Thursday, September 30, 1999

CRE Minutes

The following text is taken verbatim from the CRE’s minutes, dated September 30, 1999, regarding Burke Shade’s reception into the CRE:

— Motion (DW/GH) to seat Cornerstone Reformed Church, Carbondale, IL (Burke Shade, pastor). After discussion, the motion passed 5-0. (CREC 1999 minutes, p. 1)

Thursday, September 16, 1999

Christ Church Elders’ Minutes

The following text is taken verbatim from the Christ Church Elders’ Meeting Minutes, dated September 16, 1999:

Doug described the situation with Cornerstone Reformed Church and Burke Shade. Motion (DW/PB) [Doug Wilson/Patch Blakey] to authorize Doug to make a motion at CRE to receive Cornerstone as a fraternal delegate. All approved.

Thursday, June 17, 1999

FORC Given Answer in Shade Case

P & R News, volume 5, issue 3

Louisville, Kentucky (June 17, 1999) — The 27th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) today answered a communication from the Synod of the Federation of Reformed Churches (FORC) regarding a deposed PCA minister received by the Synod. The court declared that the Rev. Mr. Burke Shade “was not transferred as one in good standing as alleged by the Communication but as one who had been found guilty of several charges, suspended from the sacraments and from office, and later deposed from the ministry.” The Assembly also said: “If the Federation of Reformed Churches desires to receive Mr. Shade, it should be with the recognition that he was not a minister in good standing at the time of his reception since his name was retained on the roll of Illiana Presbytery until his trial was completed. This being the case, the Assembly advises the Federation of Reformed Churches that if they have received Mr. Shade, they should take proper steps to deal with the discipline duly imposed by a PCA court.”

The Presbytery of Covenant Reformed Church, a FORC congregation located in Harrisonburg, Va., had sent what it styled a “memorial” to the General Assembly. The communique, which was received not as a “memorial” but as a “communication,” asked questions and raised concerns regarding the handling of the case against Burke Philip Shade by Illiana Presbytery. Mr. Shade was found guilty of “apparently” teaching a particular doctrine, and the FORC communication asked “is this terminology [i.e., of finding someone “apparently” guilty] actually considered appropriate in the Presbyterian Church in America?” The communication also noted that Mr. Shade had been “convicted of spreading injurious reports in a legal document written for the court in response to the denial of a complaint.” The communique then said: “We believe that a reasonable indulgence should be allowed in this type of legal response to a complaint, i.e., if the facts presented are pertinent to the case, they should not be considered a basis for action against the accused. Is this belief on our part counter to PCA policy?”

The Assembly left those questions unanswered, and the concerns regarding the handling of the case unaddressed. Instead, the court declared: “The proper way for a judicial case, that has been settled by one of our presbyteries, to be brought before our General Assembly is either by appeal by one who has been duly tried by the presbytery or by complaint by a member of the presbytery. Since neither action has taken place, the General Assembly declines to enter into a retrial or review of the case on the basis of the Communication from persons outside of the PCA.”

Wednesday, June 2, 1999

Illiana Deposes Carbondale Pastor

FORC Synod Receives Him, Memorializes General Assembly
P&R News, Volume 5, Issue 2, June 1999

Meeting in the final of six trial sessions on April 17, 1999, Illiana Presbytery deposed the Rev. Mr. Burke Shade from the ministry. The court took the action after finding him guilty on three of the four charges which had been presented against him.

A Request for Transfer
Meanwhile, the Synod of the Federation of Reformed Churches (FORC), which had examined and received Mr. Shade as a ministerial member on April 3, 1999, requested Illiana at its April 10, 1999, stated meeting to transfer him along with the trial transcripts, with the intention of continuing the trial under its auspices. Illiana declined to do so; according to an observer, one of the presbyters stated: “We can’t really transfer Burke to FORC, because General Assembly doesn’t know who FORC is. In their minds, it would be like transferring him to the Klingon Empire.” The court proceeded with the remainder of the trial the next week. The FORC Synod had counseled Mr. Shade to continue to submit himself to the trial, which he did. He was present in person and was also represented by his counsel, the Rev. Mr. John Owen Birkett, pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church, Owensboro, Kentucky.

The Background
Charges had been filed against Mr. Shade following a series of disputes among members of the Session of Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Carbondale, Illinois, where he had pastored since 1992. What brought matters to a head were two issues: Sessional action to require that elders other than the Pastor read Scripture in public worship, and a petition to the Session that a congregational meeting be held to consider whether one of the church’s ruling elders should remain on the Session.

In the first instance, the Session had voted 2-1 to require that ordained elders other than Mr. Shade take turns reading the Scriptures. Mr. Shade had complained that action; and, when the complaint was denied, took his complaint to Illiana Presbytery, which also denied the complaint.

In the second instance, the Session had declined to call a congregational meeting, despite receiving a petition from a significant portion of the congregation. (The Book of Church Order, 24-6, says,

“The ruling elder or deacon, though chargeable with neither heresy nor immorality, may become unacceptable in his official capacity to a majority of the church which he serves. In such a case the church may take the initiative by a majority vote at a regularly called congregational meeting, and request the Session to dissolve the official relationship between the church and the officer without censure. . . .”

