There are those within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) who despise the Presbyterian Layman and others who value it highly. The controversial publication is the major vehicle through which the Presbyterian Lay Committee (PLC) has made its voice heard in the 2.9 million-member denomination. (See “Gadfly Group Has Grassroots Appeal,” p. 61.)

Even those who don’t agree with the attitudes and viewpoints emerging from the PLC find the Layman a valuable source for denominational news. At the very least, the publication could never be accused of pulling any punches.

The September/October issue of the Layman exemplified the PLC’s no-holds-barred style of journalism. Ostensibly, the 12-page tabloid told the story of Kansas farmer and Presbyterian elder Wilbur Smith’s battle with the PCUSA bureaucracy.

According to the story, Smith received a tip in 1987 from a fellow farmer that his pastor had been frequenting a topless bar in Topeka in the guise of a heavy-equipment salesman. After Lewis and two other elders issued a complaint to the local presbytery, they were assured these visits to Topeka would stop.

But later, Lewis had reason to believe they had not stopped. He paid a private investigator to make sure. For $600, the investigator produced a report detailing the activities of Smith’s pastor, whom the Layman did not identify by name. Those activities, according to the Layman, included “inserting money inside the strippers’ G-strings” and “voicing cat calls when they removed all of their clothing.”

Lewis claimed in the Layman article that the minister in question confirmed the accuracy of the investigator’s report. But this minister defended his behavior as part ...

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