Tenth Presbyterian Church cancels congregational meeting: the session must resign

New Warhorn Media post by Tim Bayly:

The other thing is that if the sheep at Tenth lose confidence in the shepherds, if they haven’t already, they will walk and end up … well, probably not in other PCAs or Reformed works, anyway. That should also be concentrating the minds of the Presbytery.

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Maybe I’m misreading this, but why is Goligher’s resignation a scandal, but you are calling the rest of the elders to resign?

Two reasons:

  1. He resigned suddenly because news broke that he was arrested in 2014. With his secretary. In a park. For “public misconduct.”

  2. His elders, his church, and the presbytery should have been the ones to try him and fire him. He has done this to try and avoid discipline of the session and presbytery. If he resigns, he thinks, then he can’t be defrocked. And, because of various political machinings within 10th and the PCA, he likely won’t be held accountable.

Agreed; this is also an issue when the rank-and-file end up facing charges - often the case that by the time the leadership have found out, the person concerned has long left the scene.

Dear John,

Have you read the G.R.A.C.E. report? My counsel in this situation flows from the facts detailed there, although many of those facts were deliberately left out of that report (and my knowledge is personal and direct and documented, especially with regard to the Session).

Tenth’s Session has abdicated their authority and betrayed their responsibility and been dishonest with their congregation for over twenty years now, and the Report documents that this continues right up to this past Fall—with Liam’s abandonment of his call only the final straw. Really, although his arrest is getting all the attention, it’s relatively minor in the long skein of things that have been well-documented and are properly laid at the door of the Session.

Although this will be disconcerting to some, it’s clear under Phil and Liam the Session was never taught the meaning of Presbyterian plurality of eldership, which is Phil and Liam’s fault more than the fault of the elders. But the problem almost certainly goes back to Jim Boice. That’s my conviction. This church has been run by its pastors, not its elders, and the elders have done no pastoral care or discipline unless their pastors told them to. Love,

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I didn’t read every word, but I gave it a pretty heavy skim. It struck me that leadership had done a pretty poor job all around and that resignation in shame would be the best idea all around. I somehow missed that Goligher was accused of a specific crime (as opposed to “dereliction”).

Perhaps I’m getting confused because as a nondenominational Baptist, I don’t understand Presbyterian governance correctly. Here’s where I’m stuck:

Goligher → Gross dereliction → Resignation is terrible
Elder board → Gross dereliction-> Should have resigned already

Is the part I’m missing that it should be:
Goligher → specific crime → Resignation is terrible? Or is it Goligher’s office as teaching pastor that makes him different?

Maybe I’m just not the audience you are writing for here and you can disregard my confusion. I’m OK with that also.

Yes, I can see why your

Goligher → Gross dereliction → Resignation is terrible
Elder board → Gross dereliction-> Should have resigned already

would be confusing.

The session is not a person, but a court or judicatory. Goligher is a person, a church officer. It is the work of judicatories to judge and aquit, admonish, censure, suspend from office, defrock, and excommunicate based on their trial and vote. There’s much more in the BCO of Presbyterian churches and groups of churches, but that’s the essence of it.

The reason, then, that Goligher should be tried while the session should resign is that the session resigning would be like Goligher self-accusing. They would confess they have failed and failed and failed again, for at least twenty years, and remove themselves from any further duties, asking their presbytery to work with their conregation towards providing new men who would not fail.

At this point you may ask why Goligher should be prosecuted if the session resigns? is that not impossible when there’s no session?

The answer is that the pastor(s) in Presbyterian polity hold their membership in the presbytery, and thus their discipline is the duty of their presbytery—not the congregation they serve.
This is one of the principal reasons I am Presbyterian. I do not believe pastors should be left entirely to their congregation for approval or removal of call or ordination or discipline. This is not what we see in the New Testament, and it doesn’t work. Witness the mess Edwards had to submit to in Northampton.

This is the why I mention Liam’s background in London at a Baptist and independent church in my latest post. As I learned personally working with him back starting in 2014 for a couple years, he had little consideration for his session and less for his presbytery. Hope this helps.


Yes, it’s much clearer now. Thank you.

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