who, there in Corinth, is denying the nature of the Fatherhood of God where that Fatherhood is most hated, and therefore most desperately needed. In fact, there in San Francisco—in The Castro, say?—the proclamation of the Gospel might best start with the Fatherhood of God.

Similarly in Boulder, Madison, Boston, New York, and Bloomington: the Fatherhood of God is arguably the most effective entry point for the Gospel. It’s the place where men with discernment, men who are culturally perceptive and engaged, will lead off their Gospel proclamation. Say, for instance…

Men of San Francisco, I can see that you are a very sensual people with temples to passion and lust on every corner. Your knowledge of sexuality is unlike any city on earth. You have raised sexual identity and fulfillment up to the highest throne. For you, physical intimacy is at the core of the meaning of personhood; it is the ordering principle of human life; it is the god to Whom you sacrifice your lives, but also the lives of your sons and daughters.

Why, doesn’t your own poet say…

Instead, faithless men mince and prance to the piper’s tune, betraying lost souls Jesus came to seek and to save. And in the process, they have the audacity to write, as Mr. Harrell puts it, that “(those opposed to women elders) live in places where their culture largely encourages female subordination (and) their missional context is not shouting at them at all to give good reasons for their continued prohibition of half the redeemed community exercising the gifts that God has given them with equality.”

“Missional context” indeed. It’s quite apparent that Mr. Harrell knows his context well, but is dead in the water, missionally, because in this foundational matter of the archetypal Fatherhood of God he’s abandoned Christ’s mission and sued for peace.

Kierkegaard put it well:

Imagine a fortress, absolutely impregnable, provisioned for an eternity.

There comes a new commandant. He conceives that it might be a good idea to build bridges over the moats—so as to be able to attack the besiegers. Charmant! He transforms the fortress into a countryseat, and naturally the enemy takes it.

So it is with Christianity. They changed the method—and naturally the world conquered.

-Soren Kierkegaard, Attack Upon “Christendom,” (Princeton Univ. Press, 1944), p. 138.

Yes, I understand the point my dear brother Ron was trying to make. But for myself, at least, a fight to the death between Mr. Harrell and San Francisco Presbytery would have been much more honorable—something along the lines of First and Second Corinthians, Galatians, Calvin’s response to Cardinal Sadolet, or “Christianity and Liberalism.”

Any man sent to the city with support from our churches or presbyteries should demonstrate that he has a forehead "harder than flint" on this issue. It’s here a man’s faith is tested. It’s here he proves he’s not simply a professor, but a true confessor of Jesus Christ.

Yes, this one again:

If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point. (Martin Luther, attributed)

* * *

(BTW: Interesting to see that, in the matter of City Church as in so many other matters, non-pastor pundit John Armstrong is rushing to keep up with all the wonderful things his wonderful friends and colleagues are wonderfully doing that men will write about for centuries to come.)


Hmmm, I don't know about this. It seems to me that Pastor Harrell at least acted more honorably than his presbytery. He was honest and open about his aims, whereas those charged with authority over him (if I understand presbyterian government correctly) let him go "quietly" into error, taking his congregation with him.

Would that the folks leading City Church were so honest about their aims.


Agreed, Kamilla. To clarify, you mean City Church of Denver, right?

Oops - you beat me to it. Yes, I was thinking of Downing's church here in Denver.


Tim & Kamilla,

I'll have to be very circumspect because I know Kamilla is very sensitive about Denverites!

Allow me to say that I could have chosen a more appropriate word that "honorable." The point I wanted to make is that Fred left in a manner that preserved the peace and unity of the PCA. He didn't stay and fight until his last breath.

In the context of what I was saying--and Fred was merely a passing example--I was suggesting that the FV adherents might consider doing something similar.

Look, I believe with all my heart that Fred was/is dead wrong, but by leaving he spared us a lot of unnecessary anguish, time, and heartache. He chose wisely.

I also apologize for putting him in the EPC rather than the RCA. Thanks for the correction.

Ron-You are assuming that presbytery which Fred and his church were in would have filed charges against him and the session. One would hope so but one does not know if that would be the case. The church could have left and Fred could have stayed in that presbytery laboring out of bounds and asking presbytery for an exception to the standards which in the PCA allows him not only to hold his view but to teach it.

