Friday, April 4, 2008

R.C. Sproul, Jr.: Scandalizing the Body of Christ

I’ve been working on a rather large post for almost a week now and as it continued to grow, it occurred to me that my fully documented anonymous attack blog has not addressed the RPCGA’s defrocking of RC Sproul Jr and the St. Peter Four, which is important because I reference it in the post I’m drafting. I can’t imagine that anyone in the Reformed world hasn’t heard about this scandal, but I can imagine that not everyone has benefited from Patrick Poole’s keen analysis or from examining the primary documents.

So I asked Patrick for permission to republish this essay that he originally published on Existential Space but deleted after he Kut His Losses on the Kirk Kult. (Please note that Patrick Poole feels safer writing exposés of Islamic terrorists than he does analyzing the Fearless Leader’s brazen hypocrisy; if you do the math this means that in Patrick’s estimation, Wilson’s thugs are much more sinister than the jihadists living in his hometown. I’m sure this is because Wilson loves God so much.) Nevertheless, Patrick may have deleted his blog post, but not before I saved it. After all, I am an information hog.

Anyway, Patrick gave me permission to republish this and I urge you to read it keeping one thing in the back of your head: Douglas Wilson said, “I have known Mr. Poole to act with integrity in the past.”

Sunday, February 05, 2006
R.C. Sproul, Jr.: Scandalizing the Body of Christ

Warning: If you’re not interested in presbyterian polity or keeping up with evangelical church news, come back later.

Preface: There are MANY who are saying that I don’t have the right to publish this article. Some are already writing thinly veiled screeds directing divine judgment at anyone having the audacity to make reasoned judgments from the well-established facts at issue here. “Touching the anointed of the Lord” kind of stuff. Even the Moscow Mullah, the Pasha of the Palouse, Doug Wilson himself publicly commented AFTER the RPCGA’s recent action to shout down any discussion about his friend R.C.’s defrocking. (Gee, Douggie, why can you publicly comment and none of us are allowed to do the same?) Some have also said that ecclesiastical charges should be issued against anyone making the following statements (a position rife with irony, as you will see as you continue to read). At least one individual was bragging earlier this week about having another blog closed down in retaliation for publishing the truth about this ongoing matter (which, thankfully, has reappeared). That’s the poisonous atmosphere that has been intentionally created in the wake of this situation. However, the stakes in this matter are not limited to discussing minuscule points of dogma or isolated to a Reformed micro-denomination. At this point, much is already a matter of public record, with all sides having their say. Thus far, at least to my knowledge, none of those self-appointed Reformed “superstars” who are aware of this situation have been willing to say anything publicly about it, presumably hedging their bets on how this whole affair plays out. Someone has to say, “We must stop this madness, or else it will kill us all.” It is a shame to the Church that it has to be left to someone as insignificant and unqualified in all senses as me to say it, but there it is.

As some observers are aware, on January 26th the Westminster Presbytery of the Reformed Presbyterian Church General Assembly (RPCGA) defrocked R.C. Sproul, Jr. and the entire session of St. Peter Presbyterian Church for a laundry list of violations not in dispute by either the presbytery or the defrocked men. Additional disputed charges are to be brought up for trial by the presbytery.

As you can read in the Moderator’s Declaratory Judgment (approved unanimously by the Westminster Presbytery), chief among the reasons for this action are abusive and unauthorized actions taken against members of the congregation, including refusing to allow the family to leave the church over doctrinal disputes, suspending them from the sacraments without trial, and ordering the entire congregation to “shun” the entire family (though only the husband and father was named in the session’s censure). R.C. and the session members all agreed that these actions took place and offered their “apologies” (which fell along the lines of “I’m so sorry your actions made be beat you. . .”). Additionally, several current and former church members gave written evidence to the same effect, including an apology letter sent to the targeted family from Rick Saenz, R.C.’s longtime and former personal assistant, admitting to not speaking out against the outrageous actions at the time they were occurring. St. Peter member (now former) Peter Kershaw should be applauded as well for being the first to denounce the treatment of the Austin family. You can read the entire documentary and evidentiary trail here.

These former church leaders have also admitted to illegally using the tax EID of another denomination as cover for the church and the Highlands Study Center, a violation of state and federal laws. Evidence has been given that this was deliberate and done at the direct instruction of R.C. himself. In light of this, the doctrinal differences between these former church leaders and the RPCGA noted in the Declaratory Judgment seem slight in comparison.

Again, this is all thus far undisputed and a matter of public record, with the written testimony of multiple witnesses and the confessions of the defrocked men themselves as witnesses against their abusive and illegal conduct.

