Contending For Truth - Ligonier Ministries Lawsuit Scandal

Friday, August 11, 2006

Kevin Swanson and RC Sproul Jr Team Up to Offend Home Schoolers

Kevin SwansonAs a home school father I've attended with my family various book fairs and home school conferences, so it's inevitable that somewhere along the line we would have heard RC Sproul Jr speak. I'll have to admit that I liked what I heard. In fact I was really impressed by what Mr. Sproul shared. He seemed sincere. But my life experience has also taught me that talk is cheap and that there are many preachers that don't practice what they preach. That's certainly proven to be the case with RC Sproul Jr. If Sproul were a man that practiced what he preached he never would have managed to get himself defrocked.

In the time since Sproul's defrocking he's come up regularly as a topic of discussion in our local home school group as well as our church. We've had some lively discussions. Some families initially were very supportive of him and critical of the RPCGA for having defrocked him. Some believed that the CREC would "clear RC Sproul Jr's name." But it didn't work out that way. If Doug Wilson and the CREC weren't capable of clearing Sproul's name then no one ever will.

At this point everybody in our home school group has come to realize that RC Sproul Jr deserved being defrocked. Now our only remaining concern is when will Sproul get the hint and take up another line of work?

There remain a few Sproul diehards, men who are fiercely loyal, largely because they're close personal friends of Sproul. They're the kind of men who'll put personal friendship above principle. They're so loyal to Sproul that they'll even jeopardize the credibility of the Christian home school movement to defend their pal. Among them are Doug Wilson, Doug Phillips and Kevin Swanson.

It's taken a number of years and a lot of hard work for home schoolers to establish credibility. That credibility was earned long before lads like Sproul and Phillips and Swanson arrived on the scene to mass market their wares. The old-timer home school leaders didn't home school to make a buck. Some of today's home school leaders smell a buck and are cashing in. With that kind of leadership there's just bound to be compromising.

The last thing the home schooling community needs is compromised men lousing things up for us. It's not just RC Sproul Jr who's lousing up the credibility of home schoolers everywhere. By stubbornly and obstinately (and blindly) supporting the defrocked Sproul, Doug Wilson, Doug Phillips and Kevin Swanson are also lousing up our credibility as home schoolers.

On February 23 I emailed Kevin Swanson, who's the director of the Christian Home Educators of Colorado (CHEC), over my concerns that CHEC had a defrocked minister listed as their keynote speaker for their big summer conference. Given that almost a month had passed since RC Sproul Jr's defrocking on January 26 it seemed to me that they'd had plenty of time to get the news and decide whether or not they were going to keep him on the roster. I wanted to know what their plans were, and I wasn't the only one. Everyone in our home school group wanted to know too:

Pastor Swanson,

I write to you because of our common interest and support of home schooling, and for maintaining the purity and peace of the church. Our rather large family is grateful to you and CHEC for the what you represent and the work you do. We're starting to have some successes in our own little church with convincing other families of the importance of home education, but it hasn't been easy to break through the ingrained statist traditions.

Now we've run into a snag, and I'm sad to say that the public impression you and your organization are making is part of our problem. It's been brought to our attention that you are hosting a home school conference, as well as a family conference, that RC Sproul, Jr. is also a speaker at. Since you're probably acquainted with Mr. Sproul, Jr. I need not point out to you that he was recently deposed from office by his Presbyterian denomination, the RPCGA.

We are Reformed and would probably be in a Presbyterian church, if there were any good ones around us. We have high regard for Presbyterian government, and so do most Presbyterians. It's not a minor thing for a Presbyterian denomination to defrock one of their own Elders, and as I understand it the charges against him were grievous in nature.

Just as troubling is the fact that Mr. Sproul, Jr. appears to be functioning in open rebellion to the denomination that stripped him of his ordination by continuing to serve as "Elder," merely by the majority vote of his own congregation. Even though we're not Presbyterians ourselves, we know better than that, and certainly Mr. Sproul Jr knows better too. As a Presbyterian minister yourself I'm sure you're well aware that Mr. Sproul Jr has no authority to call himself a "pastor." Why then are you advertising him as "a pastor of Saint Peter Presbyterian Church in Southwest Virginia" for your Renewing the Family Conference?

