I can't respond to all of your questions, but I did want to note a
couple of things.
One of the problems that you may be encountering when you ask
questions about why there is separation, or why there is reticence
to unify is that you are mainly dealing with individual ~families~
other than those in the (former) RPNA. There is the RPNA group and
then there are families elsewhere, not just here in PA, who are
bound by brotherhood, friendship and theological affinity, but
lacking anything official that would constitute them as being
a "group" per se. So, while there are indeed more of us out here who
consider ourselves Covenanters than just those in the RPNA and more
of us who hold to the same core doctrines, the reasons for these
families and individuals remaining separate from the RPNA could be
many and varied and not everyone is willing to make public their
reasons for not joining lest it cause offense, or worse, further
division in the Body.
As far as the three men you mentioned. The first as far as I know,
Jim Dodson, has nothing to do with anything "covenanter" except the
web site that is still up. From what I know of the other two, Derek
Edwards and Fred DiLella, they are Covenanters and seem to me to be
very decent Christian men. Neither of them currently have
congregations where they each live.
Regarding the posted Psalm passage and Jim Dodson:
I know from first hand personal experience that Jim Dodson has
sinned very grievously and publicly in many and varied ways and
continues to sin greatly and publicly against a lot of people to
this day. He has refused to repent of at least many (most? all?) of
his sins and has cut off anyone who has tried to confront or help
him. I am not even sure if he calls himself a Christian at this
point, & yet for years he has enmeshed himself and his name very
tightly with the words "Covenanter" and "Covenanted Reformation" and
passively continues the aforementioned website which is hosted by a
friend of his. He was at one time very closely associated with the
families here in PA, Jerry's and mine included. Because of his
continued long-standing impenitence those families would now like to
be DIS-associated with him though we will by God's grace continue to
hold what we believe to be the original Covenanter position.
Because his sins are public and he has refused to repent and yet he
continues to have his website up, some of us believe it is our duty
at times, when the subject comes up and questions are asked, to
clarify that we consider Jim Dodson to be a very dangerous,
unreasonable and unrepentant man. Please note that Jim CAN defend
himself publicly if he so chooses--he has an entire website if he
wants to do that, but sadly thus far, he won't even defend himself
privately to those he ought to be speaking to. So, it's not that he
CAN'T defend himself publicly; it's more that he just won't. If you
want more information about his status or his particular sins then
you can try emailing him at the website.
I hope this helps to answer some of your questions.
--- In email@example.com
, "Sean McDonald"
> It is interesting for me to note how many non-responses may be
> furnished as responses to a few simple questions.
> "1. How many different 'Covenanter' groups are there (i.e. groups
> which hold to the binding obligation of the Solemn League and
> I know of at least two. Is that correct? or are there more than
> RPNA societies on the one hand, and the society (or societies)
> associated with the "original Steelite" group? What is that
> name (is it, as stated on the TrueCovenanter.com site, "The
> Covenanted Reformed Presbyterian Church")?
> How do Jim Dodson, Derek Edwards, and Frank DiLella figure into
> of this? Are they associated with any of the groups now in
> existence, or do any of them today form their own
> independent "Covenanter" societies?
> I was rather surprised to see Ps. 36:1-4 quoted against Mr.
> Would it not have been sufficient to say that you disagree with
> or with certain actions of his (I do not know the situation),
> than vilifying him on a public forum, without giving him
> to defend himself?
> "2. What are the reasons for these 'Covenanter' groups maintaining
> distinct and separate existence from each other?"
> I know that they arose separately from each other, in two
> countries. But I know also that the elders of the PRCE were in
> contact with Jim Dodson prior to their dissociation from Dr.
> presbytery in 1996. If the two were in contact with each other
> to the formation of the RPNA (2000), it seems that the two must
> had differences which prevented the RPNA from uniting with the
> original group.
> What are those differences? I have heard headcoverings, movies,
> birth control put forth so far. Is there nothing more substantial
> than these? I know that the RPNA lists "Reformation Principles
> Exhibited" as being among its subordinate standards, whereas David
> Steele himself later repudiated this document. It also seems
> to me that when earlier authors spoke of "terms of communion,"
> were not speaking merely of terms of "table fellowship" (which
> to be all this phrase means for the RPNA), but of terms of church
> membership. Are these some of the issues between the RPNA and the
> original group? Are there any other issues?
