Greeneville, TN (July 12, 1997)--Meadow Creek Presbyterian Church hosted the 88th stated meeting of Westminster Presbytery. TE Carl Howell, Jr., preached on the "Perseverance of the Saints" as summarized in Chapter 17 of the Westminster Confession of Faith. In the absence of the Moderator, TE Jim Thornton of the host church presided until the election of a new Moderator. RE Eric Shrader, who had been nominated at the last stated meeting, was also not present. RE Dan Witcher of Westminster Church, Kingsport, TN, was nominated and elected.
Notice was received of the death of RE Joe Lusk of Westminster Church, Johnson City, TN. The Nominations Committee was appointed to name a new Presbytery Trustee to replace him.
In accord with action taken at the January meeting, at which TE Richard Crews was transferred from Southeast Alabama Presbytery, a paper from him regarding his views on Divorce; WCF 19:3, 4, and 5; and paedo-communion was received and will be kept on file in Clerk's office. "This document will be made available to any elder of Presbytery upon request."
Presbytery transferred the candidacy of Mr. Brent Jones to the Presbytery of New York and New England of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
Presbytery instructed the Clerk to set aside a time for a Financial Planning Seminar to be conducted by TE Mike Hall of the PCA Insurance, Annuities and Relief Board for the ministers of the Presbytery. The Abingdon (VA) Church offered its facilities for holding the seminar.
The Stated Clerk gave the financial report for the first six months of the year, which showed income of $13,831.04 and expenditures of $12,226.49.
TE Pat Parham had complained against an action of the court at the April stated meeting, viz., "That Presbytery instruct the Valley Pike Church to abide by the BCO 19-1 and Acts 20:28 and not allow Mr. Ryan to fill the Valley Pike Church Pulpit until he is licensed by Westminster Presbytery." Mr. Parham complained that "[t]his motion is a direct violation of BCO 19-1 which states in part, 'To preserve the purity of the preaching of the Gospel, no man is permitted to preach in the pulpits of the Presbyterian Church in America on a regular basis without prior licensure from the Presbytery having jurisdiction where he will preach.'" He submitted the following reasons in support of his complaint: "1. BCO 19-1 does not permit Presbytery to deny RE Ryan, or any other unlicensed person, access to the pulpit except in a regular capacity. This motion forbids Valley Pike Church from allowing RE Ryan to fill their pulpit at all until he is licensed. 2. If Presbytery is of the opinion that RE Ryan's doctrinal views are contrary to our constitutional standards then the proper method of treating this is by a regular trial. Presbytery cannot arbitrarily remove him from eldership or restrict him beyond the bounds of our constitution without the recourse of a formal trial (BCO 24-6). 3. If the intent of this motion was to protect the churches of Westminster Presbytery from the preaching of RE Ryan it does not accomplish this. It only applies to the Valley Pike Church. Acts 20:28 certainly would apply to the entire flock over which Westminster Presbytery has been made overseer. 4. As stated on the floor of Presbytery, many PCA churches even in Westminster Presbytery, have speakers that do not agree with parts of our constitutional documents from time to time."
Presbytery voted to affirm the complaint; and stated, "While Westminster Presbytery was attempting to enforce BCO 19-1's provision regarding regular preaching in a congregation without licensure, Presbytery went beyond BCO 19-1 by instructing the church not to allow Mr. Ryan to speak at all until licensed." As Grounds, the court stated: "BCO 19-1 allows for a man to preach on an 'irregular' basis at the discretion of the local session."
Earlier in the meeting, it was reported that the minutes of the congregation of Valley Pike Church when that church voted to withdraw from the PCA had been submitted to the Presbytery Clerk; and he stated that everything seemed to be done in an orderly fashion. Upon motion from the floor, Presbytery voted that its "decision to confirm the complaint be communicated to the Valley Pike Church."
