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Discussion in 'Church Order' started by McPatrickClan, Dec 13, 2009.
I didn't know. I thought they're not a confessional church. I guess many churches are confessional.
of the SBC congregations I grew up in, they all gave lip service to the Baptist Faith and Message, but that was about it.
I think that the main advantage to being connected to a denomination is that there is, generally speaking, a much more honest statement about biblical doctrine on the the surface of it all.
Many of these new "non-denominational" churches will hide what they believe as long as they can in an effort to not offend people. These kind also believe that doctrinal "labels" themselves are wrong, because they turn people away, or are too narrow.
As far as the idea that certain denominational structures help with local church discipline, I disagree. All to often people will just jump into a similar denomination without regard for any authority structure within their old denomination. Theoretically this should not happen, but more often than not it is the practical outcome when people disagree at the local level.
I had a friend who was OPC for years and left on bad terms when the "appeals process" didn't work out his way.
I’m glad the EPC exists, especially for many of those congregations now leaving the PC(USA). Better they have a place to go than form a new denomination. The EPC is clear on the essentials of the gospel and offers a degree of accountability and cooperation. I was in the EPC for 16 years and found them supportive of my ministry, without requiring me to compromise my own distinctives.
That said, the EPC is a diverse group of several different theological cultures. The Presbytery of South Central is very different from the Presbytery of the West. There are confessional Presbyterians within the EPC who might fit well within the PCA or OPC. Others are broad evangelicals who function like semi-reformed, seeker sensitive, mega-church, congregationalists.
The issue of women in office can not be resolved under the present EPC constitution.
§17-5 Limitations in perpetuity: Certain rights are held in perpetuity by Christians, both individually and gathered in congregations. These rights must always be guaranteed by the Church. These rights include, but not by way of exclusion, the following:
A. The Church may make no laws to bind the conscience with respect to the interpretation of Scripture. No person may be rejected for membership or ordination because of such matters of conscience unless that matter has been officially declared a heresy by the Church, or unless it obstructs the constitutional governance of the Church.
B. The Church may make no laws that infringe on the rights of the particular church to elect its own officers, to own and control its own property, to determine its own benevolence and other budgetary objectives, and to determine its own internal life so long as it does not violate the constitution of the Church.
C. This section may be added to by the procedures set forth for amending the Confession of Faith and Catechisms, but no deletions may be made..
Thus, the right of a congregation to elect and install women ruling elders is an un-amendable right held in perpetuity. The only way out is for the EPC to dissolve itself and individual congregations to join some other union. The potential problem grows with the reception of more PC(USA) congregations and women ministers.
That said, I thank God for those who faithfully serve in the EPC.
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A church practicing biblical discipline will not receive a member who "jumps ship" or is under discipline in another congregation or church court. NAPARC member denominations at least should function in this way.
Ascending courts restrain the potential injustice or tyranny of pastors and sessions.
Certainly there are good reasons to transfer to a body of another denomination. But, we should recognize the imperfect unity of the visible church and respect its courts and fraternal connections to whatever degree they act in accord with scripture. Associations like NAPARC and fraternal relations between denominations respect the unity of the visible church. Forming independent congregations or new denominations based upon extra-confessional distinctives is often sectarian.
That said, the present disunity and lake of confessional agreement within some reformed denominations makes a mockery of what it means to be a denomination. Confessional consensus is lax and too broad in many. For example, it would be difficult for the PCA, OPC or URC to form a denominational seminary or college today; because there would not be a consensus on the distinctives to be taught. One can not always recommend a congregation of the same denomination to a family moving to another part of the country. There is a need for more consensus and uniformity in confession and worship.
I understand you are aware the PCA has a denominational seminary (Covenant Seminary), somewhat that came through the RPES so I take this to mean starting a brand new one.
I don't know a great deal about the breadth of these denominations, but I thought the OPC and URC, in particular were close.
Couldn't one constitute a seminary with its permissible range of views, based on their constitution. I would think that quite possible in all three of these denominations.
Can you elaborate on this?
The PCA inherited Covenant Seminary and Covenant College when they received the former RPCES denomination into their larger group. My comment has to do with forming a new denominational seminary.
As is, I suspect some PCA congregations and elders would have difficulty sending students to Covenant Seminary out of concern for certain distinctives taught there.
At one time, Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia functioned as an OPC seminary, thought it was not organically connected with the denomination. Fewer OP congregations and elders would now give an unqualified endorsement to either Westminster.
The PCA, OPC and URC are denominations or federations of congregations without a consensus on many matters. All three are in NAPARC and agree on a core of confessional essentials. So, I’m not trying to lessen the unity which does exist between and among them. However, individuals and congregations in one group often find they have more in common with some from a different denomination than they do from their own. The PCA, being larger, has more diversity than the OPC or URC.