Kamilla-The PCA BCO allows any church to leave with their property at any time. Even if the presbytery had filled charges against Fred and the session by the church leaving the PCA any judgment would be hollow for the session would have fled and renounced jurisdiction. The same thing for Fred. In the middle of the process he could have been received by the RCA. Again the judgment would have been empty due to the renouncing of jurisdiction by joining another church body.

This is not say that presbytery should not pronounce judgment as a testimony before the church and the world.

I can only hope that no PCA Presbytery would allow such an unbiblical exception. I don't think we're quite that far down the road yet. Anyway, it's a purely academic discussion at this point. He did the right thing by leaving.

In fact, I would even go so far as to say that any PCA churches that entertain similar sentiments should follow suit and stop playing semantic games.

This is the perfect post to demonstrate my concerns with the way the FV is being handled. On the one hand, it is being claimed by folks such as R. Scott Clark and others (Dr. Pipa, others at the conference on Federal Vision at Woodruff Rd. Pres), that the FV's doctrine is a heresy of the worst kind. It is Galatianism, baptismal regeneration, etc. all rolled into one. It "strikes at the very vitals of religion." If so, then it is clearly insufficient to preserve the peace and purity of the PCA at the expense of the peace and purity of Christ's church in general. If these doctrines are what it is claimed they are, much more effort needs to be done to utterly destroy the foundation for this doctrine. Anything less would be destructive, careless, and wicked shepherding. However, nothing of the sort is being done. In fact, two absolutely contradictory positions are being held, i.e.- these men are wolves in sheeps clothing, leading away the flock, and secondly, they're Christian brothers, they just need to be in a different denomination. No matter whether the PCA committee, TR anti-FV folks, et al, are right or wrong about the FV, their response is destructive.

Tim is exactly right: Fred Harrell did NOT preserve the peace and unity of the church by leaving this denomination. He in fact worked against the denomination (by removing himself from under the authorities that God instituted), and he damaged the church at large (including the PCA) by putting into practice wicked doctrines that deny God's Word and lead away the flock (including those in his particular church who were in the PCA).

The attempt by those who are anti-FV to push out the FV saying that their doctrine of justification, the covenant, etc. is a much MORE fundamental heresy than that of Harrell is either destroying the peace and purity of the church (if they are wrong), or destroying the peace and purity of the church at large (including the PCA) if they are right. No glory or peace in the church is created by this (weak-kneed) 'Scottish revival.'

This is rambling, I know. Please refer to comment #64 at Green Baggins "Bride's Baptism..." post for clarity (ignore the last paragraph if you wish). Here's the link:

I don't understand what the point of a denomination is if churches can just move out of it at will. Can accountability be effective if it's just voluntary?

Keith-If you are speaking about the PCA, go read the Preliminary Principles and chapter 25 both in the BCO. It sets out there what should keep people in the PCA.

There is a time to stay and a time to leave. It could be argued that those of us who left the PCUSA in the 1970s should have stayed and fought. There does come a time, however, when you are polishing the brass on the Titanic.

Even though from time to time there has to be "intense fellowship" in Christ's Church, I'm not convinced that you need to remain in a church where you're always fighting. Fred could have remained and been deposed, but he chose to leave. Fred's leaving was hardly "moving out at will." It was the calculated result of his view on the role of women. This had been in the offing for a while. It is also connected with those who are still in the "closet" in the PCA, who allow women to lead in worship, virtually thumbing their noses at the PCA. This includes any and all who refuse to ordain Deacons so that they can, by some sort of sleight of hand, have male and females serving on the Deaconry.

Again: my point in using Fred was to point to the fact that the GA said, in essence, that the FV tenets strike at the vitals of religion. Go back and read the Declarations and Recommendations once more. The GA overwhelmingly voted in favor. The OPC GA voted in favor. The URC Synod voted in favor. That being the case, if I were FV I think I might see the handwriting on the wall and would consider going elsewhere.

One more point: if a pastor has changed his views since his ordination and has embraced the FV and/or the participation of women in the worship service and in other areas of "ministry," then they are morally obligated to inform their respective Presbyteries of their changes. After all, they promised to do that when they took their ordination vows. There is a powerful ethical component to this all.

I'm done. I've got a manuscript for a Bavinck biography due at the end of Oct. and this is taking a little too much time.

Thanks for the stimulating discussion

It seems backwards that it's difficult to get into the PCA but easy to get out, if the goal is accountability. If anything it should be easy to get in and difficult to get out.

