Saturday, December 30, 2006

12/30/06, A Vindication of the Charge of Ministerial Unfaithfulness [rev.]

In that the undersigned is a "disaffected brethren," i.e. excommunicated, we were not included on the mailing list for “A Vindication of a Faithful Minister” that went out Dec. 25, 2006 at 4:25 PM. We were however included in some of the pious congratulatory gush and empty fluff, that however sincere, was mailed out in response to it. Our comments are twofold. One, those who do not appreciate the following comments are respectfully then requested to stop emailing us with them in the first place and provoking our response. Two, it still would be helpful to note the following items that have been totally ignored in the one way discussion.
Bob S.

Private vs. Public
As has happened previously in the discussion of lawful courts, oaths and discipline in the former RPNA, there continues to be an ongoing confusion about and lack of distinction between the power of order/office and the power of jurisdiction/court, as well as a private and personal ministry as opposed to a public and judicial ministry. (See the Second Book of Discipline 1:3 or Gillespie’s Assertion of the Church Government of Scotland, Part I:II for more on the power of order and jurisdiction).

Yet faithful is as faithful does, in that it is not the personal actions or character per se, but particularly the public preaching and teaching ministry and even more the public judicial actions that have compelled brethren at this time to question whether or not a particular pastor and his ministry, or that of other officers, is faithful.

2. Accountability and Standards
And that judgement is in the light of the Word of God. None of us stand before and ultimately answer to the court of public opinion. We all shall stand before the court of heaven and answer the Lord for what we have done in the flesh and how we have improved our time, talent and opportunities. Ministers even more so, because they minister and rule in the name of Christ and consequently their shortcomings, sins, competency and character reflect more directly on the Lord as per the quote of 1Cor.4:1-5 in the VFM. But that said and notwithstanding, the Scripture is an infallible and perspicuous word from that same court of heaven by the light of which and with a good conscience we are to not only frame our lives, but also private Christians may make a right judgement, non-judicially though it may be, about the character and competency of a minister or officers, as well as a court to which they will submit the care of their soul.

In other words, we are to judge not according to what 1 Cor.4:1-5 might appear to say [as quoted in the VFM, Dec. 25, '06] or in the sense it could be taken, if not wrested out of context, but make a right judgement (John 7:24). While we may not be able to judge the heart which God will judge on that day, we are to judge all things in light of Scripture and no one is above reproach. God is no respecter of persons or members even of presbytery, great or small. Rather presbyters are on that account, even more accountable and woe be unto those who on the basis of this passage think a man or a minister has no one to answer to simply because they are a member of the court or that God gives the keys of the kingdom in doctrine and discipline to elders, instead of the congregation, as in independency. There is no such thing as a professional immunity. When someone comes to those who are called to preach and teach in the church of Christ with a question from the word of God or the subordinate standards and historical testimony - which those same officers have taken a solemn oath to uphold - such as why the contradiction between for instance, the Position Paper on Sessional Authority (PPSA) and those sworn standards, they cannot wave the magic wand of 1Cor.4:1-5 and beg off answering or giving account.

3. The Absence of Approved Examples of Apostolic Teaching
Neither is it enough to chant the usual mantras, of “lawfully excommunications,” “lawful Church Court of the RPNA(GM),” etc. etc and cry down all that has recently revolved around the PPSA as categorically submitted in a “disorderly and sinful manner”and setting “a sinful precedent for further acts of public defiance.” That and taking “steps that have promoted further division within the Church and further public defiance for the lawful Court of this Church” as some have done. Even if those protests are out of order and the argument of necessity and extraordinary times does not apply, previous to all the complaints and questions, as noted before, the PPSA itself appeals to the apostolic example in Act 15 to support its international session. There is also much ado in the excommunication notices about the “decrees for to keep” of Act 16:4 as to the binding nature of lawful sentences from lawfully constituted presbyterian courts, which all parties are agreed to, the question being rather, the lawfulness of the particular court issuing the ecclesiastical fatwas against certain members.

Yet at the same time there has been no corresponding diligence to follow the example in Act 15:22,30-35 to publicly and in person preach, teach and expound by word of mouth the distinctive doctrines and issues contained in the PPSA. Public question and answer sessions should have been and should be taking place even now in Albany and Edmonton at the very least. This is so that if it were possible, not only the court would be established and defended publicly, but also the saints would be established in this conscience binding dogma. (That Act 15 applies to a situation where there is a plurality of ministers or the existence of a genuine greater presbytery, would seem to be also a prima facie reason that it cannot apply to the situation in the former RPNA or justify the extraordinary session as the PPSA asserts.) Yet we are implicitly told that the absence of all this is the ministry and actions of a faithful minister, if not a faithful court? We respectfully suggest that those who think so, do not know what a faithful public ministry ought to consist of, above and entirely apart from again, the private character of the parties concerned.

