League of the South Works to Take Over Churches
In recent years, Wilkins has been building up his Christian Reconstructionist credentials. He began to publish in a number of Reconstructionist journals in the late 1990s, speaking as well to several theological conferences on the topic.
Wilkins also joined the editorial board of The Counsel of Chalcedon, a journal produced by a theonomist and former PCA minister, Joseph Moorecraft.
Moorecraft was "encouraged to leave" the denomination because of his Reconstructionist views, according to Rev. Smartt. And in early 2001, Wilkins spoke to the convention of the Constitution Party, which until last year was the anti-abortion U.S. Taxpayers Party.
The Constitution Party has virtually the same platform and religious ideas as the former party, and it is run mostly by the same men, many of whom are Reconstructionists.
As Wilkins' importance in Reconstructionist circles developed, so too did his interest in remaking the PCA. Finally, last April, Wilkins told Christian Renewal that "the denomination is unreformable" and that after years of work to turn it in a more "reformed" direction "things have only gotten worse." He also distributed a memo to his church members decrying a whole host of injustices, particularly the lack of "true justice" for those who are "TR (truly reformed) and theonomists."
Last August, Wilkins sponsored the meeting in which the 10 churches of the Louisiana Presbytery discussed leaving the PCA because of these and other similar concerns.
Pressure is building within the PCA to address this situation, in part because of the threatened departure of Woods' church. Rev. Smartt told the Report that "an investigation of these views" may well come up in the next General Assembly.
Reconstruction and Death by Stoning
Driving all of these events is the little-known theological doctrine of theonomy — and, more specifically, its particularly hard-line variant, Christian Reconstruction. Reconstruction arose out of conservative Presbyterianism in the early 1970s.
Its founding text is Rousas John Rushdoony's 1973 book The Institutes of Biblical Law, an 800-page explication of the Ten Commandments, the Biblical case law that supposedly derives from them and their application today.
Reconstruction is opposed to modern notions of equality, democracy and tolerance. A theocratic society — in which one brand of religion rules — would be established and the Constitution overturned since, in North's view, it is "a legal barrier to Christian theocracy."
North says that "pluralism will be shot to pieces in an ideological (and perhaps even literal) crossfire." Those who do not believe as Reconstructionists do would find themselves in a precarious situation.
"Anyone viewed as Biblically incorrect is heretical at best and subject to execution at worst," said Frederick Clarkson, an expert on the theology.
Indeed, executioners would be busy in a "reconstructed" society. North has called publicly for the execution of women who have abortions. Stoning, he has said, would be the preferable method because "the implements of execution are available to everyone at virtually no cost."
According to Clarkson, Rushdoony, who is North's father-in-law, also suggests the death penalty be used to punish those guilty of "apostasy (abandonment of the faith), heresy, blasphemy, witchcraft, astrology, adultery, 'sodomy or homosexuality,' incest, striking a parent, incorrigible juvenile delinquency, and in the case of women, 'unchastity before marriage.'"
Non-capital crimes would be sanctioned with whipping, indentured servitude or slavery.
Theology Meets Real Life
Views like these — the idea of applying "Biblical" standards to contemporary society — can have real-life consequences. Consider the physician, a former member of Wilkins' church, who several years ago worked 36 hours a week in an emergency room in Carthage, Tenn., then-Vice President Al Gore's home town.
"I treat pagans all the time, though there are some things I do not do (like prescribe birth control pills or other abortifacients)," said an e-mail to other members of Wilkins' church that came from Dr. Frank T. Chin, who now works in Jackson, Tenn.
"And there are some things I do to pagans that might be a little off base (if someone comes in with a venereal disease, I can treat them with painful shots, or painless pills. I do the former, to remind them of the wages of sin)."
Another posting from the same e-mail address asked whether "a Christian may have Scriptural warrant to stand by and watch an enemy of Christ perish, and not offer help." The e-mail ended with this remark: "The odds of Gore needing emergency room treatment is [sic] extremely rare, but one wonders."
Asked if these were his messages, Dr. Chin acknowledged that the e-mail address from which they were sent was once his. He said he could not remember if he had sent the e-mails in question when queried by the Intelligence Report.
Stealth Campaigns and 'Rahab's Lie'
Reconstructionism has an explicit strategy for infiltrating and taking over churches. In Crossed Fingers: How the Liberals Captured the Presbyterian Church, ideologue Gary North provides a road map for how to install the theology into denominations.
The book examines how "liberals" in the 1930s used the judicial structures of the mainline Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) to markedly change that denomination.
North suggests that Reconstructionists now use the same judicial structures to reverse this liberal victory — just as Wilkins and the other League members did in the case of Pastor Wood by bringing charges against him through the PCA'S Standing Judicial Committee. The aborted church takeover in York, Ala., also comes to mind when considering North's influence on the League.
"That North spent years studying the 'liberal triumph' in mainline Presbyterianism illuminates the scale of what is at stake," writes Lewis C. Daly in A Moment to Decide, The Crisis in Mainstream Presbyterianism, published in May 2000.
"His vision of the future of church history is one in which successive mainline denominations are recaptured using political strategy and judicial power."
An important tool of the movement is stealth. Theonomists justify this strategy with a Biblical story, "Rahab's Lie," of a young woman who lies to protect the lives of Israelite spies in Jericho. In an article posted on the web site of Wilkins' church, Deacon Kevin Branson praises Rahab as "a spiritual hero" because "she deceived the wicked who sought to kill God's own people."
Branson said he writes about Rahab because "some of us don't have a clue about honorable and necessary deception of the wicked." His conclusion is that "sometimes God requires that we offer by way of our right hand a sweeping sword, and from our lips deception, that the wicked might fail, and Christ and His Bride might flourish."