From a BA perspective, if the NP asked about how to go forward, I would advise it to publish a purpose and mission statement compatible with PCA officer vows, accept all such within the PCA who desire to participate in order to grow in their understanding of PCA polity and practices, and do away with confidentiality as its functional methodology. All of this would be workable, however, only after a public apology and due repentance for the way the group has conducted itself essentially as a denomination within the denomination over the past several years.
In my day job I function in the role of a business analyst much of the time. Business analysis (BA) involves helping the business enable change by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to its stakeholders. We employ many tools and techniques to make that happen, and we will frequently discover misalignment when examining stated goals and objectives and comparing them to actual practices.
I’d like to put on my BA hat to consider the so-called “Presbyleaks” (the release of the National Partnership documents) which occurred last year. Of particular interest is the characterization of the National Partnership (NP) by TE Kessler as quoted in the article by Travis Scott last November, The Big Leak, Part 1: 
This group exists as a way to resource one another. We want you to feel prepared for the Assembly and engaged in its work on the Presbytery level. This group does not tell you how to vote. Even if I/we make recommendations please remember that we are grateful for diversity. We are looking for unity, not uniformity. Being a part of the National Partnership means that you are committing to participation in the business of our denomination. We will be about the logistics of denominational health; we aren’t a visioning committee. The NP also creates a place to have a conversation in confidence; nothing here is reproduced and blogged or whatever. Our discussion boards are places to stretch and reason together. Please feel free to use them.
“I have said it before and I’ll say it again: the intent of confidentiality was always to protect those of you who felt you could not be as forthcoming in larger groups. I’ve always wanted the NP to be a place where you can seek advice with confidence that your questions weren’t being used to fuel blog posts. The lack of confidentiality makes no difference in what I share with you. Emails will say pretty much what they would have said.”
In the above we find the purpose, responsibility, and methodology of membership within the NP according to TE Kessler:
- Purpose: To resource one another, to prepare its members for effectiveness within their presbyteries and at GA. Being part of the NP necessitates participation in the business of the denomination, but the NP doesn’t exist to function as a voting bloc.
- Responsibility: Participation in the “business” of the denomination, for its “health”.
- Methodology: Confidentiality in order to maintain a safe space that facilitates frankness and free expression would otherwise be precluded in open groups, where men may “stretch and reason together”.
Upon closer examination, we find several inherent contradictions in each of these, as well as conflicts with the proscribed practices and polity of the PCA (another task of BA: document analysis, the BCO in this case).
Let’s consider first the stated purpose. The emails reveal much organization and coordination for votes on overtures at GA, nominations for committees, and activities within Presbyteries. Travis Scott even concedes the political nature of the activities of the NP in his article. So the stated purpose and the actual activity of the NP are misaligned, which raises the question of the accuracy of the stated purpose.
Training videos, seminars, and articles in public forums open to all interested parties would function as much better tools to equip individuals to serve effectively in the denomination rather than secret societies of email groups on a rather broad scale. The chosen method of selective “resourcing” betrays a suspicion and lack of trust, which precludes making such endeavors open for all: only the right people are to be resourced.
Second, consider the stated responsibility of each member in the NP: participation in the business of the denomination, for its health. The truth is that every officer in the PCA must vow to perform all the duties of his office, which includes participation in its courts. Qualifications for church office include familiarity and acceptance of PCA polity (BCO 21-4 & 21-5 for teaching elders (TEs), 24-6 for ruling elders (REs)). So any officer who engages in a secret society or group for the supposed purpose of doing the “business” of the church fails to understand the very nature of Presbyterian polity, and tacitly breaks his vows for ordination. The ecclesiastical jurisdiction within the PCA is explicitly stated to be a joint rather than a several power (BCO 1-5), and secret groups by their very nature constitute a breach of the PCA form of government.
Third, consider the stated methodology: confidentiality. The need for confidentiality usually arises when there are sensitive topics to be considered. We commonly see this in business settings where corporate concerns are meant to be kept from the competition, or where personal HR matters are discussed. In the case of the NP, however, the premise for confidentiality is for the sake of personal growth and development, where its members may “stretch and reason together” without having to worry about being taken out of context and without having to deal with slander by outsiders (whether inside the church or not). But in light of the purported purpose and responsibility of NP members, how is it possible that REs and TEs in particular are afraid to own the truth of their convictions?
It seems incredulous that men who, in the case of TEs, have completed college and seminary, been examined by presbytery prior to being ordained and installed as church officers, men who regularly teach and preach the truth, giving correction to those who err (a requirement for the office), how is it that they of all people need a safe space to share what they really believe and think in order to “stretch and reason together”?
In my day job as a business analyst one of the ground rules we often employ in group meetings is called “stand your ground.” This ground rule sets the expectation that participants in the meeting will own their ideas and share them in the meeting to improve productivity, as opposed to leaving the meeting and telling everyone afterwards that it was a total waste of time. The courts of the church are supposed to be the space of deliberation and discussion, where men own their ideas and the church as a whole votes on them. Men serving as TEs and REs must not be shrinking violets who are afraid to stand for the truth as they understand it for fear of opposition. Nor should they be too proud to be open to instruction, even publicly. Our Lord has a word or two to say about those who are ashamed of Him and His words in this present age (Luke 9:26).
What’s more, confidentiality and large numbers tend to be mutually exclusive, and practically a fool’s errand. The more individuals who are in on a secret, the more likely it is to be leaked. As cited above, TE Kessler has stated that any lack of confidentiality would make no difference in what was shared in the emails. If that is the case, why the need for an exclusive email group in the first place, apart from fear of being challenged or ridiculed? The truth will stand up to scrutiny, whereas error and subterfuge will not.
So from a BA perspective, if the NP asked about how to go forward, I would advise it to publish a purpose and mission statement compatible with PCA officer vows, accept all such within the PCA who desire to participate in order to grow in their understanding of PCA polity and practices, and do away with confidentiality as its functional methodology. All of this would be workable, however, only after a public apology and due repentance for the way the group has conducted itself essentially as a denomination within the denomination over the past several years.
Nathan Bowers is a member of First Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Ft. Oglethorpe, Ga.
 Travis Scott, The Big Leak, Pt. 1, https://www.semperref.org/articles/the-big-leak-pt-1?fbclid=IwAR2ymcY18V8sn1A64M8u6e0RN6G5ix9PAAWajpWPr2YADqqrQbFZMqh0vvI accessed Jan. 22, 2022.
 Al Taglieri, National Partnership Called to Repentance, https://theaquilareport.com/national-partnership-called-to-repentance/, accessed Jan. 22, 2022.