Disciplining racism: It all came down to just a couple votes...

(In September of 2008, preaching in the midst of a raging controversy over racism that was dividing his own congregation) Pastor Bulkeley condemned the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations, saying its leader taught that Nazism was the "racial order" of God and that Jews should be eliminated. "This teaching was evil," Bulkeley told his congregation. "It is heretical. It is from the pit of hell and it's a direct offense against the gospel. There should be no mistake about that. It is completely contrary to everything the Bible teaches."

(Tim, w/thanks to Joel B.) Here's an article and sidebar from the Summer 2010 issue of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report telling the story of good church discipline carried out in Friendship Presbyterian Church outside Asheville, North Carolina. The discipline ended up also being adjudicated by the congregation's appellate court, Western Carolina Presbytery (PCA). (And if you don't understand why I'd refer to a PCA presbytery as an appellate court, read Brother David's superb commentary on the state of the PCA post-General Assembly union, here.)

Racism was the sin, and thus the Southern Poverty Law Center this one time stood on the side of the angels. Both the article and the sidebar attempt to provide some of the historic context for the battle against racism throughout the history of the PCA--very much a southern denomination with its roots deeply embedded in "The Recent Unpleasantness."

These articles have both the weaknesses and strengths of their origin outside the PCA. I hope you'll take the time to read them.

First, though, one prefatory remark. Dealing with abortion or racism or feminism is a bloody work...

Who gives a plugged nickel for all the blog complaints, gnashing of teeth, and repentances by men, white or black, southern or northern, who haven't lost jobs or calls because of their faithfulness trying to discipline these evils? Before anyone is allowed to claim to be on the side of the angels in these matters, we should ask him to show us scars similar to the Apostle Paul's, who wrote:

From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus. (Galatians 6:17)

There's a reason we avoid disciplining feminism, child-murder, and racism in our sermons, session meetings, and pastoral visits. It's not the people outside the church who are the problem, but active ruling elders, Sunday school teachers, small group leaders, and fellow presbyters. Our own church members are the ones who pay for the murder of their daughter's unborn child. Our own church officers call men made in the image of God serving them and their white friends at garden parties and in the clubhouse "nigger" and "the black."

When judgment begins in the house of God, inevitably it leads to a bloody mess--the same sort of bloody messes chronicled in every biography of the Christian church and every book of the New Testament.

There's no quicker ticket to being without call on the rolls of presbytery than standing against the evils of our own congregations--the same evils that dog the pastor's own mind and heart.

So let us commend this true shepherd after God's Own heart, who was willing to subject his call and his membership on the roll of Western Carolina Presbytery (PCA) to multiple excruciatingly close votes for the sake of his flock and the honor of Christ's Bride. God bless you, Pastor Bulkeley and all the faithful elders who stood in your defense.


"So let us commend this true shepherd after God's Own heart, who was willing to subject his call and his membership on the roll of Western Carolina Presbytery (PCA) to multiple excruciatingly close votes for the sake of his flock and the honor of Christ's Bride. God bless you, Pastor Bulkeley and all the faithful elders who stood in your defense."

Indeed. This is a brother worthy of double (or triple, quadruple) honor. Thank you for your scars, bro. Bulkeley.

A good example of church discipline being exercised and of someone in leadership being held accountable for their actions.

However, one should remember that the SPLC is not an unbiased source of information. The SPLC is a decidedly liberal organization with an activist agenda and we should be careful to be have a "discriminatory" attitude (pun intended) when sifting through their publications.

Although I am very glad of the outcome, and praise God for men such as Rev. Bulkeley, I am shocked that the votes were so close. Who was voting AGAINST Bulkeley?!?!


You make a good point, and one that is generally very true. In the case of this particular article, however, I have first-hand testimony from Pastor Bulkeley that the article is very accurate. Bulkeley and his close associate in the Presbytery, TE Jeff Hutchinson, were pleased enough with the article to pass out copies of it at GA.

Pastor Hutchinson has, unfortunately, in the past made comments from a somewhat egalitarian bent.

Eric is exactly right about the SPLC, hence my statement "the Southern Poverty Law Center this one time stood on the side of the angels." I commented to Joel that it's nice just once to have liberals on our side.

