Pca: Sjc Report October 2007

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Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
STANDING JUDICIAL COMMISSION REPORT ON MEMORIAL FROM
CENTRAL CAROLINA PRESBYTERY, 2006-2
This matter was dealt with by the SJC over an extended period of time and in several stages. Part I of this report deals with the SJC's initial hearing on the matter, Louisiana Presbytery's subsequent re-examination of TE J. Steven TE Wilkins directed by the SJC, and related events (January 2006 through May, 2007). Part II of this report deals with the actions of the SJC in response to Louisiana Presbytery re-examination of TE J. Steven TE Wilkins (May, 2007 through October 2007).

Part I
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 TE 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 TE 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" (WCF XVI.1). But TE Wilkins teaches the opposite. See the above quote regarding the reprobate, who according to TE Wilkins were at one time forgiven, adopted, and sanctified. TE 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 TE 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 (WCF XVI.1-2). TE 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, TE 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. TE 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.

TE 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, TE 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 TE 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 TE 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 TE 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 TE 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 TE 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.

The decision was adopted on October 20. 2006 with a vote of 17 concurring. There were 7 commissioners absent.

TE Dominic A. Aquila Absent
TE Howell (Howie) A. Burkhalter Concur
TE Alton Craig Chapman Concur
TE Stephen M. Clark Absent
RE M. C. (Cub) Culbertson Concur
RE Perry Denniston Concur
RE J. Howard (Howie) Donahoe Absent
RE Samuel J. (Sam) Duncan Concur
TE Paul B. Fowler Concur
TE William W. Harrell Jr. Concur
RE Terry L. Jones Absent
TE Paul D. Kooistra Concur
RE Thomas F. Leopard Concur
TE John M. McArthur, Jr. Concur
RE J. Grant McCabe Concur
TE Charles E. McGowan Absent
TE D. Steven Meyerhoff Concur
RE Frederick Neikirk Concur
RE Steven T. O'Ban Concur
TE Michael M. Rico Absent
TE Michael F. Ross Absent
RE John Tolson Concur
RE John B. White, Jr. Concur
RE W. Jack Williamson Concur

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.[1]

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 exonera 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.

Part II

Additional Facts
October 30, 2006 The decision of the Standing Judicial Commission in Part I of this report is communicated to Louisiana Presbytery.
December 8, 2006 The Chairman of the Examinations and Candidates Committee of Louisiana Presbytery e-mails to members of Presbytery thirty-seven (37) pages of written responses from TE Wilkins to questions posed to him by members of Presbytery. (ROC 31-66)
December 9, 2006 Louisiana Presbytery, at a called meeting, conducts an oral examination of TE Wilkins. The oral examination is led by members of Presbytery's Examinations and Candidates Committee. The examination, lasting approximately three (3) hours, covers each of the major points raised in the Central Carolina Memorial. Members of Presbytery in attendance have opportunity to ask questions after each section of the examination. The entire examination is recorded and transcribed, with the transcription running one hundred, nineteen (119) pages. (ROC 13 and 68-186)
During this meeting, Presbytery receives a one (1) page statement of exceptions from TE Wilkins. (ROC 13 and 14)
TE Wilkins is asked if any "writings that were referenced by the Central Carolina Memorial as well as pertinent published materials containing your views on the matters raised here" were not available to members of Presbytery. TE Wilkins replied that he did not know of any. (ROC 186)
TE Wilkins is asked if he has changed his views since his ordination on the areas specified in the Memorial. TE Wilkins stated that he had not. (ROC 13)
The Examinations and Candidates Committee is charged with preparing a report based on the examination. The report is to be approved by Presbytery at its January meeting. (ROC 13)
January 20, 2007 Presbytery, at its January stated meeting, hears the report of the Examinations and Candidates Committee. The Committee reports it has been unable to reach agreement on a recommendation to Presbytery. The Committee reports four (4) options to Presbytery.
Presbytery adopts the following motion. "[T]hat Louisiana Presbytery, after thorough examination and investigation of TE Wilkins as per the SJC directives regarding allegations made in the Central Carolina Presbytery Memorial, finds no strong presumption of guilt in any of the charges contained therein and exercises its prerogative not to institute process regarding these allegations." The vote was thirteen (13) in favor and eight (8) opposed, with four (4) presbyters asking that their negative votes be recorded. (ROC 5, 15)
Presbytery adopts as its grounds the written and oral examinations of TE Wilkins on December 9, 2006. (ROC 15)
February 1, 2007 Presbytery, through its stated clerk, reports that Presbytery has been unable to perfect a final report with regard to its action in sustaining the examination of TE Wilkins. Presbytery asks for an extension on the response deadline established by the SJC.
February 15, 2007 TE James Jones complains against Presbytery's action in sustaining TE Wilkins' examination and finding no strong presumption of guilt against him. (ROC 5-10, 11)
February 20, 2007 TE Howard Davis files a dissent with regard to Presbytery's action in sustaining the examination of TE Wilkins. (ROC 11, 16, 17-23).
March 1, 2007 The officers of the Standing Judicial Commission agree to extend to April 28, 2007, the deadline for Louisiana Presbytery to comply with the directives of the Standing Judicial Commission.
April 21, 2007 By a vote of ten (10) to eight (8), Presbytery votes to deny the complaint of TE Jones, citing as its rationale the oral and written examinations of TE Wilkins. Presbytery also adopts a personal resolution "as the rationale reflecting the basis of a majority of Presbyters who found no strong presumption of guilt of TE Wilkins being out of accord with the Confessional Standards." (ROC 1, 16, 187-206)
April 21, 2007 Presbytery receives the dissent of TE Howard Davis and appoints a presbyter to file "an answer to be recorded to the dissent on behalf of Presbytery." (ROC 11, 16, 17-23).
April 25, 2007 Presbytery submits the written and transcribed oral examination of TE Wilkins and the statement of the supporting rationale of Presbytery to the Standing Judicial Commission in fulfillment of the requirements set forth by the SJC.
May 7, 2007 TE Jones carries his complaint to General Assembly. The complaint is signed by six (6) other presbyters. (ROC 1-3)
May 22, 2007 The answer to the dissent of TE Davis is filed on behalf of Presbytery. (ROC 11, 24-30)
.
Statement of the Issues
1) Did Louisiana Presbytery comply with the directive of the Standing Judicial Commission that it, "with due diligence and great discretion" (BCO 31-2) deal with the allegations that TE Steven TE 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) by carrying out the amends specified by the Standing Judicial Commission in Section II of the "Reasoning, Opinion, and Amends" portion of Part I of this report?
2) Did Louisiana Presbytery reach a decision consistent with the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in America when it found "no strong presumption of guilt in any of the charges contained [in the Central Carolina Memorial] and exercise[d] its prerogative not to institute process regarding [those] allegations?"