The Constitution also mandates that a congregational meeting be called when a certain percentage of the communicant members petitions for such.)

The elder in question, Mr. Randy Moore, contended that the petition contained allegations against him, and therefore was inappropriate under BCO 24-6. Complaint was lodged by Mr. Michael Marshall, one of the petitioners, against the Session’s failure to act. After Mr. Shade had been suspended from office in the fall of 1998, the Session voted, 2-0, to deny the complaint. The two ruling elders present were Mr. Moore and Mr. Joe Kessler. Moderating the meeting was the Rev. Mr. Wyatt George, former pastor of the Carbondale church and one of the men who brought charges against Mr. Shade.

The Charges and the Trial
The fact that Mr. Shade had been aware of this petition was one more factor in the decision to bring charges against him. He was accused of the following: erroneous views of baptism and of evangelization; spreading injurious reports against two of the church’s ruling elders; failure to be in subjection to lawful church authority; and “countenancing activity on the part of both some members and some officers of the congregation . . . that disrupted the peace of the church and divided it.”

He pled “guilty” in November 1998, to two of the specifications, believing that he had to do so because he had already privately confessed to these matters before formal charges were brought. The court on that basis voted to suspend him from office and the Lord’s Supper.

The court later found him guilty of “apparently” holding to an erroneous view of baptism, and of countenancing an un-Biblical view of evangelism. He was censured by admonition, and by being instructed not to teach on those matters until a Presbytery committee could counsel with him. At the April 17th session, the Presbytery found him guilty of the fourth charge (“countenancing activity . . . that disrupted the peace of the church and divided it”), and voted to depose him from office. The court dropped the third charge completely (regarding failure to be in subjection to church authority) and ended the trial. It also denied a complaint brought by Mr. Moore, that sought to revise the language in which the censure was couched with regard to the defendant’s views on baptism. Elder Moore wanted the court to rule that Mr. Shade’s baptismal views were “un-Confessional.”

New Congregation Formed
In the meantime, a majority of Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) decided to leave and form a new church. In January, members of this majority group had petitioned for a congregational meeting to consider withdrawing from the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). By this time, a temporary Session, appointed by the Presbytery, was governing the congregation. The petition was granted, and the congregational meeting was held on February 10th. But by then, many in the majority faction had decided simply to walk away rather than try to pursue either an amicable division of assets, or a withdrawal from PCA jurisdiction. (The threat of a potential civil lawsuit by one of the officers of the minority group was a factor which, according to members of the majority group, intimidated some of them from dealing with the matter any further.) Cornerstone Reformed Church began meeting in February in DeSoto, Illinois, a suburb of Carbondale, in a church building located on property owned by Mr. Mark Akin, who had been a ruling elder at EPC. The first occasion of worship drew about 100 people. Over the past two or three months, average attendance has been around 90. (The total communicant membership of EPC had been 153.) Already the new congregation has more than $40,000 in its bank account.

More Charges Processed
Mr. Akin and Mr. Wayne Sutherland, who had been a deacon at EPC but had also previously been ordained to preach, serve as the governing board for Cornerstone. Members of EPC who wished to join the new church were examined by Messrs. Akin and Sutherland, and a letter was sent to the EPC temporary Session, indicating who had been received and asking that their names be removed from EPC’s roll.

According to members of Cornerstone, the temporary Session at first signaled that everyone had been dismissed except for Mr. Akin, against whom charges had been filed (but no action taken by the court) in December 1998, and Mr. Marshall, against whom charges had also been filed (but again with no action taken by the court as of the time when he was received by Cornerstone). The temporary Session has reportedly more recently indicated that Dr. Dan Doolittle, who had with Messrs. Akin and Marshall sponsored the petition seeking the removal of Mr. Moore from the Session, also is being retained. According to Dr. Doolittle, when the request for his name to be removed was given to the EPC temporary Session, no one had informed him that any charges had been brought against him.

Pastor Will Hesterberg, Chairman of the EPC temporary session, has stated that “our desire more than anything else is to try to bring everyone together at the same table. We want to try to avoid a charged atmosphere. Maybe it’s simply a matter of misunderstanding. Maybe there has to be forgiveness.” He hopes that the matters can be handled in a “less combative” manner than that of judicial process.

The Book of Church Order, 38-3, provides that when a member of the church attempts to withdraw from the PCA by affiliating with some other branch of the visible church,

“if at the time of the attempt to withdraw he is in good standing, the irregularity shall be recorded, his new membership acknowledged, and his name removed from the roll. But if at the time of the attempt to withdraw there is a record of an investigation in process (BCO 31-2), or there are charges (BCO 32-3) concerning the member . . ., the court of original jurisdiction may retain his name on the roll and conduct the case, communicating the outcome upon completion of the proceedings to that member. . . . If the court does not conduct the case, his new membership shall be acknowledged, his name removed from the roll, and, at the request of the receiving branch, the matters under investigation or the charges shall be communicated to them.”

