ATTENTION OPC members re:Justification Overture!!!

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Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
[quote:2a3eac42d7][i:2a3eac42d7]Originally posted by fredtgreco[/i:2a3eac42d7]
Given the current plethora of controversy regarding the Reformational principle of justification by faith alone, I commend to you this overture drafted by elders in the OPC:

Overture on Justification [/quote:2a3eac42d7]


OPC members of the Puritans Board, we've been discussing this issue of Justification on the Board quite frequently the last few months.

In the last OPC General Assembly, a disciplinary trial was conducted regarding a ruling elder who was found guilty by his session and presbytery of teaching justification by faith and works. The General Assembly overturned these rulings but stated they did not think the elder was teaching heresy but instead using poorly worded language. The problem was that the General Assembly did not clarify the doctrinal position of the OPC after reversing the decisions of the session and presbytery nor clarify the errors of teh elders statements. This has therefore caused confusion regarding the doctrine of justicification as held by the OPC.

Because of this several elders are presenting this overture to the Prebytery of Philedelphia in the hope that it will go to the General Assembly and force them to clarify the OPC's position on Justification. After hearing about this overture I contacted Jeff Sheely, the pastor of the OPC church, whose website is posting the Overture. He is also a signer of the overture. I included here an email correspondence with Pastor Sheely for the benefit of all the OPC members here. He has given me permission to post this and requests help of any who are concerned about this matter. Hopefully, this will also be beneficial for others here on the Board too.

[quote:2a3eac42d7]
From: Patrick Severson
To: [email protected]
Sent: Wednesday, November 26, 2003 11:28 PM
Subject: Overture

I found out about this overture you all have written and I would like to know if I could help move something like this through my own presbytery to the GA. I belong to an OPC church out here in Illinois in the Presbytery of the Midwest. Would it be helpful if I used this same overture and ran it through my own session and hopefully presbytery? The incident that sparked your reaction in this overture also concerns me but I'm not sure if there's anything I can do to help as just a member in the church. What I was thinking is that if I could somehow get this issue through my presbytery here then it would provide more support to you and force the GA to give it more consideration. Is there a proper way to go about this? Like I said if there is anything I can do to help this along I would love to help.

In Christ,
Patrick Severson

[email protected] wrote:
Patrick,
Thanks for your email! We really appreciate your concern for our denomination and the truth of the gospel. We believe that it is imperative that an overture on justification be presented to the General Assembly in June.
You can help us by having your session present our overture to your presbytery. Either a session or a minister or ruling elder can bring it before presbytery. Presbytery then must debate it and vote whether or not to send it on to General Assembly.
We do need to have other presbyteries do this. We are not sure that we have enough votes to pass it in our presbytery (Philadelphia). If you can help to send it through you presbytery it would be a great blessing.
Thanks for all your help and let's pray that the Lord will be pleased to use this overture for His glory.
In Him,
Jeff Sheely

Puritan Sailor responds:
I will contact my session ASAP and submit this overture to them. Also, I belong to a reformed theology discussion group online called the Puritan Board. Many members there have expressed the same concern over this issue, in fact it's through them I heard about it. There are several OPC members in this group. With your permission, I would like to post your email there and ask the OPC members there to also submit this overture through their sessions and presbyteries. Do I have your permission to do this?


[email protected] wrote:
Patrick,
That would be a great idea. It sounds like you know some people who should be contacted about the overture. Thanks for your help. We are glad to have others join with us in getting this overture to General Assembly.
Thanks again.
Jeff Sheely
[/quote:2a3eac42d7]

Please feel free to contact Pastor Sheely to confirm this correspondence. His email is noted above.

I have posted this so that all OPC members here can help. If you agree with this overture and the surrounding issues please take action. All you have to do is submit the overture to your session and ask them to vote on it. If they approve it then it will go up to your presbytery. If the presbytery approves then it will go to the General Assembly to be addressed.

If you are a minister or elder you may submit this overture directly to the presbytery.

Please check with your local session as to the proper "legal" ways to go about submitting this since there may be some peculairities in each session or presbytery.

It is important that this makes it passed the presbyteries to the General Assembly or the confusion over justification can lead to many more serious errors, many of which we have discussed on the Board in detail.

