We are what we eat...

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An appalling and horrible thing Has happened in the land: The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule on their own authority; And My people love it so! But what will you do at the end of it? - Jeremiah 5:30, 31

Before accepting the call to serve in Bloomington, I was ordained in John Knox Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and served a yoked parish in Pardeeville and Cambria, Wisconsin. John Knox Presbytery included Madison, Wisconsin, where Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship had its headquarters. When Mary Lee and I were first married, we moved to Madison where I finished my B.A. at University of Wisconsin. During that time, Mary Lee and I became quite close to a number of I-V staff who served in various leadership positions at the national office. Also at that time, Dad was serving on I-V's board.

What struck me about the I-V men and women was their lack of discernment...

What a contrast to those who led I-V back in its first few decades when Dad and Mud had served as the first I-V staff for New England, led I-V's eastern seaboard region, and Dad edited I-V's His magazine (Dad Taylor also edited His for a time) and ran IVP. During those early years we saw many I-V staff pass through our home and lives and they had been men and women of Godly wisdom and discernment.

But now, in I-V's middle age, her leaders were characterized by zeal without knowledge:

For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. - Romans 10:2

With most of them, their naivete seemed to have had a somewhat benign origin in character weaknesses and lack of instruction. Several I-V national staff were members of my own John Knox Presbytery and I watched them on the floor of presbytery and in conversations at lunchtime. They seemed to be inoffensive Evangelicals sharing the commitment to go along to get along. Since, at the time, I was myself in the PC(USA) serving with women pastors and elders against my conscience, I was in no position to admonish anyone against going along to get along.

Then, around the year 1990 when I was still up in Wisconsin, a large rich PC(USA) church in Madison perched above Lake Mendota down near the Capital issued a call to a certain "John Doe" to serve as their new senior pastor. Doe showed up at presbytery for our examination and approval and during the exam it was clear he was working to thread a needle between Scripture and the world. He'd done graduate work at a major university so his threading was slick. Before Doe was called, the church's search committee had approached me inquiring if I was interested in the position, so I knew no man could get the Search Committee's recommendation without claiming Evangelical commitments. (I declined to submit an application.)

John Knox Presbytery approved Doe taking up the call and he was installed as Senior Pastor of the church. Then I watched over the next few years as I-V staff moved their membership to the church Doe now served. In their Christmas letter, one I-V couple Mary Lee and I knew quite well were excited to say they had moved to this church, but as the next few years passed, it was sad to watch signs of Biblical decline in this couple's work and life. We expressed our concern to them, but to no avail.

Then came the day Doe was given the pulpit of John Knox Presbytery to preach God's Word during the May, 1991 presbytery worship service. The entire presbytery meeting was a terrible disappointment, but nothing more than Doe's sermon. Doe served the most wealthy and urbane church in our presbytery and he was Evangelical so, feeling the need to give a voice to Evangelicals because of the volatility of the pro-sodomy study committee report being considered, presbytery officials tried to balance things somewhat by having an Evangelical preach and who better to invite than the pastor known for his close association with the Evangelical parachurch campus ministry, Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship?

That meeting and Doe's sermon during that meeting were so very bad that six months later we had left the PC(USA) and entered the PCA. Two years later I read that, after four or five years at the Madison church, Doe had been promoted to the pulpit of an exceedingly influential and wealthy church in the nation's capital. At that time I felt it my duty to send the following letter to Doe and, although I've had some hesitations about posting this letter publicly, the letter concerns a public matter observed by hundreds present that day at the stated meeting of John Knox Presbytery, so no confidences are being broken and it's my hope readers will gain insight into the slick ways Evangelicals betray the Word of God:

December 6, 1994

Rev. Dr. (John Doe)
Washington, D.C.

Dear (John),

Greetings in the blessed name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ during this Advent Season. We haven’t talked together for years but I read in the Outlook you had accepted the call to serve there at (Tall Steeple Presbyterian Church)....

My purpose in writing is to encourage you in faithfulness to the Word as you proclaim God’s Truth in your pulpit ministry. What a privilege we have been given each week to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who are without hope in this world. We have been entrusted with the message of salvation and have been called by God to give that message to those who come into His house each week to attend upon the means of grace. If we are not faithful to our calling, the blood of the souls of our congregation is on our hands (Ezekiel 33 and Acts 20: 18-35). If we are faithful, what joy there will be when our Master says to us, “Well done, my good and faithful servants.”

