Tuesday, March 28, 2006

RC Sproul Jr "Deposed Without Censure." Huh?

RC Sproul Jr Saint Peter Presbyterian ChurchLots of folks have been real confused by the spin coming out of Saint Peter Presbyterian Church. The deluge of subterfuge and obfuscation is just mind-numbing. Part of what we're trying to do here is to help make some sense out of all the spin, and pass along some perspicuity to you, our readers.

Anyone who is working toward the same cause has earned our appreciation. So our hats are off to Peter Kershaw for posting this insightful article.

R.C. Sproul Jr and the St. Peter Presbyterian Church Session "Deposed Without Censure."

Oh, Really?

© 2006 by: Peter Kershaw

For almost two months the phrase "RC Sproul Jr and the Session of Saint Peter Presbyterian Church were deposed without censure" has been broadcast all over the internet. From whence came this phrase, "deposed without censure"? Certainly not from the RPCGA. That phrase originated with RC Sproul Jr and his deposed session, and first appeared in their letter of apology to the RPCGA dated 02-02-06.
"Furthermore, as a result of the Declaratory Judgment of January 26, 2006 having been deposed without censure from the ministry of Westminster Presbytery we request that you dismiss us from the jurisdiction of the Westminer Presbytery of the Reformed Presbyterian Church General Assembly."

On 02-03-06 the RPCGA released from general membership the four defrocked men. Almost immediately thereafter a public statement appeared on the Highlands Study Center web site, which included:
"The presbytery has in turn, with great grace and kindness, deposed us from our offices in the denomination without censure, and has released us from their jurisdiction, as of February 3, 2006."

RC Sproul Jr has since removed the statement from the Highlands Study Center web site, but that hasn't stopped he and his friends from repeating the "deposed without censure"; phrase like a mantra. For example, on March 2, 2006 Laurence Windham emailed a fund-raising letter in which he stated:
"As you may have heard, the elders of St Peter Presbyterian Church have been deposed from the ministry, without censure, by our former denomination."

Is it possible for an ordained minister to be "deposed without censure"? First of all we need to define "deposed":
Depose, v.
1a. To remove from office or power.
1b. To dethrone.
American Heritage Dictionary

Some have objected to the use of the word "defrocked" as it applies to RC Sproul Jr. However, "RC Sproul Jr was defrocked by the RPCGA" is an entirely fitting phrase, and perhaps is even more appropriate by definition than "RC Sproul Jr was deposed by the RPCGA":
Defrock, v.
1. To strip of priestly privileges or functions.
2. To deprive of the right to practice a profession.
3. To deprive of an honorary position.
American Heritage Dictionary

Next, we need to define the word "censure":
Censure, n.
1. The act of blaming or finding fault and condemning as wrong; applicable to the moral conduct, or to the works of men. When applied to persons, it is nearly equivalent to blame, reproof, reprehension, reprimand. It is an expression of disapprobation, which often implies reproof.
2. Judicial sentence; judgment that condemns. An ecclesiastical censure is a sentence of condemnation, or penalty inflicted on a member of a church for mal-conduct, by which he is deprived of the communion of the church, or prohibited from executing the sacerdotal office.
Webster's Dictionary (1828)

The very phrase "deposed without censure" is an oxymoron. No one considers RC Sproul Jr to be a stupid man, so for him to use such an incongruous phrase calls into question his honesty. Have any of the defrocked men deferred to the RPCGA's opinion on the matter? After all, it was they who issued the Declaratory Judgment. Wouldn't it be prudent, and wouldn't it be honest, for RC Sproul Jr and his defrocked session to ask the RPCGA if "deposes from the office of Elder" meant that they "deposed without censure"? Evidently they believe they're better qualified to interpret the RPCGA's Declaratory Judgment than the RPCGA is. Evidently they believe it's perfectly appropriate to put words in mouth of the RPCGA.

Because of the blatant misrepresentations being publicly made by the deposed St. Peter session, the RPCGA issued a public statement on February 6, 2006 in which they stated:
"While these men were deposed (defrocked) from office for their continued pattern of actions in violation of the Book of Church Order, they were not brought to trial on personal issues from other allegations that were made. Westminster Presbytery was considering a further investigation of the allegations of personal sinful behavior against them to determine if there was sufficient evidence that a trial regarding these allegations was necessary. The apology letter states 'Deposed without censure' means that these men individually had not yet been dealt with regarding personal sinful behavior at trial and therefore were in good standing as laymen until such trial would take place. The 'deposition' or 'removing them from office' was and is a 'censure' by the Presbytery for their actions as officers in the church."

