Liam Goligher, Pastor at Tenth Presbyterian Church, Resigns in the Wake of GRACE Report

On Friday, December 1, William (Liam) Goligher resigned from his position as senior minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church, a Philadelphia, PA congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America. Tenth Presbyterian has not released a public statement about Goligher's resignation.

At the end of November, GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment), a third-party non-profit organization, released the report of its investigation into Tenth Presbyterian Church. The full report can be accessed here.

Tenth Presbyterian engaged GRACE after they learned of the arrest of Bruce Garner, an elder and nursery volunteer at the church, who was charged with sex crimes against minors.

Bruce Garner

Bruce Garner joined Tenth Presbyterian in 2017 and was elected as an elder in 2019. In May of 2022, he was arrested for taking over 100 "upskirt" photos of teen and preteen girls during his tenure as a school bus driver which began in 2015.

Tenth Presbyterian immediately alerted the congregation of Garner's arrest and sent letters to various groups within the church. The church requested any reports of abuse be made to the church leadership via an email address developed for that purpose.

Garner was also deposed from the office of elder and suspended indefinitely from the sacrament of Lord's Super in accordance with the procedures of Church Discipline in the PCA's Book of Church Order.

In May of 2023 he was readmitted to the Lord's Table. Tenth Presbyterian Pastor Carroll Wynne wrote a letter of commendation and a plea of leniency for Garner's sentencing hearing in June of 2023. The GRACE report states that "according to Carroll, he did not know Bruce well, and had only met him a few times prior to his arrest."

Despite this limited personal knowledge, Carroll wrote to the sentencing judge "Bruce has a compassionate heart and is knowledgeable of the Bible. It is why this contradiction in his behavior is so difficult to understand...His shame and guilt weigh heavily upon him and his family who have stood beside him, as do we as church fellowship."

The Scope Broadens

When Tenth Presbyterian originally engaged GRACE, the scope of the investigation included an independent investigation to determine if any misconduct "was committed by Bruce Garner against anyone associated with Tenth Presbyterian Church."

However it also specified "If the investigation uncovers significant misconduct related to another individual at Tenth Presbyterian Church, it shall also be investigated." GRACE did indeed uncover other significant misconduct to be investigated, identifying other reported offenders or offenses.

  • Paul Jones, organist and music director from 1998 to 2014
  • Carroll Wynne, youth director from 1998 to 2009, Minister of Pastoral Care 2009 - ongoing
  • Carl Stacio, various forms of church employment including sexton supervisor from 2011 to 2017
  • Royson Duvin, sporadic attender, possibly a member as of 2021
  • Lucas Saenz, part of the International Ministry at Tenth, staying with a Tenth pastor in 2013
  • Pat Canavan, employed by Tenth from 2003 to 2017, including serving as an elder, administrator for the church's Bible school, and church administrator
  • Two Unnamed Offenders
  • Additional Offender
  • Responses to Whistleblower

Anglican Watch Posts Court Documents

After Goligher's resignation from Tenth Presbyterian Church, Anglican Watch, a non-profit religious watchdog organization, published copies of court documents indicating that Goligher and church deaconess Susan Elzey were cited and pled guilty to "Engaging in any form of sexual activity" in a public park in Lancaster County, PA in July of 2014.

They were charged according to Local Ordinance 98-19 B for Personal Conduct. This is the content of LO 98-19 as it existed in 2014 (as seen in this 2010 document). This portion of the code is now included in Ordinance No. 152.

MinistryWatch, another non-profit religious watchdog organization, confirmed with Lancaster County that "personal conduct" is a term often used to reference lewd or sexual behavior.

MinistryWatch reached out to Tenth Presbyterian Church and received this statement from administrator Jim Hess:

Dr. Liam Goligher resigned as Senior Minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church on Friday, December 1, 2023. This has been difficult news for the Tenth community. The formal dissolution of the pastoral relationship will be conducted according to the polity of the Presbyterian Church in America. Tenth Church has no further information regarding the 2014 citations of Dr. Goligher and Susan Elzey other than what is publicly available. Our denomination also has a process for addressing questions which the citations could raise. Concerns related to Dr. Goligher will be referred to the Philadelphia Presbytery and those pertaining to Susan Elzey to Tenth’s Session.

Updated to Add: Tenth Presbyterian Church released this formal statement on December 8, 2023.

Responses from PCA Leaders

On Friday, December 8, byFaith Magazine, the official publication of the Presbyterian Church in America published the opening paragraphs of this MinistryWatch article and linked to the full article. byFaith also shared a link on X (formerly Twitter). Responses varied widely. Some voices objected to the denominations journalistic arm linking to an organization they found offensive.

One pastor wrote "Very poor judgement on the part of @PCAByFaith to link to such a sensational article that seems to revel in the sad situation," and a ruling elder replied with only the hashtag "#defundbyfaith"

Another pastor said, "It is disgusting for our Denominational magazine to quote 'the pca has an abuse crisis,' [referring to this Christianity Today article linked by MinistryWatch] when that has never been concluded by any study, official or otherwise. It's a slap in Christ's Bride's face, as thousands of PCA Officers fight against abuse in their churches on a regular basis."

However, one ruling elder reposted the byFaith link with the comment, "The crisis will continue as long as we allow sin to be hidden. I hope the #pcaga will make positive changes this coming year (routine background checks on officers make it harder to hide criminal offenses. This should be a no-brainer for folks teaching at 3rd party institutions)."

About the author 

Lynna Sutherland

Lynna has been in the PCA since 1982. Four generations of her family have participated in PCA church planting. Lynna has been around long enough to see the good, the bad, and the ugly and her particular calling is to equip the people in the pew to understand their church government and to advocate for victims of abuse in the PCA.

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