While we aren't scrambling to find Sherlock Holmes's current cellphone number, the latest "who done it" in the RPNA(GM) still should be of some interest to more than just the amateur sleuths in the audience. On 5/14/07, a number of those who were recently excommunicated from the RPNA(GM), received an interesting and anonymous email. In so many words, this unsigned missive threatened those who received it with a lawsuit. Certain unspecified items published or circulated on the internet by the parties who received the document were alleged to be defamatory of character and an invasion of privacy. They were to be removed from public circulation on the internet under pain of legal action and pursuit for damages. Entitled "To Whom It may Concern," it starts out by saying:
You have been identified as a person or organization that may be of interest in regards to the following matter under investigation. It has been brought to our attention by several private and aggrieved parties that the content of an Internet publication(s) that you either control, influence, or create or provide content for, allegedly contains that which is defamatory of specific persons and organizations expressly being named therein. You may have created or posted defamatory information, or facilitated its publication. . . . . . [Go here for the rest of the document.]Unfortunately for its author and those who would approve of his tactics contra 1 Cor. 6, a public query went out 5/24/07 from one who had received it and the beginning of the end of our identity fraud/impersonator commenced.
Come to find out, Niwot, Colorado - rather than Nigeria - was the origin of this scam which utilized the services of an email address service. For a price, the Mail.com [updated] website allows you to send mail from lawyer.com, doctor.com or even toothfairy. com. (In the interests of full disclosure, unfortunately fraud.com was not listed, but one may still go here for a free account. Click the red "Sign Up Now" button. Then click the red "See all our domains" button and look under the “Jobs” heading.) The discussion and exposé of this low rent and rogue version of Perry Mason took place on two lists. One was that containing members and former members of the "RPNA(GM)." The other was on a RP covenanter discussion forum, the Covenant Reformation Club. The relevant posts for the first may be found here, the second here.
In both instances, some of the participants indicated that they would prefer not to see their posts publicized more broadly. We have attempted to meet them halfway as it were by putting initials for last names, but on the other hand there comes a time to stand up and be counted. What we have here, is a blatantly fraudulent attempt to squash public discussion of the Rpnagm's extraordinary court, its Position Paper, its Confidential Oath and its public Excommunications Notices. Those who would soft pedal that or ignore it, need to realize that and admit it. "To Whom It May Concern" is not a by any means lawful attempt, nor has there really been one, to substantially and materially deal with the objections and questions that bear on all the recent unpleasantness in Rpnagm circles. Neither is it a reasonable and specific request for the removal of unnecessary personal information or supposedly defamatory statements by any would be defendants. Rather it is an obvious attempt at intimidation and an open and shut instance of Rom. 3:8, 'Let us do evil, that (supposedly) good may come'. Evidently as per the doctrine of tacit consent in the Rpnagm, deception and intimidation are the best tactics when it comes to a defense of and a discussion of current public "judicial" rulings and documents.
But what else is new? The Confidential Oath never specified the plaintiff or charges and for all anybody knows, those who declined it still walk on in their unspecified sins to this day, not to mention the alleged sin of disobedience to the lawful authority of the extraordinary Rpnagm court in refusing the oath in the first place. Deceptive damage control though, is paramount in certain retro presbyterian circles and "TWIMC" is a sterling example. We also await breathlessly for the extraordinary Rpnagm court to abjure and condemn this and other similiar efforts to defend that same 'court'. Yet tacit consent again being what it is in Rpnagm circles, we can only assume TWIMC is an approved example and will become historical (we almost said hysterical) testimony on how the flock, much more the shepherds are to deal with objections to the pogrom.
