Missouri Presbytery Reports on Second Hearing Regarding Revoice Conference
As part of MOP’s responsibility “to make clear to the broader Church the errors that were identified in Presbytery’s various investigations” — and the steps it is taking “to fulfill its responsibilities to protect the peace and purity of the broader Church . . . in light of these errors,” … the following documents are posted which report the results of the hearing.
On Tuesday evening, June 14, Missouri Presbytery (MOP) held a second hearing concerning its actions regarding Memorial Presbyterian Church’s involvement with the Revoice conference it hosted in 2018. The hearing was directed by the PCA’s Standing Judicial Commission (SJC) in Case 2020-05.
The Presbytery’s Report
As part of MOP’s responsibility “to make clear to the broader Church the errors that were identified in Presbytery’s various investigations” — and the steps it is taking “to fulfill its responsibilities to protect the peace and purity of the broader Church . . . in light of these errors,” — MOP has asked byFaith, the official communication organ of the PCA, to post the following documents which report the results of the hearing: a cover letter; restating the SJC Amends and the Standard of Review Now Expected of the MOP; and Amended Theological Judgments.
These documents may be accessed here.
The first Revoice conference, held in July 2018 at Memorial Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, generated controversy in the evangelical community, and especially in the PCA. Ultimately, three matters related to Memorial’s hosting Revoice came before the SJC, the body responsible for handling matters related to judicial process that make their way to the General Assembly (GA):
A complaint filed by Teaching Elder (TE) Ryan Speck contended that MOP should have found a “strong presumption” that TE Greg Johnson, pastor of Memorial, was guilty of four allegations raised against him and should have held an ecclesiastical trial and, if warranted, impose censure (SJC Judicial Case 2020-12).
A second complaint, also filed by TE Speck, charged MOP with error in approving six theological judgments concerning Revoice and Memorial’s involvement with the Conference, as well as a couple of other matters (SJC Judicial Case 2020-05).
Overtures from three presbyteries invoking a “Book of Church Order” (BCO) provisionthat allows any two presbyteries to ask the GA to assume original jurisdiction (the right of a court to hear a case for the first time) when a presbytery refuses to act “in doctrinal cases or cases of public scandal” (BCO 34-1). The three presbyteries alleged that MOP had refused to act by failing to bring TE Johnson to trial.
The full SJC heard Judicial Case 2020-12 in March 2021, and rendered its judgment, denying the complaint at its fall meeting the following October. An explanation of that decision may be found here. The SJC reached a final decision about the Case 2020-05 and the three overtures at its spring 2022 meeting on March 3, 2022. In Case 2020-05, the SJC sustained a portion of the complaint (the complete text of the decision may be found here). The SJC answered the overtures from the three presbyteries by reference to its decisions in cases 2020-05 and 2020-12.
The SJC identified three issues raised by the complaint, and sustained one of them: “At its December 7, 2019, called meeting, did Missouri Presbytery (MOP) err in approving six theological judgments (specifically, Judgments # 1-5 and #9) recommended by the Committee to Investigate Memorial?” The SJC answered “yes, ” particularly with regard to theological judgments 2, 3, and 5.
The heart of MOP’s error identified by the SJC was the criteria the presbytery used in adjudicating the allegations presented within the complaint. The SJC determined that MOP improperly applied a standard used in a case against a teaching elder (BCO 34-5) rather than provisions dealing with the responsibilities of church courts (BCO 11-3, 4 and at BCO 13-9(f)). A more comprehensive explanation of the SJC’s rationale for this conclusion as well as its decision as a whole may be found here.
BCO 43-10 says that when a higher court has sustained a complaint (or any part of it) against a lower court, it “has power, in its discretion, to annul the whole or any part of the action of a lower court against which complaint has been made, or to send the matter back to the lower court with instructions for a new hearing.”
In Case 2020-05, the SJC instructed MOP to “hold a new hearing” that would focus on the following matters: “What steps must MOP take to make clear to the broader Church the errors that were identified in Presbytery’s various investigations with regard to some of the teachings at Revoice 18, particularly with regard to Theological Judgments 2, 3, and 5, and what steps must MOP take to fulfill its responsibilities to protect the peace and purity of the broader Church under BCO 11-3, 11-4, and 13-9f in light of those errors?” The SJC encouraged MOP to consider “how specific statements of some speakers at Revoice 18 may have differed from the propositions of the report of the GA’s Ad Interim Committee on Sexuality.” It was this hearing that MOP held on June 14.