Hypocrisy

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Rev. Lanning was deposed, we are told, because he did not follow the church-orderly way of protest and appeal. It was not doctrine! It was behavior!

What exactly did he do that warranted the charge of schism?

Rev. Lanning was deposed because he was said to have charged men with sin from the pulpit rather than taking those charges to the assemblies.

This is what we were told by the church visitors, Trinity PRC, and Classis East.

“It is our contention as church visitors that Rev. Andrew Lanning’s sermon on Jeremiah 23:4&14 is in violation of Articles 31, 74 and 75 of the Church Order and the Formula of Subscription and as such is schismatic. Rev. Lanning deliberately makes serious charges of sin in his sermon against officebearers of the PRC and indeed the entire denomination” (Church visitors’ advice, Classis East Deposition Case, 28).

“We as church visitors judge that in his Jeremiah 23:4&14 sermon Rev Lanning committed the sin of public schism in the Byron Center PRC and in the entire denomination in violation of Articles 31, 74 and 75 of the Church Order and in violation of the vows taken by signing the Formula of Subscription. Rev. Lanning committed the sin of public schism when in violation of Articles 74 and 75 of the Church Order he publicly charged consistories and ministers of the PRCA with failing to repent of the devil’s theology that he claimed they embraced in the January-February 2018 meeting of Classis East and instead have minimized their great sin” (31).

Reading through the letter that Rev. William Langerak and Trinity’s consistory drafted, their entire case was built on the fact that Rev. Lanning made charges of sin from the pulpit.

“In a sermon on Jeremiah 23:4, 14, Shepherds to Feed You, preached in Byron Center PRC on 11/15/20, Rev. Lanning made serious public charges of unrepentant sin against ministers and office-bearers of the Protestant Reformed Churches, and against the entire denomination” (Trinity document, Deposition Case, 48).

“Rev. Lanning committed the sin of public schism by making the aforementioned charges in violation of Articles 31, 74, and 75 of the Church Order, and contrary to his vows of ordination and Formula of Subscription. This is schism because the Church Order is the way of order and decency appointed by Christ to maintain, nourish, and preserve concord and unity in His body. This judgment of public schism has nothing to do with the truth or falsity or even the seriousness of his charges. The issue is that Rev. Lanning publicly made these charges in a manner that violates the Church Order, which is schism within the body of churches (denomination) that is regulated by that Church Order” (52).

Classis East agreed.

“Rev. Lanning’s schismatic actions of publicly charging office bearers with sin are contrary to the teaching of the Church Order in Article 74, which is built on the foundation of the Scriptures and Confessions quoted above” (Deposition Case, 5).

“If an accusation is to be leveled against an elder, pastor or deacon, it must not be published to everyone in the church but must be carefully proven to the elders of the church.”

“This is true even when dealing with an accusation of heresy. If an accusation of heresy is preached from the pulpit rather than following the way of protest and appeal through the ecclesiastical assemblies it is a failure to follow the word of God in Titus 3:10, “A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject” (5).

“All charges of sin are to be brought to the consistory as the sole court Christ appointed to judge and treat such sins. There are no other options” (5, 6).

But something remarkable happened only a few months after the deposition.

A minister charged an officebearer with sin.

From the pulpit.

In a sermon preached at Southwest PRC the evening of Sunday, March 28, 2021, Prof. Cammenga publicly charged Rev. Martin VanderWal with the sin of antinomianism.

Antinomianism takes the form of supposing that as long as my cause is right, I’m standing for truth and right, I can promote that cause in absolutely any way I please. Whether in speaking or on social media. On a blog post, for example. Recently this was defended as freedom. This is freedom, that I may say whatever I want on a blog post, no matter that it’s half-truth, no matter even that it’s completely even filled with untruth. That’s freedom! That I may say absolutely anything I want in public.

Prof. Cammenga was referring to a recent blog post by Rev. VanderWal.

Antinomianism is heresy.

For a minister, the charge of heresy is especially serious. It is listed as the first ground for which a man can be suspended and deposed from office according to Articles 79/80 of the Church Order.

Prof. Cammenga made that charge from the pulpit. He did not make that charge by following “the way of protest and appeal through the ecclesiastical assemblies.” He did not bring that charge to Rev. VanderWal’s consistory, which, according to Classis East, is “the sole court Christ appointed to judge and treat such sins.”

