Members of Tenth Presbyterian must insist the church clean up its act, or face eternal consequences

Tenth Presbyterian faces eternal consequences for its conduct

While we’re on the sordid topic of abuse at Tenth Presbyterian, we need to look at the role of Session. Specifically, Session is dishonest and corrupt, and has failed those under its care for the past 25 years. Thus, everyone on Session needs to resign, and members need to insist that this happen.

One of the positive things about the Presbyterian tradition is that it recognizes communal responsibility. That is in marked contrast to the Episcopal church, which claims to be a hierarchy, but only when convenient. Yes, the national church may wade in on property disputes, citing its hierarchical nature, but if a priest abuses someone — sexually or otherwise — the victim had better hope they have an honest bishop and standing committee.

When we contemplate the church’s communal responsibility, we confront an appalling reality: Two ministers at Tenth have resigned for sexual misconduct in less than five months. Says fellow blogger Tim Bayly:

the Session of Tenth Presbyterian Church must resign. All of them. They have presided over more than a quarter-century of betrayal of their sheep. G.R.A.C.E. relates reports of sexual abuse of various parties connected to the church. Perhaps not every last account is credible, but there is more than enough confirmed that the subjects of G.R.A.C.E.’s Report should be hiding in shame. Were they honorable, these officers would have turned in their resignation the very day the Report was issued.

Some will protest that not every elder has failed, and of course that’s true. Not every member of Achan’s family (Joshua 7:1-24; 22:20) was responsible for hiding the treasure under the floor of the tent, but God judged and punished them all. Most Reformed believers understand the centrality of corporate responsibility to God’s economy, starting with the federal headship of Adam. So yes, all of them should resign. They all share the shame and guilt whether or not each of them is equally to blame.

As Bayly correctly notes, there is more than enough in the GRACE report to cause any right-minded, ethical leader to resign in shame. And no one’s in a better position to comment than Bayly, who has long-standing ties to the church and is among the complainants who forced the Presbytery to admonish the Session in 2017 over the Paul Jones incident.

Indeed, even those with no connection to the church experience shock and revulsion when reading the myriad descriptions of abuse, cover-up, and betrayal of trust.

And, while the report emphasized sexual abuse, it is replete with evidence of spiritual abuse at every level of the church. Moreover, there is ample evidence that Session has repeatedly lied to members of the church.

Yet, Session has learned little from this debacle, and originally attempted to deep-six the GRACE report. Tellingly, insiders say that members of the Session are angry that we published the report—a document that should, by any ethical standard, have been public from the get-go.

Nor does the report fully reflect just how egregious Tenth’s collective sin is.

The report, likely influenced by Goligher, Susan Elzey (who we know was interviewed during the investigation), and Goligher’s other minions, inappropriately made short shrift of the Phil Snyder case — an egregious and deadly sin that remains unacknowledged. And there are myriad sins comprising that ethical meltdown, including perjury by George McFarland, Elzey, and others. (Elzey appears to have tried that trick with us as well in a comment that we nuked in which she blamed everything, including her affair, on Phil Snyder. Proof she is both evil and unrepentant — and, we suspect, projects her own mental health issues onto others.)

Indeed, while we are deeply dubious of conspiracy theories, there is zero doubt that senior church officials and members — including Goligher and Elzey — engaged in both civil and criminal conspiracy against Snyder. As such, they committed a third-degree felony and should face both ecclesiastical and criminal charges.

So why is Session sitting silent? Do the elders not believe they will face eternal judgment for their sins against Snyder? Or the myriad victims of sexual and spiritual abuse? Or their multiple lies to members of the church?

Nor does culpability stop with the Session. To expand on Bayley’s discussion of collective culpability, church members who ignore the matter, say “I don’t want to get involved,” and otherwise try to avoid the church’s sin are every bit as guilty as the elders and Session. They will face the same eternal consequences, both for the underlying sin and for its cover-up.

Finally, we note that Pennsylvania has a five-year statute of limitations for felony perjury. Early instances of perjury in the Snyder case turn five years old in July, so Session needs to act with integrity, admit to the church’s collective sin, and refer the matter to law enforcement. It needs to do so now, not once the clock has conveniently run. 

Until that happens, Tenth Presbyterian and its session are morally bankrupt. And for the record, things are pretty bad when those godless Episcopalians are calling you to repent or face eternal consequences.

Now, about that adultery….

11 comments

  1. Here’s why they are staying silent: everything related to the Tenth case is being discussed and decided in Presbytery “executive session”. Only elders are allowed to be present and no notes are taken. Nothing may be shared or discussed outside of the meeting. This means that any ordained elder in Philadelphia Presbytery cannot speak about the Tenth case to anyone but a fellow ordained elder who was also present in the executive session. Otherwise they will be disciplined for “breach of confidentiality.”

