Monday, September 29, 2014

Alison Weir & the PC (U.S.A.): German Christians in the corner of the denomination (Update)

Who is Alison Weir, and should either the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Mission Agency or the Israel/Palestine Mission Network be pointing to her material? On their twitter page, IPMN linked to an article by Weir. The article, “Christian Evangelicals Increasingly Support Palestinian Human Rights,” is on the International Middle East Media Center page. But that site has linked to Weir’s own site, “If Americans Knew.”
In another posting I pointed out that Rev. Kate Taber, the PCUSA mission worker to Israel and Palestine had used Allison Weir as a good reference. In my posting, “Extreme anti-Semites and their connections to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (Correction),” I wrote:

“If Americans Knew was founded by Alison Weir, a sometimes writer for Veterans News Now, an organization connected to VT [Veterans Today], and also for My Catbird Seat, a sister site to Veterans Today. Her summary is "A Synopsis of the Israel/Palestine Conflict." and under Zionism Weir begins:

In the late 1800s a group in Europe decided to colonize this land. Known as Zionists, they represented an extremist minority of the Jewish population. Their goal was to create a Jewish homeland, and they considered locations in Africa and the Americas, before settling on Palestine." (Italics mine.)

Weir goes on to explain the reason for so many refugees coming to the holyland during Hitler's ethnic cleansing of the Jews. ”Hitler’s rise to power, combined with Zionist activities to sabotage efforts to place Jewish refugees in western countries, led to increased Jewish immigration to Palestine, and conflict grew." (Italics mine).

Note so far in her summary the early Zionists were extremist and they sabotaged efforts to place Jewish refugees in western countries during the Holocaust. That is in the first few paragraphs. Weir goes on filling her page with many untruths and exaggerations.”

After that I went on to explain why much of the summary is false information. You can use the link above to read my explanation.

Now I see evidence of an even deeper connection to anti-Semitism on Weir’s part. On her blog she insists that young Jews are attempting to troll various social media in an attempt to feed the public propaganda. The blog posting is “Israeli "trolls" on Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, etc.. In the article she points to various articles meant to prove her point. One of the articles is “Israeli Students Paid $2000 Each to Troll the Internet.” It was written by a far left anti-Israel e-magazine the Electronic Intifada, however Weir chose to link to the article on a neo-Nazi site, “The Daily Stormer.”

If you go to the Stormer site and the article you will find that they have added an anti-Semitic picture. Perhaps this is what Weir wanted her readers to see. Or perhaps she hoped that while there they would peruse some of the other articles such as Jews are Our Misfortune or David Dukes’ Atomic Energy Vote Demonstrates Who Runs America.

I know it is useless to plead with the Israel/Palestine Mission Network, or with the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s World Mission leaders, but it is important that others, Presbyterians and non-Presbyterians, understand that in an enlarged corner of the denomination, the PC (U.S.A.), is a group of people who are kin to the German Christians of Hitler’s Nazi Germany.

Update: In the comment section David Fischler has pointed out that Weir took down the bad link and substituted a different one. Thankfully someone is listening (reading). But consider, Weir's posting has been up since June the 9th-it has been read for almost four months. I am at this moment convinced that we need to keep a watchful eye, and keep pushing, and pushing against all of this anti-Semitism.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Vicar of Bagdad & the love of Jesus in the midst of suffering

This Sunday morning, Sept 28, 2014, I am posting a video of the Rev. Dr. Andrew White, Vicar of Bagdad speaking at his home church in England.  The video starts a little strangely as the camera person works out his focus. And Vicar White speaks slowly probably because of his MS. But this is a beautiful portrayal of the love of Christ in one of his servants who ministers among his suffering people in Iraq.  It also helps the Christian to understand that Jesus works mightily in the midst of His people’s needs. Please watch all of it, you will be blessed.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Church-the City of the Living God

Country Church [1]
Richard Conway, who is writing about his journey to find a church home, the first I posted last Saturday evening, has had some delays in providing more postings. I will continue when he is ready.

Since my church is in discernment, and many other churches in the midst of similar journeys I have been thinking about the Church in general and God’s care for his people. On this side of all the distress, yet with care to be in the right place, I think about how God sees us. The biblical picture is almost a J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, or Charles Williams’ fantasy. With great encouragement the writer of Hebrews writes:

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.”

