Indictment of the PCA Standing Judicial Commission | Exhibit 24


The Member Vows for the Standing Judicial Commission are provided in the Operating Manual for Standing Judicial Commission, annexed to the PCA Book of Church Order, year after year. Every teaching elder and ruling elder elected to the SJC must sign this contract. Yet, has amassed a preponderance of evidence that would seem to indicate a deleterious disjunction between what the SJC members profess in their vows and what they actually do.

Acts 24:22-26
On two separate occasions Paul appeared before Felix. Both times Felix put off dealing with Paul and his message. As a political leader Felix demonstrated distorted priorities, a mistake that may have had eternal consequences. …
Acts 17:10-12
The Bereans possessed ‘noble character’ because they examined the Scriptures to make sure that what Paul had taught them was true. Note that Paul wasn’t threatened by their investigation. Effective leaders have the wisdom to know that truth will only be validated by scrutiny. …
Joel 1:1-3:21
Where are the leaders when you need them? Joel refers to elders, priests, drunkards, farmers and the young in this short book. But throughout all the turmoil and devastation he describes, the prophet never once mentions leaders or kings as even possible sources of help. A leader who is an irrelevant presence is worse than no leader at all. …
Amos 5:7-17
Notice how God condemned injustice and encouraged equitable treatment for all people. The leader who allows – or worse, practices – injustice within his or her sphere of influence violates a principle that God holds dear. Read this passage carefully and consider its application to your leadership environment.” 

Handbook to Leadership: Leadership in the Image of God, Kenneth Boa, Sid Buzzell and Bill Perkins, pp. 567, 583, 635, 662

02/06/2024: The Office of the Stated Clerk publishes the minutes of the June 2023 General Assembly. The Standing Judicial Commission report enumerates 24 cases heard during the most recent term, with 12 dismissed as “administratively out of order” (including Benyola’s four concatenated cases — SJC 2022-09,-17,-18,-19 — eventually necessitating the pursuit of a Rules of Assembly Operations 17-1 “exception” taken by the Committee on Constitutional Business.).
This most recent dismissal figure of 50 percent of all cases arising from the lower courts of the denomination in a single term completes a statistical analysis of dismissed cases during the SJC’s entire existence since it was formed at the 1989 GA. The findings, all from public records:
1) During the first 13 years of the SJC, cases were never reported dismissed as “administratively out of order.” This means that either the SJC used to hear every case it received during those early years, or else it was dismissing cases without reporting as such to the General Assembly.
2) Beginning in 2003 and culminating in 2023, the SJC had a 27.95-percent average number of cases it dismissed from its total caseloads, and a fluctuating increase from zero percent to 50 percent in dismissals. In the earlier years of the period in question, the “dismissals” were described as “administratively out of order,” “judicially out of order,” “moot,” or “dismissed.” Also during those years, there was no dramatic increase in the number of cases arising to the SJC from lower courts; there is no apparent correlation between caseload and cases actually adjudicated. This produces many questions about why the dismissals are increasing over the years. For example, although the denomination has grown in population of communing members, are more cases being dismissed because Church members are increasingly ignorant of the constitutional process, requirements and judicial precedence? Or is it more likely the SJC has gradually become more incompetent, political, irresponsible, lazy, or some combination of these? 

In its Report (Appendix O), the Committee on Constitutional Business takes exception to a violation of the Standing Judicial Commission: 

VI. Minutes of the Standing Judicial Commission
The CCB examined the minutes of Standing Judicial Commission on October 20-21, 2022. The minutes were found to be in order with one exception: page 3, lines 1-10 because the SJC did not comply with OMSJC 16-1.a when they appointed a committee to ‘examine the BCO 34-1 requests … to determine whether they present a state of affairs that requires the SJC to act under BCO 34-1 and OMSJC 16.1.’”

In its Supplemental Report (Appendix T), “SJC Response to Committee on Constitutional Business,” the SJC posits, 

“While not required, the Standing Judicial Commission (SJC) offers this response to the Committee on Constitutional Business (CCB) exception noted for the SJC’s October 20-21, 2022 minutes. … The process employed by the SJC in this matter in its October 2022 meeting did not violate the intention or direction of any provision of the BCO or the Operating Manual of the SJC. It allowed the SJC to gather information warranted to determine a prudent course of action in considering events and actions which were anticipated but had not yet occurred.” 

