Sadly, some leaders in the Presbyterian Church in America refuse to tolerate what they perceive to be "deadly errors." I am not suggesting "deadly errors" should be tolerated, not in the least, but let’s be honest here. This debate is about whether or not the errors themselves, assuming they are errors, are indeed "deadly." Additionally, this is about whether or not the person who holds the supposed errors really denies the Westminster Confession of Faith (WSF) or not. This is an honest debate, in the formal sense, for sure. And Presbyterianism allows elders to have this struggle. (This is a matter for more thought but I seriously doubt that this "type" of presbyterian practice can thrive, and help a groups of churches grow, in the new century. Clearly, the next generation has no tolerance for it at all. Sadly, many in my generation really love it and thrive on it, preferring rational debates about doctrine to actually dealing with real people in pastoral and missional ways.)

The response defenders of "strict confession," if you read the various Web sites that promote their rather militant judicial approach, is simple. The man in question, teaching elder/pastor Wilkins
Steve Wilkins of Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church in Monroe, Louisiana, is guilty of denying the gospel. So the question comes down to this: "Does Rev. Steve Wilkins deny the gospel of grace and teach doctrines that are in obvious contradiction with the WSF?"

Interestingly, the regional presbytery, which has responsibility for investigating such formal charges, has found Wilkins not guilty. Many PCA leaders would simply like to see this attempt to drive Wilkins away just go away. But it will not go away for one simple reason. The poison of a "strict old school confessionalism" is pervasive in some parts of the PCA and the leaders of this fighting remnant will not let this go. They are, simply put, determined to drive Steve Wilkins out of the denomination. Some of us wonder who they would then pursue once they get Wilkins out of the PCA. (By the way, this is one reason why Wilkins doesn’t simply leave on his own. He is filled with courage and hope beyond your ordinary pastor. He has influenced many pastors, counts a number of them his good friends and thus stands with them in resisting these continual attacks that they deem false and unfair.)

Here is the issue, in formal PCA type judicial language:

"Louisiana Presbytery, by neglecting its duties to handle properly TE Wilkins differences and by not finding a strong presumption of guilt on the part of TE Wilkins, and thus either embracing his views or refusing even to being open to considering his guilt therein, has evidenced its refusal to deal with the views of TE Wilkins that differ from the Confessional Standards and Scripture; thereby creating an impasse that can only be resolved by Louisiana Presbytery either repenting (and showing its repentance by bringing TE Wilkins to trial in a fair and impartial way or by referring the matter pursuant to BCO 41), or failing which, having the ecclesiastical connection between Louisiana Presbytery and the Presbyterian Church in America dissolved by the General Assembly, with the geographical bounds of neighboring presbyteries being expanded to cover the geographical area of Louisiana Presbytery, with said neighboring presbyteries, after due examination of elders and deliberation, being responsible for receiving any elders and churches desiring to be reunited with the Presbyterian Church in America."

What this claim is saying is simple. The Louisiana presbytery did not act as these other ministers wanted them to act in regard to removing Steve Wilkins so now they will appeal to the General Assembly (GA) to remove this entire presbytery by an act of discipline and thus force churches to leave and or to stay by joining another presbytery or forming a new one that is "correct" in doctrine. In any normal context this would be seen as a kind of "takeover" move, carefully thought out and clearly political. Yet the proponents all argue that they are simply doing God’s will and protecting the integrity of the PCA. (I do not doubt their sincerity for one moment. What I doubt is their wisdom and hermeneutic.)

I do not have a horse in this race. Steve Wilkins is my friend, as many of you know already. I love him very deeply. I have preached at Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church on three occasions. I find it to be a Spirit-filled congregation, a body of well-taught Christians, and a healthy worshiping and witnessing church. Frontofchurchsign
I find Steve Wilkins to be one of the most courageous, patient and faithful Christian ministers that I know. I do not agree with Steve on some points but this is not relevant to my friendship. What is relevant is that he preaches Christ, the good news, and the great doctrines of the system of faith he has openly embraced his entire adult lifetime. His theological views, many friends like me are quite convinced, are not outside the bounds of the confession and clearly not as problematic as a few persistent men make them out to be. If you want to debate this then have at it. Meanwhile I assure you Steve Wilkins continues to pastor his flock faithfully, preach the grace of God clearly and pursue godly peace in Christian love. And his friendship with me doesn’t help him any with these same critics since they also dislike me for different reasons. The major difference here is that they cannot directly harm me since I am not a PCA minister, but rather an RCA minister. At the same time I have more friends in the gospel ministry in the PCA than any other denomination. Most of them dislike this "seek and destroy" business just as much as I do. Some are leaving the PCA for these, and other, compelling reasons. This, in itself, makes the whole business extremely sad to me.  I have no desire to see the PCA torn asunder but so long as these Web debates exist, and pastors spend inordinate amounts of time discussing these issues among themselves and on their blogs (Question: When do these guys pastor their flocks?), this will remain a fractious and contentious issue. (By the way, as long as I was in the pastorate I never found the time to engage in all of this stuff on the Internet, or in person since the Internet was not as big then. I was too busy doing my calling with my flock. This is why I left the pastorate in 1992, out of conscience, so I could be sent to write and counsel ministers and churches at-large!)