Judgment
1) Yes.
2) No - See the judgment, reasoning and opinion in case 2007-8, TE James Jones, Jr., et al., vs. Louisiana Presbytery, in particular Judgment 2.
Amends - Pursuant to BCO 40-5 the Standing Judicial Commission hereby cites Louisiana Presbytery to appear "to show what it has done or failed to do in the case in question." To implement this process, RE Samuel J. Duncan is hereby appointed to: a) serve as prosecutor in this matter and conduct the case, which is designated as Case 2007-14; b) select Assistant Prosecutors from members of the General Assembly to assist him with this matter; c) draw an indictment to be served upon Louisiana Presbytery, with the circumstances and specifications therein not being limited to those raised in 2006-02 and 2007-8; d) prepare a citation instructing Louisiana Presbytery to respond, in writing or at a called meeting of the Standing Judicial Commission, to the indictment and to enter its plea to the matters contained therein not later than February 1, 2008. (BCO 40-6, 31-2, 32-3) If Louisiana Presbytery enters a plea of "not guilty," then Louisiana Presbytery is directed to appear, through its representatives, for trial in this matter before the Standing Judicial Commission on March 5, 2008 (BCO 40-5, 40-6, 31-2, 32-3).

Reasoning
1) The written examination of TE Wilkins and the transcribed oral examination of TE Wilkins demonstrate that Louisiana Presbytery carried out the directive of the SJC that Louisiana Presbytery, as a court, examine TE Wilkins on the specific concerns raised by the Central Carolina Memorial; that the examination be conducted in light of the theology and concepts of the Westminster Confession of Faith and Larger and Shorter Catechisms; that Presbytery make itself familiar with the writings of TE Wilkins that were referenced in the Central Carolina Memorial, as well as other pertinent published materials containing TE Wilkins' views on the matters raised by the Memorial; and that Presbytery determine whether TE Wilkins had changed any of his views on the areas specified in the Memorial since his ordination. The record also shows that Presbytery adopted formal responses to the specific concerns raised by the Memorial, with rationale and evidence for those responses. While some members of Presbytery took issue with TE Wilkins' views and/or his choice of terms to explain those views, the majority of Presbytery found TE Wilkins to be in accord with the Constitution. As such, they did not require him to redress any inconsistencies. While not all of the above actions were finalized by the date originally set by the Standing Judicial Commission, it is clear that Presbytery made a good faith effort in this regard, which fact was noted by the officers in their decision to grant Presbytery additional time to comply. In view of the above, we find that Louisiana Presbytery met the procedural requirements established by the Standing Judicial Commission in Part I of this decision.
2) Whether the decisions of Louisiana Presbytery are, in substance, in keeping with the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in America is a matter separate from the procedural issues noted above. When a complaint was filed against the action of Louisiana Presbytery, the officers of the Standing Judicial Commission determined that a panel should be constituted in accordance with RAO 17-3 to hear that complaint. As the complaint deals with the substantive issues raised in the Central Carolina Memorial, that is the more appropriate venue for dealing with Issue 2. As such, that issue was answered by the Standing Judicial Commission's decision with regard to case 2007-8.
In case 2007-8, the Standing Judicial Commission found that the record supported a probable finding that Louisiana Presbytery erred, and thereby violated BCO 13-9.f, 40-4, and 40-5, when it failed to find a strong presumption of guilt that the views of TE Steve TE Wilkins were out of conformity with the Constitutional tandards. As such, the SJC continues to conclude that there is a strong presumption that Presbytery has not met its Constitutional responsibilities, and thus has not adequately protected the peace and purity of the Church (see Part I of this opinion). For these reasons the concerns raised by the Memorial from Central Carolina Presbytery continue to be before us.
Since this case did not arise under BCO 34-1, and given that Louisiana Presbytery has declined to request by Reference (BCO 41-3) that General Assembly assume jurisdiction in this matter, it must be stressed that what is before the SJC is not allegations against TE Wilkins per se. Rather, what is before the SJC is whether Louisiana Presbytery has dealt adequately and constitutionally with those views. The conclusion of case 2007-8 is that there is a reasonable presumption that Presbytery has not so done. We conclude that the best way to address this presumption, to preserve the peace and purity of the Church, to bring closure to this issue within a reasonable time frame, and to give Presbytery the fairest opportunity to vindicate itself by explaining and defending its actions is to follow the procedure of BCO 40-5 and BCO 40-6. It is for this reason that we mandate the amends noted above.

The opinion was written by TE Howell Burkhalter, TE Paul Fowler, TE Stephen Clark, TE Dewey Roberts, RE Frederick Neikirk, RE Steven O'Ban and RE Tom Leopard

October 19, 2007

[1] The SJC notes that the materials reviewed by the SJC included only the "relevant documents" provided by the Respondent and writings or transcripts of teaching of TE Wilkins that the Respondent admitted were or should have been available to the presbytery as it conducted its investigation. The SJC does not agree that other materials had to be excluded from consideration; however, many of the materials objected to by the Respondent were removed prior to receipt of the objection to avoid any appearance of prejudice.

