Tenth Presbyterian Church: What to learn about privacy and hiding abuse

New Warhorn Media post by Andrew Dionne:

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Hello. I’m listening to this with interest because I’m a member at Tenth church. I’m concerned that Tim Bayly acts as if some guesses he’s making about the situation are matters of fact or “obvious” when those things don’t seem to be true.

The one I most want to focus on is some kind of idea there no charges have been filed. The tenth website has said (Statement Regarding Our Senior Minister | Tenth Presbyterian Church)

“This matter is being referred to the Philadelphia Presbytery who will conduct an investigation. The process of searching for a new Senior Minister at Tenth will follow the formal dissolution of the pastoral relationship according to the polity of our denomination.”

It has said this almost immediately. This, I understand it, is the BCO process: public reports were discovered about the citations, and those reports were immediately referred to the presbytery to adjudicate.

Why is it that Bayly says no charges have been filed?

Also Bayly seems to think that somehow the session is avoiding the congregation voting to dissolve the relationship. Nothing could be futher from the truth. For one, the congregation did so this very sunday on 2/18. And an attempt was made to do it sooner but a large number of people in the congregation petitioned the session to not have the vote because they didn’t have enough information - they felt - to make an informed decision about the vote. Thats the reason the parish meetings were held. But Bayly uncharitably, it seems to me, speculates they were some kind of control session was making of the congregation. Instead the delay was in response to many in the congregation requesting more time and information for the decision.

Dear Mr. Duggan,

Thank you for your comment.

First, readers should know you are one of the elders of Tenth presently on Session.

Second, did you listen to this podcast? If so, why not acknowledge my deep firsthand knowledge of Tenth’s history of covering up sexual sin, as well as my involvement in forcing your session and presbytery to repent of their coverups? Instead, you simply accuse me of making “guesses.”

Note that I haven’t published my hundreds of emails and documents of correspondence following our Commission’s meeting with your session and the years of wrestling with your session which followed, including formal disciplinary charges against you (Session) with Philadelphia Presbytery which resulted in presbytery censuring your session and former top pastor, Phil Ryken. Your session has proven their betrayal of their sheep over and over again, and now everyone knows it with the GRACE report. So no, I have not gone beyond what I know. I have written less than I know.

Dear brother, there is a radical difference between an investigation and filing charges. You blur the distinction by referring to the investigation as if that satisfies the Biblical injunctions and the requirements of your Book of Church Order. Maybe your blurring of this radical distinction is something you don’t understand? On the other hand, maybe you do understand that distinction and prefer to confuse the sheep by equivocating over the difference.

From love I will assume the former and ask you to read and consider sending the following letter under your own name to your Presbytery’s stated clerk:

Dear Pastor Egli,

My name is (John Doe). I’m a member of the Session of Tenth Presbyterian Church.

It appears to me our presbytery might be unintentionally complicating the TE Liam Goligher matter. Here we are two months after multiple court documents have exposed Pastor Goligher’s pleading guilty and paying a fine to satisfy criminal charges which had been filed against him for his sexual conduct with one of our deaconesses in the back seat of a car in a public park. Yet his formal pastoral relationship remains in force!

Our congregation just held a meeting to request you correct this by terminating his call as our Senior Minister, but really I’m wondering why you and the other members of Philadelphia Presbytery haven’t obeyed our Book of Church Order in its simplicity and dignity by filing charges two months ago? Our Book of Church Order Rules of Discipline read:

If anyone knows a minister to be guilty of a private offense, he should warn him in private. But if the offense be persisted in, or become public, he should bring the case to the attention of some other minister of the Presbytery. (34-3, 4)

Goligher’s offense has been very “public” for two months now. It was your responsibility—indeed the responsibility of every member of Phildelphia Presbytery—to file charges against Pastor Goligher two months ago.

Had you done so, our congregation would not have had to suffer through the last two months of talk and fear and insecurity. You men of presbytery would have informed us you were leading; that you had filed charges against Pastor Goligher and would see through the formal disciplinary process required by our Book of Church Order. Also, that in the interim, the presbytery’s authority had suspended him from office.

So very dignified. So honoring to God. So protective of the sheep. So faithful to the brother caught in sin. So healing to the deaconess who is his victim, as he and she admit in their pleas of guilt before the Pennsylvania judiciary, and payment of fines.

