Monday, April 23, 2007

4/23/07, Some Further Brief Remarks on the Reply to The Covenant Reformation Offended

The Covenant Reformation Offended of 4/2/07 is a dissent to the so far 29 excommunications in the RPNA(GM) on the basis of a refusal to take "Confidential [Loyalty] Oath" imposed because it is supposedly synonymous with the Membership Agreement consented to upon joining the PRCE/RPNA/RPNA(GM). (The title is an obvious reference to the previous Covenant Reformation Defended written by Ruling Elder G. Barrow of the then PRCE in 1998.) A subsequent letter of 4/14/07 on disassociation follows.

This in turn not only provoked the brother's excommunication on 4/23/07 - one of three for a total of 34 - it also gave us the Reply to the Covenant Reformation Offended of 4/20/07 by Teaching Elder G. Price. The last is obviously an attempt to defuse its criticisms and runs to 28,000 words in answer to the 8,000 of the CR Offended.

Yet to quote one William 'Shakspere' after a fashion (or the Earl of Oxford, if one prefers Joe Sobran's take), 'methinks the brother doth protest too much.' In other words, far be it from us to object to a thorough rebuttal, if need be. The problem though, is that for one thing, the Reply spends 6,000 words quoting verbatim the original CR Defended to justify "historical testimony," particularly the 'growing dynamic and binding judicial testimony' of the RPNA(GM) which the oath affirms. Of course we have no quarrel with historical testimony per se, but this appeal to historical testimony is from one of the very same officers responsible for the Position Paper of 16,000 words defending the "Sessional Authority" of the RPNA(GM) Session - the very same paper which had absolutely no RP historical testimony to speak of to defend or support the RPNA(GM) "court" in the first place. Canst thou say "hypocrite?"

Again, the Reply to the CR Offended defends an oath to affirm the current papers and positions of the RPNA(GM) added to the historic Reformed Presbyterian Terms of Communion and implicitly contained in the RPNA(GM) Membership Agreement on the basis of an argument from "historical testimony". But if the official apologists for the RPNA(GM) court will insist as they most emphatically do, in appealing to historical testimony to justify that oath/membership agreement to which a growing and dynamic body of binding judicial testimony has been added, why cannot the same officers of the RPNA(GM) be required to demonstrate from RP historical testimony the justification and lawfullness of their own court to begin with? Because it is an unprecedented, unlawful, sinful and fraudulent court according to RP historical testimony, that's why.

The root of this whole matter - the RPNA(GM) "court" and the paper defending that same "court" - categorically does not and cannot appeal to any RP historical testimony at all from Renwick to Steele's day in favor of it's existence. It is therefore a rotten root that needs to be torn up and cast into the fire. The RPNA(GM) Session cannot have its cake and eat it too when it comes to arguing from historical testimony for an oath affirming its binding judicial decisions, but not for its very existence. But that is exactly what it wants to do and it is willing to excommunicate any and sundry all who point this out and object to its double standard. (to be continued DV.)

Friday, April 20, 2007

4/20/07, For Your Consideration: Q.4 What is the standard Presbyterian procedure for excommunication?

Friday, April 20, 2007 9:02 PM

Dear Brethren,

As much as I value brevity, I saw no way to reduce the length of this article while treating the subject thoroughly. Thank you for your patience.

Your brother,
Stan

===================================================================

4. What is the standard Presbyterian procedure for excommunication?

In the last question we noted a number of reasons for publicly notifying the church of an upcoming excommunication before it is finalized. Let us now examine historical evidence to show that this is indeed standard Presbyterian practice. In fact, as we shall see, the procedure for both private and public sins involves no fewer than three weeks of public announcements prior to the final excommunication pronouncement. We shall examine three works in particular:
(1) _The First Book of Discipline_ (1560)
(2) _The Order of Excommunication and of Public Repentance_ (1569)
(3) _The Government and Order of the Church of Scotland_ (1641) . . . .


(1) THE FIRST BOOK OF DISCIPLINE (1560)

When Presbyterianism was still in her infancy, the Scottish ministers drew up a book of discipline to govern the affairs of the church. Regarding ecclesiastical discipline, the work addresses three cases: private sins, public sins, and capital crimes.

In the case of a person who commits a secret offense known only to a few, the steps are as follows (assuming no repentance after each step):
1. The offender is privately admonished;
2. The minister admonishes the offender;
3. The elders proceed according to the rule of Christ, "as after shall be declared", namely, the steps described next.

If the crime is public and heinous, then the steps are:
1. The offender is called into the presence of the minister, elders, and deacons, who declare and stress his sin; he is dismissed with an exhortation to consider the dangerous estate in which he stands.
2. After some time, if there is still no repentance, the church is made aware of the sin amongst them (but not of the name of the offender), and the people pray for the offender's repentance.
3. At the next public assembly,
(a) The crime and the person are both notified unto the church;
(b) The church's judgment is asked whether such crimes ought to be suffered unpunished amongst them;
(c) The closest friends of the offender are requested to labor to bring him to knowledge of his sin and dangerous estate;
(d) Everyone is commanded to pray to God for his repentance;
(e) A solemn and special prayer is made for the offender.
4. The third Sunday,
(a) The minister asks whether the offender has declared any signs of repentance to any of the ministry;
(b) Excommunication is pronounced against the offender.

In the case of those who commit crimes deserving of capital punishment, the excommunication proceeds "in the same manner" as described above.

Thus, the procedure for both private and public sins is the same, except that the former requires two additional initial steps. In both cases *three public announcements* are made prior to the excommunication. This procedure is followed even in the case of heinous sins such as murder.

For those interested in reading the original document, the relevant paragraphs are as follows:

"First, if the offence is secret and known to few, and rather stands in suspicion than in manifest probation, the offender ought to be privately admonished to abstain from all appearance of evil; which, if he promises to do, and to declare himself sober, honest, and one that fears God, and fears to offend his brethren, then may the secret admonition suffice for his correction. But if he either contemns the admonition, or, after promise made, does show himself no more circumspect than he was before, then must the minister admonish him; to whom if he is found disobedient, they must proceed according to the rule of Christ, as after shall be declared.

"If the crime is public, and such as is heinous, as fornication, drunkenness, fighting, common swearing, or execration, then ought the offender to be called into the presence of the minister, elders, and deacons, where his sin and offence ought to be declared and aggredged [stressed], so that his conscience may feel how far he has offended God, and what slander he has raised in the church. If signs of unfeigned repentance appear in him, and if he requires to be admitted to public repentance, the ministry may appoint unto him a day when the whole church convenes together, that in presence of all he may testify the repentance which before them he professed: which, if he accepts, and with reverence does, confessing his sin, and damning the same, and earnestly desiring the congregation to pray to God with him for mercy, and to accept him in their society, notwithstanding his former offence, then the church may, and ought [to] receive him as a penitent. For the church ought to be no more severe than God declares himself to be, who witnesses that, In whatsoever hour a sinner unfeignedly repents, and turns from his wicked way, that he will not remember one of his iniquities [cf. Ezek. 18:21-22; 33:14-16]. And therefore the church ought diligently to advert that it excommunicate not those whom God absolves.

"If the offender called before the ministry is found stubborn, hard-hearted, or one in whom no sign of repentance appears, then must he be dismissed with an exhortation to consider the dangerous estate in which he stands; assuring him, if they find in him no other token of amendment of life, that they will be compelled to seek a further remedy. If he within a certain space shows his repentance to the ministry, they must present him to the church as before is said.
"But if he continues in his impenitence, then the church must be admonished that such crimes are committed amongst them, which by the ministry has been reprehended, and the person provoked to repent; whereof, because no signs appear unto them, they could not but signify unto the church the crimes, but not the person, requiring them earnestly to call to God to move and touch the heart of the offender, so that suddenly and earnestly he may repent.

"If the person maligns, then the next day of public assembly, the crime and the person must be both notified unto the church, and their judgment must be required, if that such crimes ought to be suffered unpunished amongst them. Request also would be made to the most discreet and to the nearest friends of the offender to travail with him to bring him to knowledge of himself, and of his dangerous estate; with a commandment given to all men to call to God for the conversion of the impenitent. If a solemn and a special prayer were made and drawn for that purpose, the thing should be the more gravely done.

"The third Sunday, the minister ought to require if the impenitent has declared any signs of repentance to any of the ministry; and if he has, then may the minister appoint him to be examined by the whole ministry, either then instantly, or at another day affixed to the consistory: and if repentance appears, as well of the crime, as of his long contempt, then may he be presented to the church, and make his confession, and to be accepted, as before is said. But if no man signifies his repentance, then he ought to be excommunicated; and by the mouth of the minister, consent of the ministry, and commandment of the church, such a contemner must be pronounced excommunicated from God, and from the society of his church." [Seventh Head: Of Ecclesiastical Discipline in _The First Book of Discipline_ (1560)]

The capital crimes are addressed shortly afterward:

"We have spoken nothing of those that commit horrible crimes, as murderers, man-slayers, and adulterers; for such (as we have said) the civil sword ought to punish to death. But in case they are permitted to live, then must the church, as before is said, draw the sword which of God she has received, holding them as accursed even in their [very] fact; the offender being first called, and order of the church used against him, in the same manner as the persons that for obstinate impenitence are publicly excommunicated...." [Seventh Head: Of Ecclesiastical Discipline in _The First Book of Discipline_ (1560)]

(2) THE ORDER OF EXCOMMUNICATION AND OF PUBLIC REPENTANCE (1569)

Less than a decade later, the Scottish General Assembly commissioned John Knox to write a document providing more detail regarding the proper procedure for excommunicating a sinner and for receiving the same after repentance. The very first paragraph of the work describes its relationship to the book of discipline that we just considered above. Here it is expressly stated that the purpose is not to alter or contradict the earlier document, but rather to expand upon it and clarify it:

"To the Reader. Albeit that in the Book of Discipline [i.e., _The First Book of Discipline_] the causes as well of public repentance as of excommunication are sufficiently expressed: yet, because the form and order are not so set forth, that every church and minister may have assurance that they agree with others in proceeding, it is thought expedient to draw that order which shall be observed universally within this realm." [_The Order of Excommunication and of Public Repentance_ (1569)]

As a result, we should not be surprised that this document also describes a three-week public excommunication process for both private and public sins. The procedure is revealed in the section entitled, "The Form of Excommunication", which appears in the latter half of the document:

"After that all admonitions, both private and public, be past, as before is said, then must the church proceed to excommunication, if the offender remains obstinate. Therefore, the Sunday after the third public admonition, the minister being before charged by the session of elders, shall thus signify unto the church (after the sermon): It is not unknown unto you, with what lenity and carefulness the ministry and the whole church, by private and public admonitions, has sought...." [_The Order of Excommunication and of Public Repentance_ (1569)]

Notice that the church does not "proceed to excommunication" until after three public admonitions, during which time the members of the church are informed about the sin committed and the name of the offender. One might think that three public admonitions is sufficient, and that now the sinner will be summarily excommunicated. However, when the church "proceeds to excommunication", she actually begins another three-week process that culminates in the final pronouncement only in the last week. (The entire procedure, then, takes no less than six weeks: three for the public admonitions and three for the excommunication.)

In the paragraphs of "The Form of Excommunication" (immediately following the ones just quoted), the steps for the three-week process are given as follows:

1. "The Sunday after the third public admonition", the minister
(a) reminds the congregation of their knowledge of the offender and his sin;
(b) reminds the congregation of the multiple private and public admonitions that have already been given;
(c) explains the Scriptural basis of excommunication;
(d) delays the sentence in order to give anyone in the congregation who objects to the excommunication to notify the eldership at the next session meeting;
(e) leads the congregation in a public prayer for the sinner.
2. "The second Sunday" (i.e., the second Sunday after the third public admonition), the minister
(a) asks the elders and deacons whether the offender has shown any sign of repentance;
(b) explains the danger of excommunication, in case the offender is ignorant of his dangerous estate;
(c) again leads the congregation in a public prayer for the sinner.
3. "The third Sunday" (i.e., the third Sunday after the third public admonition), the minister
(a) again asks the elders and deacons whether the offender has shown any sign of repentance;
(b) explains again the offense of the sinner as well as the many times he has been privately and publicly admonished;
(c) asks the congregation whether they believe that such contempt should be suffered amongst them (and the minister proceeds to the next step only if no man intercedes at this point for the sinner);(d) offers one final public prayer and then pronounces excommunication upon the sinner.

(The reader is encouraged to consult the original document to verify the accuracy of this summary. The relevant paragraphs from the document are omitted here due to their length.)

Thus, the standard practice involves a three-week public excommunication procedure leading to the final pronouncement. That this form was applicable to both private and public sins is clear from its placement as a separate section (called "The Form of Excommunication") within the document, as well as the specific indicators earlier in the document that point the reader to it.

For example, in the case of those who commit scandalous public sins that are more heinous in nature (e.g., fornication, drunkenness, etc.), the ministry may, after several public admonitions, "proceed to excommunication, as after shall be declared" (i.e., according to the procedure found in "The Form of Excommunication"):

"Offences that deserve public repentance, and 0rder to proceed thereunto. Such offences as fall not under the civil sword, and yet are scandalous and offensive in the church, deserve public repentance. And of these some are more heinous than others: fornication, drunkenness used, swearing, cursed speaking, chiding, fighting, brawling, and common contempt of the order of the church, breaking of the sabbath, and suchlike, ought to be suffered in no person; but the scandal being known, the offender should be called before the ministry, his crime proven, accused, rebuked, and he commanded publicly to satisfy the church; which if the offender refuses, they may proceed to excommunication, as after shall be declared. If the offender appears not, summons ought to pass to the third time; and then in case he appears not, the church may discern the sentence to be pronounced." [_The Order of Excommunication and of Public Repentance_ (1569)]

In the case of those who commit sins that are somewhat public but less heinous (e.g., not attending the preaching of the Word, abstaining from the Lord's supper, etc.), several private steps are to be taken, followed by three public admonitions, after which the ministry may proceed to excommunication, "the order whereof shall after be declared" (i.e., the procedure found in "The Form of Excommunication"):

"Others are less heinous, and yet deserve admonition, as wanton and vain words, uncomely gestures, negligence in hearing the preaching, or abstaining from the Lord's Table when it is publicly ministered, suspicion of avarice or of pride, superfluity or riotousness in cheer or raiment: these we say, and such others, that of the world are not regarded, deserve admonition amongst the members of Christ's body first, secretly, by one or two of those that first espy the offence.... If he continues stubborn, then the third Sunday ought he to be charged publicly to satisfy the church for his offence and contempt, under the pain of excommunication; the order whereof shall after be declared. And thus a small offence or slander may justly deserve excommunication, by reason of the contempt and disobedience of the offender." [_The Order of Excommunication and of Public Repentance_ (1569)]

In the case of those guilty of capital crimes (e.g., murder, adultery, etc.), the offender is called before the ministry to defend himself from the accusation against him. If he does not appear, or if the civil magistrate is negligent in prosecuting the case, then the ministry publicly admonishes the individual and then proceeds to excommunication, "the form whereof shall after be declared" (i.e., the procedure found in "The Form of Excommunication"):

"If the offender, lawfully warned, appears not, inquisition being taken of the crime, charge may be given by the superintendent to the ministers, so many as shall be thought necessary for publication of that sentence, to pronounce the same the next Sunday, the form whereof shall after be declared. But and if the offender appears and alleges for himself any reasonable defence: to wit, that he will not be a fugitive from the law, but will abide the censure thereof for that offence, then may the sentence of excommunication be suspended till that the magistrate is required to try that cause; wherein if the magistrates are negligent, then ought the church from secret inquisition to proceed to public admonition, that the magistrates may be vigilant in that cause of blood, which cries vengeance upon the whole land where it is shed without punishment. If no remedy by them can be found, then justly may the church pronounce the offender [to be an] excommunicate, as one suspect, besides his crime, to have corrupted the judges, revengers of blood. And so ought the church to proceed to excommunication, whether the offender is fugitive from the law, or if he procures pardon, or eludes the severity of justice by means whatsoever besides the trial of his innocence." [_The Order of Excommunication and of Public Repentance_ (1569)]

Thus, in the case of both private and public sins (and even in the case of capital crimes when the civil magistrate is negligent), the procedure to be followed is found in the section entitled "The Form of Excommunication". As we have seen, this section describes a three-week public process following three public admonitions. These admonitions are not only mentioned in "The Form of Excommunication" section itself, but they are also mentioned in each of the relevant sections describing the handling of private, public, and capital sins; and the minister reminds the congregation in the first week of the the three-week public process of the many public admonitions that have already been given to warn the offender.

As additional evidence, the document mentions an interesting special case, namely, a person who has apostatized from the Reformed Church to join the Roman Catholic Church. Even in such a case the person is entitled to three weeks of public admonitions prior to receiving the sentence of excommunication:

"Apostates to Papistry. Rests yet one other kind of offender that deserves excommunication, albeit not so summarily [i.e., not so quickly]: to wit, such as have been partakers with us in doctrine and sacraments, and have returned back again to the Papistry, or have given their presence to any part of their abomination, or yet that of any long continuance, withdraw themselves from the society of Christ's body, and from the participation of the sacraments, when they are publicly ministered. Such, no doubt, declare themselves worthy of excommunication; but first they must be called either before the superintendent, with some joined with him, or else before the elders and session of the best and next reformed church where the offenders have their residence, who must accuse their defection, exhort them to repentance, and declare to them the danger wherein they stand.

