Response to GAPJC Decisions

August 2, 2011

Response to the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission’s

Decision and Order in the Matters of

Parnell et al v. Presbytery of San Francisco

Session of Caledonia P.C. et al v. Presbytery of John Knox

by Mr. Whitman Brisky, counsel for appellants in Caledonia, and

the Rev. Mary Holder Naegeli and Mr. Bruce McIntosh, counsel for appellants in Parnell

Full text of the decisions are available also through the GAPJC website:
The Decision and Order of the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission (GAPJC) has been issued in two cases related to the ordination of candidates who refused to live under the “fidelity and chastity” sexual ethic taught in Scripture and the Confessions, and codified until this year in Book of Order G-6.0106b.

In Caledonia Presbyterian Church, et al v. Presbytery of John Knox, the Commission found the case moot, and did not reach the merits, writing that since Section G-6.0106b has been removed from the Book of Order “the Commission declines to rule upon the application of a provision of the Book of Order that no longer exists.”  While four commissioners stated that scriptural and doctrinal standards should have been considered, even they shifted that responsibility to Synod, declining to consider it themselves.

The holding that Caledonia is moot means the Decision & Order of Synod of Lakes and Prairies approving the decision of John Knox Presbytery to ordain Mr. Scott Anderson, still stands (despite the admission by Mr. Anderson he is living in a same-sex partnership). There is now no impediment to Mr. Anderson’s ordination.

In the Parnell case, the GAPJC again declined to interpret constitutional provisions “that no longer exist” (i.e. G-6.0106b). However, because the Synod of the Pacific (SPJC) failed to rule on the scriptural and confessional issues raised by the Complainants/Appellants, “the case is remanded to the SPJC to rule on [these] matters, and any other matters as may come before it.” Further, the GAPJC “encouraged” the SPJC to “direct the Presbytery to reexamine the candidate [Lisa Larges] under G-2.0104b,” which is “Amendment 10-A” ratified by the presbyteries in June as a replacement for the former fidelity and chastity standard.

We who represented the complainants/appellants in these cases are deeply grieved and disappointed in this outcome. The GAPJC had the obligation and clear invitation from all parties to actually decide these cases. If it was error for the Synods to avoid ruling on a doctrinal basis, it is equally erroneous for the GAPJC to dodge the scriptural and doctrinal issues raised by the complaints. The GAPJC commissioners have shown themselves to be doctrinal cowards by refusing to apply and invoke all of church law (found in the Constitution and the Confessions, and in the Scriptures that inform both) to their decisions.

Using the analogy presented by the Rev. Naegeli in her opening statement to the commission last Friday morning (see Saturday’s post), at the time Eve was rationalizing her desire to eat the forbidden fruit (Gen 3), Adam was frozen in place and said nothing.  And so it is with the GAPJC, paralyzed into silence in the face of moral confusion. The silence is deafening. In this critical moment—in which going back to God’s Word is the proper course—the GAPJC failed its duty to the church.

The GAPJC is hiding behind process in both cases, creating the “worst case scenario.” Two cases with identical facts, one of them presenting a legal argument, the other a doctrinal argument, were brought. The legal case is declared moot, opening the door to the ordination of practicing homosexuals in the PCUSA. The doctrinal case is remanded to Synod for more process.  In both cases, the GAPJC dodged the issue which is legitimately its to decide.

Whether there is anything to be gained through an appeal of a subsequent action of either the SPJC or the Presbytery of San Francisco is yet to be determined. For the moment, however, we have the clarity we were seeking regarding the GAPJC’s willingness to conform its decision to Scripture and the Confessions. It is not. Either through fear or recalcitrance, the Commission made its choice between Sola Scriptura and Nolo Scriptura.  It chose Nolo Scriptura, which does not bode well for our future together.


8 Responses to “Response to GAPJC Decisions”

  1. Viola Larson Says:

    This is the saddest day in the PCUSA because other and far worse days will follow. Nevertheless all is still in the hands of our Lord. And as Karl Barth stated, “Where the Church is a Church she is already delivered. Let persecution be never so severe, it will not affect her! ‘Still,’ it is said ‘Still, shall the City of God abide, lusty beside her tiny stream’ (Psalm xlvi. 5; Luther’s translation.)”

    I would add there is a church still but overloaded by a denomination.

  2. Jake Horner Says:


    Again, I want to thank you for your faithful service to Christ’s Church. Frustration, anger, and hurt notwithstanding, the gates of hell still don’t stand a chance. Jesus Christ is unmoved upon His throne in the heavenlies, He is still firmly in control of both time and space; and both are inexorably moving toward His day.

    When one is confronted with the living and sharp Word of God, there are only two possible outcomes: either the Word is going to change you, or you are going to change the Word. The PCUSA has unfortunately chosen the latter. They chose poorly.

    May God be merciful in His judgment and not cut the root off with the tree.

    In Christ,


  3. John E Says:

    If one has low or no expectations for General Assembly and the GAPJC, one is not likely to be disappointed.

    Bless you for your hard work nonetheless,


  4. John R. Kerr Says:

    As a former commissioner to the Synod of the Pacific, I recall clearly that it is composed of legal minds, not theological ones. I doubt that it has changed greatly, and since at least one member is an activist for the left, I think we know how Lisa’s case is likely to end.
    God bless you for being willing to fight the good fight! My prayers ascend for you and those who fight with you.
    Blessings, John Kerr

    • revmary Says:

      Thank you for the prayers, John. We do not hold out much hope that there is anything left to do to stop this particular ordination. Just some “clean-up” with the Synod and perhaps a symbolic gesture or two; but the Knox Presbytery case seals the deal now.

  5. Shelley Says:

    As Col. Sherman T. Potter used to say on the long-running TV show M*A*S*H: “Horsefeathers!!”

    We must continue to pray regardless. We, as Christians, KNOW that the Gracious Lord is in control, now and forevermore. May we know His peace.

    • revmary Says:

      Ah, an affectionate memory, that Col. Potter. Thanks, Shelley. We must keep praying and keep submitting to the One who is our Lord.

  6. […] there is an opinion that differs from mine regarding this, but as I read these decisions it seems to me that the GAPJC is saying it might be […]

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