Saturday, December 30, 2006

12/30/06, A Vindication of the Charge of Ministerial Unfaithfulness [rev.]

In that the undersigned is a "disaffected brethren," i.e. excommunicated, we were not included on the mailing list for “A Vindication of a Faithful Minister” that went out Dec. 25, 2006 at 4:25 PM. We were however included in some of the pious congratulatory gush and empty fluff, that however sincere, was mailed out in response to it. Our comments are twofold. One, those who do not appreciate the following comments are respectfully then requested to stop emailing us with them in the first place and provoking our response. Two, it still would be helpful to note the following items that have been totally ignored in the one way discussion.
Respectfully
B. Suden


1. Private vs. Public
As has happened previously in the discussion of lawful courts, oaths and discipline in the former RPNA, there continues to be an ongoing confusion about and lack of distinction between the power of order/office and the power of jurisdiction/court, as well as a private and personal ministry as opposed to a public and judicial ministry. (See the Second Book of Discipline 1:3 or Gillespie’s Assertion of the Church Government of Scotland, Part I:II for more on the power of order and jurisdiction).

Yet faithful is as faithful does, in that it is not the personal actions or character per se, but particularly the public preaching and teaching ministry and even more the public judicial actions that have compelled brethren at this time to question whether or not a particular pastor and his ministry, or that of other officers, is faithful.

2. Accountability and Standards
And that judgement is in the light of the Word of God. None of us stand before and ultimately answer to the court of public opinion. We all shall stand before the court of heaven and answer the Lord for what we have done in the flesh and how we have improved our time, talent and opportunities. Ministers even more so, because they minister and rule in the name of Christ and consequently their shortcomings, sins, competency and character reflect more directly on the Lord as per the quote of 1Cor.4:1-5 in the VFM. But that said and notwithstanding, the Scripture is an infallible and perspicuous word from that same court of heaven by the light of which and with a good conscience we are to not only frame our lives, but also private Christians may make a right judgement, non-judicially though it may be, about the character and competency of a minister or officers, as well as a court to which they will submit the care of their soul.

In other words, we are to judge not according to what 1 Cor.4:1-5 might appear to say [as quoted in the VFM, Dec. 25, '06] or in the sense it could be taken, if not wrested out of context, but make a right judgement (John 7:24). While we may not be able to judge the heart which God will judge on that day, we are to judge all things in light of Scripture and no one is above reproach. God is no respecter of persons or members even of presbytery, great or small. Rather presbyters are on that account, even more accountable and woe be unto those who on the basis of this passage think a man or a minister has no one to answer to simply because they are a member of the court or that God gives the keys of the kingdom in doctrine and discipline to elders, instead of the congregation, as in independency. There is no such thing as a professional immunity. When someone comes to those who are called to preach and teach in the church of Christ with a question from the word of God or the subordinate standards and historical testimony - which those same officers have taken a solemn oath to uphold - such as why the contradiction between for instance, the Position Paper on Sessional Authority (PPSA) and those sworn standards, they cannot wave the magic wand of 1Cor.4:1-5 and beg off answering or giving account.

3. The Absence of Approved Examples of Apostolic Teaching
Neither is it enough to chant the usual mantras, of “lawfully excommunications,” “lawful Church Court of the RPNA(GM),” etc. etc and cry down all that has recently revolved around the PPSA as categorically submitted in a “disorderly and sinful manner”and setting “a sinful precedent for further acts of public defiance.” That and taking “steps that have promoted further division within the Church and further public defiance for the lawful Court of this Church” as some have done. Even if those protests are out of order and the argument of necessity and extraordinary times does not apply, previous to all the complaints and questions, as noted before, the PPSA itself appeals to the apostolic example in Act 15 to support its international session. There is also much ado in the excommunication notices about the “decrees for to keep” of Act 16:4 as to the binding nature of lawful sentences from lawfully constituted presbyterian courts, which all parties are agreed to, the question being rather, the lawfulness of the particular court issuing the ecclesiastical fatwas against certain members.

Yet at the same time there has been no corresponding diligence to follow the example in Act 15:22,30-35 to publicly and in person preach, teach and expound by word of mouth the distinctive doctrines and issues contained in the PPSA. Public question and answer sessions should have been and should be taking place even now in Albany and Edmonton at the very least. This is so that if it were possible, not only the court would be established and defended publicly, but also the saints would be established in this conscience binding dogma. (That Act 15 applies to a situtation where there is a plurality of ministers or the existence of a genuine greater presbytery, would seem to be also a prima facie reason that it cannot apply to the situation in the former RPNA or justify the extraordinary session as the PPSA asserts.) Yet we are implicitly told that the absence of all this is the ministry and actions of a faithful minister, if not a faithful court? We respectfully suggest that those who think so, do not know what a faithful public ministry ought to consist of, above and entirely apart from again, the private character of the parties concerned.

We further respectfully suggest that this ignorance is also likely to continue, once again because of that self same public ministry. It has not taught the whole counsel of God on the matter, at least publicly, (regardless if it has been taught house to house privately) and is therefore guilty of blood. To those that think that simply scandalous to say so, we ask just how do they gloss Act 20:20 - 27 to read?
And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, . . . Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.
The church of Jesus Christ does not exist in order that we may play an orderly game of musical chairs. Neither is it a social club or an ecclesiastical sandbox. There are serious matters at stake and studiously avoiding them is not an option by a faithful ministry. On the contrary a free and full discussion and exposition of the issue is called for.

If complaint is made that Acts 20 only refers to the gospel narrowly considered, what of 2 Tim. 3:16 & 17 wherein we are told Scripture equips a minister unto all good works? Even the good work of an elder or bishop in Titus 1:9,11 of holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he might be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers - and stop the mouths of the church government naysayers? That we have not seen, though excommunications have flourished and multiplied with perhaps no end in sight (all will have to take the oath in the end or should, if the elders are consistent, no?) Meanwhile a four month cutoff for asking questions about the PPSA is rather a weak alibi as we approach a four year wait for a statement on birth control as promised in June ‘03 upon dissolution of presbytery by the officers in question. To whom much is given, much is required and woe be unto them if they require more from the sheep than they are willing themselves to do.

4. Faithful Ministers According to Our Vindicated Officers
After all, we can still remember a conversation with Pastor Price and Elder Barrow when they were visiting Everson in the fall of ‘98. Pastor Price quoted from the The Fourth Head of the First Book of Discipline, “Concerning Ministers and Their Lawful Election” in regard to a faithful minister:
And last, let them understand that it is alike to have no minister at all, and to have an idol in the place of a true minister; yea and in some cases, it is worse. For those that are utterly destitute of ministers will be diligent to search for them; but those that have a vain shadow do commonly, without further care, content themselves with the same, and so they remain continually deceived, thinking that they have a minister, when in very deed they have none.
Not only are those who have been excommunicated now destitute of a minister, we all have been destitute for much longer than that, of a minister who will preach on and speak to the point now in question. Yet the same officer(s) and court are more than willing to excommunicate people on the matter and that promptly. This is faithfulness? Or a shadow thereof? Again, between June 14, ‘03 and June 4, ‘06, as well as after, there has been no real substantial public teaching or preaching on the subject, although the elders began signing their letters as the “Session of the RPNA(GM) on Oct. 31, ‘04. Neither did the Prince George Society or the Washington Society receive any substantial answer to their private questions on the matter at that time. As in one, ‘Why the name change from the RPNA to the RPNA(GM)? Is it only nominal or will there be an implementation of a general meeting in practice?’ Yet when brethren could not and would not sign an oath accepting the PPSA and the court justified therein - the “Session of the RPNA(GM),” - they were subsequently “self” excommunicated. This was done on the basis of “public contempt of the common order of the church,” without any opportunity, other than in the court of public opinion, to defend and clear their name and that before, the public order of the church had really been properly, explicitly and publicly established. (It was after all, extraordinarily, as in implicitly, constituted.) This is the fruit and ministry of a true pastor or elder? Or but an idol in its place? Yet if the RPNA(GM) is a nominal general meeting - and it clearly is - perhaps nominal officers are to go with.

That is to say, regardless of a someone's personal sincerity, we may make an estimation of their public ministry for good or ill and stand by it now and answer for it then. If anyone objects to that, then they at the least simply don’t understand the bare minimum regarding liberty of conscience and private judgment. In other words again, a faithful minister/ministry is not judged solely on the basis of personal sincerity, in that many Mormons or Muslims are also sincere. Rather we have an objective standard in the word, as well the subordinate standards that declare authoritatively and specifically just how the Scripture is to be understood (in marked contrast to the popular vague and general generic affirmation that somebody “believes the Bible” whatever that means), that along with sincerity, establish the bar by which to measure and answer the question. We are to consider a man (or men’s) doctrine publicly published and preached and/or the lack thereof in this instance, along with the judicial decisions, as well and besides one’s personal character, diligence and professed sincerity, however commendable or no that is.

5. Further Contradictions between June ‘03 and June ‘06
From the top again, the June 14, 2003 letter - which granted, does allude to the particular elderships of the Second Book of Discipline 7:10 (which are not extraordinary courts, much more Gillespie, the star witness of the PPSA, and Calderwood, can be shown to consider them greater presbyteries with a plurality of ministers) - even more plainly and explicitly says that Pastor Price can administer the sacraments because of his office as a pastor, not because he is a member of a court, extraordinary or not. It also explicitly mentions Renwick and Cargill who admitted people to the Lord’s Supper as pastors and upon the doctrinal basis of the six terms of communion even at a time when there were no formal sessions in existence.

Yet fast forward to the June 4, 2006 PPSA and we are told that receiving the sacraments means we have implicitly recognized the validity of the permanent international session/court of the RPNA(GM) (pp.13,21), instead of merely acknowledging the faithful office of the pastor administering them on the basis of the six terms of communion. These are two very different things. Still, as a consequence oaths have been served and brethren excommunicated because they cannot in good conscience swallow this contradiction and confusion between June ‘03 and June ‘06 and accept the PPSA and the court it justifies. We ask anyone with eyes, if oaths and excommunications are a faithful way to resolve this contradiction and problem, that discipline and denial are the way of moderation, equity and faithfulness in answering the genuine questions of the flock? Is excommunicating brethren from the visible church because they will not bow the knee and submit by oath to the PPSA and its extraordinary international session, which contradicts not only the June 14, ‘03 letter, but also the historical testimony (doctrine and practice) of Renwick and the Reformed Presbytery, of whom we profess to be the faithful continuing moral person, the work and action of a faithful court, minister and ministry? Pray tell, do tell. We think not.

Further more, we understand that faithful ministers in Reformed Presbyterian churches swear to uphold those same subordinate standards and historical testimony that Renwick and the Reformed Presbytery did, which same standards and historical testimony do not uphold the permanent extraordinary international sessions the PPSA attempts to justify. (If the essence of a session is that of a local congregational court, technology notwithstanding, an extraordinary session can not be constituted or be “in session” when the necessary number of officers needed for a quorum are out of town, long distance phone calls to the contrary.) As should be obvious then and as a consequence, there is no real historical testimony referenced in the PPSA, much more the PPSA is an unfaithful document when judged in the light of the RP historical testimony.

Likewise ministers and courts who publicly profess to uphold both the PPSA and the historical testimony are unfaithful ministers and courts, if not that they are seriously confused. Likewise those who buy into the PPSA, which only demonstrates a shallow discernment and an immature and mistaken judgement that more and more in light of the circumstances seems to be the endemic hallmark and fruit of the preaching and teaching ministry in this church. But that is the responsibility not only of the pulpit, but the ruling elders who are to oversee and supervise the pulpit, particularly if everybody is what they claim to be, a genuine presbyterian session and the RPNA(GM) is but one big congregation. Has that been done?

6. Conclusion
Respectfully, the answer to the question of what is a faithful minister and ministry in our circumstances is only too painfully clear and has been said before, until there is repentance and restitution made for these public decisions, we can only answer in the negative to the question before the house: Are the officers, whether ministers or ruling elders of the extraordinary permanent international session of the RPNA(GM) faithful? Answer: No, they are not faithful in their capacity as a court in their power of jurisdiction and if they will not promote the truth in all this in their capacity and power of order/office as ministers and ruling elders, then they must also be judged as unfaithful in that regard, whatever their respective merits as private individuals are to their family or the community. That is the sad and sorry state of affairs as things stand now about which so many seem to be confused and deceived.

Still faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. Open rebuke is better than secret love ( Prov. 27:4,5). Paul asks the Galatians, “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth (Gal. 4:16)?” After the second wave of excommunications last Saturday night, Dec. 23rd, the total disciplined so far came to twenty [four] out of an approximate total of eighty eight communicant members. The third wave of oaths went out the evening of Dec. 24th with a response due next Wed. Jan. 3rd. The question then, might seem to be will 2 Chronicles 18:16 be the epitaph for this church, where “all Israel [is] scattered upon the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd?” That, if not Jeremiah 50:6:
My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their restingplace?
Or will it be Ezekiel 34:6?
My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them.
We think the answer Scripturally self evident.

Monday, December 25, 2006

12/25/06, A Vindication of a Faithful Minister

To: [List]
Date: Dec 25, 2006 4:25 PM
Subject: A Vindication of a Faithful Minister

While this is a family's testimony of their husband and father, we would like to acknowledge the faithfulness and loving authority of the entire court. This court has tirelessly laid down its life for Christ's church. We love and thank you all for your years of faithful service and contending for the truth.

In light of the countless false accusations and misrepresentations, it is our honor to bear witness to the faithfulness of our beloved husband, father, and shepherd of our souls. This testimony is the result of our own personal convictions without the influence, suggestions, encouragement or review of Pastor Price.

We cannot fully express the amount of love and patience he has chosen to display when ministering to many through their trying situations. He has sacrificially laid down his life for this church, guiding, counseling, and comforting his dear flock who has been given to him by God to lead, feed and protect. In these present trials, as well as former, he has spoken charitably of others who in return have chosen to malign him; he has chosen to deal justly and honestly in the love of Christ. He has anguished and labored fervently to preserve the peace, purity, and unity of Christ's church. He stands not before the court of public opinion, but before the Court of Heaven. It is that standard alone by which he will be judged, and by which he has chosen to act. Therefore, it is with immeasurable gratitude and love that we attest to the constant and faithful ministry of this humble servant of Jesus Christ.

From those who know him best,
[Extended Family of Teaching Elder G. Price.]


I Cor. 4:1-5
"Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God."

~Love God, and there is no fear that can enslave you.
Trust God, and there is no worry that can overtake you.
Praise God , and there is no complaint that can consume you.~


A reply to the above is found here.


12/25/06, Another Reply to the Oath and Excommunication

Sent: Monday, December 25, 2006 8:42 AM
Subject: Regarding our "Excommunication"

Our response to our "Excommunications" is attached.
Humbly submitted,
Edgar & Juana I.

Reformed Presbyterian-----Para la Corona y el Pacto de Cristo
www.PresbiterianoReformado.org www.TrueCovenanter.com


Our submission in regards to the Oath tendered by
Teaching Elder (te) G. Price, Ruling Elders (re) G. Barrow and L. Dohms that lead to our excommunication


Dear Elders,

As we acknowledged we received the Oath that you sent to us on Dec. 10th, 2006. You requested an answer by Dec. 20th, 2006. We apologize for our delayed response, but this has been due to several factors in our family and a heavy work schedule. We now ask that you will patiently read our response and know that it is written humbly and respectfully to you.

It is with a heavy heart, with sadness, and lament that we view the state of our church and community of Covenanters and we do not desire to add to the pain and separation that is now transpiring in our midst, but your actions compel us to write a response regarding your actions. We also feel compelled to answer you publicly as this is in the common interest of the church and our Covenanted brethren.

Your Oath tendered to us vs. Scripture and the Standards

You have declared that we have sinned in committing familiar fellowship by collaborating in an ecclesiastical manner with brethren that were excommunicated in writing our Charitable Inquiry. However, we have told you both as the signatories and privately that those brethren that you have excommunicated were not so when we all began to write the Charitable Inquiry. We are all co-authors and worked on this since June of 2006. The fact that they were excommunicated afterwards, in our (my family) opinion does not change the fact that we collaborated together beforehand and that they are co-authors of the Charitable Inquiry. Your decision to hang over our heads the threat of excommunication (and then proceeding to it) for familiar fellowship can not be interpreted any other way by my family as a red herring, filibustering, and excusing the legitimate concerns brought before you in order to avoid answering the Charitable Inquiry. Instead of dealing with very real problems that many of us see with the “Session” that you call Presbyterian, it is easier to cast us out of the Church and therefore not have to answer our concerns and questions.