This is shocking.

Prof. Cammenga just did exactly that for which Rev. Lanning was deposed.

Except Prof. Cammenga did what Rev. Lanning did not do.

Rev. Lanning did not charge any man, consistory, or assembly with sin. Rev. Lanning warned the PRC that they were guilty of minimizing the error into which the PRC had fallen.  

What comes next?

According to the schedule that was used for Rev. Lanning, by now Southwest PRC should have already called in the church visitors, and by this week Saturday, April 10, they will pass a motion to suspend Prof. Cammenga.

But that won’t happen.

There will be no uproar. There will be no outcry.

All of those who clamored so loudly for Rev. Lanning’s deposition will remain silent, painfully and shamefully silent.  

This shows where things really stand.

It has been about the respect of persons.

That explains why a popular preacher can preach conditional fellowship and only after a year and a half make a public apology. But when an unpopular man brings a rebuke from the pulpit, he is suspended within two weeks.

That explains why nothing will happen to Prof. Cammenga.

As a leader in the denomination, he is untouchable.

The rules apply to some and not others. What is freedom for Prof. Cammenga meant deposition for Rev. Lanning.  

Had Rev. Lanning simply sprinkled some heresy into sermons here and there, he would still be a minister in good standing in the PRC today.

All he had to do was point out the error of other denominations and ignore the errors in the PRC.  

But he could not do that. He condemned the errors. He refused to allow his position, or his name, or his reputation, or any other earthly consideration get in the way of his defense of the truth of God’s word. He had made a vow before God to exert himself to keep the PRC free from doctrinal error, and with God strengthening him, he was faithful to that vow.  He wasn’t successful, but he was faithful.

Very few people in the PRC will be concerned about Prof. Cammenga’s sermon.

They will find a reason to excuse it. They always do. Prof. Cammenga is on the right “side,” after all.

This sermon does serve a purpose, however—a vitally important purpose.

What is now exposed for all to see is the utter hypocrisy of the last few months in the deposition of Rev. Lanning.

The deposition of Rev. Lanning was never about behavior. It was never about manner. It was never about Article 31. It was never about the church orderly way of protest and appeal.

It was about ridding the PRC of a man who would not stop rebuking her for her errors.

11 thoughts on “Hypocrisy

  1. What came off Southwest’s pulpit was not a sermon. It was an angry rant that had a strong undercurrent of self preservation!

  2. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, even while for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you shall receive greater condemnation. (Matthew 23:14)

    The picture of someone “devouring,” … is both graphic and frightening.

    … all through Scripture, we are given instructions to obey, follow and submit to spiritual leaders. Hebrews 13:17 states: “Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who give account.” In abusive systems, however, that verse is stripped of its spirit and translated legalistically to mean, “Don’t think, don’t discern, don’t question, and don’t notice problems.” If you do, you will be labeled as un-submissive, unspiritual, and divisive.

    Jesus warned in Matthew 7:15 to beware of those “who come in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” We must remember that a wolf does not hate sheep – he just needs to consume them to satisfy his own hungers. It is the unsatisfied hungers – mentally, egotistically, emotionally – that cause a shepherd to devour his own. You follow, you trust, and you think it is completely safe.

    … not all elders rule well.

    … instead of the leaders being there for the true well-being of the flock, the flock is there for the well-being of the leaders. Instead of the leaders using their strength, authority and knowledge to build, protect and nurture, they use those qualities to insure their own power, control, or recognition.

    Abusive systems don’t serve and equip people, they use people. Worse, they use people up.

    As Paul once said to the Corinthian church, “Brothers and sisters, these things should not be!”

    An excerpt from the book The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse – Recognizing & Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within The Church. Chapter 16 – The People Get Devoured. By David Johnson and Jeff Van Vonderen