But this is no fantasy rather God’s truth and promise. Charles Williams wrote his surreal novels from this point of view. God places humanity in cities (or communities) and works with, through and among them by use of the lens of the city of the Living God. Just as Lewis’ saw humanity becoming everlasting splendors or monsters, so Williams pictures the city of God mingling with earthly cities and communities changing the inhabitants—but it is always the incarnate One working through the Holy Spirit in the midst of our common life.

Ah, the general assembly of heaven and the church of the firstborn. John Calvin in his commentary on Hebrews sees the first born as the Old Testament Saints, but Donald Guthrie clarifies that Jesus Christ is the true first born and thus all the saints of God, reborn in Christ, those in the O.T. and those in the church age fit into this  category. They are among the angels in festal gathering.

God is still here the Judge of all. And Calvin reminds the reader that in the midst of this holy place that belongs to God there should be no pollution. He writes:

“This seems to be said to inspire fear, as if he were saying that grace is offered to us in such a way as to remind us that we have to do with our judge to whom we must render account if we have invaded His sanctuary with pollution or profanity.”

And Guthrie understanding that God’s judgment conforms to his nature writes, “It should be noted that God is not to be regarded here exclusively as a judge who condemns but rather as one who examines and discriminates.”

And then, in this city, we turn to redemption—“the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.”

In actuality the righteous are righteous because of Jesus and his death. They are perfect because of his perfection, (completeness.) (Hebrews 5:7-10) His blood is sprinkled on his people and they dwell now with him in his city. The blood washed sinners made saints are the Church. “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb.”

This is the Church—it cannot exist minus this quality of God’s holiness, care, and redemption. His people, sinners bearing the righteousness of Jesus, are on a journey being made perfect. They are surrounded by suffering and angels, or as Karl Barth put it in the middle of his list of the good God has done in the Church, “He allows righteousness to experience all anxieties.” The Church is in the world yet destined to dance with angels, fellowship with all saints, and look, forever, upon perfect beauty.
[1] The picture is of the country church I attended as a child living on a farm in Northern Missouri. We just called it country church.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Finding a new home: "The Journey" by Richard Conway

A friend, Richard Conway, who was, until recently, a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is in the process of finding a church home. He is writing about each visit he makes to various churches. Under the premise that the church universal is, at the moment, made up of many different branches or should I say parts of Christ’s body, and just because it is interesting I will post Richard’s descriptions and experiences on my blog. I hope to do this late each Saturday night so they can be read on Sundays. I find it ridiculous that while the PC (U.S.A.) has a relationship with the more progressive churches such as the Episcopal Church they refuse to acknowledge such conservative churches as the Presbyterian Church of America, the Southern Baptist Church and the Assemblies of God.  I loved that part of Richard Mouw’s sermon at the first meeting of the Fellowship of Presbyterians when he spoke about how those denominations could learn something from us and we could learn something from them.

 The Journey

By Richard Conway

 When I made the decision to leave PCUSA, I had no plans to go to any specific church. Over the decades and being active in this community, I had met and befriended many pastors in the area. This gave me an awareness of a number of churches to visit, both in the community and outside.

But, it wasn’t going to be as simple as visiting another church. At 92 years of age, my mother isn’t driving anymore, so yours truly is in charge of getting her to and from her Sunday School and Church every Sunday, and afterwards to her regular Sunday dinner with her longtime friends, a two + decade long running engagement.

One of the churches on my list to visit is Non-Denominational, Burke Community Bible Church, my friend David Doster, Pastor. Their Sunday Service is at 10 AM, a conflict with taking Mom to her Sunday School and church service. The other is PCA, Faith Presbyterian Church on Bost Rd, Mike Thompson, Pastor. Their  Sunday School and Service schedule coincided with First Pres. All it took was to get Mom to First Pres a few minutes early and I could make it to Faith Presbyterian for Sunday School and Sunday Service. Mom could then ride with one of her friends to their lunch engagement and I pick her up when she is finished. That worked

So, last Sunday was my first visit to Faith Pres. The first thing I notice, their Sunday School is in depth teaching, straight from the Bible, no curriculum, everyone uses their Bible. Held in the sanctuary, with class members scattered throughout, not the intimate setting I am accustomed to.