You are bold enough to serve us such an Oath and then excommunicate us, but derelict in your duties as Elders towards us. How so? RE Barrow and Dohms claim to have the rule over us, so much so that they can discipline us. However, not once has Elder Dohms ever called us to even perform his basic duty as an RE to inquiry into our spiritual well-being. The first time we met was over the summer of 2006. Before or since, not once has there been even an e-mail sent from him to ask how we are doing. Not once has Elder Barrow called us to perform his duty as an Elder towards us. On the contrary we have had to initiate the phone calls to him. If you seek to be leaders, then a true and faithful leader goes to those he leads to inquiry about their well being, to ask how they are doing, and to build them up in words of encouragement, at the very least. Instead the REs rely on other laymen to find out how others are doing. They set up unofficial proxy elders to look after others and to report back to them as to how others are doing. They, themselves have not initiated contact with us, except of course to discipline us. Not once have any of the REs ever called us after the Oath was tendered to persuade us that the Oath is lawful. Not once have any of the REs ever called us or e-mailed us to advise us of an impending excommunication and try to reclaim us before issuing such discipline. TE Price has not given an attempt to instruct us and to answer our questions in regards to the Oath and their International Session, only to declare that such instruction would only come after we had affirmed and accepted the Oath. TE Price has not attempted to speak to our questions or concerns, only to ask further questions of us, especially in regards to “joining hands with excommunicated brethren”. TE Price asks questions of us, instead of seeking to instruct us. His duty calls him to teach, but he with the REs appear more concerned about issuing censure then leading, shepherding, and teaching. The Elders have been very quick to communicate to us words of discipline and to perform actions of censure, but their attempts to instruct and to catechize have been rare, if not outright extinct and non-existent.

You have stated many times that you despise implicit faith. Your words and actions contradict each other. To question the lawfulness of your Court is akin to rebellion in your eyes. You have stated that we are to submit to your Court before you will entertain our questions and concerns. Pray tell, how can we submit to the very thing we have questions and concerns about? You ask of us to swear an oath to the lawfulness of the Court, and then we can question the legitimacy of it? You ask us to sin! You ask us to be double-minded and to play the part of a Roman Catholic. For it was Rome and its emissaries that asked the people to outwardly worship in their temples even though inwardly one may doubt and not submit. How can we sin in such a way when the Word of God warns us not to trample such holy things, (and taking oaths and swearing allegiance are such holy things), and then to question the very oath or vow? This is the method of Rome, not of Presbyterian Elders!

It is a snare to the man who devoureth that which is holy, and after vows to make enquiry. Proverbs 20:25

Westminster Confession of Faith Ch. 22 (emphasis added):

I. A lawful oath is part of religious worship, wherein, upon just occasion, the person swearing solemnly calls God to witness what he asserts, or promises, and to judge him according to the truth or falsehood of what he swears.
III. Whosoever takes an oath ought duly to consider the weightiness of so solemn an act, and therein to avouch nothing but what he is fully persuaded is the truth: neither may any man bind himself by oath to any thing but what is good and just, and what he believes so to be, and what he is able and resolved to perform. Yet it is a sin to refuse an oath touching any thing that is good and just, being imposed by lawful authority.
IV. An oath is to be taken in the plain and common sense of the words, without equivocation, or mental reservation. It cannot oblige to sin; but in any thing not sinful, being taken, it binds to performance, although to a man's own hurt. Nor is it to be violated, although made to heretics, or infidels.
Therefore considering the Word of God and our Confession of Faith that we both profess to hold to and own, how can you lawfully serve us and my brethren such an Oath while we have doubts, questions, and concerns regarding the very thing you are asking us to swear to own? The Word of God warns us not to commit such foolishness. Do you not see how clearly the Divines wrote, “to avouch nothing but what he is fully persuaded is the truth”? Yet, you are calling us to do that very thing that the Divines, in accord to Scripture, taught us not to do. Again, you are calling us to sin against the Lord Jesus Christ, to take His name in vain, contrary to the 3rd Commandment, and to despise those faithful Presbyterian Standards that we do hold and own. You seek implicit faith from us, yet the Confession states not to swear if one has mental reservation or equivocation.

A representative Church may be thought a number sent by a community, and elected to give laws, absolutely tying, as if believers should say, We resign our faith and conscience to you, to hold good whatever you determine without repeal or trial; that is blind faith, that we disclaim: all our Ruler’s acts in our Assemblies do bind, 1. conditionally, if they be lawful and convenient, 2. matters to be enacted are first to be referred to the congregations and Elderships of particular congregations before they be enacted. (Italics in original, bold added)

You see, even Samuel Rutherford speaks against your process and manner of imposing new Terms of Communion (the fact that you say that your Papers are explanations of the Terms or commentary does not void the fact that to disagree with such Papers is to disagree with the Terms and therefore are Terms themselves) and then asking us to own them before putting them to trial or inquiry, much less offering them up in overture as true Presbyterian polity calls for, before making them binding. You are abusing the power of your offices that you received from Jesus Christ alone, the King and Head of the Church. Elders, again, how can we swear such an Oath given what we have stated? You cannot command our consciences, do not seek to be the One you are representing in your offices.

Misrepresentations addressed & Presbyterianism upheld.

To remove all doubt from the brethren and to publicly declare unto you all, we, the Ibarras, hold to and maintain the Six Terms of Communion without exception. Contrary to what has been circulated and misrepresented concerning us. We declare that we believe that Greg Price is an ordained minister of Jesus Christ and do not doubt that fact. We declare that Greg Barrow and Lyndon Dohms are Ruling Elders in the Society in Edmonton, Canada and do not doubt that fact. We also declare that their authority does not come from the laity, but from Jesus Christ. This is Presbyterianism. This should also cause them to be more grave in their proceedings. We believe in the gradation of Courts, the Session being the lowest court at the local level. We confess that the laity are not members of a Church Court, but of a local particular congregation without ecclesiastical power, this is Presbyterianism. We know that a TE is not a member of the local congregation, but of a Presbytery, this is Presbyterianism. How then are we Independents? Or Brownists? No, these are meant to slander and libel us and to hide the real issues and scare others away from looking into the legitimate questions and concerns that have been laid open and bare. We seek transparency in these issues others seek obscurity. Is it un-Presbyterian and a trait of Independence to question your claim as a Session and claim to have International Jurisdiction as a Lower Court? If so, you seek to bury our duty to private judgment, Acts 17:11 & 1 Thessalonians 5:21.

You claim to uphold and maintain the Word of God, our Subordinate Standards, and the faithful examples of our Covenanted fore-fathers and martyrs. Where in the Word of God do you find an International Church Court that is comprised of a Session or Lower Presbytery? Note, we are not asking about a Synod or greater Court, but your claim to be a Session. If no where in the Word of God, much less will you find it elsewhere, except maybe with the Church of Rome and their claim of a universal bishop. So if we are to submit to you as a Court and to your jurisdiction, we must ask if you even have that much.

The Form of Church Government on pp. 403-404 defines a Particular Congregation as such (emphasis added):
IT is lawful and expedient that there be fixed congregations, that is, a certain company of Christians to meet in one assembly ordinarily for publick worship…The ordinary way of dividing Christians into distinct congregations, and most expedient for edification, is by the respective bounds of their dwellings.
First, Because they who dwell together, being bound to all kind of moral duties one to another, have the better opportunity thereby to discharge them; which moral tie is perpetual; for Christ came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it.
…Thirdly, The pastor and people must so nearly cohabit together, as that they may mutually perform their duties each to other with most conveniency.
In this company some must be set apart to bear office.
Please notice that a particular Congregation is one in which the company of Christians leave nearby and co-habit so much so that they can perform mutual and moral duties to one another. From that particular company are officers to be set apart. Please also note that when you quoted the several writings of outstanding and faithful Presbyterian theologians, wherein the words Particular Congregation or Particular church is found that their meaning is that of the FPCG. The FPCG goes on to define the Officer of a particular Congregation as such, p. 404 (emphasis added):

FOR officers in a single congregation, there ought to be one at the least, both to labour in the word and doctrine, and to rule….These officers are to meet together at convenient and set times, for the well ordering of the affairs of that congregation, each according to his office.

Please notice that the Officers are to be chosen from among the men of a Particular Congregation and to well order the affairs of that congregation that they are from. Again, the boundaries of a congregation are defined by the proximity of the dwellings of the company of Christians. Again, in your PPSA when you quote the same Presbyterian ministers and when they use terms and words such as Particular Eldership, Particular Elders, &etc. the definition in employment is that found in the FPCG. Your commentary that follows such quotes seeks to redefine the words and terms these men used.

Therefore, if a Particular Eldership or Session is defined as the local court that is situated within a certain boundary and proximity of the congregation, how then can you defend from the Scriptures and the Subordinate Standards, the position or innovation of an international lower Presbytery/Particular Eldership, or Session? Finally since a Particular Eldership or Session has its bounds of jurisdiction limited to that particular congregation and proximity of congregations, if it is presiding over more than one, that is not distant and wherein they can perform mutual duties one to another, then how can you claim to have jurisdiction over every society outside the bounds of your dwellings? In other words, how can RE Barrow and Dohms claim jurisdiction over the brethren that live outside of Edmonton? Presbyterian polity declares that they cannot. And if they do not have such jurisdiction, much less can they exercise discipline over such. So, then the Excommunications they have enacted are unlawful to Presbyterian polity and unfaithful to the Word of God and the King and Head of the Church, Jesus Christ the Lord.

Conclusion

You Elders have committed grave sin in seeking to redefine Presbyterianism and have therefore usurped what is of divine right. You have not demonstrated from Scripture, as is your duty as Elders, much less from the Standards that you can claim to be an International Session and much less able to exercise the discipline of Excommunication in the present structure you find yourselves in as Elders. You seek from those you would have the rule over implicit faith and total submission that cannot be questioned. You ask us to violate and transgress the Third Commandment. Your excommunications are not valid according to Presbyterian polity, unlawful according to our Presbyterian Standards, and more importantly, unfaithful to the very Word of God. Is it then a wonder that the Lord has come upon us all so hard in His discipline of you and us? Such actions by you Elders would cause you to be removed from office, at least temporarily, if we had a greater Presbytery to appeal to as they took into consideration and examination of such teaching and actions. Since we do not have such a privilege or blessing, we can no longer partake in your usurpation of Christ’s divine right and much less attend your ministry, unless there is repentance. May the Lord God of hosts have mercy upon us and you.


In the fear of Christ,

Edgar and Juana I.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

12/24/06, Of the "Public Sin" of An Unqualified Condemnation of Paganism (Among Other Allegations)

From: Bob S.
To: Lyndon Dohms; Greg Price; Greg Barrow
Cc: [List]
Sent: Sunday, December 24,2006, :32 AM [w. corrections]
Subject: Re: Session Response to _______ Allegations

Dear Lyndon, Greg and Greg et al,

I read with interest your response at large of Wed. Dec. 20th, (though sadly yours of last night was only more of what one has come to expect). Since you took the liberty to include me in the broadcast of those comments, I have taken the same to reply, particularly among a few other things, to the notion of a "public sin" of an unqualified condemnation of paganism, (which if the link is broken, can be found at: http://reformedveritas.blogspot. com/2006/12/ . . . ) Coming as my remarks do, from a “disaffected brethren,” they of course, are sure to be beneath the notice of some, even many, never mind reply, but that is no real matter. . .

It is also true that these are days in which unfortunately offences abound and scandals multiply in our circles. Neither is anyone interested at all in starting, much less fueling, any fires of hatred and/or bitterness. Yet if the wisdom from above is first of all pure, and then - and only then - peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated and so forth, it must simply be said that for someone who either wrote or approved the lukewarm and half hearted paper of 4/30/06 entitled: “The "Tattoos and the Word of God (TATWOG” as you brethren did, to then charge the family in question with a violation of the First commandment because they condemned tattoos out of hand and without qualification is just that much pompous noise and nonsense and a pathetic excuse for judicial process. Let them who are without the greater sin, [if the E family's is even sin], cast the first stone. Even further, because it is a frivolous charge, it necessarily causes the merit of the other two charges, if not the overall discernment, ability and fitness for office of the parties responsible to come under suspicion, never mind the question of the constitutionality of a court.

(Neither for that matter, is this the first time that TATWOG has been called to your attention. When TATWOG was first posted on the Albany website on 5/7/06 along with the corresponding sermon, an objection was made to it by the next day. Nor is it that one is merely against tattoos, because you brethren are for. The objections go deeper than that, as well that the undersigned had already gone on record against tattoos in a letter to a secular periodical in the fall of ‘04)

I. The First Commandment
In other words, taking the commandments in the order they come in the Decalogue, rather than in the order in which you make your charges at the close of your post, you speak of a “violation of the First Commandment in making the opinion of man the lord of one’s conscience in stating that all tattoos (without qualification) are sinful intrinsically in and of themselves.” Your most recent response quotes your letter of 5/28/06 to our sister or sisters, who supposedly commit this disciplinable offense for not qualifying their condemnation of tattoos on the LOC forum. The same letter requested clarification and contained 20 questions as it were on the topic, but it really was all about the possible exceptions to the general rule in the Scripture contra tattoos. That is, it is established jurisprudence, whether secular or ecclesiastical, that one does not make laws based on exceptions. While someone can be faulted for not acknowledging those exceptions, that does not excuse another party from the greater error. There is after all, a higher accountability for teachers and masters (Jm.3:1). In this case, the mistake is assuming that the practice is indifferent because of the mere existence or possibility of exceptions. That is pretty much the thrust of your letter in conjunction with the previous errors of TATWOG though. Again, while the general rule is that tattooing is wrong, - there might be some exceptions, just as of course we are told there might be with birth control - it does not follow that the possible existence of exceptions establishes that tattooing is indifferent.

That is to say there are a number of fundamental errors in TATWOG, any one of which seriously damages its credibility.
1. It is erroneous to assume that the prohibitions of Lev. 19 are only in regard to the connections with pagan religious rites. Quite plainly, the enchantments or observing times of v. 26 are forbidden at all times, regardless if they accompany the rituals for the dead of v. 28 or not, just as the prostitution of v. 29 is also forbidden, whether apart from idolatrous religion or not, as well just the plain old cutting of oneself in v.28 or “wounding” as LCat. Q&A 136 has it.
Leviticus 19:26 Ye shall not eat any thing with the blood: neither shall ye use enchantment, nor observe times.
27 Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.
28 Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.
29 Do not prostitute thy daughter, to cause her to be a whore; lest the land fall to whoredom, and the land become full of wickedness.
Yet TATWOG says regarding this section of Scripture: “If one of those practices was absolutely forbidden for all time, then all of those practices were likewise absolutely forbidden for all time (p.2).” This is only the case, if arguably we were to restrict the relevant verses under discussion only to verses 27 & 28. Yet cutting yourself is not the same as cutting your hair or beard and the folks downtown patronizing the tattoo parlor are not there for a surgical procedure upon medical reasons or even a simple haircut. Nor is a tattoo artist the same thing as a doctor, or even a nurse, poking a needle in your arm for a shot, while the only time a barber cuts you is when he makes a mistake.

2. The main ground of the paper though, is not Scripture, but a mistaken read of Geo. Gillespie in which he explicitly distinguishes between moderate and immoderate grief in the following (as underlined). The emphasis, in the caps of TATWOG (p.2) begs the distinction and assumes both are indifferent/moderate, as long as they are not superstitiously used:
“So that from this law [Leviticus 19:27,28 and Deuteronomy 14:1—GLP] it most manifestly appears that we may not be like idolaters, no not in things WHICH ARE IN THEMSELVES INDIFFERENT, when we know they do use them superstitiously. What warrant is there for this gloss, that the law forbids the cutting round of the corners of the head, and the matting of the corners of the beard, to be used as signs of immoderate and hopeless lamentation for the dead, and that in no other sense they are forbidden? Albeit the cutting of the flesh may be expounded to proceed from immoderate grief, and to be a sign of hopeless lamentation; yet this cannot be said of rounding the hair, marring the beard, and making baldness, which might have been used in moderate and hopeful lamentation, as well as our putting on of mourning apparel for the dead. The law says nothing of the immoderate use of these things, but simply forbids to round the head, or mar the beard for the dead; and that because this was one of the rites which the idolatrous and superstitious Gentiles used, concerning whom the Lord commanded his people, that they should not do like them, because he had chosen them to be a holy and peculiar people, above all people upon the earth. SO THAT THE THING FORBIDDEN, IF THE GENTILES HAD NOT USED IT [SUPERSTITIOUSLY—GLP], SHOULD HAVE BEEN OTHERWISE LAWFUL ENOUGH TO GOD’S PEOPLE, AS WE HAVE SEEN OUT OF CALVIN’S COMMENTARY” (_A Dispute Against English Popish Ceremonies_, George Gillespie, Naphtali Press, 1993 [1637], p. 185. CAPS have been added for emphasis)
In other words, following the caps, TATWOG insists that as long as one does not cut or print marks on oneself superstitiously, it is a moderate/indifferent thing that may be done.

Yet Gillespie just as distinctly says, that the cutting of the flesh in Lev. 19 proceeds from immoderate grief, as opposed to cutting the hair or beard which comes from a moderate grief. (In all this he is really answering Hooker's gloss of the law that said cutting the hair or beard is immoderate (Dispute, p.184)). So that while cutting the hair is not a problem when not done superstitiously, cutting oneself and making marks is not quite in the same category. One could be used, though abused. The other was essentially immoderate, i.e. unlawful.

In other words, what we seem to have here is a similar situation as is many times said of 1Cor 11 where we are told if a woman prophecies with her head uncovered, it is a shame. Yet it does not necessarily follow that a woman may prophecy with her head covered, as many, including the feminists take the passage. Paul later in 1 Cor. 14:34 says women may not speak in the church, period. So too, just because enchantments, observing times, rounding the head, marring the beard and cutting and making marks upon oneself, if not also prostitution, are done superstitiously, does not necessarily make those actions alright or "moderate" if done without superstition. But that is exactly what TATWOG erroneously teaches. It assumes there is nothing per se wrong with cutting and making marks on yourself, that it is equivalent to and as indifferent as cutting your hair or beard. We might suppose then, by the same token, killing also is indifferent, though the circumstances of accident, suicide, murder, war or execution play their respective part.

