“Back in the 1990s, Senior Sproul was an outspoken critic of Charles Colson’s, J. I. Packer’s and Cardinal Cassidy’s cult, Evangelicals and Catholics Together, but in the twenty-first century, he remains silent on the New Perspective on Paul and the Federal Vision, both forms of heresy rife in his denomination, the PCA; and he is silent on Norman Shepherdism, the form of Neo-Legalism rife in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Junior Sproul, while he was editor of Table Talk, the monthly devotional publication of Ligonier Ministries used to advance its theological agenda, made sure that Douglas Wilson appeared in the magazine monthly, and that his friends, Steve Wilkins and Steve Schlissel, appeared occasionally…
“The silence of the shepherds in dealing with the heresies in their own churches stems from their compromised philosophy and theology. They cannot clearly articulate their differences with Rome, or practice what those differences require, because at bottom they agree with Rome.”
The Silence Of The Shepherds, The Trinity Foundation
The Federal Vision / New Perspectives On Paul / Auburn Avenue theology controversy has been raging in Reformed circles for several years now, and especially so since the 2002 Pastor’s Conference at Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Monroe, Louisiana, pastored by Steve Wilkins, where the theme of the conference was Federal Vision.
I view Federal Vision as one of the most divisive and dangerous doctrines that has ever been introduced into the Reformed church. Federal Vision is a deceptive assault on the doctrines of grace, and in particular the doctrine of justification by faith alone — Sola Fide. As such, Federal Vision is a pernicious belief system with eternal consequences. It’s made just that much more insidious because of the fact that all of it’s leading spokesmen hold themselves out as “Reformed.” Indeed, it’s not outsiders who have crept into the Reformed church to subvert it and lead it back to Rome, but rather insiders.
All of the key Federal Vision spokesmen have come from Reformed backgrounds, and all of them claim that they are still “Reformed.” They say they still believe in the Five Solas, but they have deceptively redefined them. Many of them claim to adhere to the Westminster Confession of Faith. Yet, Federal Vision doctrine is contrary to the Five Solas, and contrary to the Westminster Confession on some of the most significant issues that the Confession expounds, such as the covenant, election and justification.
We haven’t dealt with Federal Vision here before, mainly because others are far better qualified to address it than we are, and some have. If you’re not familiar with this controversy, let me just say that it’s one of the more important theological issues to have confronted the church in many years. There aren’t many theological issues that can be as significant as soteriology — how man is saved.
Federal Vision has already infiltrated many Reformed churches. I say “infiltrated” because quite often the ringleaders would prefer to operate surreptitiously, rather than openly and honestly. If Federal Vision hasn’t already infiltrated your church, you should be prepared for it, and the way to be prepared is to study the issue for yourself. I’ve provided a list of some references at the end of the article, but this is by no means exhaustive. There is also much more available, both online, and in various books.
Reformed Presbyterian churches and their denominations have especially felt the impact of Federal Vision, particularly the PCA and the OPC. Many of their members, and even some of their pastors and elders, have started embracing Federal Vision, and many more embrace it privately and covertly. Indeed, the covert nature of Federal Vision, and the way that its promoters seek to stealthily infiltrate Reformed churches, is one of the things that troubles me so much about it. Its spokesmen have often shown themselves to be crafty and cunning infiltrators, rather than honest and straightforward about what they believe. They often twist words and meanings in a manner that bears striking resemblance to Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
In response to the onslaught of the Federal Vision within it’s denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America determined at their 34th General Assembly to appoint an “Interim Study Committee on Federal Vision, New Perspective, and Auburn Avenue Theology.” The Report was finalized on May 11, 2007 and presented to the PCA at their 35th General Assembly. The Report was overwhelmingly approved by the GA. Only about 50 out of 1400 delegates voted against it).
It remains to be seen what will become of prominent Federal Vision spokesmen who pastor PCA (e.g. Steve Wilkins) churches. For the present things appear to remain in the “discussion” and “recommendation” stages. However, at some point the discussion will need to come to an end and action will need to be taken. The PCA cannot permit heresy in its midst. If it does then it will render itself irrelevant and little better than the PCUSA. The Truly Reformed will have no choice but to leave, and they will leave in droves. The PCA cannot and must not permit its own pastors to be guilty of promoting heresy.
At some point, and hopefully sooner than later, those PCA pastors who are guilty of Federal Visionism will either be required to recant and repent of Federal Vision, or they will be brought up on charges of heresy. Since it’s unlikely that any of them will recant, they’d be wise to flee those Truly Reformed denominations, such as the PCA and OPC, and escape to someplace that’s “Reformed” in name only. Doug Wilson’s Federal Vision boutique, the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches, comes to mind.
Timing here is crucial. What they don’t want to do is to force their Presbyteries into a position of having to defrock them, and then they have no choice but to flee to the CREC. That’s what RC Sproul Jr did, and that was a big PR mistake. Better to flee before being defrocked.
It’s not that being defrocked makes any difference to the CREC. They have, and they will continue, to gladly welcome defrocked Presbyterian ministers, even if they were defrocked for very serious things like ecclesiastical tyranny and tax fraud (as was the case for RC Sproul Jr). So being defrocked as a heretic surely won’t pose any obstacle to getting into the CREC. Nevertheless, from an appearance standpoint, it would be wise for all the Federal Vision heretics to flee to the CREC before they wind up getting defrocked.
No doubt Doug Wilson is licking his chops now. The PCA’s Federal Vision Report can only mean one thing for Doug Wilson — church growth.
I recently came across an interesting statement on a blog run by Federal Visionist, Mark Horne:
Great stuff from Ligonier Ministries on the Lord’s Supper
Published by Mark, July 2nd, 2007 in Bible & Theology
Here is a an article from Ligonier Ministries’ TableTalk magazine on the Lord’s Supper. It is really good.
Mark Horne’s blog entry directs his readers to an article on the Lord’s Supper, originally published in Ligonier Ministries’ Tabletalk magazine. The article was written by Federal Visionist, and PCA Pastor, Jeffrey J. Meyers. Mark Horne himself has had articles in Tabletalk.
Both Horne and Meyers are PCA pastors, and both pastor at Providence Reformed Presbyterian Church, Saint Louis, MO. Jeff Meyers is also the author of The Lord’s Service, a favorite book among the Federal Vision crowd, and considered among many of them to be essential reading.
Jeff Meyers’ article had been written for Ligonier Ministries’ Tabletalk magazine, during the time that RC Sproul Jr was Tabletalk’s editor. RC Sproul Jr not only tapped Jeff Meyers to write for Tabletalk, he also procured writing gigs for multiple Federal Vision / New Perspectives On Paul / Auburn Avenue Theology leaders Doug Wilson, Steve Wilkins, and Steve Schlissel. These and other Federal Visionaries appeared in Tabletalk during the time that RC Sproul Jr was editor. RC Sproul Jr also arranged for various Federal Vision spokesmen to speak at Ligonier conferences.
Not everyone would appreciate the significance of a Jeffrey Meyers article appearing in Tabletalk magazine. However, Mark Horne certainly appreciates it, and he recognizes what a coup it was to have a prominent Federal Vision spokesman’s articles appearing in the “devotional” magazine of the nation’s leading Reformed ministry. Others too had no trouble picking up on the message:
I have enjoyed telling people (especially in the last few weeks) that I first discovered both Biblical Horizons and Credenda/Agenda through Ligonier Ministries back in the early 90’s. R.C. Sproul is the reason I’m FV.