God will, quite obviously, decide the right and wrong here. My concern is that the PCA is once again roiling in a controversy that a few men simply do not want to let go away until they get rid of Wilkins, even though a proper process has been followed and he was exonerated. These brothers want to go to the next step, one almost unknown and unheard of in the 20th or 21st centuries, and disband an entire presbytery. They now want to remove this Louisiana presbytery as an act of national discipline. They have the right to do this, at least according to their polity. However, having the right and doing it are not the same thing. The question I have is quite simple: "What will this do to expand the mission of Jesus and to make the good news known to a perishing generation of young people that think the whole business is about power and control by a few?"

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  1. GLW Johnson January 13, 2008 at 5:19 am

    As usual, you display your own self-serving interest not to mention your ignorance of the situation. Another example of your own going tirade against the PCA in general and the ‘TRs’ in particular.

  2. Jim H. January 13, 2008 at 6:46 pm

    “Some are leaving the PCA for these, and other, compelling reasons.”
    I’ve been reading your blog for several weeks after visiting the Biblical Seminary website and find your writing to be challenging and fair. However, I must challenge you on this one.
    While this may be a hot topic in the blog world and amongst seminary professors, I assure you that most PCA Elders know little about it, and I think few have left because of the Wilkins or FV controversy.
    You say you don’t have a horse in the race, but stating that there are “other compelling reasons” that “some” are leaving the PCA smacks of being a cheap shot if you’re not willing to articulate those reasons and indicate how many you know have left.
    It sounds as if you’re sticking up for your friend and that I understand, but IMO, you should simply admit it, instead of portraying yourself as an impartial observer.
    From what I’ve seen, Wilkins is a class-act, but there are plenty of people on his side egging this whole thing on, and they knew the PCA would have to act sooner or later.

