Thursday, January 8, 2015

A good spark: our feelings about the defrocking of a godly pastor and renewal leader

It isn’t anything new, really it isn’t.

Unquestionably, the Church’s greatest concern for fellow believers is for those being tortured and killed by the radical arms of another religion. Radical Islam is surely controlled by the evil one who longs to destroy the work of Jesus. And many in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, etc. have loved not their lives unto death. But there is another kind of persecution that springs from religion—the kind that is kindred to those who are persecuted. It happens within the Church, and it occurs when officials and leaders have forgotten to love Jesus and kneel before the authority of his word.  It happens when Satan is allowed to manipulate a denomination. It happens when hearts become cold and hard.

It has barely began in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), but it has begun. As the Layman has reported in their article, “PCUSA defrocks nationally recognized renewal leader,” Joseph B. Rightmyer, has been defrocked by Grace Presbytery. There were eleven charges made against him; he has been declared guilty of eight. But what they all boil down to is, as intern pastor, Rightmyer helped Highland Park Presbyterian Church leave the PC (U.S.A.). But he did not renounce jurisdiction of the PC (U.S.A.) so they basically took his title away. They cannot take his calling and gift away, those are God given.

Rightmyer has been a renewal leader for many years. As the Layman points out, “From 1995 to 2004 he served as the Chief Administrative Officer of Presbyterians for Renewal (PFR).”

I only met this godly man once. I was giving a workshop on a racist pagan group for the Evangelical Ministries to New Religions which was meeting at the Baptist Seminary in Louisville and I had no way to get from there to the Confessing Church Celebration in Atlanta. Through the ministry of a friend, I got a ride with Rightmyer. I was a bit nervous; I had just started writing for Voices of Orthodox Women and I didn’t personally know any renewal people. This Christian gentleman was such a blessing and a storehouse of information, not only about the renewal movement, but about the wonderful scenery we passed through.

Having read many books on the Confessing Church in Germany and all of the manipulations carried on by the German Christians against them, I am not surprised by what is happening. The German Christians were more concerned with upholding the culture of their day than proclaiming Jesus as the one Lord and Savior. They put Confessing pastors through all kinds of trials because they despised the Confessing Churches and their free Synods. It is no different today when Presbyteries look the other way when teaching elders un-biblically marry same gender couples but penalize those who wish to leave the denomination.

Martin Luther during the Reformation wrote probably his most moving work when eulogizing his friend Friar Henry, who had been burned at the stake in the Netherlands. He was addressing Henry’s church and encouraging them to use this as an occasion to bring others to conversion to Jesus. He wrote of the death, “For I hear that many are incensed beyond measure at the monks for bringing this outrage upon their land. That is a good spark, kindled by God; it will surely spread into a fine flame, if you treat it with kind and gentle spirit, so that it be not quenched.”[1]

This is undoubtedly a good spark, this defrocking of a godly preacher and our feelings of sorrow and, yes, outrage. Pray that it will spread into a fine flame, a flame of the Holy Spirit that will bring us all to that place of total commitment and love for our Lord Jesus Christ.


[1] Martin Luther, “The Burning of Friar Henry (1525)”, The Works of Martin Luther, vol iv., (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press 1931) 187.


Anonymous said...

It doesn't seem anyone wants to touch this "hot potato" and I'd like to know why?

Todd Bensel
Pilot Rock, OR

Anonymous said...


It might be that its because "defrocking" a pastor in the PCUSA just means he was fired by the denomination. It happens. Pastors usually get fired for sexual impropriety, but sometimes they get fired for violating the terms of their contracts or for insubordination. The pastors in the PCUSA are somewhat cannibalistic. They don't often stand up for each other.

And the stuff about comparing the squabbles of the progressives vs the conservatives to the movement that occurred in Germany in the 30s is so far out of line and over the top in terms of rhetoric that its not even worth mentioning any more. It is even bass ackwards in terms of left wing vs right wing politics. (The German National Church abandoned the Faith under the rule of Adolf Hitler not so much in order to be theologically free but in order to be Right wing politically and to support the worship of the State and its Dictator). Viola has been drawing the comparison for years, I've objected to its offensive nature for years, and it even offends my Jewish friends, but I for one have just given up pointing that out. It's her blog, she can say whatever she wants on it.