We further respectfully suggest that this ignorance is also likely to continue, once again because of that self same public ministry. It has not taught the whole counsel of God on the matter, at least publicly, (regardless if it has been taught house to house privately) and is therefore guilty of blood. To those that think that simply scandalous to say so, we ask just how do they gloss Act 20:20 - 27 to read?
And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, . . . Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.
The church of Jesus Christ does not exist in order that we may play an orderly game of musical chairs. Neither is it a social club or an ecclesiastical sandbox. There are serious matters at stake and studiously avoiding them is not an option by a faithful ministry. On the contrary a free and full discussion and exposition of the issue is called for.

If complaint is made that Acts 20 only refers to the gospel narrowly considered, what of 2 Tim. 3:16 & 17 wherein we are told Scripture equips a minister unto all good works? Even the good work of an elder or bishop in Titus 1:9,11 of holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he might be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers - and stop the mouths of the church government naysayers? That we have not seen, though excommunications have flourished and multiplied with perhaps no end in sight (all will have to take the oath in the end or should, if the elders are consistent, no?) Meanwhile a four month cutoff for asking questions about the PPSA is rather a weak alibi as we approach a four year wait for a statement on birth control as promised in June ‘03 upon dissolution of presbytery by the officers in question. To whom much is given, much is required and woe be unto them if they require more from the sheep than they are willing themselves to do.

4. Faithful Ministers According to Our Vindicated Officers
After all, we can still remember a conversation with Pastor Price and Elder Barrow when they were visiting Everson in the fall of ‘98. Pastor Price quoted from the The Fourth Head of the First Book of Discipline, “Concerning Ministers and Their Lawful Election” in regard to a faithful minister:
And last, let them understand that it is alike to have no minister at all, and to have an idol in the place of a true minister; yea and in some cases, it is worse. For those that are utterly destitute of ministers will be diligent to search for them; but those that have a vain shadow do commonly, without further care, content themselves with the same, and so they remain continually deceived, thinking that they have a minister, when in very deed they have none.
Not only are those who have been excommunicated now destitute of a minister, we all have been destitute for much longer than that, of a minister who will preach on and speak to the point now in question. Yet the same officer(s) and court are more than willing to excommunicate people on the matter and that promptly. This is faithfulness? Or a shadow thereof? Again, between June 14, ‘03 and June 4, ‘06, as well as after, there has been no real substantial public teaching or preaching on the subject, although the elders began signing their letters as the “Session of the RPNA(GM) on Oct. 31, ‘04. Neither did the Prince George Society or the Washington Society receive any substantial answer to their private questions on the matter at that time. As in one, ‘Why the name change from the RPNA to the RPNA(GM)? Is it only nominal or will there be an implementation of a general meeting in practice?’ Yet when brethren could not and would not sign an oath accepting the PPSA and the court justified therein - the “Session of the RPNA(GM),” - they were subsequently “self” excommunicated. This was done on the basis of “public contempt of the common order of the church,” without any opportunity, other than in the court of public opinion, to defend and clear their name and that before, the public order of the church had really been properly, explicitly and publicly established. (It was after all, extraordinarily, as in implicitly, constituted.) This is the fruit and ministry of a true pastor or elder? Or but an idol in its place? Yet if the RPNA(GM) is a nominal general meeting - and it clearly is - perhaps nominal officers are to go with.

That is to say, regardless of a someone's personal sincerity, we may make an estimation of their public ministry for good or ill and stand by it now and answer for it then. If anyone objects to that, then they at the least simply don’t understand the bare minimum regarding liberty of conscience and private judgment. In other words again, a faithful minister/ministry is not judged solely on the basis of personal sincerity, in that many Mormons or Muslims are also sincere. Rather we have an objective standard in the word, as well the subordinate standards that declare authoritatively and specifically just how the Scripture is to be understood (in marked contrast to the popular vague and general generic affirmation that somebody “believes the Bible” whatever that means), that along with sincerity, establish the bar by which to measure and answer the question. We are to consider a man (or men’s) doctrine publicly published and preached and/or the lack thereof in this instance, along with the judicial decisions, as well and besides one’s personal character, diligence and professed sincerity, however commendable or no that is.