  3. John H. Armstrong January 13, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    I have no “tirade” or “self-serving interest” against the PCA in this debate. And, in fact, most of the TRs that I know personally are still my friends.
    For those who wonder, TR is a common designation for what is called a “Thoroughly Reformed” or “Totally Reformed” position. Generally, this means strict subscription to all stated confessions but it generally means much more with some. It can include a whole list of things that those who use the term think are “essentials” to sound Reformed theology.
    I am concerned, and very deeply so, about how some TRs battle for very strict terms and interpretations of the WCF. I did not, and do not, use the term TR as you do in your response. (I think it is used too pejoratively by critics of TRs and I am trying not to label people on either side of these debates with such a label.) Some seem to use this term as a positive designation if I read Gary, and others, correctly. I can accept that in good faith, given what is meant by it. I would never have considered myself a TR but I did spend a great deal of time with wonderful people who were/are TRs.
    But my point in this post was that it is precisely how so-called TRs treat one another, not just Steve, that is behind my concern. These TRs most clearly include some first-rate minds and gospel ministers but they are not the majority in the PCA and this Wilkins case underscores that point.
    When these TR brothers do not win the argument they do not give up pressing their point through new channels and new judicial procedures. It occurs to me that such ministers seem to always have the answers about “what the confession” really means and also about who gets the WCF right and wrong. This kind of response seems so common to me and a host of my readers too. I am quite sure that I am not alone in this response and welcome any other response.
    I know scores of PCA pastors personally, especially in growing and quite large PCA congregations, who frankly agree with me, though some of them would rather not say so publicly for fear of further Internet attacks and more debate that they have no interest in at all.
    Jim, my “other compelling reasons” include the historical facts so wisely given in John Frame’s excellent article: “Machen’s Warrior Children.” Everyone should read this fine essay if you want to understand what I am actually referring to in my post.
    Jim, you also make several very important points I agree with but I simply disagree with your conclusion about what I have written and chosen not to write. I do not doubt that some fans of Steve’s “egg-on” this debate, to use your term. I also know that the warfare is fierce and ministries are being threatened so naturally there will be push back and defense here and there. As I read this whole matter Steve, and a few of his friends, promoted some ideas about the covenant, worship and sacramentalism (I do not agree with the Federal Vision as I have clearly stated elsewhere) and then when they were attacked in print and widely circulated stories and reports they defended themselves.
    I also know that when Steve invited N. T. Wright to speak at his pastors’ conference a few years ago almost no one who attacks Steve in print, if anyone, would come or enter the dialog. (The material from this event is on audio and also appears in Wrights excellent book, Paul.)
    So Jim I am not taking “cheap shots.” I care about the PCA and have many friends who are TRs and non-TRs in the PCA. I speak in churches who agree with Wilkins and churches that clearly do not. What I know, from first-hand experience, is that many of these same PCA pastors are tired, very tired, of this whole debate and wish the anti-Wilkins people would just leave it alone now that the presbytery has rendered its decision. This was the central point I made by my blog.
    I also agree that most PCA elders know very little about this struggle. Sadly, they will not be encouraged to discuss it and calmly consider it now that it is so widely debated in the way it has been discussed on the Internet. Given the formal nature of charges this only adds fuel to a fire. What I see, again on the ground in churches and among pastors, is that most elders do what their pastor suggests about these kinds of matters. And most PCA pastors have plainly not read the primary materials by Wilkins and others.
    I would add, finally, that I respect the fact that some of those who do oppose Steve Wilkins have at least read his material and show “why” they disagree with his arguments by making arguments that can be read and considered. I do not agree with these arguments but I commend every effort to understand by actually reading his work.
    What this debate has created is an poisoned atmosphere. I think most would agree that in this atmosphere it is now hard to have objective dialog at all. People do have a “horse” in the race in many cases. This is why I stated it the way I did Jim. I am not a teacher of Federal Vision theology nor an enemy. I can agree with some of what is being said and still remain unconvinced of several of the major tenets of the teachin at the same time. I do like the emphasis on an objective covenantalism and on the importance of the sacraments. What I find objectionable does not reach the level of serious error. That, again, was my central point.

  4. Ron Henzel January 17, 2008 at 4:32 am

    As someone who has known both you and Gary Johnson for the past 20 years or so, and who has been the member of a PCA church for going on five years, I must say that your motives for writing this obviously erroneous post are perplexing. I realize that people change, but I am surprised by the extent to which you are no longer the same John Armstrong I knew even ten years ago, when for a brief time we both attended Keeneyville Bible Church in Chicago’s western suburbs.
    Scores of PCA pastors agree with you that the FV controversy is really a battle about overly-strict subscriptionism to the WCF, John? Is this hyperbole, or can you honestly say that you actually know at least 40 PCA pastors (since the plural of “score” is a minimum of 40) who take such a position? There are 40 PCA pastors who believe that the notion that baptism bequeaths some kind of status of justification on non-elect reprobates is nothing to get concerned about? I realize that this would represent perhaps about 2 or 3 percent of all PCA pastors, but I still find it highly disturbing.
    John Frame’s article that you recommend is informative, but it’s written by someone who, unlike you, has a whole stable of horses in this race, and I find it unfair to use it to discourage those who would honestly face the serious departures from the Westminster standards represented by the FV.
    No, John, I contend that most would not agree that that “in this atmosphere it is now hard to have objective dialog at all,” unless, of course, they’re upset because their contribution to the dialog is now being capably refuted. A lot of people want to get out of the game or change the rules when the tide turns against them. Objective dialog has been going on for five years now, in print and online, and it is continuing. That’s why R.C. Sproul, Sr. felt that the time had finally come for him to take a stand at the last GA and announce that the Gospel is at stake in this debate. That’s why Richard Gaffin has broken his near-silence and taken a stand against his old friend, Norman Shepherd. The only people poisoning the atmosphere, in my view, are those who attack the people who have raised and pursued honest concerns about the FV and those who propagate it. And from where I’m sitting the most lethal volleys appear to be coming from Idaho and Louisiana.
    You may not feel that what is objectionable in FV teaching has reached the level of serious error, but a host of others have. In fact, I think it’s clear that the vast majority of those in the PCA who’ve examined it have come to that conclusion.