What we can't comprehend is why are you having a defrocked man speak at your conferences at all? How can you do such a thing? We don't know if you're asking Mr. Sproul Jr to speak at your conferences merely because you're friends, but if that's the case you should know better than to allow your personal friendships to trump your own principles.

It's impossible for me to explain what you're doing to our friends at church, including to those who have expressed an interest in home schooling and are now checking it out, to our homeschool group, and the incredible confusion you're causing us. None of us can figure it out. It looks bad because it is bad, and it's made worse by the fact that you haven't made any public statements on your blog, or anywhere else that we've seen.

Perhaps you haven't bothered to read the public documents on the defrocking of RC Sproul, Jr. Perhaps you believe by neglecting to do so you can avoid having to make a determination about what your moral obligations are. If that's so then I'm even more disillusioned and disappointed, because that would be a matter of willful ignorance.

This isn't a minor issue. It's a matter of being consistent with what you publicly state about the values you claim to hold dear. I'd really like to know what you're thinking about all this. Please do respond at your earliest convenience.


Yours in Christ Jesus,

Frank Vance

To his credit Mr. Swanson did respond:
Dear Frank,

We too are concerned about RC Jr, and the situation relating to the RPCGA...

Here are several notes to be made, and lessons we have learned thus far from this sad situation.

1. We solicited RC's participation and advertised his participation in our events prior to knowing anything whatsoever about any "trouble in River City."

2. We do not require a man to be a pastor to be a speaker for our events.

3. I trust you have called R.C. Jr., and you have been in contact with the Presbytery of the RPCGA handling this over the last week or two, and you know that he has been "deposed without sanctions." Our OPC Book of Church Order indicates this as a legitimate way to remove a man from office. This is done for "reasons other than delinquency in faith or life." Please reference F.O.G. XXVI.2, 3

4. We have learned to never trust the ever-present bloggers with agendas. The "Flesh" is horrifically present on the web and pours out like a sewer into the minds and hearts of thousands (especially within the reformed world).

5. Presently, we are in a bit of holding pattern, as we are concerned about the way conflicts are handled in the reformed world, and the presence of flesh everywhere we look. We are studying the case, and whereas we cannot try the case in a formal judicial setting, we hope to gain some wisdom as to how we can arrange a future relationship with RC Jr.

In short, our session of elders are grieved.

I do thank you for taking the time to communicate with us and I wish God's blessing on your family.


Sincerely,
Kevin Swanson


Dear Pastor Swanson,

Thank you sir for your prompt and gracious reply. This is indeed a very sad situation.

I quite agree with your analysis of various blog commentary. Yes, there's a lot of derogatory things I've seen as well. But I'm equally concerned about the propensity of some to want to just sweep it all under the carpet.

I'm equally concerned about the issue of homeschool groups and others hosting a newly defrocked minister for speaking engagements. I think it sends the wrong message, a stamp of approval if you will. It's also causing a lot of people a lot of confusion. We can't help but look to pastors as moral leaders, and when our moral leaders fail to act decisively and consistently with the judgment of a Presbyterian denomination that, for the most part, appears to be widely respected, it can't helped but cause a lot of disillusionment.

Being deposed as an Elder is no minor thing, irrespective of whether or not it was done "without sanctions," as you say. Before you draw conclusions about that though I'd recommend you study the RPCGA's BCO, as have I. I don't think you'll find similar language in there. They seem to treat deposing itself as a very serious "sanction," about as serious a sanction as it gets for a minister.

In trying to sort this all out (which is one reason I went to all the trouble of reading the BCO) I've tried to stay away from the blogs and rely instead on the RPCGA's own official documents. The only place I've found them thus far is at http://hushmoney.org/RC_Sproul_Jr-defrocking-docs.htm

If you haven't reviewed them I would urge you to do so.

Thank you Pastor Swanson for demonstrating that you are indeed concerned over this matter, as are we. You and your church will be in our prayers, as we know that you have some very difficult decisions to make.

Thank you for having taken the time out of your busy schedule to speak with me.

Frank

It turns out that I was completely wrong to have thanked Kevin Swanson for "demonstrating that you are indeed concerned over this matter, as are we."