Finally, remember this is the Lord's fight. We are not to be cruel or veangful but in meekness and fear, out of love for our Savior, His gospel, and His Church, we are to pursue this in all humility and sincerity.

Patrick
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
How many guys here are in the OPC? Just curious. I know JohnV and KC are. John you said on the other thread that you were going to run this by your session. Have you made any progress on that yet?

Patrick
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Patrick:
I have not as yet. I'd like to know more about it first. I do have to be very careful in what I do right now. But I am going to send on the overture to my elders this week.

You are doing a good job Patrick.
 

Susan

Inactive User
Patrick,
I am a member of the OPC, even with my Baptist leanings! :wink2:
Our pastor is on vacation, but I will bring this to his attention as soon as he returns. Thanks Fred and Patrick for bringing this up.
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
[quote:a768271d1f][i:a768271d1f]Originally posted by JohnV[/i:a768271d1f]
Patrick:
I have not as yet. I'd like to know more about it first. I do have to be very careful in what I do right now. But I am going to send on the overture to my elders this week.

You are doing a good job Patrick. [/quote:a768271d1f]

Thanks John. For your info, every pastor in the OPC gets the minutes from the GA meeting. So your pastor should already have the minutes of the trial if you want to research it. Also there are some related documents on the particular disciplinary case at this site:
http://www.trinityfoundation.org/kinnaird/index.htm


[Edited on 12-3-2003 by puritansailor]
 

Craig

Puritan Board Senior
My wife and I are members of the OPC. Before I even consider speaking my pastor about this, I want to make sure I am understanding this. Under section 4 #2 it states some things that concern me. Are those what the General Assembly came up with? That only those who obey the law will be counted righteous, etc.

I am very new to the OPC so I don't want to be sticking my nose in to places it has no business. If the GA did declare those things, that is very disconcerting and would open the doors to legalism, and works righteousness. I'm all for sanctification, but we can't confuse it with justification.
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
[quote:69929f0945][i:69929f0945]Originally posted by Craig[/i:69929f0945]
My wife and I are members of the OPC. Before I even consider speaking my pastor about this, I want to make sure I am understanding this. Under section 4 #2 it states some things that concern me. Are those what the General Assembly came up with? That only those who obey the law will be counted righteous, etc.

I am very new to the OPC so I don't want to be sticking my nose in to places it has no business. If the GA did declare those things, that is very disconcerting and would open the doors to legalism, and works righteousness. I'm all for sanctification, but we can't confuse it with justification. [/quote:69929f0945]

Craig,
No the GA did not come up with that. That section is quoting the teachings of the elder on trial. The problem is that the GA did not correct or clarify the doctrinal position when they overturned his guilty verdict therefore leaving these errors in place.

Also, just because you are new to the OPC doesn't mean you don't have a voice. If you see error then it must be addressed. The first recourse we have as members is to bring it up to our session and hope they will deal with the issue in a godly manner. Obviously we are to go about this business in a spirit of love to our brethren and humble yet zealous concern for the purity of the gospel and Christ's Church. So if you are not sure about it or feel intimidated because you are so new, you can still ask your session to look into the matter informally and let you know what they think.

Patrick

[Edited on 12-3-2003 by puritansailor]
 

kceaster

Puritan Board Junior
Patrick...

I am not yet a member of the OPC. Our church is in the process of being accepted by the OPC, but we are about 6 to 8 months away from that.

I will certainly be following this, though.

If God wills, I will be a minister of the gospel in the OPC.

In Christ,

KC
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
Just an update for your encouragment. My pastor and one of my elders have read through this overture and found some merit in this cause. My elder inparticular is very steamed about it. They are now researching the trial and will discuss this at their next session meeting. This is encouraging news. Let's keep praying about this guys. Please keep us posted here in this thread if anyone else makes further progress with their sessions.

