Posted by: reformedmusings | June 21, 2007

“God is on our side”–Maybe Not

Note: This post is intended for ordained PCA officers to consider. It does not apply to our brothers in the pews, who I pray fervently will study our report carefully and discuss it with your non-Federal Vision elders.

My previous post, “God is on our side”, generated quite a bit of interest, but not much action. Several Federal Vision advocates in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) have since replied in other forums (some linked in other posts here) that they aren’t interested in either repenting or leaving the PCA. The “Jeremiah complex” of being the “faithful few” seems firmly entrenched, with these officers believing that the 95+% vote in the PCA’s 35th General Assembly to declare Federal Vision out of accords with our Westminster Standards somehow doesn’t affect them directly.

In answer to this post, may I draw your attention to the PCA Book of Church Order? The first item to note is this excerpt from Preliminary Principle 2:

2. In perfect consistency with the above principle, every Christian Church, or union or association of particular churches, is entitled to declare the terms of admission into its communion and the qualifications of its ministers and members, as well as the whole system of its internal government which Christ has appointed. [my emphasis]

The 35th General Assembly, voted by a 95+% (I’ve seen credible estimates of 95-98%) majority that Federal Vision is contrary to the Westminster Standards, which make up the constitution of the PCA along with the Book of Church Order (BCO). For those unfamiliar with the PCA, the General Assembly is the highest court of the church. This vote clearly states that Federal Vision has no place in the PCA.

Second, let’s look at BCO 3-6:

3-6. The exercise of ecclesiastical power, whether joint or several, has the divine sanction when in conformity with the statutes enacted by Christ, the Lawgiver, and when put forth by courts or by officers appointed thereunto in His Word.

Dr. Morton Smith, in his Commentary on the Book of Church Order, say about paragraph 3-6:

When the Church uses care to exercise her power in accord with the Word of God, she acts with God’s sanction and authority.

Again, the General Assembly is the highest court in the PCA and its commissioners are all duly ordained officers in the PCA. All the conditions of BCO 3-6 are met, as well as the rest of the BCO and the Rules of Assembly Operation (RAO). After a period of open and free discussion and debate conforming to the RAO during which all had the opportunity to be heard, 95+% of the commissioners voted to declare Federal Vision as contrary to our Westminster Standards. The message just doesn’t get any clearer than that.

Although I alluded to these in my earlier post, I’ll include the full, applicable portions of the ordination vows which every teaching elder in the PCA swears to in BCO 21-5:

1. Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as originally given, to be the inerrant Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice?

2. Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and he Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures; and do you further promise that if at any time you find yourself out of accord with any of the fundamentals of this system of doctrine, you will on your own initiative, make known to your Presbytery the change which has taken place in your views since the assumption of this ordination vow?

3. Do you approve of the form of government and discipline of he Presbyterian Church in America, in conformity with the general principles of Biblical polity?

4. Do you promise subjection to your brethren in the Lord?

6. Do you promise to be zealous and faithful in maintaining the truths of the Gospel and the purity and peace and unity of the Church, whatever persecution or opposition may arise unto you on that account?

Ruling elder vows in BCO 24-5 are almost identically worded, except the last one which is shorter:

6. Do you promise to strive for the purity, peace, unity and edification of the Church?

Again I say that the ordination vows and rules of the church, which bind every officer in the PCA by their freely-given assent at ordination, speak clearly on the next step for Federal Vision. I firmly believe that the basic tenets of integrity demand that affected officers must either repent of these views or resign from the PCA in subjection to their brethren.

The alternative to repenting or resigning would be trials in the applicable Presbyteries. While officers holding or advocating Federal Vision views have that right, I’ve clearly laid out their obligation to their vows above. Lengthy trials will only drain precious time and resources that should be spent on conducting evangelism and missions in obedience to the Great Commission.

So, we come back to the question of hubris. Do these men think think so much of themselves and/or so little of the PCA and its God-ordained mission that they will continue to cause division and strife while draining precious resources from the core missions of Christ’s Church? From what I’ve seen so far and although I pray that it doesn’t happen, I’m guessing that those officers holding and/or advocating Federal Vision will simply have another exception to declare at trial, this one concerning the authority of the church government.

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