PCA on Federal Vision: Action on Steve Wilkins

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KenPierce

Puritan Board Freshman
Standing Judicial Commission Report on
Memorial From Central Carolina Presbytery, 2006-2

Background

1. On January 26, 2006, Central Carolina Presbytery, pursuant to BCO 40-5, adopted and sent to the General Assembly the following Memorial relative to actions of Louisiana Presbytery. The Memorial was referred to the Standing Judicial Commission by the Stated Clerk. The 34th General Assembly concurred with that reference (BCO 15-4).

Memorial From Central Carolina Presbytery

Whereas it is the obligation of teaching elders to uphold in their teaching the system of doctrine taught in the Westminster Standards (BCO 2 1-5.2), and;

Whereas presbyteries are charged “to condemn erroneous opinions which injure the purity or peace of the Church” (BCO 13-9.f), and:

Whereas TE J. Steven Wilkins, senior minister of Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church in Monroe, LA, has persisted in teaching and publishing doctrines in flagrant contradiction to our Standards, to wit:

1) TE Wilkins publicly teaches a doctrine of election in flagrant contradiction to our Standards. Whereas the Confession teaches that “God hath appointed the elect unto glory” (WCF III.6), TE Wilkins states that the elect are appointed to a conditional relationship which they can lose through unbelief. He writes: “The elect are those who are faithful in Christ Jesus. If they later reject the Savior, they are no longer elect – they are cut off from the Elect One and thus, lose their elect standing” (The Federal Vision, p. 58).

2) TE Wilkins teaches a doctrine of the church in flagrant contradiction to that of our Standards, in that he denies the distinction between the visible and the invisible church. The Confession states that “The catholic or universal Church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect,” whereas “The visible Church… consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion, and their children” (WCF XXV. 1-2). The sum of TE Wilkins’ erroneous view is to teach that all members of the church – without distinction to their actual faith and/or regeneration – partake of the saving benefits of Christ. Whereas the Standards state that the visible church enjoys “the ordinary means of salvation and offers of grace by Christ,” they grant only to the invisible church that they “enjoy union and communion with [Christ]” (WLC 62-65). As such, TE Wilkins denies that there is any distinction between believing and unbelieving members of the visible church, insisting that all baptized church members enjoy the benefits of union with Christ, only conditionally. See The Federal Vision, pp. 57-62, including the following statements:

“‘If God is for us, who can be against us? Christ died, rose again, and makes intercession for us, who can separate us from the love of God?

Clearly, Paul is not stating promises that are true only for some unknown group called the ‘elect.’ Nor is he speaking only to a portion of the congregation whom he judges to be ‘regenerate.’ Rather, he is applying these promises to all the members of the Church who have been baptized and united to Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection (Rom. 6).” (The Federal Vision, p. 57).

“The reprobate may be in covenant with God. They may enjoy for a season the blessings of the covenant, including the forgiveness of sins, adoption, possession of the kingdom, sanctification, etc., and yet apostatize and fall short of the grace of God” (The Federal Vision, p. 62). Note that Wilkins here directly contradicts WLC 69, which ascribes these blessings only to the elect and denies them to the visible church.

3) TE Wilkins’ teaching directly contradicts our doctrine of perseverance. The Confession teaches that “They, whom God hath accepted in His Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved” (WCFXVI.1). But TE Wilkins teaches the opposite. See the above quote regarding the reprobate, who according to Wilkins were at one time forgiven, adopted, and sanctified. Wilkins adds, “The apostate doesn’t forfeit ‘apparent blessings’ that were never his in reality, but real blessings that were his in covenant with God” (The Federal Vision, p. 62). In Wilkins’ teaching, all church members share all the benefits of union with Christ, but only provisionally. He writes, “If they persevere in faith to the end, they enjoy these mercies eternally. If they fall away in unbelief, they lose these blessings and receive a greater condemnation than Sodom and Gomorrah… If they do not persevere, they lose the blessings that were given to them” (The Federal Vision, pp. 60-6 1).

