Update: Tenth Presbyterian remains a spiritually abusive sinkhole

By | October 29, 2022
Tenth Presbyterian Philadelphia

Full disclosure: Since the start of this conflict, Anglican Watch editor Eric Bonetti and Phil Snyder have become friends. Both find it remarkable how their former churches attempt to manipulate the protective order system in order to attempt to infringe on First Amendment rights.

In the road of life, there inevitably are potholes. But every once in a while, what you hit isn’t a pothole. It’s a sinkhole, capable of causing lasting harm. And so it is with Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia (PCA), a spiritually abusive sinkhole that makes the Scribes and Pharisees look decidedly amateur-hour.

A months-long investigation by Anglican Watch concludes that Tenth Presbyterian member Phil Snyder did not engage in threatening or inappropriate behavior, despite courtroom claims by church officials that he was terrorizing the congregation.

At the heart of the matter are allegations by Snyder of sexual misconduct by church staff, spiritual abuse, lack of transparency, and more.

As things escalated, Snyder began protesting outside the church, carrying a sign protesting the church’s actions. There was nothing inappropriate about the sign.

It will come to no surprise to readers that the church’s response to Snyder was anything but Christ-like. The church got injunctions against him by saying that he is threatening, harassing, mentally ill, delusional, and fits the profile of a mass shooter.

Fortunately, Phil had the common sense to wear a body cam the entire time he was protesting outside the church. There is a ton of footage and Anglican Watch staff has reviewed it all.

Every. Last. Minute.

We do not believe the video has been edited or redacted. And we find that the video tells a consistent story, which is that Snyder is a peaceful protester.

And so, we are calling BS on Tenth Presbyterian, including both its members and its clergy. Indeed, our conclusion is that the church’s statements were perjurious, as well as violating the biblical admonition against going to court to resolve conflict within the church community. (Ironic, given how the church likes to babble on about how it reflects orthodox Biblical faith.)

We also have read all the legal pleadings. Every last word. Every last footnote. Every last exhibit.

Two observations:

  1. We don’t believe that Phil was well-represented in the initial litigation, which has caused ongoing issues for him. Specifically, it is very difficult on appeal to overcome bad findings of fact by a trial court.
  2. This is a modern-day example of opposing the Roman Empire. The Romans had lions. Tenth Presbyterian has lawyers. Lots of ‘em. Expensive lawyers. So, as active participants in this situation, which we believe to be a sham,  we are calling BS on the church’s attorneys.

Some Additional Context

Shortly after the church first filed for a protective order, the story got pickup in Dee Parsons’ publication, The Wartburg Watch.

Following a heads-up by Dee, Anglican Watch covered the story. We believed then, as we do now, the following:

  • That the real motive of the church is to silence Snyder, either by running him into the ground via legal fees or via direct legal action. Meanwhile the church appears to be trying to discredit Snyder, both via the protective order process and various lies and defamatory statements.
  • That it is disingenuous in the extreme to claim that Snyder is mentally ill, etc., after having previously elected him as an elder.
  • That Dr. Liam Goligher, the church’s senior minister, and other church officials, are brazenly lying about Snyder’s actions.
  • That Tenth Presbyterian has shown no care or concern for Phil and his family, instead trying to protect the organization at all costs, and without regard to the ethical implications of its conduct.
  • That church members follow the all-too-predictable routine of, “Well, if even half of what everyone says is true.” In other words, turn off brain and act like a lemming. And while you’re at it, gossip and get other lemmings to follow you.

About Our Investigation

In addition to reviewing all of the legal documents, we took several additional steps in the course of our investigation:

  1. Unbeknownst to Snyder, Anglican Watch reporters interviewed and spoke with dozens of people about the situation. Some conversations were held openly; in other cases, the conversations were deliberately seemingly off-the-cuff or via social media.  And we used multiple reporters, each unaware of the work of the others.
  2. We used public records to evaluate the accuracy of the information we received.
  3. In every instance, we attempted to identify the original source of the information.
  4. We also attempted to back into the allegations in the church’s pleadings. Who else was there? Who can verify this? What is the source’s reputation for veracity? Do the circumstance correlate with other known factors?

Our Conclusions

  1. We found no evidence of threats, misconduct, or other reason to be concerned about a near-, medium-, or long-term risk of violence on Snyder’s part.
  2. We found no evidence of mental illness on Snyder’s part.
  3. Several sources cited in the church’s pleadings are conspicuously unavailable, contradict themselves, appear to be secondary sources, or claim no recollection of the events cited.
  4. All roads point to Goligher and a small inner circle in the church as being behind this very public vendetta.
  5. There is strong reason to believe that there is sociopath or narcissist near the top of the heap at Tenth Presbyterian. While we are not prepared to name names, look for someone who is superficially charming, but whose behind-the-scenes behavior is inconsistent with their professed beliefs.
  6. Assuming, arguendo, that every one of the church’s allegations are true, the church’s handling of this situation is still unethical at every level. Thus there is no fact pattern under which the church’s conduct is ethical or acceptable.
  7. The spiritual corruption at the church poses an existential risk to the church.

