Baltimore, MD (May 13, 1997)--Loch Raven Presbyterian Church hosted the 30th Stated Meeting of Potomac Presbytery. Host pastor Robert Louthan preached from II Kings 6:24-31. TE T. M. Moore, Moderator, convened the meeting. TE Robert Myers of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church was given the privilege of the floor; he brought greetings from his denomination, and commented on the need for evangelism.
Minutes for various commissions were approved: to install TE William Dever as Associate Pastor at Chapelgate Presbyterian Church, Marriottsville, MD; to ordain and install Mr. Brian Sleeth as Associate Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, California, MD; to install TE Steve Hohenberger as Pastor of Heritage Presbyterian Church, Warrenton, VA.
The minutes read, "TE Stephen Clark led the [Presbytery] in a prayer of praise and gratitude for God's mercy and grace in taking RE Larson's disabled son to be with Him."
The Christian Education Committee reported on the following interns: Robert Beames, Michael Horrigan, Jamie MacGregor, Eric Milicki, Jeffrey Rickett, John Sackett, Kevin Smith, and Bennett Whethered. The committee is waiting to hear if Patrick Guarracino, who has moved to New Jersey and is working with Intervarsity at Rutgers University, wishes to continue his internship. David Carrick's completed internship was approved. TE T. M. Moore presented a report on Chesapeake Theological Seminary.
The Committee on Ministerial Responsibility reported that it concurs with TE James L. Fishel's request that he be divested of office without censure. At the next stated meeting, the Committee will bring the appropriate motion to that effect.
The following increases in pastoral compensation were approved: TE Robert Bell, Aisquith Presbyterian Church, 5%; TE Stephen Clark, Wallace Memorial Presbyterian Church, 4%; TE Edward James, Grace Reformed Fellowship, 7.2%; TE George Miller, Faith Reformed Presbyterian Church, 2%; TE William Sutherland, Session of Wallace Memorial Church, 19%.
J. Frederick Showers' pastoral relation as Assistant Pastor of Loch Raven Presbyterian Church was dissolved, and he was transferred to Covenant Presbytery. With respect to TE Michael Harvey, Potomac Presbytery voted to "recommend to Ascension Presbytery that if they cannot approve the call of TE Harvey that they nonetheless receive him on their roll without call." The following rationale was offered as justification for this action: "Since the Form of Government requires that 'a minister shall be required to hold his membership in the Presbytery within whose geographical bounds he resides...' (BCO 13-2), this is sufficient necessity to invoke the exception provided for in BCO 13-5, 'ordinarily, only a minister who receives a call to a definite ecclesiastical work within the bounds of a particular Presbytery may be received as a member of that Presbytery except...in those cases deemed necessary by the Presbytery.' Thus, a TE in good standing, though without call, ought to apply for admission to this Presbytery if he moves within its geographical bounds, and thus be subject to its fellowship and discipline. Such a TE shall continue on the rolls of Presbytery, subject to the regular provisions and limitations of BCO 13-2."
The Committee was "instructed to meet with the Session of Grace Reformed Fellowship to investigate the matters raised by Mr. Daniel Shank, Sr. . . . and bring a report to Presbytery as to whether any action under BCO 40-5 is necessary." [That paragraph in the BCO provides that "[w]hen any court having appellate jurisdiction shall be advised, either by the records of the court next below or by memorial, either with or without protest, or by any other satisfactory method, of any important delinquency or grossly unconstitutional proceedings of such court, the first step shall be to cite the court alleged to have offended to appear . . . at a specified time and place, and to show what it has done or failed to do in the case in question."--Ed.]
From the floor, it was moved, seconded, and carried that the Committee "be constituted as a commission . . . to monitor and/or to investigate the case of a TE in Palmetto Presbytery and, should it be deemed necessary, to communicate with other Presbyteries and to petition the GA to take up the case according to BCO 34-1." The next action of the court was to reconsider that previous motion; and to adopt as a substitute motion that the Committee "be directed to inquire into the case of alleged misconduct of a TE in Palmetto Presbytery and the possible inappropriate response of that Presbytery, and to initiate informal contact with one or more Presbyteries in accord with BCO 34-1. The [Committee] is to report to [Potomac Presbytery] at a meeting which is hereby called for that purpose on the first full day of business of the GA in a suitable meeting place at a time specified by the Moderator of [Presbytery] in Colorado Springs, Colorado. . . ."
TE Frederick Marsh, on staff with the General Assembly Mission to North America Committee, presented a report. Licentiate Kevin Smith reported on his work in Washington, DC. His call was increased by $5,400 for housing and $600 in salary to enable him to move his lodgings into the District of Columbia.
The Presbytery Mission to North America Committee has adopted the church plant in South Frederick, MD, being done by Candidate Andy Pickens under the oversight of Shady Grove Presbyterian Church.
