Friday, March 3, 2006

Patrick Responds to Burke Shade

I appreciate Burke Shade addressing my previous comments (aka my “falsehoods”) because he not only vindicates what I had said, he also makes some damning admissions and very curious equivocations. Here’s the play-by-play beginning with Shade’s comments (my rejoinder in brackets):

Dear Pooh,

I would like to respond to several items of interest to me from Patrick’s letter of 3.3.06. Actually, several items of falsehood held on his part. I will intersperse my comments throughout Patrick’s letter. He says:

I should also note that this is not the first time that the Great Leader, Christ Church and the CREC have lawlessly overruled the lawful verdict of another denomination in order to admit a defrocked minister and his renegade congregation into the CREC. In 2000, the session of Christ Church “vindicated” a defrocked PCA minister, Burke Shade, and sponsored a splinter group he lead out from his previous church, Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Carbondale, Illinois, for admittance into the CREC.

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. Before I was defrocked, I was accepted in early March of 1999 after examination by the Federation of Reformed Churches, after they had looked into my ongoing trial, contacting parties on both sides extensively. The Federation appealed to Illiana Presbytery, after receiving 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.

[Patrick’s rejoinder: There are really two different claims in the section of my post that Shade quotes: 1) that the CREC admitted a man still under censures by the Illiana Presbytery (to my knowledge, they have never been repealed); and 2) that Shade also led a splinter group from the PCA church in Carbondale into the CREC. When he attended Cornerstone is really immaterial and in no way diminishes those two claims: yes, the CREC admitted Shade while he was still (and still is) under censure; and yes, he did lead the splinter group out of the PCA and into the CREC. As Shade admits later, the members who left EPC and formed Cornerstone did so without being released from their membership vows to EPC. By his own admission, that came later. In presbyterian polity, there are few greater violations of the peace and purity of the church than that. Shade also admits that he was received by FORC while he was still on trial by Illiana Presbytery, who (by Shade’s own admission here) did not allow him to be dismissed. Again, in presbyterian polity, there are few greater no-nos than that. It’s really hard to think of a situation in church government where the term “jumping ship” qualifies more. Nowhere does Shade explain the patently bizarre situation of having been received by FORC and still remaining in the PCA. He just asks us to take it for granted that this is a perfectly acceptable option, but it is a contradiction in terms; he cannot have been received by FORC while he was still under covenantal obligations to the PCA. Furthermore, no matter how furiously FORC looked into his ongoing trial; no matter how extensively they contacted the many parties involved; and no matter how fervently they appealed to Illiana Presbytery, they had no authority to judge his ongoing trial and had absolutely every reason NOT to receive Shade into their care (which, in fact, they did). That they did so was to “flip the bird” to their brothers in Illiana Presbytery. That Shade even contemplated the move during his trial demonstrates the utter contempt he had for the lawful jurisdiction of the presbytery.]

As the correspondence between Christ Church and the Illiana Presbytery (PCA) shows, the session of Christ Church “vindicated” Burke without ever contacting the presbytery that had defrocked him or the session of the church he had previously served (see the respective letter exchanges in this issue of P&R News, pp. 18–20, 22).

Again, another falsehood. Before vindicating me, the committee that Christ Church established to look into my trial not only read all the trial documents supplied to them by Illiana, but also had contact with the elders of EPC.

[Patrick’s rejoinder: Again, in terms of presbyterian polity, how bizarre is the bait is that Shade offers us to swallow. If all Christ Church did was ask for the trial documents, that hardly meets the standard of biblical due-diligence required. How about at least a conversation with someone in the presbytery (and not just sending them a letter)? I’m not the only one to raise this point about Christ Church’s “black-box” handling of the matter; Illiana Presbytery itself speaks to Christ Church’s blind vindication of Shade. In Doug Jones’ reply to Illiana Presbytery, the best he can conjure for due-diligence is sending a letter to the prosecutor in the case, who had no authority to respond for the presbytery (since the Christ Church elders represent their prowess in church government, Jones should have known that Mr. DeJong would have no authority to respond, yet he Jones says, “Mr. DeJong declined to make any factual corrections though he was provided with the opportunity”.) If the shoe was on the other foot, and the PCA was being so cavalier in examining a case conducted by the CREC, Doug Wilson and his goons would be howling in protest. And as for contact with the session, Jones says he sent a letter to them. Yep, the Christ Church session really covered all of their bases, didn’t they. But even more than that, my original point still stands: who authorized the session of Christ Church to review the case, let alone issue a “vindication”? Why would Illiana Presbytery and the session of EPC be under any obligation to respond to Christ Church’s investigation? Even if they had responded, it would not have made Christ Church’s “vindication” of Shade any more legitimate.]