4) TE Wilkins’ teaching directly contradicts our doctrine of assurance. The Confession teaches that we may have a certain assurance of salvation based on inward evidences of faith and salvation ( WCFXVI.1-2). Wilkins directly contradicts this teaching, stating instead that “The questions of when a man is ‘regenerated,’ or given ‘saving faith,’ or ‘truly converted,’ are ultimately questions we cannot answer and, therefore, they cannot be the basis upon which we define the Church or identify God’s people… [The covenant perspective] enables us to assure Christians of their acceptance with God without needless [sic] undermining their confidence in God’s promises (by forcing them to ask questions of themselves they cannot answer with certainty).” In a footnote defining the harmful questions, Wilkins specifies: “Questions like, “Have you truly believed?”; “Have you sincerely repented?”; “Do you have a new heart?”; “Have you been truly converted?”; etc.” (The Federal Vision, 67, plus footnote 15, p. 69.) But these are questions the Confession views as pastorally helpful and productive of assurance, not despair.

5) TE Wilkins teaches a doctrine of baptism strikingly different from that of Standards. Wilkins states that “When someone is united to the Church by baptism, he is incorporated into Christ and into His body; he becomes bone of Christ’s bone and flesh of His flesh (Eph. 5:30). He becomes a member of the house, family, and kingdom of God’ (WCF 25.2). Until and unless that person breaks covenant, he is to be reckoned among God’s elect and regenerate saints” (Summary Statement of AAPC's Position on the Covenant, Baptism, and Salvation (Revised), para 4.).

But, while the Confession describes baptism as a sign and seal of Christ’s blessings – including regeneration (WCF XXVI. 1) – the Standards do not equate all baptized persons with the elect, nor do they equate baptism with regeneration.

Wilkins teaches that

“If [someone] has been baptized, he is in covenant with God” (The Federal Vision, p. 67)…

“covenant is union with Christ” (p. 58)… and

“being in covenant gives all the blessings of being united to Christ” (p. 58), which blessings he enumerates by appeal to Eph. 1:3, stating, “those who are in covenant have all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places” (p. 58).

The doctrine found in these representative statements from TE Wilkins’ teaching can be none other than that to be baptized is to have all the eternal blessings of salvation and, by inference, he teaches that all persons baptized in water must be eternally saved, unless they apostatize. This is made explicit as TE Wilkins applies all the blessings noted in Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians to those who receive water baptism, including the salvific blessings of union with Christ, reaching all the way back to election from before creation to final salvation at the end of history. Thus, in contrast to the Confession’s teaching that water baptism is a sign and seal of these salvific blessings, Wilkins plainly teaches that water baptism grants actual possession of these salvific blessings.

Whereas the Louisiana Presbytery has exonerated and approved the teaching of TE Wilkins as “faithful to the confessional standards of the PCA”, contrary to their obligation to uphold the Westminster Standards, and;

Whereas the Louisiana Presbytery’s exoneration of TE Wilkins contradicts its own published declarations regarding the acceptable boundaries of teaching, to wit:
1) The Louisiana Presbytery has declared that “the Confession itself uses the term ‘elect’ to speak of only those who have been unchangeably chosen by God for eternal salvation... The Confessional understanding of election does not allow for the view that a person can be ‘elect’ and, later, ‘unelect’” (LA Presbytery Ad Hoc Committee on Federal Vision Theology Final Report and Recommendations, adopted July 2005). But Wilkins teaches the very doctrine that the Louisiana Presbytery has forbidden.

2) In its teaching on apostasy, the Louisiana Presbytery officially requires teaching on the visible/invisible church and on perseverance that TE Wilkins plainly contradicts. According to the LA Presbytery, one must acknowledge “the reality of apostasy, that a person can be a member of the visible church and fall away and thus loose the real benefits of belonging to God’s people, the real loss of external Covenant blessings claimed through being a member of the visible church through baptism.”

3) The Louisiana Presbytery states that the Confession “does not accommodate a view that an individual can have a vital, internalized relationship with the Lord and lose it.” But this is TE Wilkins’ explicit teaching.

4) The Louisiana Presbytery admits that TE Wilkins’ teaching on baptism has “led to confusion,” and has exhorted him “to clarify/reformulate his teachings to define them more precisely,” but it has specified no remedy to the harm – potential or real – produced by TE Wilkins’ published teaching.

