PCA’s Evangel Presbytery Votes to Deny Peter Leithart’s Request to Labor Out of Bounds

Peter Leithart is presently serving in a CREC ministry in Birmingham, Ala., outside the bounds of Evangel Presbytery

At its stated meeting on November 12, 2013, Evangel Presbytery voted unanimously to deny TE Peter Leithart’s request to labor out of bounds with Trinity House and Trinity Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Ala. Trinity Presbyterian Church is a member church within the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches (CREC). Evangel Presbytery is a member of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).

The Committee on Church and Pastor Care recommended that Evangel Presbytery adopt the following motion: “The committee recommends that TE Peter Leithart’s request to labor out of bounds with Trinity House and Trinity Presbyterian Church be denied because it is not with the full concurrence of and under circumstances agreeable to Evangel Presbytery (BCO13-2).”

Ministers, also referred to as teaching elders, are normally members of the Presbytery within the geographical area where they are serving. If a teaching elder desires to become a member of a Presbytery but is serving in a ministry other than a church under the authority of the Presbytery, he can be given permission to labor out of bounds. The Book of Church Order (BCO) 8-7 allows Presbyteries to approve ministers to serve or “labor out of bounds,” that is, to “work with an organization outside the jurisdiction of the Presbyterian Church in America.” The Presbytery assesses each outside ministry on a case by case basis to determine whether it qualifies as an approved ministry in which a member can serve.

Specifically, the Committee on Church and Pastor Care was asked whether a member of another Presbytery should be approved to labor out of bounds if he was serving in a CREC congregation or ministry. The Committee recommended that Evangel Presbytery not approve the request. After debate the Presbytery voted unanimously to adopt the recommendation.

Since TE Leithart is a member of Pacific Northwest Presbytery but living in Birmingham, he had two options according to the Book of Church Order. He could transfer his ministerial credentials to Evangel Presbytery since he would be serving in a ministry within its geographical bounds. Or, he could seek to maintain his ministerial credentials in Pacific Northwest Presbytery and request both his Presbytery and Evangel Presbytery to give him permission to labor or minister in Birmingham. It was this request from TE Leithart, to serve within the bounds of Evangel Presbytery, which was denied.

The PCA’s BCO 13-2 states, “When a minister labors outside the geographical bounds of, or in a work not under the jurisdiction of his Presbytery, at home or abroad, it shall be only with the full concurrence of and under circumstances agreeable to his Presbytery, and to the Presbytery within whose geographical bounds he labors, if one exists.” In this instance, both Pacific Northwest and Evangel Presbyteries must give “full concurrence” to a request to minister in another Presbytery. Since Evangel has not given full concurrence, Pacific Northwest Presbytery will have to provide counsel and direction to TE Leithart and will have to determine his status and what actions to recommend to him.

The reason for the request to minister in Evangel Presbytery was because TE Peter Leithart had moved to Birmingham from Idaho to serve as Director of the Trinity House. Since Trinity House is associated with the Trinity Presbyterian Church, a member of CREC, Evangel Presbytery had to determine whether this ministry would be approved as one in which a member could serve outside of the jurisdiction of the PCA. The Presbytery decided not to grant this permission “because it is not with the full concurrence of and under circumstances agreeable to Evangel Presbytery.”

Evangel Presbytery authorized its Clerk to write Pacific Northwest Presbytery informing them of Evangel’s decision so they can begin taking official action as needed.