Presbytery received three overtures from TE Jeff Yelton. The first one stated: "Whereas, images of Jesus Christ are forbidden as sins against God by the Word of God and the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in America (WLC 109); and, Whereas, the congregation of Seven Mile Ford Presbyterian Church (PCA) has been informed that images of Jesus Christ are a sin against God (minutes of congregational meeting on January 26, 1997); and, Whereas, windows in the sanctuary of Seven Mile Ford Presbyterian Church contain two images of Jesus Christ; and, Whereas, the Westminster Presbytery recently appointed a Commission, with the consent of the congregation of Seven Mile Ford Presbyterian Church, to oversee the Seven Mile Ford Presbyterian Church; and, Whereas, the oversight of the Presbytery Commission extends to the church's building, since there are no deacons in the church (BCO 9-2); and, Whereas, any action of the Presbytery Commission becomes the action of the Westminster Presbytery, and the inaction of the Presbytery Commission becomes the inaction of the Presbytery (BCO 15-1); Therefore, Be It Resolved, that the Westminster Presbytery hereby directs its Presbytery Commission overseeing the Seven Mile Ford Presbyterian Church to remove any and all images of Jesus Christ from the church's building, in an expeditious manner, by any means the Presbytery Commission deems appropriate." The second overture asked the Presbytery to direct the Seven Mile Ford Commission "to begin an investigation into the conduct of the members of the Seven Mile Ford Presbyterian Church during the times of the stated worship services in February and March 1997, with the purpose of exercising the process of church discipline defined and described by the Scriptures (Matthew 18:16-18) and the PCA Book of Church Order, Part II, if needed, and to do so in an expeditious manner." Presbytery denied both complaints, with the same Ground cited: "Though the issue raised is substantive, Presbytery has erected a commission to oversee the church. That commission should be left free to order its business according to its discretion." [Mr. Yelton served the Seven Mile Ford Church as stated supply (1993-94) and then pastor (1994-97). Two years ago, when Presbytery sold the Lippincott Presbyterian Church building, Bristol, VA, it did so with the provision "that all of the alleged pictures of Jesus be removed prior to the sale."--Ed.]
The third overture was as follows: "Whereas, the Scriptures and the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in America forbid 'all devising, counselling, commanding, using, and any wise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself' (WLC 109), and declare that 'God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in any thing contrary to his word, or beside it, in matters of faith or worship' (WCF XX,ii); and, Whereas, liturgical drama has not been commaned or prescribed by God in his word, but is rather a man-made innovation; and, Whereas, the devising, commanding, using or approving of drama in the public worship of God is thus proven to be sinful; and, Whereas, Spanish River Church (PCA) of Boca Raton, Florida, has repeatedly devised, commanded, used, and approved drama in its public worship services; and, Whereas, the aforementioned practices have continued unabated for a very long time; and, Whereas, the Southern Florida Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America has apparently failed to properly discipline anyone for these sins; and, Whereas, the Presbyterian Church in America is a connectional church; and, Whereas, the Presbyterian Church in America is unreservedly committed to the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Westminster Larger Catechism and the Westminster Shorter Catechism; and, Whereas, the PCA Book of Church Order permits a presbytery to request the PCA General Assembly to address such situations, and requires the PCA General Assembly to do so when so requested by two or more presbyteries in the PCA (BCO 34-1); Therefore, Be It Resolved, that the Westminster Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America, hereby requests the Twenty-sixth General Assembly to investigate the devising, commanding, use and approval of drama in the stated worship services of Spanish River Church (PCA) in Boca Raton, Florida, for the purpose of correcting whatever is amiss, in accordance with PCA Book of Church Order 34-1." The court voted to deny the overture, with the following Grounds: "1) Scripture requires two or three witnesses before an accusation against an elder can be received (I Timothy 5:19); 2) The proper method for addressing this issue would be to confront the Session and if they refuse to hear, to bring charges against offending parties to the court(s) of original jurisdiction (BCO 31:1)."
Presbytery approved amendments to its Manual in order to clarify committee responsibility in the oversight of interns.
Mr. David Osborne of the Bridwell Heights Presbyterian Church, Kingsport, TN, was received under care as a ministerial candidate. Mr. Rusty Whitener, having been licensed on May 6th, also was taken under care. He will begin his internship program at Pulaski Church under direct oversight of Draper Valley Session and Pastor Preston Sartelle, Jr. Mr. Richard Hicks will begin his internship under Westminster Church, Kingsport, TN, under direct oversight of that Session and Pastor Brent Bradley.
Presbytery approved the counting of previous ministry experience of Mr. Ray Cureton toward his internship and voted that his internship at Westminster Presbyterian Church, Johnson City, be approved and completed at the end of the summer. The court also reimbursed TE Joe Wolfe $200 for his moving expenses to serve Seven Mile Ford Church as stated supply.
