Friday, September 1, 2000

The Saga of R.C. Sproul, Jr.

Presbyterian & Reformed News, Volume 6 Number 5, September–October 2000

The Saga of R.C. Sproul, Jr.
by Jerry Johnson

On July 15th, the Westminster Presbytery had its summer stated meeting. There were many items on the docket, including the request of transfer from the Associate Reformed Presbyterian (ARP) Church to the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) of the Rev. R.C. Sproul, Jr. Mr. Sproul is the son of Dr. R.C. Sproul, who pastors St. Andrews Chapel in Orlando, Florida, and was founder of Ligonier Ministries. The examination of Mr. Sproul began at approximately 11:30 AM and dealt primarily with his testimony. At 12:00 noon the presbytery adjourned for a season of prayer before breaking for lunch. The presbytery reconvened at 1:30 PM and continued its examination of Mr. Sproul. The minister stated his exceptions to the Westminster Standards including paedo-communion and a continental view of the Sabbath. Mr. Sproul repeatedly stated that he would submit to the brethren and would not speak nor teach these views if so instructed by presbytery.

At this point the presbytery went into executive session, calling Mr. Sproul back in on two different occasions to discuss further his views on education. Mr. Sproul was asked if he believed it was a sin to send covenant Christian children into government schools. He answered in the affirmative. After the call for the question Mr. Sproul was approved by a vote of 27 for and 5 against. Immediately following this vote a member called for a vote to reconsider and have it recorded on the minutes. The moderator, Mr. Nat Kelley of Draper Valley Presbyterian Church, Draper, Virginia, allowed the motion to stand. The chair was challenged and the presbytery voted, 18-13, to support the decision of the chair. The motion to reconsider and have it recorded on the minutes suspended the previous vote of presbytery on Mr. Sproul’s transfer. Immediately following, a motion was made to adjourn. It was seconded and carried.

On August 22nd a meeting of the Westminster Presbytery was called to deal with an overture from the Bridwell Heights Church pastored by the Rev. Larry Ball on the subject of education and a complaint filed by Ruling Elder Joe Reynolds of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Kingsport. This complaint stated that Roberts Rules were specific on the circumstances that must exist in order to allow a motion to reconsider and have it recorded on the minutes stand. The basis of Mr. Reynolds’ complaint was that the circumstances did not exist. The called meeting was also to deal with the transfer of Mr. Sproul and the motion to reconsider. At the beginning of the meeting the moderator, Mr. Nat Kelley, set a three hour time limit, starting at 7:00 PM, and the matter was not up for debate. One minister asked if he made a motion at 10:00 PM to extend the meeting for another hour if he would be ruled out of order and the moderator said that he would.

After roughly ten minutes had passed the stated clerk distributed some items of interest he felt that the members needed and explained their content. He finished around 7:40 PM and a TE asked the moderator if the three hours could begin at that time. The moderator said no that it had begun at 7:00 PM. The overture from Bridwell Heights was dealt with first and then the complaint from Mr. Reynolds. During the debate on this complaint a ruling elder from a church in Johnson City, Tennessee, declared that “Rev. Sproul had nothing to offer Westminster Presbytery and that Westminster Presbytery had nothing to offer Rev. Sproul.” This was said in an angry tone and many of the members felt this statement was uncalled for. Discussion and voting lasted until approximately 9:20 PM. The issue of the reception of R.C. Sproul, Jr. was next on the docket. At this point the Stated Clerk, the Rev. Steve Meyerhoff, made a motion to request that presbytery help him with ideas on how complaints could be streamlined. The Rev. Henry Johnson asked for a point of order stating that this was not the business that brought the presbytery here and could be better handled at the next stated meeting. The Moderator denied his point of order and the chair was challenged. The decision of the chair was then upheld. Mr. Meyerhoff stated his point and finished at 9:40 PM.

The presbytery was now ready to deal with the motion to reconsider in reference to Mr. Sproul’s transfer. The presbytery immediately returned to executive session and dismissed 20 minutes later at 10:00 PM asking Mr. Sproul to return on September 12th.

On September 12th a meeting was called for Westminster Presbytery at Abingdon PCA, a church pastored by the Rev. Bill Leuzinger. The meeting was to deal with the vote to reconsider Rev. R.C. Sproul’s request to be transferred from the ARP to the PCA. The presbytery immediately went into executive session. Mr. Sproul was called in once. Evidently the controversy surrounded his views on government schools. The presbytery was behind closed doors for approximately two hours and forty minutes. When they emerged, Mr. Sproul was denied transfer by a vote of 18 to 27. Many of his supporters appeared with tears in their eyes and told R.C. Sproul, Jr., how sorry they were.

— Mr. Johnson, a member of Providence Presbyterian Mission, Wytheville, Virginia, and a friend of Mr. Sproul, reports that a member of Presbytery in opposition to Mr. Sproul’s admission intimated that the effort to have Mr. Sproul join Westminster Presbytery was to “get another Reformed vote.”