Notwithstanding the Standing Judicial Commission’s preemptive rebuttal and wonted deflections at any semblance of external accountability, does the Committee on Constitutional Business’s exceptions to the SJC’s alleged violations actually indicate the possibility that the Church’s highest tribunal is not impervious to error — as the SJC would have the entire denomination believe? 

(Minutes of the Fiftieth General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America, pp. 454-460, 775-962)

PCA Standing Judicial Commission's Dismissal Statistics
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“And the king said, ‘Let him dwell apart in his own house; he is not to come into my presence.’ So Absalom lived apart in his own house and did not come into the king’s presence. …
So Absalom lived two full years in Jerusalem, without coming into the king’s presence. Then Absalom sent for Joab, to send him to the king, but Joab would not come to him. And he sent a second time, but Joab would not come. Then he said to his servants, ‘See, Joab’s field is next to mine, and he has barley there; go and set it on fire.’ So Absalom’s servants set the field on fire. Then Joab arose and went to Absalom at his house and said to him, ‘Why have your servants set my field on fire?’ Absalom answered Joab, ‘Behold, I sent word to you, ‘Come here, that I may send you to the king, to ask, ‘Why have I come from Geshur? It would be better for me to be there still.’’ Now therefore let me go into the presence of the king, and if there is guilt in me, let him put me to death.’’ Then Joab went to the king and told him, and he summoned Absalom. So he came to the king and bowed himself on his face to the ground before the king, and the king kissed Absalom.” 

— II Samuel 14:24, 28-33 

“Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” 

— Genesis 18:25

“For a majority of the people, many of them from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet they ate the Passover otherwise than as prescribed. For Hezekiah had prayed for them, saying, ‘May the good LORD pardon everyone who sets his heart to seek God, the LORD, the God of his fathers, even though not according to the sanctuary’s rules of cleanness.’ And the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people.” 

— II Chronicles 30:18-20 

“And the LORD said to him, ‘Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.’” 

— Ezekiel 9:4 

“Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” 

— I Corinthians 5:6-8

The Cambridge Platform
Chapter XIV. Of excommunication, and other censures.
“8. The suffering of profane or scandalous livers to continue in fellowship, and partake in the sacraments, is doubtless a great sin in those that have power in their hands to redress it, and do it not. Nevertheless, inasmuch as Christ and his apostles in their times, and the prophets and other godly in theirs, did lawfully partake of the Lord’s commanded ordinances in the Jewish church, and neither taught nor practiced separation from the same, though unworthy ones were permitted therein; and inasmuch as the faithful in the church of Corinth, wherein were many unworthy persons and practices, are never commanded to absent themselves from the sacraments, because of the same; therefore the godly in like cases are not presently to separate.
[Revelation 2:14,15,20, Matthew 23:3, Acts 3:1, 1 Cor. 6, 15:12]
9. As separation from such a church wherein profane and scandalous livers are tolerated, is not presently necessary; so for the members thereof, otherwise unworthy, hereupon to abstain from communicating with such a church in the participation of the sacraments, is unlawful. For as it were unreasonable for an innocent person to be punished for the faults of others, wherein he has no hand, and whereunto he gave no consent; so it is more unreasonable that a godly man should neglect duty, and punish himself; in not coming for his portion in the blessing of the seals, as he ought, because others are suffered to come that ought not. Especially considering that himself doth neither consent to their sin, nor to their approaching to the ordinances in their sin, nor to the neglect of others, who should put them away, and do not: but, on the contrary, heartily mourns for these things, modestly and seasonably stir up others to do their duty. If the church cannot be reformed, they may use their liberty, as is specified. But this all the godly are bound unto, even everyone to do his endeavor, according to his power and place, that the unworthy may be duly proceeded against by the church, to whom this matter does pertain.
[2 Chronicles 30:18, Genesis 18:25, Ezekiel 9:4]” 

“Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” 

— Luke 17:3-4 

“And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’’ And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” 

— Luke 18:1-8

Part II. Power of the Church
Chapter II. The Rule or Law of Church Power
“III. In what light are the office-bearers of the Church to be regarded, in accordance with the doctrine that the Bible, and the Bible only, is the rule of Church power?
The answer to this question is equally plain and obvious as in the former case. They are ministerial and subordinate, having no authority or discretion of their own, and being merely ministers or servants to carry out the will and execute the appointments of Christ. They are not masters to do their own will, or act at their own discretion, but servants, held bound to submit to the will and carry out the instructions of another. There is a magisterial and supreme authority in the Church; and there is a derived and subordinate authority, accountable to the former. The one belongs to Christ as Head of His Church, the only law or limit of His authority being His own will; the other belongs to the Church, or the office-bearers of the Church, the law or limit of their authority being the power intrusted to them by their Master, and the instructions given to them by Him. In reference to the office-bearers of the Church, of whatsoever place or authority in it, they, if they keep within their office, are but the instruments in the hands of Christ Himself, acting in His name, ruling by His authority, and carrying into effect no more than His instructions. It is true here, as in other respects, that ‘the disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.’ Their office is wholly ministerial; their authority is wholly derived and subordinate. They are not ‘lords over God’s heritage,’ licensed to act according to their discretion or caprice, and independently of any authority but their own. They are not free to administer word, or ordinance, or authority, as from themselves, and independently of the Head that is over them. In all their duties and functions they act only for Christ, and therefore must keep within the strict limits of His commission. The rights and privileges of Christ’s Church are protected from the caprice and arbitrary encroachment of the office-bearers, by the restraint of Christ’s express authority over them; and underneath His crown, and sheltered by it, is found the liberty wherewith Christ has made his people free. The functions of the office-bearers of the Church are ministerial, not lordly.
IV. In what light are the decisions of the Church or its Courts to be regarded, in consistency with the great principle that the Bible, and the Bible only, is the rule of Church power?
We have seen that the laws of the Church, in so far as they can be regarded as valid, are declaratory and not enactive. We have seen that the function of the office-bearers of the Church is ministerial, and not lordly. And now, when the office-bearers, in the lawful administration of their office, proceed to apply the laws of Christ to any particular case, as the circumstances or emergency may demand, and when, acting not for themselves, but for Christ, they pronounce a judicial decision,—in what light is that judgment to be regarded, and to what extent, and in what manner, is it binding upon the conscience? Here, too, the answer is not far to seek or difficult to find, determined as it must be by a reference to the great and fundamental principle that the mind of Christ, revealed and expressed in the Bible, is both the rule and the limit of Church power. If the judgment or decision pronounced in the lawful exercise of their authority by the Church or its office-bearers be in accordance with the principles of the Word of God, that decision was before pronounced in heaven; and it is both valid and binding upon the conscience, not only because it is consistent with God’s Word, but also because it is a decision lawfully pronounced by a lawful tribunal appointed by Christ for the purpose. ‘Verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’ (Matt. 18:15-18) But, on the contrary, if the judgment pronounced by the Church or its office-bearers, although in the lawful exercise of their office, be itself unlawful, if it be inconsistent with the mind of Christ as expressed in His Word, then the decision is itself invalid, and the authority by which it was pronounced does not make it binding on the conscience. No judgment of any Church whatsoever can bind the conscience, except in so far as, and no further than, it is grounded upon the Word of God. And in the case of the last resort, when remonstrance and argument and persuasion have failed to induce the Church to reconsider or reverse its own decision, as incompetently or invalidly given, there is yet one remedy, and an ultimate one, reserved to the member against whom the decision is pronounced: he may transfer the case for judgment to a higher tribunal, and for relief and freedom to his own conscience may take appeal from the act of the Church of Christ on earth to the judgment of Christ Himself in heaven. Under the solemn protection of an appeal so taken, his conscience shall be free, and the sin shall not be on him, but on his judges. The acts of the Church are binding and valid only in so far as they are ratified by Christ, and in accordance with His Word.” 