[The question of jurisdiction over Mr. Marshall is perhaps even more complicated. He had taken his complaint against the failure of the Session to call the congregational meeting with regard to removing Mr. Moore from the Session, to Illiana Presbytery. According to the Presbytery Stated Clerk, the Presbytery voted to deny the complaint, and also to rule that he was not a member of the PCA in good standing. The PCA Constitution apparently does not authorize a church court to exercise oversight of a person who is no longer under PCA jurisdiction. — Ed.]

Campus Ministry Sacrificed
The Rev. Mr. Derick McDonald has been ministering at Southern Illinois University (SIU) in Carbondale since his ordination in 1991. Because of the situation that has recently transpired at the Carbondale church, the denominational Reformed University Ministries (RUM) counseled him in March that he should not remain at SIU. He has subsequently been transferred to work with international students at the University in Texas in Austin, under RUM auspices.

Memorializing the Assembly
The Federation of Reformed Churches, several of whose ministers have a PCA background, has continued to try to work through the situation. The FORC Synod has now sent a “memorial” to the 27th General Assembly, which is slated to convene in Louisville, Kentucky, in June. The communication asks the Assembly to explain to the Synod the actions of Illiana Presbytery. The document also petitions the Assembly to counsel the Synod as to whether its actions regarding Mr. Shade were correct; and, if in error, to give the specific answer to the Synod’s concerns in the matter. As of press deadline, Mr. Shade had not given notice of appeal of the judgments against him. An appeal would be heard by a panel of the General Assembly’s Standing Judicial Commission.

What is the FORC?
The Federation of Reformed Churches (FORC) began a decade ago as the Fellowship of Reformed Churches. The notion of a “fellowship” soon proved to be unfeasible, and a federation, patterned much after a continental Dutch Reformed model, was adopted. FORC holds to standard orthodox creeds. It is Calvinistic in terms of soteriology. It also practices paedo-communion.

There are presently six FORC churches: Harrisonburg, Front Royal, and Willis, Virginia; Jupiter, Florida; Williamsville New York; and Akron, Ohio. Two of the churches were in the PCA. The Williamsville congregation (Church of the Savior) withdrew to independency after Ascension Presbytery had determined to dissolve the church. It was out of this church that the “Chen” judicial case, which dealt with the nature of church membership, originated. The Jupiter church withdrew after a series of complaints in which the minister it was trying to call, Dennis Slack of Great Lakes Presbytery, was denied entrance into Southern Florida Presbytery over his alleged “theonomic” beliefs. The next man to fill the pulpit, Dr. Stephen Fast, was licensed and approved as a ruling elder supply. But he was told that unless he changed his views, the Presbytery would never approve him to be ordained as a minister.

The Akron church was formed by some people who had been members of Faith Presbyterian (PCA) in the same city. The Willis congregation is now pastored by a former PCA ruling elder and two former PCA ministers: Richard Telling, Phil Lancaster and Joseph Foreman. Mr. Foreman, who comes from a long line of Southern Presbyterians, is a son-in-law of Dr. Edmund P. Clowney, former President of Westminster Theological Seminary. A long-time pro-life activist who has spent time in jail, Mr. Foreman was one of the twelve defendants in the lawsuit in Portland, Oregon, federal court which resulted in a $108 million judgment rendered against them earlier this year. Until recently, Mr. Foreman was pastor of Foothills Presbyterian Church, San Bernardino, California, and Stated Clerk of Pacific Presbytery. Over the last several months, about half of the California congregation has moved with him to rural Virginia, out of concern over the Y2K problem.

The Memorial to the 27th Assembly
[The following memorial has been sent to Dr. L. Roy. Taylor, Jr., Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America.]

Dear Dr. Taylor,

Greetings in the Name of our Savior Christ. We trust that our common purpose in declaring the Gospel of the One Who died and rose for our salvation, and Whose Name we bear, binds us together as fellow bondservants of this Lord of Glory.

We are sending this letter to you in accord with Rules for Assembly Operations, 10-1. We hereby bring to the General Assembly’s attention, by way of memorial, the matter of our reception of the Rev. Mr. Burke P. Shade by our Synod. We had informed Illiana Presbytery on April 10, 1999, of our reception of the Rev. Mr. Shade on April 2, 1999. At the same time, we had requested the transfer of Mr. Shade along with a transcript of the trial to date (Presbyterian Church in America vs. Burke Phillip Shade) and the remaining untried charges and specifications. Though we have not received the transcripts to date, we anticipate receiving them.

To the extent that we have been able to learn of the decisions rendered in this case by the court of Illiana Presbytery, we do have some questions about the propriety both of some of the charges and some of the verdicts. For instance:

  1. Re: Charge I.A. Mr. Shade was found guilty of apparently teaching an erroneous view of baptism.
    Our question: Though this seems irregular to us, i.e., finding one guilty of “apparently” teaching a particular doctrine, is this terminology actually considered appropriate in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA)?

