In the November 15 issue of the Standard Bearer, Rev. McGeown glosses over the recently settled controversy in the PRC.
Since his analysis bears so little resemblance to what actually took place, one wonders how closely he has been following it.
In his defense, he has been in Ireland for the entire time of the controversy. He has not been here to witness what went on at every meeting of Classis East for the last four years. Therefore, he did not see the workings of an entirely political machine that was bent on defending false doctrine and defending the purveyors of that false doctrine. Which machine did not hesitate one second to cut down faithful officebearers where they stood. He did not witness, to borrow a line from Pearl Buck who was describing the churchmen of Machen’s day, the machinations of the ministers in leadership positions who occupied easy places and played their church politics and trimmed their sails to every wind. He was not sitting next to Elder Neil Meyer while Mr. Meyer was under (un)Christian discipline for three years. He was not in the consistory room at Byron Center PRC or Crete PRC to hear and see the absolute corruption that went on. He was not around when the church visitors ran roughshod over the Church Order and bullied a compliant consistory into doing their will. He was not here to be confronted on a regular basis by the sheer hypocrisy of the majority of officebearers in Classis East.
But now, having recently taken up a pastorate at Providence PRC, and almost before having his bags unpacked, he is ready to be our instructor.
According to Merriam-Webster, to gloss over something is to hide the true nature of that thing. It is to use deception to give something an appearance that it truly does not have.
Rev. McGeown lays it on thick.
Read the brief history that he provides.
A minister who was later judged to be “unsuitable” for the ministry preached some error, and when it was pointed out, the churches were eager to repudiate it. No one wanted the false doctrine (even though they defended it). No one wanted a conditional covenant (even though they preached it). Everyone was fully in support of those who defended the truth (even though those brave souls were suspended, deposed, marginalized, criticized, and hated).
He would have the reader believe that Classis East, champion for the truth, behaved itself nobly in dealing with error. Classis East, according to Rev. McGeown, did not want the conditional theology. They did not want the error. In fact, the whole denomination only wanted the truth! “No one in the Protestant Reformed Churches, whether the former pastor, his consistory, or Classis East willed or wanted to pervert the gospel.” Well, except for those ministers who continued to teach it and write it. And except for those consistories that continued to excuse it. And except for the Standard Bearer, which immediately after Synod 2018 not only undermined the decision but contradicted it.
The truth is that there were only a few members of the PRC who fought bravely, month after month, year after year, against almost unthinkable hatred and opposition, and who did so for the simple reason that they loved Jesus Christ and his truth.
Every single meeting of Classis East was a battle, with almost every delegate at those meetings doing everything he could to support Hope PRC and its corruption of justification by faith alone, and precious few of the delegates trying to uphold the pure gospel truth of salvation by Christ alone.
As for the clergy, there were only three ministers who fought for the truth.
Rev. McGeown was not one of them.
He shows his hand by writing a history and analysis of the controversy and never once mentioning those individuals whom God used, against the full weight of a denomination, to uphold and defend the truth of salvation by Christ alone. Remember? Mr. and Mrs. Meyer were upheld. (It is amazing. The PRC will thank and praise everyone under the sun, even those who led the PRC into error and who made sure the PRC would never turn from her error, but they have never thanked the men and women who were used by God to uphold the truth in the denomination. Can someone show me differently?)
McGeown goes on to write, “Again, if you claim something with enough rhetorical flourish, many people will not examine your assumptions, which do not flow from solid exegesis, but are based upon a sinful misrepresentation of the neighbor and a shameful twisting of God’s word.”
The reader is left perplexed. Who is he referring to?
First RPC consists of members who have lost their lives in contending for the faith. While I was busy slandering them, and Hope PRC was busy murdering them, and Rev. McGeown was busy trying to confuse them, these members were faithfully searching the scriptures and battling for the gospel of pure, sovereign grace. Is he really suggesting that these same men and women are now just ignorant, gullible men-followers who just agree with everything Rev. Lanning or anyone else says? If Rev. Lanning were to preach false doctrine, he would have half his congregation in his study the next day, and that by the grace of God.
Because I choose charity and charitable judgments, I can only say that Rev. McGeown is ignorant of the issues. I choose ignorance, because the alternative is that he is himself a deceiver who heals the hurt of the PRC slightly by preaching peace, peace, where there is no peace.
He makes it difficult to maintain that charitable judgment of ignorance, however, when he goes on to write about what has developed with the PR Christian schools.
If there is something which Rev. McGeown knows less about than the controversy in the PRC, it is the matter of the schools.