Whereas a failure to uphold the doctrines of Scripture as summarized in our Standards threatens the purity and peace of the Church;

Therefore, be it resolved that the Central Carolina Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America sends this memorial to the Standing Judicial Commission of the Presbyterian Church in America to assume jurisdiction over the investigation of TE Steven Wilkins’ teaching, (BCO 34-1 & SJC Manual 18), in order to preserve the PCA’s commitment to sound doctrine, protect our reputation for faithfulness to God’s Word, and secure peace within our denomination.

Additionally, in the event that the Standing Judicial Committee declines to accept original jurisdiction over the investigation of TE Steven Wilkins’ teaching, then the Central Carolina Presbytery hereby petitions the Standing Judicial Commission to cite Louisiana Presbytery to appear per BCO 40-5 and SJC Manual 16.

Adopted by Central Carolina Presbytery at the Stated Meeting on January 28, 2006.
Attested by /s/ David Frierson, Clerk of Presbytery


2. The Standing Judicial Commission, at its meeting of March 3, 2006, voted to cite Louisiana Presbytery to appear in person pursuant to BCO 40-5 and appointed a Committee consisting of TE Paul Fowler, TE Steven Clark, and RE Frederick Neikirk to organize appropriate materials and prepare for the hearing on the matter.
3. The Committee received the relevant documents (SJCM 16-3) and provided the SJC with various relevant writings and presentations relevant to the matters contained in the Memorial.
4. On August 15, 2006, the representative of Louisiana Presbytery raised an objection to the SJC’s consideration of the Memorial.
5. On October 19, 2006, the Standing Judicial Commission heard a presentation from the representative of Louisiana Presbytery relative to the objection. The SJC voted not to sustain the objection for the reasons attached at the end of this report. (See Appendix)
6. The Representative from Louisiana Presbytery then responded to the citation from the SJC and responded to questions from the members of the SJC.
7. The SJC went into closed session and adopted the following statement of issues, judgment, and reasoning, opinion, and amends.

Statement of the Issues
1) Does the Memorial raise questions of sufficient gravity that we are led to conclude that the allegations, if true, are likely “hostile to the system of doctrine” and “strike at the vitals of religion?” (BCO 20-4)
2) If so, does the Memorial sufficiently represent the relevant writings of TE Wilkins on the matters at hand so as to raise appropriately the concerns that are alleged in the Memorial?
3) If so, then it is incumbent on Louisiana Presbytery to show how it investigated those views; how and on what basis they concluded those views were consistent with the Westminster Standards and the published declarations of Louisiana Presbytery; and how, to the extent necessary, they demanded corrective action and sought to make sure that any erroneous views that were previously published are clarified, thus protecting the peace and purity of the Church.

Judgment
1) Yes
2) Yes
3) It is the conclusion of the Standing Judicial Commission that Louisiana Presbytery has not demonstrated either by formal records or informal recollections that it has “with due diligence and great discretion” (BCO 31-2) dealt with the allegations that TE Steven Wilkins’ views are out of accord at key points with the system of doctrine as summarized in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Larger and Shorter Catechisms, which are “standard expositions of the teachings of Scripture in relation to both faith and practice.” (BCO 29-1, 39-3) As a result, Presbytery has not met its responsibilities under BCO 13-9.f and 40-4,5, and thus has not adequately protected the peace and purity of the Church.