  2. Re: Charge II.A.3. Mr. Shade was convicted of spreading injurious reports in a legal document written for the court in response to the denial of a complaint.
    Our question: We believe that a reasonable indulgence should be allowed in this type of legal response to a complaint, i.e., if the facts presented are pertinent to the case, they should not be considered a basis for action against the accused. Is this belief on our part counter to PCA policy?
Beyond the technicalities it appears to us, from the outside, that there are additional questions regarding the attitude of the court in dealing with these matters. A few of these follow:
  1. That a trial of this nature should be held in closed session.
  2. That in regards to Mr. Shade’s salary in April, we were assured (even though we did not ask concerning this) that it and his insurance were paid for April, when in fact this was not so.
  3. That Illiana Presbytery took no decisive action with regard to the congregation of which Mr. Shade was pastor, Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Carbondale, Illinois, despite being informed by a significant number of people of an attempt amicably to divide the congregation because of the irreconcilable differences. A communication to the Presbytery also indicated that there was even the threat of a lawsuit, if the congregation voted to withdraw from the PCA (which was one of the proposals set forth).
  4. That as a result of Illiana’s inaction, approximately two thirds of the congregation at Carbondale left to form a new congregation without taking any of the assets of the old congregation with them, even though that majority could have voted the congregation out of the PCA.
  5. That the PCA by these actions has lost most of the largest (in attendance) congregation in the Illiana Presbytery and, as well, the international student ministry at University of Southern Illinois.
  6. That in the trial there appeared to be witnesses examining other witnesses.
  7. That Mr. Shade was convicted of supporting a view of evangelism which he had preached against on a number of occasions.
  8. That Mr. Shade was charged with countenancing and “apparently” countenancing certain views and/or actions of others, rather than being charged himself with erroneous views.
In sending this memorial, we are not asking for reversal or redress by the General Assembly of the PCA of the actions of the court in question, but rather that the General Assembly itself exercise its own authority in reviewing our questions in this matter. We bring before you our action in this matter (noted above in second paragraph) and request the judgment of the General Assembly as to our action in receiving Mr. Shade as a minister in good standing. It is because we respect the unity of the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ, and acknowledge that discipline is not a sectarian matter, that we seek your counsel. If the General Assembly has no response to make, we will assume that we have the blessing of the General Assembly upon our own actions.

We thank you for your kind consideration of our memorial and look forward to hearing from you.

In His service,

Dave Shank/Nicholas Kozel
for the Presbytery of Covenant Reformed Church, a member congregation of the Federation of Reformed Churches

Monday, March 1, 1999

Trial of Illinois Pastor Being Held in Executive Session; Illiana Lifts Gag Order, But Still Keeps Trial Closed

Congregation Considered Withdrawing from PCA, But Decides to Stay; Lawsuit Purportedly Threatened if Church Had Voted to Leave
P&R News, Volume 5, Issue 1, March 1999

A long-simmering internal dispute among the members of the Session of Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC), Carbondale, Illinois, came to a boil last fall with three significant matters. The first was a complaint by the church’s pastor, Burke Shade, against action by the Session which mandated that elders other than the teaching elder do the Scripture reading every other week in public worship. The second was a petition circulated among the congregation, and signed by more than the requisite number of the communicants to force the Session to call a congregational meeting, asking for a vote on whether one of the three ruling elders should be removed from the Session. The third was a judicial case brought against Mr. Shade, alleging erroneous views on baptism and evangelization, spreading injurious reports against two of the church’s ruling elders, failure to be in subjection to lawful church authority, and “countenancing activity on the part of both some members and some officers of the congregation . . . that disrupted the peace of the church and divided it.” Among the specifications in the last charge is that the pastor had advanced knowledge of the planning process for the petition regarding the ruling elder, and failed to inform the ruling elder.

The Major Players

  • Burke Shade — ordained in 1992 by Illiana Presbytery to become Pastor of Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC), Carbondale; married to the former Ruth Elizabeth Thoburn; six children; graduate of the Naval Academy and former member of the U.S. Marine Corps.
  • Mark Akin — ruling elder at EPC; a widower, married to the former Jane Winecoff, widow of a PCA minister; a total of twelve children between them; employed by the electric company.
  • James R. “Randy” Moore — ruling elder at EPC; lawyer.
  • Joe Kesler — ruling elder at EPC; President, First National Bank, Carbondale.
  • Wyatt George — organizing Pastor at EPC, serving there 1970–87; son-in-law of theologian-philosopher Gordon H. Clark; one of the two persons who brought charges against Mr. Shade.
  • Brian De Jong — Assistant Pastor at EPC, planting a daughter church in Marion, Ill.; the other person who brought charges against Burke Shade; appointed by Presbytery as the prosecutor; son of Professor Norm De Jong.

The Prelude
A prelude to the current series of disputes was a resolution of the EPC Session, adopted on January 2, 1998. The resolution asked Illiana Presbytery to investigate alleged complaints which had been received about Pastor Shade’s counseling, “inquire into the validity of the complaints, determine whether it is advisable or appropriate for Pastor Shade to receive training as a counselor, and determine whether, in the interim, he should continue counseling.”