Here is the process from our Book of Church Order which you could have been following over the course of the past two months, thereby putting the fears of our congregation at rest:

Presbytery as a whole may try a judicial case within its jurisdiction …or it may of its own motion commit any judicial case to a commission. Such a commission shall be appointed by the Presbytery from its members other than members of the Session of the church from which the case comes up. The commission shall try the case in the manner presented by the Rules of Discipline and shall submit to the Presbytery a full statement of the case and the judgment rendered. (Chapter 15-1; Ecclesiastical Commissions)

Given Liam’s abdication of his call and actions since December 1, I think it unlikely he will submit to presbytery summons to formal judicial process specified above. Concerning church discipline, failure to answer a summons and appear to hear the charges is the very definition of contumacy (32-6) and the next step for teaching elders defying their presbytery is as follows:

When a minister accused of an offense is found contumacious he shall be immediately suspended from the sacraments and his office for his contumacy. Record shall be made of the fact and of the charges under which he was arraigned, and the censure shall be made public. The censure shall in no case be removed until the offender has not only repented of his contumacy, but has also given satisfaction in relation to the charges against him. (34-4)

Finding Liam guilty of contumacy and suspending him from the the Lord’s Table and his office would automatically dissolve his pastoral relationship with Tenth. Our congregation would be spared the pain of having to call for this dissolution. You and Pastor Goligher’s fellow presbyters would have removed this burden from us.

This would be both a sadness and kindness to Tenth, bringing some much-needed resolution to what has, on top of the G.R.A.C.E. Report’s release back in November, seemed like interminable pain with no end in sight.

It may be that, facing a declaration of contumacy and suspension, Liam would finally admit his sin. If so, there would be even more resolution, although a disciplined resolution as again specified in our wise Book of Church Order:

When a minister, pending a trial, shall make confession, if the matter be base and flagitious, such as drunkenness, uncleanness, or crimes of a greater nature, however penitent he may appear to the satisfaction of all, the court shall without delay impose definite suspension or depose him from the ministry. (34-7)

This has been drawn out too long, in my judgment, and I hope you will not consider me impertinent to suggest the above be speedily accomplished. To rehearse the facts:

The evidence already in hand strongly confirms Liam’s guilt. Consider 1) Liam’s and Susan Elzey’s respective police citations for “engag[ing] in sexual activity” in the back seat of an SUV in a public park; and 2) court records showing that, a week later, each party pled guilty, in court and under oath, and paid the financial damages. If their sworn pleas were insincere, each lied to the magistrate and about each other, and before God.

Also consider Liam’s written statement read by a representative of our Session after worship on December 3. The pronouncement reiterated Liam’s tall tale of the 2014 incident to the congregation, a spin that failed to acknowledge the nature of his behavior to which he pleaded guilty—that he was violating the Seventh Commandment with Deaconess Susan Elzey, a married mother of three confirmed covenant children, and his neighbor in Haddonfield.

Yes, I do understand the heavy nature of formal judicial process. Yet our Constitution has been written and we have sworn to uphold it for such a time as this. If I may be of any service to you or my fellow church officers, please ask.

Your obedient servant,

Pastor Goligher has already pled guilty and paid his fine for committing adultery with one of his sheep. You and your fellow elders of Tenth need to force the presbytery to charge the man and force him to admit his guilty once more—this time not in civil, but ecclesiastical court. If being charged once more, he repudiates his earlier admission of guilt, then demand his fellow presbyters find him guilty of contumacy and suspend or remove him from the Lord’s table and church office.


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Thats a lot to consider and reply to.

Why, if I knew that the matter had been referred to presbytery for adjudication, and we had only the knowledge of what transpired that we had the first week of december, reported to us by a hostile and malignantly spirited source, and LGs own denial of the construction of that, that I should judge the situation as obvious and certain? Why if that was the case should I rush in and insist anything happen faster?

The congregation has voted on dissolving the relation. The matters continue their investigation and I’m satisfied with their progress based on what I know personally and first hand that you seem to be only able to uncharitably speculate on. Its only the current matters about LG that I find speculative on your part, since I have deep and first-hand knowledge of the procedures we’ve followed and the complexity of the matter which involves two simultaneous courts.

For some reason you said I need to resign already, though I was only ordained in 2021, and other elders, ordained even in 2023 should also resign, because somehow we are guilty as well like the “sin of achan” for events that happened while I was simply a member. I have first hand recollection of elders and LG explaining the older matter to us, and first hand recall of attending the presbytery meeting where the session self-accused and was reprimanded by the presbytery.

I’m not here to re-adjudicate that matter and i could not since I wasn’t part of session over a decade ago. I’m here to serve my congregation and put on record that we’ve followed BCO 31-1 and 31-2 in good faith in the matter of LG.