Further, to the extent that the SJC's response to this Memorial turns on theological and polity understandings, members of the SJC must have the right to consider various theological materials relevant to the issues at hand. It is hard to see how they could do otherwise. Even if this were a formal judicial case we would expect that members of the SJC would be consulting relevant theological works and bringing the insights from those works to bear on the SJC's deliberations.
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
Complaint of TE James Jones, Et.Al.
Vs.
Louisiana Presbytery
SJC 2007-8

TE James Jones brought this complaint pursuant to BCO 43-1 against the judgment of Louisiana Presbytery in declaring that TE Steve Wilkins' teaching gave "no strong presumption of guilt" by being out of accord with the Constitution of the PCA. Mr. Jones was joined in his complaint by RE Taylor Mayes, TE Paul Lipe, RE R. Ellis Smith, RE Albert Christman, RE Troy Richards, and RE Walter Huffman, all of Louisiana Presbytery. The review and decision of the SJC panel follows.

I.SUMMARY OF THE FACTS

1.On April 9, 2005, Louisiana Presbytery (LAP) received a preliminary study report from its own study committee on Federal Vision/Auburn Avenue Theology (FV/AAT), and in particular the teachings of TE Steve Wilkins. The preliminary report was received and adopted by LAP (ROC 2006-2; p. 11). At its April 9, 2005 stated meeting, LAP appointed a study committee to examine TE Steve Wilkins concerning his Federal Vision theology and teachings (ROC 2006-2; pp. 21-23).

2.On July 6, 2005, the LAP FV/AAT study committee examined TE Wilkins by telephone interview and via emails (ROC 2006-2; pp. 21-23).

3.At the stated meeting of LAP on July 16, 2005, the FVAAT study committee reported its investigation of TE Wilkins. The LAP adopted the final report of the study committee, "Louisiana Presbytery Report on Federal Vision Theology." (ROC 2006-2, pp. 6-9) LAP exonerated TE Wilkins finding him "to be within the bounds of the Confession at this time," and declaring him to be "publicly exonerated by Louisiana Presbytery and declared to be faithful to the Confessional Standards of the PCA." (ROC 2006-2; p. 9)

4.On January 28, 2006, the PCA Stated Clerk's office received a Memorial from Central Carolina Presbytery (CCP). After several pages of "whereas" the Memorial requested the following:

Therefore, be it resolved that the Central Carolina Presbytery of the PCA sends this Memorial to the SJC of the PCA to assume original jurisdiction over the investigation of TE Steven Wilkins' teaching, 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 the SJC declines to accept original jurisdiction over the investigation of TE Steven Wilkins' teaching, then the CCP hereby petitions the SJC to cite Louisiana Presbytery to appear per BCO 40-5 and SJC Manual 16. (ROC 2006-2; pp. 17-20).

5.In its March 2-3, 2006 stated meeting, the SJC declined the request from CCP to assume original jurisdiction, but found the second part of the CCP Memorial in order and cited LAP to appear at the October 2006 SJC meeting, in accordance with BCO 40-5. A three-man committee of the SJC was appointed to help the SJC prepare for that meeting.

6.On April 3, 2006, the SJC cited LAP to appear before it at its October 2006 stated meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. LAP appointed TE Howard Davis as its representative.

7.On behalf of the LAP, TE Howard Davis filed an objection to the SJC's citation on August 15, 2006. His objections were four-fold:
a.Materials were sent to the SJC that were not submitted by the LAP.
b.SJC members must not consider materials other than the relevant documents attendant to the CCP Memorial.
c.CCP did not request an investigation of LAP by the SJC.
d.In handling the Memorial, the SJC may handle only "matters of process, procedure or proceedings."

8.The SJC committee presented to the SJC a proposed "report of the Ad Hoc committee of SJC case 2006-2" on September 27, 2006. In that report the committee answered TE Davis' objections and set forth a proposed set of guidelines for questioning the LAP representative at the October meeting of the SJC.

9.On October 19, 2006 at its stated meeting, the SJC met with LAP representative, TE H. Davis, at the Old Peachtree PCA church in Duluth, GA. In that meeting the SJC denied TE Davis' objections and specified the following amends (vote 17-0).

That, as Louisiana Presbytery has not completed an adequate examination of TE Wilkins' views, the SJC 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 LAP, as a court, examine TE Wilkins on the specific concerns raised by the CCP Memorial and matters raised herein; that this examination be conducted in the light of the theology and concepts of the WCF and Larger and Shorter Catechism, 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 CCP Memorial as well as pertinent published materials containing TE Wilkins' views on 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 LAP 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 directives be accomplished and reported to the SJC no later than February 16, 2007, for final review.

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

10.On December 8, 2006, TE Steve Wilkins provided to LAP a written response to questions about his teachings and the FV/AAT (ROC 2007-8; pp. 31-66), in addition to a written list of his exceptions to The Westminster Standards (ROC 2007-8; p. 14). The written questions were put to him by members of LAP and gathered by TE Davis, chairman of the Examinations and Candidates Committee. (ROC 13).

11.On December 9, 2006, at a called meeting LAP re-examined TE Steve Wilkins, in an oral exam, at Pineville PCA Church, Pineville, LA (ROC 2007-9; pp. 67-186). This was a BCO 31-2 investigation of allegations. During this meeting, but prior to the exam, a motion was made by TE James Jones to refer the investigation/examination of TE Wilkins to the General Assembly and the SJC. The motion was defeated. The LAP Examinations and Candidates Committee was tasked to prepare a report based on the exam, which was to be submitted for final approval at their stated meeting six weeks later.

