Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sacramento Presbytery passes overture on Belhar Confession

Yesterday,December 5th, the Sacramento Presbytery passed an “Overture on Belhar” to be sent to the 219th General Assembly. The overture motion was brought by Fremont Presbyterian Church, my church. I am very grateful it passed; its words are just right for dealing with the issues revolving around the attempt at adopting Belhar. Originally adopted by the Synod of the Dutch Reformed Mission Church in South Africa to deal with their horrific racism there are those in several North American reformed denominations attempting to misuse the confession. There are advocates wanting to use Belhar to promote gay ordination, for rebuke of Israel and even pluralism.

You can read about those problems here and here and here.

The Overture begins with commendation of all anti-discrimination policies in the Presbyterian Book of Order. It also offers sections from the “Brief Statement of Faith,” and the “Confession of 1967” which clearly and practically speak about and against racial discrimination. Then it asks the General Assembly to discontinue attempting to adopt the Belhar Confession as another confession in the PCUA Book of Confessions.

But it does this with a comment about its link with the Barmen Declaration and a section from Barmen which allows understanding about the boundary that is missing in Belhar which is a proper confession of Christ:

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6), “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber.... I am the door; of anyone enters by me, he will be saved.” (John 10:1, 9.)

Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and death.

We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church could and would have to acknowledge as a source of its proclamation apart from and besides this one Word of God, still other events and powers, figures and truths, as God’s revelation. (8.10–8.12)"

The rationale for this overture speaks to how confusing Belhar is and offers a quote about what a confession should be written by Dr. Arthur C. Cochrane who spent time with the early Confessing Church in Germany and was a Barth specialist. That quote is:

"A Confession is therefore not the publication of the opinions, convictions, ideals, and value judgments of men. It does not set forth a program or system of theology or ethics. It is not a set of principles or constitution for a fraternal order, social service club, or a religious society. It is not a political or ethical, religious platform. It does not bear witness to certain events, powers, figures, and truths in nature and history that may be championed by certain groups in society.

It confesses Jesus Christ as the one Lord, the one justification and sanctification of men, the one revelation, and the one Word of God which we have to hear, trust and obey in life and in death.

Until it is placed on the 219th GA site, it can be read on the Presbyterian Coalition site under Draft Overture. Look both here and here. I am guiding you to these pages because you may be interested in using some of the other resources found there.

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