I’ve assumed for quite some time that Ligonier Ministries has had a hand in making Federal Vision converts. However, not many people like Sean have been willing to go public with such confessions. So for the Federal Vision converts that converted as a result of the articles that appeared in Tabletalk by Federal Vision authors, we can thank RC Sproul for that. In fact someone else commented on Mark Horne’s blog to do just that:
Mitch Jul 8th, 2007 at 9:56 pm
“R.C. Sproul is the reason I’m FV.”
Sean, I’m with ya bro!
Stop and think about the irony though. The publication of the most Reformed ministry in the country responsible for making Federal Vision converts. Too cool! I knew it was happening. It’s just refreshing hearing someone thank Ligonier Ministries for it.
As much as thanking R.C. Sproul we need to thank R.C. Sproul Jr. I don’t think his old man is FV. I don’t think so, but anyone who’s followed R.C. Jr knows he’s FV. I don’t understand why he tries to hide it. I just wish he’d come out of the closet about it.
However, is it reasonable to just “thank” RC Sproul Jr? Didn’t his father have a hand in his son becoming the editor of Tabletalk? Of course he did, just as his father continues to play a role in ensuring that the defrocked RC Jr continues to speak at Ligonier Ministries conferences. So why would Dr. RC Sproul have permitted his son to invite men who hold to such errant and even heretical theology to publish their articles in Tabletalk?
Was, and is, RC Sproul really ignorant of one of the biggest theological controversies to hit the Reformed world in years? No, he clearly is not. In fact RC Sproul attended the 35th PCA General Assembly, and rose in opposition to a motion to postpone a vote to adopt the Committee’s Report. His speech was compelling. So how could RC Sproul have permitted Federal Visionaries to write for Tabletalk and speak at Ligonier conferences, and yet not also understand that such men deny the doctrine of justification by faith alone? It simply appears inconceivable that one of the most knowledgeable and insightful Reformed theologians of our day could be knowledgeable and insightful, while at the same time being so incredibly ignorant of what those men represent and their attack on a doctrine which is key to the Gospel itself. It’s just not adding up.
RC Sproul is one of the leading champions of the Reformed Faith in the world today. He even wrote a book expounding the Reformed doctrine of justification entitled, “Faith Alone.” Federal Vision is one of the greatest threats to the Reformed Faith today, and especially the Reformed doctrine of justification. One would think that RC Sproul would have a vested interest in speaking out long and loud against Federal Vision. Yet, for the most part, he remains strangely silent. Why? If you search Ligonier Ministries’ web site you won’t find one mention of Federal Vision. Yet, his ministry has given a platform to the Federal Visionists. Why?
And what about RC Sproul Jr? Is he too really that ignorant? How can he claim to be “Reformed” while countenancing the very men who assault the very foundations of the Reformed Faith? How can he claim to be Reformed and yet some of his closest personal friends are prominent Federal Vision spokesmen? And why did RC Sproul Jr jump ship to join the one and only “confederation” that has dedicated itself to advancing the Federal Vision?
I just wish that RC Sproul Jr would start being honest and, in Mitch’s words, “anyone who’s followed R.C. Jr knows he’s FV. I don’t understand why he tries to hide it. I just wish he’d come out of the closet about it.”
RC Sproul Jr has already been defrocked for goodness sake. So it’s not like anyone in the Reformed world respects him anymore anyway. With the exception of Doug Phillips, the only friends he’s got left are in the CREC. Why not just admit to being Federal Vision?
Update, July 10: And Federal Vision Is Responsible For Roman Catholic Converts
I received an email from a gentleman, concerned that it took RC Sproul years to respond to the assault against the Reformed faith by the Federal Vision. However, it could be argued that Sproul’s brief little two-minute speech he gave at the PCAGA could hardly qualify as a genuine and substantive response at all, especially in light of the fact that he permitted his Ligonier Ministries to be used as a platform for Federal Visionaries for so long.
The gentleman had an additional concern — the fact that so many Federal Visionaries have become Roman Catholic converts. I too have heard this very thing, and I even know of several people who have become RC (that’s Roman Catholic, not Robert Charles) as a direct result of first embracing the Federal Vision.
Below is a video clip by a Roman Catholic who gloats over this very thing, and who thanks the Federal Visionaries for helping to make Roman Catholic converts. In his words:
“I rejoice with the Federal Vision because I believe that it’s a golden brick road to Rome… So I thank God for the Federal Vision because it’s a termite within Protestantism, and it’s tearing away at the structure, and everything that’s falling out is coming to the Roman Catholic faith.”
I’m sad to have to agree with this Roman Catholic. However, he’s not entirely correct when he says that “everything that’s falling out is coming to the Roman Catholic faith.” There are also numerous accounts of those who embrace the Federal Vision, and then go on to become Greek or Russian Orthodox. Not that there’s even much of a difference between the RCs and Orthodox.
Presbytery Reports On Federal Vision:
- Review & Critique of the Federal Vision / Auburn Avenue Theology
- Analyzing the Federal Vision
- Federal Vision Refutation
- Refuting the Federal Vision Heresy
- Paul’s Perspective
- Providence OPC Spring Conference on Federal Vision
- Covenantal Universalism: New Form of an Old Attack on Sovereign Grace
- The Federal Vision and Covenant Theology: A Comparative Analysis
- Justification And The New Perspectives On Paul: A Review And Response
- Getting the Gospel Right: Assessing the Reformation and New Perspectives on Paul
- The Auburn Avenue Theology, Pros and Cons: Debating the Federal Vision
A failure to hold church and ministry leaders accountable seems to be endemic among Christians of this generation. One of the biggest problems is that pastors and ministers often aren’t holding their ministry friends accountable.
By now just about everyone has heard about the outing of the closet homosexual and drug abuser Ted Haggard, ex-pastor of the 14,000 member New Life Church in Colorado Springs and the ex-President of the politically influential National Association of Evangelicals.
But what many people don’t realize is that Haggard’s sex and drug problems were well known to his closest friends, including Rev. Louis Sheldon, founder and chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition. In a recent interview with Lou Sheldon some truly astonishing things came out:
Then, as if things could not get worse, there was the disgrace of Sheldon’s own friend and colleague, Rev. Ted Haggard, the Colorado mega-church leader and president of the National Association of Evangelicals, an even bigger pillar of Republican support on the Christian right. Sheldon disclosed that he and “a lot” of others knew about Haggard’s homosexuality “for awhile … but we weren’t sure just how to deal with it.”
Months before a male prostitute publicly revealed Haggard’s secret relationship with him, and the reverend’s drug use as well, “Ted and I had a discussion,” explained Sheldon, who said Haggard gave him a telltale signal then: “He said homosexuality is genetic. I said, no it isn’t. But I just knew he was covering up. They need to say that.”
His friends knew that Haggard was a pervert and a drug abuser. What did they do about it? They kept silent. They were more concerned about preserving their own positions and power base than they were about preserving the peace and purity of the church. Too many Christian leaders are pragmatists and pragmatists will always compromise.
Confronting a powerful and influential friend about his sins, unethical conduct or hypocrisies could cost them. It could cost them the friendship itself, and all the “benefits” that go along with it. The loss of that friendship could be the loss of the influence, and perhaps even money, that that friendship buys them. So they keep quiet rather than risking the friendship.
Influential men who don’t want to be held accountable will choose their friends based upon what they can get out of the friendship. One of the things they expect is to not be held accountable. They also surround themselves with yes-men in systems that have the appearance of accountability, but which in reality are nothing but shams. They’ll ask close friends and yes-men to sit on their board of directors, which serve as nothing more than rubber stamping committees.