John Knox Presbytery met in Dubuque, Iowa, in May of 1991. At that time you and I were both members of that presbytery, mutually submitted to one another under the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ. That particular meeting was held just prior to General Assembly and much of the discussion centered on the Sexuality Task Force Report. You were given the opportunity to bring us a message from God’s Word during our worship that day.

As it happened, a number of elders from my two congregations had decided to attend that presbytery meeting to ascertain the spiritual and theological integrity of our presbytery in the context of its response to the Sexuality Task Force Report which was to be the subject of much deliberation that day. There’s no question in my mind that what they saw and heard in Dubuque was the determinative factor in their later decision to leave the denomination. Please allow me to quote from minutes of a later joint session meeting in which we summarized our reasons for withdrawing and specifically dealt with that meeting of presbytery:

"John Knox Presbytery did not allow anyone to present the Biblical position on sexuality in response to the Sexuality Task Force’s Report at its May, 1991, meeting in Dubuque. The only Biblical word on the issue came during the optional hearings afterwards from a few people who spoke after the adjournment of the meeting only to those who chose to stay and listen. Those who did speak during the meeting, including Ken H_____, John L_____, and (John Doe), failed to condemn the heresies and scandalous teachings of this report."

(John), I remember the response of those elders to the meeting of presbytery as if it were yesterday. We sat in a classroom of Ken H____’s church before departing for home and the demeanor of each person was sober. They had seen the truth about their leaders and it made their hearts sick. They had come looking for a defense of God’s Truth by the men and women of John Knox Presbytery but the meeting ended with none.

With sorrow I write that, of all those who spoke that day, it was your sermon which most clearly illustrated to them that their presbytery was being led by false shepherds crying, “Peace, Peace!” where there was no peace and prophesying lies in God’s Name.

Certainly these are strong words. But are they true—judge for yourself.

The entire direction of the Sexuality Task Force Report was to call for the Church of Jesus Christ to approve of various forms of sexual immorality under the rubric of an ethical concept called ‘justice-love.’ Although many parts of that report were wicked, most would agree the part politicized to the greatest degree was where the report called for the blessing of sodomy. It was in the context of a discussion of the ordination of sodomites on the floor of a prior General Assembly that this Task Force was originally mandated and the key issue debated from the Task Force’s inception was whether or not the Presbyterian Church (USA) would accept or reject Scripture’s teaching on sodomy and whether or not sodomites would be accepted for ordination.

This then was also the context for our presbytery meeting that day and for your sermon in the middle of that presbytery meeting. As you preached the congregation sat there waiting to hear the Word from the Lord on this matter and you took as your text, Genesis 2:18-25. Then, as I remember it, you developed your sermon along three points. First, you said “This text is not about (gender).” Second, you said “This text is not about sexuality.” And third, you said “This text is about intimacy.” Having established the first two points, you opened up the third point at great length and illustrated violation of intimacy by speaking of a heterosexual marriage in which a husband was not communicative with his wife.

I could quibble with your choice of text but I won’t. I certainly would not just quibble, but oppose, you on your first two points but I don’t think that would be the best use of this letter. I do commend you on your third point which, by itself, was well put and biblical. I take issue, though, with the primary illustration of the violation of intimacy you used—namely, uncommunicative marriages. The most wicked violation of intimacy in human relationships is the legendary promiscuity of homosexual males in which the glorious gift of intimacy is degraded to the nth degree. Any objective student of this perversion will readily admit this, and if you were correct in choosing the violation of intimacy as the major theme of the text for us that day, you were not correct in neglecting that particular application.

Beyond the exegetical points, illustrations, and applications of your sermon, though, is this: on that day in that place faithfulness to God and His Word could only be demonstrated by exposing the rebellion against God and His Word of the Sexuality Task Force in its report. Yet this is precisely what you chose not to do.

To this day it is my conviction that your preaching then was a betrayal of your calling. You had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to glorify the Lord of Glory by defending His Church from the attack of the Evil One and you blew your trumpet uncertainly, at best, thereby deserting the battlefield at the very moment and place of Satan’s attack....

"If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battle-fields besides, is merely flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point."