"Whom if the offender hears, the session or superintendent may appoint him a day to satisfy the church publicly, whom by his defection he had offended. But if he continues stubborn, then may the session or superintendent command the minister or ministers to declare the next Sunday the defection of such a person, and his obstinate contempt; and this advertisement being given two Sundays, the third may the sentence of excommunication be pronounced." [_The Order of Excommunication and of Public Repentance_ (1569)]

The only case of immediate excommunication is that of a person guilty of a capital crime (e.g., a murderer) who has been convicted by the civil magistrate or who has fled from the law. In such a case, it appears that the excommunication can proceed without delay:

"And yet further, we must consider that, if the offender is fugitive from the law, so that punishment cannot be executed against him, in that case the church ought to delay no time, but upon the notoriety of his crime, and that he is fled from the presence of the judge, it ought to pronounce him excommunicated publicly, and so continually to repute him, until such time that the magistrate be satisfied. And so whether the offender is convicted in judgment, or is fugitive from the law, the church ought to proceed to the sentence of excommunication, the form whereof follows:

"The minister, in public audience of the people, shall say, It is clearly known unto us that N., sometime baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and so reputed and accounted for a Christian, has fearfully fallen from the society of Christ's body, by committing of cruel and willful murder (or by committing filthy adultery, etc.), which crime by the law of God deserves death. And because the civil sword is in the hand of God's magistrate, who notwithstanding often winks at such crimes, we having place in the ministry, with grief and dolour of our hearts, are compelled to draw the sword granted by God to his church: that is, to excommunicate from the society of Jesus Christ, from his body the church, from participation of sacraments, and prayers with the same, the said N. And therefore, in the name and authority of the eternal God, and of his Son Jesus Christ, We pronounce the said N. [to be an] excommunicate and accursed in this his wicked fact; and charge all that favour the Lord Jesus so to repute and hold him (or her) until such time as that either the magistrate has punished the offender as God's law commands, or that the same offender is reconciled to the church again by public repentance. And in the meantime, we earnestly desire all the faithful to call upon God to move the hearts of the upper powers so to punish such horrible crimes, that malefactors may fear to offend, even for fear of punishment; and also so to touch the heart of the offender, that he may deeply consider how fearful it is to fall into the hands of the eternal God, that by unfeigned repentance he may apprehend mercy in Jesus Christ, and so avoid eternal damnation." [_The Order of Excommunication and of Public Repentance_ (1569)]

(3) THE GOVERNMENT AND ORDER OF THE CHURCH OF SCOTLAND (1641)

Skipping ahead a century, Alexander Henderson, who was one of the Scottish commissioners to the Westminster Assembly, summarized the practice of the Scottish Presbyterian Church in his day. In this work, he describes a procedure similar to that contained in the earlier documents that we have just examined:

1. The offender is admonished secretly by an individual (if the sin is private)
2. The offender is admonished secretly by two or three individuals (if the sin is private)
3. The offender is brought before the minister and elders;
4. The matter is made known to the congregation;
5. The sinner is brought before the Presbytery;6. For three consecutive weeks, the sinner is publicly admonished before the congregation;
7. A three-week process is followed, culminating in the excommunication pronouncement in the final week.

Thus, the process involves several preliminary steps in addition to the standard six-week procedure. The only difference between the handling of private and public sins is that the former requires secret admonition first. Capital crimes are allowed a more speedy process, but Henderson does not specify details. The relevant paragraphs are as follows:

"In case of obstinacy and willful impenitency, even when the offences are not so great and scandalous, they proceed to excommunication, but with great meekness, longsuffering, and by many degrees, the censure being so weighty, and they desirous to gain the sinner to repentance.

"If any person walk unworthy of the gospel, or commit any trespass, he is (unless the scandal be public and notorious) admonished first secretly by one, next by two or three more. And thirdly, if he contemn both, then according to the order preferred by our Saviour, Matt. 18, the matter is brought before the Minister and Elders where he is accused both of the trespass and of the contempt. If he cannot yet be brought to repentance, then is the matter in some measure made known unto the Congregation, and he called before the greater Presbytery; where if he gives signs of his repentance, he is remitted to satisfy his own session. But if he persist in his obstinacy, then by the Ordinance of the Presbytery, the particular eldership is to proceed against him with the censures of the Church even to excommunication.

"The matter being thus hard known and judged, and the whole process revised by the greater presbytery, the next Sabbath without delay, the trespass and order of admonitions are declared to the Congregation, and the person without specification of his name, admonished yet to satisfy: Which if he still refuse to do, the next Sabbath his name with his offence and contempt, are published, if he yet continue obstinate, then the next, which is the third Sabbath, is he charged publicly to satisfy for his offence and contempt under the pain of excommunication. If now he offer himself to the particular Presbytery, then do they at the appointment of the Presbytery, give order for his public repentance, the removing of the scandal, and his reconcilement to the Church, otherwise the Minister proceedeth in this order.

"The Sabbath after the third public admonition, the Minister with consent of the Eldership, is to make known to the Congregation that such a person is to be excommunicated, warning all that have any thing to object against it, that they appear the next session day: And for the present, that the whole Congregation pour forth their supplications, that God would grant him repentance, and to come out of the snare of the devil. If nothing be objected, or if none for him witness any appearance of repentance, then is the danger of the person, and the weight of the sentence laid open the next Sabbath, and he the second time prayed for publicly. If at last upon the next Sabbath there be no sign of repentance, then is he prayed for the third time, and there being no mean unassayed, nor remedy left to reclaim him, he is strucken with the terrible sentence of excommunication, which calling upon the Name of God to ratify the sentence in Heaven, and the people warned to hold him as an Heathen, or a Publican, and to shun all communion with him, except in natural and civil duties to be still performed by such as are bound. It is to be understood, that where the crimes are such that they cry to the heavens for revenge, waste the conscience, and by the law of God deserve death, and the transgressor certainly known, the process may be more summary, and excommunication more hastened, as on the other part of absolution, the time would be longer, and the trial of repentance more exact." [Alexander Henderson, "The order of excommunication", in _The Government and Order of the Church of Scotland_, Puritan CD#4.]

SUMMARY

From the time that Presbyterianism was first established in Scotland in 1559 until the time of the Second Reformation in the 1640s, the procedure for excommunication remained essentially unchanged. In the case of both private and public sins, the offender was publicly admonished of his sin multiple times prior to a three-week excommunication process. The only difference between private and public sins was the preliminary step of several private admonishments in the former case prior to the other public steps. Even in the case of capital crimes, where some allowance was made for more speedy processing, the three-week procedure appears to be the general rule. Such patience in pronouncing the final sentence gave the church the opportunity to offer private and public prayers for the sinner, it gave the congregation the opportunity to voice any objections prior to the final pronouncement, and it gave the ministry the assurance that every reasonable means had been tried to reclaim the sinner before declaring the unavoidable sentence. Since this is the standard Presbyterian practice, is there any reason why the moral substance of this procedure cannot be followed by a church claiming to be Presbyterian, even in these extraordinary times?



4/20/04 Reply to Covenant Reformation Offended

April 20, 2007

Dear Chris,

I am responding in love and hope to your email (April 2, 2007) wherein you charge the Session with sin in unlawfully excommunicating the following people:

Mark C. (November 5, 2006)
Belinda C.
Cheryl G.
Mike G.
Teresa G.
Tony M.
Rod S.
Milly S.
Jody S.
Bob S.
Shawn A. (December 23, 2006)
Tammy A.
Martin D.
Taletha E.
Samantha E.
Camilla E.
Hannah E.
Willena F.
Edgar I.
Juana I.
Dee Dee S.
Darren H. (January 5, 2007)
Laura H.
John W.
Sheila W.
Michael W.
Joel C.(February 5, 2007)
Maria C.
Stan B. (March 8, 2007).

It is with deep sorrow that I respond to your letter having known, loved and ministered to you as a dear brother for these past 4+ years. Since January 18, 2007, the Session has met six times with you by phone (according to my records) in the hope of being able to answer your questions and resolve your concerns, but sadly to no avail. I respond knowing my own fallibility as a mere man, and yet believing with full persuasion of heart that the excommunications to which you dissent and believe to believe to be unlawful were lawfully administered and that which was bound upon earth was already bound by Christ in heaven. I do humbly submit my conscience to the Lord to guide and direct according to His revealed will, and I do willingly and humbly submit myself and these excommunications before the Judgment Seat of Christ on that final day:

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

Dear brother, I will seek to address your objections and charges following the same headings that you used in your letter to the Session (April 2, 2007).

MEMBERSHIP AGREEMENT

Chris, under this heading I understand you to object to (1) the Meaning of the Terms of Membership of the RPNA (GM), and (2) the Existence of Membership in the RPNA (GM).

I will address your objections in the reverse order in which you have presented them.

1. The Existence of Membership in the RPNA (GM).

If I understand you correctly, you essentially claim that any who became Members prior to the dissolution of the RPNA (June 2003) are not Members of the RPNA (GM) since no “formal” deed of constitution was written when the RPNA (GM) was formed, and presumably since those who became Members prior to the dissolution of the RPNA were not interviewed for Membership in this “new” entity (RPNA—GM) under the inspection of the Eldership consisting of Pastor Price, Elder Barrow, and Elder Dohms. Thus, the previous Membership Agreement of these people does not bind them to submission to the present Eldership (in the RPNA—GM) consisting of Pastor Price, Elder Barrow, and Elder Dohms. If I have correctly followed your reasoning, you essentially infer there is no such lawful Church called the RPNA (GM), no such lawful Session of the RPNA (GM), and therefore, no such lawful Membership in the RPNA (GM) for the reason that there was no “formal” Deed of Constitution that formed the RPNA (GM)..

Chris, you have chosen to ignore the Session’s Public Response (October 29, 2006) wherein explanation was given of its Public Letter (June 14, 2003) which declared the continuation of the same extraordinary government that existed under the Session of the PRCE and the Presbytery of the RPNA. I believe the following citation from the Session’s Public Response (October 29, 2007) is to the point.

Next, we believe there is ample testimony in the Letter of June 14, 2003 to demonstrate that we were an extraordinary Session with oversight over the Societies and members.

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

Note, it was merely the outward "form" of organization that was changed after the dissolution of the Presbytery and not the substance of authority. The Letter states that we were returning to a previous "state." What "state" would that be? Clearly, back to the "state" (prior to the formation of the Presbytery) in which an authoritative Session had general oversight over the Societies. In other words, we began with an authoritative Session (a lesser Presbytery) which was a common Court overseeing the Societies of various locations, and individuals of various locations. We then grew into greater common Court, which was our greater Presbytery which also authoritatively oversaw the Societies of various locations, and individuals of various locations. Upon dissolution of the greater Presbytery, we reverted back to our previous state of being a Session (lesser Presbytery) overseeing the Societies of various locations and individuals of various locations.
Note, again the language of government and rule used less than a month later (July 12, 2003) in announcing a public fast:

"Dear Brothers and Sisters under the oversight of the RPNA (General Meeting)."

How could we be exercising oversight unless there was a government and membership?

If one desires to make an issue of the fact that the Letter of June 14, 2003 says oversight over "the Societies" rather than oversight over "the Members", the point should still not be missed that there was stated an (authoritative) oversight by an implied Session comprised of one teaching elder and two ruling elders. But later on, in the same Letter, individual "members" are specifically mentioned where it states that, "The agreement with these Elders was real and substantial and cannot be voided except by the formal separation of each member."

2. "If we maintain that one Pastor's defection from the truth can void other real agreements, then our whole visible unity is based ‘not’ upon the truth, but hangs merely upon unknown future circumstances or the alteration of one Elder's beliefs,, which may variously alter our outward form of government."

Note, it is stated that the alteration of one Elder’s beliefs, "may variously alter our outward form of government" not "remove all form of government". There is here no denial, but rather an affirmation of an outward "form of government" after the dissolution of the Presbytery.

3. "Ministers and Elders and their associated government are given by God for the well being of the church and even their total removal does not mean that all of a sudden the covenanted remnant are without principles or visible unity in the truth."

Note, that the context in which "Ministers and Elders and their associated government" is used, is in reference to our own present circumstance, again indicating that the Letter addresses our present government of Church Officers which implies a Church Court.

4. "Subsequent, to agreeing upon our six terms of communion, Pastor Greg Price, Elder Greg Barrow, and Elder Lyndon Dohms, formed the Session of the Church in Edmonton and in that context and under those terms of communion many members voluntarily joined with us in order to promote the cause of Christ and uphold our mutual covenanted testimony."

Note, this clearly reveals in this Letter that the form of organization to which Pastor Price, Elder Barrow, and Elder Dohms were returning (as stated under point #1 above) was back to a "Session" (although not an ordinary Session in which all of the Officers were in one location, but an extraordinary Session in which the Officers were in different locations).

5. "Here we would note that we must carefully distinguish between our intention, (e.g. what ‘ought’ to be done in an ordinary and more settled state of the church), and our ability to perform (e.g. what ‘can possibly’ be done in an extraordinary, and less settled state of the church). Where it is possible to do things in an ordinary manner, that is what we intend to do, and where it is not possible, we intend to do all that we can to bring the church into that state in the future (endeavoring at all times to keep as close as possible to the rule)."

Note, that what we are here doing in returning to a previous state as a Session (consisting of one Minister and two Elders) with oversight over Societies and members is not ordinary, but rather "extraordinary." Thus, this is an extraordinary Session as we have stated on many different occasions.

6. "The first kind and sort of assemblies [the local Eldership--GB], although they are within particular congregations, yet they exercise the power, authority, and jurisdiction of the kirk with mutual consent, and therefore bear sometimes the name of the kirk. When we speak of the elders of the particular congregations, we mean not that every particular parish can, or may, have their own particular elderships, especially to landward; but we think three or four, more or fewer, particular kirks may have one eldership common to them all, to judge their ecclesiastical causes. Albeit this is meet, that some of the elders be chosen out of every particular congregation, to concur with the rest of their brethren in the common assembly, and to take up the delations of offences within their own kirks, and bring them to the assembly. This we gather from the practice of the primitive kirk, where elders, or colleges of seniors, were constituted in cities and famous places."

Note, this citation is taken from the Second Book of Discipline, Chapter 7, Section 10, and was cited to demonstrate that even our Scottish forefathers allowed for Sessions that were more extraordinary. The only reason that this citation was placed here was because we viewed ourselves as an extraordinary Session in a similar manner as the Sessions mentioned in the Second Book of Discipline. Even if one believes there is no correspondence between the Sessions mentioned in the Second Book of Discipline and our own extraordinary Session, in all fairness, why would we have cited that example if we were not communicating to all of the Societies and members that we were a Session in some extraordinary sense?

7. "Likewise we must now do that which is expedient for the edification of the body, until such time as the Lord grants that we can return to a more settled and ordinary method of governing the church."

Note, that our prayer was that we might return to a "more settled and ordinary method of governing the church". We used the comparative "more" to indicate that we were presently "governing the church", but we prayed for a "more" settled and ordinary method of governing the church.

8. In light of the above statements from the Letter, it is only fair to interpret such statements in the Letter as not having "an organized Session" or being without "a regularly organized Session" as meaning we do not presently have an "ordinary" Session in one location. A fair reading of the Letter would not have us contradicting ourselves continually throughout the Letter as to whether we were an extraordinary Session or not.

9. We have also noted the objection from some that they did not give their positive consent to be united in membership to any entity after the dissolution of the Presbytery. We explained in our Letter of June 14, 2003 that the membership of those under the inspection of the Presbytery of the RPNA did not cease with the dissolution of the Presbytery but continued. Though the outward form of government had changed in returning to a previous form of government (namely, a Session, albeit an extraordinary Session), the membership agreement of all members remained the same under the same Terms of Communion. We wonder why we have not heard the same argument presented to us in regard to the formation of the RPNA on August 5, 2000? Those who were previously members of the PRCE were recognized as members of the RPNA according to their continued tacit consent by virtue of their original membership agreement to the same Terms of Communion. There was explicit written discussion in the Letter of June 14, 2003 about the continued membership of those who had been members in the RPNA, but no explicit written discussion in the Deed of Constitution of the RPNA about the continued membership of those who had been members in the PRCE. We were consistently following the same principles of membership and membership agreements that had been made in both cases. Those who would argue they were members of the RPNA, but not of the RPNA (GM) are those who are inconsistent in their principles and practice. They accepted membership in the RPNA by their continued tacit consent, but now declare they were not members of the RPNA (GM) because they did not give their positive consent. How can these brethren say that they did not tacitly consent to the government of the RPNA (GM) when they represented themselves to us and others "as members", received our ministry, and actively participated in the ordinances of Christ, especially at the reception of the Lord’s Supper? Their actions clearly indicate their tacit consent, but somehow they would have us to understand that this tacit consent with active participation as members in the ordinances of Christ is not actually an indication of their positive consent to our government and oversight. This position, in our judgment, is not consistent, reasonable, or equitable dealing with us, or the other members of our Church.
10. Thus, we maintain that the Letter of June 14, 2003 accurately describes the authority of the Session (albeit an extraordinary Session), and it also reveals that those who were previously members under the inspection of the Presbytery of the RPNA remained members under the inspection of the Session of the RPNA (GM). The fact that the specific name of the entity (RPNA—GM) was not given in the Letter of June 14, 2003 (even though the specific name was privately used by June 28, 2003 in an ecclesiastical divorce found in the appendix to the Position Paper on Sessional Authority and was publicly used in the Announcement of the Fast on July 12, 2003) does not alter the fact that it was clearly stated in our letter that the oversight of the Session continued, the previous memberships continued, the communicant members continued to be recognized as communicant members, and our Terms of Communion were the same. These facts describe accurately our continuation as a lawful Church Court with oversight over our Societies and members.

My brother, the constitution of the RPNA (GM) is the same as that of the PRCE and the RPNA: namely, our Six Terms of Communion. When we constituted the PRCE (1996), it was because we believed there was no lawful Session prior to that time for we did not have lawful Terms of Communion. Thus, we lawfully constituted the PRCE on the basis of the Six Terms of Communion. Members were subsequently admitted into the Church (even from a distance where there were no Elders on site) on the basis of acknowledging their submission to the Elders (collectively) and acknowledging no known disagreement to the Terms of Communion. We took the following Oath (swearing what was in effect our Deed of Constitution) on May 8, 1996 as the PRCE Session:

"I, NAME, on this 8th day of May, 1996, do hereby declare before God and these witnesses, that I sincerely own and believe the following six Terms of Communion to be agreeable unto, and founded upon the Word of God. I do voluntarily, yet conscionably, covenant myself to maintain and to defend these biblical and ancient landmarks of our presbyterian and covenanted forefathers so long as I serve as a member of this session. I do bind myself to an immediate and forthright disclosure of my convictions and intentions should I at anytime become persuaded that any of the following are not biblical Terms of Communion. I do solemnly promise to submit in the Lord to my brethren on this session with the utmost care, faithfulness, and humility."

The constitution of the RPNA (GM) is the same as that of the RPNA as well: namely our Six Terms of Communion. A Deed of Constitution was drafted for the RPNA because no greater Presbytery had previously existed. The RPNA (like the PRCE) was constituted upon the same Terms of Communion (and by this time the judicial testimony of the Church had grown over the past 4 years to include Position Papers on Occasional Hearing and Extraordinary Prophecy to which all Members were bound). Because Membership in the RPNA was based upon the same terms, namely, acknowledging submission to the Elders (collectively) and acknowledging no known disagreement to the Terms of Communion, all Members who were previously in the PRCE were carried over into the RPNA (without dissent of the Membership and without a new Membership Interview required by the Elders or demanded by the Members). This paragraph occurs in the Deed of Constitution of the RPNA (August 5, 2000):

"We do fully and unanimously subscribe, without any known point of disagreement, the following "Six Terms Of Ecclesiastical Communion" which formally summarize the Constitution upon which this Reformed Presbytery In North America is now established."