TE Edward Satterfield reported on the disposition of the funds from the sale of the Munson Hill Presbyterian Church property in Falls Church, VA, which congregation was dissolved in 1992. Included in the dispositions was $45,000 to be used by Potomac Presbytery for church planting. [Munson Hill was one of the churches in the Southern Presbyterian tradition, which, in 1972, joined the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod--Ed.]
Mr. Andrew Webb of McLean (VA) Presbyterian Church was examined and licensed. Since he had not met the one month notification requirement, the Candidates Committee was constituted as a commission to accept him as a candidate under care at the committee's June 1997 meeting.
Mr. Paul Hamelryck, endorsed by the Session of Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Annapolis, was received under care. Mr. David Carrick was dismissed as a candidate to James River Presbytery.
The minutes from numerous churches were approved. The Hunt Valley (MD) Presbyterian Church has failed to respond to two letters regarding exceptions taken to its minutes at the September 1996 meeting of Presbytery. The Presbytery Clerk was "directed to contact the church concerning its response." The court adopted a motion "to request churches bringing Sessional records for examination to also bring a printout (list) of all communicant and non-communicant members for examination by the Committee [on Sessional Records]."
Mr. James MacGregor's application to the Lamb Fund at Covenant Theological Seminary was approved.
Presbytery approved the call from the Presbiterio del Caribe of the Sinodo Reformado de la Iglesia Presbteriana en Colombia to TE Octavio Lopez for him "to assist in the church-planting work in the community near Cartagena." Presbytery found the call in order, including that it affords TE Lopez liberty to preach and practice fully and freely the whole counsel of God. The minutes state that "Presbytery approves this call with the understanding that TE Lopez will receive no financial support from the Presbiterio del Caribe, but rather will provide for his family through his Social Security, the produce of his property, and the contributions of individual congregations of Potomac Presbytery and other supporting churches."
Colorado Springs, CO (June 11, 1997)--The special meeting of Potomac Presbytery met at the 25th General Assembly. All TE's and RE commissioners who were not able to attend were excused. The purpose of the meeting was to hear a report from the Committee on Ministerial Responsibility (CMR) regarding possible failure of Palmetto Presbytery to deal adequately with the alleged misconduct of a minister.
TE David Coffin, CMR Chairman, presented the report of his committee. The court adopted its recommendation, "That Presbytery relieve CMR of responsibility to pursue further inquiries and that Presbytery conclude its consideration of this matter."
The CMR report, appended to the Presbytery minutes, states that the relevant portion of the Constitution (BCO 34-1) by which two or more presbyteries may ask that the General Assembly assume original jurisdiction over a minister in a trial, stipulates that the presbytery in question must first "refuse to act." CMR decided that "if Palmetto was still in the process of considering the matter, no conclusion concerning refusal to act could be reasonably maintained." The report continued: "On May 30, 1997, and again on June 7, the Chairman of the CMR spoke by telephone with RE William C. Plowden, Stated Clerk of Palmetto Presbytery. Ater some confusion it now appears clear that a complaint has been filed against Palmetto's action in permitting the teaching elder in question to continue in his pastoral role after alleged acts of immorality. Palmetto may be expected to take up the complaint in their next stated meeting in July, or at a called meeting prior to that time (BCO 43-2). It is clear, therefore, that any judgment that Palmetto has refused to act would be premature." The report also said that "CMR judged that since it would be impracticable for one presbytery to put another on some kind of trial, a process otherwise necessary in order to fairly judge its actions in detail, the matter in question must be contemplated to be of such a character as to make a fair and responsible judgment possible without such quasi-judicial proceedings. In other words, in order for a presbytery to seek Assembly's assumption of jurisdiction, the original court's behavior must be notorious, a prima facie violation of its responsibilities that is widely and publicly recognized."
RE Richard Larson
3144 Castleleigh Road, Silver Spring, MD 20904
[The only time that a PCA presbytery has invoked the provision of BCO 34-1 was in 1995, when Westminster Presbytery asked the General Assembly to assume original jurisdiction after Susquehanna Valley Presbytery had refused to conduct a trial of teaching elders against whom charges were filed. The charges had to do with allegations of doctrinal error in regard to the doctrines of repentance and forgiveness. Westminster's request has never been reported to the Assembly. The only other attempt of which we are aware to invoke this provision was in 1982, when Grace Presbytery's failure to file charges with regard to the late Dr. G. Aiken Taylor, a member of Western Carolinas Presbytery, was complained against. In that matter, the Assembly did not sustain the complaint "on the condition that Western Carolinas Presbytery be directed to proceed at their next stated meeting . . . concerning the allegations of Grace Presbytery against the TE G. Aiken Taylor, and that the one year statute of limitations defined in BCO 32-20 does not apply in the case." Fifteen years ago, BCO 34-1 was somewhat ambiguously-worded, but presumably required at that time the request of only one presbytery to force the Assembly to act; the present version clearly requires that a request come from two or more presbyteries.--Ed.]