The Free Church and chemistry

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With the news that the Free Church have adopted a more open position on worship the usual discussions are beginning to be had. 'Why don't you Presbyterians just get together.'  It's true that the Free Church's decision does open up a great possibility for a UK Presbyterian Church but what stops denominations merging?


There are obvious doctrinal barriers which are easy to spot and explain but if truth be told the issue of chemistry is probably the big thing.


I mean by chemistry that instinctive knowledge and feeling that I can work with these people.  When we talk about ministry we're talking about the same thing, our understanding of the gospel and church life is shared.  Doctrinally I can be in complete agreement in subscribing to the Westminster Confession of Faith with someone but if when we talk about the nitty gritty of how ministry gets done, how the priorities of church life are set, if there's a difference in our understanding of those things,  realistically I'm probably not going to work with them. Call me a pragmatist but as far as I can see that is pretty much how the reformed church works worldwide.


Should this be a barrier to being in the same denomination? Probably not but we mustn't be naive, what would happen if all UK Presbyterians were in the same denomination? We would probably form into cluster pressure groups, somewhat similar to what you have in the PCA (I may be wrong about that as I know remarkably little about the US scene apart from what sensei Trueman has taught me) . Our priority would lie with our like minded pressure group not necessarily the denomination.   There would be a unity in being part of one church but realistically that unity at present would probably just be organisational. That in itself of course is not a bad thing.


Not only do I want to agree confessionally but I want to agree with their ethos to work alongside them. This is probably unbiblical on my part. I'm aware that the Westminster Confession of Faith is a consensus document and so was always intended for a broad church if I can call it that and so if there was going to be any movement towards a coming together of denominations it would seem to me there needs to be an allowance for some difference in ethos.


How do you move forward?  That's the big question, there is no doubt in the UK we are in ecclesiological meltdown.  No one knows what the state of Anglicanism will be in 5 years.  Presbyterians particularly in England are a peculiar tiny sect and we have far too high a view of our own importance. There's no doubt that if we merged into a UK Presbyterian church it would be stronger but the answer is not simple and neither can it be assumed that we can all practically work together. I suppose the first step is talking but after that my wisdom runs out.

Posted November 24, 2010 @ 4:14 AM by Paul Levy

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