10/28/06 Elders' Response to "Public Protest and Complaint" of SPG]
From: Society of PG (RPNA)
Sent: Wednesday, October 18, 2006 4:00 PM
Subject: PGS Public Protest & Complaint
Attach: PGS_PublicProtest. pdf (54.9 KB)
Knowing our Lord's mercies are 'new every morning', we respectfully submit this to you by way of public protest and complaint.
Yours in Christ,
Society of Prince George
October 18, 2006
October 18, 2006
Dear covenanted brethren,
Greetings in the name of our precious Savior. We cherish your fellowship and pray this letter finds you in the joy of the Lord.
In writing you today, it is our sincere and abiding desire to see true Presbyterian government among us, according to Scripture and according to those Subordinate Standards received and acknowledged in covenanted Historical Testimony. Our purpose now is to openly object to a recent effort to divide us and separate us from fellowship with you. This again deferred our hope of over two years to have counsel from Pastor Greg Price, Elder Greg Barrow and Elder Lyndon Dohms on a variety of concerns, as providence and duty permitted.
On October 4, 2006, all our society members were served with demand for an ‘Oath ’ (copy below), as a preliminary step to adjudicate unnamed charges brought by an unnamed Plaintiff. As we reflected on this latest step, we realized a line had been crossed demonstrating an obstinacy we could no longer allow to pass over in silence. The result is this public protest and complaint (Eccl 12:14; Lu 12:2).
In July 2004, many brethren gathered in Prince George to celebrate the marriage of J&D D; that same day, GC was born. In a face-to-face conversation between Pastor Price, Elder Barrow and a 3-member committee of ours in the early hours of Friday, July 2, we related our concern for improved society communication, and shared our plan to distribute a letter that weekend. The purpose of that letter was to ask them and all the brethren to consider what might be of use to us in a historically proven subordinate standard for the promotion of better communication. This was also the first time our society heard Greg Price and Greg Barrow refer to ‘the Session’.
As a courtesy, we shared a draft of our letter with Pastor Price and Elder Barrow (Elder Dohms was not yet in Prince George). Rather than give it out to brethren that Saturday, we were asked to wait 7 days before mailing our letter to the brethren, which would afford them and Elder Dohms a thorough preview.
We agreed to the 7-day window, which would also give us time to review their ‘Session’ claim.
The next day however, Saturday July 3, ‘withdrawal’ of the undistributed draft was made conditional to our being admitted to the Lord’s Table. They refused to speak with us as a society on our common concern, insisting they be taken up as individual households. Ultimately, that 7-day window stretched into an exercise of over two years, of which those July proceedings were but a preview. This was the context of our attempted dialogue with the Elders, during which we honored them with the confidentiality they requested of us, but which they unapologetically did not return in kind.
[The PGS Public Protest and Complaint (October 18, 2006) Page 1 of 5]
In the weeks following, we discreetly polled brethren to assess common perception on the ‘is there a Session?’ question, and found we were not alone in our confusion that summer of 2004. We submitted a‘revised’ draft to each Elder on September 24. As an example of the need for greater communication, it referred to our surprise on the ‘Session’ question back in July. October 7, they put eight questions to us.
According to the written record, October 31, 2004 marks their first public reference to themselves by the judicial term ‘Session of the RPNA (General Meeting)’. This was found in the signature of a widely circulated email.
In the course of two years we have been questioned about our motives (Jul./04; Oct./04), told we had separated (July 2005), and that we were causing division among the brethren by not deferring areas of private duty and liberty to them (2006). We have suffered misrepresentation, innuendo, and injury. With many tears and crying out to God, we have guarded our hearts against resentment or bitterness and maintained our desire to see the whole covenanted remnant strengthened. However, any hope we had for meaningful direct dialogue with the Elders effectively came to an end this last October 4, 2006.
