my story

June 19, 2014

Since I’ve expressly written My Story below for the Elders of the 34th General Assembly of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, and since their theme this year is “TELL THE STORY,” and since some may want to know where my heart and mind is in all this, I’ve linked a 45 minute sermon entitled “Worldview & Story” for those interested in listening.

June 17, 2014

[[ Note: These are somewhat loaded terms which I’m reluctant to use for many reasons, most especially for there being huge blind spots and extreme errors on either side of this ecclesiastical issue. Nevertheless, for their general Evangelical currency I’ve chosen to use the terms egalitarian and complementarian to designate the positions for and against women elders. ]]

My Story

I was conceived, born, and adopted in 1968 into a Christian family by a pastor and his wife who named me David.

I was brought up in the church and have known no other worldview but a Biblical one. I remember as a little boy: my mother reading bedtime Bible stories to my sister and me; having Psalm 100 memorized before I could read; and my father introducing the Hebrew and Greek alphabets to me at the same time I was learning our English letters.

At the age of six I heard our Master’s voice and gladly accepted my place in the Body of Christ. Since becoming a newborn of the Most High I’ve experienced nothing but the deepest of intimacies with the Godhead.

When I was seven the Lord showed me a glimpse of where and who I would one day be. So from boyhood I have known my purpose and God’s intent for my life. The gifts and calling I possess today are the same gifts and calling made aware to me at the age of seven. By nature of being me I’ve been discerning, shepherding and teaching most of my life. Been swimming in the Word of God from the beginning—it is my element, my love and my light.

Please know—from childhood I have loved and been faithful to the LORD and to the sheep of his pasture. I have spent my life a diligent watchman and warrior of Yahweh. Inherently, this is who and whose I am.

Having lived in the East End of Pittsburgh for the last twenty years I have been a member of four Christian communities—Rodman Street Missionary Baptist Church; Eastminster Presbyterian Church (PCUSA); Fourth Presbyterian Church (EPC); and East End Ecclesia (SBC). My personal character has been shaped and proven among these brothers and sisters in Christ. I trust I modeled rightly what it was like to be a good and faithful servant.

The impetus behind the creation of this blog was the need to expose and depose some Ruling and Teaching Elders at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, and to challenge the Divines of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church to confront and correct their Evangelical Lie and Rebellion against the Most High God.

As this Evangelical Lie was used as a knife against my church, I am now asking Men of God to stand up and account for the weapon you gave EPC Pastor Eric Amundson which he used to cut me off from my beloved family at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh.

EPC elders, and anyone in the Body of Christ, this is an invitation to discussion, to sharpen irons on the way to reconciling ourselves to the Word of God. Please engage me.

Here’s the weapon that was used against me: in the eyes of Eric Amundson—and apparently others in the EPC—I am disqualified from being an elder at Fourth Presbyterian for my orthodox position against women elders which he finds “insensitive.”

Behind every spiritual sickness and spiritual death is an etiology of sin and rebellion. The factors that caused the devastating abuses at Fourth Presbyterian came into being as a result of the same spiritual rebellion in the PCUSA that has now—like the swell of Nile waters—flooded the EPC.

This anomian weapon plunged into the heart of my church was forged in EPC darkness by an EPC spirit of compromise and came sheathed and delivered to us in the EPC motto: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

I attended the 30th General Assembly of the EPC in Denver and heard the language games that in the name of “equality” ruled my complementarianism unconstitutional. To my ears I heard men playing loose with the Word of Truth, refashioning key Biblical words—such as “unity” and “liberty”—by giving them orientations not found in Scripture.

In 2010 when Jim Dixon lauded the EPC “compromises made for the sake of unity,” I heard apostasy. I heard Rebellion. I heard the woes of Isaiah Five:

Woe to those who join house to house. . . .

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,
.        who put darkness for light and light for darkness,
.        who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
.        and shrewd in their own sight!

Hear William Webster on this:

The promotion of unity at the expense of truth is satanic; it is demonic; it is not true unity. It is not the unity of the Holy Spirit for He is the Spirit of Truth. The Scriptural command which we have in Ephesians to promote the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace is given to those who have a common foundation of truth. Truth by its very nature divides. Where you have appeal to unity at the expense of truth all you can produce is uniformity.

As Jim Dixon relegated this to an EPC “matter of freedom,” I want to answer back with James One, underscoring how it is by keeping the perfect law of God that we are kept free.

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.

As we plant ourselves in His Word we flourish, as promised in Psalm One:

Blessed is the man who delights in the law of the LORD and in His law meditates day and night. He will thrive and prosper in all he does.

