Monday, January 25, 2010

Siouxlands Presbytery - Say What?

Over the weekend the Siouxlands Presbytery of the PCA met.  It is comprised of PCA churches in the states of Minnesota, along with North and South Dakota.  This presbytery has been dealing with a teaching elder who allegedly holds to Federal Vision theology. 

Last year a committee was appointed to investigate this man's views and report its finding to the entire body (it had been denied on two previous occasions but a complaint to the Standing Judicial Commission brought about this action).  The committee found in a vote of 4-2 that this teaching elder holds theological views that are incompatible with the Westminster Confession of Faith.  One of the two who voted against this finding persuaded the entire presbytery NOT to take action arguing that his views were within the broader understanding of the Westminster Standards.  A complaint was filed that eventually led to a second investigation with an entirely new committee. 

News has come out that the second committee found this pastor's views are indeed consistent with Federal Vision theology by a vote of 4-0.  However, when this was reported at the last meeting of presbytery, something very strange happened.  Instead of appointing a prosecutor, filing charges, and proceeding to trial, the presbytery decided to give this man nine (9) months to receive 'instruction' from a committee that he hand-picked!  And, as if to add insult to injury, the presbytery voted to 'investigate' another teaching elder who has been critical of the entire process on the grounds that he violated the ninth commandment. 

Honestly, I don't know what is going on.  When two committees and the SJC agree that a man's views are inconsistent with the Westminster Confession of Faith it seems that the presbytery has no choice but to move forward with a trial.  That it would pursue this course of action - going after a critic and giving a reprieve to the person with aberrant views - is bizarre, to say the least.  

You can read more about this here, here and here.

If you know someone in Siouxlands you might want to give them a call to find out what is going on.  When at least eight (8) men serving on two different committees have found a TE to be teaching contrary to the confessions, this requires action.  Giving this man nine months of 'instruction' is a joke.  What will this committee being doing?  It will be coaching him on how to give the right answers to any future inquiries.  Moreover, this will give his supporters nine months to lobby the presbytery in his favor. 

The reticence to act reminds me of the old line from Saturday Night Live's skit with Todd (Bill Murray) and Lisa (Gilda Radner) describing her father: "Poor Mr. Luebner, he was born without a spine."   Siouxlands, where is your spine?


Rev. Brian Carpenter said...


You are mistaken on one point. The appeal to the SJC came at the point of our first request to investigate TE Lawrence. When we asked the first time, the presbytery refused. We asked a second time, and the presbytery again refused. We appealed to the SJC and they ordered the presbytery to conduct an investigation. The committee came back 4-2 for a strong presumption of guilt. The 2 dissenting members of the committee were TE Josh Moon and a ruling elder from his church.

We complained to the presbytery about this. They sustained our complaint by appointing another committee to further examine TE Lawrence. They came back with a unanimous recommendation that the presbytery find a strong presumption of guilt and proceed to trial.

The presbytery elected instead to appoint a third committee to instruct the member in how to better express himself.

Rev. Brian Carpenter said...

I should add that at the time the first committee came to the presbytery with its 4-2 recommendation of a strong presumption of guilt, TE Josh Moon arose and moved as a substitute the motion you find listed on TE Wes White's blog,

His motion carried the day, and the presbytery found no strong presumption of guilt that TE Lawrence is teaching anything out of accord with the Standards concerning the "so-called Federal Vision."

Some of TE Moon's statements in defense of TE Lawrence concerning his own views were quite alarming, and were the basis of an overture from my session to investigate TE Moon. That overture was sustained, but in a very haphazard and incomplete way. I complained at the last presbytery meeting and my complaint was denied.

Dave Sarafolean said...


Thanks for the correction. I will fix my post. I can't believe that Siouxlands turned down two requests to investigate him. I just read/skimmed the first committee's report -- seems that they had more than enough evidence to open up an investigation. Hang in there and don't lose heart!