The constitution of the RPNA (GM) is the same Six Terms of Communion as indicated in the Public Letter of June 14, 2003. Because the Session had already formally sworn as its constitution the Six Terms of Communion on May 8, 2006 (PRCE) and because it had previously existed as a Session and was simply returning to that same outward form of government (as was stated in our Public Letter of June 14, 2003), there was no need to formally constitute on the basis of a new Deed of Constitution. We were not forming something new, but returning to something old. Just as we did not require a new Membership Interview (nor was it demanded by any Member) when Membership was carried over from the PRCE into the RPNA (for the simple reason that the same submission to the Elders and no known disagreement to the Terms of Communion were required of Members), so likewise we did not require a new Membership Interview (nor was it demanded by any Member) when Membership was carried over from the RPNA into the RPNA (GM) (for the simple reason that the same submission to the Elders and no known disagreement to the Terms of Communion were required of Members). And just as our judicial testimony had grown in our Terms of Communion under our “Historical Testimony” from the PRCE into the RPNA, so likewise our judicial testimony had grown in our Terms of Communion under our “Historical Testimony” from the RPNA into the RPNA (GM) to which all Members were bound. Thus, when we mention in our Public Letter of June 14, 2003 that Membership after the dissolution of the RPNA is based upon the same Six Terms of Communion (including the judicial testimony under “Historical Testimony”) that we had adopted as the PRCE and as the RPNA, we are stating that the Six Terms of Communion continue to be our constitution. As was stated in the Public Letter of June 14, 2003:

"In short, we maintain that the dissolution of Presbytery does not change the agreement that each of the members made at the time they became members. Our unity is in the truth of Scripture, and it is in our stated doctrine and practice as summarized in our six terms of communion."

"Subsequent, to agreeing upon our six terms of communion, Pastor Greg Price, Elder Greg Barrow, and Elder Lyndon Dohms, formed the Session of the Church in Edmonton and in that context and under those terms of communion many members voluntarily joined with us in order to promote the cause of Christ and uphold our mutual covenanted testimony. The agreement with these Elders was real and substantial and cannot be voided except by the formal separation of each member."

So your see, Chris, an explicit Deed of Constitution for the RPNA was drafted because we had never had a Presbytery as a higher Court. Whereas we have no explicit Deed of Constitution for the RPNA (GM) because as we state in our letter of June 14, 2003, we were simply returning to a lesser Presbytery or Session consisting of the same Elders and with the same Terms of Communion that we had already established (although we note with this one exception: I was now living in Albany, NY). We did not and do not deem it necessary to write a new Deed of Constitution when we specifically state that we are returning to a previous outward form of government consisting of the same Elders and having the same Terms of Membership that we had as a Session in the PRCE. We were returning to the Deed of Constitution of the PRCE (to which we had already sworn on March 8, 1996 with that one exception that I was now living in NY, and for that reason a different name was given to the Church). The Public Letter of June 14, 2003, in fact, provides more information to Members as to the status of their Membership than anything that was ever published by the Presbytery of the RPNA, and yet why is your criticism not directed in the same way against the RPNA as it is against the RPNA (GM)?

Chris, the fact that the judicial testimony of a faithful Church (or its “Historical Testimony”) grows when the Court must authoritatively testify and rule concerning sins and errors of the times does not mean that we have different Terms of Communion than we had previously. When Membership was carried over from the PRCE into the RPNA no one objected that there needed to be new Membership interviews because there were different Terms of Communion (due to the addition of Position Papers on Occasional Hearing and Extraordinary Prophecy). The judicial testimony of every faithful Church is necessarily dynamic (and growing) rather than static (and dormant). Membership in a faithful Church does not cease and have to be reconstituted every time a Church adds judicial testimony to its “Historical Testimony”. In what faithful Church has this ever been the case? If a Member has questions about the judicial testimony adopted by a Church Court, it is the Member’s duty to bring questions to the Court in an orderly and private manner so as to preserve the peace, purity, and unity of Christ’s Church. If a Member believes that the judicial testimony adopted by a Church Court is not in agreement with the Scripture, it is the Member’s duty to present to the Church Court why he/she believes the judicial testimony is scripturally unlawful in an orderly and private manner before making it public—again so as to preserve the peace, purity, and unity of Christ’s Church (all the time praying and hoping to regain the Court from its alleged error).

My brother, I conclude that your simple assertions or inferences that no lawful Church exists in the RPNA (GM), no lawful Church Court exists in the RPNA (GM), and no lawful Membership exists in the RPNA because no “formal” Deed of Constitution exists are completely contradictory to the way you and those excommunicated have conducted yourselves since the RPNA (GM) was formed. Why do you and why did all of those who have been excommunicated act as though various “rights” of Membership had been violated in issuing an Oath or in administering an Excommunication if you did not even believe the original Membership Agreement continues to bind those who became Members before the formation of the RPNA (GM)? Operating off of your premise, there were no “rights” of Membership in the RPNA (GM) to be violated because there was no Membership in the RPNA (GM) on the part of those who were excommunicated. Why did you not simply dissociate long ago from this non-entity (the RPNA—GM), and why didn’t those who were excommunicated do likewise? You have written to us now a Letter of Dissociation (April 14, 2007) rather than a Letter of Separation which implies there never was a lawful Church formed (RPNA—GM), or a lawful Membership in the RPNA (GM), or a lawful Court within the RPNA (GM). Your position here, dear brother, makes complete nonsense of your actions (and the actions of those excommunicated) who continued to receive Baptism and the Lord’s Supper (as administered under the inspection of a Session that allegedly did not exist—at least from your perspective) and completely contradicts how you and others have debated and argued (i.e. as if you were Members of the RPNA—GM whose “rights” were violated and as if there were “mutual duties” that the Elders had neglected). How can the Elders (collectively) neglect “mutual duties” if there exists no Membership relationship with you or others?

2. The Meaning of the Terms of Membership of the RPNA (GM).

Under this objection, you argue about the very meaning of the agreement found in the Terms of Membership and what is required of those who are Members in the RPNA (GM). I refer all discussion as to whether there is Membership in the RPNA (GM) to the previous point. It is sufficient to point out that the Terms of Membership have been the same for all Members whether they originally became Members in the PRCE, RPNA, or RPNA (GM). The same Terms of Membership have applied at each stage of this Church: submission to the Elders (collectively) and no known disagreements with the Terms of Communion (including the judicial testimony of the Church as comprehended under “Historical Testimony”).

This concept of judicial testimony growing and binding Members (as a faithful Court rules on the various cases brought before it) is biblical as taught in Matthew 18:18-20 (likewise Matthew 16:19) where all of the authority of Christ to rule authoritatively in matters related to doctrine and practice is extended to even a Session (of two or three Elders) when more faithful Elders cannot be joined with them:

“Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

A good and necessary inference to be drawn from this passage is that judicial testimony (which falls under the Fifth Term of Communion, “Historical Testimony”) grows each time a faithful Church Court rules on behalf of Christ in accordance with His revealed will (as occurs in Matthew 18:18-20 and Matthew 16:19). This growing judicial testimony clearly “binds” the Church for Jesus declared, “Whatsoever ye shall BIND on earth shall be BOUND in heaven” (Matthew 18:18).

This concept of judicial testimony growing and binding Members (as a faithful Court rules on the various cases brought before it) is not only biblical, but is also historical and has been promoted as a truth consistent with our Fifth Term of Communion from the time we became Covenanters as correctly expounded by Elder Greg Barrow in his book, _Covenanted Reformation Defended_ (pp. 210-220 pdf.).

d. Historical testimony as a term of communion.
Term #5 An approbation of the faithful contendings of the martyrs of Jesus, especially in Scotland, against Paganism, Popery, Prelacy, Malignancy and Sectarianism; immoral civil governments; Erastian tolerations and persecutions which flow from them; and of the Judicial Testimony emitted by the Reformed Presbytery in North Britain, 1761 with supplements from the Reformed Presbyterian Church; as containing a noble example to be followed, in contending for all divine truth, and in testifying against all corruptions embodied in the constitutions of either churches or states.
Finally, what about historical testimony as a term of communion? This is by far the most maligned and least understood term. Mr. Bacon makes his most foolish comments in regard to this particular term.
He says,
But one must remember that the Steelites invest a similar meaning in the term "historical testimony" that the Romanist does with his "inspired tradition of the fathers" (Defense Departed).
The Reformed Presbytery registers their protest against those who would palm off upon a credulous world a confession instead of a testimony when they state:
1. The Bible, both Old and New Testament, is largely historical the books of Genesis and Matthew beginning with narrative, the wonderful works of God. It is thus adapted to the rational nature of man, and equally to the spiritual nature of the new man (Minutes of the Reformed Presbytery, Sept. 30, 1875, The Reformation Advocate, SWRB reprint, 1997, p. 250).
For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments: And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not steadfast with God. (Psalms 78:58, AV, Scripture proof added, emphases added).
2. [Without the use of uninspired history GB] The church cannot ascertain the fulfilment of prophecy the cumulating external evidence of its divine original: especially can Christ's witnesses no otherwise than by history identify her confederated enemies the man of sin and son of perdition, his paramour the well favoured harlot, and her harlot daughters the offspring of her fornication with the kings of the earth (Minutes of the Reformed Presbytery, Sept. 30, 1875, The Reformation Advocate, SWRB reprint, 1997, p. 250).
Then said he unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven. But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name's sake. And it shall turn to you for a testimony. Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer
(Luke 21:1014, AV, Scripture proof added, emphases added).

3. The present cannot in faith confess the sins, or express thanks to God for the mercies, of a former generation, except on the credibility of human history (Minutes of the Reformed Presbytery, Sept. 30, 1875, The Reformation Advocate, SWRB reprint, 1997, p. 250).
And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers (Nehemiah 9:2, AV, Scripture proof added, emphases added).

4. No otherwise can a Christian know the time or place of his birth, or the persons whom God commands him to honour as his father and mother, than by uninspired testimony; and the same is true of his covenant obligation, if baptized in infancy. Against all who ignorantly or recklessly reject or oppose history as a bond of fellowship, in the family, in the state, but especially in the church, we thus enter our solemn and uncompromising protest (Minutes of the Reformed Presbytery, Sept. 30, 1875, The Reformation Advocate, SWRB reprint, 1997, p. 250).
My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother (Proverbs 1:8, AV, Scripture proof added).
Did the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (16381649) include history as as a term of Communion?
1. Robert McWard, amanuensis to Samuel Rutherford at the Westminster Assembly, was a zealous minister and Protester against the faction calling herself the Church of Scotland. This protege of Rutherford collected and edited Rutherford's Letters and is notable for many of his faithfully written works, not the least of which is his excellent book entitled, Earnest Contendings for the Faith.
Citing a letter from John Welch to Robert Bruce, Robert M'Ward comments upon the importance of judicial history to the Church of Jesus Christ:

But whether I have reason to deny what is so confidently asserted, let the following Testimony be considered, that it may decide. Great Mr. Welch in his letter to Mr. Bruce writes thus, "What my Mind is (saith he) concerning the Root of these Branches, the Bearer will show you more fully. They are no more to be accounted ORTHODOX, but APOSTATES. They have fallen from their CALLINGS, by receiving an Antichristian, and bringing in of Idolatry, to make the Kingdom culpable, and to expose it to fearful judgments, for such an high Perfidy, against an Oath so solemnly exacted and given; and are no more to be accounted Christians; but Strangers and Apostates and Persecuters; and therefore not to be heard any more either in Publick or in Consistories, Colleges, or Synods. For what Fellowship hath Light with Darkness? &c. Calderwood's Hist: Page 743. Now, Sir, here is not only a Testimony of one of the greatest Lights that ever shined in our Church, directly contradicting what you assert; but considering, how carefully this History was Revised by our General Assembly, we are to look upon it as the Judgment of our whole Church; that Letter being therein insert, as a Commendation and Vindication of that eminent Man of God (Robert McWard, Earnest Contendings for the Faith, 1723, SWRB reprint, 1997, p. 127, emphases added).

As a second witness I quote from, the preface to the reader in the eighth book of Calderwood's History of the Kirk of Scotland:

As, therefore, we are hopeful, that this notable history, compiled and written by such an accomplished and credit worthy author, thereunto appointed and authorised by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland; several times revised, amended, and at length approved, (as could be evidenced by the Acts of our Assembly, which herewith had been published for verification, if our church registers had not been seized,) will be the more commended and endeared unto thee, that it is almost the only monument left (all the public Registers of the Church of Scotland having (as was hinted) by Divine permission, for our farther trial and affliction, lately fallen into the hands of the Prelates, and their partners, the known enemies of her true liberties) (David Calderwood, History of the Kirk of Scotland, Vol. 8, p. 21, emphases added).

Especially notice these words, "...but considering how carefully this History [Calderwood's history GB] was Revised by our General Assembly, we are to look upon it as the judgment of our whole church." Why would Robert McWard say such a thing? Imagine! History being looked upon as the judgment of the whole church. Would such a statement come out of Mr. Bacon's mouth? I doubt it. Considering that Robert McWard was a close friend of Samuel Rutherford, and of John Brown of Wamphray, this is quite a statement to hear him make. Consider that the General Assembly was pouring their resources into, and carefully revising Calderwood's history. Why would the General Assembly of 1648 allow David Calderwood an annual pension while he laboured upon this massive task of writing The True History of the Church of Scotland? Because this history was written and, "thereunto appointed and authorised by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland; several times revised, amended, and at length approved, as could be evidenced by the Acts of our Assembly, which herewith had been published for verification, if our church registers had not been seized" for the purpose of passing on an authentic judicial and historical testimony to posterity. It was entered into the Registers of the Church of Scotland to show that with one voice the General Assembly concurred with its contents, and that it could be considered a credible testimony of the application of their principles and subordinate standards to their history. They knew that history is not neutral and that the uninterpreted facts of history do not speak for themselves. They would not rely upon the godless world to testify against the faith of their forefathers. They understood that they must come to an agreement about who contended for the truth and who contended against it they understood that they had a duty to extinguish the remembrance of the wicked, and to exalt the mighty works of the Lord through his children. Like Israel of old, they would write it for a memorial and rehearse it to their children; they would remember the covenant of their ancestors and pass it on from generation to generation. Why? Because God is the creator of time and history, and he is glorified when we rehearse his mighty works. Our agreement upon the mighty deeds of God is essential to our communion with one another. The General Assembly knew this and so did the faithful Covenanters who followed in their footsteps. Sadly, Mr. Bacon seems to imply that communion and agreement in the truth has little to do with the history of our forefathers or their mighty victories in Christ Jesus. Do not be fooled by his false argumentation. He opposes himself and the testimony of the faithful when he speaks against history as a term of communion. Under the disguise of Christian tolerance he teaches that which would steal away our Covenanted inheritance.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven (Exodus 17:14, AV).
They that are delivered from the noise of archers in the places of drawing water, there shall they rehearse the righteous acts of the LORD, even the righteous acts toward the inhabitants of his villages in Israel: then shall the people of the LORD go down to the gates (Judges 5:11, AV).
Remember his marvellous works that he hath done, his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth; O ye seed of Israel his servant, ye children of Jacob, his chosen ones. He is the LORD our God; his judgments are in all the earth. Be ye mindful always of his covenant; the word which he commanded to a thousand generations; Even of the covenant which he made with Abraham, and of his oath unto Isaac; And hath confirmed the same to Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant (1 Chronicles 16:1217, AV).
We have sinned with our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly. Our fathers understood not thy wonders in Egypt; they remembered not the multitude of thy mercies; but provoked him at the sea, even at the Red sea (Psalms 106:67, AV).
15 That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past (Ecclesiastes 3:15, AV).

How did the General Assembly of Scotland view their own history?
2. What does the General Assembly of Scotland say about all the General Assemblies that preceded them? How do they view their own history? Do they make compliance with former Acts of General Assembly a term of communion?
The Assembly constitutes and ordains that from henceforth no sort of person of whatsoever quality or degree be permitted to speak or write against the said Confession, this Assembly or any Act of this Assembly, and that under the pain of incurring the censures of this Kirk (The Acts of the General Assemblies of the Church of Scotland, [16381649 inclusive], 1682, SWRB reprint, 1997, p. 51, emphases added)?
And likewise in case they acknowledge not this Assembly, reverence not the constitutions thereof, and obey not the sentence, and make not their repentance, conform to the order prescribed in this Assembly, ordains them to be excommunicated and declared to be of these whom Christ commanded to be holden by all and everyone of the faithful as Ethnics and Publicans (The Acts of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, 1682, SWRB reprint, 1997, p. 22, emphases added).
Who would believe that a faithful General Assembly would not expect their rulings to be implemented year after year? As soon as these Acts are determined they become historical, judicial testimony which bind the church in so far as the human constitution itself agrees with the Word of God. As is standard Presbyterian practice, those who wilfully and obstinately refuse to abide by the faithful rulings of General Assembly are excommunicated. This makes their historical testimony the application of their principles in history binding upon subsequent generations and a term of communion.
Dear reader, consider the Presbyterian position of the Scottish General Assembly, and ask yourself Are they using historical testimony as a term of communion?
a. The General Assembly censures (bars people from the Lord's Table) people for ignorance and scandal year after year.
b. Each censure that sets a new precedent becomes a historic testimony for truth and against error.
c. Over the years the record of church censures grow into a body of judicial testimony.
d. These provide subsequent generations with a record of judgment that bind posterity inasmuch as these judgments are agreeable to God's Word.
e. This record of censures becomes a basis for terms of communion since they are an historical and judicial record of scandalous sins and errors for which professing Christians have been barred from the Lord's Supper by a faithful General Assembly from the past.
Therefore, historical and judicial testimony in the form of historical church censure is a direct statement of their terms of communion.
And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also (2 Timothy 2:2, AV).
Does Mr. Bacon object to this kind of historical testimony? Will he also fight against the censures of our faithful forefathers? Are the faithful Acts of General Assembly too much for him to read? Perhaps our forefathers held their principles too strictly and needed Mr. Bacon to temper their harsh judgment. I speak this to his shame.
Next, let us proceed to some concrete examples of the use of historical testimony.
1. Pretended assemblies and their pretended policies were censured.

First, I contend that a clear example of the use of historical testimony as a term of Communion is exemplified by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1638 where they declared the Prelatical General Assemblies to be pretended assemblies, pronouncing all their Acts null and void in the years 1606, 1608, 1610, 1616 and 1618.