The service began. First thing that became apparent, there is no real music such as I had been accustomed to with Robert Smith, our music director. No organ, no choir, just a piano, one young man on guitar and a young girl singing. Solid prayers, no social activities, no greetings, no joking around, just serious church. Everyone follows in their Bible.  We began with the Westminster Larger Catechism # 89 & # 90, the pastor read the question and the congregation read the response, completely. Terrific. Scripture was read, not a verse or two but entire chapters and everyone in church has their Bibles open and follows along. Several hymns were sung, the offering was taken and then the sermon. Here is a major and very positive difference. The preaching/teaching is EXPOSITORY Teaching. Outstanding! Expository (see below) 

Moving through the Bible. This Sunday the sermon was 2 Thessalonians 1: 1 – 12. Preached/taught word for word, verse by verse. And everyone has their Bible open and follows along and taking notes. Very powerful.

Closing hymn and blessing. Roughly 70 minute service. A lot of younger families, very few older people (above 80). This was a breath of fresh air as the service, no jokes, no passing the peace, no time for children, no musical anthems,  just pure Bible teaching, word for word and everyone has their Bible open and follows along. Very powerful.

 Every component of the service is a focus on scriptural purity. I love it. But I miss the music, and that’s OK, this is really good solid church.

All the people I met were extraordinarily friendly and welcoming, and I knew more than a few of them.

2nd Sunday (today):           went to my Men’s SS Bible Class at First Pres, left a few minutes early and returned to Faith Pres. The service began with the Westminster Confession of Faith. Congregational Bible reading, songs (great traditional songs) Lord’s Prayer,   tithes and offerings, Sermon moving on in 2 Thessalonians 2; 1 – 16 The Great Apostasy!! (Hooray) no nonsense preaching/teaching, Expository Teaching, pure Bible, final hymn & blessing.

Real refreshing service and church with no fluff, just pure expository teaching.

As soon as someone can take Mom to church and back, I want to visit Christ Community Church, previously known as Montreat Presbyterian Church, an hour away. They left pcusa and still have their church right in the middle of Montreat, they are no longer pcusa. Good for them.

 Bless you all,


Question: "What is expository preaching?"  (Also by Richard Conway)

Answer: Expository preaching involves the exposition, or comprehensive explanation, of the Scripture; that is, expository preaching presents the meaning and intent of a biblical text, providing commentary and examples to make the passage clear and understandable. The word expositionis related to the word expose— the expository preacher’s goal is simply to expose the meaning of the Bible, verse by verse.

While exposition is not the only valid mode of preaching, it is the best for teaching the plain sense of the Bible. Expositors usually approach Scripture with these assumptions:

 1) The Bible is God’s Word. If every word of God is pure and true (Psalm 12:6;19:9;119:140), then every word deserves to be examined and understood.

2) Men need divine wisdom in order to understand the Word (1 Corinthians 2:12-16).

3) The preacher is subject to the text, not the other way around. Scripture is the authority, and its message must be presented honestly, apart from personal bias.

4) The preacher’s job is to clarify the text and call for a corresponding response from his hearers.

 [The picture at the top is a Methodist Church I attended as a young teenager. It is in old Pattonsburg, Missouri and was almost destroyed in a flood. There is now a new one in new Pattonsburg.]

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

University Presbyterian, in Sacramento: learning the difference between EPC and PC (U.S.A.)?

Rev. Bob Azzarito is the new pastor at University Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), a group nested in Fremont Presbyterian Church, an Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Sacramento. Azzarito is battling a caricature of his own making. He has been attempting to aid the people of his church by using his sermons to show them the difference between the EPC, and the PC (U.S.A.). His sermon series on the church site is “Another Way of Seeing,” but the advertisement for it in the Inside Publications has the headline, “Is Evangelicalism the only way to view God?” And in a neighborhood local list service UPC member, Judy Kerri, wrote an invitation to the River Park Community:                                                                                                                                    

University Presbyterian Church, a new church within the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), would like to extend an invitation for you to join us on Sunday mornings for our continuing series of sermons on "Another Way of Seeing."  If you have wondered whether or not there are other ways to understand God and the Bible other than Conservative Evangelicalism, then this study might be a help to you.  Over the past several decades, Evangelical thinking has dominated the airwaves, and as a result many think this is the only way to understand theology.  This Sunday, our new pastor, Bob Azzarito, who was himself raised in an Evangelical denomination before becoming a Presbyterian, continues to outline some of the main differences between Evangelicalism and the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA). 

