Brothers in Christ:
Thank you for your desire to fulfill the guidelines
of Matthew 18 and to bring your concerns that affect us, directly
to us. Northern California Presbytery met on October 16 and 17,
1998, and determined to respond to your four questions as follows:
QUESTION #1. Was regular preaching done at New
Song by those who were not licensed or ordained to do so?
Yes. Mr. Jeffrey Szakonyi, a member of the staff
of New Song, Salt Lake Church, was the most regular preacher at
that church for the period from mid-December, 1997 until mid-July,
1998. Teaching elders from our Presbytery did take part in the
preaching during that period, but Jeffrey preached the majority
of the time.
Although we realize this is a violation of the
Book of Church Order, 19-1, it was deemed the best solution
by those responsible for oversight in a difficult situation not
of anyone's choosing. No one on the oversight commission or in
the Presbytery would have sought such a situation, but circumstances
seemed to those with oversight to dictate this temporary irregular
preaching supply as the best means to promote the survival, and
as it turned out, growth, of the mission church.
The Presbytery neither encouraged nor condones this
action of those responsible for oversight, and intends to do all
it can to see that such irregular actions do not take place in
As you know, the organizing pastor for this mission
church removed himself from the pulpit in December, 1997, as a
result of his infidelity to his wife. At that point, he was the
temporary governing body of this mission work, as appointed by
Presbytery. As a mission church, there were no ruling elders
present who could step forward. No replacement governing body
was appointed until the pastor's case was heard by the Presbytery
at its meeting in February, 1998.
In the meantime, assistance was provided to this
work by the Western Regional Coordinator, our moderator, TE Lewis
Ruff, as well as by the 2 remaining Salt Lake City PCA pastors
and the MNA Anglo Church Planting Coordinator John Smed. In addition
to several conference calls, John visited in Salt Lake in January,
1998, with Mr. Szakonyi, Mr. Ruff and TE Michael Howard of our
Layton, Utah, church planting mission. TE Howard had attended
New Song and served there for almost a year before beginning his
own work. He, along with the other Salt Lake City Area pastor
TE Phil Stogner, vouched for the preaching abilities of Mr. Szakonyi.
These elders were also aware that Jeffrey had, for well over
a year, met with the organizing pastor weekly for studies in the
Westminster Confession of Faith and that he had applied
to the Presbytery in advance of the Fall, 1997 meeting of the
Presbytery to be examined for licensure. TE Howard began meeting
regularly with the Advisory team of the New Song Church to provide
counsel and oversight, although not officially appointed at first
to do so by the Presbytery.
Due to circumstances entirely the fault of the newly-appointed
convener of the Candidates and Credentials Committee, neither
Jeffrey nor another candidate for licensure were examined. If
he had been examined and approved, he could then, of course, [have]
provided licensed pulpit supply as outlined in our Form of
In light of the turmoil in this young church filled
with many new Christians and seekers, and wrestling with the unfaithfulness
and later departure from Salt Lake of their pastor and friend,
TE Smith, the Ad Hoc advisors felt that it was best for
the congregation to benefit from the teaching of Jeffrey, who
was well known to them, and who had their confidence. Indeed,
Jeffrey's ministry proved to be greatly used of God in providing
stability and negotiating the recovery from the pastor's sin.
In keeping with the guidelines of our secondary Standards,
the commission of Presbytery now responsible for oversight acted
as quickly as possible in finding an ordained stated supply.
We are happy that TE Pat McDaniel has served in this capacity
since the beginning of August, and that he plans to do so for
at least a year while a more permanent organizing pastor is sought.
He is the only one preaching at New Song.
As we said earlier, the Presbytery did not seek this
irregular situation and certainly hopes we never have to deal
with it again.
QUESTION #2. Was communion served at New Song
by one who was other than an ordained minister? Was this done
with the knowledge of MNA personnel, Presbytery or General Assembly?
Communion was served, twice, by Mr. Szakonyi, without
a PCA teaching elder present, despite the counsel of TE Ruff,
Howard and Stogner, that an ordained elder needed to be present.
In the first instance, TE Stogner, had agreed to attend the service
after his own worship service, but was providentially hindered
from getting there. As soon as the commission became aware of
this, the practice was stopped and only PCA teaching elders have
served communion since April. Neither MNA personnel, Presbytery
or General Assembly, knew of or approved of the serving of communion
without a teaching elder.
QUESTION #3. Was communion served to people at
New Song who were not "members in good standing in an evangelical
There are at least 60 attenders of New Song who are
in fact "members in good standing of an evangelical church".
A member of your Presbytery has sought to make something of the
fact that there was at the time only one communicant member of
that congregation; however, he neglected to note that there were
many attenders who held their membership in other PCA and other
evangelical churches. It is always possible that some took communion
who were not either members as just described, or were prospective
members who had been examined and approved by Wade or other elders
on our commission, but were not yet received simply because a
communicant membership class had not yet been conducted, but it
is not because the table was not clearly verbally fenced by those
QUESTION #4. Was a wedding officiated at New
Song by one who was other than an ordained minister? Was it done
with the knowledge of the pastor or of MNA personnel?
No weddings are conducted AT New Song, of course,
since New Song does not meet in its own worship facility. The
wedding which you are most likely referring to-the re-marriage
to each other of a couple that had divorced-was conducted by Jeffrey
Szakonyi, who was officially licensed to perform weddings through
the credentialing of his previous church in Washington state.
Neither California nor Utah require that people solemnizing marriage
ceremonies be specifically licensed by the state to so perform
marriages. Hawaii, also within the bounds of our Presbytery,
does require such specific licensing. The wedding was performed
with the knowledge and approval of the organizing pastor but without
the knowledge of any MNA personnel.
It is our hope that these responses help you to "sort
out these matters of concern" as we serve the Lord in different
parts of our country.
Fraternally in Christ,