The essential problem is that when they served us with this oath, they did so with knowledge of concerns we had put before each Elder, in escalating degrees no less than six times since July 2004. Their demand, which might be an otherwise lawful and appropriate one, ought not to have been requested or demanded of us until they had taken all reasonable measures to instruct us directly on the relevant questions and outstanding issues. On July 16, 2005, they did comment on our concerns when Greg Barrow emailed rpna_pg@____ (cc: Greg Price and Lyndon Dohms):
“We share your concern and agree that the questions you are raising, along with their attendant implications, warrant our more immediate attention. At the same time we believe that because your response is questioning the very existence and lawfulness of our extraordinary Session (and by implication the lawfulness of every member of the RPNA who presently receives our oversight as faithful), these matters also deserve careful clarification of your position, further discussion among ourselves, and finally a carefully written full response to your concerns. This will take time.” (Para. 3b)
From their own words they have demonstrated they understood our concerns had significant implications.
Our concerns were also relevant in pre-communion interviews days later in Edmonton, AB, confirming their awareness. Therefore, ignorance cannot be a valid factor in their choice of demand format, which lacks any acknowledgement of our concerns let alone attempt at accommodation.
[PGS Public Protest and Complaint (October 18, 2006) Page 2 of 5]
The demand has five main elements. While all may be cause for concern at different levels, one is completely opposed to any interest in justice. Our hope for justice did not break at:
(1) Their calling themselves a constituted court (nor at the lack of: date of calling and constitution, documented measures to secure informed consent, commencing a confused agenda).
(2) The adopting of practices and doctrinal positions without the beauty of a meaningful, Presbyterian overture.
(3) The requiring us to swear this oath without stating the formal charge and Plaintiff which advantages all other parties have (which appears as potential entrapment contrary to ecclesiastical jurisprudence on ‘informed’ consent).
(4) The right of lawful authorities to impose lawful oaths on those under their jurisdiction (not contested by any among us).
Those four elements might have been considered privately on another day as providence and duty permitted (Deut. 29:29). However, when considered against the two year record, our hope for justice broke upon number five, seeing it as fundamentally problematic to a reasonable hope in their actions:
(5) (5) Putting words in our mouths and by them, constructing commitments we never made (We have underlined some relevant portions in the oath document itself following our letter)
In choosing to frame the oath as they did, with the knowledge they had, they effectively chose to position us as no members at all of the covenanted community and therefore our unanswered questions will never have to be fully answered. To take the oath would have us own the PPSA, which they claim answers the Session question for us. We are put in a lose/lose situation. Such design stumbles all concerned from fulfilling lawful covenantal vows in good conscience (Solemn League & Covenant, Articles I & II), and is best designed to provoke wrath (Col. 3:21). Therefore, may God have mercy upon us all as we make known this measure to position us ‘outside the camp’ from covenanted brethren in Christ.
This policy of exclusion and “self-preservation” can only be seen as gross incompetence at best, maliciously bearing false witness at worst (LCat. Q.144, Q.145); demonstrating their ‘gift for government’ (1 Cor. 12:28), the facts sustain massive injury in either case. While not a commentary on their personal virtues, which are many, it is an example of governance they claim to fulfill as a judicial court. We might pass over this out of a misguided desire to ‘live peaceably with all men’ (Rom. 12:18) at all costs, but for the fact it appears the very kind of historical revisionism, linguistic gamesmanship, and tyranny (whether in gross incompetence or willful pride) that the godly have contended against in all ages.
In our documented context, this oath must be seen for what it is: an unlawful imposition contrary to justice, peace and the Presbyterian way. Nevertheless, we have been asked to voluntarily, plainly and firmly testify some things “without equivocation or mental reservation.”
[PGS Public Protest and Complaint (October 18, 2006) Page 3 of 5]
In this context, contrary to the words and commitments imputed to us by Greg Price, Greg Barrow, and Lyndon Dohms October 4, 2006, we publicly testify that:
1. On July 2, 2004, our society committee asked Greg Price and Greg Barrow in person for details corroborating their claim to be members of “a lawful and faithful Court of Christ.”