Still, if Scripture tells us that we are not to desire being teachers of the law; particularly if we neither understand what we say or affirm (cf. 1 Tim. 1:7.), TATWOG is a case in point if it is true that cutting oneself is the same as cutting the hair or beard. History tells us Van Gogh cut off his ear and sent it to his girlfriend (a prostitute, though not a pagan) maybe in hopes that she would cut off a lock of her hair in return. History also tells us Vincent was insane. But TATWOG would tell us this is indifferent? Respectfully, TATWOG needs to be repudiated before it reproduces itself again even further like it did in principle with the Position Paper on Sessional Authority with all its misconstructions, invalid arguments and attendant bad consequences.

3. The paper also positively ignores what is generally considered the locus classicus, the classic place or proof text on the topic in 1 Corinthians 6:19,20:

“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.”

To permanently mar or scar the body, the temple of the Holy Spirit, through body piercing, scarification or tattooing has always been something that primitive, barbaric and pagan peoples forsook upon conversion to Christianity. And as has been mentioned before, how one views and either excuses or accuses all these practices is indicative/symptomatic of a view of Christian liberty. (It might be argued a rather deficient view that encompasses music, drama, entertainment, recreation, dress and attire in our circles.) In the context of - of all things - Christian modesty and dress, D. Phillips, the editor of J. Pollard’s perceptive little booklet, Christian Modesty and the Public Undressing of America (2002) says:
Today, the line between the professing Christian and the savage tribesman has become increasingly blurred, as more and more "Christian" people resort not only to the pagan practices of scarification, tattoos and body mutilation, but have thrown off the "restraints" of modest dress in favor of the trendy and physically revealing. The result is that modern America has become publicly undressed. What is worse, Americans have come to think of nakedness as normal and acceptable, even preferable (p.13).
So too again, many modern American Christians, as demonstrated in TATWOG, are in danger of thinking that tattoos and other body modifications are normal and acceptable, if not preferred or "indifferent." At the very least TATWOG entirely fails to clarify exactly what are those circumstances that surround tattooing that make it lawful or unlawful. When called to preach the whole counsel of God and sound a clear blast on the trumpet, all one gets is the pathetic bleat and whimper of the following statement in TATWOG(p.3):
. . . .since I do not believe these practices are unlawful in themselves (but rather are indifferent), I do not believe it is immoral or unlawful to use any of these practices as long as one can do so to the glory of the Lord (1 Corinthians 10:31).
In reply, if that isn't a buy off, what is? One, there is absolutely no attempt to spell out exactly how a tattoo could be to the glory of God in TATWOG of any real substance. We would respectfully suggest that is because it would be extremely hard, if not in fact impossible and definitely the exception and not the rule. Two, this is to beg the question and fail our day as paganism and the attendant hatred of the image of God in man, as seen in the popular worldly practice of tattooing and body piercing/modification, is clearly on the rise. So much so, there are even "Christian tattoo artists," of which TATWOG could easily construed to be their manifesto and mission statement. Oh happy day! - Hardly.

However some might not seem to know it, there is a war going on and we are not talking about Iraqistan. The Christian is at war with the world, the flesh and the devil, the last whom roams about, looking to see whom he may devour. Yet we are to put on the whole armor of God and not be led around as it were, by a ring in our nose, following after foolish fables and compromised doctrine. If TATWOG is an attempt to be judicious and reasonable, in its zeal it errs in the excess, in that it is not enough in a day and age when drunkenness is a prevailing sin, to merely proclaim that drinking is lawful. It of course is, but that statement alone is not sufficient to fulfill the charge to the church of Jesus Christ to preach and teach the whole counsel of God. Again, a modern version of idolatrous paganism is on the rise and as a consequence the pagan practice of cutting and marking the body is clearly on the increase and quite acceptable in some circles, even some that purport to be Christian. That TATWOG aids and abets this mind set is not at all commendable.

In other words, if anybody in this church deserves to be disciplined or censured for their erroneous beliefs on tattoos publicly owned and published, as opposed to the "public sin" of an unqualified condemnation of paganism - the last of which tattooing essentially is a badge, if not a sacrament of - one had best look no further than those parties responsible for the public and pathetic scandal of TATWOG. “Physician, heal thyself” is the word, if not “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.” But to say that, we suppose, is in some peoples' eyes to be guilty of a worse scandal than TATWOG itself. Yet if that is not to strain the gnat and swallow a camel, pray tell, what is? Or are officers above reproach and only members subject to correction for doctrinal error? One certainly would have appreciated knowing that before they joined this church, their self excommunication, if that were possible, would have happened that much sooner.

II. The Fifth Commandment
You also cite charges against the Fifth commandment, regarding the supposed contempt for the ordinance of Christ in the lawful Court of Jesus Christ called the “Session of the RPNA[GM]” which also compels comment. If nothing else, it is crystal clear to anyone with eyes that our Lord did not intend the “gathered together” of Matt. 18:20 to be glossed over or interpreted in the fashion that the Position Paper on Sessional Authority has done. But if modern phone and internet technology can set aside entirely the original intent of the verse and the need for the court to meet in person - and we deny that it can - there still needs to be an authoritative ruling to that effect by a presbytery. And that, a plurality of ministers, we clearly do not have and have not had since June 6, ‘03.

In other words there can be no such thing as a extraordinary permanent or temporary session “in session” or open for business in place of an ordinary local congregational court or session when enough officers for a physical quorum are not in town and in the same room. When brethren, who are officers, do gather together in one place physically, in person and in the flesh, then and then only does our Lord Jesus Christ give them the keys of the kingdom which lately have been exercised with such seeming abandon in (self) excommunications, preceded by the oaths of allegiance and loyalty. After all even the Romans didn’t pass sentence on a man until he had a chance to answer his accusers face to face (Acts 25:21). Likewise even those guilty of scandalous sins in the Order for Excommunication. Satisfaction was made or no before an actual court, not a conference call or trial by email.

Speaking of the terms of communion, how come there are no oaths to uphold the same? The absence speaks volumes. An extraordinary permanent congregational court which is not a local court is quite clearly contrary to jus divinum presbyterian church government as per the 3rd term of communion. The quorum for a session includes not only a minister in person and actually present as a representative of Christ, but at least one ruling elder in person and actually present as representative of the people or hearers and preferably a local/resident ruling elder. Furthermore the terms of membership promise obedience to the officers, only in the Lord. Neither can the terms of membership supersede those of communion. The June 14, 2003 letter upon the dissolution of presbytery, which up until the PPSA of June this year was all anybody had to go on, explicitly and repeatedly speaks of membership and receiving the sacraments on the basis of the terms of communion.

If that letter also says, in reference to birth control, “our present circumstance demands that we, in writing, become much more explicit regarding our position,” as far as our ecclesiastical government is concerned, that did not happen until June 4, 2006, three years later in the PPSA. In the meantime, our “stated doctrine and practice as summarized in our six terms of communion” morphed into/was reinterpreted into what we have now: An innovation and/or novel interpretation, totally unsubstantiated authoritatively by a presbytery, which allows for a extraordinary “local” court to convene - not locally in one place actually in person - but by ethereal electronic current over the phone or by email. To gather together, not in the way intended and spoken of by our Lord in Matt. 18:20, but at a remove and an impersonal distance. (Is it just us or have society visits decreased, as this view has increased?) There is it seems, jus divinum presbyterianism and just down right pragmaticism in church governments and church courts. If one may be excused, the second is a pretense for the first, regardless if by holding that view one thereby excommunicates oneself from whatever kind of fellowship it is that can accept this interpretation of Matt. 18:20. Technology is only an aid, not a total replacement for personal ministry and presence.

Yet respectfully a few more questions and answers from the Larger Catechism regarding the Fifth Commandment:

Q127. What is the honor that inferiors owe to their superiors?
A. The honor which inferiors owe to their superiors is, all due reverence in heart, word, and behavior; prayer and thanksgiving for them; imitation of their virtues and graces; willing obedience to their lawful commands and counsels; due submission to their corrections; fidelity to, defense, and maintenance of their persons and authority, according to their several ranks, and the nature of their places; bearing with their infirmities, and covering them in love, that so they may be an honor to them and to their government.

An extraordinary permanent session that is contrary to our terms of communion and an item like TATWOG in which those who disagree with it are to be disciplined are not matters of infirmities, but public grievous error, if not also sin.

Q128. What are the sins of inferiors against their superiors?
A. The sins of inferiors against their superiors are, all neglect of the duties required toward them; envying at, contempt of, and rebellion against, their persons and places, in their lawful counsels, commands, and corrections; cursing, mocking and all such refractory and scandalous carriage, as proves a shame and dishonor to them and their government.

Again, duty requires a plain statement of the abuse of government in an unlawful command to swear an oath either to a government at the very least one is not adequately informed/instructed of or one that is neither lawful, precedented or reasonably and scripturally substantiated. Even further, since the glaring scandal of the PPSA is the absence of any real appeal to RP subordinate standards or historical testimony, a reasonable doubt is all that has to be raised against it. The positive answer is already given in the Informatory Vindication of Renwick and the practice of general meetings, correspondence and societies that continues up until the time of the Reformed Presbytery of Steele and Lusk.

Q129. What is required of superiors towards their inferiors?
A. It is required of superiors, according to that power they receive from God, and that relation wherein they stand, to love, pray for, and bless their inferiors; to instruct, counsel, and admonish them; countenancing, commending, and rewarding such as do well; and discountenancing, reproving, and chastising such as do ill; protecting, and providing for them all things necessary for soul and body: and by grave, wise, holy, and exemplary carriage, to procure glory to God, honor to themselves, and so to preserve that authority which God hath put upon them.

Again there is precious little substantial counseling and instruction going on regarding the questions about the PPSA and the oath affirming it and the court it argues for. Much ado is made of Act 16:4 and the decrees for to keep from the council in Jerusalem [in the excommunication notices], but at the same time the apostolic practice of personal public teaching and preaching sessions by word of mouth as well as by letter (Act 15:22,30-35) has not been seen in Albany or Edmonton, never mind that the rest of us would have benefited somewhat by at least hearing questions and answers secondhand on tape. Neither brethren, are you as elders providing the necessary protection against sinning against one’s conscience, all the while your carriage, i.e. behavior, leaves much to be desired in hastily and willfully pressing the oath over known and substantial questions and objections. This, so much that your power of order or office comes in question - your fitness and competence; never mind your power of jurisdiction or the "court." Even further, the distinction between the two is repeatedly confused in the discussion to the point that it is assumed to deny jurisdiction is to deny office. They are not the same.

Q130. What are the sins of superiors?
A. The sins of superiors are, besides the neglect of the duties required of them, and inordinate seeking of themselves, their own glory, ease, profit, or pleasure; commanding things unlawful, or not in the power of inferiors to perform; counseling, encouraging, or favoring them in that which is evil; dissuading, discouraging, or discountenancing them in that which is good correcting them unduly; careless exposing, or leaving them to wrong, temptation, and danger; provoking them to wrath; or any way dishonoring themselves, or lessening their authority, by an unjust, indiscreet, rigorous, or remiss behavior.

All the imposition of the loyalty oath essentially amounts to, is an inordinate and unbridled pursuit of power, notwithstanding genuine church government is unto edification, not summary and swift self excommunication to all who dare ask questions. That is the real offense in all this and as usual a persecuting party will find some other question of order or secondary matter in order to avoid the primary issue, such as for starters, one’s “public sins” regarding tattoos. - This charge again from those who are responsible for or approving the abysmally poor showing of TATWOG. - Conscience and the subordinate standards/historical testimony regarding extraordinary sessions must be sacrificed for the sake of expediency and the maintenance of a centralized and unaccountable authoritarian "presbyterian" power, an extraordinary synodical session and a lesser presbytery masquerading, if not usurping the jurisdiction of a greater presbytery. Yet the subsequent loss of respect, authority and impartiality necessary to the office for doctrine and discipline has necessarily followed the imposition of this loyalty oath. Loyalty to whom or what is the real question though. Christ or his church? Rome said and says they are indistinguishable - one and the same. And your answer, brethren, as elders? So far, the answer seems only too clear, particularly again, with the "discipline" exercised last night in the excommunication notices.

John 9:41 Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.

What remains to be determined, it might seem, is the truth of the following:

Jeremiah 5:31 The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof (emph. added)?

In other words, have you at least equipped the brethren at large to be able to make an honest choice in all this, with an informed, as opposed to an ignorant conscience? That is the real question.

III. The Ninth Commandment
As regards the last charge concerning the Ninth commandment, a few comments about what little we know. While not a member of the Edmonton society, one did visit in the summer of 2005 along with many others. While a very enjoyable time was had by all, one younger brother, who is no longer with the church, did come up to us Sunday morning with the pressing question of did we know who was cool? When the answer was in the negative, he said, nodding over at a group of young people, both boys and girls, “You can tell who the cool kids are because their bellybuttons are showing.” Though none of the offenders in this regard were from the two families recently discussed in your letter, it also is to say that the issue or the problem in our circles is not entirely unknown, which is not a good thing. While one doesn't expect perfection, when one hears, as one does in our circles, even from those of the elder persuasion that the young people have to fit in with everybody else as an excuse for the clothes, music, hairstyle or attitude, something is wrong. Nobody expects a bunch of Quakers, Shakers or Amish in old fashioned clothes and horse drawn buggies, but what can look to be a pretty authentic copy of and/or wholescale conformity to the world, whether Hollywood/Britney, goth or punk is not really the godly alternative. The evangelicals play that game real well, but that is no excuse for the RP's to do the same.

That also brings up Matt. 18 about which we seem to have in these circles a phobia where nobody can say anything about even the most obvious things because they haven’t first got witnesses and gone to their brother privately. And supposedly the family in question was counseled regarding the Matt. 18 option. But maybe misled is more like it, in that we don’t understand Matt. 18 to require one family to go and get two or three more families to verify their concerns, before anything at all can be said to anybody. It sounds more like they got the runaround than anything else, as in being asked if they wanted to go the Matt. 18 route when they already essentially had regarding the first couple of steps. As mentioned previously, while one doesn't know the full particulars, the previous specious charge against them regarding at least the First Commandment, because of their “public sin” of an unqualified condemnation of paganism, consequently casts doubt on the the merit of this charge also, if not the discernment and competence of those who made it, apart from again, any question again, of the constitutionality of the court.

For that matter though, if our brother is so upset and jealous for his reputation, because of what one of the ladies put up on the LOC forum out of Miller on the Ruling Elder, perhaps the brother understands how some of the rest of us lowly pew dwellers took the “hypothetical analogy” onslaught and campaign on the public email forum at about the same time, if not the previous phony affidavit routine. Neither did the tattoo or elder posts on the LOC forum shut down/euthanize the LOC forum like the spam wave of hypothetical analogies did the general forum after people objected. (That is, correct us if we are wrong, but the forum was shut down because people objected to, not because of, the hypo analogies, right?) We have to assume, the brother fully and explicitly approved of this ploy involving the stampede of hypothetical Trojan horse analogies due to his Colorado visit to the brethren responsible right in the middle of the event. But if everybody is jealous of their own interests, those in charge are supposed to be looking out for everyone’s interests. That certainly didn’t happen.

For that matter, Colorado has still gotten more visits than Prince George has received, even if PG has disagreements with the elders. In other words, in the larger context, conflict management (as well society and family visits) - in person - comes with the turf, brethren. Neither is evasion or even (self) excommunications a genuine option or first resort for those who are called to serve the sheep.

And if the brother is willing in the first place - as he plainly was - to stoop to the “disorderly” and "public" hypothetical analogy email campaign as waged by his proxies and surrogates, instead of forthrightly addressing and dealing with the issues and controversies in the church at the very least by positive preaching and teaching, if not actually moderating the forums in person, what does that say for the caliber of one’s administration and impartiality, brother or brethren? Respectfully, not much and that without mentioning again, the phony January affidavit episode in response to a perfectly legitimate question in its own right, regardless of who asked it, i.e. what are the public sins to be confessed in a public fast? (For that matter, it would be entirely in order even at this late date to return to the church restructuring proposal of last year in earnest rather than with the mere lip service it ended up getting.) Never mind that others are going the route of the “court of public opinion.” It starts at the top. He who knows and does not who is in office, has the greater burden of responsibility than those who are without.