 This week he will be discussing the topic of salvation.  Did you know that the concept of being "born again," a common term and concept in Evangelical thinking, is not a standard Biblical definition of salvation?  It might also be surprising to learn that the idea of salvation in the Bible has little to do with what happens after death.  Join us at 11:15 am. Sunday, in the Chapel on the property of Fremont Church, 5770 Carlson Drive. 

Azzarito, isn’t just talking about evangelicalism in general because he is addressing members who did not want to follow Fremont out of the PC (U.S.A.) into the EPC. They rather chose and were given the privilege of staying PC (U.S.A.) while being nested on Fremont’s campus for ten years. That was part of the package that allowed Fremont to leave with their property. So with each sermon Azzarito in some way addresses the members’ experience of having chosen to not go with the other members of Fremont. And with that he attempts to show the differences between EPC and the PC (U.S.A.). For instance in the first sermon, after commiserating with the people and what has happened to them, Azzarito states, “… I’ve decided to spend some time articulating what it means to be PC (U.S.A.) and not EPC,” and “I want you to understand the distinctives.”

There are several problems. One is that The EPC is not just evangelical, they are also reformed and Azzarito doesn’t seem to understand the distinctives of the reformed faith. Another problem is that too many times he doesn’t understand the distinctives of evangelicalism. A third problem is Azzarito’s universalism. He believes that the Church is simply representatives of all of humanity who are already accepted by God.

In his sermon series, Azzarito first attacks the penal theory of atonement, that is, that Jesus’ death on the cross satisfies the justice of God. The understanding that Jesus is a substitute for the sinner who is under the wrath of God. Azzarito does this without ever talking about any of the other atonement theories. And he fails to acknowledge that the theories are ways of explaining the biblical text and they work together.  He wants to push one idea. That the EPC and evangelicals in general teach that God is mean and has a big hammer ready to smash the sinner, while the PC (U.S.A.) sees God as loving and inclusive.

This leaves out the Trinity—God is one—and God’s wrath is satisfied by God. It is the begotten God in the bosom of the Father who willingly receives the wrath and becomes the propitiation for our sins. (John 1:18 & 1 John 1:1)
God's wrath does not cancel God's love. According to biblical and reformed faith, God has chosen us before the foundation of the world. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him." (Eph. 1: 3-4)

And then there is that idea about being born again that Kerri writes about. That is, that being born again is not a standard biblical definition of salvation. And Azzarito has problems with salvation being a onetime event, a conversion that the Christian remembers with gladness.   But the biblical text describes salvation in many ways. It is being born again as Jesus explains in the third chapter of John. And Peter puts it this way, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven …”

It is Jesus knocking Paul off of his horse with a blinding light and Paul going back to the story over and over as he testifies to the gentiles. It is the first sermon preached on Pentecost when men from many faraway places ask Peter what they should do. And he says, “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)

But there is also that conversion that is a growth as one is raised in a Christian family with Christian teachers and pastors to guide. Paul speaks of this when writing to Timothy. “You however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:14-15)

Azzarito’s idea that everyone is saved and that it is a lifetime process and the good news is to tell them so doesn’t fit the biblical text. While there are multiple pictures of God’s work in the life of a sinner, born again, born of the Spirit, being saved, Jesus as propitiation, it is always and ever Jesus’ life, death and resurrection that brings the sinner home. And it is the righteousness of Jesus that the Father sees, not our own broken sinful self. The contradiction, and yet the truth, is that although it is always God’s work, some will reject this great salvation.  Some will not come home to the Father.

I pray that those at University Presbyterian Church in Sacramento, while dwelling in the midst of Fremont, will find the truth that is the center of Christianity, Jesus Christ who is able to deliver completely and forever.