This last weekend the members of Great Lakes Presbytery (PCA) gathered in Hudson, Ohio for our fall/winter meeting. It was good seeing my co-laborers in the Gospel and hearing how things are going in their part of God's Kingdom.
Our presbytery meeting included a report on the ongoing discussion for our churches in northern Ohio to form a new presbytery, perhaps drawing in churches from neighboring presbyteries. We also heard encouraging reports from our church planters who are laboring in places like Lansing Michigan, Novi (suburban Detroit), LaPorte Indiana, and suburban Colombus Ohio. My committee examined three men who wish to become ordained ministers. One was received as a candidate coming 'under care' of our presbytery. The other two were examined and sustained in their trials to be licensed to preach regularly in our churches (this is one step prior to ordination).
One of the particular things about the Presbyterian form of church government is how it relates to the Kingdom of God and Christ as its King. Westminster Larger Catechism Question 45 captures this beautfully:
Q) How does Christ execute the office of king?
A) "Christ executes the office of king, in calling out of the world a people to himself, and giving them officers, laws, and censures, by which he visible governs them..."
We believe that Christ rules his people through the elders of the local church, the members of the presbytery, and through our highest court, The General Assembly. When a member is disciplined we believe that Christ is speaking to the offender and admonishing them to repent of their sin.
On Saturday, Christ spoke through his church. One of the members of our presbytery was found to be in violation of the vows he had taken to be a minister in our denomination. Repeated attempts to meet with him and get his side of the story were rebuffed. For a time we were able to contact him via email, phone and certified mail but then he chose to move to another state. Though still under our jurisidiction he left no forwarding information. Eventually we were able to re-establish contact with him but he refused to answer the charges that he had violated his ministerial vows. Then he moved again and after repeated attempts to contact him it was concluded that he was fleeing our discipline and was unwilling to repent. On Saturday, after more than two years of work to bring this man to repentance, our presbytery voted to depose him from office and excommunicate him from the church.
The setting was somber: We heard a summary of the case and then were allowed to ask questions. We referenced our constitution concerning church discipline and concluded that our judicial commission had been more than fair to this brother in admonishing him repeatedly and in eventually barring him from the sacraments. Based on their testimony we concluded that there was only one thing left to do: impose final discipline upon him. After the motion to depose and excommunicate was made and seconded, we deliberated slowly and carefully, sensing the seriousness of moment. After the vote and the pronouncement of discipline, we paused to pray for this wayward brother in the hope that he would repent and be restored.
It was a sobering thought to realize that Christ, through the elders of our presbytery, had spoken finally and definitively against the actions of this man. Join me in praying for his repentance.