Monday, March 12, 2007

3/12/07, An Exposé of "The Effort" Meeting

[Cover Email]
From: Ben H.
To: Ben H.
Cc: List
Sent: Monday, March 12, 2007 5:07 AM
Subject: Effort

Please see the attached letter. If I've inadvertently sent this to someone who has requested to be left off any further correspondence of this kind, please forgive my oversight.

[Attached Document]
Greetings to all!

I have no desire whatsoever to reveal what comes below. My regret is mainly due to having such good friends whom the following information will likely further separate me once I say my peace. I especially have in mind the A. and I. families - everyone in Albany knows how well we got along, and how special they are to my family. I can especially attest to S and T’s Christian character having lived in the same building with them for years - they were there in numerous times of need and were diligent to put their faith to work. Thus, while I will ultimately be revealing evidence for what I take to be serious sin on their parts, I do so with some reservation, knowing how otherwise above reproach I’ve found them. That isn’t to say that I believe other families whom I’ll be discussing are un-Christian in my opinion - I simply have more interaction with those from Albany, and I find it especially vexing to have to expose their sin.

Nevertheless, I think there are good reasons for me to give some added testimony that may put the recent excommunications into a fuller context. I hear that there are many who find the Charitable Concerns paper confusing, and have stumbled over such a full and complete division surrounding its contents. Moreover, many have been shocked that those of such integrity have been excommunicated. I believe that once the facts come out regarding the drafting of the paper, and the attitude with which it was truly presented, people will be able to support the excommunications with an eased conscience. Rather than give my commentary and conclusions on how and where I believe grave sin was committed, I will simply provide a historical chronicle of the salient events and allow the reader to form their own conclusions.

On June 11, 2006, I was invited to the I.’s house for lunch after church, along with S[A] and T[M]. After we ate, we convened a meeting at which we formalized a group with the express purpose to determine common concerns, so that we could maturely deliberate through them with the elders. The nature of our concerns varied, and much of the discussion surrounded whether or not we all had analyzed the problem similarly. In the end, there was no clear ‘complaint’ over which we united, just the common understanding that something about the PPSA was mistaken, and that much of the preceding communication from Session bore that out.

In an effort to determine how many people were of like mind with us, we drew up a list of names of virtually everyone in the church categorizing them into three groups: ‘on board’, ‘marginal’, and ‘hostile/no discretion/high risk’. We adopted rules of order for approaching the ‘marginal’ families: we were not to mention our society to anyone outside of the group without explicit consent from others in the Effort, and when we did approach someone, it was to be done with at least two people from the group. Finally, after an approved communication took place, there was to be a report made as to the content of the discussion. The reason for such a rule was two-fold: first, we wanted to protect our own reputations in the event others found out what we were up to, and second, so that our weaker brethren wouldn’t stumble at finding out that there was a group of us convening for said purpose. As we understood it, because we had the ultimate end of trying to see the elders’ authority established upon a firm footing, we weren’t being conspiratorial. We dismissed our meeting with the following course of action: re-read the PPSA and other relevant historical testimony, convene our next meeting on 6/17/06. (It was at this meeting that Tony dissociated himself with us for personal reasons.)

After the conventicle at Prince George, S sent out the following letter on 7/10/06:

Hello All.

We wanted to take a moment to share some thoughts, give an update, and encourage us all.

So you are now explicitly part of an effort to establish and deal with common concerns through mature deliberation. Our purpose, as we have discussed, is to present our concerns to the Elders and the Church with one united voice, seeking to minimize any more casualties, and give courage to our Elders to better employ the kind of order and process that protects Christ’s sheep as well as His doctrine.

Those involved presently include (13 households / 6 Societies):
Albany, NY
Clemson, SC
Edmonton, AB
WF (not I nor anyone else in her household)
Lynden, WA
Prince George, BC
St. Louis, MO

Now that so many more are involved, it would seem that we collectively need rules of order and operation:
a) to assess the scope of participation we each will have
b) to guide our principles of operation
c) to maintain confidentiality, especially since there is a heightened awareness towards potential common concerns (communicated in public or private correspondences, collaborations, and efforts).

Recently MG. (in a letter to one of our participants) sent a principle of scope that was very helpful and positive to our work:
"As a guiding principle, I have found it very effective to
(1) remain open to all ideas, even changes in direction, so long as
(2) all participants recognize the importance of deferring to the collective judgment wherever possible (all things lawful!).
Because this helps to:
(1) permit all voices to be heard and cultivates diversity and original thinking;
(2) constrain the participant from becoming overly defensive or polarizing into an independent action, which would compromise the benefit to one another."

Those in Albany have maintained certain rules of order:
1. In their meetings there is a facilitator and a records keeper.
2. There has to be explicit consent prior to introducing any to the effort.
3. Any new households that are introduced to the effort, are done by 2 delegates. (There were circumstances in which one was sufficient.)
4. Report is given:
a) Have you taken or received an opportunity to speak to others, outside of our company, about our effort?
b) Have you had any conversations (more generically) concerning things that would help us to direct our effort?

We have a hard time as it is now, when there is this perpetual, yet non-substantiated rumor that there are some in the Church that hate the Elders, and want to overthrow them, want their power, etc. There is no fact behind it (in us at least, by God's grace), yet it drives members in our Church to suspicion, defensiveness, and greater disunity. It is best to keep silence in any public context at this time.

We don’t want to compromise this opportunity to:
Internally -
1) Know one another's mind that we may collaborate our common concern into a succinct and relevant presentation.
2) Present this common concern in a charitable & compelling way.
Externally -
3) Give those who are confused, some direction regarding issues and background.
4) Provide a positive alternative for considerations between the Elders and the brethren.
5) Encourage the Elders to a fruitful dialogue.

