“A Very Well-Organized Clandestine Political Wing Of Our Denomination”

The recent e-mail dump containing nine years’ worth of confidential National Partnership business has been dubbed #PresbyLeaks, which hilariously sounds like a terrible geriatric condition. A very well-organized clandestine political wing of our denomination has been exposed for being exactly what it is, despite many of us having been assured time and time again that the National Partnership was merely an exclusive fellowship organization akin to a type of pastors’ support group. I have seen many men betrayed, slandered, lied to, and lash out in anger on both sides this week and last. The situation is a colossal dumpster fire. I certainly am not shocked, but I am disappointed and a bit confused. The same question keeps repeating in my head: “Brothers, are we not Presbyterian?”

…I wonder, did it start out rather innocuously? Was it a group of friends who got together to enjoy their own comradery over a drink, who attracted others until the group grew past the confines of a room? Conversation moved to online groups where excitement brimmed, plans were made, emails were launched, and the National Partnership was formed. More were added to their number, and slots on various committees were filled to the extent that they could refer to whole presbyteries as NP presbyteries.

But something started happening. Amidst the calls to action to steer the ship, Kessler started warning against playing two-party politics, keeping one’s tone gracious, and spending too much time on empty rhetoric battles at the mic. There were some exceedingly pastoral warnings given against characterizations of the other side, and Kessler tried to gently discourage the proclivity to enter the black hole that is the endless back and forth of blog posts, Facebook comment sections, or Assembly floor speech duels. And yet, something of a tribe mentality had already set in. Men frustrated with their more conservative brethren started referring to the other side as “the fundamentalists” and “the unhealthy wing of the denomination.”

…It is important to note that the desire for a safe environment to discuss theological and ecclesial issues is understandable. The yearning for a fellowship of elders for encouragement and spiritual sharpening is Biblical. The longing for a place to discuss and debate the future and nurture of the denomination is commendable, but we already have one. It’s called presbytery.

Furthermore, secrecy is found nowhere in the manuals for presbyterian government. The information in these emails is not confidential information, it is secret information. There is a nuanced difference between confidentiality and secrecy. Read more»

Sarah Morris | “Brothers, We Are Presbyterian” | November 13, 2021


    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

    More by R. Scott Clark ›

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  1. I’m sorry this had to be written. Good onya to Mrs. Morris for doing so; it must have been difficult to pen.
    While some Presbyterian media discuss the latest “reformed” baptist article, the Heidelblog is still putting in the meat. Thanks, Dr. Clark.

  2. Eusebius, in his Ecclesiastical History, lib. i. cap. 8. [viii. 1.] “The head-rulers of the the church, forgetting God’s commandments, were inflamed one against another with contention, zeal, envy, pride, malice, and hatred; so that they thought rather that they of meekness occupied the room of tyrants than of priests. And also, forgetting Christian humility and sincerity, they did celebrate the holy mysteries with unholy hands.”

  3. Cited by Dr. Cranmer in his “Confutation of Unwritten Verities” (Works of Thomas Cranmer, ed. Edmund Coxe, page number offhand eludes me). “Gregory Nazianzen to Procopius. `Undoubtedly I think thus, if I must needs write gently, and the truth, that all assemblies of bishops are to be eschewed. For I never saw good end of any synod, that did not rather bring in evils, than put them away; for the lusts of strife and desire and of lordship reign there.'”

  4. With the revelation of the NP e-mails, nobody can say that it doesn’t exist. It is also not a credible argument that it is a benign organization. So the question then becomes what should or even can be done about the operations of the NP or does the PCA just have to resign itself to this being the state of things going forward?

  5. As I read, I began to wonder if the National Partnership now has a special secret handshake, an identifying apron, and a motto. It’s almost as if Freemasonry has invaded the poor PCA.

    • Jim,
      Freemasonry has been part of the PCA since its inception. Two study reports on the matter did little to bring clarity and/or resolution.

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