Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Office of the General Assembly, Belhar and confessing Christ today

The Office of the General Assembly Of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has released an article written by Sharon Young about the failure of the Belhar Confession. The article entitled, “All but one PC(USA) constitutional amendment headed for approval: Belhar Confession falls short of required two-thirds majority of presbyteries,” fails to acknowledge any reasonable grounds for its failure.

Those Presbyterians who spoke and wrote about some of the problems with Belhar were not quoted in the article, only those who wished it to pass. The article itself is a sign that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), within the Office of the General Assembly, is heavily weighted with progressives who care little for the views of the orthodox in the denomination.

One quote, that “Belhar might not have received sufficient attention in a year when presbyteries were engaged in several substantive discussions around constitutional amendments,” is a disingenuous statement for several reasons. The first being that the votes on all of the three hot items ran about the same, in fact, Charles Wiley coordinator of the Office of Theology and Worship has stated that, “It should be noted that despite the fact that Belhar will not pass, it actually received a higher percentage of votes than either 10-A or nFOG.”

The other is that, with the kind help of Charles Wiley, who was for Belhar and quoted in the article, a long running debate on the resource page of the GAMC continued even after Belhar was defeated. Putting a new confession in our Book of Confessions is very serious and Presbyterians took this action very seriously.

Also, let me state once again, orthodox Christians in the PCUSA applaud the help Belhar was to black South Africans, indeed, help to white South Africans who were sinfully racist. However, many of the orthodox, have rejected Belhar because of it’s emphasis on unity over the Lordship of Jesus Christ. As we now exist in a denomination that upholds the morals of the culture over biblical morals, the cry for unity is now a cry for unity around moral failure. Belhar can only aid the disaster.

It should be noted by the OGA that some, including myself, in the PC (U.S.A.) are calling for a new confession. Above all we need once again to confess Jesus Christ. In the midst of our sinful broken culture and our sinful broken denomination which includes all of us, we are called by Christ to a confession of sin but more so to the act of confessing Jesus as our Lord.

Using the good reformed doctrine of our union with Christ, Presbyterian scholar Arthur C. Cochrane writes:
The primary condition of a Confession, the possibility of a Confession, is not that men decide to confess Christ for a variety of reasons—say, for the sake of a Church union—but that Christ for no reason at all, that is, in his sovereign freedom, has decided to confess himself to us. A Confession is Christological not only in the fact that its articles are related to Christ but in the sense that he is the confessor. The Church confesses only in him! The confession occurs not when we think we have discovered the truth, but when the truth has found us.
We should remember that the Declaration of Barmen was never a call to unity around a diversity of theological or ethical opinions. The signers of Barmen were concerned about a unity that upheld biblical and confessional truth. They believed, and it was so, that the German Christians were causing disunity by false doctrine, force and insincere practices. The Confession states:
Their intention was, rather, to withstand in faith and unanimity the destruction of the Confession of Faith, and thus the Evangelical Church in Germany. In opposition to attempts to establish the unity of the German Evangelical Church by means of false doctrine, by the use of force and insincere practices, the Confessional Synod insists that the unity of the Evangelical Churches in Germany can come only from the Word of God in faith through the Holy Spirit. Thus alone is the Church renewed.
The further move to encourage the study of Belhar without any truthful acknowledgement by the leadership of the PCUSA of the true reasons for its rejection by most of those who are orthodox is a further attempt to push on to many what they have rejected. And we have no one to speak up for or even acknowledge the words we have spoken.

We must confess Christ. Some questions by Cochrane are extremely appertain to the position of the orthodox in the PC (U.S.A.) today.

Were those terrible yet blessed years of the Church under Hitler a foreshadowing of the destiny of the Church in other lands in this atomic age? [Written in the early sixties] Were they prophetic of a return for us too to a pre-Constantinian, New Testament time of the Church? Are we on the threshold of a day when the Church knows that its only weapon and defense will be its Confession of Faith? Are we conscious of some great heresy by which our Churches are “grievously imperiled” and of some great truth by which we are possessed? Are we prepared to make dogmatic and, much more important, ethical decisions as a Church, and for the sake of them to lose our life in order to find it? Are we really ready for the fearful “either-or” decision involved in a Confession of Faith?

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