5. Further Contradictions between June ‘03 and June ‘06
From the top again, the June 14, 2003 letter - which granted, does allude to the particular elderships of the Second Book of Discipline 7:10 (which are not extraordinary courts, much more Gillespie, the star witness of the PPSA, and Calderwood, can be shown to consider them greater presbyteries with a plurality of ministers) - even more plainly and explicitly says that Pastor Price can administer the sacraments because of his office as a pastor, not because he is a member of a court, extraordinary or not. It also explicitly mentions Renwick and Cargill who admitted people to the Lord’s Supper as pastors and upon the doctrinal basis of the six terms of communion even at a time when there were no formal sessions in existence.

Yet fast forward to the June 4, 2006 PPSA and we are told that receiving the sacraments means we have implicitly recognized the validity of the permanent international session/court of the RPNA(GM) (pp.13,21), instead of merely acknowledging the faithful office of the pastor administering them on the basis of the six terms of communion. These are two very different things. Still, as a consequence oaths have been served and brethren excommunicated because they cannot in good conscience swallow this contradiction and confusion between June ‘03 and June ‘06 and accept the PPSA and the court it justifies. We ask anyone with eyes, if oaths and excommunications are a faithful way to resolve this contradiction and problem, that discipline and denial are the way of moderation, equity and faithfulness in answering the genuine questions of the flock? Is excommunicating brethren from the visible church because they will not bow the knee and submit by oath to the PPSA and its extraordinary international session, which contradicts not only the June 14, ‘03 letter, but also the historical testimony (doctrine and practice) of Renwick and the Reformed Presbytery, of whom we profess to be the faithful continuing moral person, the work and action of a faithful court, minister and ministry? Pray tell, do tell. We think not.

Further more, we understand that faithful ministers in Reformed Presbyterian churches swear to uphold those same subordinate standards and historical testimony that Renwick and the Reformed Presbytery did, which same standards and historical testimony do not uphold the permanent extraordinary international sessions the PPSA attempts to justify. (If the essence of a session is that of a local congregational court, technology notwithstanding, an extraordinary session can not be constituted or be “in session” when the necessary number of officers needed for a quorum are out of town, long distance phone calls to the contrary.) As should be obvious then and as a consequence, there is no real historical testimony referenced in the PPSA, much more the PPSA is an unfaithful document when judged in the light of the RP historical testimony.

Likewise ministers and courts who publicly profess to uphold both the PPSA and the historical testimony are unfaithful ministers and courts, if not that they are seriously confused. Likewise those who buy into the PPSA, which only demonstrates a shallow discernment and an immature and mistaken judgement that more and more in light of the circumstances seems to be the endemic hallmark and fruit of the preaching and teaching ministry in this church. But that is the responsibility not only of the pulpit, but the ruling elders who are to oversee and supervise the pulpit, particularly if everybody is what they claim to be, a genuine presbyterian session and the RPNA(GM) is but one big congregation. Has that been done?

6. Conclusion
Respectfully, the answer to the question of what is a faithful minister and ministry in our circumstances is only too painfully clear and has been said before, until there is repentance and restitution made for these public decisions, we can only answer in the negative to the question before the house: Are the officers, whether ministers or ruling elders of the extraordinary permanent international session of the RPNA(GM) faithful? Answer: No, they are not faithful in their capacity as a court in their power of jurisdiction and if they will not promote the truth in all this in their capacity and power of order/office as ministers and ruling elders, then they must also be judged as unfaithful in that regard, whatever their respective merits as private individuals are to their family or the community. That is the sad and sorry state of affairs as things stand now about which so many seem to be confused and deceived.

Still faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. Open rebuke is better than secret love ( Prov. 27:4,5). Paul asks the Galatians, “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth (Gal. 4:16)?” After the second wave of excommunications last Saturday night, Dec. 23rd, the total disciplined so far came to twenty [four] out of an approximate total of eighty eight communicant members. The third wave of oaths went out the evening of Dec. 24th with a response due next Wed. Jan. 3rd. The question then, might seem to be will 2 Chronicles 18:16 be the epitaph for this church, where “all Israel [is] scattered upon the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd?” That, if not Jeremiah 50:6:
My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their restingplace?
Or will it be Ezekiel 34:6?
My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them.
We think the answer Scripturally self evident.

Monday, December 25, 2006

12/25/06, A Vindication of a Faithful Minister

To: [List]
Date: Dec 25, 2006 4:25 PM
Subject: A Vindication of a Faithful Minister

While this is a family's testimony of their husband and father, we would like to acknowledge the faithfulness and loving authority of the entire court. This court has tirelessly laid down its life for Christ's church. We love and thank you all for your years of faithful service and contending for the truth.