Patrick

[Edited on 12-5-2003 by puritansailor]
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
I just thought I would send this update to any concerned ove rthis issue. I just presented this to my session tonight. And they agreed to present it to our Presbytery. The timing will be tight so your prayers will be appreciated. Have any of you made any progress on this issue with your own sessions?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
[quote:596e14c90f][i:596e14c90f]Originally posted by puritansailor[/i:596e14c90f]
How many guys here are in the OPC? Just curious.
Patrick [/quote:596e14c90f]

"Present"
I trust you got my responses to the u2u you sent my way :) .
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
[quote:8f4d106e0d][i:8f4d106e0d]Originally posted by Contra_Mundum[/i:8f4d106e0d]
[quote:8f4d106e0d][i:8f4d106e0d]Originally posted by puritansailor[/i:8f4d106e0d]
How many guys here are in the OPC? Just curious.
Patrick [/quote:8f4d106e0d]

"Present"
I trust you got my responses to the u2u you sent my way :) . [/quote:8f4d106e0d]

Oh yes I did thankyou. It was helpful. I was meaning to write you back with more but got distracted.

Have you looked into this justification controversy at all?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
The current justification furor is part of our providential situation in life. Insofar as it takes the current generation of ministers and elders back to basics, to affirm which foundation they stand on, it has done some good. And as ancient errors are recast, it is good to whet our sword, and clarify for this day and time the positions we will stand and die for.

I'm not a big fan of overtures. Reason is, even if a man at Presbytery or GA is rock-ribbed orthodox he may feel himself compelled to vote for some public declaration of something that he feels is already spelled out in the clearest possible language in the Bible or Confession. So the overture is supposed to make it even clearer? Then there is something wrong with the constitution?

What's better (sadder too), albeit more difficult, is bringing charges against someone and making them stick, being violations of the Scriputre and constitution (WCF, WLC, WSC, BCO). Overtures are sometimes "Position statements," being non-binding documents that people may argue about in the future, but not lastingly meaningful.

When outsiders look at our church, they will look (for better or worse) at our Bible, Constitution, and our Judgments--i.e. Standard, Application/Understanding, Sanctions. Overtures may look like Judgments, but they are not. Court cases trump Overtures.
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
[quote:bab82e0057][i:bab82e0057]Originally posted by Contra_Mundum[/i:bab82e0057]
What's better (sadder too), albeit more difficult, is bringing charges against someone and making them stick, being violations of the Scriputre and constitution (WCF, WLC, WSC, BCO). Overtures are sometimes "Position statements," being non-binding documents that people may argue about in the future, but not lastingly meaningful.

When outsiders look at our church, they will look (for better or worse) at our Bible, Constitution, and our Judgments--i.e. Standard, Application/Understanding, Sanctions. Overtures may look like Judgments, but they are not. Court cases trump Overtures. [/quote:bab82e0057]
That's interesting to know. I guess the problem is that many do not hold to the Confessional way of saying things. I agree, our Bible and Confessions are clear, but there are some who would try to twist those around to support their heretical teaching, and others who for the sake of "unity" tolerate them. But what do you do when a court case is wrong? Can it be re-tried? For instance the Norman Shepard trial or the recent trial? How do we undo the damage done by that? And why do court cases trump overtures? I'm still new to all the politics of the OPC so any insights would be helpful. It would seem to me that this overture will at least force people to take a stand. But then again, I could also see how people could object to it solely on the Confessional sufficiency argument. But how many heretics would also hide behind this argument to maintain the status quo of tolerating their error? Difficult times we have...

[Edited on 3-5-2004 by puritansailor]
 
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Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
The same case cannot be retried--double jeaprody principle involved.
[quote:bc83ba17ab]I agree, our Bible and Confessions are clear, but there are some who would try to twist those around to support their heretical teaching, and others who for the sake of "unity" tolerate them. [/quote:bc83ba17ab]
Interesting parallel here to our secular Constitution. Don't like what it says? OK, just find new meanings in the words that are already there. Bingo, they've just accomplished a revolution within the form, because no one challenges the basic assumptions, just the new "right" to abortion, for example.

In a soft society, fighters are despised. Machen was a fighter--and he was condemned by many who should have stood for him. He was called divisive, and the liberals painted him as an abrasive personality, a hard man to get along with. They attacked and alienated the man because he was a threat. Machen was a boxer--a good one--but he was fighting alone against a pack of sucker punchers.

The real fight was lost well beforehand, back when discernment was called for over important points that were wrongly tolerated. Remember the Auburn Affirmation. It was written in response to a GA motion that called for a statement on biblical "fundamentals" that ought to be held by all ministers. The wolves were already in the fold.