> I am not trying to "stir up debate" on these points. I really do
> want to discuss any of these issues, or care to have anyone else
> this forum debate headcoverings, birth control, differences in
> understanding "terms of communion," etc. Neither do I ask these to
> be a "mocker" or a "jeerer." I am simply asking what are the
> differences between the two main "Covenanter" groups that exist
> today -- or, if there are more than just two, what all of their
> differences are. I understand the desire to work toward unity with
> separated brethren; but such unity is rarely, if ever, obtained by
> simply ignoring differences, or trying to put on a "united front"
> for outsiders.
> "3. How do these distinct communions give support to the claims
> of 'Covenanters,' when groups agreeing with each other on the
> binding obligation of the Solemn League and Covenant (a document
> claimed to be the most perfect vehicle of visible church unity)
> cannot maintain visible church unity with each other on that
> > Who specifically made that claim, btw?
> I understand the phrase "covenanted unity and uniformity" to refer
> to maintaining church unity on the basis of the Solemn League and
> Covenant; and the emphasis placed upon the Solemn League and
> Covenant, in any "Covenanter" discussion of church unity, to refer
> to the excellency of that document toward furthering the goal of
> church unity (if not outright necessitating that document for any
> true church unity). See Greg Barrow's "Covenanted Reformation
> Defended," pp. 30-33 as an example of this. Note especially the
> "[T]he Westminster divines taught and practiced (in agreement with
> Scripture) that each nation was to have one National church
> covenanted together in unity of doctrine and uniformity of
> practice... This idea of covenanted unity and uniformity is the
> possible way for the independent Presbyterians of recent years to
> extract themselves from a palpable dilemma" (p. 30).
> "The PRCE is committed to promoting Covenanted National
> Churches which will rule the Church of Christ in covenanted unity
> and uniformity. Perhaps some may scoff and think that the PRCE is
> just dreaming about a pie in the sky ideal, but if we stop and
> consider what the millennial church will be like, we will
> that covenanted unity in doctrine and uniformity in practice are
> essential components" (p. 31).
> "We cannot walk together with Mr. B---- in his schismatic practice
> and agree to this endless multiplying of rival church courts. We
> believe that it is sin to associate or comply with such schismatic
> societies. We call upon all those who see the Scriptural
> being violated to separate from such schisms and work together
> us toward one national covenanted unity and uniformity" (p. 33).
> I would also note that Greg Price's (still) forthcoming work "A
> Peaceable Plea for Worldwide Protestant Unity" was quoted at
> in Mr. Barrow's "Covenanted Reformation Defended," pp. 59-68, as
> concerning the question of the obligation of the Solemn League and
> Covenant falling to Canada and the United States. I cannot but
> that a work with that title, which is so much occupied with the
> binding obligation of the Solemn League and Covenant, would
> for church unity principally or primarily on the basis of the
> League and Covenant. (But, again, the work is STILL listed at
> Waters Revival Books as "forthcoming," although published in 2000,
> so I can only cite Mr. Price in an inferential way.)
> The phrase "covenanted unity and uniformity," of course, is not
> original with Mr. Barrow, appearing in the Auchensaugh Renovation,
> as well as certain writings of David Steele ("Declaration and
> Testimony for the Present Truth," "Short Vindication of Our
> Covenanted Reformation"). I am sure that the phrase could probably
> be found in other documents or authors. The phrase indicates the
> centrality of the Solemn League and Covenant in "Covenanter"
> on church unity.
> Which makes separate and distinct "Covenanter" communions all the
> more ironic.
> This discussion does not concern the NAPARC denominations, or any
> other churches, for that matter, since none of these other
> hold to the binding obligation of the Solemn League and Covenant.
> But for those bodies which to hold to its abiding obligation, how
> you meet the charge of schism and separatism, at least as far as
> your relations to each other are concerned? If you hold that there
> can only be one true church in the nation, to which all
> congregations are bound to be united, must you not hold each other
> as being a sinful body, without any authority for its separate
> Respectfully submitted,
> Sean P.M. McDonald