He writes the following: “Take, for example, our good Christian schools. The schismatics have now taken the position that, because the schools require parents and students not to militate against the schools, but to promise to use a lawful process if they have grievances, parents who give such assurances are guilty of placing an institution above the truth.”
Having carefully created this straw man, he goes on then to mock and ridicule it and tear it down.
But for those of us who are trying to be serious students of these issues, is that really what took place?
The schools just asked the parents to use a lawful process if they have grievances?
No, that is not at all what they asked.
If that were all, they already had the documents in place for that.
We know that is not all the schools required because we have the actual words the schools used to make clear what they were requiring.
“Are you willing to give us the assurance that you as parents and your children will not militate against our school, our teachers, and our churches?” (Covenant Christian HS questionnaire)
“Will you and your children not publicly or openly degrade (or bring into disrepute) this school, its teachers, or the PRC whose doctrinal teaching this school infuses into its instruction?” (Adams Christian School questionnaire)
Rev. McGeown continues: “Although the schools have always required this of all parents who wished to enroll their children in the schools…”
Is that true?
Unlike Rev. McGeown, who is ignorant regarding the Christian schools, I do have some knowledge of these things. My children attended both Adams and Covenant. I served two terms on the board of ACS, the last term ending one week before I was elected to the office of elder at Byron Center.
I have served on the enrollment committee. For Rev. McGeown’s benefit, that is the committee responsible for enrolling new families and re-enrolling existing families.
So, is what Rev. McGeown says true? Have the schools “always required this of all parents who wished to enroll their children in the schools”?
No, they have not. What Rev. McGeown writes is deceit. Whether done out of ignorance or not, it is pure deceit.
Deceit, according to the dictionary, is to trick someone by concealing or misrepresenting the truth.
He would have the reader believe that this whole matter of the schools was completely manufactured by the “schismatics,” and these vows have always been required of the parents.
The PR schools, which were at one time parental and not parochial, have never had their members swear allegiance to one denomination.
Did he even read the documents?
It is obvious even on the first reading that these vows were requiring something far more than just an assurance that you would follow the normal grievance procedure.
These vows came about because you had emotional, unprincipled men serving on the school boards, who put together questions that more closely resembled the questions a man must answer when he wants to join a labor union than when he wants to enroll his child in a Christian school.
This was the first time in the history of both schools that such questions were asked.
A far cry from being something they have “always required” of parents.
Not being content with twisting the facts and deceiving his readers, Rev. McGeown also pours in a dose of mockery.
Although the schools have always required this of all parents who wished to enroll their children in the schools, this is now labeled “a grievous snare,” something the leaders of the schism failed to see, so that their failure to blow the trumpet supposedly put their people in grave danger. In grave danger of not being permitted to tell one’s classmates that they belong to the whore?! In grave danger of having to do all things decently and in order?!
We had our schools stripped away from us. Of all of the things taken away from us, this was one of the most painful. It was an incredible grief to the parents and their children. Showing the kind, merciful compassion the PRC is known for, Rev. McGeown now mocks those parents and children.
This type of writing will play very well in the PRC.
The people will eat it up.
But what Rev. McGeown is doing is trafficking in lies and deceit.
Which are the proper works of the devil (L.D. 43).
And not being content with his deception, he hypocritically exhorts his readers to follow Ephesians 4:2-3 and 1 Peter 3:8-9 in their own response to these things.
“Dear reader, do as I say, not as I do.”
But there is one other very striking thing about Rev. McGeown’s article.
And that is quite significant because with it he gets much closer to the heart of the issue.
(The thesis of his article, specifically his complaint about the rhetoric, is quickly swept aside. There have always been members of the church who are offended at the hard words of the Bible. So too with Rev. McGeown. His issue is not with Rev. Lanning; it is with God, who has ordained such words to describe the false church. And what he criticizes as a ratcheting up of the rhetoric, students of church history are able to identify as the regular course of church reformation, as the issues separating the two sides are more clearly identified. Speaking of the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s, D.G. Hart writes, “As both sides escalated their arguments, either to defend or question certain practices and the ideas that underwrote them, clear lines emerged that demarcated Protestantism and Roman Catholicism” (Still Protesting, Hart, 45)).
Rev. McGeown likes to use the word “schism.” It is a weakness of his writing. He believes he is making a point, but he wearies the reader with his constant references to the “schism” and the “schismatics” and the “leaders of the schism” and the “now-deposed schismatic” and the “schismatic leader.”
Schism, schism, schism.
Lament for schism.
Sermons about schism.
Articles about schism.
The PRC is consumed with talk of schism, schism, schism.
And they are right, there was schism in the PRC.
And it showed up unmistakably in October of 2018.