12.On January 20, 2007, at its stated meeting, LAP exonerated TE Wilkins for a second time, stating that it "finds no strong presumption of guilt in any of the charges contained therein and exercises its prerogative not to institute process regarding those allegations." (ROC 2007-8; p. 15) LAP adopted, as grounds for its decision, the 37 pages of TE Wilkins' written responses (ROC 31-66) and the 119 page transcript of his oral investigation (ROC 67-186).

13.On February1, 2007, LAP requested an extension to the SJC's February 16 deadline to provide a rationale for its decision of January 20 to exonerate TE Wilkins, with a revised due date of April 28, 2007. This request was granted. The response was timely received and included in the ROC. (ROC 2007-08; p.187-206)

14.On February 15, 2007, TE James Jones filed a complaint with LAP stating that LAP erred in exonerating TE Wilkins. His complaint voiced three concerns (summarized below):

a. The deep division in LAP over TE Wilkins examination (13 to sustain; 8 to not sustain) reflected the need to refer the matter to the General Assembly.
b In the examination, TE Wilkins redefined biblical and Confessional terms before giving his assent to the teachings of Scripture and The Westminster Standards. TE Wilkins maintains that the Bible and The Westminster Standards teach differing doctrines.
c. In his examination, TE Wilkins displayed serious variances with The Westminster Standards in the areas of election, perseverance and apostasy, the doctrine of the visible/invisible church, assurance and baptism (ROC 2007-8; p.16).


15.On February 20, 2007, TE Howard Davis filed a dissent with LAP concerning its exoneration of TE Wilkins (ROC 2007-08; p.17).

16.On April 21, 2007, at its stated meeting, LAP denied the Complaint of TE Jones and appointed TE Mark Duncan as its representative, although the Complaint to the GA of TE Jones is dated May 1 and received by the SJC on May 7 (ROC pp. 01, 16).

a.LAP also adopted a 20-page "Rationale for Louisiana Presbytery's Decision Regarding the Vindication of TE Steven Wilkins" as "reflecting the basis of a majority of Presbyters who found no strong presumption of guilt of TE Steve Wilkins being out of accord with the Confessional standards" and instructed it be sent to the SJC. (ROC 16 & 187-206).
b.At this same meeting, LAP appointed TE Mark Duncan to respond to the dissent of TE Howard Davis. This response is included in the ROC, pages 24-30.

17.On May 7, 2007, TE James Jones filed his complaint with the Stated Clerk of General Assembly and the SJC. Added to that complaint were the names of RE Taylor Mayes, TE Paul Lipe, RE Ellis Smith, RE Albert Christian, RE Troy Richards and RE Walter Huffman (ROC 2007-8; pp. 1-4).

18.On May 22, 2007, TE Mark Duncan, on behalf of LAP, responded to the dissent of TE Howard Davis. LAP answered the dissent in the negative, stating that "the conclusion of the matter is that the Louisiana Presbytery continues to see no strong presumption of guilt that TE Steve Wilkins is in violation of his ordination vow concerning fidelity to The Westminster Standards." (ROC 2007-8; pp. 24-30)

19.On July 5, 2007, the SJC assigned a panel to adjudicate the complaint of TE Jones, et al., designated now as SJC case 2007-8.

20.On July 17, 2007, the SJC panel for case 2007-8 met for the first time via telephone conference. The constituting meeting elected RE Tom Leopard as chairman, RE Steve O'Ban as secretary, and directed TE Mike Ross to prepare a summary of the facts. TE Steve Meyerhoff attended the conference as an alternate.

21.On July 23, 2007, the Panel Chairman notified the Parties and Panel Members by e-mail that a hearing was scheduled for 10:00 AM, EDT at the Crowne Plaza Airport Hotel in Atlanta, GA on Monday, September 10, 2007, and informed the Parties of their rights under SJCM 11. The Parties and Panel members acknowledged by e-mail their receipt of said notice.
II. Statement of the Issues

1) Did Louisiana Presbytery fail to apply the correct Constitutional standard when it sought to determine whether TE Wilkins "may differ with The Confession of Faith and Catechisms in any of their statements and/or propositions?" (BCO 21-4, RAO 16-3(e)(5))
2) Does the record support a probable finding that Louisiana Presbytery erred, and thereby violated BCO 13-9.f, 40-4, and 40-5, when it failed to find a strong presumption of guilt that some of the views of TE Steve Wilkins were out of conformity with the Constitutional standards?

III. Judgment

1) Yes.
2) Yes.
Therefore the complaint is sustained; Presbytery's action of April 21, 2007, to deny the complaint of TE Jones is annulled (BCO 43-10); and the Memorial from Central Carolina Presbytery remains before the Standing Judicial Commission. [See the judgment in 2006-2 for additional amends.]

IV.Reasoning and Opinion

It is the opinion of the Standing Judicial Commission that Louisiana Presbytery (LAP) erred in two crucial and related ways. First, it failed to apply the proper Constitutional standard for dealing with TE Wilkins' differences. Second, it apparently failed adequately to guard the Church from "erroneous opinions that injure the peace or purity of the Church." (BCO 13-9(f))
Presbytery's respondent argues in his supplemental brief that "Pastor Wilkins has served Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church and Louisiana Presbytery faithfully for over 20 years. LAP is in the unique position of judging Wilkins' views regarding the so called `Federal Vision' in the context of all of TE Wilkins' work." We agree that Presbytery is in a unique position to judge TE Wilkins' views and work. However, BCO 39-3(4) reminds us that "higher court...have the power and obligation of judicial review, which cannot be satisfied by always deferring to the findings of a lower court. Therefore, a higher court should not consider itself obliged to exhibit the same deference to a lower court when the issues being reviewed involve the interpretation of the Constitution of the Church. Regarding such issues, the higher court has the duty and authority to interpret and apply the Constitution of the Church according to its best abilities and understanding, regardless of the opinion of the lower court."
It is precisely such issues of Constitutional interpretation that are at stake in this case. The issues in this case do not involve issues of fact (BCO 39-2) or issues of judgment (BCO 39-3), either of which would require this court to exercise great deference toward the actions and decisions of the Louisiana Presbytery. Instead, the critical issues in this case involve the proper understanding of what it means to have a "difference" with the standards of our Constitution (BCO 21-4, RAO 16-3(e)(5)), how to apply that meaning of "difference" in the examination of a presbytery member's views, whether the LAP has properly applied that meaning, and whether the circumstances presented in this matter give rise to a strong presumption of guilt that LAP has failed to uphold the standards of our Constitution. We find the answer to each of these questions to be "yes."