Thanks for the comment on John Armstrong. Having sat under this man's teaching, I can testify how far he has strayed from the truth.

For anyone interested, I'm having an interesting exchange with him on "propositional truth" (which he does not like). It's on his blog at

Hmmm. It appears my exchange with John Armstrong questioning his dislike for "propositional truth" hit a nerve.

See his post today at

Here Doctor John Armstrong declines to teach us a course on epistemology, then starts right in on it:

Really, I wonder whether the Apostle Paul would have understood Armstrong's deep thoughts? But of course, the Apostle Paul never lectured in philosophy.

Actually, he was quite foolish.

Dear brothers and sisters, leave Dr. John Armstrong alone--stay far away from him. He's crashing and burning. And very sadly, the many many people who have tried to warn him have been spurned.

Meanwhile, there are many lost who will listen and believe, proudly taking their place in the great cloud of fools.

Episcopal Bishop Daddy Hall used to send his seminary students out into the streets of New York City wearing sandwich boards with signs on either side. My Dad was a teenager living in Flushing at the time, and he told us his favorite was the one that, as the man approached, read "I'm a fool for Christ." And passing by, the back asked, "Whose fool are you?"

PS: If a picture's worth a thousand words, what precisely is Dr. John Armstrong saying through his dog? On second thought, I'd rather not hear those thousand words.

I too lament the change in John Armstrong. I lived in the Chicago area from 1987 to 1999, and during that time I attended John’s theology conferences--which were wonderful--and even got to know him personally. His conferences were similar to those sponsored by the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals and included speakers such as R.C. Sproul, David Wells, and Al Mohler. I still have my notes from Dr. Mohler’s message. John’s own messages were very good, and I remember one (directed to pastors) that focused on the high and holy calling of preaching the Word.

I will always be grateful to Dr. Armstrong for the ways he blessed my life, but my gratefulness will always be tinged with sadness.

Armstrong is also a board member of Biblical Seminary, Hatfield, PA (like Armstrong, also once sound in doctrine), which hopefully will also crash and burn. You can read about his activities there on an alumni web site devoted to giving the seminary the reputation it deserves in the church (follow link at my name).

Thanks for the information, John. My blog (click my name) deals inter alia with John Armstrong.

This post makes me so sad. That one's HONOR is questioned because they change their views on an issue and then VOLUNTARILY report it to Presbytery is outrageous. If Mr. Harrell's change in views is as serious as you suggest, why is your heart not breaking over a sheep who has gone astray? Instead of longing for this "prodigal's" return, you seem angry and bitter. I am sure you response will be, "no I'm not", but the fact that you are willing to castigate one of your own - Ron Gleason - for his willingness to extend the slightest bit of charity to Mr. Harrell is very telling. (That you are still reviewing this whole episode over a year after the events have unfolded also seems indicative.)

I read this post this morning and my heart has been heavy all day. To me, this exhibits the sad state of our denomination: ministers are celebrated when they cast off a brother and call them dishonorable because they change their views on an issue that the nearly-comprehensive WCF does not even address. Yet, no one calls these ministers to repentance for choosing to chastise and scathe other ministers of the gospel in the most public forum at their disposal. (How easy it is to see things in black and white when we are sitting safely behind our computers.)

Not to be too rhetorical, but I do not remember "public chastisement" as the first step of conflict resolution/discipline in the Matthew 18 process. I realize that Mr. Harrell is not under your care or in your peer-circle, but if you are willing to condemn him so publicly, I pray you have first gone to this brother privately before you have told it to the church (and anyone else who might be interested). If you have ignored this biblical process and publicly demeaning a brother in Christ, I hope you will consider whether your error might be the one that you most need to deal with. However right you think you are, however important you think male-only eldership is to the purity and peace of the church, does this type of public condemnation not injure it in an entirely different way??

And, what of your people, what of your parishioners who long for their priest to have a compassionate and empathetic ear? I hope that there is a greater degree of tenderness and compassion toward sinners and "lost" sheep in your own care than is exhibited in this post and MANY others on this blog. It is difficult for me to see how anyone in your churches would read this blog and be compelled to entrust their doubts and struggles to their pastors, when their pastors are so quick to dismiss and excoriate a brother so publicly. There is so much on this blog that would equip your people to define their theological "wall", but nothing that I can find that would encourage them to believe that their pastor loves them, and that they would be able to empathize with them as they walked through a dark time of life or a time of theological confusion.