In point of fact, there's nothing as severe in the way of censures for an ordained minister than to be defrocked. About the only other thing the RPCGA could have done to the Saint Peter session is to excommunicate them. However, given that they submitted a letter of apology (which given their statements since then call into serious doubt the sincerity of their apologies) excommunication probably wasn't an option. Deposition is a censure in all Presbyterian denominations, and it's certainly a censure according to the RPCGA BCO:
D 7:6 Deposition
A. Deposition is a form of censure more severe than suspension. It consists of a solemn declaration by the trial judicatory that the offender is no longer an officer of the church.
D 7: 7 Procedural Considerations
A. The indefinite suspension, deposition or excommunication of an officer or other member of the church shall be announced to the church body in which the officer holds office, or in which the member holds membership. These censures shall always be accompanied by prayer to God, that He may graciously use this discipline for the restoration of the offender, the edification of the church and His own glory.

The RPCGA specifies five specific levels of church discipline that may be imposed, for cause, against an ordained RPCGA minister. All other Presbyterian denominations that I am aware of also recognize these same disciplines. Per the RPCGA BCO they are:
D 7:2 Admonition
D 7:3 Rebuke
D 7:4 Suspension
D 7:5 Excommunication
D 7:6 Deposition

I've been directed to comments on various blogs which state that deposition is just a form of indefinite suspension, when in point of fact they are entirely separate and distinct forms of discipline with entirely different outcomes and purposes. I've also been directed to comments that state that other Presbyterian denominations sometimes "depose without censure" their ministers, one of those denominations allegedly being the PCA. However, not once have I seen any such person offer any specific reference to support their novel theories of church discipline.

Given that the PCA keeps getting raised as an example by various allies of the Saint Peter Four, we'll herein reference the PCA BCO. What does the PCA BCO have to say of being deposed?
36-7. The censure of deposition shall be administered by the moderator. . .

Clearly, being deposed from office is, in itself, a censure -- a very severe censure. Some have also complained that the RPCGA's action of defrocking the Saint Peter Four before taking them to trial was unprecedented, unwarranted and unjust (this in spite of the fact that the RPCGA BCO makes expressed provision for it at D 6:9), and again making comparisons to the PCA. However, the PCA BCO also makes provisions for deposing an ordained minister from office without full process by trial:
34-7. When a minister, pending a trial, shall make confession, if the matter be base and flagitious, such as drunkenness, uncleanness, or crimes of a greater nature, however penitent he may appear to the satisfaction of all, the court shall without delay impose definite suspension or depose him from the ministry.

Could it be that the defrocked Saint Peter session believes that if they repeat their "we were deposed without censure" (a blatant misrepresentation) and "we were deposed without a trial" (implying the RPCGA's Declaratory Judgment deprived them of justice) mantra often enough, loudly enough, and widely enough, perhaps it magically becomes the truth? This pattern of continued public duplicity only reinforces what the RPCGA has already stated in their Declaratory Judgment:
"The consistent pattern of actions taken by these men are duplicitous in nature, and demonstrate that they willingly and knowingly act in an arbitrary fashion in violation of their vows of ordination and in violation of our denomination's Book of Church Order. Most importantly, their actions manifest that they lack the qualification for the ministry (1Timothy 3:1-7). It would be unwise to allow these men to continue to hold an office for which they are not qualified."

As a direct result of the deposed St. Peter session's February 2 letter of apology to the RPCGA, they were released from general membership, and it is only from their status as general members in the RPCGA that it could be rightly construed that they were released "without censure." Given the fact that they'd already been defrocked, that's not much to be proud of.

Doug Wilson Christ KirkThis kind of "deposes without censure" spin isn't unique to RC Sproul Jr. It also happens to be Doug Wilson's modus operandi. RC Sproul Jr's buddies, preeminent among them Doug Wilson, have been supporting RC Sproul Jr's spin, and in Doug Wilson's case he's been busy spinning a few tales of his own in his "A Justice Primer" series:
RC Spoul Jr
More On RC
Scurrilous Is As Scurrilous Does
Believing A Lie
Discipline and Persecution
Unjust Men
Jurisdictional Justice

Given that Doug Wilson has concocted a definition of "Justice" and "Presbyterianism" all his own, it's perfectly understandable why he would come to embrace RC Sproul Jr's "deposed without censure" mythology.