Relatedly, we note that modern Christians are notoriously spineless. The early Christians faced martyrdom, but Christians today rarely have the courage to speak out in the face of injustice and oppression. And they have even less willingness to challenge questionable behavior by their clergy, instead preferring to blindly follow so-called leaders.

Many churches also display a troubling tribalism in which any criticism is seen as disloyal. This happens far too often and is a sure sign of a toxic church. And that is exactly what we see going on at Tenth Presbyterian.

Moreover, anyone who ignores the collective disapproval of these churches is almost certainly going to be labeled “unbalanced.” Why? Because it’s both a convenient fiction for toxic churches, and because these churches are so toxic that they cannot conceive of a worldview the does not comport with theirs.

And if these other tactics don’t work, toxic churches like Tenth Presbyterian will urge the victim to “move on.” After all, that’s what “sensible” people do—ignore the church’s bad behavior. If you do it, it’s a sin. But if Tenth Presbyterian does it, you just need to move along. Nothing to see here.

But like Anglican Watch and its staff, Snyder doesn’t play that game.

It undoubtedly would be convenient for the church and its clergy for him to move on, but the cat is out of the bag. And over time, the cat has gotten bigger, thanks to the church’s stupid courtroom behavior and what we believe are brazen lies. So it’s not going back in the bag, and unless the church backs away from its misconduct, this is a church that will be standing empty sooner rather than later. And to that we say, “Good riddance.”

Nor should Snyder be expected to move on. The litigation has cost him tens of thousands of dollars and has caused tremendous disruption in his personal life.

As for Goligher, we can only shake our heads in disgust. This man is a revolting example of hypocrisy and has no business in ministry. Feel free to quote us.

And let’s not forget the church and denomination itself. Any organization that behaves like this, or fails to meaningfully address the concerns that we and others have raised, is morally bankrupt. All the church-speak and Jesus-babble in the world doesn’t cover up the fact that this is an abusive church. That includes elders in the church. If they don’t have the spine to speak up and ask questions, they are empty sycophants.

And if there indeed is a hell, there is a special place in it for these folks. So people in this church, including those in the pews, have some serious soul-searching to do. If nothing else, sin is its own punishment, and this is a church that has behaved atrociously.

Nor should we forget that the church’s court filings are a matter of public record. So at a time when church membership is dropping precipitously, Tenth Presbyterian has created an ongoing record that speaks volumes about its hollow faith. It’s painted itself in a corner, and there is no fact pattern under which the church prevails in the end.


So What Can We Do?

  • The best way to help Snyder is to spread the bad news of Tenth Presbyterian. Let people know that this is a spiritually abusive church that has done nothing to care for Snyder and his family. Instead, we believe the church has bullied, lied, and engaged in myriad levels of spiritual abuse.
  • Avoid the church. There’s no point in subsidizing bad behavior. “Be the change you wish to see,” and don’t donate to the church or otherwise provide support.
  • Call out Liam Goligher and other church officials. Sunlight works wonders on vampires, germs, and abusive clergy.
  • If you are a church member, demand to know why your money is being used to pay high-priced attorneys, versus serving God.
  • Demand professional accountability for church lawyers via a disciplinary complaint. While a lawyer is not obligated to investigate every client claim, she cannot offer facially obvious fabrications to the court. We suspect this is a case of the latter.
  • Insist on a full, fair, independent denominational investigation. If the PCA isn’t part of the solution, then it is complicit. Pulling a Pontius Pilate isn’t going to cut it. Nor is anyone going to be taken in by a cover-up.
  • Demand Christian resolution, including reparations and repentance. That also should include the removal of Goligher and other so-called leaders. “Thou shalt not bear false witness.”
  • Sign and support our petition on change.org.
  • Be on the lookout for similar spiritual vampires in other faith communities.

This is one of the most appalling cases of spiritual abuse we have seen and a blight on the church, the PCA, and Christianity generally.

We close with our standard disclaimer for the inevitable attorneys—all of these are allegations and conclusions on our part. But we believe Snyder, and we are convinced of his integrity. We do not believe that Tenth Presbyterian is a church of integrity, and it certainly not one that lives according to biblical principles. And we believe that Liam Goligher is a scumbag—to put it kindly.

”By their fruits you shall know them.”

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Prepared to bet Goligher is a narcissist, sociopath, or both. And his sermons likely riddled with nonsense about love.

With clergy like this, no wonder people leave organized faith.