The PCA and Revoice: Overtures 23/37 are defeated

New Warhorn Media post by Tim Bayly:


I don’t really disagree with anything here, and my view is that these overtures wouldn’t have had much impact even if passed because in the end it comes down to whether individual presbyteries will exercise discipline, and if they haven’t been doing so already, there’s no reason to expect that they will start now.

Nevertheless, I’d like to defend those who voted for the overtures. There are still elders and churches in the PCA who want to exercise discipline but are frustrated at inability to get traction on recalcitrant churches and presbyteries. My view is that the motivation for these overtures is the same outlined in The Flight 93 Election - Claremont Review of Books – little expectation that things will change, but a willingness to try something different in the hope that it might help.

As it turns out, my presbytery changed the times of their meetings to Wednesday mornings – more convenient for the TEs, but not for non-retired REs. I was unable to attend due to work obligations, and one of the overtures failed to pass by a single vote. Breaking with typical practice, the presbytery decided to vote on the overtures by secret ballot, putatively to maintain harmony since no one would know how someone else voted. My pastor wondered if the TEs didn’t want to have to go back to their churches and explain to their members why the voted a particular way.


I liked your comment, but man, what a shady process.


Yes, Joel, I know many men supported them for these reasons. As did many in the PC(USA) for the same reasons. But I’d like us to realize that action on the national level almost always takes the pressure off action at the presbytery level. The only thing to do at this point is to found new presbyteries and build true Christian fellowship and discipline. It’s over and has been for one to two decades. It is not church unity and charity to share a denomination with Kellerites and RUF and CTS. What the libs now in control of the national level of the PCA hold doctrinally is as inimical to true Christian faith as the liberalism Machen condemned in Christianity and Liberalism. We don’t perceive it despite loving his book, and this is due to the long lead time of any ability to get historical perspective on doctrinal betrayal of God’s truth. It’s sneaky and lulls us to sleep concerning how lethal it is, but let’s face the fact that nothing is more fundamental to personhood and repentance and discipleship and sanctification than sexuality. Love,


It amazes me that we are a mere century from Machen, who wrote in modern English, whose works are in the public domain, just a quick Google search away. But rather than listen to him, we’d rather bang our collective head in the door of liberalism one more time. If people want to find out where this winds up, the answer is as close as the closest PCUSA, UCC or United Methodist church.


Has anyone ever done a study of how the multi-site church model employed by Keller subsequently impacted the theology and practice of the PCA? I think such an analysis could be very informative.

Here are my observations. A couple decades ago one of Keller’s disciples came to my city and planted a church. This church went on to plant a bunch of satellite churches all over the metro area. These weren’t daughter churches that were intended to become independent after a short transition period but instead indefinitely remained under the supervision of the session of the central church. In name, the session and the congregation were a unified body spread out over all sites, but in practice, the members didn’t have much personal interaction with elders. Not surprisingly, the body of ruling elders was atrophied. Instead, the church relied on a large number of assistant pastors. Note that in the PCA, assistant pastors are called by the session rather than the congregation, and assistant pastors are not members of the session, but they are members of presbytery. This had a great impact on subsequent developments, I think.

How did this episcopal-lite system come about? Although against the spirit of presbyterianism, I don’t think it is directly forbidden by the BCO, and I think the presbytery was willing to let it go forward back at the beginning in part due to the celebrity of Keller. Eventually, the presbytery pressured the Kellerite church to make the satellite churches independent with their own sessions, but by then the damage was done.

What was the damage? First, the Kellerite church planted satellite churches without regard to whether another church in the presbytery was already in the area, which hurt the growth of the regular churches. Even though many of the satellite churches were not self-sustaining, subsidies from the central church kept them going for many years. Also, the substitution of assistant pastors for ruling elders enabled the Kellerite church to punch above its weight in presbytery meetings since there is a limit on how many ruling elders a church can send to presbytery meetings but no limit on the number on the number of assistant pastors. Moreover, since the assistant pastors were called by the Kellerite session rather than by the congregation at individual churches, they all held the same Kellerite views and presented a very unified faction at presbytery meetings. All of this made holding back Kellerite theology and practice more difficult within the presbytery.