2. From July 2 until we submitted a revised draft September 24, 2004, we had received no corroborating details to support the proposition they claimed. We did not and have not denied theproposition, but to this day our concerns remain unanswered, and thus we were not then and are not now in a position to conscientiously own something called, “the Session of the RPNA (GM)”.
3. None of our Prince George society members requested admittance into anything called, “the RPNA (GM)” which professed body is not now observed existing in the “plain and common sense” of the words, as established in published covenanted history and Presbyterian polity.
4. Our Society has stated relevant concerns in escalating degrees to each Elder on no less than six occasions for over two years since July 2004.
5. In light of our multiple unanswered questions of over two years, to construct our patience and longstanding commitment to Reformed Presbyterianism (12 years) and the covenanted way (10 years) as tacit consent, and as our having ‘continuing’ “membership commitments” as they frame them, does such injury to the record that we cannot endure further such abuses in silence or patience, lest we sin against our own consciences crying out for peace, charity and reformation beyond mere words (1 Cor. 13:1). and,
6. We do own approved subordinate standards in the “plain and common sense” of the terms, however it does not follow that our commitments contemplated the recent public vindication titled ‘Sessional Authority’ of June 4, 2006. We do not own arbitrary claims as settled and binding judicial positions on the whole world without such claims firmly established out of approved argument and example in our covenanted historical testimony, lest in one blow we countenance both independency and prelacy. With the Apostles, we have guarded our consciences from dishonesty (Acts 24:16; 2 Cor. 4:2) and labored to walk faithfully before one Lord (Acts 4:19).
An aggravating problem is that the Elders alleged on August 25, 2006 that some offence exists between our entire society, and one or all of them, on some matter out of our July 23, 2006 email. To date they have refused to identify the matter, let alone substantiate the claim. This does not support their receiving of, let alone hearing of, a case against us, before resolving that fundamental issue which compromises any assurance for justice and equity. Our record of inquiry and entreaty goes back to July 2, 2004; even if they asserted the unspecified ‘charge’ and unnamed ‘Plaintiff’ had a claim preceding our record of inquiry, the conflict of interest is flagrant. Surely it is to put the cart before the horse; surely the resolving of one must precede the other?
[PGS Public Protest and Complaint (October 18, 2006) Page 4 of 5]
An underlying concern is the reluctance on their part (October 2004; August 25, 2006) to clarify their understanding of confidentiality in our dialogue attempts to date. Is this because the topic of confidentiality is another concept so complex it is beyond the understanding of the average person? We must wonder if the confusion is not so much in the topics as in those claiming such wisdom (Prov. 27:2).
Our concerns may be better highlighted in the Reformation question: “Does the Church exist for the edification of the government, or the government for the edification of the Church?” At this time, we are convinced by Scripture and Historical Testimony that the form of proceedings taken here is NOT proven as Presbyterian by any convention of charity or heavenly wisdom.
The Society is willing to make available, to those who request it, our record of correspondence with the Elders since July 2, 2004. We welcome feedback and conversation on how we can go forward with minimal burden to any with an interest in peace and reconciliation.
Any brethren, who, like us, see the constitutional status of what is called “The Session of the RPNA (GM)” as subject to some question, ought to consider their own status in light of the preamble to the ‘Oath’. We may not demand by ecclesiastical authority, but in the bonds of Christ we can ask, “Does your informed conscience fully own something called, The Session of the RPNA (GM)?” Whether yes or no, we would be happy to hear from you why that is, as we continue efforts to come to terms with that term and the question, as all must make ready their answer whether for this life or upon entrance into eternity and before the Lamb.
