Monday, January 25, 2010

Sister-Presbyterian Regional Concerns

It is common that Presbyterian ministers and elders from different sister denominations fellowship with each other.  Such is the case with myself, Wes and Brian.  The latter two are members of a sister Presbytery that overlaps with mine.

We met about two years ago and hit it off well.  It was not simply a meshing of personalities, but a recognition of a common understanding and approach to the Christian life and doctrine as summarized in the Westminster Confession.

Presbytery meetings are normally (virtually always) open to the public.  The corporate decisions they make are public as well.  Thus, I never had a problem informing my friends about the goings on in my presbytery nor they about theirs.

This is such a case now.  A serious case. I cannot judge the details but the broad contours do not look good from my vantage point.  Pray that a proper and biblical resolution would be forthcoming.

Here is part of the report:

"I have not generally written on our Presbytery (Siouxlands) except to briefly report on its actions, but what happened at this last Presbytery meeting needs to be described publicly. I went to Presbytery on Thursday mildly optimistic about what would happen. I was disappointed.

After nearly two years of attempting to get the Presbytery to deal with a man who claimed to me that he is in basic agreement with Federal Vision theology, the Presbytery has still not dealt decisively with the matter. I asked for the original investigation nearly two years ago. The Presbytery refused. I complained. The Presbytery refused. I complained to the General Assembly. The General Assembly sustained my complaint. The Presbytery decided to investigate. The committee came back 4-2 saying that there was a strong presumption of guilt. The Presbytery rejected the committee report by a 24-13 margin. I, along with others, complained. The Presbytery repented of being too hasty in its rejection of the committee report, and erected a new committee.

We were concerned with statements such as:

In baptism we are given new life. John 3 – unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. The fulfillment of God’s promises is applied individually in baptism (Committee Report, p. 24).

The Bible consistently presents apostates as moving through three stages, with their final end worse than the beginning. We begin as being spiritual dead in our sin, our trespasses, without hope and without God in the world. But we are then made alive in a sense in Christ and experience the blessings within the context of God’s Church, God’s people. Finally, apostates are those who forsake the Lord of the covenant and lose those blessings (Ibid., 17).

[W]e do acknowledge that there is a difference between those who persevere to the end and the grace they receive and those for a while taste, are illumined, and walk with God. Saul is an example here. There is a difference between Saul and David, and that difference is God’s gracious preserving of David and granting him the grace to repent where Saul did not repent. Whatever grace reprobate covenant members receive is qualified by their lack of perseverance. The qualitative difference, however, is not in view in these passages. It is only manifest over a lifetime. It is not a distinction for us to meditate upon (Ibid., p. 19).

Thus, something like the question, "Are you, or am I, truly a Christian?" is never asked in Scripture. If you come to the font and have water poured, dipped, or if you’re immersed in it, you’re a Christian (Ibid., p. 62).

That new committee was to report at this meeting. They did so. They unanimously recommended that the Presbytery find a strong presumption of guilt. The Presbytery then decided to postpone consideration of this second committee's report until September.

The Teaching Elder who was investigated requested to be "instructed." So, the Presbytery recommended that a committee be formed to instruct him. One hitch. They said that all of those who would "instruct him" would have to be approved by the very Teaching Elder who was being investigated."

(More here).
(Here is an alternate description)

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