Reasoning, Opinion, and Amends

I. The Standing Judicial Commission cites the following as examples of the lack of diligence on the part of Louisiana Presbytery.
a. The committee charged with investigating the views of TE Wilkins kept no minutes and has no transcript, or even a detailed summary of its examination of TE Wilkins.
b. The Committee, by its own admission, did not consider a number of TE Wilkins’ writings and published presentations. During his presentation to the SJC, Presbytery’s representative candidly expressed grave concerns over several writings he has reviewed subsequent to the Committee’s final report to the Presbytery.
c. Neither the Committee nor Presbytery held a face-to-face meeting with TE Wilkins to examine his views.
d. The Presbytery, as a court, did not examine TE Wilkins.
e. The Committee’s report dealt with the “Federal Vision” generally rather than the specific views of TE Wilkins.
f. The Committee’s report (which was adopted by Presbytery) contains no explicit rationale for the conclusion that TE Wilkins “appears to be within the Confession and the System of doctrine contained therein” and that “Rev. Steve Wilkins be publicly exonerated by Louisiana Presbytery and declared to be faithful to the Confessional standards of the PCA.”
g. Presbytery did not respond to the specific concerns about TE Wilkins’ views that were raised in the original communication from Central Carolina Presbytery (dated January 22, 2005).
h. Even in areas where Presbytery expressed concern about TE Wilkins’ views the Presbytery did not mandate that correction and clarification be issued so as to insure there was no harm to the peace and purity of the churches within the Presbytery or the Church at large.
i. The Respondent for Presbytery conceded that TE Wilkins in his writings and published presentations uses terms differently from the way they are generally understood in the Westminster Confession and Larger and Shorter Catechisms and therefore is required to explain and define his terms and the usage of terms in this manner is harmful to the peace and purity of the Church.

II. The Standing Judicial Commission hereby specifies the following amends.
That, as Louisiana Presbytery has not completed an adequate examination of TE Wilkins’ views, the Standing Judicial Commission hereby finds that the matters be redressed (BCO 40-5, para. 2, clause 1; cf., SJCM 16.9(a); BCO 14-6, a-b) by the following:
a. That Louisiana Presbytery, as a court, examine TE Wilkins on the specific concerns raised by the Central Carolina Memorial and matters raised herein; that this examination be conducted in the light of the theology and concepts of the Westminster Confession of Faith and Larger and Shorter Catechisms, which are “standard expositions of the teachings of Scripture in relation to both faith and practice” (BCO 29-1, 39-3); and that this examination be conducted after Presbytery has made itself familiar with all writings referenced by the Central Carolina Memorial as well as pertinent published materials containing TE Wilkins’ views on the matters raised herein.
b. That this examination be recorded, and in light of the seriousness of the issues, that the examination should be transcribed, and that the Presbytery and any committee charged to help Presbytery prepare for the examination keep full and accurate records and minutes.
c. That Louisiana Presbytery formally determine whether TE Wilkins has changed his views on the areas specified in the Memorial since his ordination (BCO 21-5, vow 2).
d. That Presbytery adopt formal responses to the specific concerns raised in the Memorial, with rationale and evidence for those responses.
e. That Presbytery specifically note any area of TE Wilkins’ views or his choice of terms to explain his views that are inconsistent with the Westminster Confession of Faith and Larger and Shorter Catechisms (BCO 29-1, 39-3) and how it will require TE Wilkins to redress those inconsistencies (BCO 21-5, vow 4).
f. That these directions be accomplished and reported to the Standing Judicial Commission no later than February 16, 2007, for final review.

III. Finally, the SJC reminds Louisiana Presbytery that, should it find that it cannot comply with the stipulations of this redress, it may request by Reference (BCO 41-3) that General Assembly assume jurisdiction in the matter.

All matters dealing with this opinion were written by the full Standing Judicial Commission.

Appendix
Response to Objection

Standing Judicial Commission
Presbyterian Church in America
In re Memorial of Central Carolina Presbytery (SJC #2006-2)

Ruling and Rationale on Respondent’s Objections to the Proceedings

In a letter dated August 15, 2006, from the Respondent’s appointed representative, Louisiana Presbytery raised objections to the proceedings in this matter. These objections related to (1) materials included in the documents reviewed by the members of the Standing Judicial Commission in preparation for the hearing and (2) to the scope of the review being undertaken by the SJC in response to the Memorial.

Following a hearing on these objections, the SJC ruled as follows:

The objections raised by TE Davis (Respondent’s appointed representative) are not sustained. We conclude that the published writings and transcriptions of public presentations of TE Wilkins generated prior to July, 2005, are properly and necessarily before the SJC. We further conclude that the members of the SJC have the right to consider broader writings on the matters at hand should they so desire. We also conclude that the question of how and on what basis Louisiana Presbytery reached its decisions/judgments on the matters noted in the Memorial are properly before the SJC under BCO 13-9.f; 40-4, 40-5 and SJCM 16.1.