Needless to say such “friendships” are really no friendships at all. A friend who won’t confront a friend in his sin is no friend, but rather a deceiver and a user: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” Prov. 27:6
Far too many church and ministry leaders today are very selective, and even opportunistic, about who they’ll confront in their sins. If it’s a close and influential friend they’re far less likely to confront them than if it’s just an ordinary church member.
Many church members have experienced being confronted by their pastors and elders when they’re in sin. That’s never a pleasant experience, but if indeed we’re in sin then we should be grateful for those pastors and elders who have the guts to confront us and call us to repentance. The Word says that they keep watch over our very souls:
Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. Heb. 13:17
We all need this accountability in our lives and even when it’s unpleasant and uncomfortable we should be grateful for it.
Unfortunately there are those who abuse their positions of trust and lord it over those souls that have voluntarily submitted to their pastoral care. If there wasn’t such pervasive ecclesiastical abuse there wouldn’t be so many books about it, but even though there are at least a dozen books written by Christians on the subject of ecclesiastical abuse the market hardly seems crowded at all.
Ecclesiastical bullies however are very selective in who they abuse. Of course, they don’t see it as abuse. Rather, they call it “church discipline.” Their “discipline” however is enforced very selectively, and they uphold the discipline of their friends, or against their friends, in a very selective manner. In other words they employ a double standard based entirely on whether you’re a friend or family member, versus the standard they impose for anyone else.
Take for example the recent defrocking of R.C. Sproul Jr. Sproul was deposed from office by the RPCGA for, among other things, “abuse of authority in an inexcusable manner” against several Saint Peter Presbyterian Church families, as well as identity theft and tax number fraud (Sproul stole and illegally used the EIN of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church). Sproul even confessed to the charges, but it appears that the only reason he confessed is to avoid a church trial that would have subjected him to even much greater scrutiny.
Upon being defrocked R.C. Sproul Jr could have appealed the decision (a unanimous one at that) of his Presbytery. If he disagreed with the decision that’s what he should have done. Instead he pled to be released from membership in the RPCGA. Upon his release Sproul immediately whined publicly on his web site that some great injustice had been committed against him — and this after he’d already confessed to the charges!
Sproul is just like the whiny criminal who gets busted by the police in the very act of his crime. He even admits to the cops that he’s the perp. Then when the cops attempt to cuff him and take him into custody he resists arrest. So in order to protect themselves and safely subdue him they mace him. But he still resists. So they tazer him and he whines, “I’m innocent! This is police brutality!” Yet he continues fighting them the whole time, after he’s just confessed to the crime.
R.C. Sproul Jr. wasn’t alone in his whining. He was joined in a chorus of whiny abusive ecclesiastics. It’s not that any of them are inherently opposed to church discipline. No, in fact they love church discipline, so long as it’s them that are wielding it. Tyranny loves company and bullies love other bullies (it’s for good reason that Hilter and Mussolini were pals).
Among the first to join the chorus of whining ecclesiastics was Douglas Wilson. In fact Doug Wilson started whining even before R.C. Sproul Jr started whining! Doug Wilson saw the handwriting on the wall for his good friend R.C. Sproul Jr. He attempted to influence (read “meddle in”) the RPCGA’s internal matters by starting a series of blog articles entitled “A Justice Primer,” articles which clearly attempted to manipulate the unfolding Sproul church discipline matter.
After Sproul was defrocked Doug Wilson continued publicly defending his pal R.C. Sproul Jr, often going to extraordinary lengths to bend and twist justice like a wax nose. Thankfully however a number of commenters showed up on Doug Wilson’s blog to publicly challenge Wilson’s very creative definitions of “justice.” It’s not clear when Wilson rolled out the red carpet to Sproul and offered him a home in the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches. It might very well have been before Sproul was defrocked. But in any event Sproul’s tax fraud and ecclesiastical abuse of several Saint Peter families was certainly no impediment to entering the CREC.
Wilson orchestrated the formation of a CREC Commission ostensibly “to provide pastoral oversight.” Yet no one really believed that the real agenda of the CREC Commission just ended there, regardless of the fact that the CREC publicly stated that the Commission “is not judicial in nature ” (original underlined). In spite of the CREC’s proclamations that their Commission wasn’t just a Kangaroo Court, Wilson had for weeks been telegraphing his intentions, and no one had any trouble picking up on it either. Some openly stated that the purpose of the CREC Commission was to “clear RC Sproul Jr’s name” and that article was posted by an ally!
Many were shocked and dismayed that R.C. Jr’s father publicly accused the RPCGA of taking a “fraudulent” action against his son that was based upon nothing more than fraudulent charges and the testimony of false witnesses. At the time many attributed it to the emotional outburst of a deeply hurt and embarrassed father. However, as time has gone on and we have now seen so much sin and corruption being exposed within the ranks of Ligonier Ministries I can only conclude that Dr. R.C. Sproul himself is an autonomist and eagerly turns a blind eye to sin, when it’s personally advantageous to do so.
When the CREC Commission released their Report Doug Wilson publicly thanked the Commission. That brief statement resulted in Wilson being immediately hit with a flurry of comments and questions, virtually none of which he responded to. Instead, he just moved on and posted a new article related to the previous one. This too resulted in a flurry of questions and negative comments and, once again, Doug Wilson failed to respond.
How could Doug Wilson possibly respond? It was all too apparent that his boutique “confederation” had largely glossed over the great sins that R.C. Sproul Jr and his session had been disciplined for. The CREC treated Sproul as though he’d never been defrocked at all. Their Report states of Sproul, “. . .he shall not be required to fulfill the process for ordination and shall be considered ordained within the CREC accordingly.” Huh? How can a defrocked minister “be considered ordained”? In Doug Wilson’s loony world this is called “justice.”
Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches member Church Of The King in Santa Cruz, California has bailed out of the CREC.
COTK posted a revised version of an earlier announcement, apparently out of diplomatic concerns for it’s relations with other CREC member churches and ministers. But one of the problems with the internet is that once you post something it can sometimes be hard to take it back.
An original copy of the COTK Elders’ letter can be found here: For The Record: Our Withdrawal From The CREC
Doug Wilson’s popish behavior is entirely responsible for the departure of Pastor Andrew Sandlin’s church from the CREC. Wilson meddled and interfered in the internal affairs of Sandlin’s church. Wilson’s duplicitous and divisive behavior is reprehensible. Could it get any more despicable than for a Moderator to interpose himself in local church matters and actively encourage a church split?
Doug Wilson’s motives, as articulated in the COTK Elders’ letter, are clear — his theological disagreements with Andrew Sandlin. To think that Doug Wilson would meddle and effectively sabotage Andrew Sandlin’s church over their differences of opinion on Federal Vision and other doctrines only proves what Doug Wilson is made of:
“At one point Rev. Wilson communicated to us that the main issue of this entire dispute was his personal differences with one of our elders, P. Andrew Sandlin. Though Revs. Sandlin and Wilson do maintain certain theological disagreements, these disagreements were tangent to the actual church issues under consideration. Nevertheless, when Rev. Sandlin offered to meet Rev. Wilson privately to address any differences these highly visible men might have, Rev. Wilson declined to take him up on the offer.”
