Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Complaint Filed Against Pacific Northwest Presbytery re. Peter Leithart Trial

A day or two ago PCA pastor Jason Stellman announced on his blog that he was finished pursuing the case against Peter Leithart for teachings not consistent with the Westminster Confession of Faith.  I have tremendous respect, admiration, and affection for Jason - he has worked extremely hard on this matter facing incredible odds. 

In his own words he writes...
"Simply and honestly put, my involvement in this process over the last four years has had the unexpected side-effect of lessening the degree of significance I attach to the outcome. This is not because my mind has changed—I am every bit as persuaded today of TE Leithart's divergence from the doctrinal standards of the PCA as I was back in 2007 (and even more so). Nevertheless, the inevitable fact of the matter is that the side that ultimately prevails will claim that Christ has vindicated their cause through the courts of the church, while the side that does not prevail will deny that Christ has done this, but will insist rather that the church has erred. I highlight this not to assign blame for this potential reaction; in fact, such diametrically opposite responses to the decisions of our denomination's highest court are to be expected when we remember that, according to the Westminster Confession, no synod or council ever speaks with absolute and divine authority. Indeed, no court of the PCA, not even its Standing Judicial Commission, can speak with the kind of "Thus saith the Lord" that can definitively settle this issue by binding the consciences of those who disagree and compelling their acquiescence.

This being the case, the conclusion seems inescapable that the nature of the authority exercised by the SJC, although higher in a jurisdictional sense, is nevertheless identical to the nature of the authority exercised by the Pacific Northwest Presbytery with whose verdicts I dissent, namely, it is authority that is only to be recognized and submitted to insofar as it leads to conclusions with which one agrees (or with which one thinks Scripture agrees). Ths is why I have decided to voice my dissent as strongly as possible while still stopping short of actively pursuing Peter Leithart's defrocking and removal from the ministry of the PCA. In a word, my own conscience now demands that if I am going to take a course of action whose goal is TE Leithart's being divested of his current position and deposed from the ministry, I need a level of certainty concerning these things that the PCA's Standing Judicial Commission simply cannot provide. To put it in the simplest terms I can, I believe that it would be vindictive of me to continue pursuing this issue, which is why I have concluded that I have taken this matter as far as I am prepared to. Now it is up to others to continue to pursue it if they so desire."
I must say that Jason's response surprised me.  I genuinely expected that he would file a complaint to bring this before the Standing Judicial Commission.  However, I can understand his fatigue and his conscience on the matter regarding vindictiveness and the flawed nature of human courts.  I spent the last day or two wondering if this was the end of the road. 

This morning Jason announced that a complaint has been filed by someone else in that presbytery though the contents of that complaint have not been made public nor it author(s).  This will be heard in January 2012 at the next meeting of Pacific Northwest Presbytery.  If denied, there will most certainly be an appeal to the Standing Judicial Commission. 

For those who are concerned about the health of our denomination this is welcome news.  I'm still working through the trial transcripts but have come across some trouble assertions made by the defense.  I hope to write about those in the future. 

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