    1. Which is total nonsense. Church should be about transparency, accountability, integrity. This bunch is doing its best to circle the wagons, protect themselves as a group, and protect the church, never realizing their behavior is accomplishing exactly the opposite.

      And while we get that readers may have differing views on complementarianism, we’re not fans. If nothing else, we believe that if women served in Presbytery and Session, things never would have reached this point. We may be wrong, but we’re prepared to take our chances.

      1. It all fell into place for me when I realized that in practice, the primary function of the Presbytery is vetting candidates for ordination — hiring and firing — so basically, an HR department. And HR’s job, at the end of the day, is always to protect the Company.

      2. Women are not sinless, as much as our matriarchal society likes to paint it, to think these problems go away with women elevated to leadership is wayward and naive. And ultimately it’s just not Biblical order. Not an excuse by any means though.

        1. Well, women certainly can’t do any worse than the so-called biblical elders of Tenth. And we happen to believe in a God who loves all of creation equally.

          As for the notion that this is a matriarchal society, there’s no evidence to support your empty, conclusory claim. As in, name the last US female president, and we’ll further discuss your assertion.

        2. Sinless – why are you bringing up if women are sinless?
          Matriarchal society – what society are you in?!?

          If women were involved in at least supportive roles with leadership, perhaps in similar roles as they are in raising children, perhaps less total shit would hit the fan. The current paradigm in these churches is one-sided, one-brained, and completely imbalanced. Women are NEEDED as helpers. Since women are rejected from such roles, we get this total shit show which is happening.

          Thankfully there is at least one woman involved in the Presbytery’s proceedings against Carroll Wynne.

  2. I would like to clarify my earlier comment because I got some questions about it and realized that the wording could be better.
    It’s an established precedent in the denomination that virtually all discipline cases are handled in executive session. A matter of staff/ employee discipline would definitely be handled in executive session. Most presbyteries (and every case that I have heard about) use executive session for elder discipline, as well. I know for a fact that some members of Phila Presbytery have petitioned for this particular case NOT to be executive session. So I assume that it has been proceeding under executive session. Putting 2 and 2 together, it is *highly likely* that executive session is the reason why all the men in Presbytery are keeping mum about this case.
    In general, there seems to be a trend across the denomination of overusing the executive session privilege that the BCO affords to elders when dealing with confidential personnel issues. I believe this rule was always meant to be applied sparingly. I do not believe it is biblical to apply this rule to staff members who are also ordained elders. Scripture tells us that elders are to be rebuked publicly and the BCO should always be interpreted in light of Scripture.

    1. We’re planning to write more on this topic shortly, but you are spot on. Executive session is contrary to the Presbyterian norm of doing things decently, in order, with transparency. And yes, it abusive to handle issues with church leaders behind closed doors.

      Indeed, one of the great failings of the Episcopal Church is its propensity for backroom dealing, “confidentiality” (which usually means information is confined to a diocesan standing committee or other circle of loyalists), and treating clergy discipline as confidential, which usually results in abuse victims getting further mistreated. “I can’t discuss it with you, because everything is confidential.”

      Ironically, the church disciplinary canons expressly say that the bishop diocesan may waive confidentiality in the interests of pastoral care, although it is rare to see a bishop who does this. And some, including the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, will double down on abuse by trying to tell the victim that they must keep a clergy disciplinary complaint confidential. There is no such requirement, although victims are well advised to understand that they likely will face retaliation from church members if they go public.

      “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.” Uh-huh.

    2. Agree.
      “Executive Session” can be used to hide leadership sin in church… As in the case of Proclamation Presbyterian Church and Presbytery West regarding an elder/employee sexual sin towards women and minors.

    3. Yes.

      And BCO is not Scripture. Should not be used to protect in a self-serving way the reputation of a person or an institution…If it does, it’s not Christianity.

      God protected His people but He loved them enough to particularly allow public chastisement amongst those in leadership—. Moses, Miriam, Aaron’s sons, Peter…

  3. “To expand on Bayley’s discussion of collective culpability, church members who ignore the matter, say “I don’t want to get involved,” and otherwise try to avoid the church’s sin are every bit as guilty as the elders and Session. They will face the same eternal consequences, both for the underlying sin and for its cover-up.”

    To my PCA brethren — Imagine if you invited a female friend to your church and that friend ended up getting harassed or worse. Imagine if you invited a young family to your church and their children ended up being molested. This is not hyperbole. This is reality. We are accountable to the Lord for any part we play in this deception. “We were only following orders” is not going to hold water on judgment day.

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