Having differences with the Elders in forms of questions or comments, does not imply cruel intentions, though that‘s the spin put on it. (see questions below)

The above is said because there is need to substantiate the comment made regarding “heightened awareness”.
1. Anyone with a wife in the “LOC” has probably heard the elder-defending, people-bashing that has been going on in there; even after the moderator, Cheryl G., asked them to stop because it was appearing divisive.
2. People who have asked the Elders questions, or voiced to them degrees of concerns as individuals, in regards to their newly stated positions, have much to fear and possibly lose, given the historic track record of the Elders (Too weak to regularly tend to and feed the flock, but strong enough to excommunicate for holding a position apparently contrary).
3. Elders have been asking numerous people in the Church, “So what have you heard others saying about the paper?” assuming those asked are already on their page and in agreement with their doctrine/actions/conclusions.

These are 3 common ones. You may know of more circumstances that show a heightened awareness.

This may or may not have been shared this with you, but our understanding of the weaker brethren is one who lacks discernment, lacks knowledge, or is poor in both. Though one may never have taken a course in logic, God has blessed man with the ability to be rational, and so we suggest it’s more likely that of those weaker brethren, 20% of them lack discernment, while 80% lack sufficient knowledge base. If true, this is very encouraging for as we labor to support the Elders and weaker brethren, where knowledge is established, many will be able to work through the material and discern issues at hand.

Hopefully (Lord willing), this preliminary letter will help us begin collaborating and filtering, that we may present common concerns in a timely and orderly manner.

In all that follows and that which has preceded, all are welcome to offer comments, concerns and question. So, let us now consider a few presuppositions to the effort we are beginning:

1. Are we accusing anyone of sin or obstinacy?
At no time in the invitations to participate, was such a rush to judgment (Pv. 29:20; Eccl. 5:2) to have been represented, and it is hoped all are moderate in their judgment to deny the flesh, but rather seeking to establish the matter (Pv 18:13, 25:2).

Righteous judgment does not desire to be driven by fallible hearts and perceptions (Matt. 15:18,19), but to walk deliberately, slow to speak, quick to hear (Jms. 1:19), hoping all things (1Cor. 13:7). We only intend to clarify what we ask that we might be nourished appropriately by the Lord (Jms. 4:3) and our fathers (Matt. 7:9-11), and that none among us misconstrue the Elders public position. We desire to have appropriate answers to our common needs, related in our concerns and questions (Pv. 16:20).

2. Do we have a right to be involved in this effort?
Yes, because:
i. The paper produced by the Elders was widely distributed to our covenanted community, told to the Church (Matt. 18:17), and therefore its content represents public matter, of common concern beyond the scope of private persons, as Paul addresses in Corinth (1Cor. 1:10, ch.5).
ii. As the public positions were represented as judicial positions, therefore it is subject to examination against the only rule of faith and practice, the Law and the Testimony (Is. 8:16,20).
iii. We have a right to seek the counsel of others sharing in common concerns, to help formulate the best questions and to help filter out irrelevant questions and/or presuppositions (Pv. 11:14, 15:22, 27:17; Dan. 1:9-12).
iv. We labor to explicitly dialogue with the Elders as our superiors (Eph. 6:1,2; 1Tim. 5:17; Heb. 13:17), in an orderly way reflecting the public and common nature as they have made it (1Cor. 14:40). Ours is a sincere effort to produce a more effective finished product which will increase clarity and see Testimony built up (Is. 8:16); we are not putting forth effort to thwart, subvert, or usurp lawful authority, but effort to show due care and godly zeal (2Cor. 7:8-11) as inferiors.
v. While the Elder's ‘recommendation’ (1Cor. 7:25) for the brethren to not talk amongst one another on the subject was of an optional nature (not binding our private judgment), our right to work together in all ways lawful was not denied. Had the Elders meant to restrict our rights to consult one another on matters of common concern (Acts 6:1), they would have clearly articulated such a bold restriction with the appropriate scripture, argument and history from our testimony to support such a thing.

3. Do we have the right to undertake such efforts in a confidential way?
Yes, because:
i. We are private individuals undertaking a private exercise together, albeit in the interest of producing the best results in the interest of all - sheep through shepherds (Esther 4:14). Though some may think us proud, our desire is not to see battle but to see God’s name glorified and exalted among us everywhere (1Sam. 17:26-28). Our battle is not with our brethren or the Elders, but together with them, against wickedness (Eph. 6:12).
ii. Those who do not share similar concerns might unnecessarily stumble in the course of our private exercise (Rom. 14:12,13), rushing to judgment concerning our motives, which would only aggravate an already challenging environment.
iii. To advertise our efforts would therefore delay the constructive dialogue we lawfully desire, due to:
a. Interruptions in the nature of having to first defend our right to access a multitude of counselors on this matter of common concern; and,
b. By virtue of our being individually inquired by otherwise well-meaning brethren wanting to ‘be in the know’ and ‘in the loop’, prior to our even having fully composed and articulated our questions and concerns.

4. Is this sneaky or suspicious on our part?
Our conscious intent is to share the fruit of our efforts in a respectful and temperate way, once the information is collaborated and constructed into a complete and thorough presentation. Thus, the answer to this question is ‘No’.

If we are to manage our own spirits, we must continually recognize man’s inclination to rush to judgment, whereas our conscious intent is to maturely deliberate with one another in the interest of articulating: our understanding of their public positions, related questions, and lastly common concerns based on our understanding. Our knowledge of sin in us (Titus 3:2-3,8), along with our weak governmental circumstances, informs us that mature deliberation and caution are critical to a successful exercise.

5. Why should we keep this information "secret" until it is complete?
We must continually remind our consciences that our company of brethren has not chosen to keep our exercise "secret", but rather "private" only for the present time. It is understood that, Lord willing, we intend to share the fruit of our labor as soon as we reasonably can. Participation is voluntary, but if we are to be effective, we must guard our hearts from such vanity or conspiratorial thinking; such fears may be the result of our individualistic tendencies of the past, that have not recognized our concerns as common to all and being of a public nature.

