By request of the Defense, the trial for Mr. Jared Olivetti has been moved to the week of March 7, 2022, and the trial for the ruling elders (Mr. David Carr, Mr. Ben Larson, and Mr. Keith Magill) has been moved to the week of March 28, 2022. These are the final dates. Location and logistics for these trials are being worked out by the SJC.
In the 2021 meeting of Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA), the court assumed original jurisdiction for the matter pertaining to complaints associated with events at Immanuel Reformed Presbyterian Church (IRPC). The Synod Judicial Commission (SJC) has been often heartened and encouraged by word from many in the denomination who have been regularly praying for our work. We continue to invite and encourage the entire denomination – members and churches alike to be in prayer for the IRPC congregation, their current and former members and all those who have been impacted by these events. The SJC is regularly in prayer for each and together we seek the blessing of the Great Shepherd in this work.
This is a report of a few recent actions and upcoming milestone dates for the work of the SJC.
We previously reported that the SJC had approved accusations against the elders of IRPC. After that action, the SJC arranged to conduct pre-trial hearings on November 30th with both Prosecution and Defense participating. It was a purposeful and meaningful exchange about hard things. In the hearings, the SJC heard objections to actions of the SJC and received requests and motions from the Defense. Each of those topics have been addressed by the SJC and results communicated to the parties. As previously reported, the approval of accusations does not pre-judge the case, but simply acknowledges that they conform to the requirements of the Constitution of the RPCNA. The judicial process must run its full course to determine the outcome.
Regarding the judicial process now underway, the following actions and decisions have been recently confirmed by the SJC:
- The SJC denied the motion of the Defense to vacate all charges and nullify the investigation. The SJC determined that the denial of judicial process was unfair to all – accusers and accused alike. A full, fair, and impartial opportunity to fully ‘address this matter’ is necessary to bring it to completion.
- In the accusations approved against the ruling elders of IRPC, the SJC has removed Mr. Zachary Blackwood and Mr. Nate Pfeiffer from the list of the accused. Both Mr. Blackwood and Mr. Pfeiffer resigned their office (Mr. Pfeiffer also resigned his ordination) earlier in 2021 in response to the recommendations of the Great Lakes Gulf (GLG) Presbytery Judicial Commission.
- By request of the Defense, the trial for Mr. Jared Olivetti has been moved to the week of March 7, 2022, and the trial for the ruling elders (Mr. David Carr, Mr. Ben Larson, and Mr. Keith Magill) has been moved to the week of March 28, 2022. These are the final dates. Location and logistics for these trials are being worked out by the SJC.
- As permitted by the RPCNA Constitution Book of Discipline (II.2.9), the SJC has imposed the requirement for Mr. Olivetti to refrain from the exercise of the office of teaching elder until the judicial process is complete. By imposing this requirement, the SJC in no way pre-judges the case, but acknowledges the gravity of the accusations against Mr. Olivetti. The SJC has not imposed the same requirement to refrain on the ruling elders at this time.
The SJC acknowledges the significant amount of time, efforts and sacrifices that have been invested in this matter in recent months. Many have given inordinate amounts of energy on behalf of the Synod, and this includes not only the SJC, but the investigators (who now serve as Prosecutors) and the accused (now the Defense). The SJC is pleased to report that healthy patterns of communication have been established between all the parties and even in difficult concerns we trust the Lord will give light and stamina to all as we continue in this process.
Because the judicial process is ongoing over these next few months, the SJC is not soliciting general communications or input from members of the denomination unless they are urgent for the good of those involved. The SJC is focused on carefully carrying out the process as described in the Constitution and seeks to conduct each step decently and in order. The SJC is not responding to any requests from the media as our charter from Synod is wholly an ecclesiastical matter. Further, the SJC cautions each and every one to be careful in their conversations about this matter. We remind ourselves and all to remember Ephesians 4:29 – “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” We are a communion of saints, and we love our brothers and sisters in every dimension of this matter. Our words ought always to give grace to all who hear. The Lord directs our hearts even in difficult matters such as this and we are ever encouraged to love one another…without exception.
Please continue in your prayers and petitions. Our Lord reigns.
The 2021 Synod Judicial Commission
TE Mr. Bruce Backensto, SJC Convener, First RP Church, Beaver Falls, PA
RE Dr. John Bower, Covenant RP Church, Aurora, OH
TE Mr. Brian Coombs, Messiah’s Church, Clay, NY
RE Mr. Tom Fisher, SJC Clerk, Cambridge RP Church, Cambridge, MA
TE Mr. Kelly Moore, Tri-Lakes Reformed Church, Colorado Springs, CO
RE Mr. Tom Pinson, Springs Reformed Church, Colorado Springs, CO
RE Mr. Keith Wing, SJC Moderator, College Hill Reformed Church, Beaver Falls, PA
January 6, 2022