  5. John H. Armstrong January 18, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    First, how can you possibly know my motives? I can never understand such an argument. I do not even know my own motives that well. Motives should be left to the only One who can know them and judge them. Paul says, “I do not even judge myself.” I leave this to God and suggest you would be wise to do the same.
    Second, I did mean “scores” literally and I am NOT exaggerating the number. I know dozens “first-hand” who agree and they tell me of dozens more they know who share their angst about the PCA and its struggles over these types of issues. There are entire networks of leaders in the PCA who simply want this to stop and yet they do not agree with FV or Steve Wilkins. I am not defending Steve’s every view but I am defending his character and his commitment to the gospel of Christ. I am also saying, and saying and saying again that the PCA needs to not be engaging this issue in this way at this time. It dilutes the pursuit of the missional mandate and makes the PCA look more and more like a “debating society” for the faithful who distrust the unfaithful.
    Are you aware of how many PCA churches have left, or may yet leave, if this keeps going on and on? I know several first-hand and they are not small churches; City Church in SF, Cedar Springs in Knoxville, etc.
    Friends in the PCA assure me on a regular basis that they stay away from presbytery routinely because it is simply too contentious, especially the General Assembly. Again, this was my major point. I have preached to presbyteries over the years and observed how ministerial candidates are questioned. Frankly, it proved to be a show of doctrinal exhibitionism at times. One person after another acted like they knew the WCF and very little of the Bible was used in some of these settings. This is an overstatement, to some extent, but not entirely.
    I agree that most PCA pastors and elders understand very little about this struggle over Wilkins. That should say something too. The fact is, this simply doesn’t interest most people. It is a minority attack upon a visible person that they can single out for things he has put in print. This is much like what happened in the fundamentalist and modernist struggles in the 1920s except for one huge difference—Wilkins is no liberal in the least! This is one conservative group going after another one that is even smaller than they are in group size. The heart and soul of the PCA, I still believe with all my heart, will not continue down this road but then they might if the people who do not like this debate stay home often enough.
    By the way, the reason more PCA guys do not write comments supporting what I say on this is that they do not wish to be singled out and attacked on other blogs. I can do this, and they agree with me in private, because (as I said) “I have no horse in this race.” I did not mean, by that reference, that Steve Wilkins was not my friend. I have admitted that all along if you bother to read my words again.
    John Frame is disliked for several different reasons but mostly because he fits into the same category that I created yesterday about John McCain and the hatred people have for him in the world of Republican conservative politics. He simply doesn’t fit into every box and check off everyone’s list properly so he is not liked. The best illustration can be seen in how he is attacked for denying the “regulative principle,” which is pure myth. What he does is promote diversity in musical style in worship. He is also seriously disliked for his work on unity among Christians. On both points he has helped me immeasurably to think and grow and I agree with him. But we differ on several other points. John is an all-round fine Christian man who has been treated like a bad guy by some of the very same folk who also attack Steve Wilkins. This is why this is all of one piece in my understanding.
    You say Ron that I have changed. You bet I have changed. I would be unfaithful to Christ and my conscience if I hadn’t changed. I have never denied changing. What I have seen is that some will no longer accept you once you admit this truth openly. But what have I changed? There is the important question. The misrepresentations are often shocking to me. I think, when I read some who write about me, “Who are they writing about?” I am a classical, confessional, orthodox Christian of Reformed and evangelical persuasion. What else can I say?
    As for Sproul’s stand at the PCA this is not surprising at all. You write as if he has never taken such a stand before. I have known RC for many, many years. He has been in my home, as was his late mentor, Dr. John Gerstner. I loved Gerstner and I love Sproul but they both have taken “stands” quite often that seem like something new when in fact the stand is quite consistent with what they have been writing and saying for many years. Example: Dr. Gerstner wrote that John Stott was in danger of hell because he denied, or rather questioned, eternal conscious torment of the lost. I heard him do it at one of our Whitefield Fellowships. He summarily dismissed every attempt to show him why this was too harsh and not necessary to make such a conclusion. Sproul did the same to J. I. Packer, at least in they way he publicly went after him. I saw this personally and will say no more except that I remain in complete disagreement regarding the approach. This is schismatic in my estimation but then some see my views as compromised. Caveat emptor.
    So, you conclude, Federal Vision theology has reached the level of “serious error.” I do not agree. There isn’t much else to say about this I suppose. The PCA can and will decide this matter, usually through it courts and rulings, which is the harsh reality of the governmental form. (I suggest all Presbyterians rethink “how” they use this particular system in the light of the modern context and the differences between our time and that in Scotland in which this system was developed. But, and this is important, no one will do this unless they first admit that the way this government is used is not all spelled out in detail in the Bible, which of course it plainly is not.)
    All I have been saying here and elsewhere is that the way people in the PCA are presently deciding these kinds of issues is destructive and harmful to the mission of the PCA. That is my opinion and each one is entitled to their own view in this case.