Rationale:

Respondent’s representative asserted that this matter should be dismissed: (1) because documents provided to the SJC members for review prior to the hearing exceeded the scope of documents described as “relevant documents” under SJC manual 16.3 and (2) because the materials suggested the SJC would inquire beyond the bare “proceedings” of the lower court in contradiction to BCO 40-5. We find that neither contention has merit.

1. When considering a memorial, the documents to be considered by the SJC are not limited to the “relevant documents” prepared and submitted by the presbytery.

Respondent has asserted that the only documents the SJC may consider in hearing a memorial are the “relevant documents” described in SJC Manual 16.3. In support of this argument, the Respondent equates the hearing of a memorial to the hearing of a judicial case, in which a judgment may only be rendered on the basis of the record of the case. However, this comparison is incorrect, because SJC Manual 16.4 specifically states that the hearing of a memorial “shall not be conducted as a formal judicial case….”

Further, where the matter alleged is a serious irregularity in the proceedings of the lower court, there is a high likelihood that its records will not fully reflect the error. BCO 40-4 anticipates such circumstances, recognizing that a lower court may

…neglect to perform their duty, by which neglect heretical opinions or corrupt practices may be allowed to gain ground … or some circumstances in their proceedings of very great irregularity may not be distinctly recorded by them. In any of these cases their records will by no means exhibit to the higher court a full view of their proceedings. (emphasis added).

In such cases, it is incumbent upon the reviewing court to investigate beyond the lower court’s records,

f, therefore, the next higher court be well advised that any such neglect or irregularity has occurred on the part of the lower court, it is incumbent upon it to take notice of the same and to examine and judge in the whole matter as completely as if it had been recorded . . . .” (BCO 40-4).

In the matter before the SJC it is alleged that Louisiana Presbytery failed to fulfill its responsibility to demand with “due diligence and great discretion” (BCO 31-2) an accounting from TE Wilkins regarding views alleged to be “in flagrant violation of our standards.” Further, it is alleged that this failure threatens the peace and purity of the church. As such, this matter is squarely within the circumstances contemplated by BCO 40-4, and Respondent’s contention that documents beyond those supplied by the presbytery should not be considered has no merit.

2. The review allowed by a memorial brought under BCO 40-5 extends beyond bare procedural steps taken by the presbytery under scrutiny.

The Respondent further contends that the language of BCO 40-5 limits any review under the provision to matters of “procedure.” We are not persuaded that “any important delinquency or grossly unconstitutional proceedings” (BCO 40-5; cf., SJCM 16.1) means the same thing as “procedure”, if by procedure one means “what steps were taken or in what order were they taken.”

The terms “any important delinquency or grossly unconstitutional proceedings” must, in our judgment, go to the question of whether a lower court has “entirely neglect[ed] to perform their duty” (BCO 40-4) or has performed that duty improperly. The Central Carolina Memorial reminds us that presbyteries are charged “to condemn erroneous opinions which injure the purity and peace of the Church.” (BCO 13-9.f) The Memorial then alleges a number of points at which, in the opinion of Central Carolina Presbytery, the teachings of TE Wilkins are at odds with the teachings of the Westminster Confession of Faith and Larger and Shorter Catechisms which, as BCO 29-1 and 39-3 note, are “accepted by the Presbyterian Church in America as standard expositions of the teachings of Scripture in relation to both faith and practice.” The Memorial then points out that Louisiana Presbytery “exonerated and approved the teaching of TE Wilkins as ‘faithful to the confessional standards of the PCA’.” It is the allegation of Central Carolina Presbytery that this exoneration was “contrary to [Louisiana Presbytery’s] obligation to uphold the Westminster Standards” and in contradiction to “its own published declarations regarding the acceptable boundaries of teaching.” It is this allegation that Louisiana Presbytery, in exonerating TE Wilkins, failed to carry out its duties under BCO 13-9.f and 40-4 that comprises the alleged “important delinquency or grossly unconstitutional proceedings” specified in BCO 40-5.