That pogrom would include again:
1. The Position Paper on Sessional Authority
The exposition of Matt. 18:20 (pp. 4-6) again ignores and glosses over what the text assumes. The two or more officers that meet to constitute a court, meet in one place in person face to face. That is the grammatical historical meaning of “sunago” in assembling or gathering together, from which the term “sunagoge" or "synagogue” is derived from in the Greek. As for Acts 15 (pp.7-9), not only is the extraordinary congregational court usurping the power of and impersonating a national or international synod, the apostles and elders personally accompanied the written edict from the synod at Jerusalem in order to preach, teach and answer questions about it personally face to face. But that is ignored as the PP cherry picks its way to the predetermined end. The synod could have just as well sent out its decision in writing alone, which was the technology of the day, just as the PP was sent out by email alone. But it did not. Something that important merited a better presentation and personal face to face treatment, which, need we say, is easier done today than in those days.
When it comes to Reformed Presbyterian historical testimony, again the Position Paper adds drunkeness to thirst and falls between the stools in that, if anything, the absence of any genuine RP historical testimony is notorious and telling. The instance from a secondary source such as the Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology is not authoritative in its own right, much more the section cited (p.11-12) does not categorically establish a extraordinary permanent standing congregational court as asserted (if not the quote from the DSCH&T on p.19 of the PP tells us that the particular elderships of the 2nd Book of Discipline 7:10 are greater presbyteries rather than lesser - classical assemblies rather than congregational sessions. The same could be argued of Geo. Gillespie, the most quoted theologian of the PP, in "Digression Four" of his Dispute Against Eng. Popish Ceremonies, (1993, NP, pp.380,1.)) A temporary session can just as easily fill the bill and has been the known solution of choice in the past in RP history, contra the unconclusive Privy Kirk example cited which preceded the establishment of the Reformation and the Reformed Church in Scotland.
To those who say that this one example of a temporary session is insufficient to establish any precedent in the discussion, we might as well reply that there is also only one example of “self excommunication” mentioned in the judicial Minutes of the Reformed Presbytery of America, the same of which the RPNA – when it existed – and now the Rpnagm claim to be the continuing moral person of and lawful constitutional descendant. But that did not stop the extraordinary court’s appeal to that one example, which is fair enough as far as it goes. But then maybe someone should follow their own example and get serious about the Reformed Presbytery instead of just using the name as eyewash and a cover for what it actually is, a departure from historic RP practice.
Particularly in that, as has been mentioned before, most recently in the Testimony Against Departure, the Act, Declaration and Testimony of the Reformed Presbytery (Supplement IV, XVII ) clearly states that:
They [the Reformed Presbytery] further reject and condemn that sectarian principle and tenet, whether in former or latter times maintained, that a kirk session, or particular congregational eldership, is vested with equal ecclesiastical power and authority, with any superior judicatory, and is neither subordinate nor accountable to them (in the Lord) in their determinations. (1876, pp.197-198)But this is exactly what our extraordinary, never mind ordinary, ‘session’ has done above, in regards to Acts 15 in claiming international synodical power, if not also presbyterial and that on the basis of “Internet and modern phone communications (PP, p. 9).” All this as judicially and arrogantly assumed and asserted by the exact same court in question.
The PPSA is also shot through with the logical fallacy of the undistributed middle term. Time and time again, examples are cited in which the significant parallels are missing between the "court" and the example. These run in Q.1 from a church alone in an island of which its officers can and ordinarily do meet amongst themselves (p.3) as compared to the extraordinary session which ordinarily can't and doesn't meet together to the example of Acts 15 (pp 7-9) and the Grand Debate on presbytery (pp.10,11), each of which have a plurality of teaching elders, again something which the Rpnagm court most emphatically does not have.
As for the PP’s justification of the name of the Rpna(gm) in Q.4 , it goes so far and no further. True the same terms of communion justify having the same name as another ecclesiastical body, but even further among that set, there are also finer distinctions to be made. Otherwise as noted before, we are left with the absurdity of being able to call the Societys of either St. Louis or Southern California for instance, the 'Session of the Rpna(gm)'. Rather names declare not only one’s agreement with certain terms of communion, but go on to further distinguish between groups that hold those terms rather than blur further geographic or governmental distinctions. The Rpna(gm) is not the Church of Scotland (Protesting) in the commonly understood sense, though it is in another in that they are supposedly agreed on the same terms of Communion. This contra not only the PP, but a personal letter by TE Price to the undersigned previously on the subject. As such it would seem to indicate that this erroneous reasoning and doctrine is ingrained in the thinking of the Rpna(gm), which is not to its credit.
