A Public Warning
Concerning Jim Dodson of Pennsylvania
And his Pretensions to a Ministerial Calling.
By the Correspondent Reformed Presbyterian Societies of South-Central Pennsylvania.
The following warning is hereby issued at the desire of Reformed Presbyterian brethren among our fellowship who for several years have been convinced of the dangerous nature of Jim Dodson’s pretensions as an advocate of the Reformed Presbyterian religion in its historic purity. For the safety of other Christian brethren, something of this sort should have been made public many years ago. Our slowness to duty we confess and lament, wishing that some who have since expressed their concerns and observations, had publicly given warning against this man at an earlier time.
In 2001, Mr. Dodson encouraged efforts among some of those with whom he was then in fellowship, to advance him to the role of a regular preacher without Presbyterial ordination. These motions were promoted while known to be contrary to the approval of other brethren then meeting as fellow Reformed Presbyterians in Morgantown, PA, for fellowship on a regular schedule. An examination of the historic standards of the Reformed Presbyterian Church and Covenanter societies, including the Informatory Vindication, the Renovation of the Covenants at Auchensaugh, and the Act, Declaration, and Testimony, will quickly show that these motions were also in direct opposition to any real historic Reformed Presbyterian testimony. They were also contrary to Holy Scripture, and to the will of the Lord Jesus Christ, revealed therein. They were dangerous motions, and they were divisive motions.
Accordingly, some resisted the motion. A pretension of a remarkable change or repentance in the life of Jim Dodson was argued, by himself, on his behalf. No such repentance was observed at the time, although Mr. Dodson was convinced it was at work in his life, and ought to involve his entering into the ministry to care for the souls of several individuals he imagined were in need of his preaching.
After those who opposed his measures had observed his treacherous manner of advancing his own interests, other defects in his character, and evident dishonesty in his claim to being necessitated to this new course, they had no choice but to account the man entirely void of credibility. Mr. Dodson’s reasoning having already assumed a claim of necessity and some form of divine direction, division naturally ensued.
Some were resolved to maintain fellowship with Mr. Dodson, and attend what preaching he would offer. A minority resolved to maintain a Reformed Presbyterian fellowship following an order similar to that observed before. They met without Mr. Dodson and those who adhered to him, but with the same ends as formerly, hoping for a day of more general reformation in the Church of Jesus Christ. There were others also, who being stumbled by the controversy, chose not to fellowship with either of the resulting bodies.
Mr. Dodson professed to be convinced that the work he intended was necessary in light of the current backslidden state of the Christian Church. All hope that others would come forward to uphold the Testimony and Cause of the Lord Jesus, according to historic Reformed Presbyterian principles, was to be set aside. Future help was not to be expected from the RPCNA. Future help was not to be expected from more conservative Covenanters, such as Greg Price. At least, this was Mr. Dodson’s position as asserted in a meeting in early 2002, wherein both sides of the controversy had opportunity to express their respective intentions and concerns. In the weeks which followed, Mr. Dodson began his preaching career with apparent confidence that he was doing the work of the Lord.
It was not long, however, before personal scandals began to come forth in the life of Mr. Dodson, to the disappointment of those adhering to his presumptuous ministry. These seemed to evidence that the repentance which Mr. Dodson had recently professed, was not so authentic as was pretended, and that the Lord was not really the mover in this new work. For a while, those who adhered to him exercised Christian patience, and sought a remedy to these troubles. But within a year’s time, further scandals came to such an unexpected height that there was no possibility nor desire of finding a remedy that would either preserve Mr. Dodson’s career, or the fellowship which was shared between him and others.
These things, which we present to the public, are such as already have some public knowledge, and we hope will tend to vindicate the Reformed Presbyterian cause which we uphold from the wrong impression that some may have of Covenanters in Pennsylvania. Among us there are those who have a first-hand acquaintance with the circumstances of these events, and we choose to abstain from circulating details unnecessary to our present purpose. We hope that those who have occasion to read this Warning will take seriously our desire to divert them from danger and trouble. If they desire to speak with us personally in order to obtain better acquaintance with our own sincerity, or the weightiness of some things we express in general terms, we will be happy to satisfy them as much as possible concerning the danger of entertaining Jim Dodson in Christian Fellowship. Were he ever to give satisfying evidence of his repentance, we might be less concerned about the safety of any who would admit him to their fellowship. But in this we face a dilemma: How he can sufficiently give evidence of such repentance, after using a false profession of repentance to pursue desperately selfish ends, is beyond our guessing. In any case, we are not aware that it has been endeavoured, and were it done in its perfection, it remains certain that the man should never be received in the capacity of any sort of teacher or leader, formally or informally, permanently or temporarily.
If any who are otherwise acquainted with the man desire to reply in his defence, we wish them to know that we will be happy to hear whatever good reports they have of the man, and the amendment observed in his life. We did not make ourselves his enemies, and it is not our intention to do so by this Warning. But we are sad to say, that we have not heard reports of his amendment or willingness to declare his repentance. Instead we hear that his scandals are extenuated either by himself or others, and a proportion of blame lifted from himself that it may lie upon another. We have not heard that he regards any of these circumstances as evidence that the Lord was not with him in his preaching, or that he was given over to such a course to hasten the end of his work. What we have heard from second-hand reports suggests otherwise, but we forbear to circulate that to which we are not witnesses ourselves.
