Anglican Watch

Tenth Presbyterian drags its feet as it tries to avoid filing clergy disciplinary charges against Liam Goligher

Tenth Presbyterian Philadelphia

In the wake of the debacle involving Liam Goligher and Susan Elzey, it’s becoming increasingly clear that neither Tenth Presbyterian, the Tenth Session, nor the Philadelphia Presbytery have the spine to deal with corruption and abuse. 

Indeed, all involved appear to be dragging their feet, versus doing the honorable thing, which would be to file charges against Goligher with the Presbytery. That is unacceptable.

Things began with Session’s decision to postpone the church member meeting to discuss the departure of adulterous senior pastor Liam Goligher. 

The stated reasons for the cancellation? There were two.

  • The first was the weather, which never dropped below 36 in Philadelphia. Hmm.
  • Second was that Session claimed that church members wanted more information on the allegations about Goligher so that they could prayerfully consider their votes. On this score, we’re dubious. Yes, some in the church thought the whole thing was a set-up, a misunderstanding, or other zaniness. But the bigger issue seems to be that Session was implicitly suggesting that members should think carefully about their votes.

In conjunction with the second reason for cancellation, Session held “listening sessions” in multiple areas.

That begs the question, “What is there to listen to?” 

Over the past 20 years, Session has repeatedly demonstrated contempt, both for church members and the requirements of the Presbyterian Church in the USA. So why would Session suddenly care what members think?

And since Session continues to try to control the flow of information around the Liam Goligher/Susan Elzey debacle, and has given out as little information as possible, how would church members have anything to share with Session?

Speaking of controlling information, these meetings might have been an excellent way to disseminate needed information about corruption and abuse within the church and to allow members to ask questions.

Topics might include:

  • Specifics on the allegations involving Liam Goligher and Susan Elzey. Anglican Watch has learned that at least one elder had known for a long time about the purported affair, so we are at a loss to explain why he did not report it. Or, if he did report the matter, why didn’t Session act on the complaint?
  • Steps the church is taking to address the issues raised by the GRACE report and to care for the myriad victims of abuse identified in the report.
  • How the church plans to reconcile with Phil Snyder, the former member falsely accused by Liam Goligher, George McFarland, Susan Elzey, and others of threatening fellow parishioners.

But regardless of the possibilities afforded by these so-called listening sessions, the time appears to have been wasted, as there are no known outcomes from the meetings.

Instead, the listening sessions appear to be an effort to buy time, to pretend like Session cares, and to position Session as the arbiter of spiritual truth. 

In other words, they were nothing but yet another component of ongoing spiritual abuse within the church.

Meanwhile, the Tenth Session has myriad issues. These include:

  • Repeatedly lying to church members, with sources inside the church telling us the worst offender is George McFarland.
  • Ignoring good governance practices.
  • Ignoring the express requirements of the Book of Church Order (BCO), which is the PCA equivalent of the Episcopal canons.

Specific violations of the BCO at Tenth Presbyterian include:

  • Session cannot terminate Goligher’s employment, nor can it accept his resignation. Session lacks the authority to do either.
  • Session can only petition the Presbytery — notoriously deferential to Tenth, Liam Goligher, and their lackeys — to dissolve the pastoral relationship.
  • Session’s ballot prepared for the congregational meeting last Sunday should not have specified a slate of commissioners. Sorry folks — Bob Malm and other Episcopal priests have tried that trick, and it doesn’t work. Presenting a slate for an up-or-down vote is not the same as a free and fair election unless maybe your name is Fidel Castro.
  • Session is still tacitly buying into Goligher’s fabrications. Anglican Watch has learned that multiple elders spoke directly with the park ranger who arrested Goligher and Elzey. His statement, which contains details not included in the citations, runs directly contrary to Goligher’s weasel-worded statement and excuses. In other words, this was not about interpretation or Goligher’s behavior towards the ranger. It was about sex in a public park, full stop. A transcript of Goligher’s mendacious statement to the congregation follows in PDF.
  • The most egregious aspect of this debacle is that 12 weeks after the Goligher/Elzey scandal broke, there is no mention by Session or the Presbytery of charges against Goligher. Indeed, it appears that both would prefer to avoid charges, as this allows PCA to avoid disciplining Goligher. Neither entity has made a statement about these matters, and we object to the lack of openness and transparency. And we object to giving Goligher a pass on his extramarital affair, especially since he allegedly recently told individuals at the church that he doesn’t think he did anything wrong. Moreover, if Session, McFarland or the Presbytery think we’re going to forget about this issue, they are sadly mistaken.

Speaking of lack of transparency, sources close to the matter tell us that Session is livid that we obtained a copy of the GRACE report and is withholding part of the $200,000 fee GRACE charged the church in protest.