Judgment 1
In this matter, LAP's examinations of TE Wilkins and its defense of those examinations have focused on whether TE Wilkins has or takes "exceptions" to the Constitution in his teaching and preaching. In testimony before the LAP, TE Wilkins identified five "exceptions or reservations" he has held since his ordination and brought these to the attention of the Presbytery. Beyond these five areas, TE Wilkins repeatedly asserted that he did not consider any of his views to be out of accord with the standards. Further, in his testimony he affirmed various propositions of The Westminster Confession and asserted that he did not deny them.
Based primarily upon these assertions in his testimony, Presbytery's brief repeatedly asserts that TE Wilkins claims no further exceptions, does not overtly deny or expressly contradict the teaching of the confession and, therefore, cannot be found to be in violation of its teaching (See, e.g. Preliminary Brief at I.1 and I.6). Similarly, the Presbytery's answer to the dissent of a presbyter to LAP's decision not to bring process against TE Wilkins asserted that TE Wilkins does not contradict or deny the teachings of the Confession. The standard adopted by LAP suggests that an "exception" only occurs where the stated position of the party being examined denies or contradicts the teaching of the Constitution. That standard is not in keeping with our Constitution (see BCO 21-4 and RAO 16-3(e)(5)).
Further, the Presbytery argues once that party has asserted that his views are not out of accord with the Constitutional standards, it is the responsibility of other parties to refute that assertion – not the duty of the Presbytery to independently ascertain whether the party being examined is correct. (Brief at I.3 – "CCP did not provide convincing evidence that TE Wilkins is out of accord…."). Again, this is not the standard of presbytery review required by our Constitution.
Presbyteries are to determine whether a candidate or member has any differences with the teaching of the Constitution. A difference does not require overt contradiction or denial. It can arise when a member "quibbles" with the sufficiency of the exegesis underlying the proposition of the Constitution. It may occur when a member redefines terms specifically defined in our Constitutional standards. It can arise when a party describes the Constitution as "incomplete, misleading, or inaccurate." It occurs whenever a position is asserted that "differs" with the authoritative exposition stated in our Constitutional standards.
Once a difference has been stated, or statements suggesting a difference exists are made, the Presbytery has an affirmative duty to explore that difference and to decide whether the difference is merely semantic, whether it is more than semantic but "not out of accord with any fundamental of our system of doctrine", or whether the stated difference is "out of accord" and "hostile to our system" or strikes "at the vitals of religion." (RAO 16-3(e)(5)). Louisiana Presbytery, in its examinations of TE Wilkins, in its brief for this matter, and in its response to the dissent filed against the actions complained of here, consistently failed to implement this process as to differences raised by TE Wilkins' statements in this matter.
In the brief of LAP, Presbytery's representative states that "TE Wilkins teaches that at least in some sense covenant members can be forgiven of sins and yet lose that forgiveness." (Brief at 4, emphasis in the original). The representative acknowledges TE Wilkins, "questions the usefulness of the terminology "invisible" [with reference to the church]." (Brief at 6, emphasis in the original). The Presbytery's response to a dissent to its actions in this matter states that, "TE Wilkins has affirmed that in some sense covenant members can have a `living and vital' relationship with God that can be lost…." (ROC at 1). Further, "in Wilkins' teaching, he affirms The Confession while at the same time maintaining that Scripture often uses the language of salvation in a broader sense than does The Confession … attempting to be faithful to how the Bible describes the members of the visible covenant community." (ROC at 3).
In each of these instances, presbytery's own description of TE Wilkins' statements established that TE Wilkins did state differences with The Confession. Presbytery was required to investigate these differences and classify them under RAO 16-3(e)(5). Rather than complying with this affirmative responsibility, LAP asserted that TE Wilkins does not deny or contradict teachings of the Constitutional standards and concluded that the standards have not been violated. That conclusion was in error for two specific reasons:
First, as already discussed, it applies a non-Constitutional standard as to what constitutes a "difference" – concluding that a difference only exists where the party being examined contradicts or denies specific propositions of the Constitution. Our Constitution does not require a party to directly deny or contradict a proposition before a "difference" exists. Disagreements with wording, questions of arguments that exegesis allows for other meanings all constitute differences. Where such differences arise, the Presbytery must evaluate them according to RAO 16-3(e)(5).
Second, that duty to evaluate the difference rests squarely on the shoulders of the Presbytery. It may not defer to the examined party's claim that his view is not in conflict with the Constitution; Presbytery must make that determination on its own. It may not transfer the duty to prove that the difference contradicts the standards to third parties – such as those who raise the question with it. Where a difference has been brought to light, the Presbytery is obliged to consider and evaluate the difference against the Constitution itself.
Concerning this duty to evaluate differences, our Book of Church Order contemplates specific situations where the duty arises for a presbytery – at the beginning of a member's relationship with the presbytery (transfer, BCO 13-6 or candidacy/ordination, e.g. BCO 21-4), when a member brings issues to his presbytery's attention of his own accord (BCO 21-5, Ordination Vow 2), or when the matter is brought to the attention of the court from the outside (BCO 31-2, 40-5, etc.). However, that duty is an ongoing responsibility of the presbytery. (BCO 13-9(f)). In whatever manner a difference comes to the attention of the presbytery, the presbytery bears the burden and responsibility of investigation, discernment and judgment as to the view of its member. (BCO 13-9, 13-11, and RAO 16-3(e)(5)). No other party has a "burden of proof" to overcome before the presbytery is required to undertake its responsibilities to evaluate the differences brought out. Where the presbytery fails in this duty, as in the matter presently before us, it is the responsibility of the higher court to call it to account for the failure.