Again, there is no question that all the public emails can be or even are a disorderly way to carry on with business. We would be the first to tell you that, but the alternative, besides following the example of our elder brethren is what? As one who has gone repeatedly to you and not received any real satisfaction whether regarding the smug, sanctimonious and self righteous little screed of "Saul in the Cave with Adullam" all the way to TATWOG, there comes a time when enough is enough. Things snowball to the place where you throw in the towel on all the private parleys and circular negotiations. Hence the joint attempt of something like the Charitable Inquiry. Though it is not perfect, it is a passable and necessary effort to address the issues raised in the PPSA which are but a further development in principle of TATWOG”s shoddy and invalid forms of arguments, mistaken applications and non sequiturs or conclusions that do not follow from the many times ambiguous premises. (If you can believe it, supposedly and implicitly if a congregation alone in an island has the right of discipline in their own local session, so too a "session" is adequate/expedient for group of societies, families and individuals alone in the island of the N. American continent. But not only is it illogical, it is extremely impractical from what we see going on all around us. The PPSA, true offspring of TATWOG that it is, also asserts that a “session” can have synodical, if not presbyterial power/jurisdiction in part due to technology and that despite clearly not having a plurality of ministers necessary to either higher court, the excuse of extraordinary times notwithstanding.) All of which, without apology, we have a problem with nor do we have to put up with. If that is sin, well then, so be it.

While as a rule people in this church or in general are long suffering, sooner or later if frustrated with, among other things, a less than speedy administration of process they will follow the example of their betters and elders who have clearly led the way in all this for the worse. Contra the supposed violation of the Ninth commandment as your recent response charges, respectfully one needs to look a little closer to home for the root of the problem. Again, let those who are without sin in this regard, cast the first stone and those with sin, refrain from and halt process, in that the Scripture says fathers are not to provoke their children to wrath. Those who are in authority who have done so, need to look no further than the mirror for the real reason why there is all this turmoil and dissatisfaction in the church of Jesus Christ. That is because, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me (Jn. 10:47)"

In short and in sum, gentlemen, the case remains to be made that these charges regarding the First, Fifth and Ninth Commandment are legitimate and substantial as opposed to frivolous. And if they are frivolous, Deut. 19:19 necessarily comes into play in that those who can't prove the crime, do the time. At the very least, that epitome of mediocrity, TATWOG needs to be locked up and the key thrown away for good, if not that TATWOG itself ought to be thrown overboard in close proximity of and in intimate communion with a millstone in order that we never see it again. The same too, could be said for its soulmate, the PPSA.

That, if not again, “Physician, heal thyself,” is still the real prescription necessary to begin to solve all these problems that trouble the waters of Jordan and disturb this church of Christ at the moment. May God grant you the grace and humility to see that, before you drive all to wrack and ruin, as you seem bound and determined to do in your own wilfull stubborness and obstinacy.

And the sooner you begin brethren, the better it will be for all of us in the church of Christ, yourselves included.

Until then I trust, I am cordially yours,
in our Lord Jesus Christ, who will not allow robbers, thieves, wolves or hirelings to disturb his sheep. Neither do his elect fear the excommunication of mere men.

Thank you very much.
Bob S


Saturday, December 23, 2006

12/23/06, Second Wave of Excommunications

From: "Lyndon Dohms"
To: [All who signed the Charitable Inquiry who were not yet x'ed and one other couple and an individual]
CC: "Greg Price"
"Greg Barrow"
Subject: Excommunications
Date: Sat, 23 Dec 2006 20:06:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Attached are announcements of excommunications.


The Session of the RPNA (GM)

(w. 14 pdf notices of excommunication for 15 individuals attached)

Friday, December 15, 2006

12/15/06, G. Price's Reply to the UnExcommunicated Brethren

From: G.Price
Fri Dec 15 2006, 08:17 AM
[In reply to the unexcommunicated brethren]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Although I admitted in my letter to you that there were some concerns worth discussing, my letter to you, as dear brothers and sisters whom I love in the Lord, was intended to persuade you to separate yourselves from those who had been excommunicated by the lawful Church Court of the RPNA (GM) rather than joining hands with them in a public letter of common concerns.

I do understand that you began working on these common concerns with our excommunicated brethren before they were actually excommunicated. However, as I pointed out to you in my letter to you, once they were excommunicated, it was your duty to remove your names from any association with them and if you still desired to forward to the Session such concerns for discussion you may have done so (in accordance with the Session's invitation extended to you in the "Position Paper On Sessional Authority").

Dear ones, by your continued action to stand with the excommunicated brethren in this common cause, the concerns you have expressed have not been submitted to us in an orderly manner (in that they were submitted publicly rather than privately as we proposed in the "Position Paper On Sessional Authority" and were submitted in a common cause with those who had been lawfully excommunicated which is contrary to Scripture and to our Subordinate Standards). Thus, I cannot receive this installment or any others that are submitted in such a disorderly and sinful manner lest it set a sinful precedent for further acts of public defiance in joining hands with those who have been lawfully excommunicated.

You obviously disagree with me (in the letter I sent to you all) and with the Session's excommunication of our dissenting brethren, but I do yet plead with you to discontinue with any further steps that move you further from us. You may believe that the steps you have taken were taken to promote peace, but in all honesty before the Lord, I see them as steps that have promoted further division within the Church and further public defiance for the lawful Court of this Church.

My heart goes out to you all (my dear brethren whom I love in the Lord) as I plead for the Lord to grant you understanding and repentance.

With brotherly affection,
Greg L. Price

Friday, November 17, 2006

11/17/06, CovRefClub Post #15272 [Complete]: Welcome Wayward Covenanters/Read It Yourself If You Think I am Lying

#15272 Covenanted Reformation Club
From:
Bob S.
Date: Fri Nov 17, 2006 :12 am
Subject: Re: Welcome Wayward Covenanters/Read it Yourself If You Think I am Lying
[Abridged version on CRC list, full post below.]

Dear Gerry and Tom,

Appreciate you speaking up on all the current unpleasantness in the RPNA(GM).

> Private actions warrant private discussions: these are public acts.

> This is a public act. Discussing this public act cannot
> be condemned as "airing dirty laundry" or discussing "in-house"
> matters. Public acts, public discussions about those acts.

> "But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us openly uncondemned,
> being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us
> out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us
> out." -- Acts 16:37.

Excellent choice of Scripture with the last. If the Session of the RPNA(GM) excommunications are both public and just, they ought to be able to bear public examination, as well the oath and the Position Paper on Sessional Authority which led to them. Those in favor of them ought not to fear the light (Eph. 5:13). Let the whole story be told and justice vindicated.
But not now and not here? Where then? There was no orderly hearing in the RPNA(GM) and those complaining now, did not say boo then. If we don’t like that or can’t handle that, then we need to re-examine some of those things that put us in to the spotlight in the first place.
Just in case we don’t know, for the record it is one thing to excommunicate somebody from your own little private club and neck of the woods. It is entirely another to kick somebody out of the visible Church into the abyss and, barring repentance, a free fall that is supposed to end up in the lake of fire. In other words, if we can't run with the footmen, how will we keep up with horses (Jer.12:5)?

Thanks also Gerry, for posting some of the official documents - the Position Paper on Sessional Authority of June 4, ‘03, the Session’s Response of Oct. 28th and the excommunication notice of Nov. 4th.

> To the end that public discussion might be done according to
> knowledge, and so people's mouths can be closed about my reading
> altered/filtered/adulterated materials, I will be posting, in this
> groups file section, the RPNA (gm)'s own document defending their
> extraordinary "session" which they believe is ok to call a presbytery,
> and which they admit is not a general meeting though they still shall
> call themselves a general meeting. . .
> The Covenanted Reformation Club's file section can be seen here:
> http://groups.yahoo.com/group/covenantedreformationclub/files/

While they should be enough for starters, there is more of course/unfortunately - the Oct. 4th oath alone or with the accompanying letter and a second/further Response to Recent Objections of Nov. 4th which immediately preceded the announcements of excommunication.

> It is clearly a duty to publicly protest unlawful public acts and
> say, "not in our name." Not only are these acts not a Reformed or
> Presbyterian, they are not even biblical Christianity: these are
> further acts of tyranny and oppression done under color of law.
> They are to be opposed.

Exactly, but sad to say, one big reason for objections to publicly protesting these acts from what I can tell, seems to be that many(?) in the RPNA(GM) don't have much of a background in presbyterianism and the reformed faith. Rather all they might seem to know on both counts is tied up in their acquaintance with the three elders of the former RPNA. Consequently to question, dissent or disagree with these brethren, is to be automatically and categorically irreverent, disrespectful and rebellious of all lawful authority and to irrevocably damn one before any real discussion can even begin.

That and they mistake compromise and not rocking the boat for genuine piety, love and holiness. But again, if we want to assume the privilege, authority and power to excommunicate people from the visible Church and hand them over to Satan, it behooves one to take care just how they exercise that option. Granted, those who truly deserve to be excommunicated will stop at nothing to justify themselves, which is how I am sure some will take my comments. But so likewise will those who administer excommunications sinfully or improperly in seeking to cover up and suppress the truth of the matter. Eph. 5:13 is again to the point: “But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.”

Yet where have we heard this before regarding government? That RP’s deny or refuse to own just any civil magistrate is enough said and conclusive proof that they deny all civil magistrates, if not the ordinance itself and are obviously incorrigible Anabaptists and rebels at heart? So too at least the opinion of the Session itself. Those that balk at the oath, the PPSA and the authority of the “Session” automatically and categorically oppose all lawful ecclesiastical authority. Hence the “self excommunications” post haste. But this really is to take too much to oneself (Num. 16:3). It is a non sequitur. It does not follow. To oppose or question the authority of one court is not to oppose all courts.

And let’s not delude ourselves either. Self excommunications are just an excuse to avoid following due process and good order. Or was due process followed in the RPNA(GM)? But the buck stops somewhere and it generally stops with those in charge. At least in the real world. And in the real reformed presbyterian world. Are we really there yet? In the RPNA?

> It appears from the public record that the leadership sincerely
> believe they are doing the right thing, but I believe they are in
> serious error and doing an incredible amount of damage, even if
> unintentional.

Exactly and unfortunately, all too true.

Again, those who will not swear an oath to recognize the authority of the Session of the RPNA(GM) and its judicial acts, particularly the recent Position Paper on Sessional Authority of June 4, 06 which is the Session' s justification for its existence, are essentially and presumptuously considered by the elders of the former RPNA to be rebellious and disobedient to all lawful authority of Christ in his church and are therefore to be excised immediately, if not sooner. Hence the self justifying rationale and circular reasoning for " self excommunications."

> The "Reformed Presbytery of North America
> General Meeting" is NOT a Presbytery, not even a real session, and not
> a general meeting (yes, I read the defense of the name and of the
> government in the current circumstances, and found it to be pretty
> poor). I never joined them or owned them as lawful.

The PPSA comes almost three years to the day after the Reformed Presbytery of NA was dissolved June 6, 03. It is the supposed argument from Scripture, history and reason alone to justify said session - the RP subordinate standards being essentially, if not totally AWOL, a telling as well as devastating omission. As a “Petitio Principii” of Sessional Authority it is well named though. The PPSA "begs the question" and assumes the existence of a lawfully constituted, as in electronically, - by way of "the Internet and modern phone technology (PPSA, p.9)" - and lawfully named extraordinary permanent Presbyterian court. It presumes that under the name of a session - the "essence” or "being" of which is a local congregational court - the body in question has both international, i.e. synodical powers, as well as those of a presbytery or common court. But that is just it. Extraordinary or not, only a local court preserves the essence or being of an ordinary session. An extraordinary out of town permanent “session” doesn’t qualify. To electronically constitute the court over the phone qualifies as an innovation at least. Will public worship and the administration of the sacraments via video conference be next? High speed internet a pre requisite to enter the kingdom of God? Also, both of the higher or broader courts, a presbytery or synod, presume a plurality of ministers, which at one time the officers in the former RPNA to their credit, admitted they did not have (June 14,’03). Those days seem to be long gone. [CRC post abridged here, more boring details below.]

Another one of the marked differences between the Session of the RPNA(GM) and both of these higher courts of jus divinum or divine right Presbyterian church government, if not any court , is the absence of a stated due process and right of appeal. (Without the second because of legitimate circumstance, at the very least the first ought to be top notch.) To those who are swayed enough by emotion or ignorance to ignore the light of natural reason, or are not now under the judicial gun and the onus of self excommunication via an oath, that may seem a small thing, but it is all the world and the substantial difference between a court and a travesty thereof.

Which again is just the problem. A lot of people in the former RPNA might not have that much previous experience or knowledge of P&R churches and how presbyterianism plays out in a local church or denomination. Consequently familiarity with our past practice and present personalities plays a large part in maintaining the status quo over and against presbyterian principle in the RPNA(GM). To disagree with the elders is to attack presbyterianism. That along with an ignorance of the historical distinctions and testimony RP’s have regarding general meetings, societies and temporary sessions, leaves many adamantly opposed to the same and charges of independency and congregationalism fly.

For that matter I have been in three P&R churches in Washington, spending roughly five years in the PCA, two in the RPCNA and seven in the PRC’s, before attending the then PRCE society down here in Abbotsford/Everson since ‘98 and joining in ‘99 or so. I would note, that in both the Seattle RPCNA and the Lynden Protestant Reformed Church - the Everett PCA congregation only implemented this ordinary P&R duty after I left - every year, every household in the congregation would get a visit from two elders. So too, in both the PCA and the PRC, - I assume the same of the RPCNA, but not only did I live out of town, I can’t specifically remember - every year, visitors from presbytery/classis came around and met with the session/consistory and examined their minutes, i.e. the written record.

That is to say, if and when a genuine presbytery shows up on the scene and examines the minutes - if they exist - of the Session of the RPNA(GM) they are going to have a few questions for the brethren. Such as: ‘we notice you have excommunicated en masse your oldest Society in Prince George, BC. OK, for sake of discussion, they “excommunicated themselves.” But just when did you notice things starting to go gunny bag there? Just exactly when was the last time you visited? In July2004? And how come you haven’t been there since? Don’t the records show that the SPG had a public conference/get together in June 2006 and you were publicly invited to come as early as Jan. ‘06? So you haven’t been there for over two years, but in the same time frame, this one brother in Colorado has had at least three visits by elders? [The same being very possibly the mystery plaintiff that kicked off the whole oath/excommunication process in the first place, not to mention other extenuating circumstances in all this.] What exactly is going on here?’ Can anybody say favoritism? How about negligence? Even if the SPG deserves to be booted, the session has not fulfilled its responsibilities for oversight of the group, particularly when there were known problems.

Even further, I have also been through the channels of ecclesiastical discipline in two of these three churches prior to the PRCE/RPNA, going to presbytery in the PCA and synod (general assembly) in the PRC’s with first a protest and then following up with an appeal of the rejection to each protest. In other words, while no expert, I am not a complete stranger to judicial ecclesiastical process. While no expert on the 2nd Reformation and jus divinum church presbyterian government, I am respectfully still not too impressed or nonplussed with the excuses and ad hoc machinations masquerading as due process and good order, even under the excuse of extraordinary times, chief among them being self inflicted excommunications. The politicking and gamesmanship where due process and right of appeal is present is bad enough. To be without it pretty much at all is worse.

In all three churches Monday in and Monday out, the session/consistory met, if not weekly,then biweekly or monthly at 8:00 usually. You knew when and where the court was in session. As they used to say in the PRC, ‘the door to the consistory room is always open.’ Presbytery/classis was announced off the pulpit and in the denominational magazine. And whatever you want to say about the Dutch Reformed, in the PRC’s after Synod in June, come August there would be a box in the foyer full of paper bound copies of the Acts of Synod. The elders would stand at the door after worship and hand out at least one copy to the head of every household. I never saw that in the PCA or the RPCNA, with the PCA General Assembly record particularly resembling the proverbial teeth from the invisible chicken. Of even the existence of session meetings in the RPNA(GM), I was unaware, until the recent Session Response of Oct. 28th (p.9). But I never asked, I am sure is, but one reply. I never knew that I should have to, is the answer. I know now, though. Funny that I had to excommunicate myself to find it out or is that just sour grapes on my part? Am I just a slow learner?

Still, if by their fruit ye shall know them, practically speaking, some things are quite clear. The emperor has no clothes, and the court is clothed with less than the authority of Christ to appeal to. If it does have Christ’s authority, it needs to do a much better job of establishing and teaching that then is done in the PPSA. For one instance, if you really want to appeal to Act 15 in the PPSA (pp.6-9), much more the excommunication (Act 16:4) a little better job of following through the approved example and justification for the extraordinary state of affairs in our circles is in order. Why has there not been very public sessions of preaching and teaching on the PPSA in the very least Albany and Edmonton as there was in Acts15:22-33?

> I want to you understand that almost 100% of the information I'm
> basing my position on is RPNA (GM) written materials in which they are
> explaining themselves. I am not going on much, if anything, of what
> others have told me. I read the defense of the current government and
> other documents, I read the charges they're putting out against
> people, the stuff about excommunicating yourself, I read the oath. . . .

I of course, remain open to be persuaded that the RPNA(GM) is being misrepresented on this site, if such is indeed the case. Those who seem to feel that way are welcome to do so as far as I am concerned. I cannot help but notice then, that so far, as has been pointed out a number of times, the public record of the RPNA(GM) is available and now is even more so and others who are not of the undersigned’s biased point of view ought to be competent enough to reach an opinion of those public acts and documents without any insinuation, help or coaching on my part. They have done so.

Consequently I am bold to also say, their opinion is correct and they are to be commended for saying so in public as they have. I for one certainly appreciate it.

