Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Serious Doctrinal Departures

Here’s an article from Presbyterian & Reformed News about Louisiana Presbytery. Seven years ago they started entertaining thoughts of leaving the PCA because it “has begun tolerating serious doctrinal departures from the truth of Scripture as contained in its constitutional Reformed standards.” Steve Wilkins led the charge. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor 10:12).

Louisiana Schedules Discussion Regarding ‘Serious Doctrinal Departure’ in PCA
Agenda Will Sound Themes of Separation and Reform

Louisiana Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), at its stated meeting on January 15, 2000, voted to schedule a discussion regarding “serious doctrinal departure” by the denomination. The discussion has been set for July 15, 2000, in a special meeting which will be held in lieu of the regular summer stated meeting.

Sparking the unusual move was an overture from Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church, Monroe, Louisiana, pastored by noted author and Southern scholar Steve Wilkins. The Auburn Avenue proposal not only alleges doctrinal infidelity by the PCA; it also claims that “there is little prospect, humanly speaking, of this troublesome drift away from our standards reversing itself.” The solution proposed by the Monroe congregation was that of discussion of these matters in the congregations of the Presbytery, with a very real prospect of “peaceably withdrawing from the PCA as a presbytery in order that we might continue to serve the Lord in fidelity to His Word” [italics in the original — Ed.].

The Presbytery, however, was not willing to go quite that far. Instead, it modified the overture by eliminating the wording concerning ecclesiastical withdrawal and resolved rather that a special meeting of presbytery be called simply “to discuss these issues.” The Christian Education Committee was directed “to invite speakers to present papers on these issues of Biblical separation and Reform at the called meeting using the funds of Presbytery.”

Forming the basis of the Auburn Avenue overture are the assertions that “the Word of God is truth, and denominational unity must be founded upon truth” and that “the historic marks of the church are the faithful preaching of the Word of God, the faithful administration of the sacraments, and the faithful exercise of church discipline.” Next is a reminder that the PCA, which was formed less than thirty years ago, at its birth “declared to the churches its fidelity to the Scriptures and commitment to the Reformed faith.”

After that is the assertion that the PCA “has begun tolerating serious doctrinal departures from the truth of Scripture as contained in its constitutional Reformed standards; specifically on the issues of creation, the Apostolic gifts and the role of women in the church, which errors will inevitably lead to others.”

Singled out for criticism are “seminaries considered Reformed by many” which “tolerate doctrinal teaching on these issues which are contrary to the Reformed faith and are sending forth candidates for the ministry who have been indoctrinated with these erroneous perspectives.”

Furthermore, the overture declares that “the PCA is increasingly becoming controlled by its committees and agencies with little meaningful oversight from the General Assembly and presbyters, which is creating a dangerous centralization of power and bureaucracy contrary to true, historic principles of presbyterianism.”

Moreover, “there is a growing tendency in the PCA to view missions from a modernistic, church growth perspective and an increasing tendency to tolerate and engage in activities in worship and evangelism, which are more man-centered than God-honoring.”

The overture observes that “there is strong evidence of an increasing antipathy by those in positions of authority in the PCA to those who have more traditional, Reformed views.” The document claims that “private and public efforts have been made for numerous years to address and correct the aforementioned concerns with no discernible success.”

The overture notes that “any church may constitutionally withdraw from the PCA by a majority vote of its congregation at any time it wished for reasons deemed sufficient by it (BCO 25-11).” It also states that the Auburn Avenue Session had, in six separate meetings, presented to the congregation a tentative plan “concerning the willingness of the Session for [the church] to peaceably and with animosity toward none withdraw from the PCA under certain conditions, which tentative plan was overwhelmingly approved in a straw poll held at [the church].”

The document says that “the conditions for withdrawal deemed necessary by the . . . Session include being joined in the withdrawal by a number of like-minded congregations in Louisiana Presbytery to form a new presbytery and the adoption of constitutional standards expressly setting forth agreed-upon Reformed doctrinal standards, including areas where there will and will not be doctrinal deviation.”

The notion of setting forth areas where doctrinal deviation would be allowed in a new ecclesiastical setting is a sensitive issue for Auburn Avenue and several other churches of Louisiana Presbytery, whose elders have adopted the doctrine of paedo-communion (that is, the belief that small children, even before making a conscious profession of faith, should be admitted to the Lord’s table).

The possibility of losing a whole presbytery, or a significant portion of it, would strike a serious blow to the PCA’s efforts to reach much of Louisiana. The state is mostly Baptist and Roman Catholic territory, and Reformed churches do not abound. Southeast Louisiana Presbytery, which covers the population centers of Baton Rouge and New Orleans, has six organized and two mission churches, with a total membership of 1,394, according to the latest available denominational statistics. Louisiana Presbytery, which covers the rest of the state and a portion of southwest Arkansas, has ten churches and about 1,100 members.

The Presbytery also has experienced two recent defections to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. In 1997, Grace Presbyterian Church, Alexandria, one of the PCA’s original churches, departed. In December, First Presbyterian Church of Oakdale, which had dwindled to a handful of congregants, likewise made the switch.

The other Reformed presence in the state is represented by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), which has a congregation in Pineville and a mission work in the New Orleans area. The Pineville OPC was begun several years ago by disaffected members from Grace Church in Alexandria, who were upset about the less-than-traditional approach to ministry and worship evident there.