December 4, 1638, Session 12.
The Assembly with universal consent of all, after the serious examination of the reasons against every one of these six pretended Assemblies apart, being often urged by the moderator, to inform themselves thoroughly, that without doubting they might give their voices, declared all these six assemblies of Linlithgow 1606 and 1608, Glasgow 1610, Aberdeen 1616, St. Andrews 1617, Perth 1618, And every one of them to have been from the beginning unfree, unlawful, and null Assemblies, and never to have had, nor hereafter to have any Ecclesiastical authority, and their conclusions to have been, and to be of no force, vigour, nor efficacy: Prohibited all defence and observance of them, and ordained the reasons of their nullity to be inserted in the books of the Assembly (The Acts of the General Assemblies of the Church of Scotland, [16381649 inclusive], p. 9).

The General Assembly realized that historical testimony of all faithful preceding Scottish General Assemblies set precedent for them to follow. Upon retaking power from the Prelates, they immediately declared the Prelatical Assemblies and all their Acts null and void to distinguish between those historical testimonies that were unscriptural, pretended, and of no authority from those historical testimonies that were scriptural, faithful, and authoritative. Thus they dissociated themselves from these Pretended Assemblies and judged them and all their pretended Acts to be null and void. In effect they declared themselves to have no agreement or communion with those who countenanced, obeyed or defended the authority of those Assemblies. The entire policy of the Prelates and all their pretended authority was wiped away with one act, and from henceforth this Act became a term of communion in the Church of Scotland. This is nothing less than a judicial testimony against an historical body being used as a term of communion.

2. False principle and practice is censured.

On December 10, 1638, Session 17, the General Assembly of Scotland declared the Five Articles of Perth to be abjured and removed.
The matter was put to voicing, in these words: Whether the five articles of Perth, by the confession of Faith, as it was meant and professed in the year 1580, 1581, 1590, 1591, ought to be removed out of this Kirk: The whole Assembly all in one consent, one only excepted, did voice that the five articles above specified were abjured by this Kirk, in that Confession, and so ought to be removed out of it: And therefore prohibits and discharges all disputing for them, or observing of them, or any of them in all time coming, and ordains Presbyteries to proceed with the censures of the Kirk against all transgressors (The Acts of the General Assemblies of the Church of Scotland, [16381649 inclusive], 1682, SWRB reprint, 1997, p. 36).
Can you find the Five Articles of Perth listed in your Bible or must you look to uninspired history alone to know for what cause the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland would censure the people of Scotland? The Assembly plainly tells us that they would censure anyone, who would dispute for, or observe these five articles of Perth. The General Assembly applied their Scriptural principles to the historic circumstances of their time and set precedents, agreeable to God's Word, that bind us (their ecclesiastical descendants) even today to the same moral principles. Should we observe and promote the Five Articles of Perth in 1997? Of course not, and if anyone does so obstinately, they should be censured and barred from the communion table. History alone records these Five Articles of Perth, and we acknowledge them as heresy in our testimony and include them among the our terms of communion. As we rehearse to our posterity God's mighty work of overthrowing the wicked, we must teach them that these Five Articles of Perth are heresy and that those who love and defend them them must be considered scandalous. This was clearly the practice of the Church of Scotland in the Second Reformation, is identical to the practice of the faithful Covenanters of Scotland and America in later years, and continues as the practice of the PRCE today.

3. Schisms from the past were censured, and association or agreement with them were made terms of communion in all "time coming."

Not only was promoting and defending the pretended authority, the unbiblical principles and practices of the Prelates censurable (and thus a faithful term of communion), but even presently associating with and promoting these historically censured groups is a faithful term of communion. While the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (16381649) would maintain that the Episcopal church was a true church as to its being or essence, they would not recognize the authority of the Prelates pretended judicatories, and they sternly warned all professors of the true religion in Scotland that censure would certainly follow anyone who accepted, defended or obeyed their pretended authority.

Act of the Assembly at Glasgow, Session 16, December 8, 1638.
It was also cleared that Episcopacy was condemned in these words of the Confession, HIS WICKED HIERARCHY.... We have in the book of Policy or Second Book of Discipline, in the end of the second chapter this conclusion agreed upon. Therefore all the ambitious titles invented in the Kingdom of Antichrist, and his usurped hierarchy which are not one of these four sorts, To wit, Pastors, Doctors, Elders, and Deacons, together with offices depending thereupon, in one word ought to be rejected....The whole Assembly most unanimously, without contradiction of any one (and with the hesitation of one allanerly) professing full persuasion of mind, did voice, That all Episcopacy different from that of a Pastor over, a particular flock, was abjured in this Kirk, and to be removed out of it. And therefore prohibits under ecclesiastical censure any to usurp, accept, defend, or obey the pretended authority thereof in time coming (The Acts of the General Assemblies of the Church of Scotland [16381649 inclusive], p. 34, emphases added).
Do you think that these men intended their posterity to continue to censure those who obeyed the Episcopalian daughter of Antichrist? Their historical testimony was, and is to be upheld, published and promoted in "time coming," and all who fail to recognize that is agreeable to God's word are to be kept from the Lord's Table. Again we see in the Acts of the General Assembly a judicial testimony binding subsequent generations to obedience, and censuring all who will not comply for all "time coming."
Each of these attainments are not to be receded from. We must gratefully receive the faithful judgment of past General Assemblies and compare their rulings with the Word of God.
Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing (Philippians 3:16, AV).
Once we confirm that their ruling was agreeable to holy Scripture we may continue to apply their judgment to the present day. Not only are we to adhere to faithful attainments of the past, but we are duty bound to testify against the prevalent sins of our times. Again, the General Assembly recognized the need for constant vigilance in this regard and they protected the church from the contagion of backsliding ministers by framing yet another needful term of communion.
Act for censuring Ministers for their silence, and not speaking to the corruption of the time. August 3, 1648. Ante Meridiem. Session 26.
The General Assembly, taking to their serious consideration, the great scandals which have lately increased, partly through some Ministers their reserving and not declaring of themselves against the prevalent sins of the times, partly through the spite, Malignity, and insolency of others against such Ministers as have faithfully and freely reproved the Sins of the times without respect of persons, Do therefore for preventing and removing such scandals hereafter, Appoint and Ordain, that every Minister do by the word of Wisdom apply his Doctrine faithfully against the publick Sins and Corruptions of these times, and particularly against the Sins and Scandals in the Congregation wherein he lives, according to the Act of the General Assembly 1596, revived by the Assembly at Glasgow 1638. Appointing that such as shall be found not applying their Doctrine to corruptions, which is the Pastoral gift, cold, and wanting of Spiritual zeal, flatterers and dissembling of publick sins, and especially of great Personages in their Congregations, that all such persons be censured according to the degree of their faults and continuing therein be deprived; And according to the Act of General Assembly 1646, Sess. 10, That beside all other scandals, silence, or ambiguous speaking in the public cause, much more detracting and disaffected speeches be seasonably censured (The Records of the Church of Scotland, p. 509, emphases added).
These Acts of General Assembly contain hundreds of pages of judicial testimony which declare the things censured and why they were censured. Every precedent setting censure adds to their list of terms of communion. Every new heresy and every new enemy testified against is added to a growing list of those things that will bar someone from the Lord's Supper. Every time an authoritative judicatory rules correctly (i.e. in accordance with Scripture) and precedentially, they make a new judicial testimony for the truth and against error. Is Mr. Bacon also against the authority of General Assemblies? As a professed Presbyterian he should recognize that historical testimony and judicial testimony are terms of communion in every church court that has a history. What does Mr. Bacon call judicial precedent? Is this not binding historical testimony? Why does he rail at us for doing what is unavoidable? The Acts of faithful General Assemblies provide us with a record of historical terms of communion and are the single most important source we have in determining the footsteps of the flock at that period of time. Though these documents are fallible, they nevertheless, once confirmed to be agreeable to God's word, may be considered faithful until proved otherwise. Though they are subordinate, they may be considered authoritative until proved otherwise and adjusted. Because mere men have pronounced judgment upon the events of history does not necessarily mean they have done so incorrectly. These testimonies serve their intended purpose in promoting peace and uniformity in the church.
David Steele comments:

Whether in the light of God's word, history and argument are to be inseparably joined with doctrine in the Testimony of the church, is the question. The affirmative we maintain, the negative is asserted in the "Preface" to Reformation Principles Exhibited [formerly the "Testimony" of the RPCNA GB], and urged by the Covenanter [the magazine GB]. "What saith Scripture?" The case of Stephen the protomartyr under the Christian dispensation, will serve for both proof and illustration, (Acts 7:1, etc). This witness begins his testimony with history, commencing with the call of Abraham, and ending at his own time. From the 51st to the 53rd verse, he applies the facts of history and doctrines declared to the case in hand; and this he does in argumentative form. Take the case of the blind man restored to sight, (John 9:1334). The former of these witnesses was stoned to death [i.e. Stephen GB]; the latter excommunicated [i.e. the blind man restored GB], for stating facts, and arguing from them. These two examples are deemed sufficient at present for proof and illustration. But it may be said "These are inspired records scriptural examples." True, and just because they are inspired instances of testimony bearing we adduce them, to establish and illustrate our position, which they irrefragably do. "But what has this to do with uninspired, mere human history, as a part of testimony?" "Much every way," chiefly with reference to Covenanting. Their very designation, COVENANTERS, one would suppose sufficient, if received in its historical import, to establish the truth of our position. But we waive that for the present. There are two kinds of faith distinct, but inseparable; and, as already stated, the kind of faith is determined by the kind of testimony, while both are required by God's word and by the condition of human society. The one, for the sake of a distinction, is called divine faith; the other, human. "If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater," I John 5:9. Christ said to the Pharisees "It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true," John 8:17. See also Matt. 18:16. Now it is obvious that facts, rather than principles, constitute testimony. And it is undeniable that the holy Scriptures sustain the credibility of human testimony, though uninspired. Still, "the witness (testimony) of God is greater." Hence I reason thus The Lord Jesus, whose name is the Word of God, the faithful and true Witness, having it in charge to reveal and execute the purposes of God; and the devil, the father of lies, who sinneth from the beginning, being assiduously engaged in falsifying the revealed will, and resisting the execution of the purposes of Jehovah, (Rev. 5:9; 12:7); both these leaders are accompanied by their respective partisans of the human family. Protestants generally agree that Popery is a diabolical organization against Christ and truth. That Christ is a divine person, is a doctrine of Scripture, (John 1:1); but this is questioned by the devil, (Matt. 4:6), though admitted by the church of Rome. Christ, being divine, is the object of worship. To this Popery assents. But Christ is also Mediator between God and man. Well, Popery admits this also, and resists only the exclusive mediation of Christ; which office the Romish church distributes among Christ, Mary, angels, etc. And we know both the errors and idolatries as FACTS in the history of Popery. True, we may and ought to try both by God's word. On the other hand, we know that Christ is the Son of God, and that we ought to "honor the Son, even as we honor the Father," we know these things, I say, not only as doctrinally declared, but also as exemplified in the faith and practice of the church of God in all ages. Of the three men who visited Abraham, (Gen. 18:2), the patriarch worships one only (v. 22). The unbelieving Jews claim Abraham as their father, but refused to do the works of Abraham, and so falsified their claim, (John 8:33,39). We claim to be the seed of Christ's covenanted witnesses in Britain and Ireland; but unless we "walk in the steps of their faith," our professed attachment to that faith will avail us nothing.
But it may be said, Who denies all this, or what has this to do with the matter of a testimony? Everything. That many of our former brethren are aiming to copy their "noble example," including the Covenanter, is matter of our joy and thanksgiving to God. But how? As individuals? as congregations? as judicatories? If so, it is all right, so far as they followed Christ. Still Christ enjoins it upon us to "go forth by the footsteps of the flock," (Song 1:8). These footsteps are Christian practices; that is, they are the application of principle, scriptural principle, to individual and social life. Let it be noticed that Christ counsels inquirers to follow the footsteps of the flock; thus making those footsteps at once directive and authoritative. We can know the footsteps, the Christian and social practice of our Covenanted fathers, only by HISTORY; and through the same medium alone do we come to ascertain the very arguments by which they defended both their faith and practice.
My faith may be designated human; or, if you will, even Popish; still I am not ashamed to own that the practice of Cameron, Cargill, Renwick, and those with whom the martyrs were associated, is directive to me and authoritative also! Indeed, I am bound to bring even their principles and arguments to the "law and to the testimony," but history alone will supply me with these; which, that it may do, I must have it in an authenticated form. In this matter the Lord Jesus will not allow us to walk at random. "Go thy way... by the footsteps of the flock." The great outlines of the Mediator's special providence, and of the church's faithful contendings must ever be before her children, sanctioned by her authority in a judicial form, that posterity may see how she has walked with God in the wilderness; as also wherein she may have acted perfidiously in view of her solemn covenant engagement (The Covenanter, May 1856, p. 303, emphases added).

Again, our 5th term of communion reads,
An approbation of the faithful contendings of the martyrs of Jesus, especially in Scotland, against Paganism, Popery, Prelacy, Malignancy and Sectarianism; immoral civil governments; Erastian tolerations and persecutions which flow from them; and of the Judicial Testimony emitted by the Reformed Presbytery in North Britain, 1761 with supplements from the Reformed Presbyterian Church; as containing a noble example to be followed, in contending for all divine truth, and in testifying against all corruptions embodied in the constitutions of either churches or states.
We in the PRCE approbate the "faithful" contendings of the martyrs and uphold their judicial testimonies as "noble examples" (which could not be called noble if they were contrary to God's Word) to be followed in contending for all divine truth. This is a testimony for the truth and against error which any Christian who desires to come to the communion table should be more than willing to make. What sin are we committing by requiring that people approbate the faithful contendings of the martyrs? For someone not to approbate their faithful contendings implies either ignorance of, or opposition to these. I have already demonstrated that those who come to the communion table must "all speak the same thing," having no divisions, and "be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." This is not fulfilled in the case of opposition to noble and faithful contendings. Those who cannot take the time to enquire about the covenants and contendings of our ancestors, or those who are too busy to remember and rehearse the mighty acts of God done through his servants are simply not yet ready to come to communion. Neither are those who oppose the conscientious approving of such faithful historical deeds. Failure to attend to these important aspects of our Christian duty is scandalous and we would have to inquire as to what is so time consuming that these things cannot properly be considered. Additionally, we do not ask for a perfect understanding, nor do we require agreement with every minute sentiment contained in our judicial documents. These are "noble examples" in contending for all divine truth and not "infallible examples." We seek an honest effort and professed agreement to our standards. By reasonable examination we determine whether we can walk together, and jointly profess our faith before our Saviour, each other, and the world as one bread and one body. If someone is not willing to sacrifice enough time and energy to seek an honest estimate of our agreement in the truth, then I fear that they are not redeeming the time, or they have seriously confused their priorities in life.

At this point, I simply want to demonstrate the errors you have cited in your objections as to what is the “meaning” of the agreement found in the Terms of Membership.

First, you state:
“The RPNA membership terms do not contain any of the following phrases: "come to us first", "come to us as individuals", "come to us privately" or any near variant thereof. No such requirements were ever put upon any of these people, nor did those people promise those kinds of things to you.”

As I said earlier, the Terms of Membership within the PRCE, RPNA, and RPNA (GM) have remained the same in regard to acknowledging submission to the Elders (collectively) and acknowledging no known disagreement to the Terms of Communion (including the judicial testimony of the Church under “Historical Testimony”). Members have each one agreed to privately bring their questions and doubtful concerns to the Elders (collectively).

“Will you make inquiries of the elders when you have questions that concern you in regard to our subordinate standards?”

“Will you give the elders due opportunity to patiently and lovingly instruct you in any doubtful area?”
These questions (which require a positive affirmation) assume that questions of a significant concern (in regard to the doctrines and practices of the Church) will be brought by the Member to the Elders (collectively). The whole intention of these questions in the Membership Agreement is to prevent a public division within the Church. A pubic division is avoided by keeping one’s doubtful concerns as narrow as possible and by coming to the Teachers Christ has appointed to address such doubtful concerns before forming groups to discuss doubtful concerns. To argue that there is no specific reference to "come to us first", to "come to us as individuals", or to "come to us privately" is to make complete nonsense of the intent of the Membership Agreement (which is to prevent division in the Church). Why make an agreement to promote peace and extirpate division at all if Members can avoid the Elders until they have formed conclusions and then come as a group to the Elders with their conclusions? When the concerns of a Member are significant, it is to the Elders (collectively) that such serious matters are to be addressed (rather than to a group of people) since Christ has given Elders to the Church to be Teachers and Governors (Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11-15) and since the thrust of Matthew 18:15-17 is to keep private sins within as narrow of a circle as possible (only moving to the next stage to include more people when a Member is obstinate in his/her sin). How much more the need for such principles to be in place when a Member in seeking to fulfill his/her Membership Agreement has a significant concern (but is not convinced that a sin has been committed or an error promoted by the Elders)? This duty a Member promises to do in “any doubtful area” that could potentially lead to a disruption in the peace, purity, and unity of Christ’s Church. These promises intend to keep the circle very small so that serious doubts and concerns do not spread from one person to another throughout the Church causing a schism within the Church before the Elders (collectively) have had an opportunity (or opportunities) to privately address those serious doubts and concerns and before they become certain and known disagreements. If this pattern is followed and the Member does not believe the Elders have resolved the concern and the concern then becomes a known disagreement that cannot be resolved with the Elders, the Member can still bear public testimony after this process is completed. Nothing is forfeited, and the process has allowed the Member and the Elders to work together to bring about a peaceful resolution before many people are included in the circle (thus making resolution more difficult). Chris, your argument and objection is (in my judgment) simply a sinful attempt to avoid the clear intent of the words (which in all of our Membership Interviews we spell out in greater detail indicating the specific process that is to be followed).

Furthermore, the Membership Agreement asks of each candidate (individually) and requires the following affirmative response to this question:

“Are you willing to submit yourselves to the preaching and to the elders of this church (in so far as both are agreeable to the Word of God)?”

This question assumes the Elders (collectively as a Court) are faithful and lawfully called possessing the authority to govern Members by way of mutual consent and agreement under the same Terms of Communion. One would not voluntarily and conscientiously agree to submit to Elders (collectively) whom they believed to be unlawful and to have no authority from Christ to govern and rule over them.

Leaving the Membership Agreement, the question is asked in the Communion Examination under the Third Term of Communion:

“Do you agree that the Elders of this church are duly called and qualified as the officers of Christ?”

