Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Covenant Network & Jeroboam's Baals

The Covenant Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), as well as several other progressive entities, have attempted in many ways to keep those who are orthodox from flourishing in the midst of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). I wrote in November of 2011 about how the CN had new guidelines in which they suggest that new candidates for teaching elder should be disqualified if they cannot for conscience sake ordain someone who participates in same gender sex.[1]

Now, with the article, “Union Presbytery?,” written by Doug Nave, who also wrote the guidelines, and is a member of the CN’s Board of Directors, the CN is attempting to help some progressives prevent the Presbytery of Santa Barbara from becoming a union presbytery with a presbytery within ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians. The progressives in the presbytery have filed a complaint with the Synod of Southern California.

Nave who will be the counsel for those who filed the complaint is suggesting in his article that ECO is not recognized as a denomination and has “no existing congregations,” which is untrue. But what I really want to address in this posting is the orthodox’s concern that there will soon be no place for them in the PC (U.S.A.) as both the guidelines and the complaint make clear. There is scripture that tells of just such a situation in ancient Judah and Israel. In fact it happened almost immediately after the tribes split apart.

In 2 Chronicles 11, Jeroboam in a measure meant to secure his position as king of Israel instituted a false religious system. He made golden calves and satyrs for worship which would have constituted worship combined with sexual perversion. He also made sure that none of the Levites were allowed to lead worship, and instead choose his own priests rather than the ones chosen by the Lord. But the Levites stayed faithful:

For the Levites left their pasture lands and their property and came to Judah and Jerusalem for Jeroboam had excluded them from serving as priests to the Lord. (2 Chronicles 11:14)

And amazingly the faithful among the people followed them:

Those from all the tribes of Israel who set their hearts on seeking the Lord God of Israel followed them to Jerusalem, to sacrifice to the Lord God of their fathers.

Judah would also waver back and forth between the true God and idols, but because of the people and priests who fled Israel for Judah the scripture states that Judah was strengthened for three years. And strengthened in a righteous way. This is just a small incident in the history of the tribes of Israel but it is a very clear picture. When those who are disobedient to scripture make it impossible to remain, when they push out the ones who hold to the authority of scripture, the Lord has good pastures elsewhere. And those who are faithful will always strengthen each other in the Lord.

But there is something more: The Levites who went to Jerusalem to perform faithful worship, and the people who followed demonstrate true unity and that kind of faithful unity continues on in the New Testament. As Martin J. Selman in the Tyndale Commentary points out, “…the phrase set their hearts at seeking the Lord (v. 16) underlines the inward aspect of biblical religion. ‘The true kingdom is a gathered community (Ackroyd) of those whose way of life is to seek God, that is they continually seek his will for their lives (cf. e.g. 1 Ch. 13: 3; 28:9; 2 Ch. 7:14; 15:4, 15). Such an attitude derives from a heart set towards God.”

The gathered community of the New Testament is not restricted to a place and the “sacrificial gift is altered.” Selman points to the kind of sacrifice the Christian lifts to the Lord in his references to Phil. 4:18; and Heb. 13:15-16. He adds “acceptable Christian worship continues to include a physical as well as a spiritual dimension (cf. Rom. 12:1)” I would add Romans 12:2. This is true unity both as it is expressed in the O.T and the New.

The Covenant Network may push and pull trying try to disallow any kind of help to those who wish to live faithfully in obedience to scripture and the Lord, but God is utterly faithful to his people. A union presbytery would strengthen ministry and mission. It would be the cause of joyous worship. But God’s will be done and may many be faithful to their Lord.


dhollifield said...

As hard as it might be to believe, I can confirm your insights, because yesterday I was meditating on this same similarity between our present denominational situation and the idol worship after the split of the Northern and Southern kingdoms. The word of the Lord is sharp...

Viola Larson said...

Deborah, thanks for affirming my thoughts. I read that text over a year ago and it keeps sticking around: )

Anonymous said...

if a presbytery entered into such a union, wouldn't the real congregations in it be subject to a rule other than the ones we have agreed to by our votes (of OUR 173 presbyteries)? Am I correct in this understanding?

We voted to inclusion and tolerance, and every congregation in every presbytery that already are inclusive and have GLBT ministers and elders must not, under any circumstances, have that just right endangered.

If a congreation is unhappy with that, let it leave the denomination, after going through the necessary payments and or return of the Presbyteries buildings of course. But an end run that would prevent congregations in a presbytery like Sandta Barbara from being inclusive, as we have collectively voted to be....nope. not a chance.


Dave Moody said...

Excellent insights Vi. Thank you so much for exercising the gifts God has given and honed in you for the benefit of His people. Blessings!

Fairbanks, AK

Jim said...

The comment of "Anonymous" is revealing. It translates, "Churches that are faithfully leading people to Jesus should give money to a dying institution that is not leading people to Jesus, even if that church has paid for its property without assistance." That is the true proof that the PCUSA no longer cares for the kingdom of God.