Judgment 2
BCO 13-9.f gives presbyteries the power and responsibility to "condemn erroneous opinions which injure the purity or peace of the Church." Further, BCO 40-4 states, "Courts may sometimes entirely neglect to perform their duty, by which neglect heretical opinions or corrupt practices may be allowed to gain ground." The record is clear that TE Wilkins expressed views that differ at key points from the Constitutional standards. Given the nature of those apparent differences, it is the conclusion of the Standing Judicial Commission that there is a strong presumption from the record that Louisiana Presbytery did, in fact, neglect its duty to "condemn erroneous opinions which injure the purity or peace of the Church" when it found on January 20, 2007, "no strong presumption of guilt in any of the charges contained [in the Memorial from Central Carolina Presbytery] and exercise[d] its prerogative not to institute process regarding those allegations;" and when it acted on April 21, 2007, to deny the complaint of TE James Jones, specifying as grounds "the written exam of TE Wilkins and his transcribed oral exam on December 9, 2006, and the supporting rationale adopted by Presbytery this day...."
The following are examples of areas in which the stated views of TE Wilkins differ from the Constitutional Standards and do so in ways that fairly raise questions as to whether the views are hostile to the fundamentals of the system of doctrine.

Concerning election:
TE Wilkins, in his written questions for Presbytery, maintains that the Confession uses the term election decretively, whereas the Bible uses the term covenantally. He notes that "Paul and Peter do not appear to use the terms `elect' and `chosen' to apply exclusively to those who were chosen to eternal salvation (i.e., in The Westminster Confession sense). He then references certain Scripture passages to support this view, the same Scripture passages used by the WCF to support `decretal' election. In doing this, he is asserting a difference between The Standards' view of election and that of Scripture. This may rise to a level that strikes at the fundamentals of the system of doctrine. (ROC 37-38) (Cf. WCF 3.5-6)
He states that "Paul seems to be viewing those who are in the church as the elect. And saying, you need to persevere there, don't ever depart from Jesus, or you're not going to be one of the elect anymore because where you find the elect is the visible church." (ROC 110) This statement was part of his response to the question posed to him regarding his written statement in the Federal Vision to the effect, "that the elect are faithful in Jesus Christ, 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." (ROC 109) (Cf. WLC 64 and 65; 79)
Moreover, TE Wilkins holds that "those who are members of the body of the Elect One [i.e. Christ] are viewed as `elect' themselves." (ROC 38) He often notes that Scripture appears to use the word elect of those in the visible body of Christ. This appears to stand in contradiction to WLC Q.64, that the elect are members of the invisible church.

Concerning Perseverance and Apostasy:
TE Wilkins holds that "when the Confession says that these non-elect people `never truly come unto Christ,' it means that they do not receive Christ with a faith that perseveres unto final salvation." (ROC 34) But this is not what The Confession says. It says, they `never truly come unto Christ,' not that they do not receive Christ with a persevering faith (WLC 68).
TE Wilkins says that apostates are not saved "because they fail to persevere and fall short of receiving the fullness of redemption as it is described in WCF 10-18." This statement appears to differ with the Confession which says that while they "may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet they never truly come to Christ, and therefore cannot be saved." (WLC 168).

Concerning Visible/Invisible Church
TE Wilkins claims that "the invisible Church does not yet exist though it is surely foreordained by God and will surely and certainly exist at the last day…" He also claims "It seems better to speak of the `invisible' church simply as the `eschatological church' – i.e., the church in its perfection as it will exist at the last day." (ROC, p. 39b)
Speaking of the invisible church, TE Wilkins states that "if the invisible church consists of the whole number of the elect, then it cannot itself exist except in the mind of God, I mean God knows who's going to come, but it can't exist as an entity until that whole number is brought together. … it exists, but it exists in the form of the visible church now…" (ROC, p. 124)
TE Wilkins' statements appear to differ materially with The Confession that states that the universal church which is invisible is also presently gathered under Christ as the Head. (WCF XXV.I)

Concerning Baptism:
In his written answers to LAP, TE Steve Wilkins wrote the following:
"When I say `everyone who has been baptized is a Christian,' I am speaking of the objective covenantal reality – i.e., the one baptized has been baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and thus bears the name of the Triune God and has been brought into covenant union with Christ by the power of the Spirit as Paul says in I Cor. 12:13. Paul doesn't seem to view this as something true only for some of the baptised [sic] but rather this is true for all (note v. 27 `Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.')" (ROC, p. 63)
"Thus, baptism is a `sign' in that by this means the Holy Spirit transfers the baptized from union with the old Adam into Christ Jesus (The Confession's scriptural proofs cite Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:5 at this point), transferring him into Christ, the `new creation' (2 Cor. 5:17). Thus, it is a sign and seal of regeneration (the proofs cite John 3:5; Titus 3:5 to prove this point). By the Spirit we are `given up unto God' – i.e., bound to walk in `newness of life' (repenting of our sins, trusting and obeying the Savior all our days)." (ROC, p. 56)
TE Wilkins' statements in this written report are consistent with the quotations of his views in the Memorial of Central Carolina Presbytery to the Standing Judicial Commission, as follows:
"If someone has been baptized, he is in covenant with God."
"Covenant is union with Christ."
"Being in covenant gives all the blessings of being united to Christ."
"Those who are in covenant have all the spiritual blessings in the heavenly places." (ROC, Memorial of CCP, p. 19).
Yet, the WCF 28.6 on the "efficacy of baptism" says that "the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God's own will, in his appointed time." TE Wilkins' views appear to differ materially from the teaching of the WCF on baptism.