“Do you agree to obey and abide by the lawful decisions and commands of the Elders of this church insofar as their decisions and commands agree with the scriptures?”

Again, these questions assume an affirmative response on the part of those being examined to come to the Lord’s Supper as it relates to Elders being lawful and faithful Officers of Christ (individually and collectively) and submission to their lawful decisions and commands (judicial testimony). There are no new duties asserted in these questions that were not either explicit or implicit in the Membership agreement. If the authority of the Elders (collectively) was not voluntarily acknowledged as lawful, why would one submit to a Membership Interview by them or submit to being examined by them to come to the Lord’s Supper or answer in the affirmative the questions in the Membership Agreement and in the Communicant Examination?

SELF-EXCOMMUNICATION

Chris, you question whether anyone can excommunicate himself/herself and yet you do not refute what the Session submitted in its Public Response (November 4, 2007) in regard to this very question.


1. Why have some who have left the Church not been formally excommunicated?
There are some former Members who have been excommunicated merely by virtue of their own self-excommunication subsequent to their obstinately removing themselves from membership with us. These excommunications occurred during the time in which the Session of the PRCE governed, during the time in which the Presbytery of the RPNA governed, and during the time in which the extraordinary Session of the RPNA (GM) has governed. We believe that the recognition by the Church Court of such self- excommunications is warranted from God’s Word when the apostle John says in regard those who turned away from their association with faithful Churches: "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us" (1John 2:19). In the Minutes of the faithful Presbytery called the Reformed Presbytery (in the United States), June 2, 1886, it is stated that that Church Court recognized the sinful actions of unrepentant members who voluntarily dismembered themselves from the Church to be a self-excommunication concerning which the Presbytery deemed no further judicial acts to be necessary:

"That party having excommunicated themselves, no further action in their case by this Court is at present deemed necessary. ‘They went out from us . . . that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.’ ‘We wot that through ignorance’ their sympathies were misplaced to the troubling of themselves and others. But since excommunication is not penal, but disciplinary, we would still endeavor ‘in meekness to instruct those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.’" (Emphasis added)

Note here that the Reformed Presbytery did not think that notorious self- excommunication warranted a necessary, formal, and public declaration of excommunication subsequent to that event. Do our presently disaffected brethren also wish to condemn the Reformed Presbytery in the United States for not following the Scottish Books of Discipline? Will they also say that this Presbytery also failed to do their duty by not handling this process over three consecutive Sundays? Is a formal public declaration of excommunication necessary in all cases? Does Scripture command us to do so in all cases? No, the Reformed Presbytery in the United States didn’t think so, and neither do we think so, especially when self-excommunication cases are notoriously public. If the whole Church is aware of a public defection of one or more of its members, because those members were very vocal in their defection, then a public declaration only serves to affirm and ratify what everyone already knows—that these persons have excommunicated themselves from our communion.
It is true that some of our Members who dismembered themselves were excommunicated in the past without the same degree of formality as others. In some cases, like the Reformed Presbytery in the United States (cited above), we did not use any further process. After discussing this matter in Session, we decided that although it is not scripturally necessary, to make a public declaration of excommunication in cases where people notoriously and publicly excommunicate themselves (1 John 2:19), nevertheless, for the sake of uniformity of practice, we would start doing so in each and every case so that those who are confused about the necessity of this matter would have no further reason to continually be troubled in this regard. This is now our present practice.


My brother, the Reformed Presbytery did not state that those who excommunicated themselves had expressly denied the Christian Religion or any points of doctrine of the Reformed Faith. The Reformed Presbytery states that “they went out from us” (1 John 2:19) was sufficient warrant to declare their self-excommunication. Furthermore, one does not have to write a formal letter of separation or a formal letter of dissociation in order to indicate that one has gone out from the Church. By refusing to own the very Terms of Membership that constituted one a Member of a faithful Church of Christ (when called to do so) is to remove oneself from Membership. If one can no longer affirm one’s Membership Agreement, one declares himself/herself to be outside the Membership. If one refuses to swear to own anything that is objectively faithful and true, a just censure may be attached even though one does not explicitly deny what is true When Josiah caused the people to stand to the covenant, would one who refused to take the covenant be free of severe censure while only those who denied the covenant subject to severe censure? Of course not. Would only those who denied the Solemn League and Covenant be subject to severe censure while those who refused the Solemn League and Covenant be free of censure? This is simply not the case even if those refusing such lawful covenants were not explicitly denying the one true Religion. For to refuse to swear what is lawful and true (when called to do so by lawful authority) is a serious sin and brings one under the severe censure of the Court. To refuse the Solemn League and Covenant was to bring upon oneself the censure due to a public enemy of both Church and State (even though the Christian Religion or the Reformed Religion were not explicitly denied).

August 20, Session 15, 1647

And if by the declaration of both kingdoms joined in arms, Anno 1643, such as would not take the Covenant were declared to be public enemies to their Religion and Country and that they be censured and punished as professed adversaries and malignants. Who seeth not now a strange falling away from these first Principles and Professions among these who either magnify and cry up, or at least connive at and comply with such as have not taken the Covenant, yea, are known enemies to it, and cry down such as are most zealous for it?
_The Acts of the General Assemblies of the Church of Scotland_. p. 335.


I do have more to say about these matters, but will do so in the section, “Doubts”.

IMPOSITION OF THE OATH

Chris, you sadly provide no evidence to substantiate this false claim:
“Unequivocally, the session of the RPNA-GM imposed the affidavit on each of these twenty-nine people when the session knew in advance that each of these people had scruples about the court, as to its nature, extent, jurisdiction and authority. The session wanted these people to affirm something that they knew ahead of time these people had issues with and that they could not swear to.”

Contrary to the Ninth Commandment, you simply assert this accusation to be true. To the contrary, the Session has clearly stated in its Public Letter (October 29, 2006) just the opposite (which you provide no evidence to disprove):

“We testify before God that we did not know with certainty that the brethren in Prince George would refuse the Oath since they had not communicated their thoughts to us about the Position Paper on Sessional Authority even though they were invited to do so by the Session.”

It seems, brother, that you have now made clear (from your perspective) that all those who refused the Oath were saying that they did not own the authority of the Session of the RPNA (GM).

“The affidavit, with content that may or may not be lawful, was imposed by an alleged authority that may or may not be lawful, on people that did not presently affirm the jurisdiction of that authority (viz. the session of the RPNA-GM) over they themselves individually. Therefore it was most lawful and just for these people to not swear the oath and sign the affidavit, because the jurisdiction of the session of the RPNA-GM to act in this manner was not already granted in advance. These people can't be bound to swear an oath to own a court that they don't know exists lawfully or not, and which they never swore obedience to. That would be sinful in itself, and that ironically would be grounds to charge them with public sin in. The many weighty considerations also brought forward that cast doubt on the lawfulness of the affidavit or of the court imposing it also serve to confirm these people in the propriety of their actions.”

If (as you said earlier) there are those who have voluntarily submitted to the authority of this Court and those of you who have not, please show me in Scripture or in history warrant for both groups being Members of the same Church. How can those who own the Court and those who do not own the Court be Members of the same Church over which the Court has inspection and authority under Christ? They can’t. How can “mutual duties” be performed between Elders and those who do not own their own Membership in the RPNA (GM)? They can’t. How can Elders (collectively) administer discipline within a Church when there are those who do own the Court and their Membership and those who do not own the Court or their own Membership? They can’t. You accuse the Elders of tyranny for imposing an Oath upon those who do not own our authority, brother, when it took an Oath to reveal the deception on the part of many of you who neither owned the lawfulness of the Court of the RPNA (GM) nor your own Membership within the RPNA (GM) all the while acting under the pretense that you were entitled to the “rights” of Membership.

“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam [is] in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye” (Matthew 7:1-5).

UNKNOWN CHARGES

Chris, you falsely accuse us sin in not revealing the charges or the accuser before administering the Oath. In the Session’s Public Response (October 29, 2006), we acknowledge the right of the accused to hear the charges brought against him/her and the right to defend oneself before his/her accuser. We simply believe that establishing whether all parties recognize the jurisdiction of the Court is of first importance.

The brethren from Prince George have also alleged against the Session that standard principles of due process and of justice have been sinfully denied them by not identifying the plaintiff or the charges brought against them. By not signing the oath and thus excommunicating themselves from the RPNA (GM), these brethren have denied themselves due process. To affirm first by Oath submission to the Court that shall deliver the charges and try the case and reception of the Terms of Membership and the Terms of Communion (a mere affirmation of one’s membership agreement) is not a denial of justice. If one thinks this to be the case, please demonstrate this from Scripture. As a lawful Court we must determine first that the persons filing the charges and the persons being charged are within our jurisdiction, and presently willing to own and submit to our jurisdiction. If the persons filing the charges or the persons being charged disown [or refuse to own—GLP] the jurisdiction of our Court, what is the point of proceeding with that particular case? If instead, either those doing the charging, or those being charged excommunicate themselves from our jurisdiction, then that self excommunication becomes the essential matter with which we have to deal. Once jurisdiction is determined, and all parties own the jurisdiction of the Court, then the Session would make known the accuser and the accusations to those being charged with sin by the accuser. The defendants would then have their day in Court to face their accuser and to defend themselves against his/her accusations. But why should the accuser and his accusations be revealed to any one who does not intend to submit to judicial process before the Court in answering his/her accuser? Good order is kept, first by determining jurisdiction, then by revealing the charges and the accusers, and then by hearing arguments, and judging the case. If this is not good order, then again we ask whoever disagrees with this procedure to please demonstrate what is sinful about this order. Furthermore, to presume that the Session would not, after determining jurisdiction, reveal the charges and the plaintiffs to the defendants is a sinful presumption. In effect, it is to prematurely pronounce the Session to be guilty of sin without any proof whatsoever. How does the Society of Prince George know that we would not reveal the accusations and plaintiff’s to them? What could they possibly offer as proof to establish that we were not intending to do so, or would not actually do so? This in our judgment is sinful presumption on their part. (p. 12).

Even the Apostle Paul acknowledges the validity of knowing first who is under the jurisdiction of the Church Court in Corinth before issuing a judgment in any particular case. Therefore, when doubt and suspicion arise as to the issue of jurisdiction, it is lawful to establish that point first.

“For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? Do not ye judge them that are within?” (1 Corinthians 5:12).

CONTENT OF AFFIDAVIT

You falsely charge us with dishonesty because all of our judicial testimony is not specifically identified in the Terms of Membership.

“There is no question the Affidavit oath exceeds the scope and range of commitments being made and doctrines and controversies being decided in the membership terms or the terms of communion. Common-sense, not finding in either of those terms agreed unto upon inductance into membership things such as all your positions papers and peculiar doctrines and distinctives as well as oral rulings not released in writing, would then require the session of the RPNA-GM to be charitable towards people who have questions about these alleged additional terms of communion they are supposedly under obligation to.
IF we are guilty of dishonesty, so is every other faithful Church which does not reveal ALL of its binding and progressive judicial testimony along with its Terms of Membership. For Churches that have been in existence for many years this would include all rulings by their Church Courts. For the judicial testimony of a faithful Church is necessarily binding and progressive. In _Reformation Principles Exhibited_ (Chapter 32:1,2, 1807), the nature of a faithful Church’s testimony is clearly declared to be a binding duty and a progressive contending.


1. Christians are witnesses for God among men; and, having in their possession the testimony of God in the Holy Scriptures, it is the DUTY of the church to apply the doctrines of inspiration in stating and defending truth, and in condemning all contrary errors, bearing witness against all who maintain them (Isaiah 43:10; Acts 5:32; Acts 26:16; Psalm 78:5; 1 Corinthians 1:6; 1 Corinthians 2:1; Mark 6:11).

2. The testimony of the church is PROGRESSIVE, in order to oppose and condemn the novel errors which each period may produce; and every generation is to take care that the truth, as stated and defended by their predecessors, shall be maintained and faithfully transmitted, together with the result of their own contendings, to the succeeding generation (2 Thessalonians 1:10; Revelation 11:3,7; Psalm 78:5,7; Psalm 48:12,13).

If you read all of the Minutes of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (beginning with 1560), you will find so much judicial testimony that is not found in the Confession of Faith, the Catechisms, the Books of Discipline, the Presbyterial Form of Church Government, or the Directory for Public Worship, and yet that judicial testimony was ever-growing and was binding upon its Members. Was the Church of Scotland dishonest in receiving Members if they did not include all of their judicial testimony in their Membership Interview? I have yet to find all of the judicial testimony of The Reformed Presbytery in Scotland or The Reformed Presbytery in the United States listed neatly in one book to give to candidates for Membership along with the Six Terms of Communion. If you find such a book, please let me know. However, the judicial rulings of those faithful Courts as found in their Minutes and Position Papers for many years were included under the heading of “Historical Testimony”. Note the following example of judicial testimony that bound the Members of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in the United States, but was not specifically listed in their Terms of Communion. Was the Reformed Presbyterian Church of the United Sates also being dishonest? This brief statement is part of a much more lengthy piece of judicial testimony issued by The Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, North America (1834).

IN the year eighteen hundred and six, presbytery which at that time, was the highest judicatory of the church, passed an act respecting serving on juries. This act presbytery declares to be "absolutely prohibitory." Thus, the members of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in the United States are prohibited from acting as jurors in courts of justice. By this law every member of the community is bound: every member binds himself to obey it when he assents to the terms of communion prescribed by the church, on his admission to her membership and peculiar privileges.

Chris, when the 3,000 became Members of the Church in Jerusalem or any of the other converts mentioned in the Book of Acts, were the Apostles, Pastors, and Elders being dishonest if they did not list all of their judicial testimony for them at the time they became Members? Dear brother, this is not only a false charge, but one that leads to absurdity.

DOUBTS

You falsely charge the Session with lying by holding a position that one can take an Oath even though he may have certain questions about the Oath. Chris, consider the two aspects of an Oath and whether questions may be had by one who swears an Oath.

First, there is the OBJECTIVE side of the coin in which it is always a sin to refuse to affirm or own what is true and agreeable to God’s Word (even if we have questions, doubts, or disagreements). If because one had questions about the lawfulness of Presbyterian Church Government he/she refused to swear an Oath to embrace it when administered by a lawful Court (whether ecclesiastical or civil), one would be sinning in his/her refusal to take an Oath that was objectively true (no matter how sincere one might be or whether one still had questions or concerns). The same is true for those who would refuse to take an Oath to own the Solemn League and Covenant, for the content of the Covenant is objectively agreeable to the Word of God. One is not absolved of sin before God in refusing to swear that which is objectively true simply because he/she has questions, concerns, doubts, or disagreements with what is true. The truth is not judged to be true on the basis of our understanding or conscience, but upon the basis of the authority of God alone speaking in the Holy Scriptures. The Scripture is clear: “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17); not, “My conscience is truth.” On this point, I cite from the Session’s Public Response (October 29, 2006) wherein various objections concerning the taking of the Oath are listed and answered.

Next, it is stated by the brethren in Prince George that the problem with the Oath is that the Oath imposed by the Session entrapped them because the Session knew they could not swear it.

We testify before God that we did not know with certainty that the brethren in Prince George would refuse the
Oath since they had not communicated their thoughts to us about the Position Paper on Sessional Authority even though they were invited to do so by the Session. We affirm, however, that even if a lawful authority knows that one cannot conscientiously swear an Oath that is lawful, it is still not unlawful to impose such an
Oath when necessary (especially after the very matter objected to has been carefully explained by arguments from Scripture, history, and reason with sincere invitations to ask questions). Consider the Solemn League and
Covenant. Consider especially how this faithful covenant was imposed within the kingdom of Scotland by lawful authority. Did that lawful covenant “entrap” those people who could not conscientiously swear it? Did not the lawful authorities at that time “know” that certain people would not and could not swear the Solemn League and Covenant? Was it then sinful for them to impose that lawful covenant upon the people? Frankly, we are astounded that those who call themselves Covenanters would raise such an objection. Such an objection was precisely that found in the mouths of those of sectarian and independent persuasion. It is not entrapment to enforce that which is biblically sound and morally good. Consider the objections offered by those who believed the Solemn League and Covenant would entrap those who could not conscientiously swear it and the answers to those objections by Mr. Gillespie (“Miscellany Questions—Chapter XVI”).

Objection 1 states that no Covenant (or Oath for that matter) ought to be imposed upon men contrary to their conscience:

“The covenant ought not to be compulsory but free. Good things grow evil when men’s consciences are thereunto forced.”

To which Mr. Gillespie replies:

“1. An ordinance enjoining the taking of it under a certain penalty were no other compulsion than was used by king Josiah [in 2 Chronicles 34:32, 33—Session] and others [king Asa in 2 Chronicles 15:12,13—RPNA
(GM)], yea by this present parliament upon their own members, and upon ministers to be ordained, as is evident by the passages above expressed…. 2. It is no tyranny over men’s consciences to punish a great and scandalous sin (such as the refusing and opposing of the covenant, or a dividing from it), although the offender in his conscience believe it to be no sin [not to take it—Session], yea, peradventure, believe it to be a duty [not to take it—Session, otherwise it had been tyranny over the conscience to punish those who killed the apostles, because they thought they were doing God good service, John xvi.2,3….”

Thus, the imposition of a lawful Oath is not tyrannical even when a severe penalty is threatened and executed against any who refuse to take it.

Objection 4 states that those who are forced to take a Covenant (or Oath) sacrifice their liberty of conscience:

“The army which hath served us so faithfully, and regained our liberties shall by this ordinance [covenant—
Session] lose their own greatest liberty, which is the liberty of their consciences.”

To which Mr. Gillespie responds:

“If an ordinance, imposing the taking of the covenant under a considerable penalty, be to the army scandalum
acceptum [a scandal taken—Session], the not passing of such an ordinance will be scandalum datum [a scandal given—Session] to the city of London, and to many thousands of the godly and well-affected of the kingdom, both ministers and people, who have faithfully adhered to and served the parliament, and will still hazard their lives and fortunes in pursuance of the ends of the covenant; yea, a horrible scandal to the reformed churches abroad, whose hearts were once comforted and raised up to expect better things.”