In conclusion, gentlemen, my apologies for the length of all this in that I really say no more than what you have already said previously.
Again my appreciation and thanks.

cordially in our Lord Jesus Christ,
Bob S.
Sole Member of the
RPNA Society of "Disaffected Brethren"

Thursday, November 09, 2006

11/9/06, A Charitable Inquiry of the PPSA

From: Common Concerns
To: Pastor G Price, Elder G Barrow, Elder L Dohms
Cc: [List]
Sent: Thursday, November 09, :16 AM
Subject: A Charitable Inquiry Regarding Elders PPSA


November 8, 2006


Cover Letter


Dear Pastor Price, Elder Barrow, and Elder Dohms,

In the attached inquiry that is before you, many individuals are coming to you with common questions and concerns regarding your position paper on Sessional authority [1] and the events that have transpired since. Here we outline why we are asking these questions of you, along with our reasons for asking in the manner we have chosen.


In light of recent events, some may ask why certain individuals are represented here as signatories. The reason is twofold: first, because we realized in general discussions since June, that at least to some degree these certain individuals shared common concerns; second, because some of these have in recent days been asked numerous questions by peers and superiors, regarding issues with more and less relevance in this common paper. Upon reflection it seemed most fair to all concerned to follow through on this moderate path, recognizing our issues do not represent all issues of any one person, but seek to be generally representative on what we collectively know to be – common concerns on things common in their nature to the scattered remnant.


~ Promises, Prayers and Papers ~

January 1, 2006 you wrote to the people letting us know your intentions and commitment to "restructure this organization". The letter also called for a public day of prayer, repentance, and fasting to be observed. The reasons stated pertained to your lack of ability to function under the present burden, which in other words appears to be an acknowledgment of inexpediency.

"…for the purpose of humbling ourselves before God, acknowledging our sins against the Lord and against one another, and praying that God would be merciful to us in strengthening our Elders, in ministering to the needs of His people, and in blessing the plans to restructure the RPNA.

Also, for these reasons, we will be praying and working to propose to the Societies over the next couple months a restructured organization for the RPNA.

Our physical limitations and weaknesses to carry on the work of ministry have driven us to reconsider how our present structure is able to compensate for these human deficiencies in God's good providence." [2]

You listed those limitations and weaknesses as:

1) Elder Barrow's "poor health and accompanying stress", requiring a two month leave of absence.

2) Elder Dohms' work situation, leaving him with "little or no time to devote to the Eldership for the foreseeable future".

3) Pastor Price's natural limitations to do the work of the whole, "lest he likewise suffer from the tremendous burden of stress that would fall upon his shoulders"

4) That "even prior to these most recent trials, we have felt stretched beyond our limits".

5) That "we have seen the effects in our inability to keep up with the work load, to minister to those who have needs, to relieve the stress brought into our families, and to prevent certain ill effects in our own bodies". [3]


January 1, 2006 you committed to produce a "restructuring presentation/organization" and on January 21, 2006, the Societies joyfully fasted and prayed for your infirmities. With your Oct. 28, 2006 response to the Prince George Society's "Public Protest and Complaint" we finally had a report on those issues and can thank the Lord that He heard our cries:


"After the two month leave of absence was ended for Elder Barrow and his health began to improve, and after the grave circumstances for Elder Dohms began to show some improvement (subsequent to the unexpected and devastating death of his boss and good friend)…" [4]


Though we also fasted for a "restructuring presentation/organization" we have yet to see the fruit of our fasting hopes, as you have not kept your commitment. [5] Your Position Paper lacks any explanation as to why you chose to continue under the present "burden", yet we do read in your Oct 28, 2006 letter some of the background:


"…the Session (in March 2006) began to discuss and make preparations to address issues related to Sessional authority that had been raised by the Society in Prince George privately and by others publicly in the hope of confirming by both biblical and historical testimony the warrant for an extraordinary Session." [6]


It seems remarkable to us, that the "issues" the Prince George Society "rose"[7] over a year ago are somehow related to your January 1, 2006 admission of inexpediency. We are left wondering how your public response to their private inquiry addresses your commitment to restructuring this organization, or the inability to effectively function under the present burdens.


The May 20, 2006 announcement that Elder Barrow would be going part-time [8] would only tend to weaken your abilities further. We don't understand what's changed and desire to have greater understanding.


~ The Right and Duty of Private Judgment ~

Your Position Paper of June 4, 2006 raised questions related to your letters of Jun. 14/03, Jan. 1/06 and Oct. 28/06. In the attached inquiry we will seek to understand and examine your doctrine and practice by Scripture, faithful Subordinate Standards, and our forefathers' witness. These are the guides we will be using as we exercise private judgment, which is acknowledged as our right [9] and duty:


Acts 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

1Thess 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

Micah 7:5a Trust ye not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide:

"The Supreme Judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture." 10]

" If this [the right of private judgment ­ GB] belongs not to the people they have nothing but blind implicit faith; and what better are they than Papists, who must believe as the church believes? Yea, hath not every Christian a judgment of discretion, even in reference to actions of others? seeing they are to do nothing doubting but to be fully persuaded in their own minds, Rom. 14:23. "[11]

"V. As we Judge it the height of arrogancy, & encroachment upon the Sacred office, for people to Judge Ministers, or prescribe rules unto them; So we look upon it as competent, & granted unto people by the Lord, to have a judgment of their own duty, how to carry towards Ministers, & not to take matters upon trust from them, but to prove all things before they choose, & to hold fast what they find agreeable to the Law & to the Testimony, searching the Scriptures whether these things be so or not, for which the Noble Bereans are commended: And it is given in command, 1 John 4.1, Not to believe every spirit, but try them whether they are of God; which is not written only to Church guides, though Church guides are to try after their own way Judicially, & people in a private way competent unto them: We look upon this as a privilege, which the people (if they would not prostitute their true Christian Liberty) are bound to defend: And that not only extended to Ministers' Doctrine, but also to their practices & professions (to know with some satisfaction to the Conscience, what they have been) which through this vast tract of defections have been so different, while they have not clearly sided themselves, in making a difference between the precious & the vile, nor given people distinctly to understand what they are aiming at, & where they resolve to stand." [12]


~ Accusations of Conspiracy ~

There were accusations made recently, on the now closed PRCE forum, in the form of "hypothetical analogies" which have been the cause of much fear and suspicion amongst the brethren.


Isa 8:12 Say ye not, A confederacy, to all [them to] whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.


We contend for truth rather than victory. For the record, it is not our desire to euthanize or amputate you Elders from the Church nor (we believe) can such be seen in our actions. If any would seek to interpret the hypothetical analogies to include us, we echo the words of Nehemiah when he was falsely accused by Sanballat of seeking to usurp authority.


Neh 6:5-8 Then sent Sanballat his servant unto me in like manner the fifth time with an open letter in his hand; Wherein [was] written, It is reported among the heathen, and Gashmu saith [it, that] thou and the Jews think to rebel: for which cause thou buildest the wall, that thou mayest be their king, according to these words. And thou hast also appointed prophets to preach of thee at Jerusalem, saying, [There is] a king in Judah: and now shall it be reported to the king according to these words. Come now therefore, and let us take counsel together. Then I sent unto him, saying, there are no such things done as thou sayest, but thou feignest them out of thine own heart.


We seek to be faithful in our duty to search the Scriptures, to compare whether these things are so and to have informed consciences guarding against implicit faith, as all the godly will aspire to. Further, we see the right to a common gathering and discussion, in the inspired record.


Mal 3:16 Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard [it], and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name.


While we do not condone the sin of murmuring, the Apostles did not charge the Grecians with sin for their concern or their discussion of it, prior to coming to the Apostles. Indeed, the Apostles reaction was not one of censure, but to deal with the issues, be they issues real or perceived.


Acts 6:1-3 And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. (2) Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples [unto them], and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. (3) Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.


Nor is the "congregation of Israel" condemned for discussing concerns prior to bringing them before the king.


1 Kings 12:3-5 That they sent and called him. And Jeroboam and all the congregation of Israel came, and spake unto Rehoboam, saying, (4) Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee. (5) And he said unto them, Depart yet [for] three days, then come again to me. And the people departed.


We know the situation we face today as covenanted brethren is not the one described in Matthew 18 (which rightly requires going to an individual privately); our situation does not reflect a narrow private offense but rather a topic that is common and public that warrants open and plain discussion. When we speak of "common concerns," we are not speaking of concerns that each individual has but rather, issues that affect our covenanted brethren as a whole. We hope to see such impartiality to both you and ourselves as was called for by our forefathers as follows:


"3. Seeing the Cause of God hath suffered great hurt, by persons their too much credulity in believing ill & false reports, & spreading the same as real certainties, without ever trying or searching into the truth or falsehood thereof; And seeing that thereby our divisions & distractions have been greatly multiplied: Therefore we desire (which we are also willing to grant unto others) that none hereafter may give ear & credit to the bare reports of our Accusers & Traducers, without due trying & searching into the truth thereof (at least if not for our sakes, yet that they would forebear for the Gospel's) seeing that from henceforth they may be convinced of our being so much wronged by such sad misrepresentations.

4. We desire that in time coming, any who shall hear or suppose such opinions or practices, as are unsound & hurtful, to be maintained & followed by us, may deal so friendly & Christianly with us, as to admonish us thereof, in order to evince & convict us of the same, before they publickly vent such things, or Inform against us." [13]


~ Practical Public Interaction ~

We come asking questions of you in this format, for the following reasons:

A) In your use of terms (for example: Session, Presbytery, and General Meeting), there appears to be a difference in your definitions from the historic use. We'd like to see reconciliation between the two.

B) In all your recent excommunication announcements we have been advised of your view that silence to any judicial action implies consent. We understand you have declared your Position Paper to be a subordinate standard, and as we cannot consent without informed consciences, we therefore come asking questions.

C) We see common questions about public issues; common questions that concern all the covenanted brethren. We would like to save time and energies by seeing them addressed publicly.

D) We would like assurance that our questions will be addressed. We have not yet experienced a means of communication which enables both you and the people to deliberate through concerns that are common or shared by all. One example of this is seen by contrasting the questions which the Prince George Society asked privately, with your public representation of their questions in the Position Paper. [14]


We hope this approach will be seen as respectful and charitable and will help us to practically work toward effective communication with each other. Based on our experiences, posting emails to groups of people can be profitable, but we believe another way will be more productive and charitable. Therefore:

1) We plan on sending out multiple sections in response to your position paper on Sessional authority and the events that have transpired since, this being the first in our series. We desire your feedback, and so we have set up a few resources for communication that we hope will be useful in serving us all.

2) We have appointed a representative committee to communicate with you, on our behalf. We also invite dialogue with any of us concerning these issues, with this preference: discussions on our common concerns reflected in our paper be with at least two households present. Having at least two households present will help minimize misunderstandings and establish verifiable testimony to us all. We request that if you desire to talk with any of us about these issues, that you let us know in advance so that we can coordinate our schedules with yours.

3) We will be setting up a moderated website forum that will enable you and us to further discuss all of these matters in a balanced and objective environment.

4) Along with that forum, we will make conference calls available (complete with predetermined agendas) to all of the covenanted brethren for the advancement of greater communication regarding these issues.


With Christian affection and honor, we thank God for you superiors, we look forward to benefiting from your instruction, and we hope to grow in greater unity with our brethren in our Lord's Truth.

Thank you very much.



[1] Session of the RPNA (GM), Position Paper on Sessional Authority, June 4, 2006

[2] Email: RPNA Session Announcements, January 1, 2006

[3] Email: RPNA Session Announcements, January 1, 2006

[4] Session of the RPNA (GM), Session Response to "Public Protest and Complaint, Oct 28, 2006, p.4

[5] Email: RPNA Session Announcements, January 1, 2006:

"For these reasons, we will be praying and working to propose to the Societies over the next couple months a restructured organization for the RPNA. No doubt you will have many questions at this time. We ask that you patiently wait to hear from us the specifics of this restructuring when we make our public presentation"

[6] Session of the RPNA (GM), Session Response to "Public Protest and Complaint, Oct 28, 2006, p.4

[7] The Prince George Society's reply was an Answer to Questions From The Session (October 7, 2004). The Session asked:

"In your opinion, what are matters of a judicial and non-judicial character? When do matters move from being non-judicial to judicial in character?"

[8] Email: Session Announcement re: Greg Barrow, May 20, 2006

[9] Session of the RPNA (GM), Session Response to "Public Protest and Complaint, Oct 28, 2006, p.11

[10] Westminster Assembly, Confession of Faith, Ch I.10, Of the Holy Scripture - http://www.reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs/ch_I.html

[11] W. H. Carslaw, The Life and Letters of James Renwick, (quoted by Greg Barrow, Covenanted Reformation Defended, p.139; emphasis in the original) - http://www.reformedpresbytery.org/books/covrefdf/frames/appendg.html

[12] United Societies, Informatory Vindication, p.93-94 - http://truecovenanter.com/societies/informatory_vindication.html

[13] United Societies, Informatory Vindication, p.114 - http://truecovenanter.com/societies/informatory_vindication.html

[14] Please see Appendix A




Nov. 9, 2006
A Charitable Inquiry Regarding the “Position Paper
on Sessional Authority” (PPSA)
Which was written, and submitted by
Pastor G. Price,
Elder G. Barrow,
and Elder L. Dohms
on June 4, 2006

Presented to the Elders by:

Shawn & Tammy A.
Edgar & Juana I.
Martin D.
Taletha E.
Samantha E.
Camilla E.
Hannah E.
Willena F.
Bob S.
Mark & Belinda C.
Cheryl G.
Mike & Teresa G.
Rod & Milly S.
Jody S.

p.2
Preface
~ The Essential Questions ~
On January 1, 2006, you introduced to us your intention and commitment to “a restructured organization for the
RPNA”, as a necessary resolution to your admission of inexpediency. As we said before, we did joyfully repent,
fast and pray for this endeavor, and as a result of this spiritual exercise many of us began to ask questions.
 If we are re-structuring, then what is our current structure?
 How would we know how to restructure?
 Is there some historical direction or guidance on how to proceed?
 What are we?
 What are we members of; local Societies, or one big international Congregation?
 Can we be members of a big international Congregation?
 What does our constitution look like?
 When were we constituted?
Had there been a presentation for restructuring, many of these questions would not be outstanding. However,
instead of offering such a plan, questions are introduced within the position paper, including:
“Does the RPNA (General Meeting) have a lawful Church Court with authority from Christ to perform that
which is not only necessary, but edifying for the members under its inspection? Does the fact that the Session is
composed of officers from different countries annul the lawful authority of the Session?”1
At the outset we think it is important to recognize the question assumes: that forming the RPNA (GM) was a
lawful initiative; that the RPNA (GM) has members; that it has a constitution. Legitimacy must first be
determined in order to sufficiently answer the rest of your questions (whether the Session is necessary, edifying, lawful, international, &c.). Rather than assume these things without explicit argument, if we are to be Bereans we must seek proof and legitimacy, or we are reduced to “begging the question”. 2
Ultimately, we saw these “essential questions” at the root of what you introduced to us:

Primarily, does a lawfully constituted Church Court presently exist among us?
Secondary to that, can you effectively perform all of the ministerial and social duties to all the scattered
Societies & individuals?
We will keep coming back to them throughout the attached inquiry.

~ Presbyterian Government in Ordinary Times ~
We do understand that there is a “flexible or fluid nature” to Presbyterian polity which is exemplified in our
history. For example, if one were to lay the First Book of Discipline, Second Book of Discipline, and the Form of
Presbyterial Church Government side-by-side, one would see some obvious variables such as ruling elders having time limits to service, different number of courts, etc. At the same time, these variables must be found within a framework of established, non-negotiable, Scriptural fundamentals as shown forth in all of these Presbyterial documents.
Christ is Head of His Church:

 Col 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all [things] he might have the preeminence.
 JESUS CHRIST, upon whose shoulders the government is, whose name is called Wonderful, Counsellor, The

1 Session of the RPNA (GM), Position Paper on Sessional Authority, June 4, 2006, p.1 [emphasis added]
2 “In logic, begging the question is the term for a type of fallacy occurring in deductive reasoning in which the proposition to be proved is assumed implicitly or explicitly in one of the premises… Many questions, also known as complex question, presupposition, loaded question, or plurium interrogationum (Latin, "of many questions"), is a logical fallacy. It is committed when someone asks a question that presupposes something that has not been proven or accepted by all the people involved — i.e., a premise is included which is at least as dubious as the proposed conclusion.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begging_the_question [emphasis added]


p.3
mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace; of the increase of whose government and peace there
shall be no end; who sits upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with
judgment and justice, from henceforth, even for ever; having all power given unto him in heaven and in earth by the Father, who raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand, far above all principalities and
power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is
to come, and put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all: he being ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things, received gifts for his church, and gave officers necessary for the edification of his church, and perfecting of his saints”3
Christ commissions officers, duly qualified, with authority to shepherd His sheep:

 1 Tim 3:2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
 He that is to be ordained minister, must be duly qualified, both for life and ministerial abilities, according to the rules of the apostle4

These elders labor by the authority tied to their office:
 Act 8:36,38 And as they went on [their] way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, [here is] water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?... And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
 Mar 1:3,4 The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remisson of sins.
 To watch diligently over the whole flock all these ways which have been mentioned, and to do by authority that which other Christians ought to do in charity: which is their power of order.5
 More special and peculiar to the office of some church governors only, as the power of preaching the gospel,
dispensing the sacraments, &c., which is only committed to the ministers of the gospel, and which they, as
ministers, may execute, in virtue of their office. This is called by some the key of doctrine, or key of knowledge;
by others, the power of order, or of special office. See Matt, xxviii. 18-20; Rom. x. 15; 1 Tim. v. 17. 2. 6

These elders labor in numbers when exercising any jurisdiction in a court:
 Titus 1:5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and
ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:
 Act 14:23 And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they
commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.
 1 Tim 5:17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.