  6. Ron Henzel January 18, 2008 at 8:56 pm

    I never said I knew your motives; I said I was perplexed by them. That is to say, I wonder what possibly motivates you to so carelessly mischaracterize the motives of those who are appalled by the encroachment of Federal Vision teaching in the PCA.
    You’re a great networker, John, and this has brought you into contact with a lot of people, but you manifestly do not have a handle on the significance of the Federal Vision issue; opposing it is no mere exercise in theological pedantics, and if allowed to flourish in the PCA the FV will have a longterm spiritually-corrosive effect on the denomination as a whole. The fact that there may be a lot of closet FV sympathizers in PCA pastorates should be disturbing to all who care about Reformed orthodoxy; such men should gracefully bow out of the PCA and find a denomination that embraces their theological persuasion (the CREC comes to mind).
    I think it’s obvious that my reference to John Frame had nothing whatsoever to do with him being disliked for his positions regarding the regulative principle of worship, and if Sproul was overly zealous in his approach to error in the past then in my opinion he wasn’t quick enough to declare his position this time. I’m sorry, but while you may be “a classical, confessional, orthodox Christian of Reformed and evangelical persuasion,” Steve Wilkins is not, and he should take his Roman collar to somewhere that is more congenial to his views.

  7. John H. Armstrong January 19, 2008 at 12:04 am

    Yes, you did write that “my motives” are “perplexing” to you. This plainly implies, at least implicitly if not explicitly, that you know something about my motives or how could you be perplexed by them? Your logic fails you here. I am suggesting that you do not even know your own motives well enough in the light of the apostolic injunction I cited so how can you be perplexed by mine in any meaningful sense since you do not know them? Motives have nothing to do with what I have said or done in this instance. I may be wrong, and have said so, but my motives are a non-issue.
    And “Roman collar?” Where on earth did you get that idea? Not from the facts Ron. Surely you must not mean this kind of statement. Since when did a clerical collar (as you see in Steve’s picture), which is worn by thousands of non-Roman Catholic ministers—including Anglicans, Lutherans, Orthodox, Reformed, and even Pentecostal—the world over make one a Catholic? This reveals your lack of knowing the church catholic from any sense of experience. Enough said on the point.
    You have embraced a position that may be right, and is in your own understanding, but it is foreign to the spirit of the Reformers themselves in my viewpoint. I do not believe the Reformers or those who lived long before them would recognize your spirit and arguments as their own at all.
    The CREC? This also reveals your incredible lack of understanding of the larger Church. Something like the basic arguments that Steve has made can be found in scores of places scattered throughout historical theology. The stated position he articulates might have a twist or two in it that is unique but whole elements of the cloth are clearly a part of the historical catholic Church and not beyond the bounds of Presbyterianism in the view of many of us.
    Again, the PCA will judge this in time. I stand by my central point—if this course is followed the PCA, as a whole, suffers by these actions. Those who take them think they are acting correctly. God will be the judge of us all. This cries out for us to all exercise humility in how we address people and issues.

  8. Ron Henzel January 19, 2008 at 7:42 am

    I neglected to bring in this one point you made: you don’t believe that Wilkins’ positions are “beyond the bounds of Presbyterianism in the view of many of us,” even though in his essay on “Covenant, Baptism and Salvation” in *The Federal Vision* he announces that baptism “has brought about sanctification and justification in the name of Christ, by the Spirit of God” (59). And this he declares in the middle of a piece that sets forth a totally non-Reformed construction of the meaning of the perseverance of the saints. I’ve read more than enough historic Reformed theology to know that there’s no room for these views in a church that adheres to WCF 27 and 28. But the fact that you have declared your bias on this point is confirms what I wrote earlier: even if you don’t have a horse in this race (whatever that means), you can still be seen rooting from the sidelines.

