Peace for our time?

This blog represents the thoughts of the author. While they may reflect the theological position of The Renewal Fellowship, they should not be seen as an official statement.

Why would someone who is personally opposed to same-sex marriage still vote to allow that in the PCC?

Two words: unity and accommodation.

Here’s what appears to be their thinking: we create new room for revisionists – whose outlook on Scripture, theology, and culture are different – in the expectation that it will keep us together, and we make sure that space remains for traditionalists.

The remits are intended to show that revisionists and traditionalists can remain under one roof. In theory, that’s unity.

Reality and history indicate that this goal will not be achieved. For some, the possibility of entrenching same-gender marriage in our doctrine has already caused them to leave. One PCC congregation has already lost 30 families in recent months. Yes, families. Others await the decision of presbytery votes and the 2020 General Assembly but are also inclined toward departure.

At the same time, there are revisionists who see the remits as an accommodation to homophobia. In their world, it’s not enough to say you accept the LGBTQI community – you have to actively, openly, and vocally be in support. If you can’t bring yourself to hang the rainbow flag or march in their parades, then no matter how supportive you think you are, you’re still considered homophobic. They say the remits legitimize beliefs that are hateful. They compare the parallel definitions to a government that allows apartheid in order to keep the racists happy – because we need them for the sake of unity.

On this point, hardcore traditionalists and revisionists actually agree on the principle that compromise is unhealthy. So, while unity is a lofty aspiration, these remits are unlikely to achieve this goal.

Then there’s “accommodation”. Those with the gift of hospitality make room for one another. We open our homes to travellers. We welcome the lost, the little, the least, the lonely – whoever God brings to us.

But providing hospitable welcoming is not the same as capitulating to beliefs or behaviour that run to counter to what God has revealed as the path of faithfulness. Caring for a house guest does not mean giving her permission to make renovations which negatively impact the integrity of the structure.

We have forgotten that God is the same, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He does not change. So why are we changing? It’s not to serve the Kingdom. The late R.C. Sproul put it this way: “God does not lower His standards to accommodate us.”*

The solution to our theological divide should not be a compromise that’s inconsistent with the letter and the Spirit of Scripture. It won’t bring unity through accommodation. Hardcore revisionists have clearly indicated that they won’t rest until their beliefs are the only acceptable doctrine among us.

This is not a simple marital spat that can be solved by carving out a bit of “me time” and respecting our differences.

No, the solution is to defeat these remits and replace them with something better. General Assembly is not tied to the choice that commissioners made in June to go with Pathway “B” – inclusion. One Assembly cannot bind the next. We can start afresh.

The solution is to enact some arrangement that will end this fruitless debate and allow us to get on with being the church.

One option would be to carve out two wings of the denomination, orthodox and affirming, each with control over its own doctrine. We do not enter each other’s homes without being invited. This won’t address the reality of those congregations which are deeply divided. But it will force congregations and individuals to make a choice.

Another option would be to keep the denomination in one national court and decide one way or the other: orthodoxy or inclusion. And then deal with the consequences. It would be bold. It would be messy. The institution could crumble.

And likely there are other options to consider.

We need to face up to the reality that our theological divide is profound. It is long standing. It is painful.

For the good of the church, we all need to belong to a denominational family that is healthy and on good terms with one another, where there is communion among kindred souls – that’s why Renewal Fellowship exists. It’s why various groups, notably the Han-Ca presbyteries, are hosting local and national gatherings in an effort to get in the same boat and row together.

Is the current denominational framework helping us or hindering us in our work to further the Kingdom? If it’s a hindrance, then the remits won’t do anything to change that.

* Sproul, R.C. The Holiness of God. Tyndale, 1985, p. 87-88.

2 thoughts on “Peace for our time?

  1. Andy, in reading your opening questions thoughts come to mind. Here’s some:

    1. Re: “Accommodation”. God himself has at times accommodated the people’s wishes – like when Israel wanted a king, the cultural form of governance. So too God has accommodated the institutional church’s preference in all kinds of ways – for example, the wish to be governed like society. Thus, we’ve come to depend on the democratic vote. But God’s church (not to be equated with the institutional church, including the PCC) was not built on a democratic vote. Quite the opposite!

    The institutional church has always been a mix of people, some regenerate, some not. The institutional church can never attain unity in the sense of being one in Christ. Those who chose what seems like “accommodation” might perhaps have chosen to live effectively for Him within situations as they are – whether at church, home, work, or Wal-Mart.

    2. You used the word “allow”. But really, we have no power to control others: to “allow” or “forbid”, apart from power advantages over them – which typically invites either superficial compliance or pushback. The only power we have is to choose paths for ourselves, and that’s what makes the difference. In Jesus day it was the religious folk who failed to choose grace for themselves – and thus had little of its transformative power to affect others. Spurgeon saw that problem in England’s churches too. He wrote:

    “The doctrine of grace…. oh how little it is preached. It is put among the relics of the past. It is considered to be a respectable sort of retired officer, who is not expected to see any more active service.” CHS. SERMONS, 12, 429.

    Don’t you think that’s our biggest blind spot too? It’s why we hear little said about grace – and why the word in itself draws nearly a blank in our minds. Shouldn’t that be our biggest concern, being that it’s the very solution we need?

  2. All things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to His purposes. We can not walk in Christ and also decline to follow His leading. We choose darkness or light.
    Thanks for standing for Truth. God always loves but He does so with grace and truth. So often we want the first but not the latter. Romans 10:9-10 is a perfect example of that. People can claim they believe that Jesus rose from the dead but have trouble with the Lord part.
    May you see God’s hand in this and gain His peace. Phil.4 is so needed.

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