And the Verdict Is. . . .
The Standing Judicial Commission of the PCA — which is the denomination’s highest court — finally reached its verdict in the case against Pastor Peter Leithart (a case that has been ongoing since 2007, and which I prosecuted personally in the Pacific Northwest Presbytery). Although I do know what their ruling was, I will refrain from divulging it until the SJC issues its Report and reasons for their decision.
The Westminster Confession says:
It belongs to synods and councils, ministerially to determine controversies of faith, and cases of conscience; to set down rules and directions for the better ordering of the public worship of God, and government of his Church; to receive complaints in cases of maladministration, and authoritatively to determine the same; which decrees and determinations, if consonant to the Word of God, are to be received with reverence and submission; not only for their agreement with the Word, but also for the power whereby they are made, as being an ordinance of God appointed thereunto in His Word.
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 (xxxi.3-4).
I would not be speaking out of turn to point out the obvious fact that one side in this ongoing and serious struggle is going to be happy with the SJC’s decision, and the other side will not be. After all, the side that I myself represented considers Reformed confessional orthodoxy itself to be on the line, while those sympathetic with the Federal Vision have felt as though they were unjustly persecuted by people whose views on Reformed theology are unduly narrow, indeed narrower than Scripture itself.
While I obviously no longer have a dog in this fight, I will nonetheless be interested to see how people on both sides react to the ruling once it becomes public. Will one side focus on the first paragraph above, exclaiming victoriously that since Christ has appointed synods and councils to adjudicate doctrinal matters in the church, and since the court sided with them, that therefore they were in the right? And will the losing side appeal to the second paragraph cited, reminding the winners that ecclesiastical courts’ importance notwithstanding, that they still may err, and in this case have indeed done so?
I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. But as we watch this thing unfold, we should certainly be in prayer for all involved, that Christ would bring peace to those embattled in this controversy in the PCA, as well as to all Christians everywhere, that the divisions in the Body of Christ might be healed.