No one questions but that RC Jr will make a good fit in the CREC given the non-existent standards, their lack of regard for ministerial integrity, and their lack of respect for church discipline and the judgments of Presbyterian denominations, no one should be surprised when they exonerate RC Sproul Jr and the Saint Peter Four, ordain them as Elders, and even attempt to smear the RPCGA in the process. They've done it before, and they're very likely to do it again. Furthermore, no one should be surprised when they smear and slander the witnesses that provided the evidence and testimony that resulted in the defrocking of the Saint Peter Four.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

"I just got defrocked. Please send money."

RC Sproul Jr needs to plug a few leaks, but he appears powerless to stop it. With each new leak comes some new spin, or sometimes it's just the old spin with a new twist. RC Sproul Jr and his minions are true masters of spin. In fact, they know so much about spin they were able to dedicate an entire issue of Every Thought Captive to the subject of Spin. Now that's the kind of dedication that comes from personal experience and expertise.

The latest leak comes courtesy of Saint Peter Presbyterian Church defrocked minister Laurence Windham's email list, and it's couched in a plea for money, while also perpetuating more Saint Peter Presbyterian Church blame-shifting:

Laurence Windham Saint Peter Presbyterian ChurchDear Friends,

As you may have heard, the elders of St Peter Presbyterian Church have been deposed from the ministry, without censure, by our former denomination. This action was done without a trial, called witnesses, cross-examination, or opportunity for a defense. The result has plunged our beloved sacred community into the quagmire of congregationalism. The elders have been maligned and slandered incessantly by the cowardly in the lawless realm of the internet. The ensuing gossip and fallacious commentary, even by some misguided good people, have added to the confusion.

We hold out hope that we will soon be exonerated by godly men in another denomination. Even now, plans are going forward that will bring our plight before the entire Reformed world for evaluation. This will be most welcome by the entire deposed session of St Peter. In this interim, I am appealing to you for financial support for my family. The situation has left the church, the session and the Highlands Study Center's viability in question. Each of us who labor in this part of the kingdom is hopeful that things will be back to normal in a few months.

But in the short term, in the spirit of Antioch helping out Jerusalem, any support you could send this way would help us give our attention to rebuilding the walls and preparing ourselves for the regathering of the sheep.

Send all contributions for the Windham family to:

Covenant Reformed Presbyterian Church
P.O. Box 30315
Knoxville, TN 37930

Thanks for your timely consideration,


Laurence Windham's accusations against the RPCGA are the new Saint Peter Presbyterian Church mantra, having now easily surpassed the old mantra of, "Simple, separate and deliberate" in frequency of use:
"The elders of St Peter Presbyterian Church have been deposed from the ministry, without censure, by our former denomination. This action was done without a trial, called witnesses, cross-examination, or opportunity for a defense."

Bunk! Unfortunately, a lot of undiscerning folks who don't know anything about Presbyterian church discipline are buying the Saint Peter bunk. But it doesn't take a serrated edge to slice it to ribbons. There's no such thing as being "deposed from the ministry, without censure." Being deposed is not only a censure, there's no more harsh a censure for any ordained minister than being deposed. The only way it could have been any worse for them is if the RPCGA had also excommunicated them (but since they supposedly "repented" that wasn't an option). As for the rest of Mr. Windham's claptrap we would just refer you to "Addressing Inferences and Innuendos." It bebunks the Saint Peter Presbyterian Church mantra better than anything we could say here.

So much for the Saint Peter Presbyterian Church Session's letter of "repentance." Laurence Windham makes it obvious who he really thinks is at fault for all his cash flow problems -- certainly not himself and his fellow Elders masquerading as Pastors. As Peter Kershaw pointed out in his Open Letter to RC Sproul Jr, the Saint Peter Session's repeated attempts to "repent," but also shifting the blame to the RPCGA and all those malicious and gossipy witnesses, is really no repentance at all. It was just a sham to get out from under the RPCGA's jurisdiction. Laurence Windham's fund raising letter is just more of the same blame-shifting. If they objected to the testimony of the witnesses, why did they plead "Guilty"? If they objected why did they plead to leave the RPCGA rather than stay and appeal the Declaratory Judgment that they now claim to disagree with?

