The 41st General Assembly, Part 2 A: The Eternal Judicial Recurrence

2013/06/24

It was too much to expect that the PCA GA would do anything about their Standing Judicial Commission’s shoot the messenger approach to the Complaints in the Leithart and Meyers trials. The Overtures asking the GA to take up these matters were ruled out of order (is that a polite way of saying, “blown off?”) by the Moderator. One blog has asked whether there is any accountability of the SJC to the GA. The answer is, “no.” Whether or not this outcome is correct according to the PCA Book of Church Order (I’ll leave it to BCO wizards to decide that), the PCA appears helpless if its SJC goes rogue. The way the Leithart case (and maybe the Meyers case) has turned out at the GA places a huge question mark over the notion of a Standing Judicial Commission at the broadest level of Presbyterianism. The PCA’s GA is not the highest court; a “sub-court” that may or may not be truly representative of the denomination is the highest court. The reasoning of Overture 19 is rather strong, showing that the SJC’s notion that they can’t overrule a Presbytery trial that appears to be conducted in a supposedly orderly fashion reduces the SJC to essentially a paper-shuffling committee. They look at a doctrinal trial, make sure everything is “in order,” ignore the constitutional questions, scold the complainant and move on. Might as well go ahead and make Presbytery rulings final!

All that is left is for a potentially silly (and I suppose, inevitable) process of appealing to the same court that already delivered the questionable rulings (very much like the futility of asking Pacific Northwest Presbytery to have the courage of their Westminster Confession). Another three Overtures seeking relief in the Leithart case have been referred to the SJC! How many times will this “eternal recurrence” of asking a court in the PCA to review something and the court responding, “yeah, we already reviewed this and we haven’t changed our mind” continue? The wheel may spin until good men tire of repulsing revisionist attacks upon Reformed theology. The PCA has a more fundamental problem of an essentially anti-confessional element firmly nestled in the denomination. That will be the subject of the next post in this series.

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