Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Closing Statements From Patrick on Shade


Here are a few modest thoughts in reply to Mr. 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 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, which establishes that the visible body of Christ is not destroyed by its division into different denominations of professing Christians.

To begin, Mr. Shade has underscored how his supporters left EPC peacefully. In his prior response, he said:

Again, CRC was not renegade. Two-thirds of the church left on February 14, and formed another church. They left peacefully, taking no money or building or furniture or anything at the time. They left everything to EPC, though they were the clear majority.

This is an unfortunate representation when you note that Mr. Shade’s faction formed Conerstone while they were still members of EPC, at which time they sent a letter to the EPC session dated January 25, 1999, requesting, among other things:
  • A cashier’s check for $70,000 (every dime in cash the church had in the bank at the time).

  • One half of all the of the hymnals, psalters, tables and chairs of the church.

  • EPC’s Yamaha grand piano, along with other computer equipment that had been used by Burke Shade (but, of course, he had nothing to do with their leaving, wink, wink; more on that later).
Mr. Shade’s faction tried to grab as much as they thought they could from EPC as they ran out the door. The acting EPC session prevented them from doing so. Further, when those efforts were not successful they went over the session’s head and petitioned Illiana Presbytery on January 29, 1999, for them to split the property of the church on their same stated terms. It was later discovered that this petition was sent to presbytery without so much as copying the EPC session on the letter. The presbytery, refusing to aid and abet the faction’s plundering of EPC, declined to divide the church as they requested.

In the meantime, Mr. Shade’s faction engineered a petition for another congregational meeting, this time to secede from the PCA altogether. Watch this: while they claimed membership in a new congregation, they still exercised their rights as EPC members to try to seize all of the church property and overthrow the session that had resisted them. The congregational meeting was held on February 10, 1999, in accordance with the rules of the BCO. But when the vote was taken, Mr. Shade’s faction lost the vote to take EPC out of the PCA. Having their position put to a vote, they lost. And having lost, instead of working to restore the church they had rent apart, they walked away, leaving EPC, Illiana Presbytery, and the PCA to cure the devastation left in their wake. The first service of Cornerstone Reformed Church (Mr. Shade’s faction) was held four days after the failed congregational vote on February 14, 1999. This is quite a different picture than what Burke Shade paints for us of peaceful dissenters voluntarily walking away, choosing not to take anything.

Burke also had this to say previously in his defense:

First of all, I did not lead out a splinter group. Cornerstone Reformed Church left EPC on February 14, 1999, over two months before I was defrocked in April. Two-thirds of the congregation left, not really a “splinter” group. I never attended Cornerstone until after I was defrocked by the PCA.

He would have your readers believe that he had nothing to do with their departure. In fact, he argues, it was months after before he was involved with their breakaway faction. Again, this is an unfortunate representation because the truth is that the breakaway faction had tried to dissolve Burke Shade’s call with EPC to have them as their forming pastor. The January 25, 1999, letter from the splinter group to the acting EPC session made the following request:

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.

This indicates complicity, and two weeks later, after losing the vote that they had needed to seize control of the church leadership and property, they abandoned the PCA altogether. I cannot see a clearer case of a group violating the peace and the purity of the church than Mr. Shade’s faction that established Cornerstone “Reformed” Church. They were bound by their membership vows until they were released. They formed another church, while still bound to those vows, without the permission of the EPC session. Appealing to BCO 38.3 doesn’t absolve them — it indicts them.

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.

Burke Shade would have your readers believe that the few men appointed by presbytery to operate as EPC’s session agreed to transfer the faction. This is another unfortunate representation. The truth is that the commission appointed by Illiana Presbytery to act as the temporary session of EPC was specifically charged that they DIDN’T have authority to act on behalf of the presbytery on any matter; they could act no further than the session would otherwise. An article in Presbyterian & Reformed News reported the matter this way:

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.

They did, however, have authority acting as the church session to release the members that had already abandoned the church. Rather than bring the entire faction under charges, they let all but two go — the two former EPC officers that assumed leadership of and provided a meeting space for their breakaway faction.

To be sure, the splinter group was so concerned about the implications of their conduct, in their January 25, 1999 letter to the acting EPC session, among their demands was this:

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.

They were clearly concerned about coming under discipline for their actions; rightly so.

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.