As is noted in the "Austin letter" to the Saint Peter Session, it wasn't the RPCGA's actions that "plunged our beloved sacred community into the quagmire of congregationalism," it was the Saint Peter Presbyterian Church Session's failure to administer the RPCGA's membership vows in the first place. "Since every St. Peter member was compelled by the session to take an unconstitutional vow, and every unconstitutional act is null and void ab initio, it could be argued that no St. Peter member can be held accountable to their membership vows." Failing to administer the proper vows meant that no Saint Peter Presbyterian Church member was ever a member of the RPCGA, and with no RPCGA members, Saint Peter Presbyterian Church could not be a member of the RPCGA and as such Saint Peter Presbyterian Church was never "Presbyterian." The only Saint Peter Presbyterian Church members who ever were RPCGA members was the Saint Peter Session itself. This isn't unlike the actions of RC Sproul, who is ordained in the PCA, but the church that he pastors, Saint Andrews Chapel, is an unaffiliated independent church. Was RC Jr's "failure" to administer the RPCGA's vows just a mere oversight, or was he actually following daddy's example?

After this "failure" was pointed out to the Saint Peter Presbyterian Church Session, the members of Saint Peter Presbyterian Church were offered by the RPCGA in writing the opportunity to take the RPCGA's membership vows. From what we've heard no one accepted the RPCGA's offer. Hmm. Yup, it sure sounds like it all must be the RPCGA's fault.

And so the spin continues.

By Laurence Windham's own criteria list, he doesn't seem to qualify as even a man, let alone a minister of the gospel:
"I am not perfect. But I'm not stupid either. I learn from my mistakes."
"I choose my words carefully."
"I tell the truth whatever the cost."
How To Recognize A Man, by Laurence Windham

Laurence Windham's fund raising letter is certainly the most unique we've ever seen, and the theme goes something like this: I just got defrocked. Well, it just really stinks, and I'm in a world of hurt because we're low on groceries, and the people in my church distrust me so much now that even they wouldn't give a case of tomatoes to their poor old defrocked pastor so I can keep making my world famous salsa. So what I'm gonna do now is bash and lie about the denomination that did all this to me. It's their fault, not mine, and anyone who can't see that is just a fallacious gossiper. And I'm gonna claim that I've already got another "denomination" (well, it's really just a "confederation") just waiting in the wings to vindicate me of all charges (well, at least I'm pretty sure they'll "whitewash" everything). And then they're gonna ordain me, and everyone at Saint Peter Presbyterian Church will trust me again and want to give me that steady paycheck again, and everything will be just peachy like old times. And because of all those really good reasons, all you nice people need to send me your money to tide me over for just a few months. My own church won't help me pay the bills, but that's obviously no reflection on me. So send me your money today. You can trust me with it. And after all, it's just temporary. That's it. The end.

We're not sure what school of fund raising this guy graduated from, but that's just not the way it's done, unless, that is, you're just trying to pull a scam. At the very least you've got to have some kind of credible story, and Windham's story just doesn't cut it. Donors expect some accountability, which means you've got to explain what you need the money for, what specific kind of ministry work you've been doing, what kind of ministry work you'll be doing in the immediate future, and what kinds of ministry successes you've already had.

So right off the bat there's a big problem -- it's pretty hard to convince anyone that you've had any success in ministry when you just managed to get yourself defrocked. Furthermore, Laurence Windham makes no mention of what specific kinds of "ministry work" he's engaged in right now, or what ministry work he'll be doing next week, or next month, which seems to imply that he's doing probably little or nothing. Mr. Windham, please notice here that the operative terms are "ministry" and "work." If you were actually engaged in some "ministry work" there would be some actual evidence of that "work" and something you could actually communicate about that "work." As we understand it, however, your "work" ethic is pretty much on par with RC Sproul Jr's work ethic (that's not meant as a compliment).

Mr. Windham, the body of Christ isn't a substitute State welfare program. From what we've heard you're an able-bodied man. Quit being a burden and an embarrassment to the body of Christ and go get yourself a job. Start practicing what you've been preaching all these years.
"My hands are callused from honest work."
How To Recognize A Man, by Laurence Windham

Other Blogs Covering This Story:
Laurence Windham Blames Others for His Failures
RC Sproul Jr. & Justice in the Kirk, Part 3