Friday, July 16, 2010

Beginning at the End: GA, Confessing Christ against the darkness

Starting my GA experience from the end includes a train car full of Christian Reformed Church young people and their pastor heading to a youth conference in California.

The young people’s difference was immediately noticeable to me when I awoke in the morning. (We boarded at 11:30 PM and slept in our seats.) They weren’t spouting religious slogans or wearing WWJD bracelets, they just weren’t offensive with language or sexual innuendo. And they seemed to enjoy each others company without exclusion.

But as the morning evolved they each took out their Bibles and headed somewhere for worship or bible study. At the end of the trip as we neared Portland where we would change trains, the man setting in front of us, hearing our discussion, introduced himself as the pastor of the young people, and asked if we had just come from the Presbyterian General Assembly.
His concern was Belhar which the CRC is also in the process of attempting to adopt into their confessions. They also have a beginning battle over sexual standards. We talked a long time about Belhar and the growing decadence of our culture. As we finished the conversation and left the train I understood more clearly how large this battle is. This is certainly not a battle against flesh and blood, but a spiritual battle where some are being used by the enemy of our souls …

I noted in an early post that item [08-08]was introducing yet another confession into the PCUSA, the Accra Confession that is basically an economic document that slants towards socialism while caricaturing capitalism. While the General Assembly did amend the document to “encourage a study” in the churches and presbyteries and deleted the words “integrate and interpret,” this slight introduction is not unlike the first introduction of Belhar.

And they left intact this, “Request the General Assembly Committee on Ecumenical Relations to contact the coordinator for the Committee on Theological Education and seminary organizations to provide briefings on the new realities of WCRC/CANAAC, and to ask PC(USA) seminaries (including seminaries in covenant agreement with the General Assembly) to include the Accra Confession as a study document.”

Not only Belhar, which will be used in a non-confessional way to introduce sexual perversion into the Church, but also Accra is being promoted by huge ecumenical institutions which were meant to bring unity to the Church but will now bring harm. I say this because of all the various papers, conferences and organizations pushing this toward individual denominations and churches.

One of the lead up papers to Accra is “A Continuing Journey towards Confessing Movement for Economic Justice and Life on Earth (processus confessionis) 2001” This very long paper, which does contain some important thoughts, confuses orthodox & evangelical churches within the mainline denominations with the prosperity teaching of some Pentecostals. It equates evangelism with political propaganda.

And it also asks the church to create a space for the public and remember those who, "were dis-membered, marginalized and excluded by violence and exclusion in its various forms, and to strive for healing and justice, [which] requires us to stage protest against ongoing victimisation based on prevalent structures of class, gender, race, age,, dominating culture as in the case of Indigenous People and sexual orientation."

An important feature is how the paper has within it the connection between Belhar and Accra. It states:

"It is now time for the WARC to implement this decision [produce a confession that deals with economics] by getting its member churches involved in studying the Confession of Belhar ... in order to become an ecumenical confessing movement, facing the economic injustice and ecological destruction in word and deed and aiming at a common confession at the next General Council 2004 in Accra."

A series of article in the Reformed World, published by the World Alliance of Reformed Churches which is now, the World Communion of Reformed Churches, looks at many confessions and how they speak to economic and social Issues. One is written by Dr. Jane Dempsey Douglas, who also presented the recommendation of Belhar at GA. In the article she speaks of Calvin’s views on unity, community and social issues and ties this to Accra. She writes of Accra, “The solidarity of the human family and God’s special concern for the poor and for creation are emphasized as requiring resistance to an unjust economic order imposed by empire.”

Another author, Margit Ernst-Habib, a German theologian, writes of the Reformed Confessions. She looks at theology in general, but mainly examines many confessions including Barmen and Belhar, a Reformed Cuban Confession and Accra. The Cuban one is centered on humanity and social issues with this statement:

“The Scriptures teach us that salvation necessarily includes the emerging of a new fraternal solidarity that is made concrete in a ‘community of goods’ where ‘private property’ is abolished in order for all of us to be able to enjoy the goods produced.”

The point of many of these later confessions is their focus on praxis rather than confession. That is a focus on the action of believers rather than what they confess about Jesus Christ. But that misses the point of what a confession is, that is, the Church’s complete acknowledgement of Jesus Christ as Lord. And it also leaves room for a misunderstanding of what it means to act in the name of Jesus Christ. That is why the Theological Confession of Barmen does not fit among these confessions although it occurred in some of the same contexts.

But to return to the train, the young people, the pastor and the mother and son I wrote about in my last posting are living examples of what a confession should be. Out of their confession of who Jesus Christ is, they act in the way God has called them in Jesus Christ. Confession comes first. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Scriptures, obedience through grace given, this is the future of the Church. It does not deny the needs of the poor or the oppressed but it finds its footing in confessing the Lord of the Church even unto death.


Dave Moody said...


ZZMike said...

I've been following the GA (often with amazement). I found your site by way the The Layman.

It might be reasonable to link to your earlier entry on the Belhar Confession:

A Badly Flawed Document For Study

Being badly flawed, it was almost certain to be adopted.

Among other questions, do we really need another Confession? Are the ones we have so lacking in some substantial Christian doctrine that they need to be filled - at this late date - with yet another "social justice" text?

But for your blog, I would have missed the connection to the Accra Confession. Just what we need - a confession about economics and socialism.

Small wonder the People in the Pews have jaded opinions about what goes on at the GAs.