This matter, falling under the provisions of BCO 13, is an inquiry and not a formal judicial investigation. An inquiry is conducted for the express purpose of making a presbytery aware of the facts of a situation that has raised questions or concerns. Conversely, an investigation is defined in BCO 31 and may lead to a formal indictment.
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A controversy recently arose regarding a Martin Luther King Day event that was scheduled to take place at the facility of South City Church (SCC) on Sunday evening, January 20, 2019. One of the speakers at this event identified as transgendered and according to published material, was planning to “celebrate the lives and humanity” of the transgendered.
One of the primary organizers of the event was an independent not-for-profit group called Faith for Justice, which is directed by Michelle Higgins, who is a staff member of South City. Her father, TE Mike Higgins, who is both the Senior Pastor of South City Church and Dean of Students at Covenant Theological Seminary, served as a member of the board of directors of 23 Faith for Justice.
When word of this event circulated around the internet many PCA ruling and teaching elders (and their associated blogs and websites), along with some notable national evangelical commentators on religion, decried the event and accused the South City Session, the Missouri Presbytery, and by extension, Covenant Seminary, of failing to exercise proper oversight and control according to our biblical and confessional standards. Some of these accusations went viral and sparked controversy among the laity in many of our churches.
When the South City Session became aware of the planned appearance of the transgendered advocate (just a few days prior to the event), they rescinded the invitation for their building to host the event and issued a statement of explanation. As a result, the event moved to another church’s building and went on as planned.
At the January 2019 stated meeting of the Missouri Presbytery a committee was established to “inquire” of the South City Session regarding this controversy….
- That the Session of South City Church be commended for their zeal to make Christ’s compassion and His redeeming work of reconciliation known in St. Louis City (where, we believe, God has strategically placed SCC); for their expeditious initial statement in response to the controversy; for their gracious response to some of the slanderous attacks they endured online; for their efforts to shepherd their congregation through this matter; and, for the positive steps they have undertaken in revising their building use policy.
- That the Session of South City Church take the following actions and report back to the Ad Com of the Missouri Presbytery on their progress by the July 2019 Stated Meeting.
- That they directly engage Ms. Higgins concerning her theological views in relation to homosexuality and transgender issues and, if necessary, take corrective steps.
- That they make clear to their congregation their position on transgenderism and that “maleness and femaleness are not social constructs but are rather a fundamental part of who God created us to be.”
- That they address deficiencies in their oversight of staff by developing a basic personnel manual that articulates the Sessions’ expectations regarding both ordained and non-ordained staff, especially in relation to associations, commitments, and activities that take place outside the direct oversight of the SCC Session.
- That the Session of SCC formalize their building use policy and publish appropriate disclaimers concerning building use by outside groups in accordance with the spirit of Appendix F in the Book of Church Order.