Charity and Its Fruits

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Posted by Derek Thomas

"Cal M..." is partly right, of course. I for one do have emotional ties with dear friends in the C of S. As I do of friends in the PCUSA (a colleague with whom I work on a daily basis and a few students, now ministers in that denomination). I listen sympathetically as they relate the woes of their church's most recent plunge into paganism and think, "How can you stay in that church?"
I have never belonged to such a denomination--ever! From the time I was converted my affiliations have been with the Reformed Baptists, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Ireland (sister church to the Free Church of Scotland) and now the PCA. I tell myself, here's the line in the sand for me (currently I tell myself it's the ordination of women as teaching elders) and wonder what I would do if I reached that line and friends said, "Let's continue to fight and try and save this church."

I remember a vivid conversation in the office of a former President of the Reformed Theological Seminary, Sam Patterson. I had asked (back in 1977) why it was he had remained in the PCUS at the formation of the PCA. Two hours later he was still trying to convince me, exegetically, politically and historically. I wasn't convinced at all. But I did have a profound respect for his willingness to stay and fight! And fight he did.

But I also remember a much more difficult conversation with a brother in Ireland for whom I had the greatest respect, who told his fellow evangelicals that women's ordination was not an issue worth fighting for. It was not the line in the sand (and the hermeneutical implications of such a stance have rippled ever since). Moving goalposts is the problem and a fatal one. Women's ordination today, same-sex unions tomorrow (alas, today!).The line from one to the other is a hermeneutically broad one.But fights have yielded fruit--witness the resurgence of Confessional commitment in the Presbyterian Church of Ireland. Brothers have stood firm and won significant battles and seen pulpits filled once more with men committed to Calvinism and the Confessional standards.

Of course, some have chosen not to fight; they have opted, more or less, for a congregationalist polity and acted as ecclesiastical independents.And that, for me, is a far more difficult stance to understand.
Posted May 27, 2006 @ 9:21 AM by Derek Thomas

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