Dr. Doug Green Affirmed by New Life Presbyterian Church Session

Bill Evans head shot

Those who have been following the controversy regarding the forced “retirement” of Dr. Doug Green, a tenured Professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia (see here and here for more information), will be interested to learn that the Session of the New Life Presbyterian Church in Glenside, Pennsylvania (of which Dr. Green is a member) has unanimously concluded “that Doug Green’s teaching does not fall outside the Westminster Standards.”  The Session writes:

It has been the intention of our Session from the beginning to thoughtfully and prayerfully study this matter and report back to you. Here then, is an outline of our actions and decisions:

Our first step was to ask members of the Session to examine the relevant portions of the Westminster Standards, and a number of documents Doug and Westminster Seminary provided to us that shed light on the questions at issue. Following this, at our request, a representative of the Seminary met with us to clarify the actions and positions of the Seminary’s Board and Administration in this matter, and to answer our questions. The representative was forthcoming, though he was not able to provide certain confidential details included in the Board’s discussions. He also affirmed that the Session of New Life has an independent right to consider and make its own judgment concerning an elder’s adherence to the Standards.

Subsequently, we met with Doug and raised our own questions in light of the presentation by the Seminary’s representative and the documents provided for our study. He answered our questions, laying out his own understanding of the Scriptures and the Standards, and affirmed for us his support of the Standards, particularly with regard to the unity of Scripture and the presence and centrality of Christ in all of Scripture. He spoke about the value of the grammatical-historical understanding of the text being a “tether” that shapes the way in which we see the truths of the Old Testament point to the fullness that comes through the coming of Christ and the establishment of his kingdom.

As a result of our study and these meetings, we the Session of New Life Church, while fully respecting the right of the Board of Westminster Seminary to determine the bounds under which its faculty may operate, respectfully disagree with its judgment and are satisfied that Doug Green’s teaching does not fall outside the Westminster Standards.

You can find the complete statement by the Session of the New Life Church here.

This episode does have its share of ironies.  A parachurch institution ousts a long-time tenured professor on the basis of what appears to be a peculiar reading of the Westminster Confession (one that would also, it seems, exclude Charles Hodge), while a Presbyterian church Session answerable to the Westminster Standards and to the higher courts of the church finds nothing amiss.  There are, I think, some lessons here regarding the use and misuse of confessional documents, as well as issues relating to the communal interpretive context within which those documents are understood, but those are topics for another time.