Two years ago at the PCA's General Assembly our denominational stated clerk, Roy Taylor, spoke in support of an Administrative Committee funding initiative. In defending the proposal, Roy criticized unnamed PCA bloggers for lacking the courage to speak personally to the authors of the initiative before opposing it on the internet.
Because I had opposed the initiative on this blog and because I don't see myself as a shoot-from-the-shadows critic of PCA leadership, I made my way forward to introduce myself at the end of the session.
I told Roy I was one of the bloggers he had just accused of cowardice, but added that I hoped he would accept on the basis of my presence before him that I was willing to say in person what I said on my blog. Nevertheless, I added, despite speaking to him in person I held myself in no way bound by Matthew 18 to approach members of the committee personally before publicly criticizing their plan.
Roy responded that he hadn't been aiming his criticism at me individually, adding that he neither knew of me nor was familiar with my blog--though he corrected himself later by saying, "Oh, I think I did see that blog once."
The conversation was cordial and direct. I ended by telling Roy that I'm willing to be held accountable for the things I write while he reassured me he had not intended to malign me personally.
I tell this story in light of a ByFaith Online article about a conclave of "PCA leaders" held at Roy Taylor's behest last Tuesday in Atlanta under what ByFaith calls "Chatham House Rules" to discuss "causes for conflict in the PCA that hamper our ministry and unity."
Now you've probably never heard of Chatham House Rules. Neither had I. But a little Google digging and Wikipedia fills in the blanks.
Sure enough, what one might suspect from the high-falutin' name all by itself is indeed the case: Chatham House Rules are the kind of high-minded principles adopted by British gentlemen on those occasions when they wish to act ungentlemanly without harm to their reputations.
According to Wikipedia the rule originated at the home of the Royal Institute of International Affairs:
When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.... The rule allows people to speak as individuals and to express views that may not be those of their organisations, and therefore, encourages free discussion. Speakers are free to voice their own opinions, without concern for their personal reputation or their official duties and affiliations.
Give them a royal imprimatur joined with a British accent and the PCA's leaders are off to the races. Never mind that it's lipstick on a pig, the ecclesiastical equivalent of "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." They're the "Chatham House Rules" after all and, if they're good enough for royalty, they're more-than-sufficient to assuage the guilty consciences of bounderish Presbyterians.
Personally I find it a more sanctifying--if more challenging--rule to assume that all I say and write will one day be revealed as my own. It's not for nothing that Scripture says, "Evil men love darkness." In fact, I'm constantly at war with my own desire to whisper from the shadows.
But I'm sure the lights were on in Atlanta, weren't they?
Sunlight cleanses. Darkness and secrecy promote corruption. For this reason, I stand publicly behind what is written here on BaylyBlog. If Tim and I sin by writing uncharitably or err by writing inaccurately, our goal is to admit it and to apologize even more publicly than the error apologized for. We have done this in the past. We will continue to do this in the future. This is the path of sanctification. And I challenge PCA leaders who find the courage to speak what they believe only under the cover of secrecy to act with forthrightness by making public accountability the hallmark of all they say and do.
Let me add that reading ByFaith's account of the Atlanta gathering is deeply depressing. Can there be any hope for a denomination so lacking in manly directness and courage? (DB)