The Rev. Dr. Mark Futato, a professor at Westminster Theological Seminary in California, has renounced the jurisdiction of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) by joining an independent congregation. His action came as he was facing the prospect of judicial charges brought against him by two ministers of South Coast Presbytery.
The charges revolved around his alleged promoting and endorsing the ministry of a female naturopathic doctor and with continuing to endorse his wife's involvement with her institute. Dr. David Eby, who pastors North City Presbyterian Church in San Diego, and Dr. Iain Duguid, who serves on the faculty at Westminster Seminary with Dr. Futato, charged him "with the general, public offense . . . of failing to guard the flock and shepherd the church of God; of failing to exhort with sound doctrine and refute those who contradict it; of failing to speak the truth in love, to the edification of the body; of associating with so-called brothers who teach contrary to the Word of God, and the Constitution of this Church, founded thereupon."
Two specifications were set forth:
The Futatos became involved a couple of years ago with alternative medicine because of their struggle with chronic illness. About a year ago, the Futatos encountered Valerie Moreton, who has an N.D. degree (Doctor of Naturopathy). Her therapy has had a wonderful, salutary effect. The Futatos' enthusiastic embrace of Dr. Moreton's methods and practice led the Futatos to refer others who were looking for deliverance from their own illnesses, to the Kalos Institute.
On May 28, 1998, Drs. Eby and Duguid attended an open meeting sponsored by the Kalos Institute. According to their written assessment of that evening, Adele Futato opened the meeting and spoke in glowing terms of Dr. Moreton who, it was claimed, can with her technique cure "everything from dyslexia to diabetes." The document states that the evening "ended with a guided visualization: we stood in a circle, holding hands with our eyes closed. We were asked to envisage where we wanted to be five years from now and who we wanted to share it with. We were told: 'You are divine. . . . In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Your words have the power to create your future.' We were told to hug one another and the evening ended."
The Futatos were attending New Life Presbyterian Church in Escondido, where Dr. Futato had been Associate Pastor. On November 11, 1998, the Session of New Life Church adopted a seventeen page report, authored by Pastor Dan Deaton, Associate Pastors John M. Frame and Dr. Dennis Johnson, Elder Jim Huston, and two teaching elders from the Presbytery: Dr. Edmund P. Clowney and Dr. Peter R. Jones. Messrs. Frame, Johnson, Clowney, and Jones are on the faculty of Westminster Seminary in California. The report declined to evaluate the relative validity of traditional western medicine vis a vis Dr. Moreton's alternative healing methods. The report also stated that the "spiritual counsel offered by Valerie Moreton's books seems to us at many points to be either confused or out of accord with Scripture." The report did not question her personal faith. It affirmed that she believes in orthodox teaching; and it granted that "[s]ome of her controversial assertions can be understood, after considerable explanation, in a biblical sense." Nevertheless, the report labeled several of her teachings to be "highly misleading." Included among those teachings were: "that our human spirit has 'all the attributes of God'"; "that every human act has a positive motive; that we deserve good health and that God never intends anyone to be sick"; "that the resources of God's Spirit are available to anyone apart from faith in Christ"; and "that definitive communication of God's will is available apart from Scripture." The report also noted Dr. Moreton's openness "to the idea of reincarnation." The pastoral report commended the Kalos Institute for its loving and supportive atmosphere. It counseled that Christians who use the Institute should do so with great discretion. And it urged Dr. Moreton to distance herself from the New Age teachings sponsored by the Moeller Foundation.
One of Dr. Moreton's books is Heal the Cause! Creating Wellness-Body, Mind & Spirit, a 430 page volume billed as "A Guide Book to Healing the Cause the Renewing Your Core Programming." Among the Axioms for Wellness are the following: "Love is the Basis of All Reality"; "There Is No Evil Act, Though the Result Can Appear to Be"; "Behind Every Feeling and Action Is a Positive Intent"; "Wholeness and Happiness Is Everyone's Birthright"; "We Are Not Minds, We Are Spirit"; and "There Is No Such Thing as One Person Being Transformed Totally Until All Are" ("All people are of 'one body.' . . . Living this Principle expands my mind beyond finite thinking to caring universally, regardless of a person's background, race or creed.").
In March this year, Drs. Duguid and Eby, who had confronted Dr. Futato regarding his alleged endorsement of the Kalos Institute, indicated to him that they would be bringing charges. A special meeting of South Coast Presbytery was called for April 10, 1999, to consider the charge.
At that meeting, the Stated Clerk reported that he had received a letter from Dr. Futato, dated March 10, 1999, which, according to the minutes, indicated "his withdrawal from oversight and communion of the Presbyterian Church in America." This letter was received after the charges had been filed with the Clerk by Drs. Duguid and Eby; but, according to Dr. Futato, was written and sent before the charges were filed.
The Presbytery found the charges in order. It also stipulated that it "did not have grounds to question the character or motives of those initiating the charges."