Jodie Gallo
Los Angeles, CA

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's just me. Why is anyone upset over this? The church voted to leave and the presbytery extracted their usual extortion to let them go. Why should anyone care about or respect the PCUSA now? What authority over this pastor could they have now? The communist left who took over the PCUSA is not the authority over him or us.
God is. The left get their mandate from government. However, as Christians we receive our mandate from God. He is our authority. So, why should he (or us) even care about this hollow act?

will spotts said...

Jodie - The relationship between the two unlike events is stronger than one might think. Yes - they are unlike. But the theology popular in the German Protestant church that left it vulnerable to that was a theology of the left / a kind of modernism. That was the theological element in Barth's objection to it. You are 100% right in that it was about worshiping the state and its dictator. But statist systems (including the demand for worship) arise on the traditional left and right historically. The difference between left and right as we the use the terms is profoundly unhelpful in explaining or describing Nazi Germany itself or any of the state cults.

Anonymous said...


I agree and disagree. In America today, I think the theology of the Right leaves it more vulnerable to the temptation of state worship than the theology of the left.

I also believe that "For freedom Christ has set you free". The driving force of Liberalism is this freedom. Freedom of expression, freedom of thought, freedom to respond to the tailored nature of the Holy Spirit's works in a tailored way.

It was not freedom that caused the German National Church to abandon the Faith, but the hope and patriotic pride that the National Socialists were offering in the wake of the despair brought about by the post WW 1 terms of their surrender. All Washington and Wall Street wanted to know from Germany in those years was if they were going to continue paying war reparations. And they were wrecking Germany in the process.

Where the Church did fail, and both liberals and conservatives are also failing today on this account, is to provide an alternative narrative the the daily news. The message of the Church when it is best serving its purpose seems to be "Things are not as they seem - There is a Kingdom of God, and it is breaking in"

In that context I do agree with you that the differences between left and right are unhelpful in explaining any of the state cults. They are also unhelpful in explaining the decline of the Church. But it seems to be axiomatic among conservatives that Liberalism is bad because it is left wing and it is therefore the cause of the decline of the church. And since Nazism was also bad it too was liberal and left wing. And therefor, in a circular argument, Liberalism reminds us of Nazism and so it is really really bad.

But Liberalism, in its essence, is about expressing and living into the Freedom to which Christ has set us free. We pay God's Grace forward, and when we fall, we trust that we fall into the Hands of God's Grace. The cause of the decline of the Church cannot be found in Liberalism. If it is really important to point a blaming finger for the decline of the Church in some direction, that finger is going to have to find some other direction to point.

Jodie Gallo
Los Angeles, CA

will spotts said...

Jodie - Thanks for the response. I too would have to say I agree and disagree ....

You are (unfortunately, IMO, but also unquestionably) right about the specific danger to the 'theology of the Right'. Many theological conservatives are also political conservatives - and these two things affect one another. In some ways the theology impacts the political beliefs, but in far greater ways, the political aspirations bleed into the theology.

In that context, you are also quite right that there is a somewhat circular, anti-left argument.

However - and this may be bolstered by my own overt distaste for politics - I think there is an unnecessary and inaccurate conflation of liberal (or progressive) theology and liberal politics, on the one side, and conservative theology and conservative politics on the other. My main problems with progressive theology are theological rather than political.

I also don't tend to regard the term 'liberal' with the warmth you seem to. In theory, your description of liberal as expressing freedom - I mean, it's the origin of the word - sounds good. In theory, I would support such a thing. It's just been my experience that I have never found that freedom in (either political or theological) liberal ideas. I mean here those that call themselves liberal - I don't want to set up a tautology.

Anonymous said...


Good response. I would only add and suggest that perhaps the problem progressive theology and conservative theology have in common is that the adjective and the nouns are interchanged. We should instead be speaking of theological progressiveness and theological conservatism.

That then would perhaps be more in line with becoming the salt of the Earth, that Jesus spoke of so fondly.

And it puts the fence in its rightful place.

Jodie Gallo