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 -
[11] W. H. Carslaw, The Life and Letters of James Renwick, (quoted by Greg Barrow, Covenanted Reformation Defended, p.139; emphasis in the original) -
[12] United Societies, Informatory Vindication, p.93-94 -
[13] United Societies, Informatory Vindication, p.114 -
[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.

~ 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.” [emphasis added]

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

3 Westminster Assembly, The Form of Presbyterial Church Government, The Preface -
4 Westminster Assembly, Ibid., Concerning the Doctrinal Part of the Ordination of Ministers -
5 George Gillespie, Assertion of Church Government, First Part; Ch II, p.13 -
6 Sundry Ministers of London, Divine Right of Church Government, Part II; Ch 3 - ; Naphtali Press Ed., p.49
7 Westminster Assembly, Ibid., Of the Officers of a Particular Congregation -
8 George Gillespie, Ibid., p.12b –
9 Sundry Ministers of London, Ibid., p.49

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

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 -
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.

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 -
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]
17 United Societies, Informatory Vindication, p.61 -

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, -
5 James Renwick, Order and Form of Admission of Ruling Elders,

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

9 Reformed Presbytery in Scotland, Short Directory for Religious Societies,
10 Westminster Assembly, Ibid., Of Congregational Assemblies, &c. -
11 Westminster Assembly, Form of Presbyterian Church Government, Of Particular Congregations, -
12 Westminster Assembly, Ibid., Of the Officers of a Particular Congregation, -

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:

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.
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 -; Naphtali Press, p. 191
14 Sundry Ministers of London, Ibid., Part II; Ch 12 -; Naphtali Press, p.192
15 George Gillespie, Disputations Against English Popish Ceremonies, Part 3, Digression 1; p.357

and self-pleasing to the discouraging and scaring away of the flock, by your needless distance and
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.,
17 George Gillespie, Assertion of Church Government, First Part; Ch II, p.13 -
18 Westminster Assembly, Ibid., Of the Officers of a particular Congregation -

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

~ 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 -

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]
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 -

“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.
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 -
24 The Sundry Ministers of London, Ibid., Part I; Ch. 4 -
25 Westminster Assembly, Confession of Faith, Ch. 31 - Of Synods & Councils
26 Email: RPNA Session Announcements, January 1, 2006

“…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]

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 -
32 General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Ibid., Ch. 6 -

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
Q 1.5c: Is there consistent encouragement to ALL in personal, societal, marital &/or child-rearing
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
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

“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 -
37 General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Ibid., Ch. 7, sect. 10 -
38 Session of the RPNA (GM), Position Paper on Sessional Authority, June 4, 2006, p.12

“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

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

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

~ 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

“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

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 -
45 Act Declaration and Testimony, Part I - Richard Cameron, Donald Cargill, Sanquhar Declaration, 1680 -