Schismatic to be actively strict-subscriptionist a in loose-subscriptionist church?

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Theoretical

Puritan Board Professor
This thread is not to discuss the merits or demerits of particular theological positions, but to evaluate them coexisting in a church setting.

This question basically goes to the difference between the stated confession of churches and the actual ones in practice in denominations allowing for exceptions.

For example, many Presbyterian officers take loose positions or complete exceptions to the WCF's version of the Sabbath. Using this as an example, is a member of a church where all of the officers take substantial Sabbath exceptions schismatic when he holds to and encourages fellow members of the church to embrace the Sabbath (or tighter RPW standards, or no holidays, etc...)? Assume this church is the "best/closest" in the area for his doctrinal convictions.

PCA: 5. Do you submit yourselves to the government and discipline
of the Church, and promise to study its purity and peace?

OPC: 4. Do you agree to submit in the Lord to the government of this church and, in case you should be found delinquent in doctrine or life, to heed its discipline?

When a member makes this vow (or similar ones depending on the denomination) are they vowing to submit themselves to the de jure confession of the denomination or should it properly be seen as submitting to the de facto confession of their congregation?
 

JDKetterman

Puritan Board Freshman
This thread is not to discuss the merits or demerits of particular theological positions, but to evaluate them coexisting in a church setting.

This question basically goes to the difference between the stated confession of churches and the actual ones in practice in denominations allowing for exceptions.

For example, many Presbyterian officers take loose positions or complete exceptions to the WCF's version of the Sabbath. Using this as an example, is a member of a church where all of the officers take substantial Sabbath exceptions schismatic when he holds to and encourages fellow members of the church to embrace the Sabbath (or tighter RPW standards, or no holidays, etc...)? Assume this church is the "best/closest" in the area for his doctrinal convictions.

PCA: 5. Do you submit yourselves to the government and discipline
of the Church, and promise to study its purity and peace?

OPC: 4. Do you agree to submit in the Lord to the government of this church and, in case you should be found delinquent in doctrine or life, to heed its discipline?

When a member makes this vow (or similar ones depending on the denomination) are they vowing to submit themselves to the de jure confession of the denomination or should it properly be seen as submitting to the de facto confession of their congregation?

Like the PCA, The OPC does not require a member to submit themselves fully to the confession. The requirement I believe is for the "essentials" of the Gospel. This means you could be a baptist who refuses to have their children receive the covenant sign of baptism and be in good standing in the OPC and PCA. The only churches that I know that practice confessional membership is the continental tradition
 

he beholds

Puritan Board Doctor
I know the PCA vows say something about promising to uphold purity of worship, or something, which I think can be a [pragmatic] problem when members disagree with the session. For instance, if they will not sing hymns and the church is a hymn-singing church. I did not use to think it mattered if a few remained silent, but I am starting to see dis-unity and I wonder what the elders think when discussing the worship of our church!

Here is something from third millennium that came up in a google search for PCA membership vows. This is actually talking about women being allowed to pass communion (either just passing it down the row to other people on the pew or to distribute it more officially). The author of this Q & A thinks women should be deacons and thinks communion is allowed to be distributed by women. That aside, what he says has general application I believe to your question:
Further, in most PCA churches members must take membership vows. These are vows taken before God, and which are binding. The vows generally say that the members will submit to the authority of the session, and that they will strive for the peace and unity of the church. Those who would cause dissention in the congregation over an issue on which the session has already ruled are breaking both these vows, and God may discipline them accordingly. If they really have a problem with the practice, they need to take it up with the session, and then they need to submit to the session's decisions.

2. This is not a "weaker brother" issue. A "weaker brother" issue has the potential to stumble the weaker brother. "Stumbling" means "causing to sin," and it requires the following conditions be met (from 1 Cor. 8):
The activity performed must not be a sin in the way it is practiced by the stronger brother.
The activity performed must be a sin in the way it is practiced by the weaker brother.
Observing the stronger brother do what is right must encourage the weaker brother do emulate him.
In emulating the stronger brother, the weaker brother must misunderstand what the stronger brother is doing so that he does not really emulate the stronger brother but does something different, something which is actually contrary to God's law.
The only example we have of a "weaker brother" issue in the Bible is the issue of eating food sacrificed to idols. In that case, the stronger brothers knew that the food was not tainted by the idols, and that they were free to eat it without offending God. The weaker brothers, however, did not know this. Rather, they thought that the food really was changed by its sacrifice to the idols, and they thought that eating that food was an idolatrous practice. Eating such food was one practice of pagan worship -- one could eat the food as a form of idol worship. This is not what the stronger brothers were doing, but it is what it looked like they were doing to the weaker brothers. When they saw the stronger brothers eating this food, the weaker brothers wrongly assumed that idolatry and Christianity were compatible. Thus, they were encouraged to continue in their idolatry, and they fell into sin by participating in idol worship.

