The Saga of Jason Wallace
Born in the college town of Statesboro, GA, Jason Wallace started college at age 15, and received his MBA at age 20 from Georgia Southern.
While employed full-time by the City of Savannah's Engineering Department, Jason commuted every weekend to the Gordon-Conwell extension in Charlotte, NC, logging an estimated 30,000 miles on his car. He graduated from seminary summa cum laude. During his time in seminary, he also did an internship at Independent Presbyterian Church in downtown Savannah.
A nominal Southern Baptist, Jason was converted ten years ago, at the age of 23, after being challenged by The Way International. His experience with that cult, plus encounters with others caught up in other cults, helped to develop within him a heart for people in false religions. Among the people he has led to faith were Jehovah's Witnesses.
Shortly after his conversion, he went on a business trip to Salt Lake City. The Lord also kept putting Mormons in his path, including Mormon missionaries. About six years ago, he became set on his call to go to Utah in order to become a missionary to Mormons.
Jason raised support for his dream, and was called and ordained earlier this year by Central Georgia Presbytery to plant a church in Provo. Central Georgia also entered into an agreement with Rev. Phil Stogner, organizing pastor in the Salt Lake City suburb of Park City, for him to mentor Jason while he worked in Provo. On August 25, 1997, Mr. Stogner wrote: "I am pleased to recommend Mr. Jason Wallace for your consideration and approval as an evangelist representing Central Georgia on the home mission field of Provo, Utah. . . . As you may already know, the state of Utah falls in the category of a destitute region as we are working toward the establishment of a Presbytery but are currently out of bounds of any existing Presbytery's [sic]. Your recognition of Jason as an evangelist working out of bounds permits him and his family the freedom to move and the authority to conduct evangelism in a very dark part of the USA. Jason and his family will reside in Provo and come onboard the staff of Park City Presbyterian Church as an evangelist and church planting intern while ministering in Provo. . . . We are only too happy to share oversight and accountability over Jason with Central Georgia. . . ."
Jason and Central Georgia operated under the assumption that this agreement was going to be honored. However, in early 1998 Mr. Wallace became aware of correspondence between Lewis Ruff, Western Coordinator for the denominational Mission to North America Committee, and the Stated Clerk of an Eastern presbytery. Mr. Ruff's email said: "Phil was already talking about having one of the men from Park City who was a potential elder but who has moved to Provo, serve as a mentor for Jason in Provo, Jason's dream ministry place. I told Phil that if he allowed Jason to move immediately to Provo, he might as well forget any meaningful internship/mentoring. Jason will simply do what he has wanted to do all along-start a Bible study with contacts in the area who tend to be harsher Reformed types and lay plans for starting a 'church' in 6-9 months."
He continued: "My concern with Jason is that he has a confrontational evangelistic style that will guarantee a small, struggling church with few Mormon converts or any other converts for that matter. We have had encouraging success in seeing some Mormons come to Christ in the Salt Lake City area, but it has not been by reinforcing their natural predilection to replace Mormon law with Reformed law. It has been by introducing them to the truth of radical, undeserved grace. Thus, the name of our newest church in the area, Grace Presbyterian in Layton."
Mr. Ruff wrote: "I encouraged Phil to use Jason as a servant at Park City, to give him simple responsibilities in the church and to see if he would be faithful in carrying them out, to demonstrate a true heart of teachability and humility and faithfulness. If he does that, then I think Phil could give him greater responsibilites, such as teaching. Only when Jason shows that he has 'gotten' it, and that he has a well-defined model for church planting . . . ."
The MNA staffer stated: "Our Presbytery [Northern California] will not endorse any candidate who has a problem affirming the legitimacy of other philosophies of ministry and who promises to bring conflict into our unified and growing Presbytery. Jason, as you remember, has been openly critical of non-liturgical styles of worship, such as those employed in most of the churches of our Presbytery. While he would not have to embrace those different styles, he would have [to] grant their legitimacy within our fellowship. I would want to see and hear progress in this area before giving blessing to his involvement in ministry under our Presbytery's banner."
A couple of months later, on March 9, 1998, Mr. Stogner wrote to Jason, stating: "It would be a recipe for disaster for you to move directly to Provo, begin a Bible study with the goal of planting a mission church. If you so desire to do that then we need to work together with that clearly stated goal in mind. The first step is to go pastor a church or plant one in the south east then get approved by the assessment center then raise the necessary finances then work within the fellowship of the Salt Lake City Team and join Northern California Presbytery."
Mr. Stogner wrote: "Everyone knows of your passion, some of us know of God's call on your life, but the question before the house is will he humbly serve first? Frankly I have disagreed with those who have said you will not. I believe you will and will amaze everyone with a witness of humility." He also wrote of "hurdles that we both face in order to get to Provo."
The Rev. Mr. Roland Barnes, Chairman of Central Georgia's MNA Committee and a member of the denominational MNA Committee, responded to Mr. Stogner on April 2, 1998. Mr. Barnes noted the drastic changes in Mr. Stogner's position from his earlier enthusiastic endorsement of Jason Wallace and support of Jason living and ministering in Provo. Mr. Barnes wrote: "You also say that Jason needs to 'conform to the guidelines.' We would like to know what guidelines these are and whose guidelines they are. So far, Jason has been most willing to abide by our guidelines and we are the court of authority with respect to Jason and his calling. You also raise the question about whether Jason will 'humbly serve first.' Why is Jason's humble service in question? We have seen no reason to question this. When you say that this question is before 'the house,' which house is this? This is not a question that has been raised in the house of Central Georgia Presbytery. Nor has this question been raised to us by anyone else until now. Of which house are you speaking?"
Mr. Barnes continued: "You also mentioned 'hurdles' which Jason faces in order to get to Provo. No hurdles were mentioned to us when we considered a call to Jason. What are these hurdles? Who has these hurdles in mind?"
He concluded: "You need to explain all of this to the MNA Committee of Central Georgia Presbytery. We have entered into this relationship with you in good faith and are a little bit befuddled at the way in which you have sought to change the original agreement without communicating to us at all."
In the midst of this controversy, Jason, his wife Susan, and their three small children moved from Savannah, arriving in the Salt Lake City area in May. By that time, Jason decided that he could not serve in the PCA, since it would have embroiled him in church politics while simultaneously trying to organize a church. Given the approval of Northern California's proposed annexation by the denominational MNA Committee, he was also facing an uncertain ecclesiastical future should he suddenly find himself within the bounds of what could be construed as a hostile court.
At the April meeting of Central Georgia, the Presbytery gave him permission to labor out of bounds with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) in the planting of a church. Jason expects to transfer to the OPC Presbytery of the Dakotas in September. The OPC has already pledged more financial support than what he was to receive from Central Georgia Presbytery and Independent Church in Savannah.
Meanwhile, he is working with a group of about 32 people. He hopes to begin Sunday evening worship services in June.
Rev. Jason Wallace
9539 Brandy Spring Lane, #204
Sandy, UT 84070