  9. John H. Armstrong January 19, 2008 at 9:44 am

    A totally “non-Reformed” construction? That gets to the debate doesn’t it? We just simply disagree regarding the breadth and depth of the tradition and how it does, or does not, allow for more reformation and change that goes beyond the pages of a very human document written amidst a considerable diversity of opinion in the 17th century. The Westminster Assembly was both an ecclesial gathering and a highly political one. Various groups contended and disagreed. We could still do the same today. This was not the last word on the Bible and they knew it. It is we moderns who look for a confession that has the “answers” so the reforming process thereby ends.
    This then is the real tension here. Rigid confessionalism versus a more open view of the confessions, which scares the daylights our of some conservatives since it takes them back to early 20th century liberalism. I think that I am living in a different era and thus do not see these things in that way at all.
    What I would love to see happen in the PCA, and all similar Reformed groups, is an open discussion, without judidicial proceedings, about what “exceptions” we can allow and how we can also keep our strengths confessionally. The PCA already allows for exceptions to the confession thus the issue is which ones and why? This is not a matter of fact to be debated but of how to get the spirit of the matter balanced and right. I am arguing for something that looks and feels wrong if you have a more rigid view of how to use the WCF.

  10. Ron Henzel January 19, 2008 at 10:35 am

    I personally would like your readers to know, for the sake of understanding the continuity of this discussion, that you chose not to accept one of my previous comments, which is why the beginning of the comment immediately prior to this one now references something your readers can’t see. I am not mentioning this in order to complain, since those remarks were intended primarily for your consumption anyway; this is your blog and you’re well within your rights to edit it as you see fit.
    Meanwhile, yes, we now have reached the heart of the debate. It’s not about strict subscriptionism (or as you call it, rigid confessionalism, which is a useless pejorative in this debate), it isn’t even remotely connected to the old fundamentalist-modernist disputes, it’s not really about perseverance, and it’s not even ultimately about baptism. It’s about the doctrine of justification with God. The process of ordination in the PCA allows candidates for ministry to declare exceptions to individual statements in the Westminster standards, so long as those exceptions do not infringe upon the system of doctrine contained therein. The minute you start tampering with the doctrine of justification, you’ve begun infringing on the standards’ system of doctrine. And in any Reformed denomination worth its salt, this kind of infringement is not an overture for open discussion, but an invitation to a heresy trial.

  11. John H. Armstrong January 19, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    This will be my last comment. I am not willing to trade back-and-forth comments like this with one reader.
    You have made it clear what you believe the issue to be: justification. Fine. I think you are completely wrong in that position. Enough said.
    You would likely find my views, which are not Federal Vision, wrong as well. But then you would not know this unless you read my work on the subject carefully.
    I am in essential agreement with Norman Shepherd so I suppose this would get me in trouble in the PCA if I were a visible pastoral presence. The problem with that conclusion is that I do not think Shepherd errs in any way that violates either the WCF in particular or the Reformed faith in general.
    If you, or anyone else, doubts this I challenge you to get the MP3 or DVDs of our Forum with him from November and demonstrate after listening carefully what he says that makes him a false teacher.
    But then I am not going to begin another line of writing here to defend Shepherd. I simply use his position on active faith and repentance to underline my own views and to say these views are also seen as false by the same people who attack Wilkins about the FV. You can add N. T. Wright to the same mix since he is another of the “nasty boys” to these proponents of the “right” interpretation of the WCF.
    By the way, I did choose to not publish one of your posts for several reasons that need not be made public. You are honorable in your effort, honest in your perspective and wish to make a point. I feel you made it and that is that.
    Good’s grace and blessing to you, as always.