The CREC Constitution gives Wilson, as the Moderator of Anselm Presbytery (why they call it a “Presbytery” when it’s obvious that the CREC isn’t Presbyterian at all is unclear) no authority to interpose himself in a local church dispute. Yet he did so anyway, uninvited and unwelcomed. As the COTK elders state:
“By these actions it has now become apparent that the CREC, in conflict with its constitution, has become functionally Episcopal, coalescing around Rev. Wilson as the sole denominational bishop vested with sweeping judicial and prelatical authority.”
Not that I’m in any way surprised that Doug Wilson has broken his vows to obey the CREC’s Constitution. In fact vow breaking is entirely consistent with how Wilson operates, and he’s very comfortable welcoming into the ranks of the CREC fellow vow breaking ministers who play fast and loose with the rules, including even the defrocked. Witness RC Sproul Jr.
Men of Doug Wilson’s ilk when given any authority at all will always attempt to seize more authority, whether their constitution that they have sworn to obey grants them that authority or not. The inevitable result is a church split:
“As it stands now, Rev. Wilson has determined to start a congregation from a church split, a split that his actions repeatedly encouraged. The Anselm presbytery has at this late date retroactively sanctioned his injurious actions. This is the same split-group congregation that Rev. Wilson has all along insisted we agree with him in recognizing, and he has finally gotten his way in starting it as a CREC church. The end was visible from the beginning.”
Doug Wilson is an autonomist who plays by his own set of rules. He was instrumental in forming the CREC and drafting its constitution, a constitution which he feels no sense of obligation to obey himself. This is the very definition of a tyrant — a man who seeks to hold everyone else accountable but who for all practical purposes is accountable to no one but himself.
Doug Wilson is first and foremost a very crafty politician and so he sets up a church infrastructure which, to the untrained eye, gives the appearance of officialdom and accountability. In reality however the accountability infrastructure is a sham that a crafty guy like Doug Wilson can easily avoid at every turn. Sadly for Rev. Sandlin and Church Of The King they found that out too late that they’d been hoodwinked:
“We cannot remain in an organization that acts so radically at variance with its own constituting documents. Ironically, the CREC constitution provides for expulsion of a member church on the grounds of dishonest theological subscription, but there seems to be no constitutional recourse when the CREC leadership is guilty of dishonest subscription to its own constitution.”
I want to personally wish all the members of Church Of The King a joyous Thanksgiving. It’s no doubt been a difficult year for you. But you now have much to be grateful for. You’ve separated yourselves from a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
It is with a profound sadness that I find myself writing yet another piece on repentance so soon after the recent post concerning the leadership of Ligonier Ministries need for resignation and repentance. Yet, it would be exceedingly unseemly to refrain from confronting the evil residing amongst believers subscribing and adhering to Reformed theology by failing to so do.
Unlike the recent resignation of Rev. Ted Haggard, his subsequent deposing, and the personal humiliation and accountability before pastors willing to hold him accountable, his own family, and the flock he shepherded, there are far too many contemporary Reformed teaching elders and leaders caught up in sin that rivals or exceeds Rev Haggard’s.
One of the reasons this is true is based in this regrettable reality: Far too many of our contemporary Reformed elders and leaders have become Christian Celebrities and, in so doing, demand their followers subscribe to the leader’s own view of their absolutized power, thus rejecting any accountability for their actions. As the Rev. Brian Abshire noted in his article, these leaders form an emergent Christian Mafia
In addition to this rejection of accountability providing a prima facie example of imperious behavior, many of these leaders engage in a pattern of authoritarian, even totalitarian leadership; leadership that is not only high-handed, but is often times arbitrary, even to the point of ignoring God’s Word. Although unthinkable outside the Salem Witch Trials (despite one Reformed leader’s attempt to even portray the cessation of the trials as an example of godliness), some of today’s sin-laden Reformed Christian Celebrities have more in common with dictators than loving and accountable shepherds.
Why is this so? What is occurring within the minds of the Reformed leadership, which works itself out in such excesses, and why do these leaders portray a seeming inability to police their own ranks, holding one another accountable?
Perhaps the following may provide a few answers to these questions.
Playing at Orthodoxy
Believers who engage the tenants of Reformed theology do so because they understand the clear biblical dictate to renew their minds through the whole counsel of God. Moreover, these same adherents recognize God’s adamantine requirement for so doing. Yet, when leaders refuse to adhere to accountability in their own lives, they are not subscribing to a presuppositional belief in orthodoxy; rather, they are playing at orthodoxy, and give all the appearance of basing their rejection of orthodoxy in a humanistic rationale founded more on Mencken’s attitude toward the booboisie than in any demonstrably sound biblical reasoning.
Likewise, as one writer noted, there appears to be a divorcing of orthodoxy and orthopraxy in the lives of these leaders. However, if there is an obdurate resistance in the hearts and minds of these leaders to personally following the God-articulated path of orthodoxy, then there was never a marriage from which orthopraxy is suddenly divorced. Rather, in despising orthopraxy, one must initially reject orthodoxy at its most fundamental level – God’s Word. In so doing, these leaders reject accountability.
Though there may appear to be a seemingly foundational lust for power that drives the rejection of orthodoxy in these leaders’ lives, we must not dismiss man’s selfish nature as a root cause. Evident from even birth, mankind’s inherent selfishness can project itself in a number of behaviors, not the least of which is the aforementioned lust for power, a lust that must ultimately reject accountability in order to come to full fruition.
Another motivator for avoiding accountability is the coupling of the increasing recognition and awareness of personal depravity with the dread of any other human knowing of one’s sick soul. Yet, the Scriptures repeatedly admonish each believer to fear not, particularly as it relates to man. Furthermore, a true adherence to Reformed orthodoxy demands we confess our sins one to another, and this applies to leadership and laity alike. Thus, no Machiavellian machination can ever justify a leader’s refusal to submit to biblical accountability.
Freedom in Repentance
Lastly, it is important to reflect on the following truth. Dr. RC Sproul Sr, Dr. RC Sproul Jr, Mr. Tim Dick, Mr. John Duncan, Rev. Doug Wilson, Mr. Doug Phillips, Esq., and a host of other Reformed “Christian Celebrities” contradict their public teachings about important doctrines or practices by their personal behavior. This list includes those who refuse to hold the aforementioned celebrities accountable, regardless of the size of the pond in which some of these “celebrities” swim. On the other hand, Ted Haggard is now enjoying the freedom of confession, repentance, and God-ordained discipline. Unfortunately, today’s group of Reformed “celebrities” that appear so willing to engage in or provide the rationale for disciplining others outside the constraints of the Holy and Infallible Word of the Most High God, also appear to avoid any type of accountability themselves, preferring the bluster of threats or the filing of actual lawsuits against fellow believers. This increasingly persistent sinfulness is a stain on the visible church and our Reformed leaders can certainly learn from the non-Reformed example of those willing to hold Ted Haggard accountable for his egregious behavior.
May God quicken the hearts of those Christian Celebrities who currently besmirch God’s visible church, and may we all seek to lovingly hold our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus accountable, as we discipline and restore those in need, in accordance with God’s economy.
On Feb. 14 Pastor Shaun Nolan posted on his blog R.C. Sproul Jr. Defrocked. In his article Pastor Nolan gives the wise admonishment, both to R.C. Sproul Jr and his defrocked Saint Peter Church Session, but also an admonishment to his readers in general:
In doing this, I am not seeking to “lump further judgment”. (Let us not forget that these men have formally confessed and repented.) I am not in a place to either question the judgments against them nor to question their accusors, but let us take heart to the dangerous waters we enter when we consistently refuse to obey authority (even if we think those authorities are wrong). . .
