Thursday, October 14, 2004

CREC Minutes Regarding Wilson’s Examination

Presbytery reconvened at 8:00 am. . . .

The presbytery meeting opened the day with a special examination, requested by the session of Christ Church, Moscow, ID, of their pastor, Douglas Wilson, by a committee comprised of Jeff Niell, Burke Shade, Gregg Strawbridge, Dennis Tuuri, and chairman Garry Vanderveen. The examination was opened with an introduction and prayer by Moderator Randy Booth and continued with questions, primarily concerning issues of soteriology and sacramentology, from the committee directed to Pastor Wilson. The following introduction was read by Moderator Booth:


At times, presbyteries have taken on a life of their own, losing sight of the fact that they exist for the purpose of serving both their member churches as well as the broader Church. In governing and serving the Church of Jesus Christ, presbyteries are ministers of God. Moreover, their service encompasses both ordinary and extraordinary tasks. From time to time a particular need arises in the Church that calls for special action on the part of a presbytery. These actions are important because they offer assistance in a variety of forms including, but not limited to, assessment, judgment, guidance, discipline, affirmation, and declaration.

This confederation of churches, the Confederation of Reformed Evangelicals, has received a specific request by one of her member churches to assist her in a controversy. No church is immune from controversy. God’s people take seriously their faith, and thus they do have differences and their differences are often seen by the world. We cannot make light of the smallest truth. As a result, we find that conflicts arise among us, whereas the ungodly differ little over religious things because there is little to differ about. This is not a unity or a peace that is to be desired. Church historian William Cunningham observed:

It holds almost universally true in the history of the church, that until a doctrine has been fully discussed in a controversial way by men of talent and learning taking opposite sides, men’s opinions regarding it are generally obscure and indefinite, and their language vague and confused, if not contradictory. [William Cunningham, Historical Theology (Carlisle, PA, Banner of Truth Trust [1862], 1979). 1:179.]

There is a current controversy that has been brewing in Reformed circles for several years. It involves numerous people with a variety of views and motives. Like most controversies the waters are quickly muddied with accusations, misrepresentations and shrill voices being raised. Thankfully, most of Christendom is blissfully ignorant or willfully ignoring this “tempest in a teapot.” Nevertheless, it is our teapot and our desire is to see the tempest calmed, if possible. We are not so naive as to think we can stop all the troublers of Israel or satisfy every possible concern. However, it is our hope and prayer that perhaps we can answer some questions and bring greater clarity to the issues at hand and in the end be of genuine assistance to Christ’s Church.

One of the principle persons involved in this current controversy is the pastor of Christ Church, Moscow, ID. Douglas Wilson has not only been a prominent pastor in his own church and community, but has also gained a much broader following across the country by way of his writing, speaking and many other ministries. As a result, his influence and reputation impact many. He has recently been under attack from a variety of quarters, including those on the other side of the current controversy known as “The Federal Vision.” He was a speaker at the 2003 and 2004 Auburn Avenue Pastors’ Conference in Monroe, LA where a variety of speakers addressed a number of topics related to the covenant. Pastor Wilson has subsequently written and spoken extensively on these subjects.

Therefore, the session of Christ Church, Moscow, ID has formally requested that our “Confederation conduct an examination of Douglas Wilson, a minister in good standing, before presbyters, in the broad doctrinal areas of soteriology and sacramentology — especially as they connect to the recent controversy among our Reformed brethren.” The Christ Church session offered, as part of their rationale for such an exam, the following:

“. . . our brothers in the RPCUS Presbytery have formally requested that we, the Christ Church session, charge Pastor Wilson before a tribunal. The RPCUS has also denounced Pastor Wilson as a heretic. (We believe their grounds for this charge are badly justified and their pronouncement ill-founded, based upon their neglect of basic biblical norms of inquiry and process. Nonetheless, the RPCUS is a communion with whom we want to enjoy fellowship.)

The RPCUS pronouncement has led to a deplorable situation. Their pronouncement has circulated widely and has bred a culture of misinformation and ungodly suspicion against our Pastor. Now there are some who have followed their lead and have taken up the cry of heresy. It has reached a point somewhat analogous to what Paul faced in his ministry, and we believe Paul’s example justifies our request. When Paul arrived in Jerusalem he was informed by James that, among God-fearing Jews, false reports were circulating about his teaching (Acts 21). Though it would have been permissible for Paul to let the matter lie (he is innocent until proven guilty), he still followed James’ counsel and went out of his way to vindicate himself against false reports. On several other occasions Paul defended his ministry even though the accusations against him were frivolous (e.g., Gal. 1:11ff., 1 Cor. 9, and 2 Cor. 11; he says in another place, “We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed, but in all things we commend ourselves as ministers to God. . .” — 2 Cor. 6:3–4). . . . Paul did not remain silent. Instead, Paul mustered positive evidence that would clear his name and his ministry in the face of accusations against him.”

I want to make a few things clear from the outset of this examination:
  1. Pastor Douglas Wilson, having already been properly received by this body as an orthodox, ordained minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, is presumed to be such unless proven otherwise. There have been no charges brought against him, thus this is not a judicial trial. It is a voluntary examination requested by the Christ Church session.

  2. The CRE is a broad confederation of Reformed churches and thus it represents a variety of views within the scope of historic Reformed thinking. In this examination, it is the goal of the presbytery and her examiners to evaluate, determine and declare whether Pastor Wilson’s views are within that historic scope. Members of the CRE may disagree with Pastor Wilson’s answers at various points and yet both views might still be within the pale of historic Reformed theology.

  3. While Christ Church of Moscow, ID and her pastor Douglas Wilson are members of the CRE, and are thereby entitled to the care and service of our confederation of churches, nevertheless, the particular views of Christ Church, Moscow and her pastor do not necessarily represent all the views held buy the other member churches and pastors of the CRE. Our constitution and confessions define the parameters of our confederation.

  4. The committee’s questions have been compiled by the moderator and the examining committee, drawing from a variety of other sources and points of view, including some from those hostile to the Federal Vision. Moreover, several prominent opponents to the Federal Vision were invited to offer questions but declined to participate in this process. Our desire is to be thorough and fair.
We have no illusions that this will satisfy everyone. Nevertheless, it is our hope that by Pastor Wilson’s willingness to submit to his ministerial peers and also by establishing a record of his responses to the various questions of the committee, that many will be helped and that the peace of Christ’s Church will be advanced. (Minutes of the 8th Annual Meeting of Presbytery of the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches, 7–9)