In that broader sense, then, what is before the SJC is about “proceedings.” For example “How did Louisiana Presbytery reach its decision to exonerate TE Wilkins?” “How and on what basis did Louisiana Presbytery conclude that the specific teachings of TE Wilkins that were mentioned in the Memorial (most of which were also mentioned in the communication from Central Carolina Presbytery to Louisiana Presbytery of January 22, 2005) are consistent with the relevant sections of the Westminster Standards?” “How and on what basis did Louisiana Presbytery reach its conclusion that TE Wilkins’ views are consistent with the specific declarations of Presbytery regarding the acceptable boundaries of teaching?” “On what basis did Louisiana Presbytery, having determined that TE Wilkins’ teaching on baptism has ‘led to confusion’ and thus having urged him to ‘clarify/reformulate his teachings to define them more precisely,’ determine it was not necessary to specify any remedy ‘to the harm - potential or real - produced by TE Wilkins’ published teaching’?” Each of these examples is drawn from specifications in the Central Carolina Memorial. Each can be answered only in the context of an understanding of TE Wilkins’ writings, an understanding of the Westminster Standards as “standard expositions of Scripture” for the PCA, and an understanding of what Louisiana Presbytery did and how they did it in reaching their decisions/judgments on these matters.
 

KenPierce

Puritan Board Freshman
Maybe Fred Greco could explain. You there, Fred? Fred has unique qualifications because of his familiarity with our polity, his previous life as a lawyer, and his theological training.
 

wsw201

Puritan Board Senior
What it means is exactly what it says. The Presbytery must examine Wilkins for real this time and justify any ruling.
 

KenPierce

Puritan Board Freshman
Fred has come down from the mountain, face shining and all. As soon as he puts on his veil, he will render his message:rofl: :lol: :D
 

rjlynam

Puritan Board Sophomore
I must say it is very encouraging to see some in the PCA fight for standards of accountability. :up:
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
What does the SJC decision mean?

My good friend Ken Pierce asked me to give some thoughts on the recent decision of the PCA’s Standing Judicial Commission (SJC) with respect to a Memorial submitted by Central Carolina Presbytery.

Central Carolina submitted the memorial is a decision reached by Louisiana Presbytery exonerating and approving the teaching of Reverend Steve Wilkins. A memorial was the appropriate mechanism for Central Carolina to bring this matter to a head. Apparently no one in Louisiana Presbytery was concerned enough about Reverend Wilkins' teachings, or the decision of the court to file an Appeal with the General Assembly. Another option would have been to attempt to get original jurisdiction over the matter in accordance with BCO 38-1. But since there was an official action by Louisiana Presbytery regarding Rev. Wilkins, and because the General Assembly (through its SJC) has basically interpreted 38-1 to require some action (no matter how the action substantively turns out; i.e. process over substance), it is highly likely that a 38-1 action would have resulted in no real disposition of the issues at hand. {Note: I am not giving approbation or condemnation of the SJC’s interpretation of BCO 38-1 here. I am merely trying to give bottom line facts. So the blogging community need not use this statement as proof of its righteousness}

The Memorial basically contended that:

  1. Louisiana Presbytery had interpreted the statements and doctrines at issue in the Westminster Standards (e.g. “elect,” “visible church,” assurance, etc.) in the usual and customary manner.
  2. Louisiana Presbytery failed to see that the plain and open teaching of Rev. Wilkins was contrary to Louisiana Presbytery’s interpretations of the Westminster Standards.
  3. This was the result of either a lack of thoroughness on the part of the Presbytery in its examination, oversight, or both.

At issue then, was not the orthodoxy or heterodoxy of Rev. Wilkins – at least not directly. The issue was whether a Presbytery had performed its duty properly and adequately (to ensure that its ministers teach the system of doctrine set forth in Standards). In order to arrive at that conclusion, the SJC had to determine whether:

  1. Central Carolina Presbytery (CCP) was raising a legitimate issue; whether Rev. Wilkins actually taught what CCP said he did.
  2. Whether those teachings were “hostile to the system of doctrine” and “strike at the vitals of religion”
  3. Whether Louisiana Presbytery had sufficiently investigated the matter.
The SJC basically found that the allegations by CCP of Rev. Wilkins’s teachings did rise to the level of being “hostile to the system of doctrine” and “strike at the vitals of religion,” and that the Memorial itself accurately represented Rev. Wilkins’ teachings. Given those conclusions, it was inevitable that the SJC cite Louisiana Presbytery for a failure to conduct its duty properly. This is akin to saying: “You say 2+2=5. We know 2+2=4. Therefore, you must not have properly thought about 2+2.”

