It is the effort of these blog posts to show the unrighteousness of the proceedings leading up to the deposition of Rev. Lanning.
Many of the events leading up to and including the deposition were characterized by deceit, hypocrisy, hierarchy, and duplicity.
In the last few years alone, Classis East has rejected many protests and appeals. It has done so on the basis that these protests and appeals were not finished at the local level. They were said to be illegal.
The protestant had not permitted, so we were told, his consistory to do their work.
There is a church orderly manner that must be followed.
Our leadership has instructed us how consistories and the other assemblies must work. What follows are quotes from the editorial in the September 15, 2020, Standard Bearer by Prof. Gritters (in italics), along with notes about how the consistory of BCPRC behaved:
“Because decisions must be made after careful deliberation, our assemblies are known as ‘deliberative assemblies.’ To be deliberate about something is to proceed slowly, think carefully, act only with thoughtfulness…Patiently, carefully, and with a thoroughness some might describe as plodding, they look at all the angles, consider consequences, but especially analyze the question in the light of God’s Word.”
Previous blog posts have shown that this matter of the deposition of Rev. Lanning took place with lightning speed. There is no one who, in good conscience, can say that Byron’s consistory proceeded slowly, thought carefully, acted with thoughtfulness, looked at all the angles, considered consequences, and especially that they analyzed the question in the light of God’s word.
“Our entire formal system of church life is built around the reality that our assemblies are deliberative in nature. This explains many things: the length of some consistory meetings, the careful formulation of motions supported by logical and biblical grounds…”
The motion to bring in the church visitors for help had no grounds at all, much less grounds that were logical and biblical. The motion itself was entirely unclear when it said we should bring in the church visitors “with regards to direction for going forward.”
“The most basic principle to govern deliberative assemblies is that Jesus Christ rules His church by His Word. All ecclesiastical business must be governed by Scripture, as that Scripture is understood and spelled out in the church’s confessions and Church Order…Thus, a delegate to an assembly must be scriptural both in what and how he speaks. And a delegate must listen to and be persuaded by Scripture.”
Byron’s consistory certainly did not use Scripture. But then again, neither did the church visitors or the consistory of Trinity. In all that advice, you can look high and low and find…only one Bible verse. That the advice brought by the church visitors and adopted by Byron’s consistory was woefully lacking in Scripture was not lost on us, however. Just prior to voting to suspend Rev. Lanning, an elder asked, “Should we add a Bible verse somewhere?”
“Nor should delegates attend (consistory or otherwise) with the hope that others will be able to tell them what is proper.”
Just before the vote to call in the church visitors, an elder no doubt spoke for some of his fellow elders when he said the reason we needed to call in the church visitors was, “I want to know where I stand.”
“Preferably, written advice is presented far in advance of the meetings…Delegates must not be required to ‘answer a matter’ before they ‘hear’ it.”
More will be said about this, Lord willing, but this rule was ruthlessly trampled underfoot. Consider the following:
- On Thursday, November 19, 2020, the consistory voted to bring in the church visitors for advice.
- One day later, we received advice from the church visitors advising us to take Rev. Lanning off the pulpit according to Article 14 of the Church Order.
- The next day, Saturday, we met with the church visitors to discuss that advice. The advice was so bad that none of the elders, not even those who wanted Rev. Lanning off the pulpit, could find it within themselves to bring the motion to the floor for a vote.
- The following week, on Tuesday, November 23, we received an email from a church visitor informing us that we would not be receiving their next piece of advice before our meeting on Wednesday. Instead, he wrote, “We plan to come with printed copies of our advice for all the consistory members.”
- At the meeting on Wednesday, an elder suggested that the church visitors present their advice, and then the church visitors could leave while the elders discussed how they wished to proceed. A church visitor responded with a threat: If you do not bring this motion to the floor right now “we are going to leave!”
- Remember, the consistory was seeing this advice for the first time, and instead of being permitted to do their work without outside pressure, we now were being dictated to (“lorded over” according to Article 84 of the Church Order) on how our meeting must run.
If our “entire formal system of church life is built around the reality that our assemblies are deliberative in nature,” then the entire formal system of Byron Center PRC’s church life came crashing to the ground.
The responsibility for what happened at Byron Center PRC will ultimately fall on the consistory that brought all of this on itself.
But what about the church visitors?
These are our “oldest, most experienced, and most competent” ministers (CO, Art 44). They know the “church orderly” way because they have been the ones who voted illegal many of the protests and appeals that appeared before them at previous meetings of Classis East.
What about Trinity PRC’s consistory? Did they never think to ask about the process or the manner or the work that Byron’s consistory had not done? Why would they not want to protect their brothers on Byron’s consistory by admonishing them that they had followed none of the fundamental rules of how our deliberative assemblies should work?
What about Classis East? In a room full of church polity experts, including Prof. Gritters who was granted advisory vote, did not one of them think to make an issue of the fact that this work was disorderly to the extreme?
Did everyone forget how Prof. Gritters concluded his editorial?
“The manner in which the church does Christ’s work is no less important than the work she does.”
It turns out “manner” is just a club with which to beat others, and not something that must be followed by those in power.