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.]


Anonymous said... ridiculous as you may find it, one of the reasons we are not in full communion with the Southern Baptists, and that they express no interest in such communion/recognition of us, is the fact that we ordain...

You. A (gasp) woman.

I would say it's ironic you object to our having higher standards, but I remember that you refuse to admit that the same approach to Biblical understanding/theology that allows for your Ordination Will allow for GLBT ordination.

That's not just me saying that. It's what the President of the flagship Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Al Mohler, has frequently pointed out.


Atlanta, GA

Viola Larson said...

Gene, the issue of women in ministry should not keep us from fellowship with other Christian groups. It was Mouw's point and he gave an example that they will begin to understand our point of view on women while at the same time we will begin to see better the importance of the cross.

At the same time the PCUSA's relationship with denominations that reject very basic biblical teaching about revelation, who God is, etc. is a far greater concern.

Anonymous said...

You are right that women in ministry should not keep us from fellowship with other Christian groups. But, it does, for they correctly realize that the theological openness to understanding the Bible in ways that are not literal, which was required for it, leads to other ideas being questioned. Which, in our church, it has. And, in the other mainline churches you mention also. this includes not just ordination, but also how we understand the revealed word (as one of our own Confessions points out, inspired, but nonetheless written by men...).

The Baptists would (and do) see this sound and historical understanding as a rejection of very basic biblical teaching. It all depends I suppose on how open to new understandings of just WHAT ARE the very basic biblical teachings. To the conservatives, that would include the role of women/complimentary/helpmeet role of women, and how this reflects Gods basic design for humanity.

To these conservative denominations, anyone who had concluded otherwise HAS rejected very basic biblical teaching about revelation and who God is and calls us to be.

its all of one piece Viola. That's not my opinion, but rather that of the conservatives you find it ridiculous we are not in union with.

I am sorry you have not been able to find a Presbyterian church that is a good fit for you closer to home. Good luck on your journey, wherever it takes you. Your husband is in my prayers.



Viola Larson said...

Gene you have just about everything I said wrong. I said that it was ridiculous that the PCUSA couldn't be in fellowship with other churches except for progressive ones, not the other way around.

Of course the Scriptures were written by men, but they were also inspired by God. "but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." (2 Peter 1:21b)It is always God's word. "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness: so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16-17)

I do have a Presbyterian church in mind, it just isn't PCUSA it is EPC. I believe I already said that.

Anonymous said...

Viola, it is ridiculous to think we can be in fellowship with conservative churches that are so riddled with error, such as the error that women are inferior to men in their role in the church.

Viola, as much as you dance around it, try to ignore it, pretend the conservatives don't and did not say it, they point out, correctly, that the same understanding of Biblical theology that allows you to be ordained, will allow a gay man or lesbian to be ordained. I did not get that wrong. I am just repeating the words of Al Mohler and many other evangelical conservatives.

When I said Presbyterian, I mean PCUSA. I still hope you will grow past your own very comfortable prejudices and that will be harder if you run to a church that will only reinforce them instead of help you grow in your faith. Thus, I hope you can find a PCUSA church, for even in a conservative one you will get to interact with GLBT elders and pastors. Many people, open minded and open to the Spirit, such as Mark Achtmeier, have found this helped them grow. I wish no less than this, the best, for you.

Wherever it leads you, I wish you peace on your journey, and I hope for healing and comfort for your husband. And, for you. I have been in a position of caring for someone with dementia/memory loss, and it is a slow, difficult daily walk. You are strong. that I have no doubt of. He is lucky to have you at his side through this. That said, you will be daily in my prayers, because such tests are long and hard. But I have no doubt your faith will sustain you through it.


Viola Larson said...

Gene you are redundant in your thoughts and you know I don't agree, but I do thank you for your prayers.