What happens next?

The SJC is now on record – and therefore the General Assembly is on record, since the SJC IS the GA (remember that a Commission acts for or on behalf of a body, whereas a Committee, like the PCA Study Committee, only reports back to the body for action by the body) – as stating that the summary of Wilkins’ teaching is ACCURATELY reflected by CCP. This is (in my opinion) a huge step. It basically takes the rug out from under the “you don’t understand me” defense. Now the FV advocates will need to argue that the summary of teachings in CCP’s memorial are Confessional and Biblical. It will not be enough any more to dodge all inquiries with “but I really didn’t mean that in a sense…”

My opinion is that this is a much better step than anything the OPC’s Study Committee produced or that the PCA’s Study Committee may produce. Better in the sense of furthering a resolution of the entire controversy, since of course the SJC’s decision depends at least in part on the work being done by the theologians of both committees. The distinction between Commission and Committee in our polity is crucial. This action by the SJC is binding. It must be obeyed as a lawful injunction of the Church. Notice the response of the representative of Louisiana Presbytery with respect to “the books of Wilkins that he was not familiar with.” No matter what the PCA Study Committee reports, or what the PCA GA adopts as a result of it, it is merely “pious advice.” Several prominent FV advocates have already stated on blogs that they intend to ignore the results of the committee, since it will be non-binding.

(Warning: editorial)
There is another important context to this as well. It is one thing to have Joey Pipa (whom I respect and love) criticize your teaching. It is one thing to have Mississippi Valley adopt a statement. But when the SJC finds your teaching out of accord with the Confession, the game is up. The SJC is full of men who command very wide base respect in the denomination, especially among the “non-TR” congregations and elders. These are men who are former moderators, fathers in the PCA, and very active in denominational governance in Atlanta. If I were a FV man, I would be devastated. It is just a matter of time before the PCA declares FV theology outside the “system of doctrine” and “the vitals of religion.”

I have no doubt that some other more prolific bloggers (both inside and outside the PCA) will disagree with me. I fully expect blogs to fill up with attacks on the PCA, the SJC, Ligon Duncan, Guy Waters and anyone else who dares criticize the FV in the next week or so. My advice: ignore it. The church is moving, slowly but surely, to ending the FV menace in the PCA. The FV will be exiled to the CRE, which is a blip on the map that I believe will die under the weight of its halfway-covenantalism and uneasy alliance between Baptists and paedobaptists (remember: paecommunion is SO important that we must take confessional vows with those who reject infant baptism!).

This is a very good day for the PCA, the Church at large, and Presbyterian polity in general.

I'll check in occasionally for the next couple of days if there are questions.
 

Civbert

Puritan Board Junior
So what happens if Louisiana Presbytery exonerate TE Wilkins again and documents everything and explains it's reasons? If the SJC has condemned FV, would no a second exoneration of Wilkins by the Louisiana Presbytery imply they think Wilkins is not really teaching FV? Wilkins remains in good standing and nothing is accomplished? Will the SJC now have jurisdiction to try Wilkins and the Louisiana Presbytery too?
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
So what happens if Louisiana Presbytery exonerate TE Wilkins again and documents everything and explains it's reasons? If the SJC has condemned FV, would no a second exoneration of Wilkins by the Louisiana Presbytery imply they think Wilkins is not really teaching FV? Wilkins remains in good standing and nothing is accomplished? Will the SJC now have jurisdiction to try Wilkins and the Louisiana Presbytery too?


