Peter Leithart is a teaching elder (TE) in the Presbyterian Church in America. Until recently he was a minister, laboring outside the bounds of his presbytery, in a Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches (CREC) congregation in Moscow, ID. The CREC is the home and base of the self-described Federal Vision movement. This movement identifies itself as “Reformed” but it departs from the Reformed confession in significant, even fatal ways. The federal visionistas have a two-track doctrine of salvation . They affirm orthodoxy on one hand and then, under the umbrella of their idiosyncratic covenant theology, deny it with the other. When they are speaking under the umbrella of “covenant” their doctrine is more that of Arminius’ than it is of Dort.
There has been an eccleisastical-judicial proceeding wending its way through the courts of the PCA for what seems like years. It began in the Northwest Presbytery of the PCA and finally made its way, by way of complaint, to what is the final court of appeals in the PCA, the Standing Judicial Commission. According to Lane Keister at Green Baggins, the full panel of the SJC of the PCA heard the case and voted “to reject the complaint that Pacific Northwest Presbytery erred in exonerating Leithart.” This means that the decision of the Pacific Northwest Presbytery, which declared that his teaching is not outside the bounds of the confession, stands. According to Lane, because the case was heard by the full panel, there is no avenue for appeal.
Before today the outcome seemed fairly straightforward:
- The PCA rejects the FV doctrines
- Leithart teaches the FV doctrines
- Ergo, his teaching is outside the bounds of the confession and rejected by the PCA
Somewhere in the process the syllogism became muddled. It is hard to imagine that the first (major) premise is in doubt, given the vote at the 2007 PCA General Assembly and previous SJC decisions. The truth of the second premise seems clear but one wonders whether something went awry in proving it to the satisfaction of the SJC?
This should be a matter for concern and prayer for everyone who loves the gospel and who has an interest in the future of the largest and arguably most influential body in the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council.
More details and commentary to come.