In the end my concerns, and the concerns he heard from others as well, didn't in any way serve to dissuade Kevin Swanson. He and his CHEC board of directors went forward with their decision to have RC Sproul Jr speak at their Denver home schooling convention. Swanson's friendship with RC Sproul Jr is more important to Kevin Swanson than maintaining the integrity and reputation of Christian home schooling.

I've heard several reports that numerous CHEC members are very displeased with their board of directors, and in particular with Kevin Swanson. Swanson should think seriously about stepping down as director for CHEC.

There's another chapter to this story, but I'll save that for another day.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Ian Hardie said...

RC Sproul Jr, Doug Phillips and Kevin Swanson are all admired in Christian home schooling circles, but they're only admired for what they say. If Christian home schoolers had any idea how these guys live their private lives and how they govern their churches they'd be horrified.

Take Doug Phillips for example. He's got some excellent things to say. Doug is also a very effective marketer. One of the things he loves to market is "honor." Honor sells and it sells big. But all of Doug's talk about honor is cheap, so let's talk real-life application, shall we? Honor is easy to theorize and discuss when everything's going fine for us and for our friends and family and our pastor. The real test of honor is when we or they are being disciplined, or even being persecuted. Do we humbly submit, or do we grouse and retaliate? It's one thing to defend ourselves, our friends and family or our pastor when they've been unjustly condemned. Even still, honor demands that we do so in light of the 5th commandment, particularly when we're having to deal with those in authority over us. But what if we or they haven't been unjustly condemned? Then we'd better be especially guarded in what we say.

I'm troubled by how Doug Phillips, Doug Wilson and others have acted in the RC Sproul Jr defrocking, and I'm troubled by what others of RC's pastor friends have said and done. Their example is deplorable. They call it “honor” but it is no such thing. While they point the accusatory finger at those who refuse to “honor” the great, now defrocked, RC Sproul Jr, they've completely ignored the fact that Sproul and his session have slandered the RPCGA (talk about dishonoring). They started in slandering within hours after they'd been defrocked and they've continued slandering and telling blatant falsehoods. Given how dishonorable their conduct has been how can they expect to be honored in return? Indeed, by the very example they have set they should only expect to be dishonored.

Moreover, given that they've been lawfully defrocked they're not ordained ministers/pastors/shepherds/overseers anyway. What authority do they have? None! Their ecclesiastical authority has been stripped from them. The only people that they presently have any authority over is their own wives and children. Biblically they don't warrant receiving any more honor than any layman does.

The message that Sproul and Phillips and Swanson and Wilson have been sending is that it's a violation of the 5th commandment to ever say anything negative about Sproul (even if it's just to repeat what's already been stated in the public documents such as the RPCGA's Declaratory Judgment) but it's perfectly acceptable for Sproul and his fellow defrocked elders to slander the RPCGA. Some might buy that, but I don't. I think that's nothing but hypocrisy.

Writing such a fine article on honor doesn't mitigate Doug Phillips' hypocrisy, it only magnifies it.

8/12/2006 10:15:00 AM  
Anonymous nathan said...

Mr. Vance,

Contrary to those you castigate, I would humbly submit that it is those such as yourself who represent the most serious risk to the credibility of the homeschool movement in this country. Your grievances, argued irrationally, has become to look obsessive and more like a witch-hunt. The logical fallacies fly on your site. If I was a secularist looking for a reason to marginalize the social viability of the homeschool subculture, all my material could come from your blog.

From what I've read, it appears you hold no church officer position. Perhaps I missed something. Nor does it appear you have any personal relationship with the particular church court involved in these matters. Yet you continue to spew your vitriol on anyone willing to read. No idle word will be left unjudged. That terrifies me when I will have to stand before an omniscient, holy God.

With all Christian charity and brotherly kindness, I humbly ask you to please discontinue this blog. I believe your tone and the way in which you have prosecuted this "case" besmirches the name of Christ and His bride.

Speaking generally, this was never your business to begin with. Scripture and the subordinate Westminster Standards forbid involving yourself in a matter not your own. Speaking personally, and frankly, it embarrasses me that I find myself numbered in the same homeschool movement as you.

If God grants you sincere repentance, I'm sure you will delete all of vancetribe.blogspot.com.