The situation you describe cannot stumble anyone because:
Women distributing the elements is not a sin, no matter how you slice it.
The offended parties in this case are just that -- offended. Weaker brothers are not offended by the actions of stronger brothers. Rather, they are encouraged to and do emulate the stronger brothers by virtue of their respect for the stronger brothers.
It does not sound as if the weaker brothers are misunderstanding what the stronger brothers are doing.
The weaker brothers are not emulating or trying to emulate the stronger brothers.
The church should not change its practice simply because someone has a problem with it. The weaker brothers should not be ruling the church by virtue of their weakness. It is the session's job to rule and to make these decisions. The weaker brothers in this case need to be instructed and corrected, not coddled, and certainly not passified. Passifying weaker brothers is like catering to a spoiled child. It doesn't help the weaker brothers become stronger or more mature, and it makes everyone else miserable.

3. The church ought not to castrate the opposition. The opposition must be dealt with in love. But the opposition must be dealt with -- it cannot be ignored. They must be dealt with because they are violating their vows, and because they are causing strife in the church. It is the church's job, especially the session's, to call them to repentance. It is acceptable within the church to disagree with the church's practices, but it is not acceptable to create division in the church over petty issues. The opposition needs to follow the established protocol for handling such matters. If the Bible clearly spoke to this issue, they might have other recourse, but it does not.

(My bold)
I do think a case can easily be made for the Sabbath, and I can't imagine a non-Sabbatarian seeing Sabbath keeping as a divisive act.
I don't know what your church's BCO says about Sabbath, but I don't see how your private practice would interrupt the unity of the church. I don't even see how you avoiding holidays will disrupt the unity of the church. I guess that is why I picked EP to talk about, because that is a very evident division in a worship service. But you going to church and not going out to a picnic afterward would not hinder the actual worship of your church.
 

Theoretical

Puritan Board Professor
Clarification, I'm only referring to the member being more confessional than the church's elders and it's general practice.

Running with the Sabbath one, assume the "strict" member believes and practices that you should not normally eat out, but the elders and rest of the church do not practice in this manner. If people ask you why you don't go out to eat with them, at what point does explaining the reasons for your practice become divisive and "schismatic" even though it's a confessional church but the officers have taken recognized exceptions?
 

Rich Koster

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I'm a conservative in a main line liberal church. Until they tell me to stop teaching DoG, I'm not schismatic, I'm an educator. If a big brother walks into his baby brother's room and potty trains him, he may upset the little brother at first, but the father will be glad he did:2cents:
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Theoretical

Like the PCA, The OPC does not require a member to submit themselves fully to the confession. The requirement I believe is for the "essentials" of the Gospel. This means you could be a baptist who refuses to have their children receive the covenant sign of baptism and be in good standing in the OPC and PCA. The only churches that I know that practice confessional membership is the continental tradition
__________________

Actually, the PCA does not require that members comprehensively understand, far less agree with every doctrinal standard. It does for officers, unless granted an exception, but not for members.

Essentially, the PCA member vows require:

1)examination for a credible profession of faith and public profession of that
2)vow to live an obedient Christian life
3)vow to support the church
4)vow to peaceably learn the church’s doctrine
5)vow to submit to the government and discipline of the church

So, essentially the member is vowing to peaceably learn the church’s doctrine and agreeing to discipline for scandalous public sin.

It is the responsibility of church government (deacons and elders) to set the tone for the confessed doctrine, not only teaching it, but leading by example. His Word if faithfully taught, by the power of His Holy Spirit, the good fruit of understanding and receiving the deeper reformed truths will tend to follow.

By faith, that's what I believe will happen, and have seen happen (it happened to me).
 

he beholds

Puritan Board Doctor
Clarification, I'm only referring to the member being more confessional than the church's elders and it's general practice.

Running with the Sabbath one, assume the "strict" member believes and practices that you should not normally eat out, but the elders and rest of the church do not practice in this manner. If people ask you why you don't go out to eat with them, at what point does explaining the reasons for your practice become divisive and "schismatic" even though it's a confessional church but the officers have taken recognized exceptions?

I would be truthful, but not arrogant.
 

chbrooking

Puritan Board Junior
I took no exceptions, so I have no dog in this hunt.