We do hope to see all the Societies established in humble, proper Presbyterian governance in the bond of unity, together serving the Kingdom of Jesus Christ here on earth in keeping our covenantal vows. It is said that words expressing ‘love’ for one another are nothing without humility, repentance, and Truth in action. The Savior also demanded profession before men (Matt. 10:32, 33); may we not be found as Peter on that sad day when the cock did crow (Luke 22:60-62). May we all ’play the man’ (2 Sam. 10:12), not in carnal defense of reputation or party as for Paul or Apollos (1 Cor. 3:4-6), but for Christ alone.
Our hopes and prayers for you all continue, as we beseech the Father for Minister, Elders and His flock.
Society of Prince George
Prince George Society members
Mark & Belinda C.
Mike &Theresa G.
Rod & Milly S.
[PGS Public Protest and Complaint (October 18, 2006) Page 5 of 5]
Appendix 1: Scripture Index (corrected version, Oct. 19/06)
Ecclesiastes 12:14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
Luke 12:2 For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known.
Deuteronomy 29:29 The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.
Colossians 3:21 Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.
1 Corinthians 12:28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.
Romans 12:18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
1 Corinthians 13:1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
Acts 24:16 And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.
2 Corinthians 4:2 But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
Acts 4:19 But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.
Proverbs 27:2 Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.
Matthew 10:32, 33 Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
Luke 22:60-62 And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.
2 Samuel 10:12 Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people, and for the cities of our God: andthe LORD do that which seemeth him good.
1 Corinthians 3:4-6 For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.
Appendix 2: The Oath with Preamble (name removed; all underlining added)
October 4, 2006
Dear [Name Removed],
Please confirm receipt of this document immediately by email to the Members of Session: Pastor Greg Price, Elder Greg Barrow, and Elder Lyndon Dohms.
The Session of the RPNA (GM) has received, reviewed, and accepted formal charges of sin that have been filed with this Court and in which charges you are formally named as a defendant. Please understand that this does not mean that the case has already been tried.
However, we do find the charges to be in order. As is true with any case brought beforethe Court, this is a very serious matter that could potentially affect the status of your urrent membership in the RPNA (GM). Therefore, please carefully and prayerfully consider the following requirements that this lawful Court of Jesus Christ now imposes upon you (as defendant) and upon the plaintiff by lawful authority and out of love for Christ and His Church.
Preparatory to adjudicating the charges filed against you, the Court requires that a formal oath be taken by both plaintiff and defendant in which you both, in accord with your membership obligations, bear formal testimony in the name of Jesus Christ that you:
1. Have no known disagreement with the Terms of Communion of the RPNA (GM), and,
2. Formally own the Session of the RPNA (GM) as a lawful and faithful Court of Christ.
This is necessary, in the judgment of the Court, to ensure that all parties involved in this formal dispute (both the one making the charges and the one being charged) assure the Court of their continued commitment to adhere to the obligations agreed upon at the time of their membership.
The reasons for the Court making this oath mandatory are as follows:
1. Those doctrinal errors or practical scandals that require the Session of the RPNA (GM), as an authoritative Church Court, to refuse a person admission into the membership of the RPNA (GM), also, in consistency, require it to remove one who is already a member barring repentance.
Thus, if a person should come seeking membership in the RPNA (GM) and should not positively testify to the Court that he/she has no known disagreement with the Terms of Communion of the RPNA (GM), and that he/she positively “owns” this Court as a lawful and faithful Court of Jesus Christ, that one would “not” be admitted into membership. If this candidate for membership should say, “I don’t know (or I am not sure) if you are a lawful and faithful Court of Christ,” that person would be positively excluded from admission into membership within the RPNA (GM).[Page 7]________________________________________________________________________
Likewise, if a person who is already a Member of the RPNA (GM)—having already affirmed in his/her membership agreement and by his/her continued membership in the RPNA (GM) that he/she has no known disagreement with the Terms of Communion of the RPNA (GM) and owns the Session of the RPNA (GM) as a Church Court that is both lawful and faithful—fails, when called upon to do so by a lawful authority, to positively continue to testify of these things, that one, also, would be excluded (i.e. removed) from membership within the RPNA (GM) barring repentance.
