The SJC has also received the complaint filed by a teaching elder in Missouri Presbytery against Missouri’s refusal to find a strong presumption of guilt against Johnson. That complaint has been denied by the presbytery, and the elder filing it has taken it to the SJC.As indicated in its statement, the SJC officers will recommend to the SJC that ruling on this complaint should take precedence over deciding whether BCO 34-1 applies to the requests from the presbyteries.
The officers of the Standing Judicial Commission (SJC) of the PCA have released the following statement regarding the status of possible procedures against Teaching Elder (TE) Greg Johnson, pastor of Memorial Presbyterian Church in St. Louis:
The Standing Judicial Commission (SJC) of the PCA has received a Complaint from a Teaching Elder in Missouri Presbytery against the action of Missouri Presbytery that approved a recommendation of its Investigation Committee not to pursue judicial process against TE Greg Johnson. The Complaint instead asks the SJC to find a strong presumption of guilt and institute process. Because this Complaint asks for essentially the same amends as some other presbyteries have requested by overturing the SJC to assume original jurisdiction of the matter, the SJC has not yet made a determination regarding those requests. It is anticipated that the SJC will hold a hearing on the Complaint early this Spring. After the disposition of the Complaint, the SJC will rule on the original jurisdiction requests from the other presbyteries.
Background to the Statement
When a presbytery receives reports concerning the character or doctrine of a PCA minister, the presbytery may undertake an investigation under BCO 31-2. If after investigating the matter, the presbytery believes there’s a strong presumption of guilt, the presbytery must institute a formal proceeding against him. If the minister is found guilty, the presbytery will impose a censure, ranging from admonition (a warning), to degrading him from his office (deposition) and, in extreme cases, to removing him from the communion of the church (excommunication) (BCO 36).
In the fall of 2019, two presbyteries and two sessions asked Johnson’s presbytery (Missouri) to investigate whether or not his views and teachings on human sexuality are out of accord with the PCA’s standards and the teaching of Scripture on this subject and warrant the initiation of the process of formal discipline. An Ad Hoc Committee of presbytery presented a report to Missouri Presbytery in July, which it approved, finding no strong presumption of Johnson’s guilt.
When a presbytery makes such a determination, there is an avenue open to those who disagree with their judgment. BCO 43 allows those who have standing within the presbytery — ministers (teaching elders) who are presbytery members or (ruling) elders of member churches — to file a complaint against the action of presbytery. If the presbytery, after considering the complaint, believes it has not erred and denies it, the person filing the complaint may take the matter to the SJC. This has happened.
In addition, two presbyteries, Central Georgia and Savannah River, had previously sent BCO 34-1 communications to the 2020 General Assembly (since rescheduled) requesting that the Assembly assume original jurisdiction in the matter because, in their opinions, the presbytery has refused to act in a doctrinal case or a matter of public scandal. When the SJC received these requests, it appointed a seven-man committee to recommend whether the provisions of BCO 34-1 apply in this case — no determination has yet been made.
In the meantime, the SJC has also received the complaint filed by a teaching elder in Missouri Presbytery against Missouri’s refusal to find a strong presumption of guilt against Johnson. That complaint has been denied by the presbytery, and the elder filing it has taken it to the SJC.
As indicated in its statement, the SJC officers will recommend to the SJC that ruling on this complaint should take precedence over deciding whether BCO 34-1 applies to the requests from the presbyteries.