Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Closing Statements From Burke Shade

Dear Pooh (Patrick and Michael),

After reading through Patrick’s rejoinder, I have several comments and clarifications to add, and then I’ll be finished.

First, Patrick makes much ado about members of EPC leaving and forming a new church, and doing so as peacefully as possible. Because the elders of EPC would not follow the BCO and call a congregational meeting, after having been petitioned to do so by two-thirds of the congregation, that same two-thirds believed the session to be without accountability and no longer desired to be under their leadership. Leaving a church is accounted for under BCO 38-3a:[1] the members left and formed another church, much as the PCA did at her initiation. The BCO acknowledges this right, even referencing BCO 2-2,[2] which establishes that the visible body of Christ is not destroyed by its division into different denominations of professing Christians. When Cornerstone formed, it became its own denomination of one, and requested the transfer of its members from EPC, to which the Presbytery oversight session agreed (they did not transfer two men). A person may have qualms with Illiana’s interpretation of the BCO, and Cornerstone’s, but it was done in good order and with cooperation from Illiana, as its representatives met several times with the newly formed church, even before my trial ended.

Secondly, BCO 38-3a does allow for a minister to attempt to transfer even during trial, and that’s what I attempted to do. In order to do so, you have to speak with the other body first, and I did so and was sustained in my examination. FORC then asked Illiana to transfer my trial to them, attempting to follow the PCA’s own Book of Church Order, section 38-3a. Illiana turned them down on April 10 or 11, and then proceeded with my last trial date of April 17th (if I remember correctly). At that trial date, they deposed me for “countenancing” actions that led to division. I came to the trial as a member of the PCA, and sat under 14 hours that day of testimony, etc. While FORC has sustained me, I was still in the PCA. They were attempting to get me transferred. Illiana instead deposed me I did not flee the PCA. The Moderator, upon the deposition, told me publicly that I was no longer in the PCA. Illiana has not contacted me since, nor did they assign me to a church as according to the BCO, in cases of deposition. I did not act dishonorably I am out of the PCA and have abided by their censure.

Thirdly, Patrick seems to think that a censure[3] is forever binding. But our own confession, the WCF, chapter 31.2,[4] admits that synods and councils may err, and that those decisions “are not to be made the rule of faith or practice.” I do believe that Illiana’s censure is still binding, and I have not attempted to act as a minister in the PCA since, having been stripped of that right in the PCA. But as only one branch of the church, Illiana’s decisions are only regulative for that branch. Other branches believe it to have erred, and I concur with those believing that. By acknowledging that councils may err, and have done so, the WCF opens up opportunities for reviews of past decisions. And that is exactly was Christ Church did they reviewed Illiana’s decision and came to the conclusion that Illiana erred. Just as the Westminster divines judged about councils of the past, as well as the PCA itself when it formed.

Fourthly, Patrick believes that I broke my vows[5] to attempt to transfer. Nowhere in the vows does it forbid transferring out, and I did submit to my brethren until they removed me. I even was faithful to the PCA amidst persecution and opposition: who has ever heard of charging someone for a sermon preached three years earlier, and it wasn’t even his own sermon? And it was by a missionary that the church supported at the time (and continued to support until my trial), whom I had never met until he preached it!

Lastly, I did not appeal. My membership vows did not require me to do so. Instead, I followed 1 Corinthians 6 and allowed myself to be defrauded. I believed I was wronged, and I let it stop at that for the peace of the church. For Illiana and for Cornerstone and for Carbondale. Illiana was under great pressure to end my trial, for it had dragged on for 5 months, and had been petitioned already once to end it by Brian Chappell, President of CTS and a member of Illiana. Personally, I loved the PCA and was distraught over being dismissed from it but I was not in control. I had been in it for eleven years total, and still think it is a good denomination. I wish it well, have many friends who are pastors in it, and hope it continues to prosper. I do not put upon it the failings of Illiana. I hope this explains my perspective on the events to any who want to hear. It is impossible to review all these things conclusively, since we don’t have omniscience and access to all the goings on. Those looking from the outside weren’t in the church for the two years leading up to the charges, and cannot know and understand the “body language” nor the personalities that fed into the total mix. Those considerations are real and determined the various paths the conflict took, but are invisible to those outside.

I hope, Michael and Patrick, that you will read this and try to understand some of my actions. Having not been excommunicated, I am still your brother in Christ. I am not the enemy, nor is Christ Church for that matter. Unbelief is the enemy. To that end I do not wish to “haggle” anymore about this affair, having done so quite thoroughly while in it and since. Feel free to respond, but I will be moving on to other endeavors. I do appreciate the opportunity to make my points, even if not accepted.

Sincerely in Jesus Christ,

Burke Shade

[1] “When a member or officer in the Presbyterian Church in America shall attempt to withdraw from the communion of this branch of the visible Church by affiliating with some other branch (BCO 2-2), 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 or minister, 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 or minister. 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.”

[2] “This visible unity of the body of Christ, though obscured, is not destroyed by its division into different denominations of professing Christians; but all of these which maintain the Word and Sacraments in their fundamental integrity are to be recognized as true branches of the Church of Jesus Christ.”

[3] “3. Church censures are necessary, for the reclaiming and gaining of offending brethren, for deterring of others from like offenses, for purging out of that leaven which might infect the whole lump, for vindicating the honour of Christ, and the holy profession of the Gospel, and for preventing the wrath of God, which might justly fall upon the Church, if they should suffer His covenant, and the seals thereof, to be profaned by notorious and obstinate offenders.

“4. For the better attaining of these ends, the officers of the church are to proceed by admonition, suspension from the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper for a season; and by excommunication from the Church, according to the nature of the crime, and demerit of the person.” (WCF XXX, “Of Church Censures”)

[4] “All synods or councils, since the Apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred. Therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith, or practice; but to be used as a help in both.”

[5] “3. Do you approve of the form of government and discipline of the Presbyterian Church in America, in conformity with the general principles of Biblical polity?

“4. Do you promise subjection to your brethren in the Lord?”