At present, there are 334 people on my email list, many of whom have asked to be included over the past few months. In this article I am going to look back at how Vanguard Presbytery got started to give everyone a little history of this movement and to clear up some false information about Vanguard.
In August of 2017, I was one of the speakers at the annual Samuel Davies Conference on Evangelism hosted by Reformed Evangelistic Fellowship. Al Baker, who leads the conference, and I spoke to one another about the sad state of the PCA at that time. The following year, Al wrote an article, “Queer Culture in the PCA”, on the 2018 Revoice Conference which became the most read article ever on The Aquila Report. In the fall of 2018, Al said to me one day on the phone, “I don’t know how much longer I can put up with the PCA.” That comment put me to studying the similarities between the fall of the PCUS and what was happening in the PCA. I wrote an article, “Whither the PCA?”, which was also published on The Aquila Report. I showed five startling points of similarity. That article led to a decision by Al, Walter Monroe, and me to have a meeting in Lagrange, Georgia to consider what to do about the slide of the PCA.
There were about 40 ministers and elders who gathered in LaGrange, GA on Tuesday, January 26, 2019. Al Baker made a list of people he thought would be interested and I contacted them. That led to a few other people asking if they could attend which was gladly permitted. Some of the tall steeple church pastors found out about our meeting ahead of time and emailed one of the attendees. The gist of their email was for us not to say anything about leaving the PCA. I paid no attention to those marching orders which probably made a few of those pastors upset with me. From the very beginning, I have always had one refrain based on my 24 years of service as an Army Reserve/Army officer. That refrain is and has been that the only correct strategy is one which comprehends and considers all known contingencies. A strategy for victory is insufficient unless you strategize for what happens if you lose. There must be an exit strategy.
Now, there are people who have used social media to accuse me of dissembling, deception, and lying about the purpose of what was called “Grassroots Presbyterians.” One individual, a minister in the PCA, has posted online that I lied to him about the movement. He says that I told him the Grassroots Facebook page was for the purpose of reforming the PCA. That individual knows that is not true. I have the emails I wrote to him on January 29-30, 2019 in which I said, “We are committed to starting a new denomination.” Everyone who was at the meeting in LaGrange, GA on January 26, 2019 knows that was my position that day. Everyone who has been on this emailing list from the beginning knows that I have never wavered from the conviction that it was wasted effort to try to save the PCA and that, instead, we must plan to start a new denomination. Once again, my military background guides me. In the military, we were taught that it takes three times the force power/troops to remove an entrenched army as are on their side. The progressives/liberals had already become entrenched in the PCA by 2019. They now have the Coordinators of the Permanent Committees, the Stated Clerk, the SJC, Covenant Theological Seminary, control of an overwhelming number of presbyteries, and a hierarchical BCO. They will not cut and run like the Iraqi army did in Desert Storm because no one has air superiority to rain down cluster bombs on their heads.
That leads to a couple of other questions which are often raised concerning Vanguard Presbytery. First, we are criticized for not going with the OPC, the ARP, or the BPC. There are many fine ministers in all those groups, without a doubt. Yet, the OPC is NAPARC—the fraternal relations organization for North American Presbyterian and Reformed denominations. The PCA is also in NAPARC. I think I speak not only for myself but also for others in Vanguard when I say that we consider the PCA to be heterodox at best and heretical at worst. There are many heresies that are permitted within the PCA. We in Vanguard Presbytery did not leave the PCA in order to continue fraternal relations with her as though there are no essential differences between us. I do not feel that way. We do not feel that way. There are conservatives in the PCA, but the denomination has strayed far from the truth.
Second, some people accuse Vanguard Presbytery of schism. That charge cannot be made against any former PCA congregation because that view is contrary to the Constitutional position of the PCA in BCO 25-11: “Particular churches need remain in association with any court of this body only so long as they themselves so desire. The relationship is voluntary, based upon mutual love and confidence, and is in no sense to be maintained by the exercise of any force or coercion whatsoever. A particular church may withdraw from any court of this body at any time for reasons which seem to it sufficient.” There can be no schism where the relationship is voluntary and when it can be ended whenever a particular church decides that it has reasons to sever that relationship. That charge cannot be made against any independent Presbyterian churches that have joined Vanguard Presbytery either. Thus, Vanguard Presbytery is not guilty of schism by forming a new denomination.
When I hear such criticisms of me or Vanguard Presbytery, I am reminded that we must imitate the Lord Jesus, who prayed for his enemies from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Paul wrote to the Romans, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Romans 12:14). When conservative ministers say such things against us, I am reminded of two things: First, we must not do the same things. If they persecute us, we must love them and pray for them. If they curse us, we must praise them. Second, it is a sad thing that the devil has divided conservatives against one another at a time in the history of the church when great destruction is being done to her foundations. We do not need to fight one another. We need to fight the enemy. If one person thinks that he needs to leave the PCA now, then let us respect the way the Lord leads him, per Romans 14 and 15. If another person still thinks they can win back the PCA, let us respect their convictions. May neither of us shoot our arrows against our comrades. We need to save those for the real battle. And that battle is against the enemies of the cross. Vanguard Presbytery lifts high that cross of Christ. We are no enemy of the cross. Let us not kill each other by intentional friendly fire.
Dewey Roberts, Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Destin, FL.Gifts to Vanguard Presbytery should be addressed to: PO Box 1862, Destin, FL 32540.