As you mentioned, Joel, here’s the BCO on assistant pastors: “Assistant pastors, although not members of the Session, may be invited to attend and participate in discussion without vote.” The other distinctive of assistant pastors is they are hired and fired by the session instead of the congregation, whereas the senior pastor (obviously) as well as all associate pastors are hired and fired by the congregation at called congregational meetings.

This is maybe the center of Redeemer’s manipulation of presbyterian polity, and it’s likely even worse than their women session members who attended with voice but no vote and their women “officers." My eyes were opened to Keller’s refusal to live under presbyterian polity when I happened to count his pastors and realized he didn’t have even one associate pastor. At that time (fifteen years or so ago) he himself was the only pastor called by his congregation. All the ten or twenty others worked day to day at Keller’s will and pleasure.

I ran into this fact while helping one of Keller’s pastors who had been fired for his conscientious disagreement with Keller demanding he (as the site concluder and benedicter of each worship service) announce there were “male and female officers” at the front of the church to meet with those with spiritual needs at the conclusion of each worship service. This brother instead said "men and women who are spiritual leaders,” explaining to the woman who was his interface with Keller that this was a matter of conscience and he hoped it would be acceptable?

It wasn’t. After well over ten years of work there, it got him fired just two weeks after the meeting. He was paid off, though, to keep quiet about it, and there was no congregational meeting needed. He told me this is how Keller fired all his fellow pastors. Anyhow, he left with a nice pile of money and the Redeemer-obligatory NDA, leaving Tim and his elders untouchable.

Back to your presbytery. My own judgment is that votes at presbytery meetings are not really the issue, almost ever. If the reform of Christ’s church is carried out by vote, it’s already a failure. Personal relations that are hortatory and disciplinary in nature carried out by godly presbyters who are pertinacious in forcing the heterodox and heretical to meet with them over coffee, to speak with them at presbytery lunches, who refuse to be avoided and make the relationships very uncomfortable with regular motions and votes on the floor of presbytery, are what is needed. In my experience, personal confrontations backed up by floor debates which are to the point will eviscerate hipsters of any desire to remain in the presbytery. At heart all liberals are cowards. They may be bullies, but stand up to them and they cave.

The problem in the PCA, as I’ve said over and over again, is not the Greg Johnsons, but Tim Keller, Scott Sauls and their Redeemerites. But actually, the problem is not even Tim Keller, Scott Sauls, and the Redeemerites. The liberals you will always have with you.

The foundational problem in the PCA the past thirty years has been the Lig Duncans, Bryan Chapells, Joel Belzs, Joey Pipas, Rick Phillipses, Howie Donahoes, Fred Grecos, Dominic Aquilas, and Mark Dalbeys who refuse to say “no” to the destroyers, let alone file charges against them. They only say “no” to those warning of the destroyers and seeking to discipline them.

Let me say it again: Greg Johnson is not the problem. Tim Keller is, but even worse than Keller are Hezekiahs like Lig Duncan, Ron Lutgens, Rick Phillips, and all the smaller-church pastors hunkering down in their local congregations hoping none of their elders expect any preaching of repentance or work of reform from them.

The hope I have is the founding of geographical presbyteries committed to the sort of interpersonal fellowship and confession of faith and sins which were constant among Calvin’s company of pastors in Geneva. There’s been enough navel-gazing about this or that polity issue. It’s time to build. It’s time to fill new wineskins with new wine.

What a joy it’s been to do so in Evangel Presbytery. We’re only 1/280th of the PCA, but what does it matter when God works such wonderful things through our congregations? Books. This forum. Podcasts. The Psalms project. Conferences. And the entire PCA continues to learn almost everything they need to know about Revoice through us. A book of church order revised for today and able to be copied and used by anyone…

Subsidiarity is more important for the church than government. Forget all national aspirations. Found a presbytery that is Biblical and loving and small, and it will grow and you’ll put your work into helping other men who actually want to honor God. And they’ll help you.

Yes, the PCA has always had national aspirations, but what has it gotten her as she’s shed her doctrine and polity as the entrance fee? The PCA herself is less than 1/10th of one percent of the United States is what it’s gotten her. That and Obergefell and the outsourcing of baby slaughters to grocery store pharmacies where the drugs are over-the-counter, now. Oh, also the ESV which denies soft-manishness is any sin.