Given the nature of these and other issues on which TE Wilkins appears to have expressed differences from the positions of The Westminster Standards, and given the action of Presbytery to find no strong presumption of guilt with regard to the issues raised in the Memorial, and given the action of Presbytery to deny the complaint of TE Jones (and noting the supporting rationale for that denial); and given Presbytery's failure to explain how they concluded TE Wilkins' views are consistent with The Westminster Standards and do not strike at the fundamentals of the system of doctrine (BCO 21-4) Presbytery has given the appearance that it has failed to "condemn erroneous opinions which injure the purity or peace of the Church" and, by this neglect may have allowed heretical opinions to gain ground.
In sum, it is the opinion of the Standing Judicial Commission that Louisiana Presbytery erred in its interpretation of the proper standards and procedures for dealing with TE Wilkins' expressed differences from The Westminster documents, which, as BCO 29-1 and 39-3 both note are "accepted by the Presbyterian Church in America as standard expositions of the teachings of Scripture in relation to both faith and practice." Moreover, there is at least a strong presumption that Presbytery erred in failing to condemn the views in question. Indeed, Presbytery's citation, without any caveats whatsoever, of the written and oral examinations of TE Wilkins as part of its grounds for denying the complaint of TE Jones gives the appearance that Presbytery is supportive of views such as those noted above, and it reinforces the concern that Presbytery has failed to meet its Constitutional obligations as noted above. It is for these reasons that the complaint is sustained and the judgment noted above is entered.

This opinion was written by TE Howell Burkhalter, TE Paul Fowler, TE Stephen Clark, TE Dewey Roberts, RE Frederick Neikirk, RE Steven O'Ban and RE Tom Leopard
October 19, 2007
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
Statement of the Issues
1) Did Louisiana Presbytery comply with the directive of the Standing Judicial Commission that it, "with due diligence and great discretion" (BCO 31-2) deal with the allegations that TE Steven TE 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) by carrying out the amends specified by the Standing Judicial Commission in Section II of the "Reasoning, Opinion, and Amends" portion of Part I of this report?
2) Did Louisiana Presbytery reach a decision consistent with the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in America when it found "no strong presumption of guilt in any of the charges contained [in the Central Carolina Memorial] and exercise[d] its prerogative not to institute process regarding [those] allegations?"

Judgment
1) Yes.
2) No - See the judgment, reasoning and opinion in case 2007-8, TE James Jones, Jr., et al., vs. Louisiana Presbytery, in particular Judgment 2.
Amends - Pursuant to BCO 40-5 the Standing Judicial Commission hereby cites Louisiana Presbytery to appear "to show what it has done or failed to do in the case in question." To implement this process, RE Samuel J. Duncan is hereby appointed to: a) serve as prosecutor in this matter and conduct the case, which is designated as Case 2007-14; b) select Assistant Prosecutors from members of the General Assembly to assist him with this matter; c) draw an indictment to be served upon Louisiana Presbytery, with the circumstances and specifications therein not being limited to those raised in 2006-02 and 2007-8; d) prepare a citation instructing Louisiana Presbytery to respond, in writing or at a called meeting of the Standing Judicial Commission, to the indictment and to enter its plea to the matters contained therein not later than February 1, 2008. (BCO 40-6, 31-2, 32-3) If Louisiana Presbytery enters a plea of "not guilty," then Louisiana Presbytery is directed to appear, through its representatives, for trial in this matter before the Standing Judicial Commission on March 5, 2008 (BCO 40-5, 40-6, 31-2, 32-3).

Looking forward. :)
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
Statement of the Issues
1) Did Louisiana Presbytery comply with the directive of the Standing Judicial Commission that it, "with due diligence and great discretion" (BCO 31-2) deal with the allegations that TE Steven TE 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) by carrying out the amends specified by the Standing Judicial Commission in Section II of the "Reasoning, Opinion, and Amends" portion of Part I of this report?
2) Did Louisiana Presbytery reach a decision consistent with the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in America when it found "no strong presumption of guilt in any of the charges contained [in the Central Carolina Memorial] and exercise[d] its prerogative not to institute process regarding [those] allegations?"
Judgment
1) Yes.
2) No - See the judgment, reasoning and opinion in case 2007-8, TE James Jones, Jr., et al., vs. Louisiana Presbytery, in particular Judgment 2.
Amends - Pursuant to BCO 40-5 the Standing Judicial Commission hereby cites Louisiana Presbytery to appear "to show what it has done or failed to do in the case in question." To implement this process, RE Samuel J. Duncan is hereby appointed to: a) serve as prosecutor in this matter and conduct the case, which is designated as Case 2007-14; b) select Assistant Prosecutors from members of the General Assembly to assist him with this matter; c) draw an indictment to be served upon Louisiana Presbytery, with the circumstances and specifications therein not being limited to those raised in 2006-02 and 2007-8; d) prepare a citation instructing Louisiana Presbytery to respond, in writing or at a called meeting of the Standing Judicial Commission, to the indictment and to enter its plea to the matters contained therein not later than February 1, 2008. (BCO 40-6, 31-2, 32-3) If Louisiana Presbytery enters a plea of "not guilty," then Louisiana Presbytery is directed to appear, through its representatives, for trial in this matter before the Standing Judicial Commission on March 5, 2008 (BCO 40-5, 40-6, 31-2, 32-3).
Looking forward. :)

Yeah, that is the main thrust of that whole thing at this current time.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
I wonder if, when and who will throw down the accusation "star chamber" first? Or has that been done already?:think:
I assume this took so long as the SJC wanted the decisions to reach the presbyteries concerend; I know NTexas just had their meeting so I imagine everyone else was having their Fall meeting about now as well.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
So in one sentence this means...?