All of the proceeding is not the cause of scandal to the body of Christ. This is biblical church discipline in process, and nothing unusual in that regard. If these men had shown repentance, it wouldn’t be right for me or anyone outside. What is scandalous is the behavior of these men subsequent to their defrocking. At this moment, there is a note posted on the website of St. Peter Presbyterian Church/Highlands Study Center that reads (UPDATE — the following quote has been removed from their website):

As many of you have read, Dr. Sproul Jr., along with the entire session of Saint Peter Presbyterian Church, has heard from the moderator of the Westminster Presbytery of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Assembly, that they have been deposed from their offices as elders in the church. This action was taken without a trial, indeed without even a conversation. We disagree with the action taken, and are considering our options as to how to respond. What we will not do is take shots against our accusers over the internet, and would encourage you not to do so, either. Please be patient, and please pray for the peace and purity of the church.

Now this is patently Clintonesque. They say that they won’t “take shots against our accusers over the internet.” Where is this posted? That’s right: on the Internet. And what do they say? “We’ve been wronged by these ecclesiastical fascists who didn’t even give us a trial!” Aren’t we all glad that they are refusing to say anything in their defense, especially over the Internet?

Now for the truth:

At this time, these men have been defrocked on the basis of their own testimony of their actions, confirmed by multiple witnesses. When a man pleads guilty, there is no trial. For those accusations that are disputed, and thus, still pending, a trial is being arranged by the presbytery.

They would have you believe that they are being railroaded by an out-of-control moderator (as evidenced by the attack on Westminster Presbytery Moderator Ken Talbot this week on WorldMagBlog [posts #37 and #38] by one of R.C.’s friends, David Zuniga), but in fact this action was approved in accordance with the RPCGA’s Book of Church Order, which as a member of their presbytery these men have submitted to. The Declaratory Judgment cites the relevant BCO language that allows for summary judgment when the facts are not in dispute.

It is also important to note that the entire Westminster Presbytery approved this action, and approved it unanimously. This is not the decision of a lone moderator.

The claim that this action was taken “without even a conversation” is entirely false. Ken Talbot examined this matter for almost two months, and the Declaratory Judgment even cites conversations between R.C. and the presbytery on this matter.

Another fact is that the Declaratory Judgment cites a December 15th email from R.C. to Ken Talbot asking for swift resolution of this matter:

It appears that at least three of our four elders cannot stay in the denomination. . . The particular hardship is this. We especially don’t want to leave with a cloud over our heads. Could you either, having let us go, hear the complaints against us, and issue a ruling, or barring that, could you forward all those complaints to where we end up? We have had much to repent of these past few weeks. We have done so. We are sorry in turn that our failures have caused trouble for you and the presbytery. (page 10)

The moral of the story? Be careful what you wish for.

The quote taken from R.C.’s email is quite telling. By this time, the investigation was in full swing, and it was only at this point that the “St. Peter Four” decided that they couldn’t stick around the RPCGA on the basis of their “convictions” of practicing paedo-communion — a practice strictly banned by the RPCGA since 1997. But when an investigation is launched on matters much more serious than their views on the Lord’s Supper, these cowards suddenly develop “convictions”? Remember that these men took vows before God and their fellow elders in presbytery to be in submission to the system and the judgments of the RPCGA. But using the canard of “convictions,” R.C. has asked that they either be tried only after they are allowed to leave the denomination, making any judgment by the RPCGA meaningless (because they will no longer have any jurisdiction), or allow some other as-yet unspecified denomination to examine the evidence (meaning that they might have to Catch R.c. Evacuating Christianity). But one thing is clear — they don’t want the RPCGA, the only authorized authority, doing the trial. How’s that for accountability? Maybe Doug Wilson will blog on that topic this week.

He thinks that having taken oaths and vows before God and men that he can leave the denomination without so much as a “by your leave”? Aren’t these the same Federal Vision “men without chests” who endlessly proclaim “the covenant, the covenant, the covenant of the Lord are these” over every minute detail of theology and beat anyone over the head who doesn’t agree with their interpretation of it? Covenants and vows apparently now mean nothing to R.C. and his Gang. This is pathetic in and of itself, but it gets worse.