Again, sadness for the Church, and for your people. Though, I'm expecting that my comment will be dismissed and 'disciplined' too, I hope that in some small way, it might be used to help us see the gospel more fully - that the charity and love that Jesus has shown us might be shown to our brothers and sisters who see things differently than us. Oh, that there might be "tears" rather than condemnation in our proclamation of truth.

"I realize that Mr. Harrell is not under your care or in your peer-circle, but if you are willing to condemn him so publicly, I pray you have first gone to this brother privately before you have told it to the church (and anyone else who might be interested). If you have ignored this biblical process and publicly demeaning a brother in Christ, I hope you will consider whether your error might be the one that you most need to deal with. However right you think you are, however important you think male-only eldership is to the purity and peace of the church, does this type of public condemnation not injure it in an entirely different way??"

Brian, am I right in assuming that you have addressed this issue to Tim and David Bayly privately before using, how did you say it, "the most public forum at [your] disposal. (How easy it is to see things in black and white when we are sitting safely behind our computers)?" I hope my assumption is correct. I find generally that those who play the "should done it in private card" always tends towards rebuking publicly those who don't. I think we both can agree that such hypocrisy would almost be laughable if it wasn't so sinful.

(Acts 20:28-30)

28 “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

29 “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;

30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.

(Matthew 7:15-20)

15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

16 “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?

17 “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.

18 “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.

19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

20 “So then, you will know them by their fruits.

Dear Brian,

Aside from your committing in your comment all of the procedural abuses you have accused Tim of, (not that I am agreeing with you as to what constitutes a procedural abuse) what you have finally done here is either to claim that there are no such things as wolves or that wolves may be honorable or that the only person we might call a ‘dishonorable’ wolf is the one who would be so bold as to declare that someone you (seem to) agree with is a wolf.

You said that you are “sad” as a result of reading this post. You asked that, “there might be "tears" rather than condemnation in our proclamation of truth.” Can you cite any scriptural examples of exposing false shepherds where the true shepherd is teary eyed?

I give you a couple of examples of faithful exposures of false shepherds:

(Matthew 23:13-33)

13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.

14 [“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation.]

15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.’

17 “You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold?

18 “And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever swears by the offering on it, he is obligated.’

19 “You blind men, which is more important, the offering, or the altar that sanctifies the offering?

20 “Therefore, whoever swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it.

21 “And whoever swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it.

22 “And whoever swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.

24 “You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.

26 “You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.

27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.

28 “So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous,

30 and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’

31 “So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.

32 “Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers.

33 “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?

(Galatians 5:7-12)

7 You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?

8 This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you.

9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough.

10 I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view; but the one who is disturbing you will bear his judgment, whoever he is.

11 But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished.

12 I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves.

Brian, the church is at war.

The rhetoric of battle is masculine, hard, and forceful.

It is effeminacy that asks that we all just get along.


Dave Curell

I was wondering how my post might be quickly dismissed as irrelevant and you guys did not surprise. As I learned from Richard Pratt, "you can't say everything while you say anything or you'll never say anything at all." I thought my post would be totally boring if I kept listing all of the innumerable qualifications that it seemed to me were quite obvious in the contrast between the Baylys' initial post and my response. It was of course never my intention to say that we cannot address error publicly. This is the purpose of articles, books, and yes, even blogs. Certainly there is biblical warrant (the Epistles for instance) for articulating positions, and at times doing so in relation to other people's assumed error. I would not have responded were this not the case. The critique that I was offering is that calling persons 'dishonorable', a 'wolf', that they are 'leading little ones off the precipice' is getting close to if not tantamount to excommunication. There is biblical process to follow if you are going to condemn someone in this way. I think we should be VERY cautious and slow to condemn people in the same way that Jesus or the APOSTLE Paul do in the passages you cite, especially when the issues are so obviously different.