Secondly, we need to process all the information, questions and concerns in an orderly manner to protect weaker brethren, who could easily stumble over it in hasty and reactionary ways, discouraging many and frustrating a worthy public discourse.

Weaker brethren without sufficient knowledge-base to discern these common concerns, if lacking spirits sufficiently sanctified to resist common temptations, could:
i. Be easily offended at the Elders without benefit of a full and balanced presentation (this may include the majority of ourselves as well), or,
ii. See us as presumptuously and unlawfully challenging the Elders, resulting in their embracing an implicit faith in fallen men (the Elders) who are tasked with aiding God’s people, and strife further increased among the brethren.

If we are to exercise private judgment with discretion and soberness, we must support all our brethren with the best finished product, in the interest of a full and complete presentation that all can interact with in an intelligent and reasonable way. In other words, we must minimize wherever we reasonably can, the potential for divisions and discouragement.

Lastly, our chosen course also seems most wise because at best, our collaboration at present is still a handful of random thoughts lacking capacity to encourage constructive dialogue, which is the hope of our labors.

6. What is confidentiality?
For our purposes, the following obligations seem appropriate to our voluntary and private exercise:
i. Not voluntarily disclosing any information obtained in confidence in the course of our common effort.
ii. Taking all reasonable efforts to ensure that information relevant to our efforts are only accessible to those so authorized.
iii. Deferring private judgment where relevant, to the whole (i.e. Not extending participation invitations without being tasked by the whole; not advancing private concerns to the Elders without disclosing to and consulting with the whole, where such action may reflect on our collective efforts).

7. What can you do?
Two roles have been contemplated so far:
i. Passive contribution
ii. Active contribution

The concept of the Passive contributor is not one of deferring judgment to the others or of relinquishing responsibility to form a judgment. Rather, the Passive contributor who circumstantially is unable to commit much time to the effort is on occasion required to thoroughly review the developing paper for: clarity of thought, completeness of reasoning, moderation of tone, etc. While not as time intensive as the Active contributor, this feedback plays a massive role in suggesting different directions and constructing a balanced, representative piece that all can support. This participation supports a final product that is sound in speech and reason.

The Active contributors are expected to be fewer, and on them will fall the greater time burden of composing material for review by all. These must rely on constructive, thorough feedback to deliver the very best product that can be. On a cautionary note, their role is in service to the whole, and they are not to impose their particular biases, concerns or issues; their purpose is in interest of accurate and thorough representation.

VIII. Where do we go from here?
i. PARTICIPATION: Confirm the level of participation you see yourself functioning in (Active or Passive).
ii. COMMUNICATION: Firm up channels of communication amongst us as:
a. A whole, who are passive and active contributors?
b. Active contributors working together as a committee and individually
iii. REPORTING: As above, how to implement a reporting function to all
iv. TIMELINE: Active contributors must commit to a timeline of action

Practically, one avenue that has been broached (subject to approval) is for all the Active contributors (passive where they choose) to:
Phase I
i. Review all primary source documents (June 8,14/03; Jan. 1/06, Jun. 4/06)
ii. Review secondary source documents by interest (1994+)
iii. Note individual thoughts on the ‘Sessional Authority’ paper (SA)
iv. Submit individual notes for collaboration with redundancies removed
v. Identify major themes/patterns requiring address and consult with the whole
vi. Determine how to proceed on the themes, and begin work
Phase II
vii. Weekly or bi-weekly reporting/reviewing by all

Another way might be circulating an initial commentary on the SA paper for review and further addition.

Both have advantages and disadvantages, and suggestions will be welcome. The key now is to ascertain your role, along with concerns you might have in how we proceed. Once lines of communication, delegation and operation are firmed up, we can move forward practically.

Thanks for your participation. May the Lord be pleased in our desire to promote unity in His Church, and grant us further grace to be faithful in all deliberations.

Because JP. received the above letter which included him among the membership, on 7/17/06, J emailed them, pointing out that he never consented to being a member of the Effort, emphasizing that he thought their confidentiality policy was going to hurt relations with the elders, and expressly stating that he can't with clear conscience swear secrecy. With J out of the Effort (not that he was really in in the first place,) due to the confidentiality rules, I was not allowed to discuss Effort matters with him without explicit consent. Having failed to obtain explicit consent on a particular occasion, I received the following correspondence from SA. on 8/26/06:

Hello B,

I have been tasked with coming to you in response to your report to the Effort in regards to your talk with JP..

The participants of the Effort would like to express our concern that order was compromised in a small way in your actions, because you were to come to the group first with a decision, that we all could approve. We are thankful that nothing else was compromised and we happily accept your apology as well as your good report concerning our brother John.

Thank you for your services,
SA., on behalf of the participants to the Effort.

In the meantime, we began having conference calls with everyone who was involved during which we began discussing the issues that would largely form the content of the Charitable Concerns paper. Because the semester was about to begin, I wouldn’t be able to contribute to the conference calls like I could over the summer, and I was beginning to have grave doubts over the lawfulness of being in the effort, specifically the policy of confidentiality. Here is some correspondence to show how my concerns bore themselves out, as well as the minutes that were kept of the conference calls:

Minutes of the Effort
July 30, 2006

Location: Attendees were distributed at locations (primarily their homes) around the United States and Canada. Conference call was made over the telephone.
Facilitator: MG.
Meeting convened at 9:07pm (Eastern time)

Households present:
R and MS.
S,C, and H E.
B and K H.
J and D D.
S and T A.
W F.
S B.
M and B C.; J S.
Households absent:

Opened with prayer.


Discussion regarding the merits and drawbacks of recording the audio of the meeting. JD confirmed that he is not personally recording this meeting. MG proposed that we defer the decision of whether to record till the next meeting.

JD confirmed that a facility for anonymous voting has been set up on the Effort website.