The Church of Christ, James Bannerman, pp. 229-231 

Chapter 4. Courts of the church. 

Section 2. Of the church session. 

160. How are matters to be brought up before the session for its judgment upon them?
Either by an elder, or by any member of the church presenting a memorial, or bringing a complaint, or making charges.
161. Is there any appeal from the judgment of the session, by a party supposing himself aggrieved?
Yes; there is an appeal from the session to the presbytery.
(Acts 15:6, Matthew 18:15-20, I Corinthians 14:33) 

Section 6. Of the Presbytery concluded. 

185. Is there any appeal from the decision of the presbytery?
Yes; an appeal can be taken from the decision of the presbytery to the synod. 

Section 8. Of the synod.

193. Is there any appeal from the judgment of the synod?
Yes; there is an appeal to the general assembly, the greatest and highest court of the church. 

Chapter 5. Power of the church 

Section 7. Of admission to, and exclusion from, the church. 

277. Are the rulers of the church deeply responsible for the right exercise of discipline?
They who hold office by appointment from Christ, whose faithfulness will be followed by so many and great blessings, whose negligence must be the source of such deep and lasting injuries to the church, dishonor to Christ, and evil to sinners; should feel themselves under a most solemn responsibility in this matter, and must expect to be called to a most strict account at the day of judgment, for the part which they act in relation to it. 

Chapter 7. Relation of the Presbyterian Church to other denominations and to the world. 

Section 5. The advantages and claims of the Presbyterian church. 

326. Name some of the further advantages possessed by members of the Presbyterian church?
They possess the right of choosing their own pastors and elders; they are neither subject to the spiritual despotism of a priesthood, nor to anarchy and misrule; they can bring any matter, — whether it be unfaithfulness in ministers or elders, or in the other officers and members of the church, or errors in doctrine, — before the church courts, composed of an equal proportion of clergymen and of representatives of the people, chosen by themselves, for investigation and decision; and they have the privilege and power, when their rights as citizens of Zion are assailed, of appealing from one church court to another. 

“But the truth of the matter is that the church which fails to exercise discipline is sure to lose both its self-respect and the respect of those without. Strange though it may seem, the world today despises the church precisely because the church is so worldly, and the members of the church by and large take no pride in their membership because it carries with it no distinction. On the other hand, the faithful exercise of discipline is sure to enhance the church’s glory. In other words, the proper exercise of ecclesiastical discipline is decidedly salutary. It will contribute greatly to the church’s health.” 

— R.B. Kuiper, Professor of Systematic Theology, Westminster Theological Seminary Philadelphia 

“Ecclesiastical action can never, indeed, destroy vital Christianity from human hearts. …
Vital Christianity never will be crushed out of the world by action of church legislatures or courts. The gospel of Christ is still enshrined, even in these sad, cold days, in the hearts of men.
But though vital Christianity cannot be destroyed by ecclesiastical action, it may be driven out of the Presbyterian church; Christian people are trying vainly to keep the waters sweet when the fountain is corrupt. It will be a sad day if Presbyterianism in America falls into such a condition as that. …
But possibly the leaders may come to see, on sober second thought, that even from their point of view the end is being attained at too great a cost, that in running roughshod over the principles of liberty in the church they are really harming their own cause, that theological pacifism will hardly prosper in the long run if it is stained with crime.” 

— J. Gresham Machen, “The Attack upon Princeton Seminary: A Plea for Fair Play,” 1927 

“The ecclesiastical machinery seems to have done its work well. …
It is evident that any consistent Christian man will count it a disgrace to be acquitted on any doctrinal issue by such a court, and an honor to be condemned. But the composition of the court shows that the corporate life of the Presbyterian church is corrupt at the very core, and that until the sin of the church is honestly faced and removed, all the great swelling words about the church’s work and all the bustle of its organizational activities can avail but little in the sight of God.” 

— J. Gresham Machen, “The Truth about the Presbyterian Church,” Christianity Today, November 1931, December 1931, January 1932 

“The more you ignore me
The closer I get. …
I bear more grudges
Than lonely high court judges.” 

— Steven Patrick Morrissey, 1994