On February 13, 1998, one of the three ruling elders on the Session wrote a letter to the Presbytery, calling its attention to several matters. Mr. Mark Akin, who was Clerk of Session, wrote that no specific complaints had been presented to the Session that night (January 2nd), and that “it appeared that people were mentioned, who had not even complained at all to anyone about Pastor Shade’s counseling.” Mr. Akin also alleged that, in contrast to the statement in the resolution, there had been no “prayerful consideration” of this matter in the Session. “This pious-sounding statement, about the ‘prayerful consideration’, is simply false. How can we pray about something we have not discussed?” At the end of his letter, he concluded: “I would humbly submit that we as a Session should perhaps receive training in the office of Ruling Elder, in order to better perform our duties as shepherds of God’s flock.”

Illiana Presbytery’s Shepherding Committee looked into the matter in February 1998, and apparently the only action it took was to appoint TE Tom Jones to look further into Mr. Shade’s counseling. According to an informed source, Mr. Jones stated at the October 17, 1998, Presbytery meeting that the Shepherding Committee would no longer inquire into this matter.

The Initial Complaint
On June 10, 1998, a motion passed the Session which directed Pastor Shade “to involve a ruling elder in the worship service to lead worship on alternate Sabbaths, from the call to worship to immediately preceding the sermon; that Pastor Shade deliver the sermon and conclude the service on those Sabbaths, and further, that teaching elder, Derick McDonald [campus minister at Southern Illinois University — Ed.], be included in the rotation of ruling elders on those alternate Sabbaths, and that on the alternate Sabbaths when ruling elders or teaching elder, Derick McDonald, were not involved in leading worship, Pastor Shade should conduct the entire service.”

Two ruling elders — Joe Kesler and James R. “Randy” Moore — voted “aye,” and one ruling elder — Mark Akin — voted “no.” The motion would have failed on a 2-2 tie vote, except that the Moderator, Mr. Shade, did not vote because he believed he could not vote since he was named in the motion.

Pastor Shade complained this action; and the Session denied the complaint. On September 8, 1998, he took his complaint to Illiana Presbytery, arguing that the Session’s action prevented him from the full exercise of his ministerial office. On October 17, 1998, Illiana Presbytery denied the complaint, 18-7.

The Petition to Remove an Elder
Subsequent to the October stated meeting of Illiana Presbytery, a petition was circulated which asked for a congregational meeting “to discuss and vote by private ballot on the following request: that the Session of EPC dissolve the official relationship between the church and Elder Randy Moore, without censure, in accordance with the BCO.” Dated October 20, 1998 (three days after the Presbytery meeting), the petition stated:

“It has recently become public knowledge that conflicts leading to an unacceptable tension are present among the members of the Session of EPC, and has progressed to the point that resolution of these conflicts in a reasonable and timely manner is no longer feasible without changing the current membership of the Session. Sadly, the end-result of these conflicts is that Pastor Shade, whom this congregation extended a calling to in accordance with BCO 20-6, believes that his ministry has been greatly hampered by frivolous attacks on his theology, unreasonable demands to elaborate his positions outside of the realm of personal discussion and conflict resolution, and an unwillingness to spiritually and financially support him — so that despite great patience and perseverance on his part during these last several years, his work here has become untenable under the circumstances.”

At the Session meeting on October 21, 1998, the Chair ruled that Mr. Moore could not vote on the matter, since he was the subject of the petition. However, the Session did not take any action, since the Chair believed that a second to a motion could not come from the Chair. (Of the two ruling elders besides Mr. Moore, Mr. Akin supported the petition; while Mr. Kesler, who did not, declined to second the motion to call a congregational meeting.)

Mr. Moore subsequently complained even the receiving of the petition. Among reasons given in his complaint were the following:
  • “The Complaint is an attempt to depose the undersigned from office”
  • “It was improper for Moderator, TE Burke Shade, to rule on the Petition since TE Burke Shade was one of the initiators of the Petition, and thus a party to it”
  • “Moderator, TE Burke Shade, incorrectly rules that the undersigned could not vote on whether the Petition was in order, and made numerous similar erroneous rulings in an apparent attempt to deny the undersigned from participating in the process pertaining to any rulings on the Petition”
  • “The principles of Matthew 18 were violated in that the undersigned had no advance notice of the Petition. The only notice given to the undersigned was a vague phone message left with the secretary for the undersigned.”
At a Session meeting on December 30, 1998, his complaint was upheld, 2-0. The meeting was presided over by TE Wyatt George, former pastor at EPC, since Illiana Presbytery had suspended Mr. Shade during his trial on a variety of charges (see below).

At the same Session meeting, the court ruled a complaint from Mr. Mike Marshall out of order. This communicant member had complained against the failure of the Session to call a congregational meeting within thirty days of a request from a sufficient number of communicants. Mr. Marshall subsequently took his complaint against the Session for failure to act to Illiana Presbytery. At its meeting on January 30, 1998, the higher court assigned the complaint to a commission.