When Illiana Presbytery denied Burke Shade and FORC’s request to transfer him into the new jurisdiction, all discussion of BCO 38-3 became irrelevant: they did not release him from his covenantal obligations to his presbytery, especially since he was in the middle of a trial. Whatever FORC wanted to do, claimed to do, or asked Illiana Presbytery to do, made no difference whatsoever. Shade was under the jurisdiction of the PCA, not FORC. Even FORC admitted so; they charged Shade to remain in the PCA. But being deposed from office did not free him from his obligations to the PCA; this was not an excommunication. For members deposed from office, they are transferred to the general membership of the presbytery. The Moderator could not have told him, contrary to what he states, that he was “no longer in the PCA,” unless they had dealt with his membership, either by excommunicating him (which they didn’t) or allowing him to complete his transfer to FORC, which to my knowledge there is no record of. These are not Masonic secrets that were kept from Burke Shade during his 11 years in the PCA. They are printed clearly in the BCO.

But Shade’s story changes at this point. Remember in his last correspondence he said that after he was deposed from office he “chose not to go back.” Now he assigns blame to Illiana. Even worse, he says: “I did not act dishonorably I am out of the PCA and have abided by their censure.” In fact, he acted dishonorably by refusing to abide by the censures of the church, ignoring his deposition from office, and pastoring the breakaway faction weeks after his deposition. In what way does he think he abided by their censure?

Thirdly, Patrick seems to think that a censure is forever binding. But our own confession, the WCF, chapter 31.2, 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.

As a Calvinist and an Augustinian, I certainly understand the depravity of man; and because of depravity, I admit that councils may err. But the leap in logic he wants to make is this: church councils err, therefore he can ignore censures of the church. However, he just can’t join another denomination and believe that those censures are of no effect. But that’s exactly what he claims:

But as only one branch of the church, Illiana’s decisions are only regulative for that branch.

The Bible, however, takes a different view. It does not contemplate that Christians, let alone ordained servants, can jump from jurisdiction to jurisdiction to avoid the lawful censures of the Church. Take for example the man excommunicated by the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 5. When it comes to 2 Cor. 2, Paul doesn’t say, “Well, darn it! That rascal ran off to Antioch, and we don’t have any jurisdiction over him anymore,” or, “Well, he’s part of Barnabas’ denomination now, so our censures are of no effect.” Nor does the Apostle John say about Diotrophes (3 John), “Well, he’s ordained in another jurisdiction, so you have to follow his instructions not to receive Demetrius. And I guess you have no other option but to treat him as a brother in Christ. I wish I could help.”

And the micro-denomination Burke fled to (FORC) speaks against his view of church government. Even after he by his own admission “chose not to go back,” FORC sent a communication to the PCA General Assembly inquiring about his transfer. In a damning admission (at least for Shade), the FORC memorial states:

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.

Now read that last sentence again:

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.

According to FORC, church discipline is not a sectarian matter. But what does Burke Shade say? “But as only one branch of the church, Illiana’s decisions are only regulative for that branch.” How many witnesses does he need before he admits his rebellion to the discipline of the Church?

Let me make one additional point here: If the censures against Burke Shade stopped at the doors of the PCA, how is it that Christ Church needed to “vindicate” him? According to Shade, the censures went no further than the PCA? Then how was Christ Church able to supersede their judgments, because, after all, they only applied to the PCA? Christ Church has no jurisdiction over the PCA? How could they overrule their judgment even according to his thinking unless church censures do not stop at the limits of a denomination’s jurisdiction? Burke Shade falls into his own trap.

Fourthly, Patrick believes that I broke my vows 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.

His vows nowhere forbid transferring out; however, the BCO states in the very section he cites (38.3) that permission is required from the presbytery to transfer out, especially if the member is currently under trial, which in fact Shade was. The presbytery denied his transfer request. I don’t think that he broke his vows by “attempting” to transfer; he broke them by transferring over to FORC when he had not been released by Illiana Presbytery. Even in his initial correspondence to you, Pooh, he admitted this fact that Illiana had the authority to not release him to FORC when the request was made:

The Federation appealed to Illiana Presbytery, after receiveing me, to end the trial and let them finish it, to which Illiana declined, as according to their rights according to the BCO. I remained in the PCA until my deposition.

Why is he so reluctant to admit that he di dn’t have the right to leave without the permission of his presbytery now? With their refusal (which, again, he previously admitted they had the rights to), any options he had under BCO 38.3 were closed to him. And his deposition from office did not automatically free him from his vows; he was not excommunicated. He still needed permission to leave; instead, he “chose not to go back.” He was back in the pulpit just weeks after his deposition from the ministry, preaching to the faction that split EPC. He helped engineer this church split, and the CREC whitewashed it (Matthew 23:27, 28). Even worse, he accuses his Presbytery of “defrauding” him. I fail to see the honor.

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

Pooh, it seems that almost seven years after he was deposed from the ministry, Burke Shade can’t tell the difference between the truth and the alternate universe he created to justify his rebellion and his continued defiance to the lawfully imposed censures against him. And again, this man is a minister in good standing in the CREC.