The court heard from Matthew Slick, Associate Pastor of Wellspring Christian Fellowship, that that congregation had called Dr. Futato as a pastor and expected to install him into that position the next day (April 11). The court thereupon considered this as a "Case Without Process," and recorded several irregularities regarding Dr. Futato's withdrawal from the PCA. First, he withdrew from PCA oversight and planned to be received by another church on April 11, 1999, before the congregation of New Life Presbyterian Church had indicated whether it concurs with the dissolution of his pastoral relation with the church, and before the Presbytery could act on the dissolution. Second, he "withdrew from the oversight of the Presbyterian Church in America while charges against him were pending, forestalling the presbytery's opportunity to adjudicate the charges." Presbytery also voted to send the charges to Wellspring Christian Fellowship, notifying it that these charges are still pending.
Dr. Futato is finishing out the semester at Westminster Seminary, where he has been since 1988. Meanwhile, Reformed Seminary in Orlando has announced that it has hired Dr. Futato to teach, starting in the 1999-2000 school year.
Perspective from One of the Major Participants
Two years ago, it would have seemed unlikely that Dr. Iain Duguid, Old Testament professor at Westminster Seminary in California, would have brought charges against his colleague, Dr. Mark Futato. As Dr. Duguid himself acknowledges, it was Dr. Futato who argued strongly in 1996 for Dr. Duguid to join him on the Escondido campus. And the Scotsman also says that he was always recommending Dr. Futato as pulpit supply, since he is a skilled communicator of the gospel.
But about two years ago, the Duguids heard some rumors of the Futatos' involvement with alternative medicine. The Duguids assumed that the Futatos had discernment regarding what to take and what not to take from such an approach. But reports received by the Duguids through their small group at New Life Presbyterian Church caused alarm. Furthermore, according to Dr. Duguid, one couple from his small group ended up leaving New Life Church after Adele Futato used a spinning crystal to identify energy imbalances in the wife. When another member of his small group was invited to attend a meeting organized by the Kalos Institute, Dr. Duguid decided that he needed to investigate. He says that neither Pastor Dan Deaton nor Dr. Dennis Johnson, both on pastoral staff at New Life Church, was able to attend the open meeting sponsored by the Kalos Institute on May 28, 1998. So he invited Dr. Dave Eby, who was able to make it.
According to Dr. Duguid, he came away from that meeting "very concerned." He took with him Dr. Edmund P. Clowney to see Dr. Futato, when he returned from speaking at a Ligonier Studies Center Conference. According to Dr. Duguid, Dr. Futato was "at first very defensive," and then he became upset "about why I went to the meeting."
After that initial meeting, Dr. Duguid met with Dr. Futato on "a number of occasions." Dr. Duguid presented his concerns to the Session of New Life Church, which eventually appointed a committee to investigate the matter (see above). He also took his concerns to the Westminster Seminary faculty.
In January, while the faculty was taking the matter under advisement, Dr. Futato announced his probable departure from the school. Before the faculty could adopt a final statement, Dr. Futato announced that he would be leaving. Dr. Duguid said that the faculty still expects to write a letter to Dr. Futato.
Before going to California, Dr. Duguid taught for a year at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, which is governed by the same Board as the Orlando campus. When asked how he feels about RTS deciding to employ Dr. Futato under these circumstances, Dr. Duguid said: "Reformed Seminary obviously has a broader view than Westminster Seminary of whom they hire, including Anglicans, and members of independent churches and of broadly evangelical denominations, such as the Christian and Missionary Alliance. But it is a concern to me that a seminary that trains many PCA pastors would hire someone who has renounced the jurisdiction of the PCA in this manner. I believe that the principle of mutual accountability to which we commit ourselves in our ordination vows is at stake here."
[P&R News did speak with Dr. Futato, who declined to be quoted via telephone interview. He did supply us in writing with corrected information regarding the article.-Ed.]
Comment from the Seminaries
Dr. Robert Godfrey, President of Westminster Theological Seminary in California, made the following statement regarding Professor Mark Futato: "I'm disappointed that he's left the PCA and not followed through on the process. I'm disappointed that he's leaving us, and has not continued discussions with the faculty."
Dr. Luder Whitlock, President of Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS), issued the following statement:
"1) Dr. Al Mawhinney, Academic Dean at RTS Orlando, previously served on the faculty with Dr. Mark Futato at Westminster Seminary in California where Dr. Mawhinney also served as the Academic Dean; and Dr.Mawhinney highly recommended Dr. Futato to RTS.
2) Dr. Futato was examined by the faculty at RTS Orlando on Febuary 3, 1999, and was recommended to the RTS Executive Committee by me.
3) Dr. Futato was examined by the RTS Executive Committee on February 4, 1999, and was approved for faculty status having affirmed clearly the RTS Statement of Belief and Covenant that requires all RTS faculty and trustees to be committed fully to the inerrancy of Scripture and to the Westminster Standards.
4) At the times that the RTS Orlando faculty and the RTS Executive Committee examined and approved Dr. Futato there had been no charges filed against him to his presbytery. The presbytery charge itself is dated March 13, 1999. The actions taken by Dr. Futato with reference to his denominational affiliation occurred also in March. The actions taken by Dr. Futato happened over a month after his approval for faculty status by the faculty of RTS Orlando and by the RTS Executive Committee and without their knowledge.
5) Now that the actions by Dr. Futato with reference to his denominational affiliation have been brought to the attention of the Seminary, I am certain that the RTS community, including the RTS Executive Committee, will review the situation and take appropriate action."