Furthermore, who appointed the Christ Church session to review this case? From whence did they derive their jurisdiction? Cornerstone Reformed Church (CRC), asked to join the CRE.

Christ Church was the natural sponsor, since Doug Wilson had spoken to our church at a conference in June of 1999.

[Patrick’s rejoinder: We finally get to the heart of the matter, and all Shade has to offer in explanation is this colossal non sequitur?! I’m really trying to be charitable here, but is Burke Shade really asking your readers and I to believe that because Doug Wilson once spoke at the renegade Cornerstone “Reformed” Church that Wilson’s mere presence empowered Christ Church to wipe Burke’s censure slate clean?! SURELY HE MUST HAVE SOMETHING BETTER THAN THIS!! Just as a reminder, we’re talking Reformed polity here. Didn’t Shade just make a big deal above about how he was in FORC at the time? What did they think of his intended jump to the CREC? Is he admitting that FORC was just a pitstop for him (which it is clear now that it was). How exactly does Shade get from Doug Wilson speaking at his church to a full frontal assault by the Christ Church session on the discipline administered by Illiana Presbytery on Shade? This is not just a question for Shade, it is a question for the Christ Church session and Wilson in particular. Inquiring minds want to know!]

Most telling is this statement from Illiana Presbytery’s response to the Christ Church session:

“Please understand our own concern about your objectivity when we have discovered that at least two elders from Christ Church were in communication with Mr. Shade about his reception into the CRE as early as February 22, 1999, halfway through the trial.”

This is not true. I did not even know that Doug Wilson had formed a denomination, nor had ever met Doug at this point, only having read several of his family books. I did have phone contact with him as far back as 1998, in order to arrange for him to speak at EPC’s annual theological conference. He was scheduled for March 1999, but in light of the church difficulties, the elders of EPC cancelled in February, not knowing if we would have a church by that time. I was still pastor of the church, though suspened from office, and handled this correspondence. I did not even learn of the CRE until Doug spoke at our conference in June of 1999.

[Patrick’s rejoinder: How this is my supposed falsehood is beyond me. My apparent crime is citing an official letter from Illiana Presbytery, written by a committee charged to respond to Christ Church’s “vindication”. I have to assume that the presbytery made this statement in good faith and on the basis of confirmed evidence. We need more than just Shade’s say-so before we start calling Illiana Presbytery liars.]

If the CRE was already interested in talking with Mr. Shade about his reception into the CRE then, how are we to conclude that you were able to objectively evaluate our records since then?” (p. 20)

Again, a false assertion by Illiana. Actually, a straw man.

[Patrick’s rejoinder: How does he get a straw man out of this? If Shade was talking to the CRE about jumping ship while he was still on trial in the PCA (which we know from his own mouth that he was trying to jump ship into FORC during his trial), that would be a real man, not a straw man. And in fact it would call Christ Church’s objectivity into question.]

According to the CREC’s own website, it shows that it admitted Shade and his renegade Cornerstone Reformed Church in 2000,

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. They were subsequently released from membership by Illiana, acting through its borrowed session. Is that the action of a renegade congregation? If so, then Illiana Presbytery is complicit and approving.

[Patrick’s rejoinder: In response to Shade’s query, yes, it is a renegade congregation. It’s hard to think of a more appropriate case for that label. Here Shade admits that the splinter group from EPC formed Cornerstone BEFORE they were ever released from membership. The fact that they left the money, the building, the furniture and Sunday’s leftover cake to EPC does not obscure the cold, hard fact that they were in open rebellion to their membership vows. These were renegades and defiant rebels. And the attempt by Shade to make the presbytery complicit in their treachery makes his calumny even worse. Illiana Presbytery (acting on behalf of the remnants of the EPC session — the two men Shade admitted to slandering) was no more complicit in this rebellion by later releasing those who by their actions made it clear that they had no regard for the authority of the EPC session by leaving and forming another church without a dismissal than the RPCGA is complicit in the Slandering Sproulites present rebellion of publicly renouncing the censures of Westminster Presbytery and efforts to jump ship when they dismissed Sproul and Windham. How did Shade ever get into a position of authority in a presbyterian church, being so plainly ignorant of presbyterian polity?]

even before Christ Church received a response from Illiana Presbytery (which was dated January 7, 2001). If you read the documents from PR News, Christ Church asked for the trial papers earlier than January 2000, because Illiana in January 2000 released them to Christ Church. Christ Church gave a response to them, dated August, 2000.