Concerning “charity,” Paul, in Colossians, tells us this:

Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

The question for us must be: Love for what? What is the intention of our love? The orientation of our charity?

When Jesus says, “If you love me, obey my commandments,” he points to His Word as the source of knowledge for our expressions of His good pleasure. Our abiding love for Christ must order all our other loves and relationships. “Remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles” (2 Peter 3:2).

The EPC does well to assert that “All Scripture is self-attesting and being Truth, requires our unreserved submission in all areas of life” (Essentials of Our Faith). Yet she goes on to assert and mandate that a certain contentious interpretation of spiritual authority be relegated to a non-essential area of freedom. In doing this the EPC has sold herself back into bondage. Seems her hermeneutic of freedom has essentially divided Christian doctrine from Christian duty. Her anomian weapon has essentially separated our faith in Christ from our obedience to Christ.

The EPC says, “The matter of women elders is not an issue of faith, not an issue of salvation, not an issue of the gospel.” But my question to them is, You’ve divined this how?

We’re saved by grace through faith for being perfect expressions of His good pleasure. Although we are not ultimately and spiritually saved by keeping the law, we are, however, kept free—kept altogether free through our faithfulness and obedience to His Word. Not only does Christ save us by His Word, He subjects us to Himself by His Word. It is for our ultimate protection that we are to “put on the armor of light.” When we compromise the integrity of His Word, we compromise the integrity of our spiritual body armor. Where the Word of God speaks expressively on a given matter we are to obey its directive.

And there’s the rub—it’s not expressively clear to those coming out of PCUSA Egypt that there’s a restriction on female elders. Why is that?

I suspect its because they’ve been walking so long in darkness that their discernment has fallen away. As “lawlessness leads to more lawlessness,” blindness leads to more blindness. As “the consequences of sin is death,” so the death knell of the EPC sounded the moment her Divines mandated we all bow to their Evangelical Lie. By making it essential that everyone regard their stronghold of rebellion as a non-essential liberty—her Divines betrayed themselves as speaking in the voice of the Dragon. I implore EPC elders to “become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed” (Romans 6:15-23), for you have exchanged the Word of God for a lie! And just as Eve was induced by the Liar to doubt, disbelieve and disobey the Word of God, so have You been seduced by the Serpent to Rebel against the Most High.

“Rebellion NOT!” You say. “We have our hermeneutic that proves differently.”

Excellent! Let’s examine your hermeneutic. Please teach me. Nowhere (that I can see) have you grounded in Scripture the rightness of your lawless weapon. So far I’ve only seen offered as reasoned defenses “contradictions of what is falsely called ‘knowledge,’” and mere “speculations and pretensions set against the knowledge of God.”

I want to check those who believe this issue of spiritual authority is not an essential element to the faith. Although you may think it doesn’t endanger the ministry of the gospel, the opposite of this has proven true. In churches I’ve encountered along the way who have chosen to violate the Scriptural prohibition against women teaching and having authority over men, in these institutions the gospel has become severely compromised.

[[ Here’s just one striking example from my former PCUSA church: in the Summer of 2005 I was teaching a class on Salvation; the elder who oversaw evangelism was in attendance. (Drawing from notes I took after class) this elder adamantly rejected as true the doctrine of election. The idea of our being predestined to salvation made absolutely no sense to him. After class he was quite vociferous in condemning it. He said, “If Satan could disseminate this view across the world he would succeed in utterly destroying the gospel message.” He questioned, “If God had predetermined those he would save, why preach the gospel? Why did Christ have to die if the decision was already made by God?” Of course there are sound Biblical answers to his questions, yet the elder was so emotionally committed to his perspective he would not allow for a scriptural explanation. This was true for his egalitarianism too. ]]

So I want to echo as my own the “deep concerns” of the writers of the The Danvers Statement regarding

the acceptance of hermeneutic oddities devised to reinterpret apparently plain meanings in Biblical texts; [and] the consequent threat to Biblical authority as the clarity of Scripture is jeopardized and the accessibility of its meaning to ordinary people is withdrawn into the restricted realm of technical ingenuity.

This academic alchemy may have something to do with what Jesus meant when he said, “Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge.”

J. Ligon Duncan writes,

Biblical authority is at stake in the debate between complementarianism and egalitarianism—because if you can get egalitarianism from the Bible, you can get anything from the Bible.