  12. Dave Watson March 21, 2008 at 11:47 am
    Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church Leaves the PCA
    February 2008
    After a long history of dissent regarding various theological issues, including the Federal Vision controversy, Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church of Monroe, La., and its pastor, Rev. Steve Wilkins, have withdrawn from the PCA and are now affiliated with the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches (CREC).
    Further, the Louisiana Presbytery—which has overseen Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church up to this point—has been indicted by the General Assembly’s Standing Judicial Commission (SJC) in this matter.
    “This is most unusual,” said Dr. Roy Taylor, stated clerk of the PCA. “It’s the only time in the history of the PCA that a presbytery has been indicted for trial. And it’s also a rare event in American Presbyterianism as a whole.”
    In January of 2008, the SJC instituted a process against Louisiana Presbytery regarding their handling of Steve Wilkins’ theological views, particularly those pertaining to Federal Vision. The charges against the presbytery were 1) not following proper procedure, and 2) not finding strong probability of guilt that Wilkins’ views were erroneous.
    The Louisiana Presbytery responded with pleas of “not guilty” to the first charge, and “guilty” to the second charge. And the presbytery asked the SJC to conduct the trial of Steve Wilkins rather than conducting it themselves.
    Roughly a week later, Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church and Steve Wilkins withdrew from the PCA, and the stated clerk of the Louisiana Presbytery resigned.
    “The next step is for the SJC to meet on March 6 to deal with these latest developments,” said Taylor. “They must decide what to do with the presbytery’s pleas to the two charges and what actions to take in light of Teaching Elder Wilkins’ transfer.”
    On the Auburn Avenue Web site, Wilkins has posted an open letter detailing his decision to leave the PCA. “I continue to maintain that the charges of heresy made by a few against me are completely and utterly unjustified.” He continues, “I regret anything that I have done through a lack of wisdom or bad judgment that contributed to the disintegration of trust between myself and the PCA. We are all very thankful for the many years we have enjoyed in communion with the PCA and look forward to a continuing relationship with many brothers who remain in it.”
    To read more of Steve Wilkins’ letter, visit

  13. Dave Watson March 21, 2008 at 12:27 pm
    Decision in the PCA SJC Louisiana Presbytery Case
    Posted by Steve at 3/8/2008 8:39 AM and is filed under judicial commission,PCA,news,Federal Vision
    On March 6 trial was held by the Standing Judicial Commission of the Presbyterian Church in America in the case of Louisiana Presbytery and their examination of TE Steven Wilkins. In a moment the results of that trial…
    But to cover the bases I want to get caught up on the prosecutor situation since my last post on February 11. As I mentioned at the end of that post, RE Sam Duncan had announced his intention to resign as the prosecutor in the case. Upon his resignation TE Dewey Roberts was named as the prosecutor. Our thanks to Rev. Lane Keister at Green Baggins for posting RE Duncan’s resignation letter.
    Well, after trial on Thursday and deliberations that evening, the SJC returned their verdict on Friday morning. In count 1, a technical count about classifying declared departures that Louisiana Presbytery pleaded “not guilty” to, the charge was dismissed. In count 2, that the presbytery did not conduct the examination of TE Wilkins to properly find a “presumption of guilt,” to which the presbytery pleaded “guilty,” the SJC “admonished” the presbytery, the lowest form of correction.
    Now, I am not going to try to reinvent the wheel here because there is a good summary post at Reformed Musings about the proceedings, and if you want the details from a ruling elder close to the situation in Louisiana Presbytery you must check out HaigLaw’s post about the decision.
    Looking forward it is tempting to say that the PCA has sent a message that Federal Vision Theology is not compatible with their doctrinal standards and that remaining leaders and churches who hold to the Federal Vision will flee or quickly be chased away to the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches (CREC). But it is important to point out that this whole case was more about examinations regarding the theology than about the theology itself. And there is not one unified Federal Vision Theology but several varying approaches leaving some aspects doctrinally untested. So the controversy may continue until a clear declaration regrading doctrinal standards is made by the SJC. Or, the PCA might take this as a good point to take a break and get distracted by its next controversy.
    But it will be interesting to see what sort of “legs” this topic has because it has clearly “got the attention,” “struck a nerve,” “rattled the cages,” (fill in your favorite cliché here) of the various proponents and opponents to this theological controversy. And, with out going into details here, note that it deals with the nature of the covenant community, a topic at the core of Reformed theology. But one post on Green Baggins currently has 707 comments to it and there is a thread on Puritan Board that has developed quite a discussion as well (4239 posts to date). So at least at the moment the topic has momentum in the blogosphere. We will see what happens next and what happens to the momentum.

  14. ColtsFan July 23, 2008 at 9:57 am

    I have no horse in the race over this issue. I am mostly just a “lurker” who tries to read both sides of a complex issue first.
    However, yesterday, I came upon news that really disappointed me.
    My question is: did Steve Wilkins really co-author the book, “Southern Slavery as it was???”
    I cannot express how shocked I am at learning of this yesterday. And I also discovered that 2 state universities even publicly censured Doug Wilson and Steve Wilkins over that book due to its overt racism, etc.

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