The Pacific Northwest Presbytery, meeting in Boise, Idaho on October 8-9, 2010, voted to accede the ruling of the PCA’s Standing Judicial Commission (SJC) to try Presbytery member TE Peter Leithart on his theological views.
Last March the SJC deemed Leithart’s views as “touching fundamentals of the system of doctrine set out in the Record, suggesting a strong presumption of guilt that these views represent offenses that could properly be the subject of judicial process.”
The SJC approved the following action in this matter:
STATEMENT OF THE ISSUE: Did PNW err in its handling of the Reports from the PNW Study Committee appointed to examine Leithart’s fitness to continue as a PCA Teaching Elder?
JUDGMENT: Yes. The Complaint is sustained, and the case is sent back to PNW with instructions to proceed according to the Reasoning and Opinion of this Decision.
To read the case, SJC 2009-06, go to: http://pcahistory.org/ga/38th_pcaga_2010.pdf, pp. 208-213.
The first motion brought before the Pacific Northwest Presbytery this past weekend was as follows:
In light of the March 2010 instructions of the PCA’s SJC in Case 2009-06, Presbytery shall proceed to a trial of Dr. Peter Leithart and some of his views. However:
(1) Presbytery has not rendered or implied a judgment that there is a strong presumption that any of his views constitute an offense or that any
(2) Presbytery has not rendered or implied a finding that there is a strong presumption that any of his views are “hostile to our system of doctrine” or that any “strike at the vitals of religion.”
Next the Presbytery approved procedures for conducting the trial:
Presbytery appoints TE Stellman as prosecutor “to prepare the indictment and conduct the case (BCO 31-2).” He may recruit any TE or RE members of PNW as assistants. In the event he is unable or unwilling, Presbytery appoints TE Bordwine. In the event he is unable or unwilling, Presbytery gives the PNW SJC the responsibility to seek, and the authority to appoint, a prosecutor. If they are unable to do so, the matter shall end.
In the coming months a trial will be conducted before the Presbytery’s Standing Judicial Commission (with all members of Presbytery encouraged to attend), after which the Presbytery SJC will issue its recommendation, which will be voted upon to approve or not by the entire Presbytery membership without debate (BCO 15-3).
During the discussion one of the members of Presbytery asked Dr. Leithart pointedly, “Given that you’re already ministering in a CREC ministry [Confederation of Reformed and Evangelical Churches] in Moscow [Idaho], why do you insist upon remaining in the PCA?”
Leithart responded that he has consulted with other trusted ministers both within and without the denomination and has been counseled to remain and see this through to whatever conclusion will be reached. He also mentioned that his rationale for refusing to leave the PCA includes his hope that the verdict, if in his favor, will go a long way in aiding others in the PCA with similar views who have come under attack.
Jason Stellman, pastor of Exile Presbyterian Church in Seattle, Wash and a member of Pacific Northwest Presbytery, contributed to this report.