Discussion regarding the amount of detail that should be in the minutes as well as the length of the commitment for the secretary/recorder. SB had been nominated by JD prior to meeting to be recorder. SB was approved as recorder week to week. SE volunteered to be recorder or backup recorder.

It was decided that the moderator be chosen one week in advance.

Agenda was approved as is.


Purpose of active/passive participation reviewed and discussed. Individuals were asked to commit to a role, with the understanding that these commitments are not necessarily permanent. Result:
MG: active
RS: passive
BS: active
JS: passive
S,C,H, and T (not present) E.: all passive
EI: active
BH : passive
JD :active
SA: active
Willena: passive
SB: active
MC: active


Representing the society of Prince George (PG), MG indicated the society's agreement in principle of SB's rough draft of July 27, 2006 (Petition and Plea for a General Meeting). MG noted that this draft was an independent effort on SB's part, without their input. This was noted to clarify that any similarity between concerns in the draft and concerns that the PG society had raised in the past was not the result of collaboration. This similarity was characterized by the PG society as a potential conflict of interest because of their prior experience in discussing concerns with the elders, and it was asked if others would prefer the PG society to withdraw from the Effort as a result. In the ensuing discussion, all agreed that the potential conflict of interest was a moot point and that the PG society should remain in the Effort.


JD was thanked for setting up the website. The relevance of the name “The Effort” was clarified, and it was suggested we not spend any more time discussing the name.



The floor was opened for discussion of the 6 options regarding the Effort's immediate direction (i.e., continue as is, inform the elders privately, inform the elders publicly, ask for a forum, set up a general meeting, or something else). Suggestion was made to inform the elders privately as a group. Point was raised that "private", as defined by the pastor in a recent sermon, appears to be fewer than 3 people; thus, we appear to be already "public" by that definition. Concern was expressed that failing to notify the elders might affect our chances of winning them over. Risks were pointed out for both notifying the elders and for not notifying them. BS made a motion to defer the decision for a week. SA seconded. Vote by division was unanimous.


The purpose of the writing committee was reviewed, namely that it holds the pen on behalf of the whole, that it needs to be available to the others, and it needs a regular reporting mechanism. SA motioned that a thread be created on the website to allow anyone to post priorities or concerns to the writing committee. EI seconded. Motion passed.

Milly motioned that the writing committee be formed from those who committed to an active role. BS seconded. Motion passed.


Floor was opened for suggestions to the writing committee. Agenda was amended to allow discussion of SA's recent 4-step plan of establishing obstinacy, in which the first step would be to bring concerns/principles to the elders in the form of questions rather than conclusions. Point was made that we need to avoid being hasty, and that there is merit in establishing repeated obstinacy rather than one-time obstinacy. Concern was expressed that SB's draft asks elders for permission rather than support. A private email to BS rom Pastor Price on Jan 27, 2006 was mentioned to indicate that the elders do not have a problem if people in the church to set up a general meeting, although concern was expressed that it would be nice to establish points of common concern and get the elders' support before doing this. It was mentioned that a general meeting is not inconsistent with a church court, since the two can coexist. Someone mentioned that the elders are aware that people are trying to form a general meeting and disband the session; and that the elders would not have issue with the former but they would have issue with the latter.


Suggestion was made to communicate with JP., thanking him for his recent email in which he encouraged the Effort to reconsider whether to notify the elders in order to avoid the appearance of evil. Concern was expressed that communicating with someone outside the Effort might compromise the confidentiality of the Effort. BS motioned that SA, EI and BH xpress our thanks to JP. SA modified the motion to require them to share their communication with everyone before sending it to JP. SB modified the motion to require JP to agree to confidentiality prior to his receiving the communication. After discussion, SB retracted this modification. BH seconded the motion, with SA's modification but without SB's. Motion passed.


Frequency of meetings was suggested to continue at once per week. Definition of a quorum deferred until next week. JD motioned that we do everything we can to limit meetings to 90 minutes in duration. SA seconded. Motion passed.

Submission deadline for agenda mentioned as Thursday night. MG was approved to be facilitator next week. SB agreed to post minutes within 48 hours.

Closed with prayer.

Meeting adjourned at 11:15pm (Eastern time).

Respectfully submitted,


Minutes of the Effort
August 6, 2006

Location: Attendees were distributed at locations (primarily their homes) around the United States and Canada. Conference call was made over the telephone.
Facilitator: MG.

Households present:
R and MS .
M and BC.; JS.
Households absent:
J and DD.
B and KH.

Meeting convened at 9:27 pm (Eastern time)

Opened with prayer.

Minutes from previous meeting were amended and approved.


Time limitation protocols on lengthy discussions was briefly mentioned. Four forms of voting that are being contemplated were reported: (1) general consent (no objection), (2) audible vote with yeas and nays, (3) roll call, and (4) online voting (allowing for anonymity and time to decide beforehand).


MG reported, on behalf of the writing committee, the results of that committee’s meeting this past week. It was moved that we follow option #1 working in a collective effort without coordinated private efforts until we have a finished product. Motion carried.

The writing committee through MG moved that we allow up to 15 minutes in our next meeting to discuss private avenues. Motion carried.

The original time limit of 90 minutes having expired, EI left. TA moved that the meeting continue for another half hour. Motion carried.

The writing committee through MG moved that we prepare our draft for presentation to the elders within a questioning nature construction. Motion carried.

Nothing to report regarding correspondence with JP..


JS moved that we keep the name as is. Motion carried.

MS moved that we make recordings of the meetings for the benefit of those who are absent, to be accessed by members of the Effort only. Motion carried.

SB moved that a quorum be defined as a simple majority of households. Discussion ensued regarding whether this statement should be clarified as heads of households. Motion was amended by MC to reflect at least one representative from each household. MS moved that we table this discussion until the next meeting. Motion carried.

The time limit having expired, SB moved that the meeting adjourn. Motion carried.

Closed with prayer.

