As many of you already know, Westminster Theological Seminary has just announced the “retirement” of Dr. Doug Green. This was clearly not a retirement due to age, because the announcement included an explanation of theological issues that led to this development, following a judgment made by the Seminary’s Board. You can read the Seminary’s statement here. We are saddened by this news as we know many of you have been as well. This affects us as a congregation, not only because of our great affection for the Greens, but also because Doug has served faithfully as a ruling elder for the last seven years. His service as an elder includes his vow to be in submission to the confession of our church, The Westminster Confession of Faith—and that is the very thing that the Seminary has judged Doug not to be functioning in agreement with.
As your pastors we think it is important that you know that the Session has been aware of this situation for some months. Doug has discreetly kept us informed and asked for our prayers. He has stood firm on what he felt were matters of principle and deeply held convictions. He has also worked with the seminary in a respectful way to make as gracious an exit as possible under the circumstances. His conduct in this difficult process has only deepened our respect for Doug. We did not feel we had a role to play in Doug’s relationship with his employer and have watched that unfold as observers. On the other hand, we do feel it is important that we do our part to honor and protect the good name of our brother and leader, and are taking steps to stand by him as may be appropriate.
How should we respond at this point? First of all we want to surround the Greens with our love and support. We know them well, we know their love for Jesus and their faithful service to our Lord and our church through the years. We need to pray with them as they seek God’s direction in terms of a place of service. At this point it appears that they will be active at New Life for at least the next year.
At the same time, if there are substantial reasons for Doug’s being “retired” we need to hear them—and Doug insists on this as well. Just because we know and love Doug doesn’t mean we should be blind to possible error. The seminary has posted some of the writings on which they made their decision and you can read them for yourselves. It appears that there is a disagreement about how to interpret the Old Testament in light of Christ’s coming, and how best to understand the New Testament’s use of the Old. Doug explained his position in 2009 and it was found acceptable, but the seminary reversed its approval in November 2013 even as Doug stood by his original statements. The question for our Session is not only to understand the position Doug holds, but also to understand in what sense some believe this is out of line with our Confession. We want to try to understand the perspective of those who have been concerned with Doug’s approach to the Bible. After a period of study and reflection, we will try to come to a conclusion in terms of our shared conviction in the matter.
We hope you find this helpful. These are our initial reactions and we will keep you informed as we go forward. Feel free to contact us if there are questions and we will do our best to answer them.
Your servants in ministry,
Steve Smallman & Marc Davis