A woman was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when she was attacked by her abuser. He stripped her of her clothes, beat her and went away, leaving her half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the woman, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw her, passed by on the other side. But some PCA elders, as they traveled, came where the woman was; and when they saw her, they took pity on her. They felt that it was really unfortunate that she had been left beaten and bleeding like that, and that ideally, her wounds would be bandaged and she could recuperate in an inn somewhere. They committed to pray for her and consider what they could do to help. However, they had taken vows to uphold certain rules and processes when they became elders, and simply didn’t see a judicial avenue in the Book of Church Order for dealing with this kind of situation. They decided they would appoint a committee to respond at their next stated meeting in four months. Robert’s Rules of Order were followed, and their actions were properly recorded in the Presbytery minutes. The woman bled out and died on the side of the road, but nothing could possibly be argued as out of order at next year’s Review of Presbytery Records (RPR) meeting.
I attended Tuesday’s meeting of Georgia Foothills Presbytery to hear what action they would take with regard to an RPR decision that had passed at General Assembly. RPR had cited the Presbytery for throwing out two formal complaints I filed regarding my experience of abuse in the church. Tuesday’s meeting was the sixth Presbytery meeting I’d attended since filing the first complaint over two years ago. As is typical at these meetings, I was one of just two or three women in a sanctuary full of male elders– the only other women in attendance are often the wives of men who are there to be approved as candidates for ministry. I was warmly welcomed by several elders who have been kind to me through the course of these events. My own elders did not speak to me or acknowledge me at all.
When it was time for the RPR deliberation, the Presbytery called a closed door Executive Session and kicked all visitors and non-officers out of the room. I stood up and asked to be allowed to stay. After all, I had already sat quietly through five of these meetings. The Presbytery is in trouble for “denying [me] the ‘watchful care, instruction and government of the church’ to which [I am] entitled,” and the elders were about to discuss my personal life and my direct communications with the Presbytery. I’m aware of defamatory statements having been made about me in the past by some of the officers that were present. Lee Lovett, the chair of the Shepherding Committee, who previously tried to obstruct both formal complaints, stood up and said that I had not been recognized and was not allowed to ask a question or speak at all. The moderator then asked me to leave.
After the Executive Session, the moderator announced that a committee had been appointed to respond to the RPR citation. The current Stated Clerk (not the guy in the recording I posted earlier this week) came over to me and said he and a couple of the other elders would talk with me during the lunch break about what that would entail.
During lunch, one of the elders appointed to the committee emphasized to me that RPR is purely administrative and has no authority to make the Presbytery reopen the case. I learned that the four person committee includes Dr. Roy Taylor, Stated Clerk of General Assembly, who was present in the Review of Presbytery records meeting and was one of the few dissenting voices against the nearly unanimous RPR decision. Roy has taught adult Sunday School for years under Rev. Charles Garland, the former Stated Clerk of Georgia Foothills Presbytery, who is the subject of one of my formal complaints. Another committee member is Jack Wilson, who served on the commission of two that dismissed my formal complaint against Charles Garland in a report riddled with factual inaccuracies, then ignored Dr. Valerie Hobbs’ email attempting to correct the report. General Assembly minutes show Roy Taylor, Charles Garland, and Jack Wilson working together on Assembly business over multiple years. One of the two remaining appointees is a ruling elder at Charles’ former and Roy’s current church. I asked how the committee appointees were chosen, and was told they were suggested by the moderator.
I spoke very frankly with the three elders who met with me during lunch about the details of what I’ve experienced and the time sensitive, life altering high stakes for some of the other women dealing with similar situations in the PCA. These three elders are some that I think well of, and at least one I know to be a strong advocate for social justice. They listened to me, and I believe them to be sincere in wanting a healthy resolution to the case. But the elder who had been appointed to the committee said we need evolutionary rather than revolutionary change in the PCA’s response to abuse. I disagreed and asked what benefit there was to evolutionary change when so many women are suffering so horribly right now. I couldn’t get an answer. I said straight up that the committee appointments were political and that the Presbytery was going to try to make this go away administratively again. The elder said he didn’t think it was political. I said that if he didn’t think this was political, then nothing would ever convince him that anything in the PCA is political.
So now, once again, we wait. The committee will propose a response at the next stated meeting in January. Meanwhile– dead silence from Faith PCA.