In other words, it is not only the consciences of those who take offence at the Oath that is imposed upon them that must be considered, but also the consciences of those who impose the Oath as a lawful Court of Christ (who would by consequence deny the Key of government given to them by Christ if they allowed members to refuse an Oath that acknowledges the lawfulness of the Court and reaffirms their membership agreement) as well as the consciences of those members that would be denied a hearing before the Court of Christ against the private sins of brethren that had passed through the stages of Matthew 18 or against the public sins of brethren.
It is not the conscience of man that determines whether an Oath should be taken or signed—it is lawfulness of the Oath on the basis of God’s Word that determines whether an Oath should be taken or signed. In the particular Oath that has been imposed by the Session, the substance of that Oath has been defended positively from Scripture, history and reason. We ask, who is practicing an implicit faith? To date, no positive position from Scripture or no refutation of the Session’s Position Paper has been submitted as warrant for refusing the Oath. Who has offered a positive position from Scripture? We have clearly given our biblical reasoning in our
Position Paper, but sadly, this is not the case for our brothers and sisters who have rejected the lawful oath imposed upon them. Let the reader carefully judge this point when the subject of implicit faith is raised in this present controversy.

It is not the conscience of a person or the understanding of the person that determines the lawfulness of an Oath, but rather the agreeableness of the Oath to the Word of God that determines whether the Oath is lawful or not.
Mr. Rutherford argued against the Arminians and Libertines who made their conscience and their understanding the rule by which to judge what was lawful (and we would add by inference whether an Oath is lawful or not).

“The Arminians tell us, Though the word of God, of itself, and by it self, have power to oblige, yet it actually
obligeth no man, except it be understood, and so is believed to be understood, after we use all possible diligence and prudence, for no man is obliged to follow the true sense of the word against his conscience, although it [his conscience—Session] be erroneous; but we think the word of God is both the farrest and nearest, and the only obliging rule, and that the dytement [inditement—Session] of the conscience doth neither bind potentially nor actually, but is a mere reporter….” (_A Free Disputation Against Pretended Liberty Of Conscience_, pp.
133,134).

The Session fully agrees that matters related to the conscience should not be arbitrarily imposed nor should a lawful Church Court simply demand obedience without Scripture and reason. However, when Scripture, history and reason have been given to support the lawfulness of the authority they have previously exercised and currently exercise, it is not unlawful to impose an Oath affirming the lawfulness of that authority (as confessed in one’s membership agreement) before proceeding to deliver charges in a judicial case.


The objective nature of truth as it relates to an Oath and the moral obligation that is imposed by God (not merely by Elders) upon Members in such circumstances is further corroborated by the Westminster Confession of Faith (Chapter 22:2,3):

“Yet as, in matters of weight and moment, an oath is warranted by the word of God under the New Testament, as well as under the Old; so a lawful oath, being imposed by lawful authority, in such matters, ought to be taken” (emphases added)

“Yet it is a sin to refuse an oath touching any thing that is good and just, being imposed by lawful authority” (emphases added).

Although Oaths were administered in many varied circumstances in Scripture (Exodus 22:7-11; Numbers 5:19-21; 1 Kings 8:31; Ezra 10:5; Nehemiah 5:12; Nehemiah 13:25), nevertheless, it was not the subjective conscience or understanding of a person that made an Oath lawful and therefore an obligation to take, but rather the objective truth and authority of God speaking in His Word. We cannot ignore the fact that just as it is a sin to take an unlawful Oath, it is likewise a sin to refuse to take a lawful Oath. It is always a sin before God to refuse the objective truth of God as found in a lawful Oath (regardless of questions, concerns, doubts, or even disagreements that one may have).

Thus, brother, I submit that objectively it is indeed a sinful offence and great affront to God to refuse to swear a lawful Oath even though there are “outstanding questions”. The crucial question is whether the Oath is objectively true and not whether there were subjective questions. For that which is objectively true cannot be refused in an Oath. The Session taught and instructed (both publicly and privately) and has sought to answer all questions brought to it in an orderly and private manner (in accordance with one’s Membership agreement). The Session firmly believes that the Oath is objectively true and agreeable to the Word of God. The Oath calls Members to affirm what they previously affirmed when they became Members and were examined to come to the Lord’s Supper: (1) Submission to the Elders (collectively) as duly called and lawful; and (2) No known disagreement with the Terms of Communion. That then is the objective side of the coin.

Second, there is the SUBJECTIVE side of the coin in which each person is obligated to exercise his understanding and judgment in determining (for the sake of one’s own conscience) whether an Oath is objectively faithful to the testimony of Scripture. Now simply because it is the obligation of each person to so exercise his/her own judgment does not ensure faithfulness on the part of that person’s conscience. For the conscience is not an infallible guide to truth. The conscience is only as reliable as it is led by God’s Spirit speaking in Scripture (“God alone is lord of the conscience” Westminster Confession of Faith, 20:2 cf. James 4:12). Subjectively, every person must be “fully persuaded” that what he/she is swearing in an Oath is agreeable to the Word of God. If one is not “fully persuaded” that what he/she is swearing in an Oath is agreeable to the Word of God, one cannot take the Oath without sinning against his/her own conscience. To refuse a lawful Oath (due to questions, doubts, or disagreements) is to sin against God (as stated above). However, to take a lawful Oath when one is not “fully persuaded” that it is agreeable to God’s Word is to sin against one’s own conscience (“For whatsoever is not of faith is sin” Romans 14:23). Likewise, the Westminster Confession of Faith (22:3) states:

“Whosoever taketh an oath, ought duly to consider the weightiness of so solemn an act, and therein to avouch nothing but what he is fully persuaded is the truth” (emphases added).
An important question to ask then is what does it mean to be “fully persuaded” that something is true? Does being “fully persuaded” of the truth mean that one understands the truth completely and perfectly in all of its aspects and relationships? Does being “fully persuaded” of the truth mean that one cannot yet entertain questions about that which he/she is “fully persuaded”? Or does being “fully persuaded” mean that all questions (without exception) are answered in one’s mind once and for all? I would submit that since a mere human being does not perfectly and exhaustively understand every aspect of the truth of which he/she is “fully persuaded” that certain questions in one’s mind are not necessarily incompatible with being “fully persuaded.” If one is “fully persuaded” of the divinity of Christ does that mean that he/she may not entertain real questions about the doctrine of Christ’s eternal Sonship, Christ’s incarnation, or Christ’s hypostatic union? Must one who has such questions refuse an Oath that Christ is divine until all his/her questions are answered? If one is “fully persuaded” that he/she is a genuine believer in Christ does that mean that he/she may not entertain real questions at times as to the evidence in one’s life for such a “full persuasion”? I submit that believing something and entertaining questions about that which is believed to be true are not incompatible due to either our lack of knowledge or to our weakness of faith. For faith in the child of God who may be “fully persuaded” of his adoption by God is at times yet the size of a “mustard seed” (Luke 17:6). Chris, consider that Paul says of Abraham in Romans 4:21 that he was “fully persuaded” that God was able to perform what He had promised. And yet we see how Abraham manifested questions in regard to how God would fulfill that promise made to him.

“And Abram said, Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus” (Genesis 15:2)?

“And he said, Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it” (Genesis 15:8)?

“And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai” (Genesis 16:2).

“Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee (Genesis 17:17,18)!

How could Abraham be “fully persuaded” that God would fulfill the promises made to him and yet entertain questions as to how God would fulfill those promises? How could Abraham own this covenant before God with “full persuasion” if he had such questions? The answer is obviously that “full persuasion” and entertaining mere questions are not necessarily incompatible with one another. Certainly, one cannot seriously doubt or disagree with the very truths concerning which he claims to be “fully persuaded”. But one can have questions about various issues related to the very truth concerning which he is “fully persuaded”.

Chris, what I have just said is very important in consideration of the subjective side of the Oath. For one may maintain as his/her default position (until one is convinced otherwise by Scripture) submission to the Elders (collectively) as duly called and lawful (per the Membership Agreement and Communicant Examination) and yet entertain questions about matters related to various aspects of the extraordinary Presbyterian Government of the Elders which one believes are important to be asked and answered. Again the point being made is simply that a “full persuasion” and questions are not necessarily incompatible. Obviously, when one moves from simply having questions to entertaining serious doubts or having certain disagreements with the lawfulness of the Eldership or the Constitution of the RPNA (GM), it is clear that one cannot swear the Oath. A “full persuasion” is not compatible with serious doubts or known disagreements.

When the Oath requires those taking it to do so “without equivocation or mental reservation” this likewise does not mean that one cannot entertain questions about various aspects of our extraordinary Presbyterian Church Government (as long as one can maintain submission to the Eldership per the Membership agreement). “Without equivocation” simply means that one is not taking an Oath attaching different meanings to the same words so as to avoid the plain meaning of the words used in the Oath. For example in the following syllogism the word “light” is used in two different senses in order to draw a false conclusion: “A feather is light. What is light cannot be dark. Therefore, a feather cannot be dark.” This is an equivocation because the word "light" is first used as the opposite of "heavy", but then it is used as a synonym of "bright". “Without equivocation” does not mean that one cannot entertain questions. “Without mental reservation” involves stating a truth outwardly, but then adding to what one confessed outwardly a silent qualification in one’s mind. Thus, if one took an Oath by saying, “I swear that I confess and own all that is herein written”, but in one’s mind he/she qualified that statement by saying, “Except the first and last sentences”, this would be a mental reservation. Both equivocation and mental reservation were used by the Jesuits to achieve their sinister goals by staying in the good graces of Churches and States that they sought to infiltrate. Entertaining and asking sincere and honest questions about different aspects of the extraordinary nature of Presbyterian Church Government is neither equivocation nor mental reservation.

It is true that the Oath does call for a positive affirmation of the lawfulness and submission to the Elders (collectively) as was acknowledged by all Members in their Membership agreement and by all Communicants in their Communion Examination. That is fundamental to Membership in any Church. Deny the Government of the Church and one denies one’s Membership for one does not have the power to make himself/herself a Member any more than one has the power to make himself an Elder. It is on the basis of mutual consent between Members and Elders and of agreement to the same Constitution that Membership is established. When, therefore, Members refuse to take an Oath to acknowledge the Elders (collectively) and the Terms of Communion that they previously owned when they became Members, they have sadly excommunicated themselves from Membership in the Church by their own decision. How can there be Membership within the same Church on the part of those who own and submit to the Government of the Church and to the Constitution of the Church and on the part of those who do not own or submit to the Government of the Church or to the Constitution of the Church? A Church divided against itself cannot stand. In such a case, one group maintains their Membership agreement—the other group refuses their Membership agreement.

Thus, brother, on the subjective side of the coin, you have likewise maintained a false premise that mere “outstanding questions” (in and of themselves) necessarily prevent one from taking the Oath. This is simply not true nor has the Session ever maintained that to be the case. To the contrary, we have always viewed the asking of questions by Members to the Elders to be in consistent conformity with their Membership agreement and with the “recommendation” found in the PPSA. If it is unlawful to impose an Oath that confirms one’s Membership in a Church as long as one has an outstanding question, then upon that basis, a lawful Oath could not be imposed or could be refused forever. Such a position actually represents the position of the Independents and Arminians not that of the Presbyterians. Furthermore, in our case where the Oath is administered to both plaintiff and defendant before hearing the formal charges brought before the Court, it would indefinitely remove discipline from the Church. For one who refuses to take an Oath affirming submission to the Elders (collectively) as duly called and lawful cannot submit to their lawful authority to administer discipline in the Church. The Elders cannot have one group who will submit to the discipline of the Church and one group who refuse to submit to the discipline of the Church. Such a state of affairs would be chaos, partiality, schism, and confusion to the highest degree. If the Elders tolerated this within the Church, we would certainly be guilty of promoting and tolerating (rather than extirpating) schism in violation of our sworn obligation to uphold and maintain the Solemn League and Covenant.

What I said to Dee Dee and to Ed was based upon the distinctions that I made above which I believe is perfectly consistent with Scripture and with our Subordinate Standards. No “accommodation” in taking the Oath was made for anyone. Such an assertion is itself a lie. Having questions in taking an Oath is not an accommodation and is not inconsistent with being fully persuaded of the truth that is affirmed (unless one is ready to claim omniscience about any particular truth).

RECUSAL

You next accuse the Session of sin in not recusing itself from the judicial process because the lawfulness of the Session is what is in question.

Simply because the lawfulness of a Court is called into question is no reason for that Court necessarily to recuse itself. Such a position if it were to be followed in every instance could have (hypothetically) led to the recusal of every faithful Court (both civil and ecclesiastical) that has ever existed. All that any disaffected Member would have to do is to call into question the lawfulness of a faithful Court and that faithful Court must recuse itself from the lowest Court to the highest Court. Ultimately, such a position would lead to complete anarchy and rule by the people contrary to Matthew 16:19 and Matthew 18:18-20 wherein the authority to rule is placed in the hands of Church Officers not in the hands of the Membership. For once a Court recuses itself (when the charge against it is its own unlawfulness), how can that Court ever exercise rule until its lawfulness is determined? If it is the highest Court within the Church that is charged with being unlawful, all judicial process must cease for there is no other Court higher or superior to hear the case.

In the very nature of the case, the highest Court within a faithful Church must be able to defend itself against the charges brought against it for its alleged unlawfulness. Otherwise, that Court (as a moral person) cannot obey the Ninth Commandment in defending its own name. And since there is no higher earthly Court to judge in the case, that Court must render its own decision (in accordance with Matthew 16:19 and Matthew 18:18-20). If Members believe that the Court must recuse itself from the case and cannot abide by the decision rendered by the Court in its own defense, those Members have no other alternative than to remove themselves from Membership in that Church while those Members who submit to the lawful authority of the Court continue their Membership within the Church. The Court (if it is faithful and lawful) has no other alternative than to declare such contempt for Christ’s Ordinance of Church Government and such division within the Body of Christ to be sinful and to administer the censure of excommunication to those who refuse to repent of this gross disorder and division. The Session of the RPNA (GM) is presently (in God’s good providence) in that very position of being the highest Court of this faithful Church and so because there is no faithful earthly Court to which it can turn to judgment, it must defend itself (according to Exodus 20:16) and also judge its own case as having authority from Christ (according to Matthew 16:19 and Matthew 18:18-20). When there is a faithful superior Court to that of the Session of the RPNA (GM) in the future (by God’s good providence), all such matters may be appealed to it for adjudication. Ultimately, we must all rest our case before the supreme Judge who will try the hearts and actions of us all on that final day.

EXCOMMUNICATION RESTORATIVE, NOT RETRIBUTIVE: ONLY FOR OBSTINACY
Chris, to insinuate that the Session is administering excommunication as retribution rather than as a means of grace which intends to lead to restoration is sinfully judging our motives (unless of course you have heard us state this to be the case or observed this to be the case in what we have written). You are acting as if you were God which is a very serious sin indeed. Brother, we have declared the very opposite to be the case in our Letters of Excommunication: “We take not this step because we hate __________, but because we love
Him/her and earnestly desire his/her repentance and reconciliation.” The many attempts at reconciliation with disaffected Members and the many hours spent on the phone and in writing are tangible proofs of our earnest desire to pursue reconciliation (God is my witness).

In the sermon series that I preached on the subject of Excommunication I made the following statements in specifically addressing the corrective nature of Excommunication (“Some Questions Answered About Excommunication (#1)”, 1 Corinthians 5:1-5, July 2, 2006).


Excommunication is an ordinance of the Lord intended to reclaim brethren who obstinately continue in sin and error or are guilty of some notorious public scandal. That is simply to say that excommunication is corrective rather than vindictive. It is discipline not retribution. It is not administered because such brethren are hated, but because such brethren are loved. If God Himself chastens and scourges those whom He loves (Hebrews 12:6), so likewise does the Lord do the same through the censure of excommunication. It is not administered having despaired of repentance, but rather it is administered having hope in Christ that He is able to use excommunication to bring about repentance.

Excommunication is corrective to erring sons and daughters. Excommunication is strong medicine given to sick sons and daughters to help cure them of the infection that has overtaken them and that will spread to others if that spiritual infection is not dealt with using the strong measures Christ Himself has prescribed (in Matthew 18:17-20). Perhaps some further corroboration would be helpful at this point. Again, I share with you the instruction that comes from the pen of that faithful and learned Minister of the Church of Scotland and Scottish Commissioner to the Westminster Assembly, Rev. Samuel Rutherford:

“And therefore though he were twice excommunicated, he is to be dealt with as a Brother. And an idolatrous brother is no worse than a Samaritan neighbor or friend…. If excommunication be a medicine of the Church toward a sick son, the end whereof is salvation, that the spirit may be saved in the Lord’s Day (1 Corinthians 5:5), that he may learn not to blaspheme (1 Timothy 1:12), that he may be gained (Matthew 18:15), Ergo, he is not altogether cut off from the Church, for delivering to Satan is medicinal, not vindictive…. Be seeing the excommunicated person is not excluded from hearing the word, and the Pastor hath a Pastoral care of his soul, and is to intend that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord (1 Corinthians 5:5), he cannot be utterly cut off from all Church fellowship…. Now if an excommunicated brother remain one, whom we are to gain, and whose salvation we are to intend, if he be an ordinary co-worshipper in hearing [the Word preached--GLP], the object of Pastoral and brotherly teaching and admonishing, he cannot be wholly excluded from all Church fellowship. And this also proveth that these be members of the Visible Church in some degree of Church worship, who yet are debarred from the seals of the Covenant [in the sacraments--GLP]” (_The Due Right of Presbyteries_, pp.273,274).

Permit me one more helpful piece of instruction from Rev. Rutherford who no doubt speaks not only for himself, but also speaks as a faithful Minister for the Church of Scotland (yea for the whole Visible Church) on this point:

“But for such as are excommunicated, because of some particular scandal, as incest, or a particular heresy, and yet profess the truth, as to all other points, they are members cut off, and yet not cut off, in so far as they retain a profession, yea and to the knowledge of the Church, are visible converts, though in one particular scandal, they lie without and give, not such evidences of repentance, as the Church can pardon them, as may be proven from the [Scripture in--GLP] 2 Corinthians 2:6-9 they are ordinary hearers of the word, as such as must be reclaimed by the preached word, as sick children, under the medicinal cure of excommunication and the preached word that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord (1 Corinthians 5)…. One excommunicated for a particular scandal, as the incestuous Corinthian was, retaining some profession, retaineth some membership [in the Visible Church--GLP], and is only deprived of Church honor, and of some Ordinances” (_A Survey Of The Survey Of That Sum of Church Discipline_, pp. 20,143).


My brother, you state that the Session has excommunicated those who were not obstinate. I’m sorry, but I must disagree for a number of reasons. I would submit that you have overlooked a few considerations within the greater context that cannot be overlooked in the matter of judging obstinacy.

