This may confuse readers, so let me explain. In the early 2000s, perhaps 2002, Douglas Wilson feared he had lost control of Christ Church, thinking it might split. About half the congregation (aka “the fellowship of the grievance”) had had enough of him and was ready to bolt. So he remedied the problem by starting another church — Trinity Reformed Church (TRC) — which met every Sunday a block away from where the Kirk met. They called it a “church plant” but it was really a Kirk relief valve — a place where kirkers could think they were not in the cult even as they were in the cult. (Christ Church was a “cult” long before Doug Wilson conceded this fact).
Doug Wilson appointed loyal Kirk elders to manage TRC, which meant he pulled the strings. But the illusion was real enough. TRC kirkers bought it. On the one hand, they thought they assembled as an independent body, but on the other they submitted to Wilson puppets. TRC was really Christ Church Lite.
Doug Wilson appointed Dr. Peter Leithart as TRC’s first pastor. Dr. Leithart left Moscow in 2013 and Mr. Wilson appointed Toby Sumpter his successor. This explains the following emails. It’s a lateral move: Toby Sumpter transferred from the Kirk Lite to the Kirk Dark. But he was always in the Kirk.
Here are two emails that went out yesterday:
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TRC Events & News Announcement of change in TRC pastoral staffing
Dear TRC Saints,
At the session meeting on January 18th Pastor Sumpter notified TRC session that in response to an invitation and call to serve as a pastor on staff at Christ Church, he desired his call as a pastor of TRC to be terminated. Session passed a motion to accept that notice, stressing that it was with gratitude for his service as a pastor at TRC for many years, and with commendation and blessing on his future role as a pastor at Christ Church.
We are expecting this transition to take place formally on March 1, with some aspects of the transition extending over the following months. The TRC session will develop plans for the transition and for the future of TRC and we will be talking about these things at the next scheduled TRC head of household meeting on January 30th. Over the past year or so, differences have developed between Pastor Sumpter and the TRC session regarding the effectiveness of certain aspects of his cultural engagement and pastoral care (e.g. blogging and social media). While these differences have created tensions and hard conversations at various times, that is against the backdrop of unity and fellowship that persisted throughout our work together. We expect this fellowship to continue at a personal and ecclesiastical level, with Christ Church and TRC both members of the CREC, sharing similar convictions on almost everything and co-laboring in many works. We pray that this transition, significant though it is, is part of God’s plan for the advance of the gospel in our town and beyond (cf Acts 15:36–41). We urge you to join us in striving for the peace and purity of the church both here at TRC, in our town and in our denomination. Continue to be in the Word, to fight sin, to love Jesus that God might be glorified in everything.
It is our understanding that the Christ Church session will be issuing a statement within a day or so that will describe the work they will be asking Pastor Sumpter to do.
If you have questions please reach out to any of the members of the TRC session (Toby Sumpter, Joshua Appel, Chris Schlect, Patch Blakey and Timothy van den Broek).
With love in Christ,
Moderator of TRC session
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A warm welcome to the Sumpters
The Christ Church elders recently issued an invitation and call to Pastor Toby Sumpter of Trinity Reformed Church to join our staff here at Christ Church. As our congregation continues to grow, and we are engaged in the important work of growing the kingdom here in Moscow, there are a number of areas where we believe he will be able to contribute significantly. Toby’s responsibilities will include pulpit supply, laying groundwork for a future Christ Church plant, writing, teaching, and picking up some of the counseling load.
The way our polity works means that Pastor Toby will be part of our staff immediately (starting March 1), and the session will then begin the process of presenting him to the congregation for election as a minister. He will be attending our session meetings until then, but will not be a voting member of our session until he is elected by you all and installed.
The session of Christ Church would also like to thank the session of our sister church, Trinity Reformed, for their amiable and cooperative spirit in all of this. As the letter from the session of TRC indicated, there have been some differences that have developed between Pastor Toby and their session regarding cultural engagement and pastoral care, and we believed that his gifts and tactics would be a better fit at Christ Church. At the same time, we do want everyone to be assured that everyone involved in this is in fellowship, intending to keep it that way.
Cordially in Christ,
Douglas Wilson, on behalf of the elders
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