TE Ed Crook, Chairman of the Christian Education Committee, gave his committee's report. The committee recommended that Dr. Peter Jones, professor at Westminster Theological Seminary in California and author of The Gnostic Empire Strikes Back and Spirit Wars, be the speaker for a conference entitled, "What's Wrong with Psychic Phenomena?", to be held on November 8, 1997, at Westminster Church, Johnson City, from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. The Presbytery voted that "the Committee investigate the speaking style of Mr. Jones, and upon their evaluation, the Committee will determine if another speaker might be more appropriate." The court also voted that "the bulletin inserts on Church Discipline being developed by the C.E. Committee, first be approved by Presbytery before being sent to each of the churches in the Presbytery."
Presbytery heard reports from Messrs. Jeff Yelton and Carel Van Der Merwe regarding their respective mission works (Wytheville, VA, and Greeneville, TN). The Presbytery voted that "consideration of the petition of the Grace Reformed Mission [of Greeneville] to be organized as a particular church be delayed until another meeting of Presbytery (either stated or called)."
Presbytery heard from TE Stanley Armes, former MTW missionary, who has been approved by MTW for mission work in South Africa.
Mr. Witcher was nominated to be Moderator for the next meeting. TE Rick Franks was appointed to preach on Chapter 18 of the Confession of Faith, "Assurance of Grace and Salvation."
Bristol, TN (August 12, 1997)-At a called meeting of Westminster Presbytery, Rev. Jeffrey B. Fulford was examined to be received in order to become Pastor of Princeton Presbyterian Church, Johnson City. In the absence of Dr. Roger Schultz, the Chairman of the Examinations Committee, TE Ben Konopa conducted the examination on the floor. He moved "that Presbytery immediately go into executive session," which was adopted. During executive session, the court heard of three areas of concern from the Examinations Committee regarding Mr. Fulford's views: 1. Marriage and Divorce; 2. Baptism; 3. The Role of Women in the Church. The court arose from executive session and examined Mr. Fulford. After the examination, Presbytery again went into closed session. The following motion was defeated by a vote of 9-20: "That Presbytery approve the examination and request Mr. Fulford to submit to the Clerk a position paper on his views of 1) the role of women in the church, and 2) baptism." After failing to approve the examination, Presbytery voted to recess until August 25th in order to continue the examination in the areas of the role of women in the church and baptism. The Clerk was asked to opine as to which members of Presbytery could vote at the meeting on August 25th. The Clerk reported in the minutes that, in his opinion, "a meeting of the body following recess is a continuation of the same meeting. In any properly called meeting, commissioners arriving after the beginning of the meeting, have the privilege to vote as registered commissioners, although it may not always be wise to do so since they are not privy to the full discussion and actions of the meeting before their arrival."
Bristol, TN (August 25, 1997)-At the recessed meeting of Westminster Presbytery, the court, in executive session, approved the examination of Jeffrey Fulford and received him pending receipt of transfer from Susquehanna Valley Presbytery. TE G. Brent Bradley, TE Ross Lindley, RE Sam Lindley, TE Jim Reedy, and TE Tom Sullivan, who were not present at the previous session thirteen days prior, wanted their abstentions recorded on this vote. The call of $39,500 was approved. Presbytery also adopted the following motion: "That Presbytery through the Examinations Committee pay for the travel expense incurred by Mr. Fulford in attending this meeting."
Kingsport, TN (October 11, 1997)-The 89th Stated Meeting of Westminster Presbytery was hosted by Bridwell Heights Presbyterian Church. Mr. Richard Hicks, a candidate for licensure, preached; and TE Larry Ball, host pastor, administered the sacrament of communion. Mr. Dan Witcher was elected Moderator.
TE Jeff Yelton had issued a dissent to Presbytery's affirming the complaint of TE Patrick J. Parham (see Minutes for July 12, as noted above). Mr. Yelton stated: "It is simply not true that the Presbytery's instruction to the Valley Pike Church to 'not allow Mr. Ryan to fill the Valley Pike Church pulpit until he is licensed by Westminster Presbytery' is a 'direct violation' of BCO 19-1. To conclude that BCO 19-1 permits unlicensed people to preach in our pulpits on an irregular basis, because it requires people who preach on a regular basis to be licensed, is to make a mistake in logic. . . . In passing the motion complained against by Rev. Parham, the Presbytery was motivated by a legitimate concern for one of the churches over which God had made it overseers. It acted in conformity to the Scriptures and to the constitution of our church." In answering the dissent, Presbytery stated: "There is no logical inconsistency in Presbytery's assertion that BCO 19-1 was violated when Presbytery prohibited Mr. Ryan from preaching at the Valley Pike Church 'at all.' The prohibition of BCO 19-1 is a prohibition of regular preaching of unlicensed men. BCO does not prohibit all preaching of unlicensed men. . . . Presbytery acknowledges that there is a distinction between the process of church discipline and the exercise of general pastoral oversight of its member churches. However the court of original jurisdiction for Ruling Elders is the Session. In the course of church discipline and general oversight Presbytery is to be prosecutorial and not regulative in its oversight of Sessions. The powers of Presbytery set forth in BCO 13-9 are governed by the principle of original jurisdiction. . . . That Presbytery does have power it may exercise in the event of the delinquency of a Session does not mean the Presbytery must exercise that power in the absence of any evidence of delinquency."