CRC was admitted to the CRE in October of 2000. Illiana did not respond to the August report until January, 2001. But during all that time Christ Church had been in contact with Illiana and the prosecuting attorney, Brian DeJong.

[Patrick’s rejoinder: Contrary to Shade’s assertion, sending a letter to the prosecutor should not be construed as “being in contact” with Illiana. As I stated earlier, DeJong was not authorized to speak for the presbytery (nor do we know that he even pretended to be or responded to Christ Church’s demands), and it took less than five months for the presbytery to meet (which I assume only meets quarterly, as most PCA presbyteries), to form a committee to respond, and to agree on a formal response. Five months for a presbytery to respond is lightning speed, not painfully slow. What exactly was the pressing need for Shade to jump ship from FORC into the CREC before Illiana could respond? If it was important enough for Christ Church to “vindicate” Shade, surely it was important enough to at least wait for Illiana’s response before he and his renegade congregation were admitted into the CREC. For all we know, Illiana may not have even had their Fall stated meeting before the CREC admitted them in October. Sure the ham-handed authoritarianism of the CREC results in quick action (much like Mussolini made the trains run on time), but it is hardly reflective of the deliberate biblical justice.]

In Shade’s case, he plead guilty I plead guilty to three charges of a personal nature, out of 16 total. and never complained about any unfairness in the trial until AFTER the presbytery had issued its censure,

For Patrick’s benefit, the trial was conducted behind closed doors, and everyone in the trial was muzzled until it was over. Even the congregation of EPC was barred from attending the trial unless they were a witness, and then only on the witness stand.

[Patrick’s rejoinder: This is really rich. I was aware that the trial was in executive session before Shade believed he was making me aware of it. I know how to read. If the trial had been conducted openly, Shade would be complaining now that the presbytery had allowed him to be openly slandered. Trials in executive committee are not unusual in the PCA, or in any presbyterian system, nor are they star chambers, as he seems to intimate. A trial conducted in executive session is intended to protect the reputation of the accused. His trial was not presided over by Judge Roy Bean. Shade would have been examined upon entering the PCA on his knowledge of the BCO (as is required of candidates). When he took his vows, he should have known that this was a possibility. From the charges he faced, Shade should be thankful that his trial was in executive session. There was no abuse here. He also ignores the fact that his suspension from office and suspension from the Lord’s Supper before the trial was done of the basis of HIS OWN ADMISSIONS. He pled guilty to those two charges. He should have faced the music and taken responsibility for his sins. As the presbytery’s letter states, it was Shade’s continued rebellion after the discipline was imposed that made their censures all the more valid.]

which in this case went beyond defrocking and also included a suspension from the Lord’s Supper. Mr. Shade jumped ship from the PCA and was admitted to the CREC,

If Patrick would read his own references, he would see that I was admitted to the FORC first. Also, I did not “jump ship,” but stayed in the PCA throughout my whole trial until being deposed. I did not flee. The PCA kicked me out I did not jump ship. And yes, I chose not to go back.

[Patrick’s rejoinder: I’ll overlook the patronization here, but say that I did read the references thoroughly before I commented on them. Here Shade tries to have it both ways: he was in FORC, but he stayed in the PCA — a contradiction in terms. If there’s one sure rule in Presbyterianism, it’s that you can’t serve two masters. You can’t be in FORC and still be in the PCA. By his own admission, Shade says that he was received into FORC while his trial was still ongoing in the PCA. That he allowed FORC to receive him when he knew he was still under the authority of Illiana Presbytery demonstrates his rebellion, not clears him of it. Asking to be received into another denomination while a trial is still ongoing in another is one of the most fundamental breaches of his membership vows. How could that be considered anything but “fleeing”? And defrocking from office does not constitute the PCA “kicking him out” as he claims. Nowhere does he say that he was ever released from membership in the presbytery; he “chose not to go back”. How’s that for accountability. As I said before, these factors should have been cause for Christ Church to be MORE cautious about having any dealings with Shade, not LESS.]

abandoning any appeals he might have had to the PCA General Assembly.