Looks like the Presbytery itself is now going to be prosecuted by the SJC for its failure to properly examine TE Wilkins and will have to defend its judgment. It has to show what it has done or failed to do in the examination as its records were pretty poor. If it enters a plea of "not guilty" then it will have to appear before the SJC. Samuel Duncan has been appointed as the prosecutor and he is to appoint assistant prosecutors.
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
That Louisiana Presbytery will be summoned to appear before the SJC and will go on trial for failing to apply the Constitution to properly judge the case of Rev. Wilkins. If found guilty, the Presbytery - and all its ministers and churches - could be dismissed from the PCA.
 

Poimen

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Fred:

Would either of these steps have to be done with the approval of GA?
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
The SJC is the GA for the purposes of a judicial proceeding. It is the Standing Judicial Commission, not Committee.

Additionally, the Rules of Assembly Operations and the SJC Manual state that if a minority report is not filed, that there is no action at GA except to receive the decision. (And the decision was unanimous, 17-0)
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
Fred:

Would either of these steps have to be done with the approval of GA?

The SJC acts for (on behalf of) the GA. If there was a minority in the voting then I think the minority could bring it before GA, however, it doesn't seem like there is a minority at all in this case b/c it was a unanimous vote.



Fred,
If found guilty, could the LA Presbytery be punished in another way other than being kicked out?

Also, if kicked out of PCA, what would happen to any churches or Pastors who would have voted against what the LA Presbytery did? Would they then asked to rejoin the PCA as part of another presbytery and be asked to be reexamined on their views? Anything in response to this would be helpful. Thanks.
 

weinhold

Puritan Board Freshman
So . . . South Carolina is Anti-Federal in its theology, Anti-Federal in its political philosophy, but Federal in ecclesiastical polity? :lol:

What would John C. Calhoun think of this? ;)
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
Fred:

Would either of these steps have to be done with the approval of GA?

The SJC acts for (on behalf of) the GA. If there was a minority in the voting then I think the minority could bring it before GA, however, it doesn't seem like there is a minority at all in this case b/c it was a unanimous vote.



Fred,
If found guilty, could the LA Presbytery be punished in another way other than being kicked out?

Also, if kicked out of PCA, what would happen to any churches or Pastors who would have voted against what the LA Presbytery did? Would they then asked to rejoin the PCA as part of another presbytery and be asked to be reexamined on their views? Anything in response to this would be helpful. Thanks.

It is my understanding that, in accordance with the PCA's BCO which does not allow a higher court to act for a lower court, the only action that can be taken is to dismiss the Presbytery.

Ministers and churches would then have the opportunity to petition to be re-included in the PCA. That might happen as a reconstituted LA Presbytery, or in another of the existing Presbytery(ies).
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
So . . . South Carolina is Anti-Federal in its theology, Anti-Federal in its political philosophy, but Federal in ecclesiastical polity? :lol:

What would John C. Calhoun think of this? ;)

Sorry, this makes no sense to me, especially in the current thread.
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
Fred:

Would either of these steps have to be done with the approval of GA?

The SJC acts for (on behalf of) the GA. If there was a minority in the voting then I think the minority could bring it before GA, however, it doesn't seem like there is a minority at all in this case b/c it was a unanimous vote.



Fred,
If found guilty, could the LA Presbytery be punished in another way other than being kicked out?

Also, if kicked out of PCA, what would happen to any churches or Pastors who would have voted against what the LA Presbytery did? Would they then asked to rejoin the PCA as part of another presbytery and be asked to be reexamined on their views? Anything in response to this would be helpful. Thanks.

It is my understanding that, in accordance with the PCA's BCO which does not allow a higher court to act for a lower court, the only action that can be taken is to dismiss the Presbytery.

Ministers and churches would then have the opportunity to petition to be re-included in the PCA. That might happen as a reconstituted LA Presbytery, or in another of the existing Presbytery(ies).


How sad to be in the midst of that.
 

Kevin

Puritan Board Doctor
The SJC is the GA for the purposes of a judicial proceeding. It is the Standing Judicial Commission, not Committee.

Additionally, the Rules of Assembly Operations and the SJC Manual state that if a minority report is not filed, that there is no action at GA except to receive the decision. (And the decision was unanimous, 17-0)

All other issues aside, does this bother anyone else? A standing commitee acts as a defacto GA. That hardly seem presbyterian.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
The SJC is the GA for the purposes of a judicial proceeding. It is the Standing Judicial Commission, not Committee.

Additionally, the Rules of Assembly Operations and the SJC Manual state that if a minority report is not filed, that there is no action at GA except to receive the decision. (And the decision was unanimous, 17-0)

All other issues aside, does this bother anyone else? A standing commitee acts as a defacto GA. That hardly seem presbyterian.

That's the problem with "doing Presbyterianism our own way" instead of the Presbyterian way. The denom has created a de facto Supreme Court (SJC), and a de facto Senate (B&O supercommittee), both which are technically subservient to the Assembly (Convention?), but are in fact new loci of power.

I know that, whatever the outcome, if I were bringing an issue (judicial or doctrinal) to the highest court, I would not want the "gathered mind" of the church to actually be an even smaller group than my presbytery meeting.

I say this, while I in general applaud the decision arrived at. But the method I still find distasteful. If the decision were poor but the method proper, I would yet honor the overall process as right.
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
Don't know how to do that, but here:

(by the way, Rich, how do I avoid going over my attachment limit?)
 
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