The Judicial Case Against Burke Shade
Illiana Presbytery began a judicial trial against TE Burke Shade on November 9, 1998. At that first meeting, the court voted to proceed in closed session, even though none of the allegations involved a morals charge. It also at that time imposed a gag order, forbidding anyone involved in the case from discussing it with anybody else (other than a spouse).

On November 30, 1998, Mr. Shade pled “guilty” to two of the specifications, which dealt with statements he had made. One was before Presbytery’s Shepherding Committee in the midst of his trying to defend himself against allegations regarding his counseling activities. The other statement was made in the course of conversations dealing with problems in the church. He pled guilty because he had already confessed to these matters privately.

After accepting the guilty pleas, the Presbytery, on December 19, 1998, rendered a verdict of suspending the pastor from the sacraments and from his office. The court determined that he had not yet displayed sufficient sorrow for his sins. The matter of restoring him was referred to a commission.

Presbytery has also found him guilty of the specification that he “has apparently taught that in the sealing aspect of water baptism the Holy Spirit initiates, actualizes, brings about, and causes to occur our saving relationship to Christ.” The sentence meted out for his apparently teaching erroneous views was an admonition. The trial continues on the other charges. The proceedings are still being held behind closed doors, but the gag order was lifted, permitting the distribution to the Carbondale congregation of the findings already made.

Congregational Discontent
There has been an intense response by many members of the congregation to the judicial proceedings against their pastor, as well as the internal controversies. A January 6, 1999, letter was sent to Illiana Presbytery by numerous members of the church. Regarding Pastor Shade, the letter states:

“we have been witnesses of his personal integrity, dutiful family leadership, self-sacrificing devotion to his flock, zeal for evangelizing our community at Carbondale and overall love for the Lord.”

The communication continues:

“We are now deeply disturbed by recent developments within the life of this church. Charges have been brought against another Officer [Mark Akin — Ed.] of our church and have been threatened against members of the congregation. Our session has not addressed concerns initially raised by the petition to the congregation in general and has appeared to act in a closed and secret manner. This is evidenced by a recent session meeting which was called on short notice, announced to select individuals only and although dealing in part with the petition itself, members who signed the petition were not specifically invited. . . . We implore you, for the glory of God and the good of this church, to take whatever swift, direct and appropriate measures necessary to restore the mutual love and confidence of this congregation and its courts that must necessarily exist.”

That letter was designed to be received by Illiana at its meeting scheduled for January 9, 1999. But inclement weather forced the postponing of the winter meeting until January 30.

Meanwhile, another request was sent to the Session, signed by fifty-two of the 153 resident communicant members. Dated January 10, 1999, this request asked for a congregational meeting to vote by private ballot on the following matter:

“that the congregation (corporation of Evangelical Presbyterian Church) withdraws and severs any affiliation or connection with the Presbyterian Church in America (Session of Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Illiana Presbytery, and General Assembly of PCA).”

The purpose of this petition was to effect what a previous petition had been unable to do, viz., the removal of one or more of the ruling elders from ruling over the congregation when many members of the congregation have lost confidence in their ability to rule. The petition was also apparently borne of frustration with Illiana Presbytery which, to many of the petitioners, had through the whole series of events also lost credibility.

Holding Out Hope for a Peaceful Solution
Members who have asked for a congregational meeting to consider denominational affiliation have tried to work for an amicable division of the congregation. A January 25, 1999, letter to the Session of EPC asked for such a peaceful solution.

Proposal for Amicable Division
That letter reads as follows:

To the Session of Evangelical Presbyterian Church:

Because we believe there to be significant differences between us and some of our Christian brethren at Evangelical Presbyterian Church, we request that you respect our desire to peaceably separate from Evangelical Presbyterian Church. While we recognize that the unity of Christ’s Church is commanded by the Lord, we believe that in this case unity is best served by this course of action. We also believe that recent events have made this division inevitable. Our express desire is to pursue all avenues for the reconciliation of our differences as a separate local Church in the Carbondale area. We also intend to seek PCA affiliation. Whatever the long term outcome of this action, we hope to continue to enjoy the fellowship and mutual Christian Love of you and all of our Brethren at Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

To this end, and considering the large number of families who have agreed to this, we propose the following:

  1. We agree to transfer our memberships to our newly formed Church.

  2. We request financial help toward our effort in the form of a cashier’s check in the amount of $70,000.

  3. We request one half of the following: Trinity Psalters and Hymnals; Folding chairs; Padded chairs; Tables.

  4. We also request: Yamaha grand piano; Computer and printer in Burke’s office.

  5. We request that Evangelical Presbyterian Church agree to dissolve its relationship with Pastor Burke Shade immediately, allowing us to call Pastor Shade as Pastor of our newly formed Church. We understand that he would be ministering “out of bounds” pending final decision of Presbytery.

  6. We request that Evangelical Presbyterian Church support our plans for affiliation with the PCA.

  7. We request that any charges currently pending or being considered against any members of this congregation either in church court or civil court be dropped, and that a commitment be made to not bring any future charges, either in church court or civil court, against any members of this congregation for any perceived or alleged actions surrounding or leading up to this current situation.