Dear Mr. Duggan,

So it’s equivocation, not only about the present scandal of presbytery not having charged Liam, but now also your claim that your session “self-accused” for its decade-long coverup of your staff members’ sexual abuse of members. This is so far from truth that I simply give up. Keep on justifying yourself. It’s a sinful habit of Tenth’s elders which many of us have observed firsthand, and finally given up trying to correct. As I do now. Firmly,

You say in your podcast also that the best outcome would be for Liam to be dealt with gently and get him to self-accuse

Which do you think is gentler?

  1. Immediately filing charges and moving to trial
  2. doing an investigation, interviewing witnesses, ending with an demand of Liam by a committee that forms a fuller picture of the situation “with due diligence and great discretion” of the full report of his behavior?

And if you think the former action is actually gentler, is it actually the case that pursuing the latter case is a violation of the BCO? If so, howso?

Liam has literally told current members of session that self-accusing is what the session did in the case, and that was what happened at the Presbytery meeting I attended as a member. He said he was very proud of the session for doing so.

Sorry, brother, but that’s secondhand from a source you know firsthand to be unreliable. That Liam would say that beggars belief. I say this with nothing but firsthand knowledge. Working with Liam throughout it all. With Session, With Presbytery. With the victim of your staff member’s abuse. Truthfully,

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Fine. Interesting. but lets put that aside and focus only on the matters regarding Liam. The suggested letter you suggest I write contains things in it I know to be false. But I can’t tell you what they are because this is an executive matter, that I have knowledge of.

Good question, Paul. Immediately filing charges would be the gentlest thing to do since he’d already gotten you elders to tell his lie to the congregation. Once a lie like that is told, formal process is the thing that makes everyone man up and make the judgments based on evidence documented, firsthand, etc. With a complete record of what everyone says to the same men at the same time. Almost always, formal process is kinder and gentler because it takes everything from the personal sphere and places it in the court where lies are much more difficult to pull off, and therefore stopped.

You might well respond that we/you don’t know whether Pastor Goligher is telling lies, but that’s why you take it into formal process before he has a chance to promulgate his lies endlessly (which he is presently doing, poor man). If he’s not lying, and the court of the church (presbytery’s judicial commission) judges he’s telling the truth, then the only thing left is to command Pastor Goligher and his deaconess to go back to the criminal court (not alone, but with their spouses and a couple elders) and admit to perjury, at the same time charging the law enforcement officer himself with perjury.

What I think men aren’t understanding, though, is that simply being alone with a woman other than your wife is a violation of the Seventh Commandment, and this is confirmed by the Westminster Larger Catechism which reads:

Q138: What are the duties required in the seventh commandment?
A138: The duties required in the seventh commandment are, chastity in body, mind, affections,[1] words,[2] and behavior;[3] and the preservation of it in ourselves and others;[4] watchfulness over the eyes and all the senses;[5] temperance,[6] keeping of chaste company,[7] modesty in apparel;[8] marriage by those that have not the gift of continency, [9] conjugal love,[10] and cohabitation;[11] diligent labor in our callings;[12] shunning all occasions of uncleanness, and resisting temptations thereunto.[13]

Q139: What are the sins forbidden in the seventh commandment?
A139: The sins forbidden in the seventh commandment, besides the neglect of the duties required,[1] are, adultery, fornication,[2] rape, incest,[3] sodomy, and all unnatural lusts;[4] all unclean imaginations, thoughts, purposes, and affections;[5] all corrupt or filthy communications, or listening thereunto;[6] wanton looks,[7] impudent or light behavior, immodest apparel;[8] prohibiting of lawful,[9] and dispensing with unlawful marriages;[10] allowing, tolerating, keeping of stews, and resorting to them;[11] entangling vows of single life,[12] undue delay of marriage;[13] having more wives or husbands than one at the same time;[14] unjust divorce,[15] or desertion;[16] idleness, gluttony, drunkenness,[17] unchaste company;[18] lascivious songs, books, pictures, dancings, stage plays;[19] and all other provocations to, or acts of uncleanness, either in ourselves or others.[20]

Across church history, not one single father or mother in the faith would deny that what Pastor Goligher and his sheep were doing that day was adulterous. This is true even assuming what Pastor Goligher keeps repeating to you (singular), that he and she were not intimate sexually as the officer wrote in his citation and they both pled guilty to. Being alone together in a car parked was a terrible violation of the Seventh Commandment. End of story.

So again, put everyone out of their misery—especially the congregation. Formal discipline and judgment are all that’s necessary and the trial will be exceedingly simple and straightforward. Love,

Dear Paul,

Truth and time walk hand in hand.


I’m going to close this topic now, brothers.