 It is also requisite that there should be others to join in government7
 The power of jurisdiction comprehendeth such things as a minister cannot do himself, nor by virtue of his
ordination; but they are done by a session, presbytery, or synod,… there is no part of ecclesiastical jurisdiction in the power of one man, but of many met together in the name of Christ.8
 More general and common to the office of all church governors, as the power of censures, &c., wherein ruling
elders act with ministers, admonishing the unruly, excommunicating the incorrigible, remitting and receiving
again of the penitent into church communion. Compare Matt, xviii. 17, 18; 1 Cor. v. 2, 4, 5, 7, 11-13; 2 Cor. ii. 6- 12, with Rom. xii. 8; 1 Cor. xii. 28; and 1 Tim. v. 17. This is called the key of discipline, or power of
jurisdiction.9

3 Westminster Assembly, The Form of Presbyterial Church Government, The Preface -
http://www.covenanter.org/Westminster/formofpresbygov.htm#preface
4 Westminster Assembly, Ibid., Concerning the Doctrinal Part of the Ordination of Ministers -
http://www.covenanter.org/Westminster/formofpresbygov.htm#doctrinalpartofordination
5 George Gillespie, Assertion of Church Government, First Part; Ch II, p.13 -
http://truecovenanter.com/gillespie/gillespie_assertion_govt_kirk_scotland.html#cap1_02
6 Sundry Ministers of London, Divine Right of Church Government, Part II; Ch 3 -
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/13941/13941-h/13941-h.htm#2HCH0010 ; Naphtali Press Ed., p.49
7 Westminster Assembly, Ibid., Of the Officers of a Particular Congregation -
http://www.covenanter.org/Westminster/formofpresbygov.htm#officersofparticularcongregations
8 George Gillespie, Ibid., p.12b – http://truecovenanter.com/gillespie/gillespie_assertion_govt_kirk_scotland.html#cap1_02
9 Sundry Ministers of London, Ibid., p.49


p.4
This plurality of elders govern in a gradation of courts that represent the whole Church:

 Exd 18:25 And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of
thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.
 Act 15:2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they
determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and
elders about this question.
 It is lawful, and agreeable to the word of God, that there be a subordination of congregational, classical,
provincial, and national assemblies, for the government of the church” 10
 To conclude our answer to this exception, if the benefit of appeals be not as free to us as to the Jews, the yoke of the gospel should be more intolerable than the yoke of the law; the poor afflicted Christian might groan and cry under an unjust and tyrannical eldership, and no ecclesiastical judicatory to relieve him; whereas the poor oppressed Jew might appeal to the Sanhedrin: certainly this is contrary to that prophecy of Christ, Psal. lxxii. 12, 14. 11

~ The Ordinary Rule for Extraordinary Times ~
You state:

“We recognize that in extraordinary times extraordinary things may be done to preserve the unity, peace and
purity of the Church of Jesus Christ so that the faithful covenanted testimony we uphold may be preserved
among us and in the world. This Scriptural right of self preservation is taught, in principle, in the Sixth
Commandment…”12

If we understand you correctly, you are saying that there are extraordinary circumstances that call for
extraordinary measures, and that this principle can be found in the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill”.
Without seeing much further explanation, we see this as an oversimplification.
We are sure you would agree that there are extraordinary measures that are faithful and expedient, and others that are not. We have found the following assessment question and answer helpful and will be using these to examine the extraordinary measures that you have introduced to us covenanted brethren.
Q: How are we to evaluate the faithfulness of established or proposed “extraordinary measures”?
We understand that the purpose of an “extraordinary measure” is to serve the “ordinary rule” of the Word of God.
Ordinary rules must be known first in order to, with an informed conscience, know what the extraordinary
measure is trying to support and accomplish. In other words:
A: We evaluate extraordinary measures by the degree to which they support and fulfill the moral duties and
desired outcome of the ordinary rule, without infringing upon or doing harm to other ordinary rules.
We see the Westminster Assembly using this principle when they found themselves without an ordinary means of ordination (lacking regional Presbyteries). The extraordinary measure was to form a temporary13 committee of godly ministers, in London, to examine and ordain candidates for the ministry to send throughout England. This supported the ordinary rule of having an accountable and experienced professional plurality of elders to ensure an inspection of the candidates’ external gifts and call.14

11. In extraordinary cases, something extraordinary may be done, until a settled order may be had, yet keeping as near as possibly may be to the rule. *2 Chron. 29:34-36; 30:2-5
10 Westminster Assembly, Ibid., Of Synodical Assemblies -
11 Sundry Ministers of London, Divine Right of Church Government, Part II; Ch 15 -
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/13941/13941-h/13941-h.htm#2HCH0022
12 Session of the RPNA (GM), Position Paper on Sessional Authority, June 4, 2006, p.2
13 As opposed to a standing or perpetual court that exists for the everyday business. These temporary committees or courts
would only constitute for special business and then disband or disassociate.
14 We also note that this committee did not take upon them any other task beyond the work of ordination.


p.5
12. There is at this time (as we humbly conceive) an extraordinary occasion for a way of ordination for the
present supply of ministers.15

“Let some godly ministers, in or about the city of London, be designed by publick authority, who, being
associated, may ordain ministers for the city and the vicinity, keeping as near to the ordinary rules forementioned as possibly they may; and let this association be for no other intent or purpose, but only for the work of ordination.”16

We see the same distinction taught by James Renwick, minister of the General Meeting of the United Societies.

A Church in a broken and disturbed state is to follow the ordinary rules used in the settled state of the Church and support those rules by the extraordinary measures.
III. We distinguish between a Church in a Reformed & settled state, & confirmed with the Constitutions of
General Assemblies, & the Civil sanction of Acts of Parliament; And a Church in a broken and disturbed state:
In the former, abuses & disorder can be orderly redressed & removed by Church judicatories, but not so in the
latter; Wherefore the most Lawful, expedient, & conducible mean, for maintaining the attained unto
Reformation, is to be followed in the time of such confusions & disturbances, & that is (as we think) abstraction
& withdrawing from such disorders in Ministers, which we cannot otherwise get rectified.17
We will be using this same principle in observing arguments found in the position paper on sessional authority.

15 Westminster Assembly, Ibid., Concerning the Doctrinal Part of Ordination of Ministers - http://www.covenanter.org/Westminster/formofpresbygov.htm#doctrinalpartofordination
16 Westminster Assembly, Ibid., Thus far of ordinary Rules, and course of Ordination, in the ordinary way; that which concerns the extraordinary way, requisite to be now practised, followeth.; See also the Assembly’s consistent principle found in their Directory for Family Worship:
VII. Whatsoever have been the effects and fruits of meetings of persons of divers families in the times of corruption or trouble, (in which cases many things are commendable, which otherwise are not tolerable,) yet, when God hath blessed us with peace and purity of the gospel, such meetings of persons of divers families (except in cases mentioned in these Directions) are to be disapproved, as tending to the hinderance of the religious exercise of each family by itself, to the prejudice of the publick ministry, to the rending of the families of particular congregations, and (in progress of time) of the whole kirk. Besides many offences which may come thereby, to the hardening of the hearts of carnal men, and grief of the godly. [emphasis ours]
http://www.covenanter.org/Westminster/directoryforfamilyworship.htm
17 United Societies, Informatory Vindication, p.61 - http://truecovenanter.com/societies/informatory_vindication.html


p.6
Position Paper Argument #1:
An International Common Island Court

If we understand you correctly, the first question you are seeking to answer is,
Does this organization called the RPNA (GM) have a lawful Church court
even if its officers are few and in different nations?
Your answer is yes. Assuming we are correct in our understanding of your answer, we would like to comment and ask a few questions.

~ The Particular Congregation ~
We would like to examine the ordinary rules of the particular congregation and particular Session.
Our subordinate standards emphasize the close proximity that is essential to a particular congregation. From
reading the Form of Presbyterial Church Government on this type of assembly, it seems essential that the
members of a society or congregation dwell and co-habit in close proximity; close enough to regularly and
conveniently perform mutual duties to one another, and likewise their court over them.

“It is lawful and expedient that there be fixed congregations, that is, a certain company of Christians [who] meet in one assembly ordinarily for publick worship When believers multiply to such a number, that they cannot
conveniently meet in one place, it is lawful and expedient that they should be divided into distinct and fixed
congregations, for the better administration of such ordinances as belong unto them, and the discharge of mutual duties.1

The ordinary way of dividing Christians into distinct congregations, and most expedient for edification, is by the
respective bounds of their dwellings.
First, Because they who dwell together, being bound to all kind of moral duties one to another, have the better
opportunity thereby to discharge them; which moral tie is perpetual; for Christ came not to destroy the law, but
to fulfil it.2
Secondly, The communion of saints must be so ordered, as may stand with the most convenient use of the
ordinances, and discharge of moral duties, without respect of persons.3
Thirdly, The pastor and people must so nearly cohabit together, as that they may mutually perform their duties
each to other with most conveniency.”4
Out of this co-habiting, local congregation, their Elders and Deacons are set apart, and live in the same company of Christians that meet for the worship of God. This enables both members and elders to perform mutual duties.

The definition of a local congregation seems to continue even in extraordinary times. In Renwick’s “Order and
Form of Admission of Ruling Elders”, he speaks of elders taking residence within, and being tied to, the particular bounds of those that call them (emphasis ours):
2dly, These ruling-elders who now are to be admitted, are to exercise their office over such as elect them;
yea, and all such as will submit unto them, which none concurring with the testimony of the day, will
refuse. Howbeit, they are particularly and specially tied, to take inspection of that bounds, where they are
chosen; and therefore, they are to endeavour to reside there, so far as the troubles of the time may allow.5

1 1 Cor. 14:26, 33, 40.
2 Deut. 15:7, 11; Matt. 22:39; Matt. 5:17.
3 1 Cor. 14:26; Heb. 10:24, 25; James 2:1, 2.
4 Westminster Assembly, Form of Presbyterian Church Government, Of Particular Congregations, -
http://www.covenanter.org/Westminster/formofpresbygov.htm#particularcongregations
5 James Renwick, Order and Form of Admission of Ruling Elders, http://truecovenanter.com/renwick/renwick_elders.html


p.7
In the 1800s there were distinct bounds for particular congregations in the Reformed Presbytery in America
(RPA). They spoke of the “Brush creek congregation” and the “Xenia and Massie’s creek congregation” (the two
towns are separated by just eight miles) [RPA, Sept. 8, 1840]6. When a group of people from Hill Prairie, Illinois
asked “to be organized as a congregation,” Rev. David Steele did so as directed by Presbytery [RPA, Oct. 5,
1857; May 31, 1858].7 After the death of David Steele, the General Meeting of the Reformed Presbyterian Church (GMRPC) met “in the bounds of the North Union [Pennsylvania] congregation” [GMRPC, June 12, 1893].8
Another subordinate standard details some of those mutual duties:

“2. The necessity of this will also appear from the consideration of the many general and comprehensive
duties incumbent upon Christians toward one another, e.g. They are required to love one another—John
15:7, 11; Rom. 13:8; l John 3:11; and to be kindly, affectionate one towards another—Rom, 12:10; to
consider and provoke one another unto love and good works, and to exhort one another—Heb. 10:24, 25.
They are commanded to comfort, to edify, to teach and admonish one another in psalms and hymns, and
spiritual songs—1 Thess. 4:11, and 5:11; Col. 3:16; and to receive one another—Rom. 5:7. But how can
these relative and social duties be performed without social meetings and fellowship? How can they love,
consider, exhort, admonish, or edify one another? How can they comfort themselves together—1 Tim. 5:11,
and at the same time live strangers to society one with another? Further, they are recommended to be of one
mind and mouth—Rom. 15:5, 6; 1 Cor. 1:10, and must they not then confer together, and communicate
their minds one to another! They are called to be subject one to another—Eph. 6:21; i.e., every one showing
all readiness both to give and to accept of instruction, counsel, or reproof from each other. They are
expressly required to confess their faults one to another:, and pray one for another—James 5:17, to strive
together in their prayers for the ministers of Christ, and for the faith of the gospel, i.e., in behalf of the
kingdom, cause, and interests of Christ in the world—Phil. 1:17.
Now can these duties possibly be done, without a regular assembling and conversing in a social way? By no
means. So that to deny the duty and necessity of such social meetings and intercourse were to forbid all
these relative social duties which God has commanded.”9

So we see that this Court (RPC of Scotland) believed that to deny these mutual duties in a local context is to
forbid God’s commands. And yet we scattered Societies and individuals cannot regularly perform these duties to
each and everyone beyond our local context and outside of our particular boundaries.\

~ The Congregational Eldership ~
The Westminster theologians define a Session as the “ruling officers of a particular congregation” and declare that they have authority “to call before them any member of the congregation”.10 Further, they teach:
“In this company some must be set apart to bear office.”11
“These officers are to meet together at convenient and set times, for the well ordering of the affairs of that
congregation, each according to his office.”12

6 http://www.covenanter.org/Minutes/min1840.htm
7 http://www.covenanter.org/Minutes/min1858may.htm
8 http://www.covenanter.org/Minutes/min1893.htm
9 Reformed Presbytery in Scotland, Short Directory for Religious Societies,
http://www.reformedpresbytery.org/books/society/society.htm
10 Westminster Assembly, Ibid., Of Congregational Assemblies, &c. -
http://www.covenanter.org/Westminster/formofpresbygov.htm#congregationalassemblies
11 Westminster Assembly, Form of Presbyterian Church Government, Of Particular Congregations, -
http://www.covenanter.org/Westminster/formofpresbygov.htm#particularcongregations
12 Westminster Assembly, Ibid., Of the Officers of a Particular Congregation, -
http://www.covenanter.org/Westminster/formofpresbygov.htm#officersofparticularcongregations


p.8
The London ministers define a Session as “consisting of the Ministers and Ruling Elders in each single
congregation”.13 These men actually use the term “congregational eldership” to refer to a Session, declaring that, “Elderships of single Congregations [are] vested and furnished with Ecclesiastical authority and power to exercise and dispense acts of government in and over those respective Congregations”.14 Gillespie also makes the connection between a Session and a congregation: “The pastor of the parish, together with those elders within the same … put order to the government of that congregation”.15

Renwick, in his “Order and Form”, also summarizes those ministerial and social duties of the Ruling Elders in
their part of mutual duties:

NEGATIVE DUTIES are
1. Ye must not be given to wine; ye must not be lovers nor followers of strong drink, nor tipple away time in alehouses.
2. Ye must not be covetous nor greedy of filthy lucre.
3. Ye must not be soon angry, neither upon real, nor conceived cause of provocation.
4. Ye must not be strikers nor brawlers, nor given to quarrellings and contentions.
5. Ye must not be self-willed, adhering pertinaciously, and without reason, to your own judgments, and refusing
to hearken to the judgment of your brethren, though sound and wholesome.
6. Ye must not be novices, or such as are newly come to the faith, lest ye be puffed up with pride, and fall into
the condemnation of the devil: The spirits of novices are not yet well ballasted, nor brought low by frequent
exercises of the cross; and so come to be more easily puffed up: Therefore, there is need that ye be exercised
soldiers of Jesus Christ, and who by experience are taught to know the wiles of the devil, and are able to
endure hardness.
POSITIVE DUTIES
1. Ye must be blameless, that is, without offence towards God and man.
2. Ye must be vigilant, watchful over your own souls, that no temptation prevail upon you; ready to lay hold
upon every opportunity of well-doing.
3. Ye must be sober and temperate, of a sound and humble mind moderating your own appetites and
affections, and satisfying yourselves with a moderate use of the creatures and things of this world.
4. Ye must be chaste, shunning all lusts, and every immodest and unbecoming carriage.
5. Ye must be holy; careful to exercise the life of religion, and power of godliness, in all your conversation.
6. Ye must be just and upright in your dealings among men, deceiving no man, and withholding from no
man what is his due.
7. Ye must be moderate and not rigorous, nor exacting the highest of the law in your dealings; but in your
own particulars of a condescending nature, and remitting something of strict justice.
8. Ye must be given to hospitality; ready to receive strangers, especially the poor and these who are of the
household of faith.
9. Ye must be lovers of good men, whose souls cleave to these who fear God, having such estimation above
all others, cherishing them, and conversing ordinarily with them, and familiarly with them.
10. Ye must be apt to teach, that is, men of knowledge and able to instruct others, of willing and ready
minds to teach others; which is not so meant, as if it were requisite for you to be endued with the gift of
instruction and exhortation, competent to the teacher and pastor; or that ye may and ought to employ
yourselves therein: But of that fitness and ability to teach, that is competent to your calling, which ye
must be ready and willing to exercise, so far as is competent to you or belongs to you.
11. Ye must be patient, waiting upon your duty, without wearying, notwithstanding of difficulties, and
bearing the delays, untractableness, and injuries of others.
12. Ye must be of a good behaviour, men of a grave and stayed, yet of an affable and courteous carriage;
neither light nor vain, to the losing of your authority, and rendering yourselves contemptible; nor surly