  8. We request that within the next six months, the group known as the “Peacemakers” be brought in to assist us all in reconciliation and restoration of relationships. The cost will be split by the two congregations.
Thank you for your graciousness and desire to consider this proposal in the effort to maintain peace here in our Christian community. The following heads of household have expressed their agreement in this matter as of 1/25/99: Mark Akin; Randy Akin; Phil Bankester; Michael Barber; Rick Davis; Dan Doolittle; Joel Duff; Mary Graff; Shawn Jack; Mike Marshall; Tom Miller; Bob Osinga; Doug Osinga; John Rendleman; Wayne Southerland; Scott White. The following families, though not members of EPC, have also expressed their agreement: Mark Engel; John Bollig.

Efforts Thwarted, Lawsuit Threatened
Efforts to have an agreement in place before the January 30, 1999, meeting of Illiana Presbytery broke down. A January 29th letter from members of the congregation was delivered to the Moderator of the Presbytery at that meeting, which asked the higher court to exercise its power under BCO 13-9 to divide the congregation. The proposed division would have left the minority in possession of the property, worth approximately $250,000, while the majority would receive the money that had been in the bank account, approximately $70,000. (The bank funds were recently reduced by $6,000, when the Session voted on January 13, 1999, to give that amount to the church secretary to help her with a diaconal need: the purchase of the trailer in which she lives. The Session, approximately three years ago, had co-signed with her in order to remove her from government housing and reduce her monthly mortgage costs. This motion passed unanimously.)

The letter noted that a congregational meeting had been set for February 10, 1999, to consider withdrawing from the PCA. The letter states:

“Some members of our congregation are hesitant to pull out of the PCA, but recognize that our church is already clearly divided over various doctrinal, practical, and interpersonal issues. We believe that remaining together as one body will practically engender bitterness and strife that will detract from the work of Christ’s Church in Carbondale. We recognize that divisions are never pleasant but sometimes necessary for the advancement of God’s kingdom, as in the manner of Paul and Barnabas.

“We also believe that a congregational meeting for the stated purpose may be hostile and lead to civil litigation against us. A deacon in our church has stated to us that we would likely be tied up in Jackson County Court with over $100,000.00 of legal fees if we attempt to remove ourselves from the PCA and keep control of the church building and assets!

“We have therefore submitted to the Session of EPC a proposal for an amicable division that would allow us to worship as separate PCA Churches in Carbondale (pending your approval) and thus enable us to pursue the work of the church while continuing the process of personal reconciliation over time. We believe this is a prudent option that will ensure the best opportunity to keep peace in the community. We have tried to make sure that the proposal was more than fair to the minority of the congregation which would stay with the building at EPC, leaving them with the vast majority of the assets. At this point our Session has not given its support of this effort.

“As a majority of the members of the congregation of EPC, we ask you, Illiana Presbytery, to assist us in a prompt and orderly division in accordance with the enclosed proposal that was first submitted to our Session. . . .”

The letter was signed by several heads of households, representing 69 communing members.

The deacon mentioned in the letter, Paul Wood, has stated that the reason why he made reference to civil court was because, if EPC left the PCA, “the lawsuit is the only thing I would have left to have my grievances aired in.” Mr. Wood flatly denied mentioning any figure such as $100,000: “whoever quoted these figures in there didn’t quote me.”

Contacted two weeks after the Presbytery meeting, Elder Moore expressed surprise about the existence of this letter of January 29, 1999. He stated that “the Session was not even aware of such correspondence.”

At the January 30th meeting, Illiana Presbytery did not accede to the request for a prompt and orderly division of the congregation. Instead, without the contents of the letter being read, the court committed the matter to a commission. In referring this matter, Illiana Presbytery was clear that the commission does not have authority to speak and act on behalf of Presbytery. This commission has also assumed original jurisdiction over the church, per the request of the Session. The ruling elders at EPC have not resigned, but merely stepped aside from the active ruling of the congregation. Indeed, the native Session at EPC continues to have authority over its daughter mission church, Providence Presbyterian in Marion, Ill., where Mr. De Jong is the organizing pastor.

Congregational Meeting
Just prior to the congregational meeting on February 10th, three members of Illiana’s Commission — Will Hesterberg, Alan Mallory, and Carlo Hansen — met with some of the members of the congregation who had petitioned for that congregational meeting. Sympathy was expressed towards the idea of the congregation having separate worship services. The commission members were told that some people were already refusing to return to church at EPC — that is, that they did not want to step foot in the doors of the building again.

At the congregational meeting, the congregation voted, unanimously, to remain in the PCA (see below). However, the future of Illiana Presbytery’s largest congregation (in terms of average attendance) remains uncertain, in that a substantial majority appears ready to walk away from the edifice on Oakland Street. On February 14th, Elder Akin and Deacon Wayne Sutherland led in worship approximately 100 people who had gathered for worship at a church building located on property owned by Mr. Akin in DeSoto, Ill. According to members of that group, whether that significant number of people will stay in the PCA will depend in large measure upon how the Presbytery deals with the matter.