The first consideration is that the time allotted by the Session to sign the Oath must be placed against the backdrop of one’s Membership Agreement. For the Oath is essentially affirming one’s Membership agreement in owning submission to the Elders (collectively) as duly called and lawful and in owning no known disagreements with the Terms of Communion. If one refuses to own either of these which constituted his/her Membership, one declares oneself no longer to be a Member (as was addressed earlier in my letter).

Thus, the Oath cannot be viewed in a vacuum as if it was imposing upon a Member new duties that he/she had not already voluntarily and freely taken upon himself/herself in the Membership agreement. From that perspective, time has nothing to do with refusing the Oath. One has already bound oneself to submit to the Elders (collectively), to acknowledge no known disagreement with the Terms of Communion, and to bring matters of a doubtful or serious concern to the Elders (collectively) in an orderly manner in order to promote the peace, purity, and unity of Christ’s Church. Thus, to refuse the Oath was to take an obstinate position contrary to one’s Membership agreement.

The second consideration is that in the Communion examination there are likewise the following questions asked under the Third Term of Communion:

“Do you agree that the Elders of this church are duly called and qualified as the officers of Christ?”

“Do you agree to obey and abide by the lawful decisions and commands of the Elders of this church insofar as their decisions and commands agree with the scriptures?”

Again, these questions assume an affirmative response on the part of those being examined to come to the Lord’s Supper as it relates to Elders being lawful and faithful Officers of Christ (individually and collectively) and submission to their lawful decisions and commands (which would include our judicial testimony and position papers). There are no new duties asserted in these questions that were not either explicit or implicit in the Membership agreement. These positive and voluntary affirmations on the part of Communicants are not time sensitive as it relates to the Oath. For the Oath simply affirms the same truths and duties previously affirmed in the Communion examination. Thus, to refuse the Oath was to take an obstinate position contrary to one’s Communion examination.

The third consideration is that in the PPSA (June 4, 2006) the Elders were not submitting to the Church a new form of Church Government, but were rather biblically and historically defending in writing the extraordinary form of Presbyterian Church Government that had been practiced within the PRCE, within the RPNA, and presently within the RPNA (GM). No one has become a Member of this Church since the Six Terms of Communion were adopted (in 1996) that did not submit to or acknowledge as lawful an extraordinary form of Presbyterian Church Government (to varying degrees). Thus, the PPSA was essentially stating in writing what had been the practice of this Church for over ten years. The Oath in citing the PPSA, therefore, was not stating anything that was not previously owned and practiced by the Membership for many years. Thus, to refuse the Oath was to take an obstinate position contrary to the owned and accepted practice of this Church for over ten years.

The fourth consideration is that since in the Membership agreement and in the PPSA (June 4, 2006), all Members are called to bring their questions or doubtful concerns to the Elders in an orderly manner, it is simply not true that the Elders have only given Members 1-2 weeks to consider the content of the Oath and to ask questions in regard to the Oath before either taking or refusing the Oath. It is further to discount that there was sufficient time for Members to form a secret society in which questions were asked and discussed about the PPSA, but during that time not brought by individual Members to the Elders. For any to argue that they did not have enough time to formulate their individual questions or did not have sufficient time to consider what was stated in the PPSA is patently false in light of the recent public distribution of email correspondence among those who were part of “The Effort.” Those involved in “The Effort” had sufficient time to meet together by conference calls, sufficient time to write and discuss their position paper filled with rhetorical questions, but they did not have sufficient time to do what they agreed to do in their membership interview or to do what was recommended by the Session in the PPSA in bringing their questions to us privately? We would have sought to answer the questions presented to us in the manner we stated. I judge there to be obstinacy because we have instructed the sheep and that instruction has been disregarded. As to our instruction of the sheep, we did instruct in our PPSA and in the Letter accompanying the Oath. We did instruct in our lengthy Public Responses (October 29, 2007 and November 4, 2007). We did instruct any who approached us orderly and privately. Furthermore, it is to ignore the fact that not only after the Oath was first issued (October 4, 2006) was there a period of four months since the PPSA was presented (June 4, 2006), but that when the Oath was issued a second time (December 11, 2006) and a third time (December 25, 2006) there had then been a period of over six months since the PPSA had been publicly presented by the Session. We are still issuing the Oath in this new year (2007), and people are still refusing to take it even though 8-10 months has passed since the PPSA was written. I simply cannot see how one can argue that the excommunications are unlawful (even at this point apparently) due to too little time allotted to consider the content of the Oath or too little time to ask questions. In my judgment, to refuse the Oath after months of time are allotted to ask questions of the Elders and to consider the content of the Oath as found in the PPSA (June 4, 2006) is to take an obstinate position contrary to the position of this Church that has been established by years of practice and in writing (the PPSA).

The fifth consideration is that refusing to take the Oath is in essence a self-excommunication in refusing to own submission to the Elders (collectively) and in refusing to own no known disagreements with the Terms of Communion (which includes the judicial testimony of the RPNA—GM).. Since Membership in this Church was established by means of consent on the part of candidates to be governed by the Elders (collectively) of this Church and by means of agreement to the Terms of Communion of this Church of this Church, to refuse to own submission to the Elders and to the Terms of Communion is to remove oneself from Membership. When one writes to remove himself/herself from Membership, it is considered an obstinate act of self-excommunication. Likewise, when one steadfastly refuses to own what originally constituted one as a Member, it is likewise considered an obstinate act of self-excommunication which the Eldership formalizes as an obstinate act of schism and division within the Body of Christ. Note what the Session wrote in answer to the following question in its Public Response (November 4, 2006).

Note what was taught last year (July 9, 2006) concerning the obstinacy of self-excommunication in a sermon entitled, “Some Questions Answered About Excommunication #2” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13).


D. A more specific question that might arise as we consider the sins for which one may be excommunicated is this one: Why are those Members who remove their membership from our Church excommunicated? What sin have they committed that warrants Excommunication?

1. The sin committed is the sin of schism in dividing the Church of Jesus Christ which is contrary to the explicit teaching and commandments of the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:10; 1 Corinthians 12:25). Dear ones, there ought not to be different denominations within a nation divided one from another, teaching different doctrines, practicing different forms of worship, having separate and distinct Church courts. The unity of Christ’s Church is foundational to its very nature. Is it possible to divide Christ? Of course it is not possible in the very nature of the case as Paul assumes in 1 Corinthians 1:13. So likewise the body of Christ is not to be divided, for such a division implies that Christ Himself is divided (1 Corinthians 10:17). Now if the apostle Paul considered such divisions within the Church of Corinth to strike at the very nature of the Church when they all remained within the same Church of Corinth, how much more should the divisions that exist within the Visible Church in the form of hundreds of denominations be condemned as dividing Christ and striking at the very nature of the Church?

2. What is particularly grievous and heinous about this sin is that Christian Churches (even Reformed and Presbyterian Churches) consider these divisions to be of no great importance, for they can transfer membership to a different Church from their own, invite members from these different Churches to come to the Lord’s Supper with them, send their Ministers to preach in these different Churches, and encourage their Members to occasionally attend these different Churches when they are out of town. Dear ones, how can we embrace the truth that the Church of Jesus Christ is one in faith and at the same time embrace as acceptable the many divisions that exist within that one Visible Church? Dear ones, Christ did not send His apostles out to establish Churches that were divided and separated from one another. That was not His revealed will (according to Matthew 28:18-20).

3. Those of you who are Members of the RPNA (General Meeting) have consented (whether explicitly or implicitly) to the Terms of Communion of this Church as being agreeable to the Word of God and in so doing have professed this Church to be a faithful Church of Christ. When, therefore, a Member leaves this Church, he/she must either believe our Terms of Communion to be sinful at some point and accordingly this Church to be unfaithful, or he/she must believe that it is no big deal to leave a faithful Church so as to unite with a different Church (thus denying the true unity of Christ’s Church). In either case, these sins being obstinately held warrant Excommunication, for such schism is destructive to the peace, purity, and unity of Christ’s Church.

4. Note that the sins of schism and promoting doctrines contrary to the Word of the Apostles were likewise viewed as warranting Excommunication in the Scripture (Romans 16:17). Certainly, anyone who is struggling with a doctrine or practice of this Church is encouraged to discuss these matters privately with the Elders seeking to resolve all concerns in a way that does not promote anarchy or independency, but rather promotes the peace, purity, and unity of Christ’s Church. This, in fact, is the very process all members have agreed to follow at their membership interview. Only after this private approach is fully exhausted should the matter become public. Thus, dear ones, to remove one’s membership from a faithful Church that has Terms of Communion that are agreeable to the Word of God is to sinfully and obstinately divide the body of Christ. This is no small matter. It is a direct attack against the will of Christ that His Church be one. Such members have actually taken the practical step of excommunicating themselves from a faithful Church. As a Church Court we judicially ratify what they themselves have already done in practice.

5. Now we know that those who remove their membership from us will not believe our Terms of Communion are faithful or will not believe our Church Court is faithful. However, as a Church Court, we cannot rule or make decisions based upon what others believe or think no matter how well intentioned or sincere they may be. As long as matters remain private we will discuss them privately, but when matters become public, we must rule for the benefit and well-being of Christ’s Church according to the infallible standard of God’s holy Word which we believe to be summarized in our Terms of Communion.


Chris, in all sincerity of conscience before our great and sovereign God, I can see no merit in your argument that the excommunications were unlawful because there was not obstinacy those who were excommunicated. A willingness to continue to talk or to ask questions does not mean there is no obstinacy. A Member could express his continued willingness to talk with the Session about his refusal to embrace the Fourth Term of Communion (in owning the descending obligation of the Solemn League and Covenant to the United States) and continue to ask questions endlessly, but yet be obstinate in refusing to affirm in an Oath the truth of Jesus Christ. It is not a mere willingness to talk or a mere desire to ask questions that determines whether one is obstinate or not, but rather an unwillingness to embrace the truth that has been faithfully presented to him/her. What is at issue is whether there has been sufficient instruction by the Eldership to demonstrate the truth or the sin that is in question. Excommunication cannot be exercised where there has been insufficient instruction in regard to the nature and/or obstinacy of the sin committed. However, the Session has written and spoken sufficiently by way of instruction in the PPSA (June 4, 2006), in the Letter that accompanies the Oath (April 12, 2007), in the Session’s Public Responses (October 29, 2006 and November 4, 2006), in the six phone conversations we had with you, and now in this extended personal letter.

In regard to the sin of refusing a lawful Oath and the consequential sin (in this case) of self-excommunication, both of these sins are serious and aggravated sins against the Order of the Church which promote disorder and schism within the Church to the highest degree. In such cases, the ordinary steps required in Matthew 18:15-17 may be dropped so as to move more quickly in order to avoid the leavening effect of such serious and obstinate sins (as we see in 1 Corinthians 5). Note what the Session wrote in this regard in its Public Response (November 4, 2006).


2. Why is the Session not following the specific order laid out in _The First Book of Discipline_ (The Seventh Head, "Of Ecclesiastical Discipline")?

The specific order laid out in the _First Book of Discipline_ is agreeable to the Word of God, and while its specific practices may be altered, and can and should be altered to suit different times and circumstances, the scriptural principles upon which these specific practices are built, remain unalterable.

David Calderwood, a notable Minister of the Church of Scotland, in his Preface to the 1621 Edition of the First and Second Books of Discipline states (emphases added):

"Item, that under the name of discipline is to be understood not only the particulars expressed in these two books, but also the acts, constitutions, and practices agreed upon and recorded in the registers of the general and provincial assemblies, presbyteries, and kirk sessions.

Thirdly, to consider the different conditions of the kirk in her infancy, in her growing, and in her ripe age, and accordingly to accommodate the discipline to practice, as the condition of the time permitted or required, and wisely to distinguish betwixt the kirk's purpose and intention in every particular, and their possibility to perform and practice, as circumstances concurred, or were contrary. As, for example, they intended resident ministers, one or more, as kirks were of largeness, with elders and deacons.

Item, doctors of divinity for schools, assemblies general, provincial, weekly meetings for the interpretation of the scripture, which afterward at Edinburgh the 7th day of July 1579 were judged to be a presbytery; and they abhorred anarchy, oligarchy, and hierarchy; but with great pains and frequent meetings were abuses condemned and order established; so that for lack of ordinary ministers planted, and in that respect lack of lawful assemblies, they were forced occasionally to use superintendents, and visitors of countries: who afterward in the general assembly held at Edinburgh the 4th of August 1590, when presbyteries were well and orderly constituted, were declared neither to be necessary, nor expedient."

We would encourage those under our inspection to read these Books of Discipline, and also to consider carefully whether we ought to read these documents in such a narrow way as to require absolute compliance in all specific details.

What shall we do when we read in the Church of Scotland’s, _The Order of Excommunication_ which states, in the case of a man who is publicly repenting for the crime of murder that:

"the murderer man stand three several Sundays in a public place before the church door, bare-footed, and bare-headed, clad in a base and abject apparel, having the same weapon which he used in the murder, or the like, bloody in his hand…." ("The Order To Receive The Excommunicate Again To Repentance And Society Of the Faithful", _The Order Of Excommunication_, p. 452, David Laing, The Works of John Knox. Spelling changes have been made where deemed helpful).

Now, while we agree that the principle of public repentance is taught in Scripture, is it necessary for us in 2006, to follow every one of these specific directions to the letter? We trust the reader will recognize that our "principles" must agree with our Books of Discipline whereas many judgment calls must be made in regard to the application of specifics to our particular situation, time and circumstances.

Next, we would note that the _First Book of Discipline_ itself, in its section on excommunication, qualifies itself to be alterable in specifics where it states:

"As the order of excommunication and proceeding to the same ought to be grave and slow, so, being once pronounced against any person, of what estate and condition that ever they be, it must be kept with all severity. For laws made and not kept engenders contempt of virtue and brings in confusion and liberty to sin. And therefore this order we think expedient to be observed before and after excommunication."

Note the word "expedient"—which means, doing that which is proper and appropriate under the circumstances. The writers of this section did not say that their specific directions for Church discipline were unalterable in every age, case, and circumstance, but rather that the whole section on excommunication which follows is a combination of scriptural principle mixed with elements of "expediency". To some degree, at least, judgments would have to be made according to particular circumstances.

We urge you to be very wary of those who read, and understand this section otherwise, and turn the alterable expediencies of one age into an unalterable rule for all ages and circumstances. For example—does the Word of God mandate for all ages and times that every excommunication "must" be publicly announced on three consecutive Sundays? If so, where is that found in Scripture? We are not saying that this "expedient" is not "one" expedient way to proceed when processing an excommunication, however, to make it an unalterable rule, irregardless of the state of the Church, time, or circumstance, without specific direction to do so from the Word of God, is to elevate mere changeable expediencies into unalterable laws. This we believe is not right or wise, nor is it the way we believe the framers of these documents intended that their directions were to be read, understood or followed.

Westminster Confession of Faith 1:6 states:

"The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word: and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed" (emphasis added).

Clearly true Presbyterian government is based upon a mixture of scripture principles and application of principles to various circumstances. Both are important, and we must not interpret those Subordinate documents that include details of circumstance in such a way as to make every circumstance as binding as the Word of God itself lest we fall into legalism (and bind the conscience by the mere word of man).

In addition to realizing that matters of circumstance (even in Subordinate documents from faithful Churches of the past) are not unalterable, but were stated to be expedient at that time and in those circumstances, _it is important to note some specifics about _The Order of Excommunication. The First Book of Discipline_ was written in 1560 whereas _The Order of Excommunication_ was written in 1569. The fact that _The Order of Excommunication_ was written after _The First Book of Discipline_ ought to alert us to the possibility of some procedural changes (rather than simply being a duplication of everything that is found in _The First Book of Discipline_). If all procedures in excommunication were unalterably presented in _The First Book of Discipline_, there would have been no need for _The Form of Excommunication_. One of those procedural changes that we submit is found in _The Form of Excommunication_ is the procedure used against those who commit public and notorious sins that are slanderous and offensive to the Church.

We have cited below the entire section found in the _The Order of Excommunication__ (1569) entitled, "Offences That Deserve Public Repentance, And Order To Proceed Thereintil." The older spelling of words has been revised to comport with modern rules of spelling for easier reading. Paragraphs have also been numbered for convenience sake.

"[1] Such offences as fall not under the Civil sword, and yet are slanderous and offensive in the Church deserve public Repentance: and of these some are more heinous than others—fornication, drunkenness used, swearing, cursed speaking, chiding, fighting, brawling, and common contempt of the order of the Church, breaking of the Sabbath, and such like, ought to be in no person suffered: But the slander being known, the offender should be called before the Ministry, his crime proven, accused, rebuked, and he commanded publicly to satisfy the Church; which if the offender refuse, they may proceed to Excommunication, as after shall be declared. If the offender compeir [appear—Session] not, summons ought to pass to the third time; and then in case he compeir not, the Church may discern the sentence to be pronounced."

In paragraph 1, the treatment of public scandalous sins by the Court is noted. The order to follow involves citing the offender to appear before the Court to be proved to be in sin, accused, and called to repentance. If there is no repentance, the Court "may proceed to Excommunication, as after shall be declared." There are no steps stated in this paragraph (dealing with public scandalous sins) in which any mention is made of admonitions on three consecutive Lord’s Days.

"[2] Others be less heinous, and yet deserve admonition, as wanton and vain words, uncomely gestures, negligence in hearing the preachings or abstaining from the Lord’s Table where it is publicly ministrated, suspicion of avarice or of pride, superfluity or riotousness of hair or raiment: these, we say, and such others, that of the world are not regarded, deserve admonitions amongst the members of Christ’s body: Firstly, secretly, by one of two of those that first espy the offence, which if the person suspected hear, and give declaration of amendment, then there needs no father process."

"[3] But if he contemn and despise admonitions, then should the former admonisaries [those bringing the admonition—Session] take to themselves two or three faithful and honest witnesses, in whose presence the suspected offender should be admonished, and the causes of their suspicion declared; to whom if then he give signification of repentance, and promise of amendment, they may cut off all farther accusation: But and if he obstinately contemn both the said admonitions, then ought the first and second brethren to signify the matter to the Ministers and Elders in their Session, who ought to call the offender, and, before the complainers, accuse him as well of the crime, as of the contempt of the admonition. If then he acknowledge his offence, and be willing to satisfy the brethren before offended, and the Session then present, there needs no farther publication of the offence."

In paragraphs 2-3, there is noted the Matthew 18 process to follow for less heinous sins that are committed privately. If a lack of repentance continues on the part of the offender, accusations are finally brought before the Church Court.