Does anyone else but me see the sickening irony that R.C. is demanding for himself what he was ugly reluctant to give to others? The Austin family, who was the subject of malicious persecution by the ordained leaders of St. Peter, were refused when they requested to leave the church for their disagreements over paedo-communion and other doctrinal issues. What did R.C. and the Gang use as justification for their refusal to let the Austin family leave? Their membership vows. Another family states (cited in the Declaratory Judgment, p. 3):

Because of this we became more determined than ever to leave the church. R.C. and Laurence became just as determined that they were not going to let us go. They told us we had taken a vow to the Elders to stay in the church, and we could not leave unless they released us. They told us that we would never be able to join another reformed church if we were not in good standing with St. Peter and we would need their release for that to happen. (emphasis added)

From the documentary evidence available thus far, we can see that this refusal to let families leave the church was part of an abusive pattern. Furthermore, R.C. and the Gang made all members take vows beyond what was allowed by their denomination (point 5, pg. 7 of the Declaratory Judgment).

But that’s still not fully viewing how scandalous this affair truly is. One of the things at issue in the Austin’s de facto excommunication was that it was done without any trial whatsoever. At least Westminster Presbytery is willing to let these men go to trial for the matters that are in dispute, they having admitted to the substance of the charges laid out in the presbytery’s Declaratory Judgment. That notwithstanding, R.C. and the Gang are still complaining that they were not given a trial before they were defrocked. But when the shoe was on the other foot, they felt completely justified in acting without due process against the Austin family and others in violation of denominational rules.

At this point, if you still feel any pity for these reprobates, remember that the RPCGA is acting in accordance with their Book of Church Order, which the former leaders of St. Peter agreed to live by when they entered the RPCGA. No one put a gun to their head to make them join this denomination, and their rules were not treated as some kind of Masonic secret; their BCO is published on their website. Those who live by presbyterian polity can die by presbyterian polity.

As of this date, the previous statement that the church was part of the RPCGA has now been removed from the church’s website, making clear that these men are on the run. And they are looking for a safe haven. Time will tell where they might land, but at least one commentator, Tim Bayly, has provided this week a “hypothetical scenario” in which R.C. and the Gang could justifiably (sic) discuss moving their credentials to the CREC, where Douggie Wilson and his gang of drug dealers and illegal casino operators reside.

The scandal still keeps coming. R.C. has said that he is going to devote his time to the Highlands Study Center, which has historically been a ministry of St. Peter Presbyterian Church (even sharing the illegally obtained tax EID number). However, R.C. incorporated Highlands with the state of Virginia on January 10th (in the midst of the presbytery investigation), effectively stealing the ministry from the Church that he is not even a member of (ordained elders are members of the presbytery, not of the church they minister to). Whereas the St. Peter/Highlands website used to read that Highlands was “an integrated ministry of St. Peter Presbyterian Church,” that is no longer the case. It has been pilfered by R.C. and the Gang.

Make no mistake: these men are spiritual outlaws. No matter how much they want to hide behind their recently acquired “convictions” about the perils of presbyterian polity, they are autonomous religious renegades, and ought to be considered as such. Any ministry that planned to feature R.C. or any of his Gang as speakers at their events should withdraw the initiation immediately, and anyone previously invited to speak at future Highlands Study Center conferences should now decline to speak. Is this what I expect will happen? Not likely. These squibs are going to look for safe harbor, and my bet is that they’ll get it. Some wannabe Reformed micro-denomination would be glad to add R.C.’s name to their roster, regardless of the stench he drags behind him. Certainly there can be restoration with demonstrated repentance, and Lord willing, that will eventually occur. These men could even be restored to ministry at some future date. But as Westminster Presbytery has made clear, these men are currently unqualified and unfit to shepherd any flock:

The consistent pattern of actions taken by these men are duplicitous in nature, and demonstrate that they willingly and knowingly act in an arbitrary fashion in violation of their vows of ordination and in violation of our denomination’s Book of Church Order. Most importantly, their actions manifest that they lack the qualification for the ministry (1 Timothy 3:1–7). It would be unwise to allow these men to continue to hold an office for which they are not qualified. They have no interest to govern themselves appropriately within this presbyterian system of government that they vowed to submit and conform to its rules and regulations with conduct becoming ministers of Jesus Christ. (Declaratory Judgment, p. 11)

No one should be under any illusions. R.C. and his Gang of Thugs will try to paint this as nothing more than a difference over doctrine. They are “suffering servants” for the cause of paedo-communion (what a pathetic hill to die on!). But this is one of the clearest cases of spiritual abuse and reckless leadership the evangelical world has seen in a while (excepting Certain Reformed Evangelical Cults in Idaho). These men are in fact unqualified and unfit for office (and at this point, membership) in any church, and should be regarded and treated as such. The Westminster Presbytery should be applauded for the lawful defrocking of these petty tyrants. Their decisive removal from office in the face of overwhelming evidence is presbyterian polity at its best. Other Reformed denominations have had similar cases where they have refused to act. And the presbytery is lucky to have a man like Ken Talbot (who is both a theologian/churchman and an attorney) to oversee this matter. In light of the present conduct of R.C. and the Gang, hopefully further sanctions will be forthcoming. R.C. and the Gang are a direct threat to the purity of the body of Christ. Their mockery of the Reformed ecclesiology that they have publicly preached, but perverted in order to lord over others, will hopefully be put to an end. May this scandal be disassociated with the name of Christ.