Read the actions from II:

II. The Standing Judicial Commission hereby specifies the following amends.
That, as Louisiana Presbytery has not completed an adequate examination of TE Wilkins’ views, the Standing Judicial Commission hereby finds that the matters be redressed (BCO 40-5, para. 2, clause 1; cf., SJCM 16.9(a); BCO 14-6, a-b) by the following:
a. That Louisiana Presbytery, as a court, examine TE Wilkins on the specific concerns raised by the Central Carolina Memorial and matters raised herein; that this examination be conducted in the light of the theology and concepts of the Westminster Confession of Faith and Larger and Shorter Catechisms, which are “standard expositions of the teachings of Scripture in relation to both faith and practice” (BCO 29-1, 39-3); and that this examination be conducted after Presbytery has made itself familiar with all writings referenced by the Central Carolina Memorial as well as pertinent published materials containing TE Wilkins’ views on the matters raised herein.
b. That this examination be recorded, and in light of the seriousness of the issues, that the examination should be transcribed, and that the Presbytery and any committee charged to help Presbytery prepare for the examination keep full and accurate records and minutes.
c. That Louisiana Presbytery formally determine whether TE Wilkins has changed his views on the areas specified in the Memorial since his ordination (BCO 21-5, vow 2).
d. That Presbytery adopt formal responses to the specific concerns raised in the Memorial, with rationale and evidence for those responses.
e. That Presbytery specifically note any area of TE Wilkins’ views or his choice of terms to explain his views that are inconsistent with the Westminster Confession of Faith and Larger and Shorter Catechisms (BCO 29-1, 39-3) and how it will require TE Wilkins to redress those inconsistencies (BCO 21-5, vow 4).
f. That these directions be accomplished and reported to the Standing Judicial Commission no later than February 16, 2007, for final review.

I personally don't think it is possible for Louisiana to exonerate Wilkins unless he recants his views as summarized by CCP.
 

rjlynam

Puritan Board Sophomore
Thanks Fred, I enjoy your writing. So, we should be in prayer about this, eh?

:pray2:

Any idea on what kind of timeframe we're looking at here? February of next year? And that's to get back to the SJC. What then? GA? Is the decision of the SJC binding, in and of itself?
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
Fred,
In preparation for becoming a pastor in the PCA, without any background in law or reading these kinds of documents, how would you suggest a person like me learn how to read and accurately exegete these things as well as learn how be ready for church polity in general (as it comes to this kind of documental stuff)...hehe?
 

BobVigneault

Bawberator
Thank you Fred, as so many others have said already, your summary is very helpful. Great of you to take the time. Blessings sir.
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
I was also wondering, if future occurances come up that are similar to this, can people in the PCA point to this as something to say you can't do this.

For example, Pro-choicers will point to Roe v. Wade. Is it like that?
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
Yes, this decision becomes a judicial precedent.

rsc

I was also wondering, if future occurances come up that are similar to this, can people in the PCA point to this as something to say you can't do this.

For example, Pro-choicers will point to Roe v. Wade. Is it like that?
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
Yes, this decision becomes a judicial precedent.

rsc

I don't believe that this is correct, strictly speaking. This is a Memorial, not a judicial case.

In American jurisprudence, the doctrine of stare decisis (when a court has once laid down a principle of law applicable to a certain set of facts, it will adhere to that principle and apply it to future cases where the facts are substantially the same) is much more of a precedent.

That is why, for example, Brown v. Board of Education was such a big deal. It overthrew (consciously) 100 years of "settled" law.

So this decision by the SJC is not precedent in that way - i.e. every author of the FV is now judged out of accord - but it is very persuasive (in my opinion) for any future judicial case that would be brought.

This is all not to say that I think the decision is no big deal (quite the opposite), but rather to develop the differences between American jurisprudence and PCA polity.
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
I knew I shoiuldn't have commented on PCA polity!

rsc

I don't believe that this is correct, strictly speaking. This is a Memorial, not a judicial case.

In American jurisprudence, the doctrine of stare decisis (when a court has once laid down a principle of law applicable to a certain set of facts, it will adhere to that principle and apply it to future cases where the facts are substantially the same) is much more of a precedent.

That is why, for example, Brown v. Board of Education was such a big deal. It overthrew (consciously) 100 years of "settled" law.

So this decision by the SJC is not precedent in that way - i.e. every author of the FV is now judged out of accord - but it is very persuasive (in my opinion) for any future judicial case that would be brought.

This is all not to say that I think the decision is no big deal (quite the opposite), but rather to develop the differences between American jurisprudence and PCA polity.
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
Erin Brockovich

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Three gold stars for you, Chris! (It's a small claim to fame but we paralegals will take what we can get. Plus, I heard her speak in person once.) :2cents:
 
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