I do not claim to be better than you, nor do I need God’s forgiveness and mercy less, my brother. There are many things in which I have been unfaithful in my ministry and I thank God for the women and men who have exhorted, corrected, and rebuked me for these things. With all believers, I rejoice in, and cling to, God’s mercy and forgiveness. My writing is from a sense of duty. It is doubtful anyone else remonstrated with you concerning this matter, and this task has been weighing on my conscience since the hour I sat under your preaching there in Dubuque.

As your brother in Christ then, I appeal to you to take these words to heart and examine yourself to see if they are true. If you believe I have spoken truth, please let me know to the end that I may rejoice with you in the forgiveness and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, commending you and your ministry to Him for His renewal and protection. May the Lord bless you and the people of "Tall Steeple" Presbyterian Church, leading you to glorify and enjoy Him forever.

Constrained by His authority,
Sincerely yours,

John Doe's response to the letter was not reassuring.

This is the context for I-V's recent promotion of sodomy in the Name of Jesus Christ here on the campus of Indiana University and the refusal of I-V's national leadership in Madison to correct that blasphemy. This failure is entirely in keeping with the man who served as the pastor to I-V's national leadership twenty years ago. He was carefully wrong at just the right moment, and feeding from his lips, I-V's national staff learned well how to be carefully wrong at just the right moment. When I left that presbytery for the PCA, at my final meeting I asked to speak to my fellow presbyters as a point of personal privilege and read this Scripture:

Declare this in the house of Jacob And proclaim it in Judah, saying, "Now hear this, O foolish and senseless people, Who have eyes but do not see; Who have ears but do not hear. Do you not fear Me?" declares the LORD. "Do you not tremble in My presence? For I have placed the sand as a boundary for the sea, An eternal decree, so it cannot cross over it. Though the waves toss, yet they cannot prevail; Though they roar, yet they cannot cross over it. But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart; They have turned aside and departed. They do not say in their heart, 'Let us now fear the LORD our God, Who gives rain in its season, Both the autumn rain and the spring rain, Who keeps for us The appointed weeks of the harvest.'

"Your iniquities have turned these away, And your sins have withheld good from you. For wicked men are found among My people, They watch like fowlers lying in wait; They set a trap, They catch men. Like a cage full of birds, So their houses are full of deceit; Therefore they have become great and rich. They are fat, they are sleek, They also excel in deeds of wickedness; They do not plead the cause, The cause of the orphan, that they may prosper; And they do not defend the rights of the poor. Shall I not punish these people?’ declares the LORD, ‘On a nation such as this Shall I not avenge Myself?

An appalling and horrible thing Has happened in the land: The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule on their own authority; And My people love it so! But what will you do at the end of it? - Jeremiah 5:20-31

Our churches' elders and pastors were in that presbytery meeting. Afterwards I remarked how surprised I was that the members of presbytery showed no hint of hostility at the reading of that passage. Since then I've wondered if any of them saw the Bible as anything other than the historical narrative of one people group's quest for transcendence?

Shortly after the Rev. Dr. (John Doe) assumed the tall-steeple pulpit of Madison and became the pastor of I-V's leaders, I-V's new president (also a member of John Knox Presbytery) went to New Haven to speak to some Yale students and, during his talk, he expressed concern over Evangelical "homophobia."

Both men carried Evangelical credentials, and now we see where I-V has ended up.

Dear brother and sister, over my lifetime, I've watched many souls destroyed by the preaching of men climbing the ladder of success who never met a wolf they didn't provide cover for within their sheepfold. What sort of a shepherd do you have your family under? Is he calling your teenage sons and daughters to grow in discernment or is he preaching as if there's no danger? Is his goal to die protecting you and the other souls of your church, or is his goal to jump ship each time a better opportunity comes?

Honestly, at this point in my life, I can't say how grateful I am to God for the successes He in His kindness has kept from me. It's almost impossible for a pastor with an earned doctorate (other than an Ed.D. or D.Min.) serving a wealthy city church filled with Evangelicals to be faithful to warn his flock house to house, day and night, with tears.

All this my meditation upon being forwarded an e-mail that John Doe has now assumed one of the highest positions within American Presbyterianism. He jumped from good ship to good ship as they came along, and now he need jump no more.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!