As I was typing I was imagining all the passages that would be quoted in condemnation of my response, and these are all the ones I expected - they are the ones that every 'defender' of the 'gospel' uses when they publicly challenge a man's salvation over secondary or tertiary issues. Are you seriously equating a man who subscribes to biblical inerrancy, has never wavered from adhering to WCF, who personally and whose church is regularly winning radically-secular people to Christ with the Pharisees and Judaizers?! Do you really think that this analogy fits? These parties were denying the basic contours of the gospel! As strongly as you feel that the Bible is crystal clear of the question of women in ministry, there are LOTS of CHRISTIANS, evangelical ones, who disagree with you...and me. Are we seriously ready to cast them out of the kingdom and challenge their honor as men because they have studied this issue and standing under the authority of the Bible have come to different conclusions? The gospel does not stand or fall on women's ordination as it does stand or fall on defending the distinction between justification and sanctification, and to suggest that it does actually diminishes the importance of the latter.

And, as far as "tears" in the Bible go...First of all, let me be clear that I am not saying that Fred's 'sins' need to be wept over. He has come to different exegetical conclusions than I have on women's ordination but I disagree on far more substantial doctrines with John Piper, Mark Dever, Bruce Ware, etc. Yet, I celebrate their ministry and call them 'brother'. What I was arguing was that if Fred is as guilty as this blog implies, if he is as you say - a wolf! - then our hearts should long for his repentance and return, not show an eagerness to condemn him publicly and characterize his Church as a bunch of lemmings who blindly followed him over the cliff. And, biblical examples of tears shed for great sin and error? How about Jeremiah the weeping prophet? How about Jesus weeping over Jerusalem? Would these not constitute an unwavering commitment to truth while yet hurting for those in error?

So, I'll let this stand for now. I am frankly not eager to have the martial energy and language in this last post pointed in my direction. Your sign off that the "Church is at war" is quite obvious - it's at war with itself. We spend so much time trying to convince one another (or to convert one another?) and I am saddened that I got drawn into this. I'd rather fight more important battles.

Really, Mr. Prentiss, you are too precious with yourself. You weren't "drawn into this." You waded in wielding a sword, awakening a long-dormant thread. And now you cop the posture of a reluctant warrior, forced against your better instincts to defend yourself? Be a man.

You have good biblical points to make, so make them. And when they are met with other biblical points, defend yourself. Don't simply say that you anticipated your opponents' parries--and implicitly dismiss those parries because you anticipated them. Fight, man. Fight. Take your blows.

One correction: Dave Curell quoted the Apostle Paul's warning concerning "wolves." Then he asked if you believed such wolves are present today, and if they pose any danger to the flock. He didn't call Fred a "wolf." Don't accuse him of something he hasn't done.

Ho, hummm, zzzzzzz. This is getting really boring. Is there a game in liberaldom called, "tag the big mean conservatives"? Oooh, I posted on that site and those awful conservatives insisted I prove my accusations and defend my arguments. Oooh, they're so, you know, predictable.

Think I'd rather go read about why Britney Spears has just lost custody of her children to an ex-husband with no apparent income.



The destruction done by leading souls into evangelical feminism is as bad and perhaps worse than the destruction done by the Judaizers. To deceive others into believing their works help merit their salvation is certainly wicked. The gospel stands or falls on this as you say. However, leading souls to believe they should cast off any part of God’s prescribed structure of authority is ‘especially’ wicked. Here are some other verses for you:

(2 Peter 2:4-10)

4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment;

5 and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;

6 and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter;

7 and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men

8 (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds),

9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment,

10 and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties,

Notice the ‘especially’ sins listed in verse 10. Authority is obviously of some importance.

You say, “The gospel does not stand or fall on women's ordination as it does stand or fall on defending the distinction between justification and sanctification, and to suggest that it does actually diminishes the importance of the latter.”

Brian, it only diminishes its importance to those who believe that authority has no connection to faith. Jesus is not one of those.

-In Jesus' exchange with the centurion whose servant He had healed the centurion proved he was completely sold on authority. He understood Jesus ability to heal his servant as a given simply because Jesus had the authority to do so. Jesus in commenting to His disciples later did not marvel at the man’s understanding of authority, He marveled at his faith. (Luke 7:8-9)

-In Luke 17 the apostles asked Jesus to increase their faith. After mentioning the power of faith he instructed them with a strange sounding story as an example of faith exercised that culminates with Jesus saying:

(Luke 17:10)

“So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’”

Why a slave and master story to instruct about faith? Why couldn’t the slave just sit down and eat with his master at the meal? Why did the disciples have to be instructed about faith using what was obviously an anti-egalitarian story?