These are serious things and I am thankful that they have been taken seriously. I hope and pray that other Reformed brethren might not fall into similar sin. I am earnestly concerned that the answer of the guilty would not be simply to “flee elsewhere” but to either stay and make amends or pursue other non-ministerial labors.
Our generation is one that has been raised to “despise authority”. Might we all take these things to heart and repent. How will we teach others to obey Christ in all things if we are not obedient to those Christ has placed over us?
Pastor Shaun Nolan’s statements appeared at the time to be both pastoral and wise, and certainly they seemed sincere. However, it didn’t take long for Pastor Shaun’s true colors to start bleeding through.
On April 5 Pastor Shaun Nolan posted Clearing R.C. Sproul Jr’s Name. Pastor Shaun’s primary source of information for his article was Dr. R.C. Sproul Sr, father of the defrocked R.C. Sproul Jr. That article, perhaps more than any other that has appeared on the internet to date, made it all too obvious what the CREC Commission’s real agenda was (”clearing R.C. Sproul Jr’s name”), and how gravely compromised the CREC Commission was.
No doubt many people were very grateful that Pastor Shaun had exposed the matter (although that certainly wasn’t his intention). No doubt many viewed Pastor Shaun’s article as providential in shedding light on the duplicities of Doug Wilson and the CREC. No doubt Doug Wilson and the CREC would have much preferred it had Pastor Shaun just kept his mouth shut about the whole thing. Even more so they no doubt especially wished that Dr. R.C. Sproul Sr had kept his mouth shut. By shooting off his mouth and making predictions of what the outcome of the CREC Commission’s “examination” would be Dr. Sproul made the Commission out to be the very kangaroo court and rubber stamping committee that many people had already recognized that it was.
For a man who’s demonstrated such wisdom and valuable theological insights Dr. Sproul’s public comments and behavior over the defrocking of his son has been nothing short of foolish and reckless. Dr. Sproul probably thought that by shooting off his mouth he was helping his son. Perhaps he thought by his persuasive speech (and he is a persuasive man after all) that he could manipulate the outcome. But that’s not how it worked out.
Ironically, Pastor Shaun prefaces his statements with, “I will offer you nothing of flammability and I do not wish my name associated with your diatribes.” Yet Pastor Shaun’s own comments, not to mention Dr. Sproul’s comments, are self-evidently inflammatory and their bias equally self-evident. The dozens of heated responses which quickly appeared only proves that point. What could be more transparent about Pastor Shaun’s motives, and the CREC’s intentions, than to entitle such an article, “Clearing R.C. Sproul Jr’s Name”?
If you didn’t want to hear any “diatribes” directed against you, Pastor Shaun, you shouldn’t have served as a mouthpiece for R.C. Sproul Sr’s canard. Ligonier Ministries has a web site and if Dr. Sproul had wanted to publicly vent his outrage over the “fraudulent charges” that had been brought against his son (and quite obviously he did) he should have done it on his own web site. Instead you allowed yourself to be used as Dr. Sproul’s mouthpiece.
In your previous article Pastor Shaun you said, “I am not in a place to either question the judgments against them nor to question their accusors.” What changed? A single lunch with the father of the defrocked minister and now you’re so well informed about the particulars of the case that you’re qualified to pass judgment on the RPCGA?
“Even when I initially addressed this issue, my purpose was only to remind all of us of the deep necessity of Biblical accountability and not to issue judgment.” Given the fact that the RPCGA issued their Declaratory Judgment on January 26, 2006 that kind of statement is completely unnecessary. All anyone need do is take cognizance of the fact that R.C. Sproul Jr was and is a deprocked man. No further “judgments” of any kind would have been necessary.
The only people who have used the phrase “don’t pass judgment” are those who have disagreed with the RPCGA’s Declaratory Judgment, inferring somehow that the RPCGA’s actions were unjust, or that they didn’t have the authority to do what they did, or to do it in the manner that they did. And since the non-judgmental CREC offered to step in and provide “pastoral care” to Saint Peter let’s all just ignore that judgmental RPCGA’s discipline and hope the CREC “clears the name of RC Sproul Jr.”
The problem you now face, and the problem that Dr. Sproul faces, is that the CREC Commission wasn’t able to “clear R.C. Sproul Jr’s name.” If you hadn’t gone shooting off your mouth and making the CREC Commission look like a sham then maybe they could have done their dirty deeds quietly and unscrutinized. The outcome probably would have been far different. So thanks for everything you’ve done (seriously, I mean that). With all the exposure you gave the CREC they had little choice but to issue a CREC Commission Report which stuck far closer to the facts than they had originally thought would be necessary. So in the end the CREC found no injustices or improprieties in the RPCGA’s Declaratory Judgment. In fact the CREC’s Report in many ways appears to be a confirmation of the RPCGA’s judgment.
Your first article, Pastor Shaun, was a good one, and I like many others thought that you were being sincere. So what happened to change your mind? What happened to all that non-judgmental objectively? What happened to those godly admonishments and solemn warnings that we all must take cognizance of the need for submission to authority? Star-struck over having had lunch with the great Dr. Sproul? Did you actually sell out for nothing more than a lunch?
Why did you suddenly feel free to pass judgment against the RPCGA? Why did you suddenly become a cheerleader for “clearing R.C. Sproul Jr’s name”? That’s precisely what you did when you said that you “trust R.C. and believe he is telling the truth about his son.” Dr. Sproul’s opinion on the defrocking of his son was (and still is) 180 degrees out of sync with the RPCGA’s Declaratory Judgment. So in believing Dr. Sproul’s opinion weren’t you also repudiating and passing judgment against the ecclesiastical judicial proceedings of the RPCGA?
Aren’t you saying that it’s perfectly okay to not submit to church courts, and that if you don’t like the judgment of a church court you can just go shopping around until you find one that will “clear your name”? That being the case why should any of your own church members submit to you and your Presbyterian church Session if there comes a time that they don’t like the decisions and judgments that you issue? Aren’t you by your example just condoning rebellion to church authority? Aren’t you just part of the very problem you speak of when you say,
“Our generation is one that has been raised to ‘despise authority’. Might we all take these things to heart and repent. How will we teach others to obey Christ in all things if we are not obedient to those Christ has placed over us?”
You need to repent, Pastor Shaun Nolan, and don’t think that by just taking down your article now that that’s repentance. Besides which it wouldn’t make any difference now — your article has been reposted all over the internet (including here too). Your sins in this matter were committed publicly and you need to repent publicly, on your blog.
Clearing R.C. Sproul, Jr’s Name
It was a great privilege to have lunch with R.C. and Vesta Sproul this afternoon. (Some of you may know that Vesta’s brother is our assistant pastor at View Crest. So, lest you think me important, the occasion had nothing to do with yours truly.) During the course of conversation, we turned to a discussion of the recent allegations against R.C.’s son. At the close of our conversation, I asked R.C. if I could share what he had told me via Postscript Posthaste. He said that would be fine.
Please understand that what I am saying here is by no means “official”. I recognize that many of my readers have a deep respect for both R.C. and R.C. Jr., and I want to ease their consciences about this matter. I also understand that there are those out there who find no greater pleasure than to slander another man’s character. For those in the latter group, you’ll want to stop reading now. I will offer you nothing of flammability and I do not wish my name associated with your diatribes. Even when I initially addressed this issue, my purpose was only to remind all of us of the deep necessity of Biblical accountability and not to issue judgment. Further, anything I say here is technically “hearsay” so it won’t stand up in any court. Nevertheless, I trust R.C. and believe he is telling the truth about his son.
