FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS
volume 19, number 25, June 11, 2020
“Depart, depart, go out from there, touch nothing unclean; go out of the midst of her, purify yourselves. . .” -Isaiah 52:11
My wife and I became members of the Presbyterian Church in America in 1976 when we had the privilege of working on the staff of First Presbyterian Church, Macon, Georgia under the great preacher and pastor James Baird. I was ordained in the PCA upon my graduation from Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, Mississippi in 1981. I have loved the PCA and considered it a wonderful privilege to serve our Lord there for well over forty years. I must now, however, leave the PCA.
This decision does not come lightly. Why am I leaving? I believe the PCA has for many years been guilty of accommodation to our culture which, in turn, has caused a series of increasingly problematic compromises with the world. My doctrinal position and fidelity to our theological standards has not changed one bit over these many years. However, that is clearly not true of the PCA as a whole. In 2000 our General Assembly allowed for several views on creation which clearly are out of accord with the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF), our doctrinal standard. In 2002 we voted to allow “Good Faith” subscription to the WCF which has resulted in an alarming and increasing number of exceptions to our doctrinal standards by our Ruling and Teaching Elders (pastors).
I could cite many other issues of concern but the crowning blow has been the issue of homosexuality in the PCA. Over the past two years, perhaps you have followed the controversy with the Revoice Conference in St. Louis and the many overtures at our General Assembly to address the issue of what many are calling “Side B” homosexuality (it is acceptable to be attracted to someone of the same sex, or even call himself “gay” as long as he does not commit the act of homosexual intercourse). I will not rehearse this issue here. Plenty has been said already.
The Scriptures must always guide us. In Isaiah 52 the prophet is encouraging God’s people with the promise of their return from the coming Babylonian exile. In verse one he commands them to awake, to clothe themselves with beautiful garments, for the uncircumcised and the unclean will never enter Zion again. In verses 7-10 he reminds them of how beautiful the feet are of those who bring this good news to His people. And then in verse 11 he says, “Depart, depart, go out from there, touch nothing unclean; go out of the midst of her, purify yourselves, you who carry the vessels of the Lord.” In other words, flee evil. Flee wickedness and perversion.
The Scripture is clear. We must never tolerate evil, wickedness, perversion or any unclean practice in our personal lives or in the church. The PCA has failed to discipline a PCA Teaching Elder who has publicly called himself “gay” and received a rousing ovation for the speech he gave at last year’s General Assembly. Don’t gloss over this confession. Let it sink into your mind. This pastor is affirming an identity contrary to what the Scriptures say a true believer is—a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). So the PCA now has at least one pastor who professes to be a homosexual. And then ask yourself this question—why has his Presbytery not disciplined him? Will he be allowed to continue as a pastor in the PCA? I cannot and will not tolerate that probability.
I have read the Report of the Ad Interim Committee on Human Sexuality and much of it is Biblically sound, especially the twelve affirmations. Nonetheless the affirmations are mitigated significantly by the “nevertheless” statements which follow. So in their “affirmations” the committee clothed their report with proper dress and then stripped it naked with their “nevertheless” counter statements. The report will probably be approved at the next General Assembly but you should remember that study committee reports are not part of PCA doctrinal standards. They can be ignored or embraced, depending on one’s prerogative. The very fact that we are having this discussion is all we need to know of how far the PCA has strayed from the Scriptures on the issue of homosexuality.
I am appalled that we have allowed the homosexual agenda to become an issue in the PCA. This is totally unacceptable. It is an abomination. Consider God’s hatred of sexual perversion (Leviticus 18:22, Numbers 25:1-9, Rev.2:14,20). And what is the Biblical response to such? We are commanded to depart, to go out, to touch nothing unclean, to go out from the presence of wickedness. And those who carry the vessels of the Lord (the priests in the Old Covenant and the elders in the New Covenant) are to purify themselves. We are to flee from evil. The Scriptures are replete with similar commands. “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness,” (Ephesians 5:11). “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil,” (Prov.3:7). “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us,” (2 Thess.3:6). “Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest will also be fearful of sinning,” (1 Tim.5:20). The Scriptures are clear—we are to flee wickedness. I cannot and will not waste my time by fighting to save a denomination which has wandered far from Biblical orthodoxy on this and other vital issues.
So, where I am I going? I have been received into Vanguard Presbytery which will become a new Presbyterian denomination. Why Vanguard?
Because the vision of Vanguard is what I always hoped the PCA would be. What are her distinctives? By the grace of God, Vanguard Presbytery seeks to be a new Presbyterian denomination which is a grass roots, new side, old school, three-fold office denomination committed to discipling the nations in the power of the Holy Spirit. I hope to develop this statement further next week. I realize this is a bold statement. What does it mean and how do we seek to accomplish it?
First and foremost, Vanguard Presbytery exists for the glory of the Triune God (Colossians 3:23, 1 Corinthians 10:31). We are fully aware that only God’s grace, His undeserved favor (Ephesians 2:8,9), will bring this vision of ministry to reality. We live in a world of great darkness. We understand that Christ’s call to disciple the nations is an utter impossibility without the presence and power of the Holy Spirit coming upon our preaching, evangelizing, teaching, exhorting, discipling, leading, giving, counseling, church planting, mercy ministry, and world missions. Why? Because people are dead in their trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-3). None understand, none seek for God. There is none righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10ff). Our world is no different than the world of the Lord Jesus and His apostles when they walked upon the earth. We know that the darkness of our world takes many forms, including the dissolution of the nuclear family, drug and alcohol addiction, pornography, homosexuality, transgenderism, idolatry, racism and bigotry all over the world, corruption in the public and private sectors, and secularism which is threatening to transform our nation into a socialist state. Without the power of the Holy Spirit we will simply continue our slide into Sodom and our children and grandchildren will live in a world very different from what our Puritan forefathers envisioned. The awareness of this darkness moves us to a sense of desperation, an intolerable burden, what I call an intense agony, grief, and alarm at the status quo in our personal lives, in our families, in the church, and in the world. Therefore we are cognizant of our need daily to surrender totally to the only One who can save and sanctify us, our Lord Jesus Christ. So we are very aware of the darkness of our day, and we know that unless Jesus “shows up” by the Spirit, then there is no hope at all. So we know very well that we must daily surrender to God, casting ourselves upon Him for His grace and power. We must have an unwavering faith and confidence that He can do far above what we could ever ask or think according to the power that works within us (Ephesians 3:20).
I hope you will pray for Wini and me as we make this move. We do so, on the one hand, with tears, but on the other hand with great expectancy.