Rocky Mountain Presbytery (PCA) exonerates Dominic Aquila of charges of breaking the Ninth Commandment

RMP voted on Thursday, September 30 to unanimously approve the report of a Committee to Investigate and thus exonerate Dr. Aquila of the charges raised by Metro New York Presbytery.

This spring, Dr. Dominic Aquila, former moderator of the PCA General Assembly and President of New Geneva Theological Seminary, posted an article in the Web Magazine The Aquila Report (which he serves as Editor).

The article was written by John Otis, a minister in the RPCUS, and was entitled “Discerning Roman Catholic Tendencies Among Professing Reformed Churches.”

In this article, Otis criticized Dr. Craig Higgins, a teaching elder in Metro New York Presbytery, and pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Rye, NY, for what he alleged were “Roman Catholic tendencies.”

Otis was concerned about TE Higgins’ advocacy of the practice of Lent and Ash Wednesday; his advocacy of a return to bishops; his suggestion that the Bishop of Rome would be the proper presiding bishop of a worldwide ecumenical council (as long as his authority was not greater than the ecumenical council, including rejecting papal infallibility); asserting that the church could “move beyond” the debate over baptismal regeneration by the renewal of a rich, instrumental baptismal theology; that Higgins was in agreement with the idea that by baptism one is made an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven; and Higgins’ view that baptism is ordinarily necessary for salvation, among other things.

Metro New York Presbytery discussed this article at their May 8, 2010 meeting. They responded by unanimously voting to send a letter to Rocky Mountain Presbytery (RMP, the court with jurisdiction over TE Aquila) accusing TE Dominic Aquila of breaking his ordination vow to uphold the purity and peace of the church, of breaking the 9th commandment, and of a lack of love because he posted this article.
“The article by Mr. Otis is not merely a critical interaction with Pastor Higgins’ views (which would be appropriate), but is an attack on his character and calls into question the appropriateness of his stature as a pastor in our denomination” (See the full letter below).

At its Fall Stated Meeting held on Thursday, September 30, Rocky Mount Presbytery heard a report of a Committee to Investigate these charges. That committee recommended exoneration of all charges. RMP voted to accept the committee’s recommendation and thus exonerate Dr. Aquila of the charges raised by Metro New York Presbytery. The vote to exonerate was unanimous.

Wes White is a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America and currently serves as Pastor of New Covenant Presbyterian Church in Spearfish, South Dakota. This story first appeared in his blog Johannes Weslianus and is used with his permission.
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Following is the full text of the letter sent to Rocky Mountain Presbyter:

Metropolitan New York Presbytery
Presbyterian Church in America
“Seek the peace and prosperity of the city. . . Pray to the Lord for it” (Jeremiah 29:7).
May 19, 2010

Rev. Kevin Allen, Stated Clerk
Rocky Mountain Presbytery
4055 South Nonchalant Circle
Colorado Springs, CO 80917

Dear Rev. Allen,

At our recent Presbytery meeting on May 8, 2010, we approved sending the enclosed letter formed by our Shepherding Team to your Presbytery. Thank you for your consideration on this matter.

Dear Brothers of the Rocky Mountain Presbytery,

We trust this finds you all well and your churches flourishing in the grace that is ours in Christ Jesus.

We are writing because one of your presbyters, Dominic Aquila, publishes a website entitled “The Aquila Report” (www.theaquilareport.com) in which we believe he allows one of the brothers in our presbytery, Craig Higgins, to be slandered. We believe this is very serious failure to uphold the ordination vows that ask us to strive for the purity and peace of the church. We believe it is a violation of the ninth commandment and also of the call to love one another.

In the article published on TE Aquila’s website, Pastor Higgins, a teaching elder in good standing is called “a very dangerous man” and “theologically incompetent.” Moreover, we believe the paper was not charitable because it misrepresents Mr. Higgins views. The article was written by John M. Otis and TE Aquila posted it on March 16,2010 (http://theaquilareport.cornlindex.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=l 685:discerning-roman-catholic-tendencies-among-professing-reformedchurches&catid=79:commentary&Itemid=l37).

We believe it is completely inappropriate of Dominic Aquila to publish this article and that he should be held accountable for doing so.

A number of individuals have written to TE Aquila about this matter and have received the following response from him:

Thank you for your comments on John Otis’s commentary. Otis was assessing and critiquing the public views of Craig Higgins, a common practice when any author presents his views in writing for public consumption. While there were challenges to Higgins’s written views, the assessment was not a hit piece or character assassination. When any of us takes a position on an issue we can expect critiques from those who take a contrary position; it is a challenge to ideas the person presented not the person as an individual. I know that I have received both accolades and brickbats from my publicly stated positions; I appreciate the former and squirm with the latter, but if I stick my neck out I have to be willing to stand under scrutiny, both good and bad.

We find this response to be without repentance and completely inadequate. The article by Mr. Otis is not merely a critical interaction with Pastor Higgins’ views (which would be appropriate), but is an attack on his character and calls into question the appropriateness of his stature as a pastor in our denomination. It is our strong conviction that TE Aquila should not only remove the article and print a retraction but also apologize to Craig Higgins and ask for his forgiveness. We believe that the publishing of that article dishonors Christ and violates the unity of the body.

We respectfully implore you to take action. We await your reply.

In partnership for the gospel,

Metropolitan New York Presbytery
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(Editorial Note: The MNYP letter speaks of the The Aquila Report as a personal website of TE Aquila. The facts are that The Aquila Report is a Web Magazine wholly owned by Metokos Press, Inc. of Narrows, Virginia. The publisher of the magazine is TE Don K. Clements and TE Dominic Aquila serves as the Editor. A new Not-For-Profit Corporation has been formed and is in the process of purchasing the Web Magazine from Metokos Press.)