But of course, these same liberals would absolutely oppose Jeff any time he preaches against feminism or pickets Femcare, Asheville's child murder provider a couple miles from Trinity.


Tim and David (and Mark and Wayne),

Thank you for shining light on this still ongoing situation, and especially upon Craig Bulkeley (and his family, and the faithful remnant of his church, and the noble elders from different churches in the Presbytery now appointed to be the Temporary Session at Friendship), and the God-given, Christ-centered, Spirit-empowered courage and love they have demonstrated all throughout. Thank you!

Personally, I am very thankful for a particular reporter from the SPLC (I agree with your comments, Tim, and can't speak for the organization as a whole) who put shoe leather to the pavement and did old-fashioned investigative reporting. She attended many hours of the Standing Judicial Commission's hearings on these matters, read copiously through the thousands of pages of public documentation, tracked the story for well over a year, interviewed as many people as were willing to answer her questions, and then and only then wrote the story, which was accurate in every respect. The Aquila Report (run by two seasoned PCA "founding fathers") fact-checked it and ran it, verbatim, on their site.

Definitely the light needs to keep being shined upon Craig and Joel Belz and the noble elders on Friendship's Temporary Session, and prayers and encouragement as well!

Yours in Christ,

Jeff Hutchinson

Trinity PCA

Asheville, NC

(For the record, not sure what "somewhat egalitarian" comments of mine were being referred to by one commenter above, but I do not believe women should be ordained to office in the church, never have believed it or spoken in favor of it, and am probably one of only a few pastors who have actually worked to change the bylaws of my then-church [Calvary PCA, Willow Grove, PA), to ELIMINATE the office of "deaconess" [a remnant from its RPC-ES days], in order to bring it into line with the PCA's BCO. But, as I said, this thread should be about Craig. Thanks again, Tim and David, so much.)

Pastor Hutchinson,

I was particularly thinking of this statement you made:

"But at the end of the day, I see the question of women's ordination as a church HEALTH question (churches that allow for it will be sicker than they otherwise would be) rather than an ESSENCE OF THE GOSPEL question. "


I would encourage you -- and every other PCA elder reading this comment -- to urge whoever is in charge of the Church History portion of ordination exams in your respective presbyteries to follow the example of Rev. Randy Nabors from Tennessee Valley Presbytery. He says this:

"One thing I try to do at Presbytery exams on church history is to ask candidates if they know the 'racial' history of the PCA, and what have we done about it. I encourage all Presbyteries to make this part of their church history expectations. Those who are ignorant of history seem condemned to repeat it."

(The guy in my presbytery in charge of the Church History portion of the exam is named "David Bayly," so I think he might be reading this. :-))

Tim and David,

Who was voting against Bulkeley? I was for one. If you believe that the SPLC center story was the full and accurate account then you'd just as easily believe anything they write. This whole matter was a whitewash and a disgusting extra-biblical display by Bulkeley, Aquila, Belz, Hutchinson and the Presbytery in general. It had absolutely nothing to do with Aryan Nations at all, but pride. How shameful!

While the story of this situation has assumed an "orthodoxy" with the SPLC story (with Aquilia's inaccurate endorsement) it is still being written and obviously remains unread by the Bayly brothers. Just today a local congregation from this Presbytery voted unanimously to leave the PCA over the way the Presbytery handled this situation. Gentlemen, it is a fine thing to give your comments regarding an event or happening. It'd just be nice if in so doing your were to refrain from gratuitous praise until you had actually looked into the situation. The behavior of this Presbytery is shocking to many and puts the PCA firmly on the road to becoming the next PCUSA as it embraces politically correctness as an over-riding supplement to Biblical theology. Praise Bulkeley and his ilk all you want, but just don't complain in twenty years when your children ask you, "Daddy, why did you endorse the PCA when it used to discriminate against women and homosexuals?".