-More to the point, I Peter 3 says that Sarah’s hope in God was demonstrated by her submission to her husband. She was commended for this and held forth as a model for all wives. Why didn’t Sarah lay hold of the co-lord status she should have enjoyed.

Rejection of authority is incompatible with faith. It is the error of those who say that a man can have Jesus as Savior while not submitting to His Lordship.

Is the doctrine of authority, including manhood and womanhood, as important as the doctrine of faith alone?

Yes, because it is inextricable from the doctrine of faith alone.


Dave Curell

Well said David. Thanks for taking the time to chat last week.

Much love & in Christ,


My understanding of the events are a bit different than what is stated above. It appears that this issue came to the forefront when this church wanted to 'particularize' (become a self-governing congregation). At that point it sounds like the presbytery put down its foot and told this pastor and his church that we (the PCA) do not ordain women as deacons. After that pronouncemetn was made it looks like the pastor and his prospective elders led this group into the Reformed Church in America (RCA).

What's unclear is how this matter arose in the first place. Was it the pastor's intent from the beginning to ordain women as deacons? It seems hard to believe that he could've gotten through his presbytery examinations without having to address the issue of women in the church and deny this particular view. Perhaps he was 'goaded' into this position by influential people in his core group. In the end pragmatism carried the day (let's keep our group together rather than do the heavy exegetical lifting and pastoral admonition required of faithful pastors).

What's sad is that this man was put forth by our denominational church planting agency. They endorsed him 100% and put a lot of money into this work. Makes you wonder about the vetting process.

Dave Sarafolean

Christ Covenant Church PCA

Midland, Michigan

I "signed off" in my last post, but I think I have some apologies to make.

David C, I am sorry if I have imputed anything to your argument. The implication of 'wolfness' seemed clear to me, but that's the problem with a lot of our arguments in the PCA, we assume a LOT about the other person and their argument. So, forgive me.

Tim, I do not deny your charges. Perhaps my mea culpa was a bit 'blameshifty'. When I said I was 'drawn in' I was not trying to imply that I just stumbled into something and then had to defend myself. You are certainly correct that I willingly 'jumped in'. I thought this was what I was confessing. However, I don't think I brought a sword per se', but a shield. Someone forwarded me this month old thread (but the latest comment was August 20th, was my posting in Oct 2nd really re-igniting a 'long dormant' thread?) and I felt bad for my colleague, friend and brother, Fred Harrell. His honor had been called into question - and wrongly I thought. So, though I don't normally comment on others' blogs, especially not PCA-type theology blogs because there is normally so much heat and little light, I immaturely jumped in. Perhaps intending to be defensive for Fred, I was too offensive. I apologize.

But, what I still can't understand is all this martial language, and the quickness to challenge one's manhood when they don't 'fight'. Why is it so important, and how is it healthy that we FIGHT on these exegetical issues? Like you, I'm willing to defend the gospel with my life, but I would hope that if you and I were to sit down and have a beer (or coffee?) with one another, we could lock arms in charity over our agreement on the core things (and doubtless 100's of secondary things) that we agree on, instead of drawing swords on the relatively minor places of disagreement.

Finally, David S. permit me to correct your history a bit. I'm in the Northern California Presbytery and City Church has been particularized for years (they recently celebrated their 10th anniversary.) Many churches in our Presbytery have female deacons but none are ordaining them because the BCO's ordination vows make the deacon an office of authority far too similar to the authority of the office of elder. The departure of City Church had more to do with the Pastors determining that they could no longer adhere to the denomination's position on women and the office of elder. (Of course, if you believe that a women is ordainable to the office of elder then it goes without saying that the office of deacon would be open as well, but this was not the issue that prompted City Church to leave.) BTW, City Church continues to support the PCA churches that CCSF planted while they were still in the PCA. (These churches did not leave the PCA.) CCSF also continues to give money to our RUF ministries at Stanford and Berkeley. In other words, they are being ecumenical towards the PCA, even when most of the PCA considers them to have rejected biblical authority (which is patently false.)


While you're issuing apologies, you should consider one to Tim and David for your ignorant questioning of their love for their respective flocks. If the dominant dimension pastoral love has for you is a compassionate listening ear then that is a truly sickly love. Can I not look up a name in the Yellow Pages and pay $100 an hour to lie on a couch for that?