Meeting adjourned at 11:10 pm (Eastern time)

Respectfully submitted,


Minutes of the Effort
August 13, 2006

Location: Attendees were distributed at locations (primarily their homes) around the United States and Canada. Conference call was made over the telephone.
Facilitator: MG G.

Households present:
C,S E.
M and BC.; JS.
J and DD.
Households absent:
R and MS.
B and K H.

Meeting convened at 9:00 pm (Eastern time)

Opened with prayer.

Agenda was approved.

Minutes from previous meeting were approved as amended.


Challenges in establishing a quorum were mentioned.


1. Correspondence with our brother, JP. (SA__ BH__ EI__)

SA reported that, after the committee conducted an email discussion, BH took the initiative to thank JP.. SA read a statement from BH indicating that the conversation took approximately 30 seconds, that nothing was compromised, and that he was sorry if his communication was out of line, given that he had not obtained approval from the Effort first.

Upon motion by SA, it was decided that communication be made by the meeting to our brother BH reflecting our concern that order was compromised in a small way, our thanks that nothing further was compromised, and that we happily accept the apology and the good report regarding our brother JP. SA was appointed to put the communication together, conferring with the secretary, and send it to BH.

2. Writing Committee (Meeting Chair)

JD read the report of the writing committee, containing the two decisions made in the most recent meeting: (1) that the members of the committee would individually go through the sessional authority paper to note themes and scope of the report; and (2) that August 30 was established as a deadline for a rough draft to be sent to everyone in the Effort.


1. Private avenue options (up to 15 minutes)

No one had any comments on private avenues.

2. Quorum (MOTION on the table)

MC motioned that only heads of households vote. Concern was expressed that we need to think carefully about how to vote about how to vote.

Upon motion by SA, it was decided to form a committee of three to discuss the options for a quorum and voting members, and to bring back recommendations in two weeks. SA, MC, and JD were selected to form the committee.


1. Officer elections for next stated meeting (August 20, 2006)

MG was nominated for facilitator but declined. SA was nominated for facilitator and accepted. SB was nominated for secretary and accepted. JD was nominated for vice-facilitator and accepted.

2. New Effort membership

Upon motion by MC, it was decided that a committee of two, consisting of MC. and someone other than JS., approach MD. to ascertain his interest in joining the effort. (JS was excluded due to potential conflict of interest from her courtship with MD.) SA was selected as the other member.

The original time limit of 90 minutes having expired, BS moved to extend the meeting by 15 minutes. SA amended motion to extend by 30 minutes. SB moved to adjourn, but motion failed. Upon motion by SA, the meeting was extended by 15 minutes.

3. Confidentiality of our meetings and future proceedings

SA made a motion to the effect that explicit confidentiality be maintained by asking all attendees at the beginning of each Effort meeting, whether they have communicated about the Effort with others outside the Effort.

BS moved to adjourn the meeting. Motion carried.

Closed with prayer.

Meeting adjourned at 11:00 pm (Eastern time)

Respectfully submitted,


(subject to approval)

Minutes of the Effort Meeting
August 20, 2006

Location: Attendees were distributed at locations (primarily their homes) around the United States and Canada. Conference call was made over the telephone.
Facilitator: SA A.
Vice-Facilitator: JD
Secretary: SB

Households present:
T, S E.
EI .
M and BC; JS
J and D D.
Households absent:
C G.
B and K H.

Meeting convened at 9:00 pm (Eastern time)

Opened with prayer.

Agenda was approved.

Minutes from previous meeting were approved as amended.


1. New membership Committee: MC & SA approaching MD

MC, representing the committee, indicated that MD. was approached by the committee and joined the Effort. Discussion ensued whether the committee had been given the authority to receive a new member.

MG motioned to ratify MD.’s admittance to membership effective August 19. Motion passed.

At this point, MD. was asked to join the meeting.

2. Writing Committee Conclusions: Meeting Chair - SB

SB, representing the committee, summarized the meeting of last Wednesday. Decisions were made regarding the audience, purpose, and length of the paper being drafted for presentation to the elders. Individual members of the committee are drafting different sections of the paper in a rotating fashion, with the second rotation to be completed before the meeting this coming Wednesday.

3. SA: Correspondence with our brother, BH H.

SA indicated that he has drafted a correspondence with BH and hopes to send it in the near future after conferring with the secretary (SB).

4. Quorum Committee: Reminder of expectation to report next meeting

SA, representing the committee, reminded the group to expect a report on the quorum question at the next meeting.


SA clarified the wording of his motion from the previous meeting to be as follows: We, the Effort Meeting, establish and maintain an explicit confidentiality, on matters related to our common concerns and efforts, by way of a question at the beginning of each of our meetings to this effect, "Has anyone communicated with you, or with whom have you communicated our common concerns and efforts, outside our collective group?"

At this point, SA stepped down from being facilitator, and JD became facilitator.

Discussion ensued whether the minutes of the previous meeting should be amended to reflect the more precise wording of the motion. MG motioned that the minutes of the previous meeting be reopened. Motion not carried.

SB amended SA’s motion to be as follows: We, the Effort Meeting, in order to establish and maintain an explicit confidentiality, on matters related to our common concerns and efforts, agree not to disclose the existence, members, or products of the Effort with those outside the Effort, until such a time as this restriction is removed.

On further discussion it was decided that SB’s motion was actually a different motion from SA’s rather than an amendment. SA motioned to defer consideration of his motion until after considering SB’s motion. Motion carried.

SB’s motion carried. Discussion ensued whether the importance of this motion warranted a more explicit assent from each individual member.

MC motioned that we vote on the Effort website in the polling section on whether to adopt SB’s motion and, if passed, that each member explicitly agree to it in written form, and to form a committee to speak with all the households not present before the polling takes place to explain to them the details. Motion passed. The committee was formed as consisting of MG and MC.

BS moved that we close in prayer, defer till next week, and adjourn. Motion carried.

Closed with prayer.