To that, we say: Too bad, so sad, catch you on the rebound. 

Not only did the church determine the scope and scale of the GRACE engagement, but it appears the church directed GRACE not to dig in around the Phil Snyder debacle, as the matter only gets a brief, dismissive mention in the report. That’s troubling, as perjury is a criminal matter

Perjury is a notoriously difficult crime to charge, so it’s unlikely Goligher and McFarland will face criminal charges. But there is no more straightforward example of violating the stricture against bearing false witness than committing perjury against a fellow Christian and using church resources to do it. This is an outrageous effort at retaliation and cover-up on the church’s part.

In other words, the church’s behavior towards Phil Snyder is egregious enough to warrant its own GRACE report. And until we see true repentance on the part of the church, the conduct of Tenth Presbyterian in this matter is bad enough to warrant avoiding the church on the basis that it is a sick, toxic, abusive sinkhole. 

It looks like members of Tenth are figuring things out on their own. At the Sunday meeting, 306 were present when McFarland declared a quorum. That’s appalling, as total membership is 1,362.

Perhaps the limited attendance was intentional, as evinced by the decision to hold the meeting on a three-day weekend. Or it may be that members are tired of being taken for granted, brushed aside, and being abused. Either way, we can say this with certainty—if the topic were Goligher leaving, we definitely would be there.

As for withholding payment, there might be some legitimate cause to ask why GRACE didn’t run background checks on all involved. But then, given that Session has voted down this issue in the past, the reason this wasn’t part of the investigation may have more to do with Tenth than GRACE.

As for Goligher himself, we are not psychologists. We cannot diagnose mental health issues and do not attempt to do so here. But it seems to us the Goligher is the prototypical narcissist—full of himself, focused on appearance, lacking any moral reference point, and interested only in his own needs/desires.

We close by urging people to avoid Tenth Presbyterian and anything/everything connected to Liam Goligher.

Don’t support abuse. Don’t support lies. Don’t support Tenth Presbyterian until it is willing to act with integrity and file charges against Goligher.


  1. In the PCA, there are two types of pastors, assistant and associate. Assistants can be fired without a congregational vote. Associate pastors were originally voted on by the congregation and can only be fired after a congregation vote to remove. Goligher got around this step by resigning before any vote took place, presumably to avoid embarrassment and to keep his future options open.

    Dissolution of the pastoral relationship is a formal presbytery step involved in a number of transitions including firings, resignations, and hirings by another church. It seems more like a rubber stamp kind of thing.

    Technically, Goligher, as a teaching elder, is a member of the presbytery and not 10th Pres. The presbytery certainly has the responsibility to defrock him for his conduct, but may hide (as many presbyteries do and the denomination’s Standing Judicial Commission does) behind some procedural technicality.

    Just a few thoughts from a recovering PCA pastor.

  2. Isn’t it possible that Liam intentionally used the transgressions of his fellow leaders and the GRACE report to cover his own sexual sins ? The timing of all this. Paul Jones debacle was around 2014 as was the Liam’s “park” incident.

    Thoughts ?

        1. Good question. The consensus is that abuse at Tenth goes all the way back to Phil Ryken, and no one wants to deal with the adverse publicity. So they are lying low, hoping people will forget about this mess and move on.

  3. A couple procedural things, it’s fine to present a slate of candidates for nomination, but the moderator of the congregational meeting must call for additional nominations from the floor. Since there is no prescribed number of commissioners, as many commissioners get a majority vote should be part of the commission.

    If notice was sent of a congregational meeting, the session should not be able to cancel it. If a quorum of members assemble at the time on the notice, they should be able to elect their own moderator and proceed even if session doesn’t want them to. If it’s true that the congregation has more questions than can be answered at the meeting, they could always vote to adjourn.

    Per the BCO, if 100 members request a congregational meeting, and session does not have one in 30 days, they can submit a complaint to presbytery.

  4. For those leaving Tenth Presbyterian Church (PCA) Philadelphia, PA to Proclamation Presbyterian Church pastures:

    On Sunday, March 10th, Ben Falconer announced to the congregation his resignation as Head Pastor at Proclamation Presbyterian Church (PCA) Bryn Mawr, PA. He will be returning to his former church—University Reformed Church (PCA), East Lansing , Michigan as Assistant Pastor of “congregational life and prayer.”

    1. Notably, Falconer’s transition represents two steps backward, and is a return to his old job.

      Proclamation is deeply troubled, its woes exceeded only by the corruption of Falconer and others in covering up abuse at the church.

      In other words, anyone headed for the Proclamation pasture should be aware it’s more cow patty than pasture.

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