A sheep will trustfully take his concerns to a shepherd he knows will fight for him and defend him, because without this security he does not practically know whether his shepherd is truly for him. One of the things that qualified King David to shepherd the people of God was that he first was willing to risk his own life for one sheep. He would wrest a sheep from the mouth of a lion or bear for the sheep's good, not for his own glory. My guess is that the sheep did not always initially recognize the bear or lion, but David did. And he did something about it.

When a shepherd is willing to do this for you you will cling to him - agreeing or disagreeing - because you know he is for you. After entrusting your doubts to this shepherd, you will actually listen to what he has to say in return.

And, by the way, the Arian controversy, as with so many throughout church history, was an "exegetical dispute". The problem wasn't Arius and his followers' assent to biblical authority. They could proof-text with the best of them. It was what thought categories were informing their exegesis and whether they were allowing the full scope of Scripture to speak that was the problem. Ostensible belief in biblical authority and actual belief are, of course, two very different things. Would you recommend to arrest the questioning of a candidate for Gospel ministry after you heard him say those magical words: "I believe in biblical authority"?



Thanks for clarifying the historical facts. I got my information second-hand and obviously it was incorrect.

Dave Sarafolean

Brian, I forgive you.

>Why is it so important, and how is it healthy that we FIGHT on these exegetical issues?

It's healthy because souls are at stake. And thus, the true division in this matter is not between those who do and do not have women pastors, elders, and deacons, but between those who guard the good deposit and those who refuse.

Everything you've written here indicates you refuse. Yes, you'll not promote women as pastors and elders, but maybe deacons--yes, maybe. So those churches with non-ordained deacons in your presbytery get a pass as they fiddle around the edges of biblical sexuality and ecclesial submission.

You remember that the Apostle Paul declared the testimony "true" that all Cretans were liars? Do you ever wonder what testimony he might declare true about northern California? Metro New York?

I'm not scratching my head, trying to understand the connection between your comments here, your failure to respond to Dave Curell's pointed rebuke, your defense of the many churches in your presbytery who have women officers, the position your own presbytery joined with Metro New York to take a few years ago concerning women in combat, etc.

The Apostle Paul might say it has something to do with San Francisco and New York City being ground zero in our culture's rebellion against God's creation order of sexuality. Likely he wouldn't put it like that, though--probably something a little more direct or catchy.

Wake up, man.

* * *

Shepherds, we need to repent of our refusal to love and protect our sheep.

am a woman, a mother and I submit myself to God's authority in all things, I am not perfect. Sin is apparent in my family. My father served time. He murdered my brother. I was molested by a chaplains son as a child. I do not feel as though I should belong to Christ. No church would have me with such a horrific background. Do you have any compassion? Or is it solely condencending and judgmental? Well that is the tone of your writing.

Fred Harrell showed me who Christ is. I never understood what grace was. I was always trying to make me good enough for God. But it was through solid teaching of the Gospel that Fred Harrell consistently taught that I came to know who Jesus Christ is. It is apparent that you think that San Francisco's only identity is the Castro. Your statement shows complete ignorance for the population and demographics of this City. I feel terribly sorry that you have the need to criticise Pastor Fred Harrell in this way. I am sure that if I even tried to step foot in any of your churches, I would not be accepted. Do you feel better because you can project your own insecurities on someone who is engaged in the true warfare for the cause of Christ.

This shepherd loves and protects his sheep unlike no other. Shame on you! I dare you to post this.

>I dare you to post this.

You lose.

Dear Chandra,

It gives me great joy that Pastor Harrell has been used by God in your life as he has. I understand why you think I couldn't take joy in this, but I do.

Does this mean Pastor Harrell submits to God and His Word in the matter of the meaning and purpose of sexuality? In other words, does the work of the Holy Spirit through him in leading you and others to the Cross of Jesus Christ exempt him from criticism and failure?

No, not at all. Look at the Bible and you'll see, for instance, that the same Peter who preached on the Day of Pentecost had to be publicly rebuked by Paul for not wanting to associate with the Gentiles.

All of us are sinners and need the exhortations and rebukes of other believers to grow in holiness.

I know it's hard for you to see how this can be the case with your pastor, but it is.

As for your past life and acceptability in churches, although you think you wouldn't be accepted, you would be. Generally, churches are filled with people who are dirty and that's as it should be. Jesus came to save sinners--not the righteous.

Praise God for your hope in Christ, dear sister. I'd love to meet you!

In Christ's love,

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