On March 10, 2010, this Court decided the Bordwine v. PNWP case, 2009-06, holding that the Record of that Case suggested a strong presumption of guilt that Dr. Leithart’s views represent offenses that could be the subject of judicial process. This Court deferred to PNWP, urging it to counsel Dr. Leithart “that the views set forth above constitute error that is injurious to the peace and purity of the church…,” with the hope that Dr. Leithart would either recant or affiliate with some other “branch of the visible church that is consistent with his views.” Failing all that, “then PNWP shall take steps to comply with its obligation under BCO 31-2.” (ROC 5).
We agree “that the views set forth above constitute error that is injurious to the peace and purity of the church…,” and we believe this Court has deferred to PNWP long enough. This Dissent believes that the SJC erred in denying the Complaint and not finding that PNWP failed to uphold its responsibility to defend and guard the system of doctrine contained in the PCA Standards. The SJC should not have given deference to PNWP in this case. BCO 39-4 makes it clear: “The higher court does have the power and obligation of judicial review, which cannot be satisfied by always deferring to the findings of a lower court. Therefore, a higher court should not consider itself obliged to exhibit the same deference to a lower court when the issues being reviewed involve the interpretation of the Constitution of the Church. Regarding such issues, the higher court has the duty and authority to interpret and apply the Constitution of the Church according to its best abilities and understanding, regardless of the opinion of the lower court” (emphases added).
The SJC used a faulty standard of review as a basis for its conclusion:
We do not find that the Complainant provided sufficient evidence that TE Leithart’s statements affirming his subscription to the Standards were incredible or that Presbytery’s decision in finding TE Leithart “not guilty” of the five charges was in error.
The question is not whether the Complainant provided sufficient evidence or proved his case; the question is rather whether the Record of the Case shows that Presbytery erred. The SJC has “the duty and authority to interpret and apply the Constitution of the Church according to its best abilities and understanding, regardless of the opinion of the lower court.” We dissent because we believe the SJC decision has failed to fulfill this duty. Read more»
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