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Pastor of Philadelphia’s Historic Tenth Presbyterian Church Resigns

Liam Goligher gone nine years after pleading guilty to "personal conduct" charges in Lancaster PA city park

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Liam Goligher is out as pastor at Philadelphia’s historic Tenth Presbyterian Church, an historic and influential congregation in the Presbyterian Church in America, but critics are asking what took so long.

Goligher, who arrived at Tenth in 2011, pleaded guilty in July 2014 to “personal conduct” charges in a city park in Lancaster, Penn., with Susan Elzey. The Lancaster Parks and Recreation Department confirmed to MinistryWatch that “personal conduct” is language often used to identify lewd or sexual behavior.

Though the incident took place nearly a decade ago, it was made public this week by a watchdog group called Anglican Watch.

But both Goligher and Elzey maintained their leadership positions in the church for nine years since the incident.

Elzey is still listed on the church’s website as a deacon and leader of a church small group. She pleaded guilty to the same charge on the same day.

Anglican Watch is a volunteer-run nonprofit publication that advocates on behalf of “those hurt or abused by the church” in Episcopalian and “other faith traditions.” It published a series of posts, including one detailing the nine-year-old criminal dockets that included the guilty pleas of the couple.

The administrator of Tenth Presbyterian Church, Jim Hess, provided the following statement to MinistryWatch:

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.

Goligher has disappeared from the church’s staff page, but you can still access hundreds of his sermons. It appears he last preached there on Nov. 26, delivering a sermon on Ephesians 1. Goligher has also had a long association with Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) and The Gospel Coalition. Both organizations have removed content by Goligher.

Tenth Presbyterian Church was founded in 1829, and a number of its pastors have been esteemed evangelical leaders, including Donald Grey Barnhouse (1927-1960), James Montgomery Boice (1968-2000), and Goligher’s predecessor, Philip Graham Ryken, now president of Wheaton College.


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In 1982, Tenth Presbyterian joined the Presbyterian Church in America, a denomination that is celebrating its 50th anniversary while facing an “abuse crisis,” according to a June Christianity Today article.

At its June general assembly, PCA leaders announced they had exonerated Daniel Herron, pastor of Hope Presbyterian Church in Bloomington, Indiana. Herron had sued female church members who accused him of abuse, accusing the women of defamation.

CT reported, “The denomination has the structure for abuse accountability in theory, PCA elders say, but not in practice.”

Tenth Presbyterian has faced abuse issues of its own in recent years. Church members-turned-whistleblowers protested outside services and GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) subsequently conducted an investigation into abuse at the church. It released a 144-page report on Nov. 21 that included allegations from more than 20 current and former church members against six current and former leaders at the church.

Anglican Watch has pursued its campaign against Goligher for years, and even filed a church disciplinary complaint against him with the Philadelphia Presbytery of the PCA. The clerk of the Philadelphia Presbytery attends Tenth Presbyterian.

Anglican Watch claims Goligher manipulated and restricted the GRACE investigation so that it didn’t implicate him and says he has perjured himself by lying during the investigation.

“The Romans had lions,” wrote Anglican Watch in an undated post. “Tenth Presbyterian has lawyers. Lots of ‘em. Expensive lawyers. So, as active participants in this situation, which we believe to be a sham, we are calling BS on the church’s attorneys.”

The group has also asked the church to discipline Susan Elzey, the church deacon and small group leader who also pleaded guilty to the personal conduct charge.

“Avoid this church like the plague,” said the group.

Warren Cole Smith contributed to this article.

Main photo: Liam Goligher, preaching Nov. 26 / Video screenshot

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Steve Rabey

Steve Rabey is a veteran author and journalist who has published more than 50 books and 2,000 articles about religion, spirituality, and culture. He was an instructor at Fuller and Denver seminaries and the U.S. Air Force Academy. He and his wife Lois live in Colorado.