2. Failure to take a lawful oath, when imposed by lawful authority, in matters of great importance, is scandalous and against God’s law.
Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 22:2,3 states,
“Yet as, in matters of weight and moment, an oath is warranted by the word of God under the New Testament, as well as under the Old; so a lawful oath, being imposed by lawful authority, in such matters, ought to be taken” (1 Kings 8:3 1; Ezra 10:5; Nehemiah 13:25).
“Yet it is a sin to refuse an oath touching any thing that is good and just, being imposed by lawful authority” (Exodus 22:7-11; Numbers 5:19-21; Nehemiah 5:12).
Thus, failure to take the oath below would, in the judgment of this Court, be a dishonor to God, a scandal to the Church, a violation of your own membership agreement, and a disobedience to and dishonoring of the lawful ordinance of ecclesiastical authority given to the Session of the RPNA (GM) as a Court of Christ. Therefore, all who refuse such an oath (unless of course the oath is demonstrably unlawful) may and ought to be disciplined according to the rule of Christ set down in the Word of God in Matthew 18:17-20.
This oath is not optional, and failure to sign this oath and return it to the Clerk of Session within the stipulated timeframe will result in the enactment of Church discipline, an barring repentance, will result in formal and public terminatio of your membership in the RPNA (GM).
Here then is the oath that the Court now imposes upon you (as defendant) by the lawful authority given to the Session of the RPNA (GM) from Christ who is Savior and Head of the Church:
I, [Name Removed], freely and voluntarily, according to my own conscience and not being induced or compelled by any unlawful external means, by the grace of God and in the name of Jesus Christ, sincerely, in the plain and common sense of these terms, without equivocation or mental reservation, formally testify that I, [Name Removed], in no way knowingly disagree with any of the five Terms of Membership of the RPNA (GM), or any of the six Terms of Communion of the RPNA (GM) inclusive of its published position papers (namely, “A Brief Defence Of Dissociation In The Present
Circumstances”, “A Brief Testimony Against The Practice Of Occasional Hearing ”, “The Common Cup: Evaluated From A Biblical, Historical, And Medical Perspective ”, “The Practice Of Headcoverings In Public Worship ”, “A Reformation Discussion Of Extraordinary Predictive Prophecy Subsequent To The Closing Of The Canon Of Scripture ”, “Reformed Presbytery In North America Deed Of Constitution ”, and “Position Paper And Response To Questions Circulated About Sessional Authority Within The RPNA (General Meeting)”), and I formally testify that I own the authority of the Session of the RPNA (GM) in both its extraordinary form and jurisdiction, which is presently comprised of Pastor Greg Price, Ruling Elder Greg Barrow, and Ruling Elder Lyndon Dohms, as that Presbyterian Church Court, which is both lawful and faithful to the true Covenanted testimony of Jesus Christ and is agreeable to the Scripture and to all of the Subordinate Documents of the RPNA (GM). I further testify, in the name of Christ, that I do and will willingly submit to the Session of the RPNA (GM) (in so far as they conform to the Word of God), and that I will endeavor to conduct myself in this upcoming Court proceeding truthfully, honestly and charitably.
This signed oath must be returned to the Clerk of the Court, Elder Lyndon Dohms in papercopy ([address] AB ), or by email (in a PDF file with signature),at the following email address, lwdohms@_____, by 12 AM, Wednesday, October 18, 2006.
Dear Member, the Court appeals to you not only from the authority of Christ, but also
from the love of Christ to fulfill this duty incumbent upon you as a Member of the RPNA(GM).
Please confirm receipt of this document immediately by email to the Members of
Session: Pastor Greg Price, Elder Greg Barrow, and Elder Lyndon Dohms.
Respectfully submitted in the fear of God and in the love of Christ,
The Session of the RPNA (GM)
Pastor Greg Price
Elder Greg Barrow
Elder Lyndon Dohms