We must not think recent news out of Saint Louis is cause to slacken or pause. News from Saint Louis should stir us to remain vigilant against any who would erode the freedom of the gospel: freedom from the penalty of sin, freedom from the power of sin, and one day freedom from the presence of sin.
The PCA has been at a crossroads for some time as we debate what sort of denomination the PCA will be.
Will the Presbyterian Church in America be a denomination that is “Faithful to the Scriptures, True to the Reformed Faith, and Obedient to the Great Commission,” where officers and church courts uphold the Constitutional Standards of the PCA with integrity and sincerity? Or will the PCA be a denomination characterized by latitude and leniency with regard to the Standards?
Up until recently, the General Assembly of the PCA tended to issue actions and deliverances that favored that latter course: one of latitude and leniency. As I’ve written elsewhere, the presbycrats were largely allowed to run things.
But lately, attendance at the General Assembly has seen marked increase, especially since 2018 when it was so difficult for the General Assembly to grant constitutional authority to the chapter on marriage in the Book of Church Order. And a year later attendance skyrocketed after many in the PCA were scandalized by a speech in which TE Greg Johnson, PhD reflected on his unnatural lust on the floor of the Assembly.
I. Hoping for Repentance
Many throughout the PCA were shocked that a minister of the gospel would attempt to wax eloquent about his vile affections in hopes of swinging a vote against an overture. Further grief flowed seemingly every time that minister spoke publicly. During one now infamous podcast, he even seemed to go so far as to assert that unnatural affections are not within the scope of repentance:
What I hear is that you are judging brothers for not repenting of something that cannot be repented of.
From many corners of the PCA, individual elders and church courts wrote both to TE Johnson and to his presbytery urging him to repent of his views, actions, and statements. The Standing Judicial Commission (SJC) even took the unprecedented step of re-opening a case before it to provide additional opportunity for clarification and corrections by TE Johnson on what he meant.
Despite the clarifications when the SJC re-opened the case, members of the Standing Judicial Commission nonetheless issued a blistering concurring opinion expressing concern regarding his “lack of clarity” and “tone-deafness” on matters of homosexual lust and other issues.
Further corrections and clarifications followed. But in addition to corrections and clarifications, TE Johnson engaged in additional speaking and writing on the subject of vile affections, which further troubled the Church.
For example, Ascension Presbytery reported on Johnson’s 2021 book Still Time to Care and noted not only grave concerns with the way TE Johnson “misuse[d] identity in Christ” but also and his “aberrant views on sexual orientation, his disregard of the confessional teaching on the heinousness and various aggravations of different sins, and his lack of interaction with the confessional understanding of the gift of continence.”
Further attempts were made to bring TE Johnson to repentance; letters were sent to his presbytery, dialogues on various media platforms, reviews of the book were written highlighting troubling aspects in Johnson’s views and ministry paradigm.
Johnson’s teaching, speaking, and writing on the issue of unnatural lust has deeply troubled the PCA. For example, two Covenant College faculty members noted a troubling lack of focus on the need for sanctification in his book:
[W]e’ve registered two substantial reservations, raising a worry about Johnson’s treatment of sanctification with respect to concupiscence and questions about the notion of sexual orientation as a fixed propensity that’s taken for granted in this book and by most participants in the broader debate. Since these themes are central to the book’s overall argument, they end up weakening his case for a paradigm of care. In our opinion, the paradigm of care is inadequate without a complementary devotion to sanctification.
The defects in his theology and practice have been noted across the spectrum of the denomination from GRN Council Members such as Jonathan Master, the aforementioned Covenant College professors, and even the Stated Clerk called the way he speaks about his unnatural desires, “highly imprudent.”
Despite all this, TE Johnson and the Session with whom he serves have refused to give heed to the concerns of the wider church on this matter. Memorial Presbyterian Church (MPC) continues to welcome transvestites to perform in its chapel as the church supports these folks earning a living from their “arts.”