A man must see the Confession itself as the essential thing, not some parts of it. Is the integrity of our Faith challenged by this deviation (or apparent deviation)?
Its All or Nothing.
[quote:bc83ba17ab]How do we undo the damage? [/quote:bc83ba17ab]
In a way, you can't. You have to move forward. But you learn from the past, and when things come to a head again (or YOU bring them to a head!) you redouble your efforts to get a right result. Never quit.
[quote:bc83ba17ab]why do court cases trump overtures?[/quote:bc83ba17ab]
Because they are official. They are based on the source material. No one can be convicted for disagreeing with or voting against an overture.

In both the secular arena and in the church 19th and 20th century radicals targeted the educational apparatus. Influence there either supports a tradition or introduces new concepts. Neither one of these is inherently good or bad. The issue is what lies behind the tradition or new concepts. Is the new concept trying to establish a biblical foundation, or destroy it?

[Edited on 3-5-2004 by Contra_Mundum]
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
Update on the Presbytery of Philadelphia

Well, I just got an update from Pastor Sheely regarding the Justification Overture. It went to Presbytery and apparently was butchered in comittee. Here's a quote from his email to me.

[quote:3e2449ebbe]
The Presbytery took up our overture, but the results have not been good. We had a meeting in September and spent eight hours on four pages. Many who oppose the overture were running out the clock by having long discussions on phrases and words in the overture.

Presbytery has changed, deleted, and watered down the original overture so far, that it no longer calls the OPC to demand a strong stand and commitment from all their ministers and elders to Justification by grace through faith alone. By the time the Presbytery is finished "amending" the overture, I will probably not be able to vote for it.

The Presbytery will take up the overture again at its regular meeting in May, but it is very unlikely that they will finish the overture. This means that it will not make it to General Assembly this year, and maybe not even next year. It has been very discouraging.
[/quote:3e2449ebbe]
Please keep the OPC in prayer guys. This is a big issue. There are ministers and elders who seem to believe that we are justified by our own works at the Last Day or that we will have a personal righteoussness by which we are judged. This compromises the imputed righteousness of Christ and the biblical docrine of justification by faith.

p.s.- Please don't debate this issue on this thread. This is more for info and updates. If you wish to discuss this point then start another thread.

[Edited on 3-6-2004 by puritansailor]
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Just let me clarify, Patrick

It galls me that these presbyters are acting more like Congressional lawyers trying to build consensus than churchmen contending for the truth. Either accept the document as it is (o.k., correct the spelling maybe, sharpen the wording?), and vote it up or down. Let each man then explain his own vote if anyone cares. Semantic gamesmanship is the liberal's turf. And it is the theology of compromisers. The grey of Politics has no place in the Kingdom of God.

[b:af2e78df38]Athanasius![/b:af2e78df38] Where are you!
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
Hey guys, I ask that you be in prayer for our presbytery right now. My session has submitted an new overture regarding this justification controversy and it will be discussed on the floor tomorrow. The Philedelphia version proved too long and had many problems regarding the practical implications which would in effect have reopened the Elder trial from last year. It was in comittee today and the commitee being in great sympathy for this cause has suggested some good changes. I will post the new overture soon so you all can read it once I have the final version. Basically, the session does three things: Call upon the GA to affirm the confessional teaching of justification by faith alone (with several explicite citations regarding the difference between faith and works and the necessity of the imputed righteousness of Christ), and have the GA make this affirmation public by publishing it in teh church's outlets, and finally erect a comittee to study the New Perspective on Paul and Federal Vision and ony other prominent like teachings regarding their status in light of Scripture and the Westminster Standards. Pleeeeeeeeeeaaase pray for this to get passed the Presbytery without any damaging alterations! We can't keep sticking our head in the sand when the gospel comes under attack. This issue must be dealt with.

[Edited on 3-21-2004 by puritansailor]
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
This is an important matter for prayer. The future of the OPC may depend on efforts such as this.
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
[quote:c6d2a8dcf8][i:c6d2a8dcf8]Originally posted by Bladestunner316[/i:c6d2a8dcf8]
Do you think the church would split? [/quote:c6d2a8dcf8]
Not immediately. I think those promoting these incorrect views are a small minority, they just happen to have prominent members and know how to manipulate the political system really well. But in another 10 years or so? Who knows. If this continues, we may see a split in the OPC and PCA and perhaps a merger of the conservative wings. But I pray both denominations will fight this perversion of the gospel.