Wayne Grudem writes,

the arguments used by egalitarians actually undermine the authority of Scripture… Those who adopt an evangelical feminist position “buy into” an interlocking system of interpretation that will relentlessly erode the authority of Scripture in our churches.

Mark Dever writes,

it is my best and most sober judgment that [the egalitarian] position is effectively an undermining of the authority of Scripture…. [and] there may be no way the authority of Scripture is being undermined more quickly or more thoroughly in our day than through the hermeneutics of egalitarian readings of the Bible. And when the authority of Scripture is undermined, the gospel will not long be acknowledged.

Psalm 11:3, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

Joshua says,

Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD (24:14).

Elders of the EPC, You have been praised for the sacrifices You have made for Unity. Now hear the Word of the LORD:

Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, obedience is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.

These words were spoken by Samuel the prophet to Israel’s first king who chose to disobey the commandments of God. At the point of Saul’s disobedience there spread an unforeseen consequence that hundreds of years later, as we read in the book of Esther, erupted into a near holocaust of the people of God. Truly, there would have been no Haman or Purim if Saul would have obeyed the LORD and annihilated all the Amalekites as he was commanded by God to do.

Here’s the lesson of First Samuel Fifteen as seen from the book of Esther: when we choose to disobey the Word of God—there may be through the course of time unforeseen and utterly devastating consequences. To obey God is better than rationalizing your rebellion as sacrifices of worship to the LORD!

[[ see Obedience is better than sacrifice ]]

One of the long deadly consequences of the egalitarian rebellion within the PCUSA denomination involved Fourth Presbyterian Church ordaining to the office of elder—Ross Kronenbitter—who demonstrated himself not only spiritually unfit for the task, but a sin-sniffing, sin-projecting bully who was cruel and crushing in his spiritual abuse. There is nothing meaner to the Body of Christ than being ruled by a pack of spiritually blind elders.

Where was the discernment in session to see that Ross was stark naked in his assuming to be cloaked with a shepherd’s mantle? Although some in the congregation saw clearly that Ross was no teacher, the two other elders—Carl Schartner and Paul Metzger—continued to let him fall all over himself up in the pulpit as one among “certain persons. . . desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions” (see 1 Timothy 1:3-7).

I knew after a few short weeks of attending Fourth that Ross and Paul had lost their proper bearings. Yet it wasn’t until nearly four years later, specifically the afternoon right before I sent my two week notice arrow to Eric Amundson, that I realized Carl’s wisdom had been largely and diplomatically leveraged toward his own ends. At best, either he also was without discernment, or he lacked the requisite strength to make things right. Carl of all people had the personal capital and respect of us all and could have been most instrumental in righting the ship.

So this Summer I am going to bring the full weight of my sword against these men until their stranglehold on Fourth is broken. They will have perpetual war from me until Ross Kronenbitter and Eric Amundson are properly deposed of and I and the rest of the congregation have a say in who Fourth brings in as her next pastor—as should have properly happened in the first place! I need never see their faces this side of eternity, but I will have assurances that the Body of Christ at Fourth Presbyterian is safe from her present dangers.

Like it or not—session will be made accountable! Even if I have to drag these wolves further out into the light to expose them to the world. If correction doesn’t come from within, or from the top, I will bring it from the bottom. If need be—I will stir up a local conversation spearheaded by an East End neighborhoods Awareness Campaign of Spiritual Abuse at Fourth Presbyterian. This present stronghold at Fourth will either capitulate or I begin decapitating wolves, and educating the Children of Light on how to do the same to Church Abusers in their neck of the woods!

How did it get so bloody?

When I entered the Body of Fourth in May of 2009, the elders—Carl, Paul and Ross—had been entrenched in session for a decade—a time, according to the language of others, when Fourth had effectively “flat-lined.” Yet God had brought some good men into the body ahead of me, and our presence there apparently “jump-started” the church. Fourth was breathing again and her heart was beating.

Yet even on my second Sunday there as I sat in on a congregational meeting the signs of these men strangulating the life out of the church were there. I watched and listened as the congregation expressed anger over session’s lack of communication and frustrations over being shut out of the decision making process. People left Fourth for good after that meeting, except for the late Jim Krum who came back a year later when he heard session had obtained an EPC pastor.

Although Fourth Presbyterian was the closest church in proximity to my house, I didn’t consider visiting her until I heard she had exited the PCUSA and was on her NWAC way into the EPC.