I doubt much enthusiasm exists to create a broad seminary teaching a wide range of permissible views. Such already exist in non denominational seminaries- RTS, WTS, WSC, etc.
This does not preclude like minded individuals and congregations from forming institutions with a narrower focus, as has happened with GPTS, MATS, PRTS, Northwest, etc.
Each of these denominations have rough definable boundaries of what is permitted and what is not in doctrine and practice, But, without a definite narrower consensus on many issues the purpose of a denomination is somewhat defeated.
Probably, twenty percent of PCA congregations would be comfortable within the OPC. Likewise, maybe twenty percent of OP congregations would be at home in the PCA. I don’t know the URC beyond the local congregations here in Idaho, but suspect they have something of the same diversity. But, there is enough lack of uniformity that a family moving from one city to another often finds a congregation of the same denomination they left unacceptable. One would expect ministers and members to be able to move from one part of the country to another and be able to plug into other congregations of their denomination. I don’t see this.
A denominational seminary would help; one in which professors were approved by the General Assembly. But, before such a seminary can be founded, there needs to be a clear consensus on what it will teach, such as one finds at GPTS or PRTS. Otherwise, the financial support and students will not be there to support the new institution. Such does not exist in the present configuration of the PCA, OPC or URC.
I *think* that the URC and CanRef churches are closer than the OPC and URC at present. However, the CanRef churches already have a seminary, and I know that the URC utilizes the Mid-America Reformed Seminary for pulpit supply. (We had one of their students in our church this summer - very good!)
I have a generally positive opinion of Mid-America Seminary, and have been impressed by some recent graduates I've known. Though heavily influenced by the URC, I'd not consider it a denominational serminary.
As a 20-something that just joined a Reformed denomination, I can tell you that I am having the same problem with my friends too. It breaks my heart because I know if they persevered for two Sundays (and actually stayed when they are invited for lunch or Sunday school) they would love it here.
What really opened my eyes were several things and it is exactly what my pastor has taught: the marks of a true church.
One of the most fundamental marks of the Church is love. (Great Commission: "...teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.")
-In my church, we have lunch together and people invite people over on Sunday, even if you're new you get invited (it is planned in some way, I haven't figured it out yet). I must have looked really new because I got invited over for 8 straight weeks.
-The pastors met with me at my school and talked to me about my life. These men have lots of their own children and a relatively large congregation to care for, but they made time to see me.
-Adults and young adults know and talk to each other. They are not segregated. (This is really helpful for someone like me, I'm not from a stable home. Plus, I'm learning older adults are not too different from me.)
-People there seek to obey the moral teachings of the Bible and show reverence for the things of God.
-I have no doubt that all of this has to do with the unapologetic acceptance of westminster standards and the excellent teachers of our church.
In an article my pastor wrote on the marks of the true church:
Okay, thats enough about my church.
(I can send you the rest of the article if you want. I think its on ref21.)
I really appreciate what you are saying about how you have assimilated into your local church.
Especially, the idea of inviting people over for lunch. This is something we've been recipient of on occasion when we've traveled and found it a great blessing. It also helps us better keep the sabbath rather than go out to a restaurant on a Sunday when we are travelling.
Having a simple meal at church for visitors on the Lord's Day, inviting people over on the Lord's Day for a meal, particularly those who are new, or needy is a great way of furthering the covenant community and extending hospitality. Hospitality is a characteristic of Christians generally, and church officers particularly.
This is something we need to find a way to do, whether in a big city or small town, whether single or married, whether introverted or extroverted. We can find a way to do it for the Honor and Glory of our God.
And you are correct, love is a main characteristic of Christian communions.
When we speak of the "true marks" of a church, Mr. Calvin described two as being essential, and a third he described implicitly as necessary for having a true church:
1) right teaching of God's Word
2) right administration of sacraments
3) church discipline
I also like what you say about different age groups mixing. This also is a (counter culture) way that the church is different, because of Christ. It's a powerful testimony we can take for granted.
Also, your Pastor visitation.
All new members get a two elder visitation in our local church practice, ordinarily in their home.
From the standpoint of building covenant community, an annual home visit by two elders could be greatly used of God. It would encourage, connect, expose sin, knit together, etc.
Now keep in mind also the church is "the perfect place for imperfect people." Remember that when you see sin, and hypocrisy in the church. We're in it for the long haul, because of Christ, even when people can be hard to love.
That's part of the mark of a "true church" as well.
Scott -Yes, I agree.