So then, what is going on with R.C. Jr.?
Of late we have heard little about the situation surrounding R.C. Jr’s “defrocking” and this is for good reason. I am told that most, if not all of the charges brought against the session of St. Peters were themselves fraudulent. (I will address some of them below.) In case of point, no trial actually took place before the pronouncement of deposition was issued. This is highly irregular and because of this, the elders of St. Peters have sought to clear their names via examination apart from their former denomination, the Reformed Presbyterian Church General Assembly (RPCGA). As I write, the Confederation of Reformed Evangelicals (CRE) is conducting a detailed examination of the charges. What this means is that the trial they did not receive is being conducted by a third party. The results, soon to be released, will then be examined by other groups for the purpose of validating conclusions and clearing the name of the men involved.
The Charge of Tax ID Misuse
The elders of St. Peter’s were charged with using the ARP (Associate Reformed Presbyterian) Tax ID number instead of the RPCGA number. According to R.C. Sr., a consultant had been called in to help St. Peter’s with their finances. That consultant discovered the ARP ID number being used (which was there because the church had formerly been ARP) and informed them they needed to fix that. R.C. Jr. promptly called both the ARP to apologize and the IRS to apologize and initiate changes.
The Charge of Lording It Over the Congregation
The elders of St. Peter’s were charged with not allowing members to leave. I am told the members in question were under discipline of the church and were told they would not be allowed to flee discipline. This is the normal process with members under discipline in Presbyterianism. We don’t want folks running from accountability. That people do leave anyway is beside the point. After they did leave, they complained to the General Assembly and their charge was thus included.
The Charge of Planting a Church and Ordaining a Pastor Without Permission of the Presbytery
What the documentation of the RPCGA fails to note regarding this charge is that a separate presbytery of that same denomination did, in fact, do these things. As I understand it, the church that was planted was not within the bounds of the presbytery which St. Peter’s was in. It was only later that the Moderator of the denomination ruled that church “unofficial”. (Please don’t ask me how a Moderator can do this. My understanding is that this is a very small denomination that places a great deal of power in the hands of its denominational Moderator.)
The Charge of Practicing Paedo-Communion
This simply wasn’t the case. Young children were examined by the elders for the purpose of discerning a credible profession of faith and some were admitted, but no infants were allowed to partake. Even the PCA Book of Church Order says that it is up to the discretion of the elders as to the age at which a child can demonstrate faith. This was the process at St. Peters.
In conclusion, I must say that I am pleased to hear the “other side” of this story and I sincerely hope that justice is served in the most positive sense. I would love nothing more than for their names to be cleared and their ministries continue unhindered. I am making this information available only to do my part in maintaining balance, easing consciences pricked by what they had heard, and to inform you, my readers, of the upcoming report from the CRE.
I urge you to continue to pray for these men and for the Reformed Church at large that is impacted by events like these. May God be glorified even through this.posted on 4/05/2006 | permalink |
This article is republished with the permission of the author.
CREC Moderator Randy Booth has finally posted the CREC Commission Report on [the defrocked] Saint Peter
Presbyterian Church. He did so some three weeks after Peter Kershaw had already posted it, along with some Reviews.
On May 15 Mr. Booth had posted this:
“The CREC Pastoral Commission for Saint Peter Presbyterian Church in Bristol, TN will post its Report in this location within the next two weeks.”
Better late than never. What took you, Randy? The reason for the delay is actually pretty obvious (more on that later).
Along with posting the CREC Commission’s Report, as well as the names of the ten Reformed Elders that signed off on the Report, Mr. Booth also states:
“Several families, who were formerly a part of SPPC, have (with the full blessings of the Commission and Saint Peter Presbyterian Church), established a new church in near-by Abingdon, VA. This church is Christ Church of Abingdon.”
Given that the definition of “several” is “Being of a number more than two or three, but not many” I have to wonder how fifteen families could possibly qualify as “several,” especially for a church as small as Saint Peter already was. With the departure of the Abingdon parish, Saint Peter lost one of its three parishes, hardly the trivial matter that the mere loss of “several families” would imply. Once again Randy Booth is demonstrating a Wilsonian dishonesty.
The CREC Commission Report was “Reviewed and Signed By” ten Reformed Presbyterian pastors:
STATEMENT OF SUPPORT:
At their request, I have reviewed the report of the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches’ Pastoral Commission pertaining to the assistance of Saint Peter Presbyterian Church (SPPC) of Bristol, TN. I commend their evident pastoral care, their good faith in showing respect to matters of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and the apparent godliness of their intentions. While I am not qualified to comment on the pastoral judgments in this report, I am impressed with the sincerity, thoroughness, and sensitivity of their deliberations. I hereby offer my support to this process and urge the broader Church to pray for SPPC as they pursue their future actions under the guidance of this pastoral commission.
This statement differs rather dramatically from the one contained in the actual letter that the CREC Commission first sent to the ten Reformed pastors all the way back on April 14, the same letter they also first attempted (in vain) to get the RPCGA to sign off on:
We are not asking you to reinvestigate the SPPC situation, nor even to concur with all of our counsel: we are asking you to support the pastoral efforts of the CREC Pastoral Commission by signing your name to the following statement:
The men of the CREC Pastoral Commission, seeking to assist the Saint Peter Presbyterian Church [SPPC] of Bristol, TN, have labored in good faith in the service of a sister church. While honoring the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of other denominations, the CREC Pastoral Commission has provided appropriate, biblical direction and counsel to SPPC. Having read the CREC Commission Report to SPPC, I hereby offer my support for their report as an example of sound pastoral counsel and urge the broader Church to pray for SPPC as they seek to learn through their trials, pursue peace and unity, and honor the Lord Jesus Christ.
Peter Kershaw published a Review of the letter to the ten Reformed men and demonstrated what an utter sham it was. Could it be that as a direct result the CREC promptly went back to the drawing board and started all over again? It would appear so. If the CREC were made up of honest men with honest agendas they wouldn’t have to be doing so much back-peddling.
In any event, in the end the CREC Commission Report was:
Reviewed and Signed By:
- Brent Bradley, M.Div., Pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church [PCA], Kingsport, TN.
- Daniel J. Dillard, M.Div., Pastor of Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church [OPC], Bend, OR.
- George Grant, Ph.D., Director of King’s Meadow Study Center and Teaching Pastor at Christ Community Church [PCA], Franklin, TN.
- John Mabray, M.Div., Pastor of Rivermont Evangelical Presbyterian Church [EPC], Lynchburg, VA.
- James McDonald, Pastor of Crown and Covenant Reformed Presbyterian Church [CPC], Katy, TX.
- Richard D. Phillips, M.Div., Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church [PCA], Coral Springs/Margate, FL.
- Michael Schneider, M.Div., Senior Pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church [PNP], Valparaiso, FL.
- Roger Schultz, Ph.D., Pastor of Westminster Reformed Presbyterian Church [RPC], Lynchburg, VA.
- David Shank, Pastor of Covenant Reformed Church [FORC], Harrisonburg, VA.
- Roger Wagner, D.Min., Pastor of Bayview Orthodox Presbyterian Church [OPC] in Chula Vista, CA.
What do any of these men have to gain by going public with their support for RC Sproul Jr and the CREC? With most of them I could only speculate. But with a couple of them I can do better than speculate.