13 Sundry Ministers of London, Divine Right of Church Government; Part II; Ch. 11, Sect. 3 -
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/13941/13941-h/13941-h.htm#H_SECTIII-III; Naphtali Press, p. 191
14 Sundry Ministers of London, Ibid., Part II; Ch 12 -
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/13941/13941-h/13941-h.htm#2HCH0019; Naphtali Press, p.192
15 George Gillespie, Disputations Against English Popish Ceremonies, Part 3, Digression 1; p.357


p.9
and self-pleasing to the discouraging and scaring away of the flock, by your needless distance and
austerity.
13. Ye must be stable in the truths of God; holding fast the faithful word, which ye have been taught,
without wavering and turning aside to error.
14. Ye must be of a good report of these, who are without; lest ye fall into reproach, and the snare of the
devil: Not that ye must be without the reproach of a wicked and malignant generation; for they
reproached Christ, the Prophets, and Apostles. But that ye must be of such a blameless conversation,
sober and Christian walk, as may extort a testimony even from these, who know not God, and by welldoing
put to silence the ignorance of foolish men, that if any speak evil of you, as evil doers, they may be
ashamed who speak falsely against your good conversation in Christ.
15. Ye must perform your relative duties. You who have families must rule well your own houses. This
ruling well imports, not only an ability for doing of it; but also, making conscience of and actually
performing these duties that are required, for the right ordering of a Christian family.16
You will notice in these duties, there are many aspects that require sheep to frequently congregate and “rub
shoulders” with their shepherds. How else would they get to know, serve and be served by their shepherds in the way that these duties require? To summarize, Gillespie states:

“That the ruling elders want nothing of the power of the minister, but that they preach not, nor baptize in public
congregations; yet other things, which the pastor doth, by his power of order, the ruling elder ought also to do by his own power of order. And if we would know how much of this power of order is common to both, let us note that pastors do some things by their power of order, which all Christians ought to do by the law of charity.
Things of this sort a ruling elder may and ought to do by his power of order, and by virtue of his election and
ordination to such an office. For example, every Christian is bound in charity to admonish and reprove his
brother that offendeth, first privately, then before witnesses; and if he hear not, to tell it to the church, Lev.
19.17; Matt. 18.15-17. This a ruling elder ought to do by virtue of his calling, and with authority, 1 Thes. 5.12;
private Christians ought in charity to instruct the ignorant, John 4.29; Acts 18.26; to exhort the negligent, Heb.
3.15; 10.24,25; to comfort the afflicted, 1 Thes. 5.11; to support the weak, 1 Thes. 5.14; to restore him that
falleth, Gal. 6.1; to visit the sick; Matt. 25.36,40; to reconcile those who are at variance, Matt. 5.9; to contend for the truth, and to answer for it, Jude, verse 3; 1 Pet. 3.15, all which are incumbent to the ruling elder, by the
authority of his calling.”17

Gillespie gives this compelling and inspiring list of duties that we all are bound to perform unto each other out of the Law of Love. These same duties are to be done by shepherds, not only out of charity, but by the authority of his calling. For shepherd and sheep to fulfill these mutual duties one to another in a way consistent with the Law of Love before Christ, requires a physical dwelling, meeting, and gathering together that is quite substantial.
With that in mind, we have a hard time understanding how these duties can be performed by those that do not
dwell together. We admit that, as scattered Societies and individuals, we are not able to fruitfully perform mutual duties to each other regularly or conveniently. Nor are we the people and you Elders able to successfully perform our mutual duties regularly or conveniently to one another; nor do we witness the particular societies “well ordered”, but are still individually and collectively in a maturing state.18
On p. 4 of your paper you define the essence of a congregation to include “a body of professing Christians who
share a common membership”, regardless of their physical distance from one another. You further define
yourselves to be a session over that “membership”. We are confused by these definitions in light of the
Presbyterian terms established and received by the Church; in light of these first two sections on the “particular
congregation” and “congregational eldership”, we must therefore ask:

16 James Renwick, Ibid., http://truecovenanter.com/renwick/renwick_elders.html
17 George Gillespie, Assertion of Church Government, First Part; Ch II, p.13 -
http://truecovenanter.com/gillespie/gillespie_assertion_govt_kirk_scotland.html#cap1_02
18 Westminster Assembly, Ibid., Of the Officers of a particular Congregation -
http://www.covenanter.org/Westminster/formofpresbygov.htm#officersofparticularcongregations


p.10
Q 1.1a: How do you reconcile your definition of a particular congregation with how our Subordinate
Standards define a particular congregation? How do you reconcile your definition of a particular
congregation with the quotes you supply from Gillespie & Rutherford, in light of all of their
qualifications? How would you reconcile these apparent contradictions with our Standards?
Q 1.1b: Presupposing we are “one congregation”, how are we fulfilling the essence of a particular
congregation, as the Form of Church Government calls for, by dwelling and cohabiting together?
Q 1.1c: How do you undertake the duty our Directory states about the Session meeting together for
“the well ordering of the affairs of that particular congregation”?
Recognizing the Position Paper on Sessional Authority [PPSA] emphasizes technology as being the critical means
to performing these ministerial and social duties, we intend to revisit these duties later under “Ordinary Church
Business”.

~ Pertaining to Itself ~
The ordinary rule, as we understand it, is that a Session of a particular congregation only deals with issues
pertaining to its own congregation. In the quotes you offer us, we agree that the extraordinary measure, the
isolated church court, still supports the ordinary rule, namely by the qualifications that even isolated Sessions,
when competent, only deal with issues pertaining to themselves in their local isolated context.
“1. It is not denied, but particular churches have within themselves power of discipline entirely, so far as
any cause in debate particularly and peculiarly concerneth themselves, and not others.19
In fact all of the credible theologians you cite make this same qualification.

~ Island Sessions ~
Your position argues that this organization called the RPNA (GM) is a Session on an island alone and Island
Sessions have “entire power of Church censure”. [p.2-4]
If the question is “Can an island or isolated Session do acts of Jurisdiction that they would not do alone if they
could associate?” then, essentially we would agree with you and our faithful Presbyterian forefathers.
In your Position Paper on page 2-4 you provide several quotes of our faithful forefathers to show that a
congregational Session, in the absence of neighboring congregations, has the authority to exercise discipline over its own members. There is another qualification, common to all their teaching; the context always considers a “single” or “particular congregation”. The London ministers grant authority to a “congregation, itself” (p.2) and grant that “a single congregation must not be denied entire jurisdiction” (p.3). Gillespie asserts authority for “a particular congregation” (p.3), and Rutherford claims that “a congregation is capable of entire jurisdiction” (p.3- 4). Even the quotes on the next page speak of the “Eldership of a particular congregation” (p.5)
When these men wrote of a “congregation lying alone in an island”, or of “a congregation isolated from other
congregations” were they speaking metaphorically or literally? In other words, were they speaking of a
congregation in one geographical location, or were they speaking of broadly scattered Societies and individuals?
We believe they were speaking literally of one particular church in one geographical location, dwelling together,
and close enough to perform the everyday duties of a particular congregation; however the comment about us
being on an island or isolated is a metaphorical application.
Q 1.2a: With the emphasis our faithful forefathers placed on the qualifications of “single” and
“particular” how do these quotes about an island (or isolated particular) congregation apply to us,
as literally scattered societies and individuals?

19 Sundry Ministers of London, Ibid., Part II, Ch. 15 - http://www.gutenberg.org/files/13941/13941-h/13941-h.htm

p.11
Q 1.2b: If an island or isolated Session goes beyond the ordinary rules of cohabiting among its
charge, and dealing with issues pertaining to itself (by living elsewhere and yet governing others
that are not local to them), how does that extraordinary measure support the ordinary rule with its
desired outcome of mutual duties being performed within their ‘own’ bounds?
Q 1.2c: If even the isolated Session should not go beyond the ordinary rules of cohabiting and dealing
with issues pertaining to itself, then how does this extraordinary measure (lone island Session with
full perpetual jurisdiction within itself) apply to the scattered Societies, individuals and you
scattered Elders?

~ Two or Three ~
You argue that this organization called the RPNA (GM) has two or three officers, and Matt 18 says where two or
three are gathered together, Christ is in their midst, giving them “the authority to exercise all the acts of
ecclesiastical power competent to our office and jurisdiction.”. [p.4-6]
If the question is, “Can only two or three faithful officers, who are gathered together, exercise the Keys of the
Kingdom?” then, essentially we would agree with you and our Presbyterian forefathers, recognizing “two or
three” to speak of the lowest court which is the local Session.20 Further, Gillespie affirms that isolated Sessions,
when having the competency to do so, may discipline.

“The second distinction is, betwixt congregations ‘which have a competent and well-qualified eldership, and
small congregations, who have but few office-bearers, and those, it may be, not sufficiently able for church
government. In this case of insufficiency, a congregation may not independently, by itself, exercise jurisdiction,
and not in re propris,’21 saith Parker.”22

When we look to our faithful testimony to see how local courts gathered together, it is in relation to physically
being together, and again, dealing with things pertaining to itself.

~ International Sessions & Acts 15 ~
Your position argues that this organization called the RPNA (GM) is an international court, like the court in Acts
15, which warrants “an international body of Elders joining together to exercise acts of Church power as the need and common good of the Church does require”.[p.6-9]
If the question is, “Can Session Courts be lawfully constituted out of multiple nations?” then essentially we would agree, with qualifications. In our view, extraordinary measures are generally to be tested against those outcomes which reflect “dwelling together” unto edification.
In exploring how an “international” Session supports the ordinary rule and outcomes, we must then consider the
practical delivery of ministerial and social duties. For example: say we had a particular congregation (this word
assumes a Pastor, and Elders at least to be among them, or else they would be a Society) that was on the USCanadian border. If there were two or three families that lived on the Canadian side of the border, but close
enough to gather regularly with the Church on the US side of the border, then you could technically have a
Session that ministered internationally. One of the Elders could even be from Canada.
We could see the title “International Session” applying to this example above. However, when reviewing our
subordinate standards and Presbyterian commentators’ usage of Acts 15, we can only find them speaking of a
synodical court of appeal, not an ‘original court of jurisdiction’ relative to local congregations.

20 Sundry Ministers of London, Ibid., Part II, Ch. 12:
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them," Matt. xviii. 18-20. In which passages these things are to be noted:… 2. That these acts of binding or loosing, may be the acts but of two or three, and therefore consequently of the eldership of a particular congregation; for where such a
juridical act was dispatched by a classical presbyt
ery, it is said to be done of many, 2 Cor. ii.6, because that in such greater presbyteries there are always more than two or three. [our emphasis]
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/13941/13941-h/13941-h.htm
21 Our understanding is that "not in re propris" means "not in things pertaining to itself".
22 George Gillespie, Assertion of Church Government, Second Part; Ch. II, p.43b -
http://truecovenanter.com/gillespie/gillespie_assertion_govt_kirk_scotland.html#cap2_02


p.12
“THE scripture doth hold out another sort of assemblies for the government of the church, beside classical and
congregational, all which we call Synodical Acts 15:2, 6, 22, 23.”23

“Of healing common scandals and errors, troubling divers presbyterial churches by the authoritative decrees of a
synod, made up of members from divers presbyterial churches, as Acts XV”24

The Westminster Assembly acknowledges the work of Synods and Councils to have greater work laid to their
charge by virtue of their having a multitude of counselors. Again, we don’t see how this distinction can be fairly
applied to a local court.

“III. It belongs to synods and councils, ministerially to determine controversies of faith, and cases of
conscience; to set down rules and directions for the better ordering of the public worship of God, and
government of his Church; to receive complaints in cases of maladministration, and authoritatively to
determine the same; which decrees and determinations, if consonant to the Word of God, are to be received
with reverence and submission; not only for their agreement with the Word, but also for the power whereby
they are made, as being an ordinance of God appointed thereunto in His Word.”25

Q 1.3a: In your use of Acts 15, aren’t you applying to an international and Particular Court, what is
widely understood by Presbyterians to be a proof for a Synodical Court of appeal?
Q 1.3b: If that is the case, does not such a use blur the distinguishing characteristics of Particular
Assemblies (Session) and Common Assemblies (Synod)?
Q 1.3c: On what Scriptural basis can the lowest court do the greater work of an authorized and
representative Synod?

~ Common Sessions ~
You argue that this organization called the RPNA (GM) proceeds as a common Session because it is over many
scattered Societies and individuals; that this practice was used in the Second Book of Discipline VII:10; and
conclude that is not unlawful to function with a Common Session having oversight over many Congregations.
[p.10-13]
If the question is, “Can a Common Session oversee many scattered Societies and individuals?” then, essentially
we would see the “ordinary rule” of Elders and people cohabiting together applying here as well.
However, we remind you of your letter of January 1, 2006, in which you say that you have not been able to
perform mutual duties regularly with the scattered Societies and individuals.
“Even prior to these most recent trials, we have felt stretched beyond our limits. We have seen the effects
in our inability to keep up with the work load, to minister to those who have needs, to relieve the stress
brought into our families, and to prevent certain ill effects in our own bodies.”26
Q 1.4a: In light of declaring this inexpediency, how can you now affirm an ability to function
effectively and practically in a common Session?

Second, you quote from: The Reasons Presented by the Dissenting Brethren Against Certain Propositions
Concerning Presbyterial Government. Together with the Answer of the Assembly of Divines &c, p. 10

23 Westminster Assembly, Ibid., Of Synodical Assemblies -
http://www.covenanter.org/Westminster/formofpresbygov.htm#synodicalassemblies
24 The Sundry Ministers of London, Ibid., Part I; Ch. 4 -
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/13941/13941-h/13941-h.htm#2HCH0004
25 Westminster Assembly, Confession of Faith, Ch. 31 - Of Synods & Councils
http://www.reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs/ch_XXXI.html
26 Email: RPNA Session Announcements, January 1, 2006


p.13
“…when a multitude of believers (though many thousands) agreed together in one Presbyterial government
who had but one only Presbytery, and who probably did all in common, for feeding and governing, they
were usually called by the name of one church and the Elders were the Elders of that church and so it may
be still in the like condition.”27
We see the Presbyterian theologians making the same consistent qualifications of the local, co-habiting church
when they say that the elders are the elders of that church, feeding and governing them as one body. Further you quote them in regards to 10 congregations and 20 unfixed elders overseeing all of the congregations; they took care to again qualify that all of the congregations are in one location, namely Jerusalem, which assumes its
knowable and limited bounds. This seems to contrast your application, by which you are persuaded you can
adequately and faithfully feed, build and govern the present multitude of scattered Societies and individuals, as
one congregation spanning 3 continents.
The Presbyterian theologians are not silent about elders going abroad and doing acts of eldership outside of their charge. In fact we read of their argument against the Independents, just 4 pages earlier in the same ‘Grand Debate’ work; we see it speaking directly to our circumstances and qualifying other quotes that you have introduced to us.
We find the Presbyterian theologians contending with the Independent idea that Elders in Presbytery are Elders
over all congregations and members particularly, giving the appearance of one big Congregation.
The Independents argue,

“If many Congregations having all Elders already fixed respectively unto them may be under a Presbyterial
government, then all those Elders must sustain a special relation of Elders to all the people of those
Congregations as one Church, and to every one as a member thereof. But this carries with it great and
manifold incongruities and inconsistencies with rules of Scriptures, and principles of reformed Churches
themselves; therefore it may not be.”28

In other words, the Independents were saying that Presbyterians have to consistently teach that because a
Presbytery is over multiple Congregations, each Elder in Presbytery must be an Elder of each individual person
within all of the Congregations, and that all those Congregations would then make up one big Congregation. They conclude that this is inconsistent with Scripture and principles of Reformed Churches.
To this the Presbyterian Divines reply,

“We answer, first to the consequence of the major by denying it, That in such a government, the Elders do the
work of Elders, is granted, and that in that work, and because of the work there done, they bear a special relation of Presbytery to the Churches, is as readily granted: But that therefore they must be judged singly Elders of these Churches, tied to do all the Offices of Elders to them as to the Congregations where they are fixed, Or that all the Congregations who join in such an Association must necessarily be one Church, one particular Church (as it is called) is utterly false; when many Elders of several Congregations meet in a Synod and do such Acts as our Brethren grant they may do in relation to many Congregations; We suppose they will not deny that they do these Acts of Elders as Elders: yet they are not thereby every one argued to be Elders of every one of these Congregations, or these Congregations argued to be one Church. Or when a Minister administers the Sacrament to another Congregation, or to the people of another Congregation, he doth it as an Elder, and as having a special relation to that people at that time, and in that work, he being called to it; yet it follows not that he is, or therefore must be an Elder of that Church, bound to perform all offices of an Elder publicly and privately to every one of them.29

In light of their argument, we would ask:

27 Session of the RPNA (GM), Position Paper on Sessional Authority, June 4, 2006, p.10
28 Westminster Assembly, The Reasons Presented by the Dissenting Brethren Against Certain Propositions Concerning
Presbyterial Government. Together with the Answer of the Assembly of Divines to Those Reasons of Dissent, p.6
29 Westminster Assembly, Ibid., 6 [emphasis ours]


p.14
Q 1.4b: If the Presbyterian Divines taught that performing acts of Eldership is not what formalizes
jurisdiction, (calling, bounds & charge being for a later discussion), then how do you reconcile your
teaching & practice of being the particular Elders of each scattered individual, with their teaching?