[Edited on 6-14-2004 by puritansailor]
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
I don't think the danger is as much from a split as from a defection of those within the church and the lost opportunity for growth because people will see Presbyterians as being unwilling to stand for the most basic truths of the gospel. Potential OPC & PCA members will become Southern Baptists, independents and the like.
 

mjbee

Puritan Board Freshman
I had no idea all this was going on. Thanks for the heads-up! I will pray that God's truth triumphs, which is sorta dumb, because it always will. Perhaps a split wouldn't be a bad thing, if the foolish Galatians seek to pervert the doctrine of justification. Machen (sp?) and Francis Schaeffer were embroiled in controversies that caused rifts and divisions. May we all earnestly contend, and wash our hands of the conseqences. The Church is not ours. It belongs to Jesus Christ.

In the slain and risen Lamb,
Bee
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
Wooo Hooo! Praise God for the Presbytery of the Midwest!
:bouncy:
The Overture passed! Only two slight edits were made by the Presbytery which actually improved the document. I'll try to include the full text as soon as permisable here so you all can read it too.

Thank you for your prayers guys. But don't stop. This is a great victory but this overture could be shot down in GA still. And if those promoting these incorrect views get placed on the requested study committee then we could have some bad consequences. So please be in prayer for the OPC guys! Pray that God enables them to make the right decisions and defend the gospel and purge the church of these errors.


[Edited on 6-14-2004 by puritansailor]
 

C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
Patrick,

this Saturday Scott and I are meeting with Jim Heemstra to discuss the church plant here in Florida.

Where is the OPC right now in terms of their condemnation of the Auburn and NPP stuff? Is there an official statement as of yet? What should I go and read in the next day or two about this?
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
[quote:0a77594839][i:0a77594839]Originally posted by webmaster[/i:0a77594839]
Patrick,

this Saturday Scott and I are meeting with Jim Heemstra to discuss the church plant here in Florida.

Where is the OPC right now in terms of their condemnation of the Auburn and NPP stuff? Is there an official statement as of yet? What should I go and read in the next day or two about this? [/quote:0a77594839]

There is no official statement about NPP or Auburn from the OPC which is why we requested it in the overture. As far as I know, there have been no disciplinary trials regarding the matter either. But the questionable trial statements still stand. So I guess you can gauge the "official" position on Justification by that for now. From what I can tell, most of the reactions to Auburn and NPP have been from GPTU, Westminster CA, some from Knox, and an excellent series of articles from Dr. Venema at MARS. David Vandrunen is OPC, and a professor at Westminster CA, and has written a few articles against Shepard. So has O. Palmer Robertson. But not much else from the OPC on Auburn and NPP,... At least until I get done with seminary, Lord willing:biggrin:

[Edited on 6-14-2004 by puritansailor]
 
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Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
You know Matt, just thinking here, if you really want to know where Rev. Heemstra and his presbytery actually stands on these issues, just ask him point blank. If he hems and haws, then you know where they're at. Just lay it on the line for him. If he can't give you a strait answer then I think you'll know what to do.

I've discovered some interesting things lately in researching this controversy. There are supporters of these incorrect views all over. They seem to influence the presbyteries of Philadelpia and New Jersey the most, but I know there are a few in the Midwest and Northwest too. But I don't know much about the South. Perhaps Contra Mundum could give us some insight there.

[Edited on 6-14-2004 by puritansailor]
 

C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
Believe me, we are going to be frank. i want to be sure we make good decisions. I will be point blank, but polite in a "reformation sort of way".
 

wsw201

Puritan Board Senior
Patrick,

Have been able to get a hold of the overture that is going to the OPC GA yet? I read where the the New Jersey OPC Presbytery defeated a similar overture by voice vote.
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
I don't have the officail copy yet, but I have also been encouraged not to post it on the internet by those who fought to get it passed. They don't wan to give the supporters of teh deviant views any extra time to conspire around it. But I will probably post it when we have GA in June. I summarized in a previous post above.

[Edited on 6-14-2004 by puritansailor]
 
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