"[4] But if he declare himself inobedient [disobedient—Session] to the Session, then without delay the next Sunday ought the crime, and the order of admonitions passed before, be publicly declared to the Church, and the person (without specification of his name) be admonished to satisfy in public that which he refused to do in secret: And that for the first. If he offers himself to the Church before the next Sunday, the discretion of the Ministry may take order, as may satisfy as well the private persons that first were offended, as the Church, declaring the repentance and submission of that brother, that before appeared stubborn and incorrigible."

Paragraph 4 continues to describe the process to be followed with those offenders who have been brought before the Church Court by way of the Matthew 18 process. This is especially clear from the fact that the offender’s sin which has been tried before the Court in private has not yet been made public to the whole Church because in the first public admonition on the next Sunday the offender’s name is not to be specified. These appear then to be the steps to follow for offenders who have been brought through the Matthew 18 process, but not those who have committed public scandalous sins concerning which everyone would already be familiar and already know the name of the offender.

"[5] But and if he abide the second public admonition, when that his name shall be expressed, and his offences and stubbornness declared, then can no satisfaction be received but in public; yea, it may not be received before that he have humbly required the same of the Ministry and Session of the Church in their appointed Assembly."

Paragraph 5 notes that once the offender’s name is made public in the second public admonition that his repentance must also be public.

"[6] If he continue stubborn, then the third Sunday ought he to be charged publicly to satisfy the Church for his offence and contempt, under the pain of Excommunication; the Order whereof shall after be declared. And thus a small offence or slander may justly deserve Excommunication, by reason of the contempt and disobedience of the offender. If the offender show himself penitent between the first admonition and the second, and satisfy the Ministry of the Church, and the brethren that were before offended in their Assembly, then it may suffice that the Minister, at commandment of the Session, declare the next Sunday (without compeiring or expressing of the person) his repentance and submission in these or other words:

[7] It was signified unto you before, dearly beloved, that one certain brother (or brethren) was noted by one or two, appeared lightly to regard the same; and therefore was he and his offence notified unto the Ministry in their Assembly, who, according to their duty and charge, accused him of the same; and not finding in him such obedience as the profession of one Christian requires, fearing that such offences and stubbornness should engender contempt, and infect others, they were compelled to notify unto you the crime and the proceedings of the Session, minding to have sought the uttermost remedy in case the offender had continued obstinate. But seeing that it has pleased God to mollify [soften—Session] the heart of our brother, whose name we need not to express, so that he hath not only acknowledged his offence, but also has fully satisfied the brethren that first were offended, and us the Ministry, and has promised to abstain from all appearance of such evil, as whereof he was suspected and admonished, we have no just cause to proceed to any farther extremity, but rather to glorify God for the submission of our brother, and unfeignedly pray unto him, that in the like case we and every one of us give the like obedience."

In paragraph 6, it is stated that if the offender does not repent after the admonition on the third Lord’s Day he is to be charged publicly to repent under the pain of excommunication. Is it not clear that the procedure to follow under paragraph 1 (in regard to public scandalous sins that are a stumbling block to many) is that the offender is immediately cited to appear before the Session to hear accusations brought against him by the Session for his public sins, and if there is no repentance in that meeting that excommunication may directly be pursued by the Court? Are not the steps to follow under paragraphs 2-7 (in regard to private sins that are less heinous and that follow the Matthew 18 process) several in number? Paragraphs 6-7 demonstrate that these several steps on three consecutive Lord’s Days do not refer to public scandalous sins (that are mentioned under paragraph 1), but rather refer to private sins that are less heinous and that follow the process found in Matthew 18. For we read in paragraph 6, "And thus a SMALL OFFENCE OR SLANDER may justly deserve Excommunication, by reason of the contempt and disobedience of the offender." This could hardly be said of a public scandalous sin. Furthermore, we note in paragraph 6, "If the offender show himself penitent between the first admonition and the second, and satisfy the Ministry of the Church, AND THE BRETHREN THAT WERE BEFORE OFFENDED in their Assembly…." Here again the first and second admonitions are used only in the context of private sins that involved brethren who brought those matters by way of Matthew 18 before the Court. Moreover, it is stated in paragraph 7, "It was signified unto you before, dearly beloved, that ONE BROTHER (OR BRETHREN) WAS NOTED BY ONE OR TWO, appeared lightly to regard the same…." The case in view here is not one of a public scandalous nature as explained in paragraph 1 above, but one of a private less heinous nature in which the steps of Matthew 18 are followed (where one or two bring accusation against a brother or brethren). Finally, in paragraph 7, let it be observed what is stated, "But seeing that it has pleased God to mollify [soften—Session] the heart of our brother, WHOSE NAME WE NEED NOT TO EXPRESS…." Here once again, it is made evident that the admonitions on consecutive Lord’s Days are specifically tied to those whose offence is private and less heinous rather than to those whose offence is public and scandalous in nature. For the name of this brother who would previously not repent of his sin is still not publicly known after the first public admonition which would not have been the case if he had committed public and slanderous sin that scandalized many.

Therefore, when we come to "The Form Of Excommunication" later on in _The Order Of Excommunication_, we must recognize that there were two different ways cited to proceed with the excommunications of offenders: one for offenders in public scandalous sins and one for offenders in private less heinous sins. By way of introduction to "The Form Of Excommunication" which was used by the Church of Scotland at the formal excommunication of offenders, it is stated:

"After that all admonitions, both private and public, be past, as before is said, then must the Church proceed to Excommunication, if the offender be obstinate. The Sunday, therefore, after the third public admonition, the Minister being before charged by the Session or Elders, shall thus signify unto the Church after the sermon:"

It would appear from the previous distinctions found in paragraphs 1-7 under the heading, "Offences That Deserve Public Repentance, And Order To Proceed Thereintil", that after those admonitions (whether private or public ) as are appropriate to the sins committed (whether public and scandalous sins or private and less heinous sins) have been administered (whether in one step before the Session due to the public and scandalous nature of the sin or whether in a number of steps including three public admonitions due to the private and less heinous nature of the sin), if the offender refuses to repent, then the excommunication is to be formally declared to the whole Church. In the very section that presented the procedure to use in addressing public scandalous sins and private less heinous sins, admonishment on three consecutive Lord’s Days is only mentioned in association with private less heinous sins that follow Matthew 18 and that eventually lead to excommunication due to impenitence. We believe this is a fair and honest reading of this document. We do not believe that even the Scripture warrants treating all unrepentant offenders in exactly the same way by way of procedure. This is the very difference that Scripture itself makes between the procedures involved in excommunication given by the Lord in Matthew 18 (for private and less heinous offences) and the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 5 (for public and scandalous offences). This is the reason why the apostle Paul states that the public scandal that was found in the Church of Corinth (1 Corinthians 5) needed to be proceeded against without any unnecessary delay. Certainly, contempt for the public Order of the Church or for the Ordinance of Christ within a lawful Church Court is not the same sin as incest, and yet to show contempt for lawful authority in the Church is equally obnoxious to God (see Numbers 16:1ff) and equally leavening in its effect throughout the Church.



EXCOMMUNICATIONS ARE SERIOUS

Chris, there is no disagreement on the serious nature of an Excommunication. As serious as Excommunication is, it is not a sentencing one to hell or putting someone at the doorstep of hell. Any unrepentant sin in our lives (even those sins for which there has been no Excommunication) should cause us to be sober-minded and to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). In the last sermon I preached on Excommunication (“Some Questions Answered About Excommunication #3”, 1 Corinthians 5:1-7
July 23, 2006), an explanation of the seriousness of Excommunication was given in answering the question: What Does It Mean To Deliver One Unto Satan?


A. The apostle Paul uses a phrase with regard to Excommunication that might cause various questions to arise in one’s mind. This phrase is found in 1 Corinthians 5:5: “To deliver such an one unto Satan.” What is meant by this phrase?
1. Clearly, to be delivered to Satan does not mean that one is sentenced and condemned to Hell, for the very next phrase in 1 Corinthians 5:5 gives us this hope: “that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” Thus, to be delivered to Satan does not assume that the one so delivered is a reprobate sinner awaiting the flames of Hell. To the contrary, the exercise of Excommunication is administered by lawful Church Officers like the discipline of a loving parent toward a beloved child hoping and praying that the child will repent of his rebellion. Addressing this very phrase in 1 Corinthians 5:5, Samuel Rutherford expounds:

“For delivering to Satan is medicinal, not vindictive” (_The Due Right Of Presbyteries_, p. 273).

“All our Divines standing for the certainty of the perseverance of the regenerated, answer Papists and Arminians alleging for the apostasy of the saints, the example of the regenerated who may be excommunicated, that excommunication doth never evince [prove—GLP] that the person excommunicated is out of the state of grace, but only that he hath fallen into a scandalous external fact, which deserveth that he should be DELIVERED TO SATAN, and that one may be a member of the visible Church and converted to God, who is excommunicated” (_The Due Right Of Presbyteries_, p. 278. Caps added for emphases).

2. Furthermore, to be delivered to Satan does not mean that one becomes possessed of Satan or that one is absolutely in Satan’s power or under his control. Since one who is excommunicated may be a child of God under discipline (as it appears was the case with this incestuous man who subsequently repented of his sin as noted in 2 Corinthians 2:6-8) and since we are not to withhold the title of “brother” or “sister” from those who are excommunicated due to their profession of faith in Christ (as observed in 1 Corinthians 5:11 and 2 Thessalonians 3:15), we cannot conclude that when Paul says that the incestuous man (in 1 Corinthians 5:5) is to be delivered to Satan that he is to become possessed of Satan and under the power of Satan in an absolute sense. For the child of God has been set free from “the power to Satan” (according to the words of Christ as found in Acts 26:18), and is no longer under the dominion to sin (according to Romans 6:14). If he is no longer under the dominion to sin, then he is no longer under the dominion to Satan.
3. It is, however, reported several times in the pages of Scripture how Satan was permitted by God to lead God’s people into sin or to afflict God’s people with trials and tribulations but ultimately for the good of God’s people. Satan provoked David to number Israel (1 Chronicles 21:1). Satan was permitted by God to afflict Job within certain boundaries (Job 1:12; 2:6). Satan was permitted by God to sift Peter like wheat when Peter denied even knowing the Lord Jesus (Luke 22:31). Finally, we see that a messenger of Satan was permitted by God to buffet Paul by means of what is figuratively called “a thorn in the flesh” in order that Paul might not be exalted in pride over the revelations of heaven he had received (2 Corinthians 12:7). Thus, even in the lives of God’s people who were not under the Discipline of the Church, the Lord permitted Satan to tempt and to afflict them in order to teach, correct, train, and even discipline His children. God’s people Israel were many times disciplined by God in turning them over to their enemies (as we see in Isaiah 10:5). Thus, it is perfectly consistent with God’s Word for God to use Satan to teach and to discipline His beloved children (even very severely at times).

4. To deliver one to Satan as we find it here in 1 Corinthians 5:5 is likewise to teach, to train, and to discipline (as we see in 1 Timothy 1:20). However, to deliver one to Satan in the sense used here in 1 Corinthians 5:5 and 1 Timothy 1:20 is an explicit judicial act of the Church whereas the previous instances mentioned were not so. Although God may use Satan to tempt and to try us at any time, the language we find in 1 Corinthians 5:5 and 1 Timothy 1:20 (to deliver one to Satan) is specifically used in the context of formal Church Discipline and refers specifically to Excommunication—that is, when a particular sin or error is obstinately embraced without repentance by anyone within Christ’s Church, that one ought to be delivered to Satan out of love for that brother/sister by the Elders of the Church that he/she might be taught not to continue any longer in that sin or error.

5. Some have erroneously argued that to deliver one to Satan and to excommunicate one refer to two different disciplinary actions. Some have believed that delivering one to Satan is a miraculous act that can only be performed by an apostle (who had miraculous power from Christ to exercise such an act extraordinarily) whereas to excommunicate and to put one out of the fellowship and communion of the Church is an ordinary act performed by Ministers. Obviously, if delivering one to Satan were a miraculous act, it would mean that our continued use of such words in the exercise of Excommunication would be entirely wrong at the present time, for we do have the apostles any longer walking on the earth. However, I would submit that to deliver one to Satan and to excommunicate one refer to the same ordinary act of Church Discipline. For consider why it would be that the apostle Paul would from a distance call the Church in Corinth to assemble as a Court to discipline and as a Congregation to consent to performing that which was miraculous. Did a miracle ever require the Church Court or the Congregation to meet before a miracle could occur? That is obviously not the case. Thus, to deliver one to Satan is not miraculous and extraordinary nor performed only by an apostle, but is rather ministerial and ordinary and performed by lawful Ministers and Elders of the Church.

B. There is a second phrase that follows the one we have just considered in 1 Corinthians 5:5: “To deliver such an one unto Satan FOR THE DESTRUCTION OF THE FLESH.” To what does the “destruction of the flesh” refer?

1. Some reformed teachers have maintained that “the flesh” refers to the body so that Satan brings bodily affliction to one excommunicated as an act of discipline in order that the spirit may be saved in the day of Christ Jesus.

2. Others have understood “the flesh” to refer to the corruption that yet remains even in the Christian so that Satan so afflicts the conscience that sincere conviction of sin and repentance for sin wells up by the Holy Spirit within those who are excommunicated so that the sinful corruption within the child of God is dealt a destructive blow that the new man of the spirit might be saved.

3. Finally others do not so much emphasize whether the destruction of the flesh is external or internal, but that it is temporal rather than eternal—it is exercised as a temporary measure to bring one to repentance rather than exercised as an eternal measure to consign one to everlasting hell.

4. Having considered all of the options above, I find it difficult to eliminate any of these as part of what is involved in Excommunication and delivering one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. For as we have already seen, God uses Satan to afflict both our body and our spirit for a period of time so as to teach us and to train us as His beloved children. Dear ones, let none of us think that simply because we do not see or observe any hardships or trials in the lives of those who are lawfully excommunicated that such is an indication of an unlawful excommunication. You recall the Psalmist observed the same thing in the life of the wicked (in Psalm 73:3-5). We do not really know what God is doing in the lives of anyone other than what we observe. We must leave all such matters with the Lord and pray in brotherly love that those who are lawfully excommunicated would be afflicted by Satan as God sees fit in order that they might be brought to repentance.


EXCOMMUNICATIONS ARE FOR CLEAR REASONS

Chris, again I am amazed at your presumption and inside knowledge in knowing what the non-excommunicated would answer in regard to a hypothetical poll. But even if your presumptuous knowledge was accurate, it would not discount the fact that in every Letter of Excommunication, the Session specifically cites the sins committed by those who are excommunicated. Thus, if one does not know why one was excommunicated, it is not because the reason was omitted by the Session.

You state that “people virtually never get excommunicated for any direct sin.” Refusing to take a lawful Oath that affirms the lawful government of a Church and affirms no known disagreement with the Terms of Communion (which includes the Church’s judicial testimony) is a direct sin against the Third Commandment.

You state that “we’ve even moved past it so from now on, no one will ever get excommunicated for any manifest gross sin, because when they fail to swear the affidavit oath which confirms things they already have scruples with or oppose, they'll get excommunicated for that rather than the real gross sin they're guilty of.” My brother, again I point to your sinful presumption. How can you know that “no one will ever get excommunicated for any manifest gross sin”? Refusing to take a lawful Oath imposed by a lawful Court is a “manifest gross sin”. Furthermore, you are assuming that those who may commit a sin like adultery will also refuse to own the lawfulness of the Court or the Terms of Communion. That is a mere assumption, but one that has no factual basis.

ILLUSTRATIONS BY THE LIGHT OF NATURE

The Husband

First, you falsely assume in your illustration that the Elders (collectively) have not allowed Members to ask questions about our authority. Second, you falsely assume in your illustration that the Elders (collectively) have not sought to answer questions dealing with our authority. Hundreds of hours have been collectively spent in writing and in phone conversations seeking to answer questions dealing with our authority. Third, the grounds for Divorce in Marriage and the grounds for Excommunication in the Church are not the same. There are only two grounds for Divorce in Marriage:

“Although the corruption of man be such as is apt to study arguments, unduly to put asunder those whom God hath joined together in marriage; yet nothing but adultery, or such wilful desertion as can no way be remedied by the Church or civil magistrate, is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage; wherein a public and orderly course of proceeding is to be observed; and the persons concerned in it, not left to their own wills and discretion in their own case” (_Westminster Confession Of Faith_, 24:6).

There are many grounds for Excommunication in the Church:

“For the better attaining of these ends, the officers of the Church are to proceed by admonition, suspension from the sacrament of the Lord's Supper for a season, and by excommunication from the Church, according to the nature of the crime, and demerit of the person” (_Westminster Confession Of Faith_, 30:4, emphases added).

The Priest I

First, you again falsely presume that we have not allowed questions to be asked or have refused to answer questions before requiring an Oath. We have on many occasions invited all who have questions to bring them to us. Second, if the priest cannot own the authority of the Pope, he should remove himself from the RCC which is what any of you should have done who could not own the lawful authority of the Session of the RPNA (GM) instead of speaking and acting under pretence as if you were Members entitled to all of the benefits of Membership in the RPNA (GM).

The Priest II

Again, you falsely presume that we have not allowed questions to be asked or have refused to answer questions before requiring an Oath. I say again, we have on many occasions invited all who have questions to bring them to us. The Session could not have been more clear in writing and in phone conversations. The Membership Agreement binds Members to bring questions to us. The PPSA authoritatively recommends that questions be brought to us. How many personal phone conversations did we have with you, Chris? I believe it was six.

The Tax Protestor

First, as in all of the previous illustrations there is a sinful presumption and even a false representation of the facts. Second, you falsely presume and misrepresent the truth by implying that the Session did not produce the “law” from Scripture in regard to its extraordinary authority in both public writings (like the PPSA and Public Responses) and in private responses. Third, you falsely presume that if there had been repentance on the part of any who were submitted the Oath that they would have been excommunicated any way. That is certainly not the case. Scruples about things indifferent can be tolerated and accommodated as long as he doesn’t impose his views on others in the Church. However, scruples about matters that are moral in their very nature and which are being circulated to others in the Church so as to deny the very authority of a lawful Court of Christ and to spread disorder and division within the Church of Christ cannot be tolerated or accommodated.


CONCLUSION

My brother, you call upon the Session to repent for various sins. With all due honor and reverence to Jesus Christ, I cannot repent for false accusations brought against me as a Member of the Session of the RPNA (GM). To the contrary, my beloved brother, I appeal to you to turn from these many false accusations, from your refusal to take a lawful Oath, and from your own self-excommunication. You remain in my love, thoughts, and prayers.

Hoping in the Lord,

Greg L. Price


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