~ Ordinary Church Business ~
You say that you gather by means of technology.

“…in this day of the Internet, and modern phone communications, it is easier and more convenient for Elders in
different nations to ordinarily conduct Church business and constitute a Church Court than it ever was prior to
these advantages—even for Elders of days gone by who were living in the same city. This advantage in
communication is very significant in our case. Without this advantage, we would not be able to conduct business as a Church Court in any significant way, and thus, were we living under that circumstance, we would not continue to do what we are presently doing.” 30

We acknowledge technology to be a great blessing to us and thank God for it even as our godly forefathers did
when they saw the advancements in their day, and used them to further God’s Kingdom. We see Paul using the
technological means in communicating to the Churches at Corinth, by way of Epistle.

1 Cor 5:9,11 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators…
1 Cor 11:34 And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come.
Titus 1:5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and
ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:

His use of technology did not infringe upon the local ministry nor do harm to the local church community. He
does not appear to take for granted that this was a substitution for his presence, or the presence of others to
decently and orderly do ministerial and social duties for the sheep. Nor did he assume that his technological
capabilities took the place of the gathering of the local court.

1 Cor 5:3-4 For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present,
[concerning] him that hath so done this deed, (4) In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered
together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,

With the technologies you contemplated to “ordinarily conduct Church business and constitute a Church Court”
we consider how those technologies serve the ministry and the people. In doing so, we come back to the Second Book of Discipline:

IV.7 Unto the pastor only appertains the administration of the sacraments, in like manner as the administration of the word; for both are appointed by God as means to teach us, the one by the ear, and the other by the eyes and other senses, that by both knowledge may be transferred to the mind.
IV.9 He ought also to watch over the manners of his flock, that the better he may apply the doctrine to them, in
reprehending the dissolute persons, and exhorting the godly to continue in the fear of the Lord31
VI.4 Their office is, as well severally as conjunctly, to watch diligently upon the flock committed to their charge,
both publicly and privately, that no corruption of religion or manners enter therein.
VI.5 As the pastors and doctors should be diligent in teaching and sowing the seed of the word, so the elders
should be careful in seeking the fruit of the same in the people.
VI.8 They should be diligent in admonishing all men of their duty, according to the rule of the evangel. Things
that they cannot correct by private admonitions they should bring to the assembly of the eldership.32

30 Session of the RPNA (GM), Position Paper on Sessional Authority, June 4, 2006, p.9
31 General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Second Book of Discipline, Ch. 4 -
http://www.swrb.com/newslett/actualNLs/bod_ch04.htm#CH04
32 General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Ibid., Ch. 6 -
http://www.swrb.com/newslett/actualNLs/bod_ch04.htm#CH06


p.15
We recognize the geographical limitations and time constraints associated with the work you have tied
yourselves to. It would seem the lack of regular interaction with the majority of the brethren would represent
significant challenges to fulfill ministerial duties. With the PPSA’s chief emphasis on technological advantages to
effectively minister, judge their causes, and watch out for their souls, we ask:
Q 1.5a: Where are both Sacraments celebrated in a regular and at least annual way?
Q 1.5b: How does the pastor determine the needs of the people that he may preach to their several
needs?
Q 1.5c: Is there consistent encouragement to ALL in personal, societal, marital &/or child-rearing
duties?
Q 1.5d: How do our children benefit from your catechizing and training them in the faith? How are
these things done in the particular charges where you are physically present, and in those which
you are not?
Q 1.5e: How often and on what basis do you contact each household among us (email, phone, or in
person)? Even more specifically, what is the frequency of your collectively conducting family visits
with all members of each household, youngest to oldest?
Q 1.5f: Understanding Elder Dohms’ providential circumstances and his only being able to meet with
the other Elders on the Lord’s Day, how is technology employed in his work as an Elder with the
brethren the rest of the week?

~ The Second Book of Discipline and Mitchell ~
You quote Alexander Mitchell, who asserts that the Second Book of Discipline equates the Particular Assembly
with a Common Session, though his footnote admits that it is not sharply distinguished. In your use of Mitchell
and inconsistent with the included footnote, it actually sounds like you found him saying, “It is so clear that this is speaking of a “Common Session”, that it is debatable whether it’s speaking of a Common Session or a
Presbytery”.
When going to the source, this reference about the Second Book of Discipline that you cite is actually found in his section on the First Book of Discipline. In the chapter on the Second Book of Discipline, he states the nature of the conflict even more strongly, and at some length, therefore we ask:
Q 1.6a: Concerning the “Common Session” theory in chapter 7 in the Second Book of Discipline, on
what basis do you dismiss Mitchell’s comments on the debatable nature of the “Particular
Assembly” (as not being sharply distinguishable)?

~ The Second Book of Discipline and Calderwood ~
If it is true that the issue is not sharply distinguishable, but in fact debatable, based upon historic records then that would bring clarity to the sharp rebuke Calderwood33 offers the Scottish Commissioners to the Westminster Assembly.
Baillie communicates to Mr. William Spang about the dialogue, or rather the rebuke from Dr. Calderwood to the
Scottish Commissioners. It appears that the Commissioners published a paper where they “asserted a
Congregational Eldership, for governing the private affaires of the Congregation, from the eighteenth of
Matthew.” They took for granted that this was in fact the view of the Scottish Church.34 Calderwood was not
satisfied with their assertion of a Session as a Church Court and wrote the Commissioners. Here is Baillie’s record (emphasis ours):

33 Rev. Calderwood is known for being a Scottish Church Historian and the one who brought back into print the Books of
Discipline with his Preface.
34 Andrew Edgar, another Scottish Church historian points out that,
“On the ground of this letter of Calderwoods, some subsequent historians maintain that it is uncertain whether Kirk
Sessions in the Church of Scotland were originally distinct and constituted courts, or only committees of
Presbytery.” Old Church Life in Scotland: Lectures on Kirk-Sessions and Presbytery Records. Vol I, p.184

p.16
“On Friday, after a week’s debate, we carried, albeit hardly, that no single Congregation had the power of
ordination. Tomorrow we begin to debate if they have any right of excommunication. We gave in, long ago,
a paper to the great Committee, wherein we asserted a Congregational Eldership, for governing the private
affaires of the Congregation, from the eighteenth of Matthew. Mr. D. Calderwood, in his letter to us, has
censured us grievously for so doing; showing us, that our Books of Discipline admits of no Presbytery or
Eldership but one; that we put ourselves in hazard to be forced to give excommunication, and so entire
government, to Congregations, which is a great step to Independency. Mr. H[enderson] acknowledges this;
and we are in a peck of troubles with it. In many things we had need of the prayers of our friends.”35

We are not trying to reopen a debate which was authoritatively settled at the Assembly in the Form of Church
Government. Rather, we quote this to establish that even amongst the most renowned teachers in our Presbyterian Church History, there was debate concerning this “particular assembly” mentioned in the Second Book of Discipline. However, it is clear that the Second Book of Discipline would have the assembly in question to be made up of many Pastors and Elders.

“The power of election of them who bear ecclesiastical charges pertains to this kind of assembly, within
their own bounds, being well erected and constituted of many pastors and elders of sufficient ability.”36

~ The Second Book of Discipline and Our Application ~
As we consider application to our own day, we read (emphasis ours),
“Albeit this is meet, that some of the Elders be chosen out of every particular Congregation, to agree with
the rest of their brethren in the common assembly…”37
Therefore we must ask:
Q 1.6b: If the “Common Session” application were granted, would not Edmonton alone qualify since
only they have Elders in their locations (and possibly Albany)?
~ Privy Kirk ~
You cite one subordinate standard and two witnesses where “this concept of a Common Session lawfully rules
over many Congregations.” For sake of brevity, we’d like to ask regarding the Privy Kirk example, on which
subject you say,
“Thus we see how, in pre-reformation Scotland, Societies were formed. Believers gathered together, itinerant
(Ministers not fixed to any one particular Congregation) served communion, while Elders were elected to
maintain discipline in the Church. For Ministers to serve communion and Elders to maintain discipline, they
must have formed Sessions at least, since to admit and demit people from the Lord’s Table and to exercise
acts of discipline (Church power) cannot lawfully be done outside the context of a Church Court.”38
Q 1.6c: Your firm assertion aside, do you have any historical evidence to establish that they “must
have formed Sessions at least” in an ongoing and perpetually constituted form?

~ The Lord’s Table ~
First, you say in the above quote, that to admit and demit people from the Lord’s Table cannot be done outside the
context of a Church Court, yet in your letter to us in June 2003, explaining the context of the Presbytery’s
dissolution and our membership, you say,

35 Robert Baillie, Letters and Journals, Vol. II, pp.181-82; 1644, May 3 - Selection from ‘For Mr. William Spang’
36 General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Ibid., Ch. 7, sect. 15 -
http://www.swrb.com/newslett/actualNLs/bod_ch04.htm#CH07
37 General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Ibid., Ch. 7, sect. 10 -
http://www.swrb.com/newslett/actualNLs/bod_ch04.htm#CH07
38 Session of the RPNA (GM), Position Paper on Sessional Authority, June 4, 2006, p.12


p.17
“We would also affirm that according to Scripture and in agreement with clear historical testimony, we
have both the right and the duty (even without a regularly organized Session) to celebrate the sacrament of
the Lord's Supper and to administer baptism among our present Societies for the simple reason that Pastor
Price as a minister of the Visible Church-- may and ought to perform all of his duties as a Pastor.
As we look to the past for guidance, we see that James Renwick and Donald Cargill celebrated the Lord's
Supper with the scattered remnant-- even in a state wherein there were no formal Sessions.
For these faithful ministers of the past to preach and celebrate communion in that extraordinary and
disorganized context implies that they clearly understood they had the Scriptural authority from God to
proceed in this manner-- the right as Pastors of Christ's Visible Church to admit or refuse people from
coming to the communion table.
To admit or demit persons from the communion table, they, like us, used the six terms of communion, and
all who refused to own the same terms in doctrine or practice would be barred from celebrating the Lord's
Supper.”39

Even though there is not an explanation concerning 1) the Scriptural principles your assertion is based on; 2) why Renwick and Cargill understood they had (and therefore we have) the Scriptural authority from God to proceed in this manner, yet the asserted conclusion is: “the right as Pastors of Christ's Visible Church to admit or refuse people from coming to the communion table.”
It appears that you say two contrary things. You can admit/demit people from the Supper by:
1) The Right of Pastors – “The right as Pastors of Christ's Visible Church to admit or refuse people from
coming to the communion table.”
2) The exclusive function of a Church Court – “….to serve communion (which implies the right to exercise
Church discipline) things which only a lawful Church Court may lawfully exercise.”40
Since your most recent comments appear contrary to your former established comment, we ask:
Q 1.7a: Why does your recent June 2006 paper contradict your June 2003 letter in regard to the
authority to admit and demit people from the Lord’s Table?

~ Your Instruction ~
Second, in qualifying your June 2003 paper, you say in your June 2006 paper,

“By means of this letter, it was our intention, consistent with Scripture and history and true principles of
Presbyterian polity, to indicate to you that we were still a lawful Church Court. Although we were not
“regularly organized” we were nevertheless “extraordinarily organized”, and as you can see above, we
communicated to you that we believed (and still believe) that we still had the Scriptural right, even upon
dissolution of our Presbytery, to continue functioning as a Church Court--to admit and demit from Church
membership, and to serve communion (which implies the right to exercise Church discipline) things which
only a lawful Church Court may lawfully exercise.”41

We must disagree that your court is self-evident in this June 2003 letter. Rather the email seems ambiguous at
best; having required special pleading in retrospect. Because your instruction is not as clear as you have perceived and intended, we ask:
Q 1.7b: How did you intend for a “Minister alone” structure and a “Common Session” structure to
co-exist?

39 Email: Letter from Greg Price, Greg Barrow, and Lyndon Dohms, June 14, 2003
40Session of the RPNA (GM), Position Paper on Sessional Authority, June 4, 2006, p.13
41 Email: Letter from Greg Price, Greg Barrow, Lyndon Dohms, June 14, 2003


p.18
~ Without an Organized Session ~
Third, in June 2003 letter, you use the phrase “without an organized Session”

“Now, we are providentially placed into a situation where we do not have an organized Presbytery, and we do
not "yet" have an organized Session--although we still have the same three Elders who originally brought people into membership from Edmonton, who formed the majority of the Presbytery, and who continue to maintain their original contraception position and practice.
What then can we do without a regularly organized Session?
We would also affirm that according to Scripture and in agreement with clear historical testimony, we have both
the right and the duty (even without a regularly organized Session) to celebrate the sacrament of the Lord's
Supper and to administer baptism among our present Societies for the simple reason that Pastor Price as a
minister of the Visible Church-- may and ought to perform all of his duties as a Pastor.
1. Without a regularly organized Session they:
a. Interviewed people to ascertain whether there was positive agreement in their six terms of communion and
whether there was negative agreement on all known points of doctrine and practice.
b. Exercised ecclesiastical discipline (at least up to the lesser excommunication) since they, as the Ministers of
Christ, had the right and duty to refuse and bar people from the Lord's Supper, who for reasons of either
ignorance or scandal did not qualify to participate”.42

Since you say multiple times in June 2003 that a Session is not yet organized, yet June 2006 you inform us that
you were nevertheless “extraordinarily organized” we ask:
Q 1.7c: Is it unreasonable to understand the confusion we have by the record?
Q 1.7d: How does the June 2003 paper inform us that you were an “extraordinarily organized”
Session as you say it does in your June 2006 paper?
And so in summary when looking at the essential questions you introduced to us, we come back to the question:
Primarily, does a lawfully constituted Church Court presently exist among us?
Based on the information provided and in this hour of duress and controversy, if we had to answer the primary
question, we would observe:
1) Gillespie, Rutherford, the London Ministers all speak of a local Church – which we are not.
2) When evaluating the receiving of ministerial and social duties we agree with your Jan. 2006 assessment, that
the work is great, as these duties are not realized regularly and effectively, by the record or in our experience.
3) We fail to see how your sources defend the characteristics you claim in your application, as they say:
a) Acts 15 is a court of appeal (i.e. Synod), and not a local church court (i.e. Session);
b) Matt 18 authorizes a court which sufficiently represents both shepherds and all sheep;
c) The Second Book of Discipline is debatable in application;
And therefore, your June 2003 and June 2006 letters are unclear at best and contradictory at worst.
Secondary to that, can you effectively perform all of the ministerial and social duties to all the scattered
Societies & individuals?
You recently provided for us a quote from your letter of June 2003, in which you explained your outward form:

42 Email: Letter from Greg Price, Greg Barrow, Lyndon Dohms, June 14, 2003


p.19
“1. ‘Changing the “form” of organization from a Presbytery back into a state in which one teaching elder
and two ruling Elders have the general oversight over the Societies does not alter our membership
commitments or change the status of those who have already passed our communion examinations. Those
who were formerly members we still consider to be members and those who were allowed to come to the
communion table can still do so.’

Note, it was merely the outward “form” of organization that was changed after the dissolution of the
Presbytery and not the substance of authority. The Letter states that we were returning to a previous “state.”
What “state” would that be? Clearly, back to the “state” (prior to the formation of the Presbytery) in which
an authoritative Session had general oversight over the Societies. In other words, we began with an
authoritative Session (a lesser Presbytery) which was a common Court overseeing the Societies of various
locations, and individuals of various locations. We then grew into greater common Court, which was our
greater Presbytery which also authoritatively oversaw the Societies of various locations, and individuals of
various locations. Upon dissolution of the greater Presbytery, we reverted back to our previous state of
being a Session (lesser Presbytery) overseeing the Societies of various locations and individuals of various
locations.”43

All architectures and industrial designers recognize a vital “light of nature” principle concerning structure, “Form
follows Function”. The shape of a building or object should be predicated on its intended purpose.44 If the model serves the ability to perform, then success of the model is evaluated by performance. But if it isn’t working, then why use the form? We believe the sincere and fair questions we have asked will help us all evaluate the form and function of this organization.
Our forefathers found themselves in far worse circumstances than we have experienced, and used a particular
model that was later judicially approved and established.

“…under divine direction, to gather themselves together into a general meeting, for advising and informing
one another anent their duty, in such critical times of common danger, that so whatever concerned the
whole, might be done with due deliberation and common consent. The which general meeting afterward
afforded them both good comfort amidst their discouragements, and also good counsel amidst their
perplexities and doubts, and proved an excellent expedient for preserving the remnant from the destruction
and contagion of the times, propagation of the testimony, and keeping alive the public spirit of zeal and
concern for the cause and interest of CHRIST; and for these ends they have been kept up ever since.”45

43 Session of the RPNA (GM), Session Response to "Public Protest and Complaint, Oct 28, 2006, p.5
44 Form follows Function - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Form_follows_function
45 Act Declaration and Testimony, Part I - Richard Cameron, Donald Cargill, Sanquhar Declaration, 1680 -
http://www.covenanter.org/RefPres/actdeclarationandtestimony/actpart1.htm#cameron