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September 06, 2018

To our Brothers and Sisters of the Association of Reformed Baptist


Churches of America,

Attached please find Portico Church's letter of resignation from ARBCA dated
March 13, 2017. I spoke at length with three of the California men who served on
the membership committee (past and present), including its chairman,
concerning why the General Assembly was not provided with the information that
they were in possession of concerning Tom Chantry prior to the 2016 GA's vote
to receive the Hales Corners, Wisconsin church, with Tom Chantry as its pastor,
into the association. After receiving no acknowledgement of wrong doing, or
procedural impropriety, I called all three men to repentance. Hearing nothing
more from them on the subject, our church submitted our letter of resignation on
March 13, 2017. Our letter of resignation was written with great charity and with
the hope that our call to repentance might be heard and acted upon. Were we to
write it today, in light of all that has come out in court, our letter would sound very
different.

In May of 2017, I attended a meeting of our local Southern California Association


of Reformed Baptist Churches. After the meeting I was invited into the host
pastor's office and was told that the ARBCA AC did not distribute our letter of
resignation to the churches. The man also informed me that he believed that he
had nothing to repent of. This further underscored our great concern that the
membership committee, AC, and coordinator were undermining and hindering
the General Assembly by censoring information meant for the churches, and by
making decisions that were not theirs to make. Portico Church did not simply
withdraw from the ARBCA AC; we withdrew from an association of local churches
who had a right to know our reasons and to hear our concerns. And while it has
often been said that ARBCA is an association of churches not elders, this
statement is only half true. ARBCA is an association of churches represented by
men who (presumably) meet the standards of full subscription to the London
Baptist Confession of Faith, and the moral qualifications of Scripture. Christian
prudence, sound judgment, and common sense, irrespective of man-made
policies, should have led these men to conclude that a man who had previously
resigned from the pastorate under circumstances that required a formal "informal
council," and who was at the time of the 2016 GA under an active police
investigation, may not actually be "above reproach," and that it might be in the
best interest of the association if the MC and AC had withheld the
recommendation of CRBC, under its current circumstances, to the 2016 GA until
more information was available.
Judge Astrowski, who presided over the recent trial of Tom Chantry, said, "If this
were a trial of ARBCA, they'd be convicted." Regretfully, we believe that this
unsolicited statement validates our concerns regarding many of the leaders (past
and present) of ARBCA. Additionally, the AC's statement concerning Tom Chantry
that was read to the 2017 GA has not held up well when measured against the
body of evidence presented during the first trial. In fact, it has been revealed to
be full of omissions, half-truths, and outright misrepresentations.

Brethren, we use this letter to once again call all of those involved in the cover
up, and those who misled the General Assembly of 2016 by not divulging what
was known and what had been learned from the credible sources who had
warned of the investigation of Tom Chantry by the Prescott Police Department,
and those who wrote and approved the statement read concerning Tom Chantry
at the 2017 General Assembly to ernest, sincere, godly repentance. Our great
concern has been, and continues to be, for the reputation of Christ's church, the
good order and well-being of His saints in the local churches that you serve and
are members of, and for the health and welfare of the souls of these men who, by
their sins of omission, commission, and false witness, have wrought disorder in
the association, disrepute upon the name "Reformed Baptist", and dishonor to
Christ's Bride in the eyes of many of those who are watching.

Christians, in light of the evidence which was presented in court, and in


consideration of God's inerrant and unfailing word (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9),
we ask you to prayerfully consider if these men have not disqualified themselves
from the offices that they hold in Christ's church. Our sincere, continual prayer is
that the Spirit of God would break hearts hardened by years of sin and produce
the godly sorrow that leads to genuine repentance. "If we confess our sins, He is
faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all
unrighteousness." Our hope is that these brothers will listen to you where they
have been unable, or unwilling, to listen to us. May God be merciful to us all!

Yours most sincerely in Christ,

Pastor Jonathan Cochran


Portico Church
Orange, California
March 13, 2017

Brothers,

It is with a sad but resolute heart that I am writing to inform you that after careful and
prayerful consideration, the officers and members of Portico Church in Orange, California,
voted with near unanimity (there was one abstention) to withdraw our membership from
ARBCA.

Over the years of our participation in the association, we have been greatly blessed by the
fellowship and partnership in the gospel that we have enjoyed. We thank God for the
prayers of the saints offered on our behalf, and for the opportunity to bring the needs of our
sister churches and missionaries before the throne of grace at our weekly corporate prayer
meetings.

We greatly appreciated the clarity of thought, transparency, and communication practiced


by the ARBCA leadership concerning the issues surrounding the doctrine of divine
impassibility. We are truly thankful for the guidance and resources that were provided by
the administrative council and theology committee through that process. Given the delicate
nature of the debate, we whole-heartedly believe that the issue was handled in the most
proper and God-honoring way.

