The National Partnership was created this year with the express purpose of using the GA to further the “health” of churches. The email sent out was sent by Rev. George Robertson, I believe another author of the Missouri Report on the FV. Don’t forget the behind the scenes working to prevent debate about the SJC ruling on Leithart, and changing the rules to make sure certain people are not on the SJC that happened this year. It was not pretty, and it was not done by FVers alone. No, this was done by others: the power brokers.
I have already made it plain that I think the PCA is dead. Others are now coming to the same conclusion. Lane makes a few excellent points about what the FV men surely did, and it helped their cause. They did start to lay low: blogs were removed and went silent. Whether as a strategy or as a self preservation, it is hard to say, but it did help them in the court of public opinion. Doug Wilson was able to defend them from the outside and those who had a tendency to be less winsome than Doug stayed silent. But that is not why they won, because they did not have total radio silence. They still published books, maybe not as many, but they were still writing. They got out a freschrift for Norman Shepherd, for example, that includes James Jordan, Rich Lusk, Peter Leithart, John Frame, and many others.
Here is what I think happened. I will use an analogy from the old west. The PCA is a large ranching operation with a big main house. The FV are the outlaws disturbing the herd of cattle and the anti-FV crowd goes out guns a-blazing to fend off the thieves. They manage to chase off a few of them while taking heavy fire, and when it looks like they get a break in the action they head back to the big house, and low and behold the locks have been changed, and they are no longer welcome.
You see Lane and I put the blame in different places. Lane thinks the FV guys won and took over, and I think that a 3rd party took the opportunity run off the TR’s (for lack of a better term) and gain complete control. I think the “evangelical middle” as Lane refers to them has always had designs on running this denomination.
Let me take you back to the Presbyterian Pastors Leadership Network and 2002. They pushed Good Faith Subscription and a change in the way of GA taking original jurisdiction. Now the change to BCO 34-1 and original jurisdiction failed, but the PPLN won. 40 Presbyteries agreed, it just was short of the 2/3rds required. Thus the majority of the PCA thought Presbytery discipline was enough. Couple that with the Good Faith Subscription, which in my opinion gave more wiggle room to those who disagree with the confession, and the groundwork is set.
That lead nicely into Presbyterians and Presbyterians Together in 2006 (which is no longer on the internet but my summary is still up). This was a clear call from many men that prosecution of others would not be tolerated. This was not so much the FV men courting the evangelical middle, this was the establishment of the PCA saying they wanted the FV men and could do without the TR guys. Lots of Covenant Theological Seminary men signed this document. This is of course the same year that The Missouri Presbytery Report of FV came out, which was an attempt to split the middle, and would later serve as the basis for clearing Rev. Jeff Meyers, who was on the committee. So, too, by the way, were Bryan Chapell, C. John Collins, and David Chapman of Covenant Seminary.
Then comes the 2007 FV report at GA. Now this was heralded by the TRs as a great moment, but really it meant nothing. This is one reason it was able to get such a wide margin vote. The groundwork had been laid that Presbyteries could let in whoever with Good Faith and that the prosecutors in trials are the bad guys. And this report was in no way judicial so why fight it.
This brings up the fight against Steve Wilkins in 2008. Armed with the new FV report the TRs then went after Steve Wilkins. Note then that this is the first time the TR’s went to the judicial process against the FV men. In 2001 when Rev. Moorecraft sounded the alarm, they discussed, held colloquiums, and fought on email lists and web sites, but this was the first major judicial test. This was another defeat in the end for the anti-FV crowd. Yes, Wilkins left, and yes the Louisiana Presbytery had to retry the case (because they cleared him the first time), but no judicial guilt was found against him in the end. Just like the John Wood case about women preaching a decade earlier. If you don’t get a guilty verdict, it is really a loss. Just because the man leaves does not make the problem go away. This became evident then when Missouri Presbytery and Northwest Presbytery refused to discipline FV men in their bounds.
This is about the time that the 9th Commandment issues came up as Lane mentions. Siouxlands Presbytery was ripped apart by the factions. TE Lawerence and TE Moon were brought up on charges and both were cleared. This was followed by the major instigators of the charges being brought up on charges themselves. TE Carpenter and TE White were both brought up on 9th Commandment charges and TE Keister himself was tried for unorthodoxy. This was not so much the movement of the FV crowd as the people at home in the ranch. It became a standard response to accusations, but I do not think that it was always leveled by those who actually hold to the FV.
Enter into the debate now the powerful Tim Keller. Published author, featured in magazines, and pastor of a huge church in New York City. Keller gives a speech in June of 2010 about what is so great about the PCA. [Editor’s note: the original URL (link) referenced is no longer valid, so the link has been removed.] While I disagree with a lot of Keller’s historical analysis, the main point of Keller’s paper/talk was to promote the idea that the PCA is a diverse body and should remain that way. Clearly then those who are trying to get rid of a subgroup are in the wrong. There was a lot that went into the Strategic Plan that the PCA bounced around and they did change some of it, but they still created “safe spaces” and they advanced their overall agenda of the PCA being a “big tent” denomination, a “big tent” that included the FV. Only those who do not want a “big tent” are not welcome.
And then, of course, there are the secret groups that seem to have won the day at GA. The National Partnership was created this year with the express purpose of using the GA to further the “health” of churches. The email sent out was sent by Rev. George Robertson, I believe another author of the Missouri Report on the FV. Don’t forget the behind the scenes working to prevent debate about the SJC ruling on Leithart, and changing the rules to make sure certain people are not on the SJC that happened this year. It was not pretty, and it was not done by FVers alone. No, this was done by others: the power brokers.
So to summarize, I think the PCA has been systematically undermined by a group of power brokers who have worked hard to make the PCA a big tent, and those who are against that idea are the ones that have to go. Ultimately, the PCA was not won by the FV. And the group that now controls the PCA wants the FV and does not want the TR guys. If I were guessing why, I would assume it was because the FV guys are more likely to have a “cultural” impact than the doctrinalists, and of course, a lot of these guys have a cult following and publish often. Name recognition can not be underestimated. Dr. Aquila and Dr. Pipa may be known in some PCA circles, but Doug Wilson and the Credenda Agenda are known by people even outside the PCA. And it also happens that many of the TR guys are down south, which is often considered embarrassing, which may help shed light on why Steve Wilkins can be chased out, but the other FV guys are all safe.
So I think Lane has great insights into what the FV has been up to and how they did avoid trouble. But I think he understates how the “middle” was actually working against the TRs, and has for some time. The middle is the group that actually won the PCA.