Thursday, January 8, 2015

A good spark: our feelings about the defrocking of a godly pastor and renewal leader


It isn’t anything new, really it isn’t.

Unquestionably, the Church’s greatest concern for fellow believers is for those being tortured and killed by the radical arms of another religion. Radical Islam is surely controlled by the evil one who longs to destroy the work of Jesus. And many in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, etc. have loved not their lives unto death. But there is another kind of persecution that springs from religion—the kind that is kindred to those who are persecuted. It happens within the Church, and it occurs when officials and leaders have forgotten to love Jesus and kneel before the authority of his word.  It happens when Satan is allowed to manipulate a denomination. It happens when hearts become cold and hard.

It has barely began in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), but it has begun. As the Layman has reported in their article, “PCUSA defrocks nationally recognized renewal leader,” Joseph B. Rightmyer, has been defrocked by Grace Presbytery. There were eleven charges made against him; he has been declared guilty of eight. But what they all boil down to is, as intern pastor, Rightmyer helped Highland Park Presbyterian Church leave the PC (U.S.A.). But he did not renounce jurisdiction of the PC (U.S.A.) so they basically took his title away. They cannot take his calling and gift away, those are God given.

Rightmyer has been a renewal leader for many years. As the Layman points out, “From 1995 to 2004 he served as the Chief Administrative Officer of Presbyterians for Renewal (PFR).”

I only met this godly man once. I was giving a workshop on a racist pagan group for the Evangelical Ministries to New Religions which was meeting at the Baptist Seminary in Louisville and I had no way to get from there to the Confessing Church Celebration in Atlanta. Through the ministry of a friend, I got a ride with Rightmyer. I was a bit nervous; I had just started writing for Voices of Orthodox Women and I didn’t personally know any renewal people. This Christian gentleman was such a blessing and a storehouse of information, not only about the renewal movement, but about the wonderful scenery we passed through.

Having read many books on the Confessing Church in Germany and all of the manipulations carried on by the German Christians against them, I am not surprised by what is happening. The German Christians were more concerned with upholding the culture of their day than proclaiming Jesus as the one Lord and Savior. They put Confessing pastors through all kinds of trials because they despised the Confessing Churches and their free Synods. It is no different today when Presbyteries look the other way when teaching elders un-biblically marry same gender couples but penalize those who wish to leave the denomination.

Martin Luther during the Reformation wrote probably his most moving work when eulogizing his friend Friar Henry, who had been burned at the stake in the Netherlands. He was addressing Henry’s church and encouraging them to use this as an occasion to bring others to conversion to Jesus. He wrote of the death, “For I hear that many are incensed beyond measure at the monks for bringing this outrage upon their land. That is a good spark, kindled by God; it will surely spread into a fine flame, if you treat it with kind and gentle spirit, so that it be not quenched.”[1]

This is undoubtedly a good spark, this defrocking of a godly preacher and our feelings of sorrow and, yes, outrage. Pray that it will spread into a fine flame, a flame of the Holy Spirit that will bring us all to that place of total commitment and love for our Lord Jesus Christ.

 



[1] Martin Luther, “The Burning of Friar Henry (1525)”, The Works of Martin Luther, vol iv., (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press 1931) 187.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A letter & racism: how to respond


Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile, on his blog Pure Church, has placed a letter from his niece Niecie, who was badly treated when she and her friends had a non-violent silent demonstration with signs that held up both the black community and the police. It was a tribute to all who had died. Niecie is an amazing writer as she expresses her feelings: her hurt and anger. Anyabwile's answer to her grief and anger is kind, pastoral and full of the gospel. I think it would be good for all of us to read this exchange of letters. The words will help us understand what it is like to be an African American in this country in too many places and how our faith could possibly, prayerfully, hopefully change that.

Here is a section from Niecie’s letter:

“As you can imagine, things took a turn [after people got out of their New Year’s parties]. As more people flooded the street from the New Year’s parties, they began to slow down at our vigil, then stop. Some were respectful, dropping their voices and even nodding in approval. But then people began to comment. Some were saying things like “F- the police!” Others then joined in with “F- Mike Brown.” Before long what started as a peaceful silent vigil turned into an ugly shouting match with drunk people staggering around and a lot of people getting in each others faces.

But the worst part was some of the racist things that were said. We were called all kinds of names. “Black monkeys.” “Nappy-haired B-.” “Go back to Africa!” One man in his 50s shouted, “Black lives only matter if they’re picking my cotton!” He called us “obsolete farm equipment.” One girl about my age went on with “Nigger” this and “nigger” that. It was bad enough being called that, but the way she spat the words was filled with the iciest hate. The mocking in fake “black voices and slang” was relentless.”

Here is part of Anyabwile’s answer:

“The problem is the racist and their heart of hate—not you. And that’s why you must never hate them. Returning hate can feel so logical, so natural a response to what you’ve received. And you can feel so justified because you’ve been mistreated. But it creates a vicious cycle, an unending loop of barbarity between people. Racists are to be pitied and loved, resisted and instructed, but never hated.”