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.”