Meeting adjourned at 11:03 pm (Eastern time)

Respectfully submitted,


Hey BH,

You really need to give an explanation for leaving the Effort. Just so that people can be sensative and not vulnerable to you in your situation.

If the Effort affords you the luxury of not being in, yet getting all the info, then so be the decision of the group. But there needs to be an awareness that this is an issue to be addressed.

If you have something tonight that would be great - so that I could share it with the group.


Having left the Effort, I wasn’t entitled to their private correspondence. However, I was inadvertently CC’d on the following email from SB.:

13 Sept 2006

Dear brethren,

If I may be allowed to speak freely with you all, I believe that we are at an important decision point. Although we have managed to put together a rough draft that contains some semblance of the concerns that we would like to bring to the elders' attention, many (if not all) of us would be uncomfortable and unwilling to put our names to it in its current form. One choice would be to make minor modifications to the draft (such as adding more questions, removing questions, reordering sections, etc.) to satisfy everyone. Such changes, in my opinion, could conceivably be done in a matter of weeks, but they may or may not result in a document to which we can all sign our names.

Another alternative would be for us to begin Phase II, starting with something like the recent outline, which would involve a significant restructuring, rewriting, and extending of the draft. In my opinion as a writer and as one who contributed significantly to the first draft, it would take several months (at the very least) to produce such a document. (I realize that others have a different opinion on this estimate, but I think that such estimates are based upon unrealistic estimates of the amount of time it took to produce the first draft, which in reality was the product of two months of work, as well as an assumption that we will continue to work at our current pace rather than slow down as we become weary of laboring.) Moreover, because we have such significant variations of opinion regarding the scope and content of the paper, we run the risk of spending a significant amount of time producing a document that, in the end, does not satisfy us any more than the first draft did. We could end up back at square one.

Personally, I think we are in serious danger of not converging. And the longer we continue to operate in our current mode, the more likely it is that our existence will be leaked and cause others to stumble. (Personally, I am not entirely comfortable with our operating in such a confidential manner for an extended period of time; although I have been willing to endure it temporarily, I greatly look forward to our lifting this awkward silence.) In addition, we run the risk of becoming weary from all the hours of meetings and Robert's Rules wrangling, which could cause some or all of us to abandon our project before it has been completed. We have already seen signs of biting, devouring, and infighting among us, and I fear that more will follow if we do not establish a clear direction with a clear end in sight that is agreeable to all. We also run the risk of someone outside our group leaving the church or being excommunicated without having had the opportunity to know that others share their concerns.

Furthermore, there are fundamental drawbacks to presenting a paper (of any form) to the elders. No matter how we phrase it, no matter how careful we are to avoid being accusatory, and no matter how many assertions we turn into questions, just the fact that we have written such a paper is likely to cause a division in the church. Let's be honest: One of our purposes in writing such a paper is to teach those who read it the principles behind our concerns. As a result, it inevitably puts our paper in conflict with one of our stated goals, namely to humbly approach the elders. Not to mention the fact that a paper is going to require hours and hours of labor and meetings on our part to produce something to which we all agree, and its length will make it that much more difficult to solicit the signatures of those outside the Effort.

With all this in mind, I have a positive suggestion. I propose that we abandon our project of writing a paper (at least for our first response to the elders) and instead write a simple one-page email containing a petition / notice of dissent. Because it will be much shorter, it will be much easier for us all to agree to it. It will also be much easier for us to ask people outside the Effort to put their names to it, and those people will be much more likely to actually agree to do so. It will also require much less time to write, so that we can end this awkward silence more quickly and begin to support the other likeminded brethren out there. If we write it correctly, I also think it will be much less likely to cause offense to the elders or to those who would be inclined to be hostile, because the elders have explicitly told us our obligation to express our dissent, whereas they have said nothing of the kind regarding our obligation to teach our brethren. We can defer the decision to substantiate our claims in more detail to the future, as the need requires, depending upon the elders' response.

Below is a sample email for your consideration. Thank you for considering this idea.

Your brother,

P.S. My apologies for not including MD, but I do not have his email address. I have uploaded this email to the website under the Forum.


Dear Mr. Price, Mr. Barrow, and Mr. Dohms,

After much discussion and prayer among ourselves, we have decided that it would be best to bring to your attention a concern that we have regarding the government of our church. We hope that our bringing these matters to your attention in this way will not cause offense either to yourselves or to our brethren, but you have explicitly said that you regard our silence as consent, and that you believe that we have an obligation to express our dissent to you formally. As a result, we the undersigned would like to state that we cannot in good conscience own the recent paper entitled, "Position Paper: Sessional Authority of the RPNA (GM)," because of the many discrepancies that we see between established Scriptural principles of Presbyterian church government and the arguments and conclusions contained in the paper. We admit our ignorance in many areas and seek your correction in any matter in which we are wrong. However, as long as we hold to our current understanding of church government, we cannot honestly consent to the paper. We humbly ask therefore that you withdraw this paper from its judicially binding status unless and until such a time as we are convinced that it is both faithful and accurate.

Thank you for considering our request. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Respectfully submitted,
John Knox, member, Edinburgh, Scotland
John Calvin, member, Geneva, Switzerland
George Gillespie, member, Kirkaldy, Scotland
John Welch, member, Ayr, Scotland
Donald Cargill, member, Bothwell Bridge, Scotland
David Steele, member, Brush Creek, Ohio

Having received it, I believed that my new knowledge of what they were up to required some kind of action on my part. My response is as follows:


I'm not sure exactly what my status is with respect to the effort - last I knew I was officially a sympathetic outsider. So I'm not sure if I was supposed to get this letter, but I did and if there is any damage, it's been done.

I'm encouraged to see some of the worries SB has expressed. I share them. FWIW, here's how I see it. Let's just grant that you've got some good arguments and the elders have messed up in a big way in writing this paper. Now, if your professed goal is to win them, instruct them, or help them, why would banding together in a clandestine fashion
achieve any of those goals? As someone who is something of an outsider at this point, I can tell you, I view you more as a conspiracy than not - good intentions notwithstanding. I find it funny that you think your approach is going to work on people who you've professed you think are untrustworthy and slippery. So ultimately I'm afraid you're going to cause a church split because of the way you've went about addressing this problem.