POSTED BY PATRICK POOLE AT 11:01 AM

As I said, Patrick is an excellent analyst. Here are three other essays that he gave me permission to republish in the past; they are outstanding:
Thank you

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mark T.,

If Patrick Poole is such a great analysist of what went on with R.C., how is it that he can't even get the name of the ministry correct? It is Highlands Study Center, that's Highland-s -- plural, not Highland. Dude misses the most obvious of things, yet he can be trusted with accurately reporting what went on there? If he can't even get the name of the ministry right, something that simple, how can anyone trust his "brilliant analysis" of what happened? Grind that axe boy, grind it.

D. Tearma

Mark T. said...

D. Tearma,

You conflate “reporting” what happened and “analyzing” what happened, which are two different things. Dr. Talbot reported and to some extent analyzed what happened in the Declaratory Judgment. Patrick Poole limited his analysis to the St. Peter Four’s wicked behavior after the RPCGA defrocked them in concert with Dr. Talbot’s findings.

Nevertheless, your comment reminds of the time that the Fearless Leader tried to discredit in toto the testimony of two historians from the University of Idaho based solely on the historians making a couple of typos in their response to him. He made the argument that if people can’t spell correctly then they cannot be trusted to do history. Of course, this ad hom was his sole defense of his ridiculous revision of American history and it ignored the typos in his trashy little booklet. But it gave his monkey boys, such as you, something to believe. As they say, Everyone has to have something to believe, and for some reason you believe this preposterous argument.

Be that as it may, as the host of this fully documented anonymous attack blog I have the ability to amend posts at will, but Blogger does not allow me to modify comments: It gives me two options: publish or delete.

Therefore, I shall double-check your point and make the appropriate corrections to the post as necessary. Unfortunately for you, however, I cannot correct your typo in your first sentence, where you misspelled the word “analyst” with the typo “analysist.” And since you argue that we can’t trust Patrick’s analysis based on a typo, then I’m afraid we can’t trust your analysis based on a typo. Dude, you missed the most obvious thing and we’re expected to trust you? Just think of the old adage, What’s good for the analyst is good for the monkey boy.

I’m grinding. Oh, I’m grinding. And it feels good.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Keep grinding. It will be interesting to see if Precious has more than one attack monkey.

Mr. Analysist

Anonymous said...

O.K., MT, here's something else to correct. Drs. Quinlan and Ramsey committed a lot more than "a couple" of typographical errors. Go check it.

- Not D Tearma

Mark T. said...

Dear Monkey Boy (not D. Tearma),

The only reason I published your comment is to demonstrate that you are ashamed of your baptized name (I don’t blame you) and to demonstrate that you are lying in typical Wilsonian fashion. You make bald-faced assertions, without evidence, and expect the world to bow. Then when push comes to shove you pull Edna Wilmington out of your hat to nit-pick and agonize over the smallest minutia to prove your case. Then you send monkey boy Mike Lawyer to reassert her case. But through it all you refuse to admit that the thesis for your book of filthy lies and fairy tales is pure fiction. You only know how to attack, like a predator — attack, accuse, prosecute, obfuscate, attack some more, and lie.

In fact, thanks for the tip. You just inspired me to write a post on how Wilson accused Drs. Quinlan and Ramsey, and then hid behind his pseudonym Edna Wilmington to make his case. What a big weenie.

Thank you.

Mark T. said...

Dear Mr. Analysist,

I did not understand two things about your note (and still don’t) but I held it just in case. Yes, I think Precious himself (or someone real close to him) just appeared to defend the Little Man Behind the Curtain.

luvvom said...

This is such a sad story. What I find even sadder is that I think it more sad because R.C. Sproul's son is one of these men. I have little feelings for the other men involved but feel saddened that Sproul's son is apart of this. What happened to him? He sat under a great teacher all his life! I find it sobering indeed! Let's pray for their conversion!

Mark T. said...

Agreed; it is very sad. Perhaps the only thing sadder is RC Senior’s response to it all. How true that the best of men are still men at best.