My first Sunday there began with Sunday School the morning of May 24, 2009. What I encountered that Spring at Fourth was both sad and at the same time beautiful. I fell in love with her, and she with me. I made Fourth Presbyterian my glad home until I was eventually and officially, on March 21, 2011, “voted out” by the elders from having any vote or voice of discernment or, really, from having any further opportunities to exercise the gifts of my ministry there. The span of my time at Fourth ended as the Elders squeezed me out of the assembly just as they had done the rest, but this time while possessing foreknowledge of the consequences of their decision.

Here’s the short of it: in late Summer of 2009 the elders asked me to teach Sunday School. On Reformation Sunday 2009, as an introduction to a Sunday School series on the doctrine of salvation I delivered a message entitled “Saved by Grace.” This was the first of several sermons, and our Sunday School grew and thrived. From the beginning of my time at Fourth the men there were brought together by such things as Beer and Bible Studies through the gifts of a remarkable brother whom some of us affectionately call the MOB. This man was key to our fellowship. He—like no one else—facilitated the exercising and sharpening of our irons.

On April 21, 2010, session examined me for membership. I also examined them, and told them I did not want to get into a boat with a hole in it. Under no circumstances would I join a church who believed in or practiced the ordination of women to the office of elder. We were clear on that point, and the Elders of Fourth gave me their word that I was entering into a complementarian church. That evening they also asked me to attend the 30th General Assembly of the EPC in Denver. Fourth Presbyterian generously reimbursed me for both my flight and car rental.

Here now is the tragic turn in my story: it was Saturday, May 15, 2010. Carl launched off with his wife and ten children on a three week vacation out West; and Fourth had her Church Work Day. At the end of the afternoon when we were cleaning up and putting the tools away, when it was just Ross and myself in the basement, I attempted to check him concerning a huge decision he had apparently already made for Fourth. For in the matter of days, and for an interim period of a year, Ross was about to foist upon us an EPC Pastor out of California.

Earlier in the week, I and another man at Fourth had spent some time listening to and looking into Eric Amundson. We both, separately and on our own, found him wanting. When I expressed to Ross that I was not impressed with Eric Amundson, he responded by asking me if this was about his egalitarianism. I answered that his position on this was only one of several red flags.

The moment I said red flags the conversation on Eric Amundson shifted to an attack on me.

Ross snapped, “Get the log out of your own eye before trying to remove the speck from your brother’s!”

I asked him, “What area of my life is not submitted to the Lordship of Christ or is out of line with the Word of God?”

He didn’t answer.

I pressed further, “Ross, I struggle with such things as lust and pride in my life, and when they arise I confess them to the Lord as sin. Now the problem with the PCUSA is that they do not recognize certain realities such as women elders and homosexuality as being sinful. Where’s the log?”

Ross then shifted to a personal attack on his fellow elder, Carl.

As I brought us back to the issue of egalitarianism Ross proclaimed, “If Fourth were to insist on being a complemenatarian church we would only grow smaller and smaller as a body.”

Ironically, a moment previous Ross had accused Carl of making “decisions based upon the flesh.” It would have been good to have answered him with these words from Jesus: “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God,” but I said, “You are wrong, God only blesses those who obey Him.”

I pleaded with Ross to hold off on calling Eric until I had an opportunity to share my concerns with session. Ross reminded me that he was empowered to make this decision for Fourth and they were bringing in Eric Amundson—like it or not!

[[ see Obey your leaders and submit to them ]]

In this encounter with Ross he lorded himself over me with fierceness. He belittled me, saying, “You need help! You need to get help with this!” He threatened me, shaking his long finger in my face, “You better not mess this up!” Finally, he sealed his assumed rule over Fourth and me by saying, “If you don’t like it—you can leave!”

I’m a strong fighter, I have it in me to stand my ground, to confront and challenge, yet I want it known to everyone that in no way during this exchange did I disrespect or dishonor Ross, accuse or attack him. As I attempted to reason with him, he escalated the exchange by verbally slapping me around. I felt so exhausted and wounded by Ross that the following morning after teaching Sunday School I went directly home, I was too bruised and beat up to sit through a Sunday Service.

There’s so much more to this encounter, but what I’ve shared is representative of attempting to hold Ross accountable to anything. I sent out phone calls and emails asking session for a meeting to share with them my concerns over calling Eric, but not one of these three Elders were accountable or considerate enough to even respond to me with an answer, let alone grant me a meeting! They just carelessly brought in Eric Amundson and thrust him upon us.

This reckless decision, of course, displaced the MOB.

Would session have brought in Pastor Eric to ostensibly unify and lead the church, if they knew ahead of time how the introduction of Mr Amundson would actually divide the body and drive out her true shepherds?