Overture Concerning the Presbyterian Church in America

WHEREAS, the Word of God is truth, and denominational unity must be founded upon truth;

WHEREAS, the historic marks of the church are the faithful preaching of the Word of God, the faithful administration of the sacraments, and the faithful exercise of church discipline;

WHEREAS, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) upon its birth less than thirty (30) years ago declared to the churches its fidelity to the Scriptures and commitment to the Reformed Faith;

WHEREAS, the PCA has begun tolerating serious doctrinal departures from the truth of Scripture as contained in its constitutional Reformed standards; specifically on the issues of creation, the Apostolic gifts and the role of women in the church, which errors will inevitably lead to others;

WHEREAS, seminaries considered Reformed by many tolerate doctrinal teaching on these issues which are contrary to the historical Reformed faith and are sending forth candidates for ministry who have been indoctrinated with these erroneous perspectives;

WHEREAS, the PCA is increasingly becoming controlled by its committees and agencies with little meaningful oversight from the General Assembly and presbyters, which is creating a dangerous centralization of power and bureaucracy contrary to true, historic principles of presbyterianism;

WHEREAS, there is a growing tendency in the PCA to view missions from a modernistic, church growth perspective and an increasing tendency to tolerate and engage in activities in worship and evangelism, which are more man-centered than God-honoring;

WHEREAS, there is strong evidence of an increasing antipathy by those in positions of authority in the PCA to those who have more traditional, Reformed views;

WHEREAS, private and public efforts have been made for numerous years to address and correct the afore-mentioned concerns with no discernible success.

WHEREAS, there is little prospect, humanly speaking, of this troublesome drift away from our standards reversing itself;

WHEREAS, any church may constitutionally withdraw from the PCA by majority vote of its congregation at any time it wishes for reasons deemed sufficient by it (BCO 25-11);

WHEREAS, the AAPC Session in six separate meetings presented a tentative plan to its congregation concerning the willingness of the Session for AAPC to peaceably and with animosity toward none withdraw from the PCA under certain conditions, which tentative plan was overwhelmingly supported in a straw poll vote held at AAPC;

WHEREAS, the conditions for withdrawal deemed necessary by the AAPC Session include being joined in the withdrawal by a number of like-minded congregations in Louisiana Presbytery to form a new presbytery and the adoption of constitutional standards expressly setting forth agreed-upon Reformed doctrinal standards, including areas where there will and will not be doctrinal toleration;

WHEREAS, the AAPC Session desires that there be open and honest discussion and debate among their fellow presbyters and congregations at Louisiana Presbytery over these issues;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Session of Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church requests the Louisiana Presbytery to encourage the sessions of the various churches to consider these matters to decide whether it is wise and proper for them to present these issues before their respective congregations for consideration.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that Louisiana Presbytery call a special meeting of presbytery to discuss these issues and the possibility of peaceably withdrawing from the PCA as a presbytery in order that we might continue to serve the Lord in fidelity to His Word.

Adopted by the Session of Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church on January 5, 2000.

RE J.W. Smith, III, Clerk pro tempore TE J. Steven Wilkins, Moderator

Special thanks and a hat tip to Dr. Frank Smith, a Southern TR who wrote History of the PCA and probably misses the beat.

5 comments:

Publius said...

A decade ago, Wilkins was a big TR in the PCA and supported the strict subscriptionists. Even as early as 2000, he still played TR even though he introduced paedocom. Then came the AAPC and the cat was out of the bag. Overnight Wilkins changed from conservative to revolutionary. No one has ever explained this. Any ideas?

Mark T. said...

I see two dynamics at work here:

First, Steve Wilkins is an ignorant, dishonest man. I say this primarily because of his involvement with the League of the South, which is a racist club for Southern hillbillies, and his plagiarism, which is not limited to Southern Slavery As It Was (I intend to blog on this in the Dumb & Tan series) — every one of Wilkins’ books is loaded with plagiarized text.

Second, Douglas Wilson is a defiler — he deliberately seeks to corrupt those within his sphere of influence, that they may do his bidding. Just consider his role in the Burke Shade affair. It’s clear that he purposed to deceive everyone who wasn’t on the inside, and it’s equally clear that he knew he could rely upon his corrupt elders to assist him.

And between these two dynamics, I believe that Wilson introduced his heresy to Wilkins, who took it to its logical conclusion, which doesn’t bother Wilson at all because he intends to grab the Louisiana Presbytery for the CREC. In short, Wilson seduced Wilkins to follow him, which was not a difficult sell because of Wilkins’ ignorance and his preexisting moral corruption.

Publius said...

Tread lightly. Words like "hillbilly" and "redneck" were originally pejoratives referring to Scottish Presbyterians. "Billy" was William of Orange and "red" was the color of their uniforms.

Sean Gerety said...

I thought redneck had to do with the inevitable "carpenters tan" Southerners would get from working the fields?

FWIW I think these heretics coming from the seemingly TR side is a bit of satanic brilliance and, because of it, most never saw it coming.

As for me, I chalk it up to a combination of Theonomy and Van Tilianism. Theonomy provided the underlying and implied legalism and Van Tilianism provided the epistemological foundation for their own preferred theological paradoxes to grow undisturbed.

Mark T. said...

Years ago I heard someone else give Publius’ account of the word “redneck” — something about a red scarf I believe. And, Sean, you have identified the two common denominators of FV — theonomy and Van Til. But you can’t forget the Fruit Loop factor that brings the other two together — some of these guys are flippin’ loons!