James McDonald makes sense, as a “protest” signature, if you will. He asked to leave the RPCGA almost immediately after RC Jr was defrocked, a decision with which he allegedly disagreed. McDonald wasn’t given a vote in the decision because he hadn’t been a member in the RPCGA for the requisite one year period to have Presbytery voting rights. So he voted with his feet instead. Now there’s a fine way to keep your vows to submit to the authority of your Presbytery!
McDonald didn’t request to be transferred to another denomination. Rather, he asked to be released into independency. Not very Presbyterian of him on that score either! His buddy and fellow RC Jr paedocommunion conspiracy cohort Marion Lovett also left the RPCGA at the same time, and in the same defiant way. Together they’ve now formed the Covenant Presbyterian Church Presbytery.
Presbyterian denominations have most typically been formed over significant doctrinal disputes, but not the CPC. Presbyterian denominations have always been formed by ordained Presbyterian Elders, but not the CPC. McDonald and Lovett were deposed by the RPCGA. The CPC will always have the legacy of having been founded by two deposed men who left their former denomination in protest because they disagreed with their Presbytery for having exercised church discipline against one of their own, RC Sproul Jr, who came as his own accuser and confessor, and who rather than appealing the Declaratory Judgment and waiting to stand trial on additional charges begged to be released. Much like the CREC, the CPC is “Presbyterian” in name only. Don’t be surprised is RC Jr ultimately winds up in the CPC himself.
Big surprise here though with George Grant. Here all this time I’d thought George was a real bright man. George has a reputation for doing dilligent research, but obviously he dropped the ball on this one. George Grant was likely swayed in his decision by the fact that he’s close personal friends with RC Sproul Jr and Doug Wilson. In all likelihood he was just returning a favor to his buddies.
If anyone has some insights on what the connections might be with the other men feel free to comment.
Of course, the timing on all of this is truly remarkable. Probably all of these ten Reformed Presbyterian pastors are now cringing over the fact that they’ve given their endorsement to the CREC, and the CREC is so tightly coupled in so many people’s minds with its founder Douglas Wilson, and Doug Wilson is now embroiled in the biggest scandal of his “scandal-ridden career.”
I’d be willing to bet that had the pedophilia scandal been outed a month earlier the CREC Commission would have never come up with ten Reformed Presbyterian pastors anywhere who would have signed on. But now it’s too late. Let’s hope that their good names (most of them, after all, probably do have good names) aren’t tarnished by Wilson’s scandal.
This article is republished with the permission of the author.
Word has been leaking out of Saint Peter Church for days about the impending release of the CREC Commission report on the Saint Peter Four and Saint Peter Church. CREC Commission chairman Randy Booth and others on the Commission have spoken with various Saint Peter members, and some of the more discontented members have been rather free in expressing their objections. One can safely assume that if everyone at Saint Peter Church were pleased by the CREC Commission’s recommendations that there wouldn’t now be so many leaks, at least leaks of the disgruntled variety.
We wish we had a lot more that we could report at this time. However, until the CREC Commission report is officially released, or until someone gives us an actual copy, we’ll only be able to pass along what little we know. Nevertheless, we believe that what we do know to be significant, and worthy of posting an article about at this time:
- Randy Booth and possibly several other CREC men, are scheduled to be in Bristol May 20, likely arriving a day or two sooner. A special meeting of Saint Peter Church has been called for that date where Mr. Booth will present in full the CREC Commission report to the Saint Peter members.
- It’s very likely that at that same meeting a congregational vote will be taken for Saint Peter Church to become a member in the CREC.
- We’re told that there is anything but a consensus on that matter. At least one “parish” of the three Saint Peter parishes, while interested in joining the CREC (and even that’s not all that certain at this time), is strongly opposed to remaining a part of Saint Peter.
- The CREC is attempting to compel “unity” between the three parishes. However, with all the broken trust that’s taken place between the Saint Peter Four and the Saint Peter members of the three parishes, unity is looking more and more untenable. Unity is quite obviously a voluntary act. If the CREC Commission attempts to involuntarily compel unity, it’s likely that at least one parish will go it’s separate way, both from Saint Peter and the CREC. If they do they should be aware that the CREC isn’t the only paedo-communion game in town, and that there are even a couple of paedo-communion denominations (not just “confederations”) that are also Presbyterian.
- We’re told that several Saint Peter men have asked repeatedly to see the financial records of the church, and that they’ve been refused access. In the past the church policy was to permit any member access to the records. However, several months ago some serious financial hanky-panky (perhaps even fraud) was exposed and ever since then no one has been able to gain access to the records. This has only exacerbated the distrust that some Saint Peter members have for their defrocked session. The obvious question in the minds of many is, “RC, if you haven’t done anything wrong why do you keep acting like you’ve got something to hide?”
- We’re told that the CREC Commission appears to not have in any credible way addressed the fact that the Saint Peter Four were defrocked, particularly as it applies to RC Sproul Jr. Given the fact that all four were defrocked and are therefore not ordained, they cannot be deemed fit by any church body to be reinstated into the ministry, at least without first having gone through some formal process of restoration. Pastoral restoration is a process that, at least in most denominations, requires oversight and regular counseling, as well as confirmation that they have made true repentance to all the people they have injured. That process of restoration generally requires at least a year to complete before a candidate can be deemed ready for examination for the ministry. Yet, at least as it applies to RC Sproul Jr, it appears as though the CREC is likely to completely ignore any formal process of restoration, and completely ignore the fact that the RPCGA deemed them “not qualified” to be Elders per 1 Timothy 3:1-7.
- We’re told that the CREC is likely to recommend RC Sproul Jr as fit to minister immediately, without first going through any formal process of restoration and reinstatement. In other words the CREC is acting as though it doesn’t recognize that RC Sproul Jr has been defrocked by the RPCGA at all! If that’s true then it would only confirm how low, if not non-existent, the CREC’s ministerial standards really are.
Even should any of the Saint Peter Four be reinstated by the CREC, it remains to be seen if any of the Saint Peter parishes will take any of them back.
For the CREC to describe any of these proceedings as “Presbyterian,” and to describe themselves as “Presbyterian,” is nothing short of absurd.
This article is republished here at the request of the author.
CREC Moderator and “not judicial in nature” Commission chairman Randy Booth has let it leak to the Saint Peter church that their “name-clearing” report will be released on May 20th. We’re all expecting some interesting surprises to come of it.
A lot of folks have been scratching their heads over RC Sproul Jr’s sudden presumed interest in becoming a member of the CREC. Yes, it’s true that since he’s managed to get himself defrocked by the RPCGA there isn’t a legitimate Presbyterian denomination in the world that would walk across the street to so much as spit on RC Sproul Jr if he was on fire. But still. . . the CREC? Could RC Jr really be that desperate?
Even though RC Sproul Jr is personal friends with several CREC pastors, including Douglas Wilson, he’s never made a secret of the fact that he wouldn’t want to be a member of the CREC. He’s held that opinion for a long time. For example, after RC Sproul Jr and Saint Peter Presbyterian Church left the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARPC) in 2000, RC Jr announced his intentions to go into the PCA. That move elicited a lot of discussion, both within Saint Peter, and from outside Saint Peter:
I recently read of the stir caused in the Westminster Presbytery of the PCA about you joining. I must say I was surprised to see that after leaving the ARP you choose to go to the PCA. I was wondering if you might enlighten me as to some of your reasons for choosing the PCA as opposed to some other Reformed denomination like the OPC or Doug Wilson’s Confederation of Churches whose real name I can’t remember right now, or the RCUS to name a few.
I am a seminary student and am sincerly interested in your reasons for choosing the PCA.