Lest you think I am friends or an associate of one of the people named on your site, I assure that I am not. Merely an interested third party. Therefore you may dismiss my words. What you may not dismiss is the ring of truth in them.

I am a fallen, fallible man as well. God knows my own heart better than I. The need for much grace and much repentance and forgiveness pervades my life. Praise God for Christ our Savior who alone provides the righteousness we lack. As best as I can discern my motives, I am speaking out of concern for Christ, His Church, you and your soul, Christian homeschooling families, and ecclesiastical health across the pan-Reformed world.

Have a good Lord's day tomorrow.

Sincerely and warmly in Christ,
nathan

8/12/2006 09:10:00 PM  
Blogger Frank Vance said...

I received an email from Mr. Dennis Cochran. Mr. Cochran informs me that he too had corresponded with CHEC. He posted his correspondence in April and you can find it at A Tale Of Two Letters.

Mr. Cochran has the distinction of having survived a tragic ordeal with RC Sproul Jr and Laurence Windham at Saint Peter Presbyterian Church. Dennis was one of several Saint Peter folks that found himself on the receiving end of Sproul and Windham's tyrannies. For more on that see RC Sproul Jr's Bizaare Pastoral Style. After reading Dennis' tragic Saint Peter saga I began to realize that Sproul and Windham aren't just cultish tyrants, they must also be two of the biggest morons that have ever lived. The RPCGA deserves our thanks and gratitude for giving the boot to such reckless egomaniacs.

8/15/2006 08:28:00 AM  
Blogger Frank Vance said...

Thanks Nathan for taking the time to express your concerns. It sounds like you're at least attempting to make a sincere effort. Regardless I think you're sincerely wrong, including your straw man argument about holding a church office. Even if I weren't a church officer what would your point be about that? Since when does a Christian have to hold a church office before being permitted to hold a church officer (Kevin Swanson) and a defrocked non-church officer (RC Sproul Jr) accountable for their duplicities? It's also not for you decide that "it's not any of your business." It is my business just as it's the business of any other home school family that's concerned that the good name of Christian home schooling doesn't get discredited by duplicitous home school leaders like Sproul and Swanson. Speaking of "it's none of your business" what business is it of yours to tell me that it's not my business? Your logic is a falacy Nathan. Furthermore the very thing that you accuse me of being guilty of you're committing yourself.

Again Nathan you're entitled to your opinions, and you're entitled to be wrong.

8/20/2006 04:47:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Frank,

Just a short note regarding Nathan's comment, as it would appear we are on the verge of abrogating the Presbyterian form of church polity and accountability via the actions of the “unaccountable independents” and their willing and unwitting collaborators. It is important to note that I Corinthians 6:4b states that we are to “set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.” Church officer? Frank, you identified Nathan’s argument for what it is – a straw man.

9/20/2006 06:08:00 PM  
Blogger Mike A. said...

Frank,

I completely agree with your assesment of Kevin Swanson's, Doug Phillips', and Doug Wilson's overlooking RC Jrs defrocking. It hurts to say that because I respect and learn much from these home school leaders. I just recently heard Kevin Swanson speak at a conference. I wish I knew CHEC allowed RC Jr to speak at their conference because I certainly would have addressed this issue with him, as I spoke with him afterward. As far as RC Jr is concerned, I have one of his books, listened to several messages, and respected him as a home school leader, but the Bible calls me to treat him as an unbeliever.

I respect you CONVICTIONS Frank.

Nathan is just plain wrong.

9/20/2006 10:42:00 PM  
Anonymous ReformedCalvinist said...

Following the discussion on the lack of qualification for church office demonstrated in the life of RC Jr, I find one crucial element missing. Oh, it sometimes comes up in the discussion, but doesn't hold the prominence I feel it deserves. And by his own testimony, it's a fault of long standing in his life; it should have kept him from ever being ordained in the first place.

There is a verse in the Bible that gives a qualification for being an elder, and by all acounts RC Jr doesn't meet it--and hasn't since he was 13 years old.

Why the silence? Is this an epidemic in the Reformed movement?

The verse of which I speak is 1 Timothy 3:3a.

9/30/2006 01:18:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home