The condemnation of Grace Presbytery’s defrocking of Joe Rightmyer on Jan. 7 has been virtually uniform. Even those, like Jeff Gissing, who seem to “defend” the decision of the presbytery’s Permanent Judicial Commission, acknowledge that it is “another instance of placing procedural fidelity before theological fidelity.”
I question strongly the characterization of my article as in any way defending the Rightmyer verdict or the censure imposed by the Permanent Judicial Commission of Grace Presbytery.
The goal of my post was not to issue a polemic–that will come later–but instead to understand the decision:
In this post I simply try to make sense of the decision and what it means. My editorializing will be limited since it’s important first to note what actually happened and why before opining. You can read the Decision of the Permanent Judicial Commission of Grace Presbytery here.
In the article I pointed out that had the Chair of the Committee on Ministry note filed disciplinary charges against Rev. Rightmyer someone else would have and I further pointed out that neither Highland Park nor Rightmyer played by the rules as established in the presbytery’s gracious dismissal policy. This led me to conclude that there was a case to answer by Rev. Rightmyer. I didn’t offer an opinion as to the nature of the case or the nature of a censure. I simply stated that when a teaching elder and a church depart from the denomination in a manner that violates a mutually-agreed upon policy then there is–prima facie–a case to be answered:
Any member in good standing of presbytery may file disciplinary charges against another member of the presbytery. In this instance there is nothing that required Mr. Tickner to file charges but, realistically, if he hadn’t then some one else would have. And, in all honesty, there was a case to be answered in this instance. Some of may not like it, but it appears that there were serious procedural violations in the way in which the church left the PC(USA).
That’s not meant to be an indictment of Rightmyer. Rather, it is simply a statement of the facts as I understand them. In order to discuss important topics like this we must first understand what has happened and why. Only after so doing may we move toward arguments and conclusions about the appropriateness of an action. It’s an intellectual due diligence we evangelicals cannot afford to abandon.