CORRESPONDENCErnLetter From Yorkrnhy R.C. Sproul, Jr.rnThe League Against the SouthrnYork, Alabama, is a sad little Southernrntown. Though it is small, it lacks the hpicalrnchami of the South. Not much happensrnthere, but what does happen happensrnin the typically Southern way. Thernwheels of justice grind not with somethingrnas tacky as money, but with thernmore genteel means of connections: It’srnnot how much you have, but whom yournknow. But a man of the cloth has enteredrnthe ficfdom of York, and entered with allrnthe bluster and tact of Martin Luther.rnHis name is Martin Murphy, so far stillrnthe pastor of tiny little York PresbyterianrnChurch. York Presbyterian is not a partrnof that old yet hip monolith that is thernPresbyterian Church U.S.A., they of thernyearly debates on the merits of repealingrnthe Seventh Commandment. York is arnpart of the Associate Reformed PresbyterianrnChurch, a denomination much Hkernthe town of York. It is old, Southern,rnlacking in any particidar distinctiveness,rnand tends to be run by those with therngreatest pedigree.rnMartin, with his faithful preaching ofrnthe Gospel and with the fruit thereofrn(outsiders actually came in and joinedrnthe church), has upset the balance ofrnpower. Like the other Martin, he provedrnunintimidatcd by the existing powers.rnTwo church elders (elders in Presbyterianrnchurches are like the board of directors)rndemanded his resignation. Martinrnrefused, as the majority of the elders andrnof the church (by a two-to-one margin)rnasked him to sta’.rnPresbyterians are an orderly bunch.rnWe hae rules and procedures, a Form ofrnGovernment that tells us how we dealrnwith disputes. And wc have courts of appeal.rnThe Tennessee and Alabama presbyteryrnof tlie Associate Reformed PresbyterianrnChurch is just such a court. It isrncomposed of pastors and elders of thernchurches in that region. The complainantrnmade a motion to that court thatrnMr. Murphy be removed from his pulpit.rnThe court said no, and the complainantrnannounced his refusal to be reconciledrnwith the pastor. [Being reconciled isrnchurch-ese for making up and trying tornget along.) Charges were brought againstrnthe complainant for his failure to be reconciled,rnand the court adjourned.rnChurch courts, of course, do not issuernfines, nor require incarceration or communityrnservice. Instead, those foundrnguilty are judged to be outside Christ’srnkingdom. They are stripped of theirrnchurch membership and not permittedrnto partake of the Lord’s Supper.rnAny good lawyer (pardon the oxymoron)rnknows that when you can’t getrnwhat you want in one court, you go to another.rnAnd so the complainant did. Hernwent to a local judge in the state court systemrnand asked both that the elders ofrnYork Presbyterian Church be temporarilyrnrestrained from exercising church disciplinernand that the presbytery be requiredrnto remove Pastor Murphv fromrnthe pulpit. The papers filed were filledrnwith information on the pastor’s inolvementrnin the League of the South, includingrnthe great crime of having MichaelrnHill, the president of the League, as arnmember of the church. (Though thernLeague is probably a part of the complaint,rnno one has been able to discoxerrnanything in our Form of Government,rnnor in the Bible, which woidd forbidrnsuch involvement.) The judge grantedrnthe first request; he has not yet decidedrnon the second.rnWe have a jurisdiction problem. Thernstate court, like us Presbyterians, is supposedrnto be orderly. They have a form ofrngovernment they answer to, the state constitutionrnand, by loose and liberal understandingsrnof the 14th Amendment, thernfederal Constitution. Both formally recognizernthat the state is not to interferernwith the church’s business. If state courtsrnoverrule church courts, then the staterncourts ha’e become the church courts.rnWe have an established religion, withrnlawyers and judges serving as priests. Thernjudge’s action is akin to the supremerncourt of Singapore telling my local justicernof the peace how my propert-linerndispute with my neighbor should be decided.rn(Or perhaps like the president ofrnthese United States telling a foreign governmentrnhow to manage its civil war.)rnThe judge’s jurisdictional error, however,rnis not as bad as that of the complainant.rnThe ultimate authorih- tor tiic AssociaternReformed Presbvterian Church isrnthe Holy Scriptures. And therein thernApostie Paul says, to litigious members ofrnthe church at Corinth:rnIf any of you has a dispute with another,rndare he take it before the ungodlyrnfor judgment instead of beforernthe saints? Do you not knowrnthat the saints will judge the world?rnAnd if you are to judge the world,rnare you not competent to judgerntrivial cases? Do you not know thatrnwe will judge angels? How muchrnmore the things of this life? I’hereforernif you have disputes about suchrnmatters, appoint as judges evenrnmen of little account in thernchurch! I say this to shame vou. Isrnit possible that there is nobodyrnamong you wise enough to judge arndispute between believers? But insteadrnone brother goes to lawrnagainst another—and this in front ofrnunbelievers! [I Corinthians 6: 1-6].rnFor a man that is often accused by hisrncritics of being obtuse, Paul is pretty clearrnhere. And so when court reconvened —rnthat is, the court of the Tennessee and Alabamarnpresbytery-did they convict therncomplainant for his aggravated jurisdictionrnhopping? No, they dropped allrncharges against him. When Caesar saidrn”Heel,” the dogs obeyed. Like the staterncourts confronted with the federal bullies,rnthe church courts have obedientlyrnhanded over their lunch money withoutrnso much as a whimper.rnNone of us are fans of judicial activism.rnAll of us are aware that too manyrncourts are ignorant of, or indifferent to,rnthe limitations on their authority. Wlietherrnthey are telling the local schools inrnRoekford, Illinois, how to conduct theirrnaffairs, or telling states whether or notrnthey can protect unborn children fromrndoctors of death, courts overstep their jurisdictionrnevery day. This time, however,rnthey have crossed an een more dangerousrnline. It is one thing to intrude on thernauthority of some other judge; it is anotherrnthing altogether not only to ignore thernFirst Amendment, but to invade the clearrnjurisdiction of nature and nature’s Godrnin so doing. His law says this of the ChiefrnJustice of the truly Supreme Comt:rnDECEMBER ige’M.?rnrnrn