SJC Officers try for a TKO of complaint against Redeemer's presbytery...

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RoyTaylor:SJC1 (Tim: the text below is contributed by our NYC correspondent) A letter from PCA Stated Clerk Roy Taylor dated September 9, 2009 states that certain officers of the Standing Judicial Commission ("SJC") have ruled that the complaint filed with the SJC objecting to the ruling by the Metropolitan New York Presbytery regarding certain diaconal practices was filed prematurely. The letter states:

"The Officers of the Standing Judicial Commission have met September 4, 2009 and considered the documents submitted by the complainants and the Stated Clerk of Presbytery. The officers found the case to be administratively out of order since Presbytery adopted Amends No.1, which nullified, rescinded, annulled and or retracted its previous action, and with Amends Nos. 2,3, and 4 being addressed by the Presbytery through further discussions, debates and actions, all of which indicate that the Case was filed prematurely."

Here are a few preliminary thoughts:

1. The officers of the SJC that ruled the complaint was premature constitute only a portion of the SJC and may not represent the views of the SJC as a whole. It remains the prerogative of the full body of the SJC to allow this ruling to stand or to overturn it...

2. The motion that was put forward on the floor of the Metropolitan New York Presbytery with respect to the amends requested in the original complaint was the following:

"MSC that Metropolitan New York Presbytery respond to the Complaint by adopting Amend # 1, and only # 1, namely rescinding the resolution concerning the diaconal ministry passed at the March 13, 2009 meeting together with a pastoral plea to the complainants to withdraw the Complaint as this Presbytery pledges in good faith to discuss the paper of the Deaconate and matters raised in the Complaint; and that Presbytery direct the Facilitating Team to appoint a Committee to lead a discussion on these matters."

 3. Does the Presbytery's unwillingness to handle this hot potato issue when the complaint came before the Presbytery give us any hope that it will ever rule on the constitutionality of the diaconal practices of its churches?  If the easy course, which was in fact taken by the Presbytery, was simply to withdraw the resolution affirming unconstitutional diaconal practices and remain silent, there is little hope that countless "discussions" will ever result in any action taken by the Presbytery with respect to the following remedy requested by the original complaint:

"That the New York Metropolitan Presbytery direct churches within its jurisdiction that are in continuing violation of the Constitution through the practices reflected in views 5 and 6 to move into full conformity with the Constitution of the PCA in this matter by rejecting such practices and that the New York Metropolitan Presbytery offer assistance to sessions regarding the difficulties that may arise in the process of bringing their diaconal practices into full conformity with the Constitution of the PCA."

The complainants will never get their "day in court." High profile churches within the Presbytery--like Redeemer Presbyterian Church, where Pastor Tim Keller resides--embrace the unconstitutional practices. What resolve will any committee of the Presbytery muster to rebuke Redeemer Presbyterian Church for its actions? What pastor will cross Tim Keller? The case has been prejudiced by not allowing an up or down vote on the amends at the Presbytery meeting where the complaint was first heard. What pastor in the Presbytery wants to go "on record" as having voted against what Tim Keller is spearheading at Redeemer? It's much nicer just to have some "discussions" about how we disagree. Judicial process anyone?

4. BCO Section 43-2 requires that "The court shall consider the complaint at its next stated meeting, or at a called meeting prior to its next stated meeting." Section 43-3 further states that "If, after considering a complaint, the court alleged to be delinquent or in error is of the opinion that it has not erred, and denies the complaint, the complainant may make complaint to the next higher court. If the court fails to consider the complaint by or at its next stated meeting, the complainant may make complaint to the next higher court." The court is required to consider the complaint at its next stated meeting, not after a course of committee discussions occurring over many months or years.

What would be the point of Section 43-2 and 43-3 if a court could "consider the complaint" by stating that it was not ready to consider it yet!

The only promise in the motion that passed is to have a "discussion on these matters." There is no promise that the Presbytery will ever rule on the matter. In fact, the very motion that considered the merits of the case contained a plea for the complainants to withdraw their case. This plea alone, which is inappropriate during the course of hearing a complaint, is revealing of a Presbytery bias against giving judicial process to the complainants.

The provisions of 43-2 and 43-3 are in place precisely to require speedy disposition of complaints. By nature, the one accused of wrongdoing (the Presbytery in this case) will want to put off the uncomfortable responsibility of judging itself. If it were a matter of a factual dispute (i.e. did this or that really happen?) delay could be predictable. However, in this case, the Presbytery passed a resolution that admitted that churches within the Presbytery engaged in the objectionable diaconal practices. There is no factual dispute. The only dispute is what the constitution says.

Does this inquiry require months or years of "discussions?"