Consequently, our advice and brotherly admonitions at the present time can only be the same as we find in the Holy Scriptures: Romans 16.17-18, “Now I beseech you brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” Likewise, although it is a weighty thing to apply to any man, we are more afraid to not apply 2 Tim. 3.4-8 to Mr. Dodson, than to apply it, because we perceive the danger he poses to the souls of men, is more weighty than the little hurt it may give him that these words would be read against him: “Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.”
Let no Christian think these words spoken only for a time long ago, or for churches which have degenerated from sound doctrine. Let every brother guard himself and his brethren against high-mindedness, vain boasting, pretentious learning, and ostentatious teaching. Let none think himself so holy, or his repentance so strong, that no temptation shall ever carry him away with the love of pleasures. These things are written for a purpose, and it is because, (of ourselves,) we are all capable of losing our footing in the paths of holiness and righteousness into which we are entered. By means of such admonitions, as well as the effectual influences of the Spirit of Grace, we are kept on in the course to which we are called. But if we once conceive high thoughts of ourselves, or allow our brethren to please themselves with a vain confidence of their own virtues or of ours, then we are already departed from those paths to which the Lord has called us, and there is no telling, (on our part,) when we shall be brought back to the right way again, or how far we will go on first in a course of spiritual backsliding and moral recklessness.
Also, as a preventative of all tendencies to (1) self-isolation, which exposes individuals to the abuse of others, and (2) self-admiration, which is the harbinger of innumerable temptations, we exhort every believer to entertain a disposition of Christian Charity towards all Christian brethren, even those who are not wholly of the same mind and profession in Christ’s Truth; that they despise not those who are beloved of the Lord Jesus, nor become so proud of their identity with the Witnessing Church that they lose the essential character of a good witness for the Lord: for He disowns all such, “Which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou. These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day.” Isa. 65.5. It is true we must abstain from fellowship with churches which are turned aside into divisive courses, but it is not true that we are to set aside all hope for them. It is only cults and deadly heresies that are known to take their birth from a conviction that all other religious communities are corrupt beyond recovery. But like our first Reformers, Covenanters have always believed in Reformation, and anticipated that the glorious kingdom of Christ in this world will be composed mutually of new plantings of the Lord’s work, as well as the Reformation of churches formerly declined into paths of defection.
We hope therefore that our present Warning and testimony may be helpful not only to preserve brethren from the dangers we perceive in Mr. Dodson, but from all other persons and occasions of the same sort. And we also hope that, whereas former warnings against Mr. Dodson over the years may have seemed less worthy of attention or credit, yet this present may be regarded as weighty and reliable. For although some had earnest things to say in the past, we conceive their doctrinal errors and opposition to the Reformed Presbyterian testimony gave occasion to suspect they spoke against the man with prejudice to the cause for which he professed to stand. But we hope this present Warning will be more regarded, because on our part there is no opposition to the Reformed Presbyterian faith which Mr. Dodson pretended to admire, but only his arbitrary and hypocritical way of promoting the Covenanted Reformation through means explicitly condemned by those who went before us as witnesses for this cause.
Our prayer is that Mr. Dodson may be brought to repentance in sincerity; that if he may never be useful to the Church of Jesus Christ, she may yet be useful to him, according to her proper uses; that the Dodson family may be blessed with grace and joy in our Saviour’s forgiveness as well as the victory and undying hope of our Lord and his glorious kingdom; that the dishonors done to our Lord and to his bride may be eclipsed by the wonder of God’s grace, and the incomparable skill of his hands to turn the evil occasions devised by men into the most excellent works of his mercy; and that those who have been stumbled by the misdoings of professing Covenanters may be helped to stand again, and set examples of righteousness that may abundantly counteract the examples of others’ unrighteousness.
In the meantime, we only desire to do our Christian duty, and for that reason adopt the above Warning, and appoint that it be published immediately by such means as will serve as a useful notice to those who might be misled into dangerous paths, and also as an exoneration of the principles of Covenanters residing in Pennsylvania.
The following brethren approve and subscribe this Warning in their own persons as primary witnesses to the events described:
Gerald M Waybright
The remaining brethren approve and subscribe this Warning in their own persons as either witnesses to the character of Jim Dodson, or those who are persuaded by credible Christian testimony that such warning is due and needful.
The above Warning was originally drafted in 2012. At the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014 it was circulated for examination and discussion. In the month of April it was signed by the above members of our societies. About this same time, Still Waters Revival Books began uploading to SermonAudio.com recordings of Mr. Dodson giving catechism instruction in his home, and eventually engaging in other teaching, including “messages” or sermons on various topics. These new developments add considerable weight to the needfulness of the above document and its circulation in public. It is needed both as a warning to those who may be misled, hurt, or stumbled by Mr. Dodson, as well as a testimony against his repeated attempts to encroach upon the Christian ministry unauthorized, and against those who countenance him in such very un-biblical and anti-Covenanter practices. If needed, a PDF file of the scanned original signed document is available to suitable parties upon request.—JTKER::2014.05.03.