Lessons From the Case of the “Jonesboro 7”

They wanted to see a gospel centered PCA congregation planted in their town, Jonesboro, Arkansas. It was harder than they thought it would be. In this instance, it was especially hard.

Tucked within the thousands of pages of the 2023 General Assembly Handbook is an innocuous sounding decision from the PCA Standing Judicial Commission (SJC), Harrell, et al. v. Covenant Presbytery.

As reviewed the SJC Decision, I was frightened, I was angry. I was concerned that what happened to the men whom I have come to call “The Jonesboro 7” could happen to anyone in the PCA.

The SJC even stated this about what the Temporary Session, comprised of Teaching and Ruling Elders from the Independent Presbyterian Church of Memphis, did:

the failure of the Indictments to include the specificity so obviously available is unjustifiable under BCO 32-5, and we find that the broad Indictments were abused to the prejudice of the Accused who were not adequately informed of the charges against them.

You read correctly; the PCA General Assembly used the verb abused in reference to the actions of a Session.

The “Jonesboro 7” were subjected to treatment that the General Assembly declared was “unfair” and a violation of “the basic principles of due process as required by our Standards.”2 Note well: it was not some ephemeral, complicated, or arcane procedure that was violated by the Session, but basic principles.

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Ryan Biese | “Lessons from ‘the Jonesboro Decision'” | Oct 6th, 2023


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  1. Hi Ryan,

    Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4


    Galatians 6:1-6a ESV
    Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.

    I attend a Presbyterian Church and have a high view of the government and grateful for third mark of the church, discipline, because it is necessary. We should not be angry we should be grateful to have such a testimony and witness of long suffering and perseverance of the saints.

    God is our Father in heaven and I believe the fifth commandment(all commandments as well) if taught well (Westminster Longer Catechism) to everyone before they took membership vows to belong to each other as a body membership (Especially to Elders before they are ordained) , the church would have more peace and purity in the church.

    Thank you for following up on this case.

    Ginger Zagnoli


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