Thing is, somehow session doesn’t believe they have to listen or be accountable to the members they serve. They don’t understand that Big Decisions like this involve corporate discernment and discussion. Although my best friend there, the MOB, left Fourth, I stayed on to fight for her beautiful soul.

On September 30, 2010, I walked out on Pastor Eric Amundson during the middle of our Thursday evening gathering after he asserted against my protests that the whole counsel of God teaches egalitarianism.

On October 2, 2010, Carl Schartner, Ross Kronenbitter, and the MOB, came over to my place for a Saturday meeting. I plan to address what this meeting was about in a future post, but ultimately it was a Matthew Eighteen meeting to confront Ross with a certain matter of spiritual abuse that he still—even to the last Sunday I was there—had refused to stop committing. If they want me to continue telling my story openly, I warn you, It’s very SICK! Please know, that the telling of my Fourth Church Abuse story has been among the most difficult of  things I have ever been called upon to do.

In early November 2010 when I was feeling like my time at Fourth was drawing to a close, I was talked into staying. And I was invited to attend session meetings. At one of the meetings Eric Amundson told us his paperwork for remaining as Pastor beyond his interim year needed to be soon submitted. I then realized I needed to be soon recognized as an elder if I were to have any effective role in reversing the tide of death that had come upon us.

After I had talked to Carl about bringing me in to session as an official elder, I sensed that Eric (at the next session meeting) was throwing hurdles in my path to frustrate and slow me down in my effort. So when I met with him two days later (Eric and I met together for awhile on Wednesdays) I asked him if he thought I was qualified to be an elder. He answered, “I don’t know whether you are qualified to be an elder or not.” After pressing him he said, “No. I don’t believe you’re qualified to be an elder within the EPC.” I asked him why. His evidence against me was my disrespect for the EPC motto.

In good faith I had believed our pasture was safe from such attack and injury. After dealing with Ross Kronenbitter I will address Eric Amundson. But for the moment I would like it understood that my False Pastor charge for Mr Amundson has nothing to do with his egalitarianism, although he and the EPC still need to be held accountable for this most adversarial of weapons—A lawless weapon used to help cut me off from my ministry of teaching and oversight at Fourth Presbyterian.

On March 21, 2011, I was examined by—Ross Kronenbitter, Paul Metzger and Carl Schartner—and found wanting. Now I’m wanting all those weapons used against me in the darkness of Fourth’s secret sessions placed out into the light so we can examine them on an open table. I want it all brought out. Even if these Elders think they bring me shame by declaring my unsoundness. I want them to detail for me precisely why they found me unfit. I want it spelled out. For in the justification of their actions we will find out just how sick their spiritual blindness is.

On June 1, 2012, after discovering the near infinite leveraging potential of blog and other media technologies, how they work as awesome tools for exposing all sorts of monsters, I called Carl and gave him an ultimatum.

On June 4, 2012, I gave them this, in which I wrote:

“My request is that you positively assure me that Fourth Presbyterian has taken the actions toward becoming a safe and healthy Body of Christ. This assurance must include Ross stepping down from his position of spiritual authority, with assurances that he will not teach or preach or be in a position to make spiritual decisions for Fourth Presbyterian.”

On June 8, 2012, Carl Schartner in an email told me that during a “season of stepping aside. . . for investigation, reconciliation and healing” Ross would “not preach or teach within the bounds of the 4th Church body.”

Problem is: Ross never stepped down as I requested. He stepped aside and remained contact person for Pastoral Care—still in a position to spiritually abuse and still spiritually abusing. And that is reason enough to go to WAR!

I’d like to reveal that before I sent out my two week notice email to Eric Amundson on Ash Wednesday of 2013 (see a Wolf, a Snake, and a False Pastor), I spent years of prayerful consideration on how to address the abuses at Fourth. The day before firing off my arrow I fasted and looked to God for a green light. He gave me several.

I’d like to share just one of these green lights He gave me that day: I received a phone call from a dear lady at Fourth who was angry and upset at the elders (which is really nothing new). . . but the clincher for me came when she said these words: “I don’t have a pastor.” And she was right.


[[ continued here ]]

. .

Ash Wednesday—March 5, 2014

This blog is my dialogical attempt to come to a proper biblical understanding of the true nature and scope of spiritual authority. As we educate ourselves on the meaning and implications of spiritual abuse, we must first know what legitimate spiritual authority looks like before we can properly identify its counterfeit.

[[[ I plan to tell my story this Spring ]]]

David Johnson