As for appeals, I spoke with several members on the SJC, and they all acknowledged that if I appealed, they would not rule on the substance of the trial, but only on the procedures, assuming that the lower court was right on the substance. So my best hope was to have the trial remanded back to Illiana! I chose not to go that path because I would not be able to support my family as a minister, since I couldn’t hold office while on appeal. Also, I chose not to go that way so as to not drag CRC through another trial, maybe 18 months to two years later. It was also clear I was not going back to EPC, while I had a congregation willing to have me as their minister.

[Patrick’s rejoinder: Shade’s alleged SJC hearsay is irrelevant. If he didn’t like the justice the PCA administered, he shouldn’t have joined in the first place. He made his choices voluntarily.]

Today Shade is a minister in good standing with the CREC, as is Cornerstone Reformed Church.

Yes, this is true. I am very grateful to Christ Church for all the time the commission spent reading through my trial documents, assessing them, and spending time with Illiana Presbytery in helping them understand the situation. In conclusion, I have been exonerated not only by Christ Church and the CRE, but also the FORC and CRC. I lived my life before the eyes of the people of CRC (and while they were members of EPC), and they wholeheartedly approved of my teachings and life. Additionally, PEF had to look into this whole situation, as some men tried to remove a PEF evangelist who went with CRC. PEF rejected any removal, thus exonerating CRC as well.

[Patrick’s rejoinder: This gets us to the heart of the matter. How can Shade be a member in good standing in the CREC while he is still under lawful censure by another denomination? By what authority did Christ Church exonerate him without receiving any official word from Illiana Presbytery. In yet another way, Shade wants to have it both ways: because he tried to jump ship and was unlawfully received by FORC while he was still bound to the PCA (an in fact, was still in the middle of a trial), he believes his censure slate was wiped clean. But FORC couldn’t have overruled the PCA censures. And making yet another leap from FORC into the CREC not even two years later removes that stain. Christ Church was aiding and abetting Shade’s outrageous rebellion by receiving him while he was still under censure. Just because Shade “chose not to go back” to Illiana didn’t nullify the discipline they lawfully imposed on Shade. He had very clear avenues of legitimate appeal. He forsake those and retreated further into rebellion. How Christ Church was able to “vindicate” Shade, based solely on Doug Wilson’s attendance at a conference at the renegade Cornerstone “Reformed” Church, is still an open question begging for some kind of answer.]

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to Patrick, and if he would like to call me up on the phone and talk about this, I would be happy to do so. He can find my phone number on our webpage, Please print my comments in whole, and you might italicize them if that would help clarify my answers.

Sincerely in Christ,

Burke Shade

[Patrick’s rejoinder: In conclusion, Shade has not clarified the matter, but obfuscated it even more. I’m glad to help bring it all back into focus for your readers, Pooh. Nowhere has Shade been able to identify any “falsehood” on my part. Saying so does not make it so. Furthermore, my original point still stands unanswered: how did the session of Christ Church arrogate unto itself to “vindicate” a man who at the time was still not a member of the CREC from standing censures imposed by another lawful spiritual authority. Just because you’re a friend of Doug Wilson does not mean you get an ecclesiastical “get out of jail free” card if you come banging on the CREC’s door (though it appears that many believe this to be so — including the Christ Church session). At least they should have pretended that they were acting on some sliver of authority by admitting Shade into the CREC first before “vindicating” him. Instead, they chose naked aggression and deliberate harrumphing. If anything, Shade’s response to my earlier post VINDICATES me, not discredits me. The session of Christ Church had no more authority to clear Burke Shade than the Tooth Fairy. That they allow this rebel to remain in good standing in the CREC is an open scandal. If they had the slightest bit of credibility, they would send him back to Illiana to clear up the matter. That, however, isn’t likely. If there was any frontier justice done in this matter, it was by the session of Christ Church, not Illiana Presbytery.]