Why the PCA? The best reason is that in this area, that’s where most of the Reformed men are. Since coming here I’ve built relationships with many of the men in the presbytery, and there are many, many very very godly men, men I aspire to become like.The next best reason is that for all its faults, the PCA is still a true church. No church is perfect, and I have wrestled long and hard over this. I love my friends in the CRE (or, also known as the Wilson group), but they have two strikes against them. First, they are almost all in the northwest. It’s tough to have accountability when your brothers are over three thousand miles away. Second, in their polity, the presbytery/denomination does not exercise the power of the keys. The give “spiritually binding” advice, but only the local session can excommunicate someone.The OP’s, I believe, wouldn’t have me. Of course, we may find out that the PCA’s wouldn’t have me either when all is said and done. I hope that helps some.
Indeed, the PCA wouldn’t have him either, and ultimately he wound up in the RPCGA. The RPCGA subsequently thought better of it and found significant grounds to not only usher him to the door, but to defrock him. Ever since then RC Sproul Jr has been looking for a way to salvage his battered image. Enter the CREC and it’s “not judicial in nature” Commission.
Has RC Sproul Jr changed his tune against joining the CREC, a tune that he’s held consistently for years? If he’s changed his tune why hasn’t he stated anything publicly to that effect? After all, RC Jr is renowned for spinning tall tales. It makes sense that if he were now planning on going into the CREC he’d be telling the public, and especially his Saint Peter church members, that the CREC isn’t nearly as bad as he previously said it was. But our sources tell us that he hasn’t been saying any such things at Saint Peter or anywhere else.
So what’s the real agenda? Could it be that RC Sproul Jr is just using the CREC to “clear” his battered name, and that he has no real intention of joining the CREC? If that’s the case then where will he go? Funny you should ask!
For several weeks James Michael McDonald of Family Reformation Fellowship and Marion Lovett of Heritage Presbyterian Church have been quietly soliciting pastors to join a new denomination that they’re trying to get off the ground. James McDonald and Marion Lovett were co-conspirators in RC Sproul Jr’s paedo-communion plot against the RPCGA. McDonald and Lovett bailed out of the RPCGA within days after Sproul Jr was defrocked and immediately began working on getting their new denomination together.
I have it on good authority that McDonald and Lovett issued a standing invitation to Sproul Jr to join their new denomination, Covenant Presbyterian Church Presbytery, some weeks ago. The origins of this “denomination” are dubious, at best. None of the founders are ordained. They left the RPCGA minus their credentials. In point of fact they were deposed, although unlike RC Sproul Jr they weren’t deposed under charges. Are they planning on ordaining themselves? Numerous other questions loom large that challenge the legitimacy of what these men are doing, but we’ll leave those concerns for a future article.
The pressing question right now is what will RC Sproul Jr do about that CPC invitation? As far as we can determine he hasn’t expressly turned it down. Will he, after the CREC Commission “clears his name,” reject the CREC’s offer to join their confederation and then join the CPC instead? Some have speculated he’ll do just that. In fact it’s really the only thing that makes sense.
Though RC Jr has a number of friends and colleagues in the CREC, that hasn’t dissuaded him from knocking the CREC for years as a denominational wannabe, pawning itself off as Presbyterian “confederation” (now there’s a real oxymoron term), with not an ounce of accountability.
We fully agree with RC Sproul Jr’s assessment of the CREC. He’s right on the money about them, and it’s because of that that we’re especially concerned for all those poor Saint Peter folks. We hope that more and more of them continue coming to their senses enough to realize that they weren’t being shepherded by godly servant-leaders, but that they were being subjected to ecclesiastical tyrannies under the RC Sproul Jr autocracy. If RC Jr and his band of bullies were almost able to get away with their abuses against the Austin family and others while they were in a real Presbyterian denomination with a real constitution and real accountability, just imagine how bad things are going to get if they go into the CREC where there’s no accountability at all!
Even for those who know nothing about the CREC, all they have to do is take a look at their so-called “constitution” to get a taste of how fast and loose they play. By comparison to any denomination, including any non-Presbyterian denomination, the CREC’s “constitution” is a fourteen-page joke. RC Sproul Jr is right to criticize them for their total lack of accountability, and for Doug Wilson’s ridiculous claim that he’s a “Presbyterian.” But then on the other hand, in all fairness we have to acknowledge that the CREC isn’t a denomination, it’s a confederation, and it’s perfectly acceptable for confederations to play fast and loose and to have no accountability.
So who is RC Sproul Jr to be pointing the accusatory finger at anyone else and saying, “Those men are avoiding accountability and refusing to submit to godly authority”? Truth be told the only kind of authority that RC Sproul Jr likes is the kind that he gets to wield himself. The way that he jumped ship from the RPCGA, rather than appealing the Declaratory Judgment to General Assembly, and remaining to face the additional charges pending against him at trial, only proves that he’s either a coward, or an autonomist who refuses to submit to authority. So he runs away to his buddy Doug Wilson where he knows he can cut a deal, because he knows that Wilson cares as little for accountability as he does: “Dad said I couldn’t have the candy, so I’ll go ask mom.”
Truth be told RC Sproul Jr is a Presbyterian in name only. There isn’t a Presbyterian bone in his body, anymore so than there’s a Presbyterian bone in Doug Wilson’s body. RC Jr wants that label “Presbyterian” to give the appearance that he’s being held accountable, that he’s under godly authority, that he obeys the rules. It makes for a good marketing ploy — “simple, separate, deliberate” and accountable. But in the same way that RC Sproul Jr calls himself a “Presbyterian,” when he says that he’s “accountable” it’s a complete sham. He craves credibility, a credibility he knows that he could never have in the CREC.
There’s another factor to consider in why it’s likely that RC Jr won’t join the CREC, and why a startup Presbyterian denomination would be so enticing — control. RC Sproul Jr is a control freak. But so is Doug Wilson. RC Jr never has any chance of exercising any real control in the CREC — the control freak slot is already filled. Not so with the newly forming CPC — he’ll be in charge overnight.
So where will it leave Doug Wilson if RC Sproul Jr joins the CPC? It’ll leave Wilson with a lot of egg on his face. He’ll have asked five “CREC Commission” members to have expended a considerable amount of time and effort (including travel time to and from Bristol) on “clearing RC Sproul Jr’s name,” only to see him waltz into another denomination. And let’s not forget all the effort that Wilson and his CREC Commission are expending on trying to get ten Reformed ministers to rubber stamp their “not judicial in nature” report.
If RC Sproul Jr joins the CPC, where will that leave him? He’ll be able to still claim that he’s a Presbyterian (”See, it says ‘Presbyterian’ right there in my denomination’s name!”), but he’ll wind up making a whole bunch of new enemies in the CREC.
Lest we leave any stone unturned, is it possible that RC Sproul Jr might join both the CPC and CREC? The fact that the CREC is only a “confederation” and not a real denomination makes that a distinct possibility, that is if both organizations permit it (which they probably would). He could get his name “cleared” by the CREC, join the CREC in some superficial meaningless capacity so that Wilson gets to use his name for marketing purposes, and then RC Jr could seek ordination in the CPC by some guys who aren’t ordained themselves! Such a deal!
We’re sure looking forward to that May 20 release date of the RC Sproul Jr name-clearing report. No doubt there will be a whole lot in it that we’ll want to comment about. And we’re really looking forward to seeing where RC Sproul Jr is going to wind up. No matter what he does we’re confident that it’ll prove newsworthy.
This article is republished here at the request of the author.