An Open Letter From (a) Nobody

Updated: Jul 9, 2021

June 25, 2021

Dear Tim,

We have known each other for 20 years, though I am far from one of your intimates. Either of us could drop an interesting anecdote on the other. Mutual affection more than prudence would provide the needed discretion. When I thought of writing this Open Letter, I knew that I could first communicate usefully with you. I appreciate the conversation and correction. I do invite you to post this reply on your blog. I don’t have a platform. It’s an open letter from (a) nobody.

I reply to your “Homosexuality in the PCA” piece. As usual, you are thorough and able. While you commend a wholesome pride in our denomination and thankfulness for faithful SSA Christians-- the enumerated points of your conclusion prevent me from assenting. You commend the pending AIC report on Sexuality. Pious advice does not come with traction, and that is why your other two concluding points carry -- or fail to carry-- the whole.

“We have confessionals standards that . . . are being adhered to . . .”

“We have robust church courts that are doing their job.”

The broad claim of confessional rings rather hollow to me, and in turn that chaffs the claim about well operating courts. And, that leaves Revoice on stage alone.

I have taken an interest in your work for years. I have watched you cultivate the garden. In an early post on your site "What Is Advent, And Why Should I Celebrate it?" you articulate your view of the Christian Year. The holidays of our host culture need to be countered (or perhaps better, transcended); moreover, you assert that sanctification is profoundly hindered without such use of the calendar. Your other writing about the Christian Year richly blossoms from that seed. Pastorally, you’re all in on the Christian Year. My dearest friend in the world agrees with you, and I am how he received your Advent materials. I love him, and I disagree with him. I learn from him, and he has helped me keep my vows at a cost. He’s 39 Articles, not Westminster.

Here is how you orient the Christian year by contrast with the civil calendar:

I’m not against having a civil calendar, but we are being completely naive if we think that this worldly calendar doesn’t need to have the necessary counterbalance that the church calendar provides us. The civil calendar teaches us to honor and remember, but it also breeds in us a nationalistic zeal that makes us myopic with regard to the world around us. We have to understand that if we shun the church calendar, the only calendar we will have is the civil calendar, and it will be the only annual rhythmic influence on our lives and on our children’s lives.

Here are the stakes you assert are on the table by shunning the Christian year:

We need this counter-formation. We as Christians cannot keep our heads in the sand and pretend that we don’t need a Christian calendar to provide balance to the worldly calendars all around us. If we do not offer a counter-formation to the liturgies of the world, then we as the church will be producing disciples that are no different from those in the world around us. We will be self-centered, greedy, entertainment hungry, individualistic, sex crazed, bloodthirsty robots. And isn’t this who we are already? Aren’t these the kinds of disciples our churches are already churning out? Is this what we want to be like? What we want our children to be like?

It is one thing to speak of the Christian Year as adiaphora, though our standards do not. You advocate for the Christian year as a tool and a necessary tool for sanctification. By the contrast to our Standards, I think that should be considered harmful to religion, even if it does not also impinge on the fundamental articles. Right or wrong about the Christian year, the issue at hand is Confessional submission and Ecclesiastical Court oversight. I am puzzled about your own confessional stance. I am perplexed that the Missouri Presbytery granted this exception or the theological views that cohere with it. I don’t know a lot of folks in the PCA. I know you. This looks smudgey. It does not resemble the weight bearing claims of your post.

The Rejoice HubBUB is a creature of Missouri Presbytery's oversight for a TE and a Session. There has been a lot of ink and a lot of stink, and it's hard to get details straight from my corner. TE Johnson has said some clunkers-- I've heard those, and listened a few times and again to puzzle on them. I don't have the context, but in any context they would resound. Memorial Presbyterian Church has-- from a distance and with a lot of respect for that fact-- not appeared to be more than oops-and-shoot. Again, I can't get to the context reliably and don't think that my gander means a lot. Missouri Presbytery has been johnny-on-the-spot and put in the precis and table of contents worth of work.

Can you understand how my glimpse of you over the years makes me less than confident in Missouri Presbytery’s oversight? Can you recognize why claims from you about confessional adherence sound less than plausible to me?

I am not the most informed about the PCA. I have a cheap seat up by the A/C ducts. It gives a better view of the fans than the court. My general impression is that our confessional submission is neither careful nor ambitious. I do consider that ill-hued for the church in the next generation. I fear we should expect even now the consequences of intellectual hubris. The example of your views and your Presbytery's oversight has been the catalyst for my distress with the recent flurry of public praises for the PCA's confessional integrity and robusterynessitude.

I really don’t know if duplicity or naivety would be more distressing. The confident trumpet doesn’t fit with the smudgery which I can see from the nosebleed seats. Most of those aren’t my circus, and I may be a coward in my own ring; but you and I are monkeys who had the same fleas at one point.

You have my admiration and affection. I give you also my frank reply to your public assertions. I believe that your advocacy for a diminishment of concern is an example of why we should generally be more concerned about our future and more doubtful about our wholesomeness. I suspect that others could write a very similar letter to similar friends.

Benjamin T. Inman

Ass. Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Eastern Carolina Presbytery.