And now I'm in a sticky situation.

Depending on how convinced I am that you're going to cause a church split, it may end up being my duty to tell the elders what you're up to. Quite frankly, I'm pretty convinced things will get ugly at best, so if good reasons aren't forthcoming, I'm not going to sit around and wait for the church to split.

I'm not saying this because I don't like you all. In fact, there are lots of you in the effort that I consider friends as well as brethren. And I'm not saying it because I've come to disagree with your criticisms (that I've heard to date) - you've got my full sympathies. It's all about method. Only peacemakers, the meek, and the merciful will be blessed. I don't see your method lining up with these virtues.

One last caveat - I can't get around the 'or else' element in what I've just said, although I wish it didn't have to be there. I'm saying this more because I feel morally compelled to do so. If you feel like you can persuade me from feeling morally compelled to blow your cover, I'm willing to listen.

Respectfully (and irenically) yours,
Ben H.

There were several responses to my letter:

Dear Ben,

I am sorry, but you just don't get it.

This church is already split. We are well with in our rights to read the elders the riot act and separate/split/take off/leave. We don't want to do that and we are trying to work things out in a charitable fashion and believe it or not, save face for the elders with the least possible harm for all parties concerned, however that may "appear" to people, yourself included.
Let me repeat myself. This church is already split. Much more we live as per Durham's comments in his book on scandal, in a day when offences abound, ie. they are unavoidable. Not ideal, but welcome to reality, brother. Consequently I have no problem as a private person getting together confidentially with other brethren and attempting to make the best of it, however much weaker brethren might object or quibble in the mean time. Yes, I am sorry, but that is exactly what it is. There is and will be a record and history of our admittedly imperfect actions (but are we talking about the exception or the rule?), if not the Lord will judge as he is doing even now with this trial and test.

But for all that, the other correct proper ecclesiastical way to deal with all this is what? You offer nothing positive, other than what I would say is the same old same old that has been tried before. I don't know what you have been through, I trust you know a little of what has transpired in PGeo. Personally, I have gone to the elders privately, in person, by phone and by letter and as a society pretty much likewise, in person and by letter at least twice, if not more and even on the same issues covered in the church govt. paper. Basically, they didn't get it and still don't. I don't expect perfection and I am not going to flip out over even a couple of mistakes, but I am not obligated to continue barking up that tree at this late stage of the game. The problem then becomes with this position paper, if not the stupid carnal graffitti paper, enough is enough. Their paper defending the proposition that they are a session, as you should well know, is so full of invalid arguments from the lesser to the greater, equivocation, question begging and suppression of alternative witnesses, even the same that they quote in approval, that it would be inadmissable at a graduate level, if not receive at least a D at the 300 level.

So those of us involved in all this are a Conspiracy, you say? Brother, if we don't recognize extraordinary times and extraordinary excuses for theological hog slop and stupidity, we deserve to keep wallowing in this mire of confusion and ecclesiastical anarchy/tyranny, if that can even be, which if I hadn't seen it, I would have said was impossible.

Even further, my comments have always been less is more, keep it short and simple in an appeal to the elders. The proverbial "twenty five words or less" is best when addressing a hostile, ignorant, indifferent or weak audience. I am on record more than a few times with the writing committee and the big meeting on that, so I welcome SB's comments and agree a large part with them, but would have some things further to add elsewhere.

Only, as should be obvious, I hope, your comments that you feel morally obligated to go to the elders or the church about all this are premature and mistaken. I do not want to abuse your patience any more than I already have, but I must repeat myself again. THIS CHURCH IS ALREADY SPLIT because it is not of one mind and respectfully the elders as lawful authorities have played the major part in the confusion and must bear as superiors the greater burden on it. Sorry, but that comes with the turf. And believe it or not, some of us would rather not have it go even more gunnybag. Consequently we are doing the best we can under the circumstances and while I appreciate your concern, I think you understand that I for one most strongly disagree with what you seem to conclude about all this, much more, before the Lord, you will bear some responsibility in all the ensuing madness and sadness if you run to the "session" which is no session and speak to them on it.

I am sorry, but that is my mind on it and until I hear something fundamentally more persuasive than what you have offered on it, I will continue to stand on it God willing and enabling.

Yet I am, brother,
still cordially yours,
in Christ
Bob S.

Dear BH,

No, you were not supposed to get this. That was an oversight on my part, and I apologize to you and to all for my mistake. However, my understanding was that you bowed out of the Effort based upon your time commitments, not based upon any disagreement with us. Therefore, I am quite surprised by your threat to "blow our cover," which was your cover until not too long ago.

My email did not state anything new regarding our intentions as a group. We have always maintained that our purpose is to promote the truth in our church as peaceably as possible. If my email had contained plans to cause a church split, then I think you would
be justified in telling the elders of our evil plot. But our purpose is exactly the opposite. The question before us is, How do we best promote the truth while doing everything in our power to avoid a split? My email was intended only to be a suggestion for a possible path to accomplish this end.

Do what you have to do, brother. But if you do decide to go to the elders about this matter at this time, I do not think you will be promoting the peace and purity of the church. Your "blowing our cover" is not likely to lessen the possibility of such a split;
in fact it might contribute to it. And, of course, such an action will certainly make me look bad for being so careless, for which (again) I am truly sorry. I sincerely I hope you will reconsider.


Dear BH,

Thank you very much for your thoughts in regard with this. However, I have a few things that I would like to bring to your attention.

