Thursday, July 1, 2010

God is in control

"Wherever you go, God is sending you, wherever you are, God has put you there; He has a purpose in your being there. Christ who indwells you has something He wants to do through you where you are. Believe this and go in His grace and love and power."

The following article came to me from Presbyterians for Renewal. It reflects the writings of their pastor Ron Scates and his congregation, Highland Park Presbyterian Church in Dallas TX. Would love to hear your thoughts on the eve of what many think will alter the pcusa in a profound way. Please fast and pray for the pcusa.

"Reform from Within"
by The Reverend Dr. Ron Scates, Senior Pastor, Highland Park Presbyterian Church, Dallas, TX

Presbyterian evangelist Charles Finney was once reported to have said, "Every time there's a Presbyterian General Assembly, there's a jubilee in hell!" I'm no stranger to that feeling. What if the upcoming 2010 GA "goes south" in terms of biblical theology and/or morality?

Anticipating the probability of that, the Session of Highland Park Presbyterian Church, Dallas, spent the past year studying ecclesiology so that, should the Assembly attempt to dilute our Book Of Confessions and/or our Book Of Order, we would not react in knee-jerk fashion, but rather out of serious and deep thought concerning the Church, the pcusa, and the relation between the two.

Coupled with that (since 2009 was the 500th birthday of John Calvin), I personally read a number of books by or about Calvin along with my yearly read-through of the Bible. All of that has left me in the most confidant place I've been in my 31 years as an ordained Presbyterian pastor. I've come to these conclusions:

There is only one, holy, catholic, apostolic CHURCH. You don't get into it by leaving the pcusa, nor are you excluded from it by staying in the pcusa. (denominational acronym in small letters deliberately).

Denominations aren't biblical, nor are they "working" anymore (i.e., there was a consensus as to what it meant to be Presbyterian 60 years ago but there is one no longer). The current ecclesiastical scene is certainly post-denominational leaving me with much more of an interest in the global CHURCH rather than a para-chuch called "pcusa".

The issue of "apostasy" is no longer a deal-breaker for me. Both the OT and NT CHURCHES were rife with apostasy but God's call was always for "reform from within" not to mention that the pcusa became apostate 40 years ago by sanctioning something far worse to me than un-biblical sexual behavior: abortion.

My study of Calvin reminds me that he minced no words regarding the apostate state of the Roman Church but never considered anything but reform from within until he felt he was "shown the door".

As the largest congregation in our presbytery, Highland Park has a responsibility to protect the "lambs" (smaller congregations) who often feel intimidated by presbytery. If HPPC were to leave (and I'm confident we could buy our way out tomorrow), who would stand up for those who haven't the size, the power, and the money to do likewise? I will not run and leave the camp, and the lambs, to the Philistines. Although I recognize that God HAS called many out of the pcusa as a judgment against her waywardness. I and HPPC, will stay at our post until released by Christ.

I don't consider a para-church called "pcusa" worthy of all the time, energy, and distraction from mission it would take to leave, so HPPC will most likely stay-no matter what happens-and continue to connect with any and all congregations, of whatever stripe, who are theologically orthodox and missions-oriented while being a biblical counter-witness to any and all bad theology generated by the pcusa.

HPPC is called to be more and more intentional about aligning herself with entities that track with majority-world Christianity, not those still mired in a tired, Western, Post-enlightenment, rationalistic, liberal theology that neither grows congregations nor makes disciples. We are partnering with groups like the World Reformed Fellowship and the Lausanne Movement that we might have healthy streams flowing into HPPC not merely the latest pathological pronouncements of the pcusa.

Personally, I'm not interested in fighting over women's ordination (a possible battle brewing in the EPC) or whether or not America is-or ever was-a Christian nation (a current PCA conflict). The only hills I'm willing to die on are those of the Person and Work of Christ and the infallibility/authority of Scripture. Where are those battles? Right under our noses in the pcusa. I'm not staying to fight and win, but to "stay, fight, witness" come hell or high water. (I've put a statue of St. Athanasius on my dashboard.)

Out of our study I experienced a loyalty shift. My loyalty is, first to Jesus and His One CHURCH, then to HPPC, then to the pcusa somewhere further down the line. I used to place my loyalty to the pcusa above any local congregation.
The Session of Highland Park is anticipating the probability of some bad news coming out of the 2010 General Assembly. Thus we are sending a pre-emptive letter to our congregation reminding them that bad Assembly actions are never "reality" until ratified by a majority of presbyteries (which may or may not happen), that newspaper headlines rarely get it right as to what actually has transpired at GA, and that Highland Park will never be bound by any un-biblical decision that any Assembly makes. Never!