However, if I had come to a studied position, taken an exception on it, and been approved by my presbytery, I would not have a problem with you holding a different opinion, but if you started "encouraging other members of the church to ..." whatever it was that I took an exception on, it could present a problem. It could undermine the authority of the pastor. I'm not saying it would necessarily, only that it could. And it is difficult to discuss these situations in the abstract. I suppose this is why the conversation has latched onto the Sabbath as a discussable example.

I would think you should first try to resolve the matter with the pastor/session -- even seek his/their advice on how you should respond to the difference. Better to leave for a communion with which you are in agreement, than to come off like Absalom -- even if you are right. :2cents:
 

Jon Peters

Puritan Board Sophomore
Clarification, I'm only referring to the member being more confessional than the church's elders and it's general practice.

Running with the Sabbath one, assume the "strict" member believes and practices that you should not normally eat out, but the elders and rest of the church do not practice in this manner. If people ask you why you don't go out to eat with them, at what point does explaining the reasons for your practice become divisive and "schismatic" even though it's a confessional church but the officers have taken recognized exceptions?

It's difficult to define exactly when you may be disturbing the peace and unity of the church by your explanations. I think the line is crossed when you cease to simply respond to inquires or have private discussions and begin to debate the issue to the point where you become identified somewhat with that position (in a negative way).

This is a tough issue, but even though you have the Confession on your side, you may not have your particular denomination on your side. In the OPC, for instance, a minister is traditionally given some latitude in his view of creation days or the Sabbath. This becomes the confessional position of the Church to some degree. It's like US Constitutional law. We can read the First Amendment and believe that it means certain things. That may be very different from the way the Supreme Court has interpreted it. Guess what? The Supreme Court's version is the law of the land, like it or not.

So, if your denomination takes a broad view of issues where the Confession (originally) did not, you have agreed to submit to the denomination's version of things, not how you understand the original. It's in this context that your actions should be measured. Well we may lament the fact that our church is not Sabbatarian, we have to respect it or leave. And by respect, I believe that can include peaceably trying to change hearts and minds (which goes back to my original point about debating and becoming identified with a position in a negative way).
 

beej6

Puritan Board Sophomore
I might disagree with you, Jon, that I've agreed to submit to the denomination's version of things. As a member I'm to submit firstly. I believe, to my local church.
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
Each member can tell any other member whatever they want. Each member is to be discerning about all teachings they hear. The session can't tell you to stop teaching what you are teaching, since it is in line with Scripture and you have liberty of conscience. Working towards the peace and purity of the church, given the correct view of strict subscription, would be to uphold this view and teach it. Why? Because the teachings of Scripture unite those who are apart of the invisible church.
 

Jon Peters

Puritan Board Sophomore
I might disagree with you, Jon, that I've agreed to submit to the denomination's version of things. As a member I'm to submit firstly. I believe, to my local church.

I think I agree with you, at least to a degree. The local congregation must, however, submit to the larger teaching of the denomination. In the OPC, thankfully, there is a fairly wide breadth of opinion on certain matters. I appreciate that and I think a minister and a congregation should appreciate the diversity.

I've been a part of too many moaning and groaning sessions about how this or that man should not be in the OPC because of his sub-Confessional views on a doctrine for which the OPC allows diversity.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
I might disagree with you, Jon, that I've agreed to submit to the denomination's version of things. As a member I'm to submit firstly. I believe, to my local church.

I think I agree with you, at least to a degree. The local congregation must, however, submit to the larger teaching of the denomination. In the OPC, thankfully, there is a fairly wide breadth of opinion on certain matters. I appreciate that and I think a minister and a congregation should appreciate the diversity.

I've been a part of too many moaning and groaning sessions about how this or that man should not be in the OPC because of his sub-Confessional views on a doctrine for which the OPC allows diversity.

A Confessional church is bound by the doctrine it confesses. In churches like the OPC and PCA officers vow they understand and agree with every statement and/or proposition of doctrine in their standards. Members vow to, in good faith, learn that doctrine peaceably and study the purity of the church brought by it.

So, the starting point is the doctrine to which the church speaks, it does so authoritatively and in a binding and unifying way. It's not a matter really of "diversity" of opinions- it's about getting toward the time-tested truths confessed which form the basis of unity.

There are some genuine differences of interpretation, a few minor points excepted, and there are differences about things which the confessional standards do not speak. For example, one could easily be postmillenial or amillennial and subscribe to the Westminster standards, but certainly not a modern dispensational premillenialist.

Part of learning and growing as a Christian is to realize you are not in this alone, you are not meant to "go it alone." There are things bigger than yourself, a covenant community to which you have some responsibility to. It's not a matter of prevailing egos in each person randomly creating their own theologies at a certain point in time. This may be assumed in broad evangelicalism... but not in reformed theology.
 
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