In light of the countless false accusations and misrepresentations, it is our honor to bear witness to the faithfulness of our beloved husband, father, and shepherd of our souls. This testimony is the result of our own personal convictions without the influence, suggestions, encouragement or review of Pastor Price.

We cannot fully express the amount of love and patience he has chosen to display when ministering to many through their trying situations. He has sacrificially laid down his life for this church, guiding, counseling, and comforting his dear flock who has been given to him by God to lead, feed and protect. In these present trials, as well as former, he has spoken charitably of others who in return have chosen to malign him; he has chosen to deal justly and honestly in the love of Christ. He has anguished and labored fervently to preserve the peace, purity, and unity of Christ's church. He stands not before the court of public opinion, but before the Court of Heaven. It is that standard alone by which he will be judged, and by which he has chosen to act. Therefore, it is with immeasurable gratitude and love that we attest to the constant and faithful ministry of this humble servant of Jesus Christ.

From those who know him best,
[Extended Family of Teaching Elder G. Price.]

I Cor. 4:1-5
"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."

~Love God, and there is no fear that can enslave you.
Trust God, and there is no worry that can overtake you.
Praise God , and there is no complaint that can consume you.~

A reply to the above is found here.

12/25/06, Another Reply to the Oath and Excommunication

Sent: Monday, December 25, 2006 8:42 AM
Subject: Regarding our "Excommunication"

Our response to our "Excommunications" is attached.
Humbly submitted,
Edgar & Juana I.

Reformed Presbyterian-----Para la Corona y el Pacto de Cristo

Our submission in regards to the Oath tendered by
Teaching Elder (te) G. Price, Ruling Elders (re) G. Barrow and L. Dohms that lead to our excommunication

Dear Elders,

As we acknowledged we received the Oath that you sent to us on Dec. 10th, 2006. You requested an answer by Dec. 20th, 2006. We apologize for our delayed response, but this has been due to several factors in our family and a heavy work schedule. We now ask that you will patiently read our response and know that it is written humbly and respectfully to you.

It is with a heavy heart, with sadness, and lament that we view the state of our church and community of Covenanters and we do not desire to add to the pain and separation that is now transpiring in our midst, but your actions compel us to write a response regarding your actions. We also feel compelled to answer you publicly as this is in the common interest of the church and our Covenanted brethren.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

12/24/06, Of the "Public Sin" of An Unqualified Condemnation of Paganism (Among Other Allegations)

From: Bob S.
To: Lyndon Dohms; Greg Price; Greg Barrow
Cc: [List]
Sent: Sunday, December 24,2006, :32 AM [w. corrections]
Subject: Re: Session Response to _______ Allegations

Dear Lyndon, Greg and Greg et al,
I read with interest your response at large of Wed. Dec. 20th, (though sadly yours of last night was only more of what one has come to expect). Since you took the liberty to include me in the broadcast of those comments, I have taken the same to reply, particularly among a few other things, to the notion of a "public sin" of an unqualified condemnation of paganism, (which if the link is broken, can be found at: http://reformedveritas.blogspot. com/2006/12/ . . . ) Coming as my remarks do, from a “disaffected brethren,” they of course, are sure to be beneath the notice of some, even many, never mind reply, but that is no real matter. . .

Saturday, December 23, 2006

12/23/06, Second Wave of Excommunications

From: "Lyndon Dohms"
To: [All who signed the Charitable Inquiry who were not yet x'ed and one other couple and an individual]
CC: "Greg Price"
"Greg Barrow"
Subject: Excommunications
Date: Sat, 23 Dec 2006 20:06:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Attached are announcements of excommunications.

The Session of the RPNA (GM)

(w. 14 pdf notices of excommunication for 15 individuals attached)

Friday, December 15, 2006

12/15/06, G. Price's Reply to the UnExcommunicated Brethren

From: G.Price
Fri Dec 15 2006, 08:17 AM
[In reply to the unexcommunicated brethren]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Although I admitted in my letter to you that there were some concerns worth discussing, my letter to you, as dear brothers and sisters whom I love in the Lord, was intended to persuade you to separate yourselves from those who had been excommunicated by the lawful Church Court of the RPNA (GM) rather than joining hands with them in a public letter of common concerns.

I do understand that you began working on these common concerns with our excommunicated brethren before they were actually excommunicated. However, as I pointed out to you in my letter to you, once they were excommunicated, it was your duty to remove your names from any association with them and if you still desired to forward to the Session such concerns for discussion you may have done so (in accordance with the Session's invitation extended to you in the "Position Paper On Sessional Authority").