Commission Rules in Mississippi Valley Charismatic Case

A special judicial commission of the General Assembly voted unanimously to sustain, in part, a complaint brought by three ministers of Mississippi Valley Presbytery. The complaint had been filed against the approval for ordination of a man who claimed a special prayer language and proclaimed himself to be in favor of non-canonical prophecy.

The Landrum, et al v. Mississippi Valley Presbytery Case was heard by a special judicial commission after the 1997 Assembly, for the first time, voted down the judgment of its Standing Judicial Commission (SJC) in a judicial matter. Among the apparent concerns of the commissioners in Colorado Springs which led to the rejection of the SJC judgment was the fact that the Constitutional Business Committee recommended that both parts of the judgment be turned down.

The judgment reached by the special judicial commission in Atlanta does not disallow the man complained against, Mr. Jim Blaha, from continuing as a PCA minister. But it does declare that his views on prophecy, which are similar to those of Dr. Wayne Grudem, Professor at Trinity International University, are out of accord with the Standards of the church and must not be taught.

With regard to the private prayer language Mr. Blaha claims to experience, the commission did not rule that his views are necessarily out of accord with the Westminster Confession of Faith. The commission specifically did not take this opportunity to declare that the Westminster Confession is a "cessationist" document with regard to all revelatory gifts.

In all previous cases in which complaints were made against ordaining men with views favorable to the charismatic movement, the General Assembly has sustained the complaints.

The Landrum case has lasted over two years from when complaint was first filed in October 1995. Mississippi Valley Presbytery had voted, 48-24, to approve Mr. Blaha's ordination exam. Just before he was ordained and installed as Pastor of Edwards (MS) Presbyterian Church, a called meeting of Presbytery was held in November to deal with the complaint. Presbytery denied the complaint by an identical vote (48-24) as it had approved Mr. Blaha's exam. The complaint was then carried to the General Assembly for adjudication by the SJC.

Now that the special judicial commission has acted, its judgment in this case is binding on all the parties. Its judgment can be overturned only if next year's General Assembly votes it down-a prospect that is most unlikely.

Of the three complainants, only one, Pastor Jim Landrum of Covenant Presbyterian Church, Louisville, MS, remains an active member of Mississippi Valley Presbytery. Pastor Wayne Rogers of St. Paul Presbyterian Church, Jackson, recently resigned in order to organize a church in the Atlanta area for the Reformed Presbyterian Church in the United States. And Pastor Iain Wright, who had been at Second Presbyterian Church, Yazoo City, returned this summer to his native Scotland to pursue graduate studies.

Sam Duncan, the Moderator of the General Assembly, was authorized by the court to appoint a twenty-man commission. No two people were to come from the same presbytery. Those he appointed were as follows: Teaching Elders: Dominic Aquila, Southern Florida; Larry Ball, Westminster; Craig Childs, Evangel; Don Clements, New River; Howard Griffth, James River; Wayne Herring, Covenant; Paul Kooistra, Warrior; John MacRae, Susquehanna Valley (Convener); Joey Pipa, South Coast; Donald Treick, Northern California; Ruling Elders: Wilson Barbee, Central Carolina; John Barnes, Fellowship; Eugene Betts, Philadelphia; David Crabtree, Southwest Florida; Howard Donahue, Pittsburgh; Neal Ham, Central Georgia; Bill Joseph, Southeast Alabama; Bingy Moore, Potomac; Frederick Neikirk, Ascension; Hal Whitlock, Heritage. Of those named, Dr. Kooistra was a member of the SJC whose judgment had been rejected by the Assembly; and Dr. Aquila has now been re-elected to the SJC.