Dissent, Response, & Concurrences in Speck v. Missouri Presbytery

By Scott Edburg | February 5, 2022

Earlier this week, byFaith Online published an article entitled SJC Answers Dissent in Greg Johnson Case. This comes several months after the majority made a ruling on a complaint against Missouri Presbytery that sided with Missouri Presbytery over how the Presbytery conducted an investigation of one of its members, TE Greg Johnson. On October 21, 2021, the majority concluded, “based on the Record, there was no reversible error in the decisions reached by Missouri Presbytery regarding the four allegations. It was not unreasonable for Presbytery to judge that TE Johnson’s ‘explanations’ on the four allegations were ‘satisfactory’.”[1] The Standing Judicial Commission (SJC) believes that the investigation led by Missouri Presbytery was done in a reasonable and procedurally sound fashion. The SJC vote was 16-7-0 (with one member unable to attend the meeting).

On October 31, 2021, the seven dissenters submitted their dissent in writing. The dissent concludes:

The SJC overlooked the clear deficiencies of Presbytery’s investigation, which is proven by re-opening the record and admitting additional information that sought the “present” positions of TE Johnson, extending consideration of facts well beyond the events complained against. Moreover, it was incumbent on the SJC to deal with the matters raised by the Complainant as issues of Constitutional interpretation instead of deferring to the lower court in this case.[2]

In other words, they believe the SJC erred by submitting new questions for TE Johnson to answer regarding his views on sexuality. To the minority, this is proof that Missouri Presbytery failed to conduct a proper investigation of TE Johnson concerning his views and statements on sexuality.

This week, it was revealed that the SJC chose to reconvene on February 1, 2022 in order to adopt a response to the dissenting opinion. In this response, the majority commends the dissenters “zeal for truth, and their evident desire to promote the peace and purity of the Church,”[3] but also claim that the dissenters do “not accurately reflect either the Record in this Case or the ruling and opinion of the SJC.”[4] The SJC chose to adopt a response to the dissent due to the majority’s belief that the dissenters misrepresented the case in their dissent.

In my opinion, the announcement of a response from the SJC was not the most interesting part of the byFaith article. Near the end of the article, the author notes that some in the majority chose to write opinions to offer “additional comments about their decision.”[5] One concurring opinion is written by RE Neikirk and TE Waters, but also signed by six other men in the majority. The brief statement clarifies their reasons for siding with the majority, addresses concerns regarding BCO 32-2 surrounding charges of doctrinal error, and “ongoing concerns about some of TE Johnson’s views.”[6] While both supporters and opponents of the case can easily find their favorite parts of the response, the third section is most notable from these eight men of the majority. These eight men center their concerns on TE Johnson’s public statements as needlessly troubling, unsettling, and alarming the church at large. An example of this is found in TE Johnson’s recent article in USA Today.

Therefore, some of the majority, to some extent, share the concerns of the minority. That is, 15 of the 24 men on the SJC have now, to some extent, gone on official record to express concern over TE Johnson’s views. This development contradicts claims that TE Johnson’s views were exonerated by the SJC in Speck v. Missouri Presbytery. In the case, the SJC decision represented an adjudication regarding a particular presbytery’s process by evaluating the investigative process of Missouri Presbytery. This case was chiefly about Missouri Presbytery and not about TE Johnson or his views. The case was about evaluating Missouri Presbytery’s investigation of TE Johnson. At the very least, the SJC has not vindicated TE Johnson (as Johnson claims), and this case has not made the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) into a Side-B denomination (as some concerned onlookers are beginning to claim). Basically, the door has not closed on this issue in the PCA. The denomination will continue to navigate the perilous waters of this controversy in the courts and pulpits of the Church. Be in prayer for the peace and purity of the Presbyterian Church in America.

[1] Standing Judicial Commission, “Decision on the Complaint of TE Ryan Speck v. Missouri Presbytery,” 2021, 28.

[2] Steve Dowling et al., “Dissenting Opinion on the Complain of TR Ryan Speck v. Missouri Presbytery,” 2021, 8.

[3] Standing Judicial Commission, “SJC Answer to the Dissenting Opinion of RE Steve Dowling et Al.,” 2022, 13.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Larry Hoop, “SJC Answers Dissent in Greg Johnson Case” (2022, n.d.).

[6] Fredrick Neikirk and Guy Waters, “Concurring Opinion in Case 2020-12,” 2022, 1.

Scott Edburg is a PCA Teaching Elder serving as Pastor of Providence Presbyterian Church in Troy, IL.