  3. I had considered commenting when this post first came out, but decided to wait and see what other commenters might have to say. Since no new comments are forthcoming, I finally feel compelled to give my thoughts, albeit now quite belatedly, perhaps embarrassingly so. Surely traffic to this particular post is quite low at this point, but perhaps in time this will be seen.
    I think there are two things about this post that are very significant. The first is how indisputable it is. There seems to be no avoiding the facts of the case. One may despise Elder Engelsma and consider everything he has revealed on this blog to be one big heap of slander and lies. One may also disagree with his conclusion that this apparently differential treatment is explained by a determined effort to be rid of a man because he rebuked the church for her errors. But neither of these allows one to escape the facts. The facts are black and white. Prof. Cammenga is clearly referencing Rev. VanderWal’s blog post. He clearly calls the sentiments expressed on that blog post to be antinomian. As such he is clearly charging a man – a minister in good standing – with sin, indeed heresy. It is also clear that one of the most prominent and frequently repeated grounds for Rev. Lanning’s deposition was that he allegedly made charges of sin against individuals off the pulpit. Thus it is clear that the same charge must be brought against Prof. Cammenga, meaning he must, at the very least, be suspended until his consistory can pass further judgment. It is not pleasant to have to say it, (although there is something to be said for poetic justice), but I see no way out for Prof. Cammenga.
    The second important point is that this is actionable. He preached it in the congregation where he himself is a member, so circumstances are optimal for swift action. The facts of the case are crystal clear. It is a simple (though grievous) matter for his consistory to confront him and bring the necessary charge. Presumably they must insist on Prof. Cammenga making a public apology to Rev. VanderWal together with an apology to the denomination for his sin of schism (see the advice of the Church Visitors and of Trinity PRC referenced in this blog post).
    One must hope that the fact that no action (to my knowledge) has been taken thus far is due to Southwest consistory’s diligent working with Prof. Cammenga with an eye to his repentance (although one would still wonder why his disciplinary timeline is so much more generous than Rev. Lanning’s). Otherwise this present silence is painful and shameful indeed.

    1. Mr. Schipper,
      Prof. Gritters made clear for all that should Rev. Lanning repent he would not be eligible to be a PR minister. The idea is that an adulterer is more desirable for readmittance into the ministry than a schismatic. I concur.
      Thus, there is no path for Prof. Cammenga to receive emeritus retirement without Protestant Reformed official apology to Rev. Lanning. No path, absent the title of this blog post.
      Yet that’s the sideshow.
      To date the PRC has not explicitly adopted heresy as the end of the line position. The real question is what occurs regarding Prof. Cammenga’s LD 7 sermon.
      The Acts of Separation hit those of us not from Byron Center as overly harsh. The harshness is softening. The LD 7 outcome will tell the tale.
      SPR

  4. Everything about this blog bothers me. You are accusing people of doing wrong and these people cannot defend themselves, as it is only your side of the story. .” hardening their hearts” as you reference fellow believers, you don’t know their heart, only God does, so how can you say that? Prof Cammenga was referring to YOUR blog and Andy Lanning so where did you get Rev. Vanderwal? Or did you in private ask Prof Cammenga who he was referring too? Probably not, nothing in this is done in love for the brother or neighbor

    1. Thanks for the comment. If you are more bothered being confronted with the corruption than by the corruption itself, then I don’t think we even have a basis to begin a discussion. It is very clear who Prof. Cammenga was referring to. And I could add examples of other ministers preaching against other ministers (bull-whips, anyone?) but I don’t think any examples I could provide will convince you.
      And yes, this is written in love for you, and the other members of the PRC. I love you enough to try and wake you up.

      1. Yes I would like the examples please. And where the sermon referred to Rev. Vanderwaal

    2. The people accused have no need to defend themselves. They hold the majority position in the PRC, and are thus untouchable. “Their side” of what happened IS what has happened. Anyone who would say something about that is simply brow-beaten with Article 31 and the sole church-condoned method for dealing with any sin: taking it to the assemblies.

      More the point, to engage with Dewey publicly regarding the content of his blog would to legitimize both the record he sets forth, as well as fashioning a new outlet to publish content. Both of these are things that the majority position of the PRC will never do.

      Prof Cammenga was very clearly referencing the recent blog post of Rev VanderWal, where he celebrates the freedom we have in the gospel: https://notallpiousandecclesiastical.wordpress.com/2021/03/23/excursus-into-a-strait/

      Why must there be continual confusion about what love is? Love is not allowing a man to run headlong off a cliff. No matter how determined that man may be, out of love one will do everything within his power to prevent that man from launching off the precipice. Love will shout at that man, love will throw things at that man to snap him out of it, love will tackle that man, anything to turn him from his way! Why quiet, secret, private meetings are seen as the epitome of love is beyond me.

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