Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Recapitulation (with apologies to Irenaeus)

Well, it has been about six months since the Presbyterian Church USA General Assembly. My post-Assembly depression has subsided and I have moved on to a kind of "hopeful indifference." Basically, it seems to me that the best path forward is a combination of what the Presbyterian Global Fellowship and the New Wineskins congregations are doing. That is, each congregation that desires to be faithful to God, the Bible, and the Christian faith must essentially set aside denominational concerns and network directly with other congregations that are evangelical, orthodox, and catholic.

This does not mean ignoring the PCUSA, nor does it mean ceasing to win this denomination back to its call to be faithful to God. But it does mean that when it comes to doing the mission of God in this world, we can no longer view the structures of the PCUSA as allies in this venture. For the most part, our denominational structures are more intent on gate keeping than ever before. Witness the responses of most presbytery officials to those churches seeking to be dismissed to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. They have been ruthless, heavy-handed, and so bureaucratically minded that they have brought nothing but shame upon all of us in the PCUSA. Plus, since the General Assembly six months ago, it seems the animosity of liberals toward evangelicals has become even more virulent than it has ever been. In my experience, the attitude of the liberals is approaching fascism. There is a desire to squelch all dissent from the liberal agendas by any means, even if the means are hate-filled and vicious.

So, why remain in such a hostile and toxic denominational environment? In a major way, I am saying we should opt out of this environment, but not by leaving the denomination but by becoming focused on mission with other like-minded congregations across the denominational spectrum. In a sense, I am advocating a more authentic connectionalism with the true body of Christ, which is ecumenical without ideology and far beyond the frontiers of mere denominations. This is a spiritually healthy and invigorating (dare I say --- joyful!) working reality with other faithful Christ followers.

So, why not just leave the denomination totally behind and shed ourselves of its dysfunctional restraints and obsolete structures? No, we stay because this is where Satan and evil are assaulting the Christ and His reign. And as Martin Luther so dramatically stated, we are to stand our ground precisely at the point where the devil is most forceful in his attack. This is where we are faithful to Christ, and this is where the Word of God is to be wielded as a sword against evil.

Some may object to my characterisation of those who reject God's Word and wish to worship at the altar of human experience as agents of the devil and evil. To be more precise, I am not saying they are themselves evil or Satan's missionaries, for the evil I see in others is but a reflection of the evil I harbor within myself. However, I will say that many of the liberals of the PCUSA have allowed themselves to descend into the domain of Satan, where in this darkness they are open to the influences and objectives of evil. How else can anyone so blatantly seek the destruction of marriage as instituted by God, be so indifferent to the slaughter of millions in the womb, be so offended when the Gospel is proclaimed to bring non-Christians to faith in Christ, enthusiastically align themselves with despotic purveyors of injustice who exploit vast populations, and discount the Word of God as the final and highest measure for all beliefs and actions.

I seek to be faithful to my vows as a minister in the Presbyterian Church USA. After all, I made these vows before God, not just a presbytery. However, my ultimate allegiance is not to a denomination which is but an artificial construct of human ingenuity. Rather, it is Christ who is my Lord, and it is Christ who is head of the Church, and the Church is the body of Christ as it exist within and through the many denominations and traditions of this historic Christian faith. It is with this Church that I will engage in faith and mission, and it is with this Church that I will worship God for eternity.


Anonymous said...

It is going to get worse for all who uphold the Word of God in the PCUSA. I'm afraid that the liberals will become so heavy handed that people like you will find yourself forced out whether or not you want to stay. Clearly evangelical churches in liberal presbyteries have targets on them right now. Don't underestimate how vicious liberal leaders will be their attacks.

Zagreb Will said...

That could very well be the case. I certainly have few allies in my current presbytery, and in a recent Committee on Ministry interview I had in a Colorado presbytery, the hatred expressed toward me (being evangelical was a primary reason) was clear and unrestrained. But I believe the work of God in this world infinitely supercedes the petty denominational agendas of presbytery bureaucrats, so it appears from where I stand right now that we can remain in the PCUSA and still be faithful to what God wants by simply focusing on the greater agenda of God rather than engaging the petty skirmishes so craved by the abyss-minded liberals.