Racism is the Excuse not the Reason

The real story was the complete and absolute failure of presbyterian government to rein in a failing overpaid minister of a bankrupt Church who dishonestly played the race card to remove his entire session when they refused to sit under his ecclessiastical dictatorship. The race card was shamelessly used to demonize the session and over half the active congregation and this shameful defamation was spread far and wide through the denomination. This same congregation was never given a chance to speak or present evidence to anyone in presbytery. Even so, a committee and a commission report found substantial wrongdoing committed by Pastor Bulkeley. Then the SPLC, through Sonia Scherr, was brought in by Bulkeley to cow any who might oppose Bulkeley's program of witch hunting. All the while Bulkeley maintained a secret dossier - supplied by the un-Christian SPLC on members of his own congregation. To oppose Bulkeley is to be a "racist," and "racists" have no place in the purified church he envisions. Because you see if you oppose the new order you become a "racist" and can be investigated by the SPLC. That these anti-christs were given confidential appeal files and allowed to set in on appellate deliberations is a disgrace to due process and the sanctity of Christ's courts. The SPLC report is a catalog of deceit, half truths, lies and distortions and is nothing more than ascript written on behalf ofthe crusuding anti-"racists." It hides their own sins, omissions and transgressions.

Appeal response briefs filed against me and Friendship dissenters are a catalog of lies and deceit - but no one in this presbytery will here us. Our friends are cowed by threats of being labeled racists, the great middle is clueless and the rest have an agenda - proven by one ofthe most zealous partisans ofthe witch hunt being elevated to the SJC - God please help the PCA -I see no advantage to the rule of bishops here. Thereis no due process in the PCA and presbyterian government has failed the Friendship congregation at every single turn. And now we are summarily kicked out of our Church by those who would silence us - so it is your fight now - if there are ANY honest truth seekers left in the PCA.

Further, NO one condemned Bulkeley for his sermon against Aryan Nations No one. He was simply asked not to deliberately humiliate from the pulpit two eldely parishioners (and former members of Aryan Nations) with whom he was even then pastorally counselling on that very point. I can safely say without honest contradiction that Aryan Nations beliefs or white supremacy was NEVER an issue ever in our dispute with Bulkeley. It was never proposed, or even intimated ever in our attempt to resolve our problems with Bulkeley. Bulkeley did use it as a tactic to demonize us by spreading backstairs falsehoods through John Neville that our true aim was to "take over Friendship Church and hand it over to Aryan Nations." A viler falsehood ever uttered - but it worked. It stampeded a part of the congregation right into his corner. I have tried and tried to meet with Neville to confront him with this and reconcile - but Bulkeley has blocked this at every turn.

And now the vendetta against truth continues tomorrow in the Western Carolina Presbytery. Pray for wisdom for these men.

Sorry to say, Dr. Morton Smith knows and I know that that "temp" session is as illicit as most of the other "well intentioned" corporate actions of the ministers of WC Presbytery who are presently being desirous of looking good to the world rather than being judicious and pleasing the Lord. The "horrid" comments of the "racist (whatever that means)" WC ruling elder (a close personal friend), IN CONTEXT were that there has been objective IQ testing with various races found subjected to their fellows with regard to cognitive ability. Their usual reroute around that objectivity is of course to subjectivize it. It's certainly an unusual "Archie Bunker" that recognizes that Asians and, gasp, Ashkenazie Jews are at the top of the cognitive heap (keeping in mind that we're speaking in terms of bell curve averages of populations). Can we please get back to what I came to Church for - repentance and the forgiveness of sins? and MOST of you ministers need some more of the hard and social sciences before you start delivering your culture-saturated selves on subjects you know nothing about and too-boldly sitting as a Justice Of The Lord on these. You do the Church NO SERVICE in the mischief you cause with your novel causes and vision-casting to make a name and a position for yourselves.

You know Jeff, since your so big on shining light into darkness, perhaps it would be interesting to know why your former friend and teaching elder, in fact the only one vote that was against against deciding for your pastorate in Connecticut. You seem to have no problem governing discipline to others, by a flip of a coin no less, but however when it should apply to pastors like Bulkeley and yourself, you seem to be above the law. How is that fair or righteous, that just because you have friends in high places, you can go along to a new congregation, while still having unresolved sin in your current Presbytery. Yes you would say it has been resolved, however you have never had to face obligations of your sins due to your allegiances with Bulkeley and others. The fact you used an atheist organization to incriminate Christian brothers and sisters alone should be brought up on charges, and the fact that you praise what they did shows your true character, and may I say, I feel sorry and am praying for whatever congregation that has chosen to receive you, that they would see through you and your intentions.

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