We believe that the association is filled with good men who represent faithful local churches,
and who are truly seeking to know and to practice the Christian faith as it is revealed in the
Scriptures and summarized in our 1689 London Baptist Confession.

But we are also aware from our own experience that even good, faithful, and godly men are
subject to serious errors and lapses in judgment. In our view, this is the case concerning
the process surrounding the presentation of the Hales Corners, Wisconsin church for
reception at the 2016 ARBCA general assembly held at Rockford, Illinois. We are aware that
there were many issues facing the men serving on the membership committee and
administrative council. We do not presume to think that these men have been given a
simple task. We reject the idea that there was a conspiracy to deceive the general assembly,
and we are also aware that much of the information that was being presented to the MC,
AC, and coordinator was fluid and incomplete. We are sympathetic to the difficult place that
the men serving on these committees were in, and certainly do not want to diminish the
emotional and mental stress that these good brothers endured through this process.

Our central issue has nothing to do with the guilt or innocence of Tom Chantry. We pray that
these allegations will be proven to be false. We ultimately trust that the Lord’s sovereign will
will be done through the legal system, and do pray that all of those who have been either
directly, or indirectly, affected by this will find comfort, strength, and healing in the all-
sufficient grace of God.

Our first great concern is the poor judgment exercised by the membership committee,
administrative council, and the ARBCA coordinator in putting Tom Chantry and the Hales
Corners church forward for reception to the general assembly. Again, we understand that
these individuals were not in possession of all of the information, yet what is also clear is
that this man was under a cloud of suspicion that should have caused the MC, AC, and
coordinator to at least withdraw their recommendation for reception of the Hales Corners
church until such time as all of the facts surrounding the case were fully disclosed and there
was settlement to the issues surrounding the man. We understand that there was a need for
silence while the issue was being investigated, but this bears witness to our concern that
this was not the right time for the Hales Corners church to be pursuing membership. If it
was known that there was some level of police investigation under way, such that
investigators made a request for the MC, AC, and coordinator to remain silent about the
details of the case, then clearly the wise and prudent course was to pause the process until
notified otherwise.

Our second concern is that good men, armed with some (admittedly limited) information,
made a determination that it was the best course for the applying congregation to be
recommended for reception, especially in the event that the investigation led to an arrest
and trial. We understand that the motive for these committees was to provide associational
care for the Hales Corners church in case of the worst possible outcome. While we choose to
believe that the motives of the MC, AC, and coordinator likely were genuinely good, the
reality is that this determination was not theirs to make. The reception of applying churches
into the association belongs to the general assembly. By determining to recommend the
Hales Corners church to the general assembly for reception, but failing to, or being legally
hindered from, informing the general assembly of the issues as they were known, the MC,
AC, and coordinator undermined the integrity of the process. These groups, in their desire
to help, actually overreached and usurped the authority of the general assembly. Again, we
do not believe that this was done with malice, but this was the totally unacceptable result.

A third area of concern centers on what appears to us as a willingness to indulge the desires
of a non-member church at the expense of the good order and reputation of the member
churches that make up the association. Again, we do not believe that this was the intention,
but it is nonetheless the result. We can understand how much the Hales Corners church,
and likely, the Rockford church who planted and sponsored them in their application for
membership into the association, would have been excited to be received into the
association at the Rockford General Assembly. The symbolism and the sentimentality of that
time and place are not lost on us. However given the clouds that surrounded the entire
situation, the welfare and well-being of the member churches should have been the priority.
We do not presume to know or understand everything, but the integrity, holiness, and
reputation of the association churches must take priority over the desires of non-member
churches.

Poor judgment, overreach by the MC, AC, and coordinator, even if well intentioned, and
what appears from our perspective to be deference shown to an applying church at the
expense of the well-being, integrity, and reputation of the local churches that make up the
association, require that we withdraw ourselves from formal association with ARBCA.

While acknowledging the very real difficulties surrounding this issue, and while empathizing
with the men who were involved in this process, we also believe that there was a clear, God-
honoring course of action, which could have been, and should have been, pursued. We
recognize that the righteous path is not always the easiest or most comfortable; but it is
always the only acceptable path. Doing the wrong thing, even for the right reasons, is still
wrong.

We pray that the Lord in His infinite goodness and faithfulness will grant humble confession
and sincere repentance where it is appropriate, and that through His all-sufficient, amazing
grace, He would bring healing and restoration to those involved and glory to Himself
through Christ’s church. Brothers, we do not condemn you; but neither can we condone
your decisions and actions that have now warranted our resignation.

We have attempted to write with understanding and charity while clearly communicating our
firm belief that those involved have done a great disservice to the churches that comprise
the association. We trust that our withdrawal will underscore our concerns over the
seriousness of the situation, and will be used by God to bring conviction and to spur
repentance where perhaps our words alone would have been insufficient.

For the officers and members of Portico Church in Orange California,

Pastor Jonathan Cochran