The Conduct of the Congregational Meeting
[The following account is based on information supplied by two of the members of the congregation present at the congregational meeting on February 10th. — Ed.]

The Rev. Will Hesterberg convened the meeting and read from several Scripture passages, including verses from Matthew 18, I Corinthians 13, Galatians 5, and I John 4. After a time of silent confession, the congregation turned to Psalm 32, which was read responsively. The convener read Galatians 4:25, and gave the ground rules for discussion. He made the suggestion that children should leave. Upon motion, the body approved that suggestion.

Mr. Hesterberg talked about why the commission, which was acting as an interim session, wanted to secure an interim pastor for the church. He pointed to the need for growth, healing, and reconciliation.

Mr. Hesterberg was elected Moderator, and the Rev. Mr. Alan Mallory was elected Clerk of the meeting. The Moderator then started to go through the proposal for peaceable division. Mr. Randy Moore and Mr. Mark Akin noted that the purpose of the meeting was to vote on whether to remain in the PCA or not.

Almost immediately, the question was called. Voting by ballot, the congregation unanimously decided not to withdraw from the denomination.

The meeting started at about 7:00 PM, and lasted about 45 minutes.

[Editor’s Note: It would appear that preventing communicant members under the age of 18 from voting was improper. Under the PCA’s Book of Church Order, all communicant members have the right to vote on matters in congregational meetings. As a matter of fact, there was a recent attempt to amend the Constitution to allow churches to set a voting age for congregational meetings. The 1996 Assembly approved the measure, as did the requisite number of presbyteries; but the 1997 Assembly voted it down, thus defeating the amendment. — Ed.]

Facts and Figures Regarding Illiana Presbytery
  • Located in Southern Illinois, Southwestern Indiana, and three counties in Northern Kentucky.
  • Thirteen organized churches and one mission congregation
  • Membership (1997 statistics): 1,181 communicants, 219 non-communicants, 23 ministers (1,423 total)
  • The only Presbytery which, upon Joining and Receiving with the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod in 1982, contained no churches which had originally been in the PCA
  • Three of its ministers are faculty at Covenant Theological Seminary, including its President, Bryan Chapell
Comments by Illiana’s Stated Clerk and Moderator
Mr. Dale Eisenreich, Stated Clerk of Illiana Presbytery, stated that that there had never before been a trial in Illiana Presbytery, from the days that it was in the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod; but that in 1998 two trials of ministers (including the present one) had been held. “It is a sad commentary on the young pastors who are tearing up the church and creating schisms,” he declared. In his opinion, the young ministers are “splitting people”; and he “wouldn’t want to be in their shoes” on the day of judgment and have to face “Almighty God.” When asked about Mr. Shade being convicted of “apparently” holding to an erroneous view of baptism, he replied, with regard to Mr. Shade: “It sure seems funny that people can speak out of both sides of their mouth.”

P&R News asked the Moderator, Mr. Scott Levy, How can someone be convicted of “apparently” doing something (in this case, teaching erroneous views on baptism)? He commented: “Based on what the witnesses presented, it seemed that he preached that sermon, but based on his own testimony he did not believe that.” He said that folks of the congregation “interpreted” Mr. Shade’s views on baptism as being erroneous.

Teaching Elder Burke Shade employed these grounds in his complaint:
  1. The motion was unconstitutional. Although the Book of Church Order gives the Session authority over the time and place of public worship (Chapter 12), it reserves to the minister the duties of reading, expounding, and preaching the Word of God and administering the sacraments (Chapter 8). Mr. Shade argued that throughout the BCO, “it is not only assumed but clearly stated that the Pastor is to lead public worship on a regular and weekly basis. That motion that was passed is in direct contradiction to our Book of Church Order and denied me the ability to perform my calling.” He also cited BCO Chapters 18, 19-21, 24, and 52, in support of his making a distinction between ministers and the other church officers.

  2. The motion was unconfessional. “Question 156 of the Larger Catechism affirms that all ‘are not to be permitted to read the word publicly to the congregation,’ and in its scriptural footnotes, quotes Deut. 31:9, 11–13, Nehemiah 8:2–3, and Nehemiah 9:3–5, all of which state that it is the priests or Levites who may read the Scriptures.” After citing the Form of Presbyterial Church-Government and the Directory for the Publick Worship of God of the Westminster Assembly, the complainant stated: “The Reformed understanding of worship is that I may use others in the worship service, to read or pray, but the preponderance of the leadership rests upon me, and at my discretion as Pastor because of my office. It is my responsibility to delegate when I desire, but the Session may not delegate for me as they have done in this motion [, which] impedes my ability to fulfill my office. Ruling Elders and Teaching Elders are equal (BCO 8-9) but not interchangeable in function (BCO 8-5).”

  3. The motion was unbiblical, violating I Timothy 4:13–14 (“give attention to the public reading of the Scripture”).

  4. The motion was improperly passed as a motion, because the Session’s understanding at the time that he could not vote was erroneous.

  5. The motion was uncharitable: “It is . . . personally hurtful to me to have my calling, my duty, my responsibility, my desire, taken from me.”