Shuck and Jive

Saturday, September 01, 2007

A Response by Rev. Dr. Benjamin Harrison Taylor

My colleague and friend, B. Harrison Taylor, asked me to post this on my blog.

John, [Please quote me on your blog]

For those who are critical, by innuendo and gossip, of John Shuck, I have sat under John's ministry since he arrived in Elizabethton, Tn. as pastor. I served as part time interim pastor of that church during the activity of the Pastor Nominating Committee that recommended that John be called as pastor. I have been fed by his sermons and intrigued by his inquiring mind.

By God's Providence I was led to this church. Only when I returned after serving the PCUSA, since 1954 as pastor, teacher, bureaucrat, GA conference programmer and twelve interim pastorates, I discovered that my forebears were charter members of 1st. Pres Ch. Elizabethton, Tn.! I ain't no novice having spent at least 10 years doing graduate study of John Calvin. So, I say, if you have charges to make against John Shuck, speak up! The constitution of the PCUSA has provisions for such, otherwise seek the peace, unity and purity of the church. For such I will be a witness for John Shuck. Soli Deo Gloria
The Reverend Doctor B. Harrison Taylor


  1. Very nice. There is nothing like sincere words spoken (written) by those who know you well... Kudos to Rev. Dr. Harrison.

  2. Very nice to hear from Dr. Taylor.

    I have not attended John Shuck's church, but from what I can gather, those who are in his congregation and those who are professional colleagues who actually work with him like him and have a deep respect for him, though they may not necessarily agree with what he says from time to time. Shock and horror--a pastor who says something that others might not agree with! Whoda thunk?

    I congratulate both John and Bob for "Conversations with Bob" for showing how dialogue over controversial issues within the PC(USA) should happen.

    From what I can gather, John's approach to ministry (or at least preaching--he seems to be top-notch when it comes to pastoral care and building up his church in the community) is to ask difficult questions and not provide easy answers. I would imagine this helps his congregation to be a thoughtful one. If there's anything we need in the PC(USA) and the nation at large, it's more careful discernment.

    At present, I hold no ecclesiastical office and am just an uppity member of the PC(USA) in a small (but rapidly growing!) congregation in Atlanta. However, I will also speak in support of John Shuck and repeat the claim that "God alone is Lord of the conscience".

    (BTW, sorry John for speaking about you in the third person. Cat's mother?)

    Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda, secundu Verbum Dei!

  3. flycandler

    First, thanks for getting the WHOLE latin quote. To many people leave out the according to the Word of God part.

    Second, the "God alone is Lord of conscience comes from the Historical Principle of Church Government. The whole quote in context reads:

    (1) (a) That “God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men4 which are in anything contrary to his Word, or beside it, in matters of faith or worship.”
    (b) Therefore we consider the rights of private judgment, in all matters that respect religion, as universal and unalienable: We do not even wish to see any religious constitution aided by the civil
    power, further than may be necessary for protection and security, and at the same time, be equal and common to all others.
    (2) That, in perfect consistency with the above principle of
    common right, every Christian Church, or union or association of
    particular churches, is entitled to declare the terms of admission
    into its communion, and the qualifications of its ministers and
    members, as well as the whole system of its internal government
    which Christ hath appointed; that in the exercise of this right they may, notwithstanding, err, in making the terms of communion
    either too lax or too narrow; yet, even in this case, they do not
    infringe upon the liberty or the rights of others, but only make an
    improper use of their own.

    We Presbyterians are always about balance.

  4. "God alone is Lord of the conscience" is from the WCF. The entire paragraph from the Westminster Confession as used in our Book of Confessions (emphasis added):

    "God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in anything contrary to his Word, or beside it in matters of faith or worship. So that to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commandments out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience; and the requiring an implicit faith, and
    an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also."

    One of the cleverest moves of the Westminster Divines (the men who wrote the Confession back in the 1600s) was this disclaimer. It notes that earthly doctrinal statements, even the Westminster Confession itself, are man-made and therefore subject to human error. One of the best examples in American Presbyterianism is the 1788 revision that removed the power granted the civil magistrate (i.e., H.M. George III) to enforce church doctrine.

    Taken with any degree of seriousness, the WCF and other confessions are living documents and can be interpreted or amended as the Spirit guides our understanding as a church. IMO the WCF outlines the doctrinal basis for the principle of scruples, something that we as Presbyterians should cherish. We are reformed, ever being reformed, after the Word (John 1.14) of God.

  5. Wow, I'm going to have to brush up on my Westminster! I knew the Book of Order quote but didn't know it came from Westminster.

  6. Ooooooh! I just taught a MOWS something about the Book of Confessions, and Westminster at that! ;-)