When we were told that you would no longer be a part of the Effort, we explicitly asked SA what your reaction would be in regard to
confidentiality. He conveyed to us that you would in effect tell the elders, if they asked you about the Effort
"We'll talk about it in May." (Someone please correct me if I am wrong.)
Therefore, it seems inconsistent with what you told us for you to now go and tell the elders about it. Can you please substantiate your actions
with that which you told us you would do? Also, if I may respectfully ask, If you are so busy with school, how do you have the time to actually report us to the elders?

Furthermore, if you will bear with me, could you please consider the following questions:
a) Why do you believe this is your moral duty to inform the elders? Please substantiate it with Scripture as something considered moral
needs to be substantiated by the Word of God.

b) What do you hope to accomplish in doing so- reporting us to the elders? Do you think that there is actually some good that will come out of it? Please
enumerate so that I can understand.

c) If you believe that we are doing something wrong, do you think that you will help the situation by saying something about it? You must be able to
prove that we are wrong in order to do so. Oftentimes, people have different ideas about how something should be gone about, but neither of them
have to be wrong.

d) Can you be certain that your method will work?

e) What level of experience do you have with the elders? I can tell you in all honesty that we, the E. women, have had alot of experience with the elders,
and have seen firsthand action for several years, which testifies to the fact that those promoting the view of keeping it confidential (for a time!)
are not unreasonable, but are prudent.

f) Is it not prudent to first have some idea of what we are doing before going out and thoughtlessly/rashly blurting out what we think?
May I ask, what is our purpose as brethren? Are we obliged to always run to the elders with every concern? We are to help each other out as brethren,
and that can mean answering questions, bouncing ideas off of one another, helping each other's knowledge to grow, etc.. Have we not all seen how the
method of "running to the elders" about every little question has produced the worn out leaders that we have?

It also appears that you do not believe that the church is as split as it is. In answer to this, I would recommend that those who do not believe this to be so, come to Edmonton, and see what is going on here. Also, if I may humbly say, have not the e-mail forums shown very clearly that there is no unity, even though there is profession that there is unity?
Sorry to say this, but it is very true.

Also, in response to your statement, I thought it was a motivating factor that there are many who see things your way, and many just need education. That doesn't sound like the group is as divided as you indicate, I would like to mention that it is true that there are many who agree with us. However, there are many who do not agree with us and many who we have not spoken with in order to know their views.

I agree with Mr. B.'s idea of sending an e-mail of dissent to the elders and then our next course of action will be determined.
But, I definitely do not think that we have sinned or done anything wrong in doing things confidentially for some time. We all needed to get things straightened out and come together to discuss the common concerns that we had so that we can fulfill the command of the Lord to be "wise as serpents and harmless as doves". After all, we need to remember that the elders took 6 months to write their paper, so why are we, who are supposed to be less informed, obligated to get a response done so quickly? Should we not be allowed time to sort through our thoughts, and find proofs for our position? I personally don't/haven't seen any wisdom in times past when people make statements about something before having everything nailed down in their minds. I have seen the disastrous effects too often when that method has been employed, and I prefer not to use that method.

I hope that you will consider the questions above. However, if you cannot see the point of The Effort's confidentiality, I do hope that you will keep you promise to not reveal anything about The Effort to the elders. What will you accomplish? What will you gain? A bigger offence? The probability is high. Oftentimes, when we act in rashness, we actually do that which we intended to avoid. I can see your sincerity, BH, and for that I commend you; however, I don't see that your plan of action will help the situation.

Your sister in the Lord,

The discussion ended up being irrelevant, because by the time I had decided to tell them (i.e. the Elders), people were already beginning to be excommunicated, and the beginning of the split was already upon us. Perhaps they were all correct in telling me that the church was already split - our forming a group back in June seemed to seal the fate of our church.

Needless to say, in telling the elders about my involvement, I asked their forgiveness for being a part of the Effort, and I regret my decision to join. Whatever limited involvement I had in the Effort was sinful and I repent for entering in with these brethren. (Moreover, seeing as Kathryn was at least tacitly compliant with our family’s involvement, she too wishes to acknowledge that it was sinful and she likewise repents for her involvement.)

I’ve tried not to draw out any lines of argumentation from the data, preferring to allow the reader to come to their own conclusions. If the Effort people are justified in your eyes, I’ll have to respectfully disagree. My hope is that this helps you to come to a better understanding of how the Charitable Concerns paper came to be written, as well as explain my involvement in the Effort. I thought that some of EI’s emails gave an incomplete picture as to my involvement - my hope is that this clears my name, as well as makes it clear that I believe the Effort was sinfully misguided.

Before signing off, I want to briefly address a common objection that has come to me from those in the Effort. They’ve repeatedly asked me wherein I believe they’ve sinned, and to provide arguments, not just my conclusions. While it’s been the professed aim of this letter to not do that, allowing the record to speak for itself, because it’s been so vehemently demanded, I’ll give my main reason for believing that they are wrong. In short, they took an oath that they would bring their concerns privately to the elders and work them out with them before publishing anything contrary to the teachings of the elders. Whether they want to claim that this oath was to PRCE or the RPNA or whatever (as opposed to the RPNA (GM)) is irrelevant - the point of it was to establish a procedure whereby grievances could be submitted in an orderly way to those whom they’ve recognized as their lawful authorities. Many in the Effort have made the following kind of comment - “I believe that Greg Price is my minister, but I make no such recognition of the Session or Mr. Dohms and Mr. Barrow as my own. They are elders over the people in Edmonton, not over me.” It seems that such a recognition still commits them to bringing their concerns to Pastor Price in the way that they promised. No doubt there are objections to this argument, but I find it persuasive, and as I understand it, there is a fuller version of it forthcoming from the Session itself. When it comes out, the Effort people can be assured, it has my full endorsement.

I’m sure there will be several public responses to this highly controversial letter. Due to time constraints and my conviction that any subsequent debate will only serve to deepen our divisions, I will not be responding to any of the likely public dissent, except to supply any further documentation one may feel necessary to better understand what the Effort was all about.

Ben H

A reply may be found here.