Timothy F, Simpson in his article “The Politics of the General Assembly, Part 2: The Committee of the Confessions,” badly uses a faithful Presbyterian woman, Sylvia Dooling president of Voices of Orthodox Women, to make his point about the Heidelberg Catechism. He also fails to understand the poor Christology of the Belhar Confession. The two subjects are not disconnected. When we place the interests of our lives under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, which is the proper subject of a confession, we will not misuse people.
Dooling, who was joined by Dr. James Edwards, another conservative member of the committee, in endorsing the new translation, has not endorsed the translation because it lacks a direct statement on homosexuality, but because it has the integrity of a proper translation. But it should also be added that Dooling who is a friend to me and many, many others is not extreme. She is orthodox, meaning that she holds to the faith as it has been delivered to the church through the apostolic witness of the Scriptures. If she is extreme then so is the global Church, the historical Church and the Church universal.
As for the Confession of Belhar I was the person who at the last General Assembly brought the overture from Sacramento asking the Assembly not to pass the recommendation to accept Belhar. I was going to testify in the confession committee this year but instead found myself waiting for a time to testify on something else in committee 15.
Because of that I once again well continue writing on Belhar which does emphasize unity over the Lordship of Christ. My testimony which I was unable to use had to do with the pastor of a Lutheran church in Bethlehem who at a 2004 Reformed Church of America conference suggested that one could take the words “people of God” from the Confession and make it an interfaith confession of unity for the Jews, Muslims and Christians. That is how very badly Belhar can be used. Belhar’s emphasis of unity was needed in South Africa but the failure of the authors to focus on Jesus Christ reduces it to a document useful only to a particular people and time.
The need of the Church in our day and any day and place is to confess Christ.