2. The Confidential Oath
When it comes to the same, 'Compromised' would be more apt. One swears to uphold the PP and the court it attempts to justify. Yet it appears also to prelimit and commit one to they know not what, as well a defendant is never called to take a Loyalty Oath during a trial, never mind before. One is reminded of the behavior and historical testimony of the High Commission, in requiring an oath of Henry Barrow to testify against himself under questioning by the Archbishop in 1587. Any court worth its salt would merely charge the defendants and let the matter fall out as it may. If they refused to appear, they would be ruled in contempt and cited which is perhaps what would have happened in the end in all this, but be that as it may, the oath is still compromising and suspect, necessarily affirming as it does the erroneous Position Paper on Sessional Authority.
3. The Public Notices of Excommunication
These run pretty true to form and are largely boilerplate affairs. Basically those who refused to swear the oath to affirm the Session of the Rpna(gm) as a lawful court or who asked to be taken off the membership list or even refused to uphold the previous excommunications are considered guilty of a sinful division and schism in the body of Christ and to have voluntarily and actively excommunicated themselves from the Rpna(gm) and therefore the "Visible Church".
Even further, as pointed out in the last of the For Your Consideration series on excommunication, Q.6. there is an obligation to announce for three weeks the impending sentence of excommunication on those even guilty of offences that automatically deserve public repentance. The same offences automatically mean that one is called before the session immediately rather than going the Matt. 18 route of admonishment by private brethren first:
(T)he 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 )."As after shall be declared" refers to the following paragraphs which deal with more minor and common offences which may, due to obstinacy, come to the point that public admonishment and sentence of excommunication is called for after being announced three Sundays in church. That "summons ought to pass to the third time" for the one guilty of an offence that automatically requires public repentance, further substantiates the interpretation contra the Rpna(gm) excommunications, that announcement for three Sundays ought to proceed excommunication of even those supposedly guilty of "common contempt of the order of the church". After all that was essentially what those who first publicly protested the Confidential Oath 10/18/06, were accused of, "common contempt of the order of the church" in refusing a 'lawful' oath by a 'lawful' court in a lawful church of Christ with the summary self excommunications following.
While the Oath and the excommunications have their own problems, everything, including the Rpna(gm)'s extraordinary congregational court, stands or falls with the Position Paper on Sessional Authority. If it goes, so too the court it attempts to legitimize. Likewise the Oath is meaningless and the excommunications null and void. Neither do we think that there is any confusion at all that we are obviously of the distinct and decided opinion that the PPSA has to fall under any reasonable examination by anyone knowledgeable of Scripture, history or reason. Of course it would be nice if the parties responsible for these three items of their own free will, would repent of them and make public restitution by retracting them. Barring that, we intend to continue to do what we can to expose the PPSA, the Oath and the Excommunications for what they are, empty excuses for the real thing and devoid of any genuine appeal to Scripture, history and reason in order to establish what they respectively and erroneously assert. This, regardless of our fearless and fraudulent barrister hiding in the shadows with his hollow cries and accusations of "defamation" and invasion of privacy by anyone who publishes the "relatively private" correspondence and documents that surround this mess.
We would further respectfully suggest that any defamation of character and corresponding sentence of incompetence is self inflicted by the parties he so zealously and mistakenly aims to defend in such a flagrantly crooked manner as he does in "To Whom It May Concern." Much more our pretended private investigator himself is also self condemned and defamed by this document which he needs to repent of and publicly retract. The cover of darkness is essential to the sleight of argument that would substitute the counterfeit Rpna(gm) doctrine of tacit - i.e ignorant - consent for the informed consent required of any who would claim to be the legitimate descendant and continuing moral person of the Bereans. But that is not how things are done in the church of our Lord Jesus Christ and if our brother was unaware of it before, he is not now.
Acts 17:10, 11 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
Ephesians 5:13,14 But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.