The Overtures and Judicial Business Committee also reported regarding an overture from Trinity Presbyterian Church, Tazewell, VA, on "Renewing the Covenant." This overture noted that the PCA "is a confession church, Jude 3"; asserted that some PCA officers have not read the Confessional Standards, including Scriptural proof texts, in their entirety; stated the "history of the main line denominations is one of liberal tendencies" and that the "history of the Presbyterian Church is one of having a confession on paper but one which was in practice and by a large number of elders ignored and denied"; and spoke of "the examples of great renewals of the covenant when His people have humbled themselves before the Lord and covenanted anew together to walk faithfully with the Lord." Among the "resolves" of this resolution were provisions to require each officer, elders and deacons, to declare anew each January that the Confession is their confession; and to require that they verbally and in writing every three years take an oath that they have read the standards and proof texts. The overture also stated: "Any teaching elder, ruling elder, or deacon that refuses to take these oaths yearly and on the third year OR any officer that refuses to list the points of disagreement with the standards, will be disciplined in the Lord for refusing: to promote the peace and the purity of the church, to be in subjection to his brethren in the Lord, to seek to have the mind of Christ and to seek reformation to take place in our hearts, homes, church and society!" The Committee recommended that this overture be denied "on the ground that the present vow taken by all officers is sufficient to provide an avenue for officers to subscribe to the Confession and declare themselves out of accord if their doctrinal views should change." However, a substitute motion was adopted, 22-16, as follows: "That the Trinity Overture be sent to sessions and teaching elders for their consideration and refinement, and that any input be sent to the Stated Clerk at least three weeks prior to the January Stated Meeting, who will forward it to the Committee on Overtures and Judicial Business for a report at the January Stated Meeting."
Presbytery voted that since Mr. Larry Crigger had resigned as an Elder at Asbury Presbyterian Church, and since his membership on the commission overseeing the Grace Reformed Church, Greeneville, TN, was based on his being on the Asbury Session, that he should no longer serve on that commission.
Dr. Roger Schultz presented the report of the Examinations Committee. Presbytery examined and approved the candidacy of Mr. Mike Byers. The court licensed Mr. Richard Hicks to preach. Presbytery terminated the candidacy of Gary Vanderveen, and the candidacy and licensure of K. Brent Jones.
TE Pat Parham presented the Shepherding Committee report. Presbytery approved the call of the Edgemont Church to TE Larry Stallard, with a total package of $40,660. After much discussion, the court also approved David Atkisson as an Intern and directed "the Shepherding Committee to develop a program with the First Presbyterian Church in Madison, Mississippi, with the approval of Mississippi Valley Presbytery."
Presbytery voted to continue the Grace Reformed Presbyterian Mission Church and to approve TE Carel Van Der Merwe to continue as church planter there; and to continue the Christ Presbyterian Mission Church, Wytheville, VA, and to approve TE Jeff Yelton to continue as church planter there. All of these actions were made effective through the end of 1998, to be reviewed again next October. Pastor Yelton's call was also changed to 2/3 time church planter and his salary raised $6,000 per year starting September 1997.
The Thanks Committee report was approved as follows: "We appreciate your labors of love and hospitality in so graciously serving us today. Thank you for the delicious meal. By the authority of Presbytery, we confer upon you the Master of Arts degree in Southern Calvinistic Culinary Cuisine."
TE Larry Ball, Stated Clerk
5101 Memorial Blvd., Kingsport, TN 37664
Overture to Westminster Presbytery from the Trinity Presbyterian Church, Tazewell, Virginia
Renewing the Covenant
The Necessity, Biblical nature of, and the commitment of Westminster Presbytery to regularly review and re-covenant ourselves as individuals and as a Presbytery to the standards of our church as the faithful teaching, in their particulars, of the Bible the Word of God!