The Ecclesiologist

Ecclesiological Thoughts in an Anti-Ecclesiological Culture

Covenant Life Church Polity Position Paper

The Sovereign Grace Ministries Refuge site has recently “leaked” a position paper related to the church polity written Covenant Life Church (Sr. Pastor Josh Harris).  You can read the paper here.

Many who frequently comment and post at the Sovereign Grace Ministries Refuge see this paper as a step in the right direct as it formally denounces the “ongoing apostolic office or hierarchical structure of governance above the local church.”

It is painful to watch a denomination attempt to set forth a new ecclesiology long after they have been functionally practicing another  form.  The fact that a flagship church, which has functionally been the center of a denomination for some time, is now is now writing a position paper on ecclesiology is disappointing.  It is encouraging that they have swallowed their pride and taken up the task none-the-less.  I do not think Sovereign Grace is the only denomination that will have to retrofit position papers, soon Calvary Chapel will loose their Moses (Chuck Smith).  How will this denomination recover?  What will happen to Acts 29 and Mars Hill after Driscoll moves on?

Every church has ecclesiology, no matter how much the church might hate denominations.  The goal is to have a Biblical and faithful ecclesiology.

The Beginning of the End for the Episcopalians

The debate of blessing same-sex marriage has all to often been the straw that breaks the camel’s back for many conservatives stuck in liberal denominations.  I have often lamented the way this looks to the onlooking world.  Fortunately, last weeks General Convention of the Episcopal Church gave the onlooking world a glimpse at all that is facing the communion:

  • The communion has spent $18 Million suing local congregation attempting to leave this year
  • The denomination voted to sell their headquarters at 815 2nd Avenue in midtown Manhattan which has a $37.5 million mortgage debt (this means the presiding bishop will no longer be hosted in the full-floor penthouse with a wraparound terrace)
  • The denomination endorsed cross-dressing clergy
  • The denomination debated a resolution which sought to establish funeral rites for dogs and cats
  • The denomination debated a resolution condemning genetically modified foods
  • The denomination voted to essentially apologize to Native Americans for exposing them to Christianity

A few years ago, the convention overwhelmingly refused to receive a resolution that stated that Jesus Christ is Lord. This year, they failed to pass a resolution which stated the denominations “unchanging commitment to Jesus Christ as the son of God, the only name by which any person may be saved.”

It’s about more than just blessing same-sex marriages.  May the Lord have Mercy on the Episcopal Church and give strength to those who are fighting to pass on the faith once delivered to the saints.

Thoughts on “Being Conservative”

Over at First Things, Larry Huizenga has a thoughtful post reflecting on the decline of liberal churches and the growth of conservative churches.  Huizenga seeks to define “conservatives” over and against “liberals.  He notes that often “‘conservative’ churches make demands on members in terms of belief and practice, whereas ‘liberal’ churches nowadays often provide members with little more than a question mark.” But there is more to conservatives than simply doctrinal statements, Huizenga also sees worship as an important category.  He notes,

“… churches conservative in doctrine are often liberal in liturgy while churches liberal in doctrine are often conservative in liturgy. ‘Conservative’ congregations have forms of worship so far removed from traditional Christian liturgy that those forms would be either unrecognizable by prior generations of Christians or reckoned as pagan.”

Huizenga’s conclusion is that liberalism, whether in doctrine or worship, will result in unfaithfulness no matter what the numbers say.  A church may grow, but it will quickly decline.  He quotes William Inge, “If you marry the spirit of your own generation, you will be a widow in the next.”

So how do we move forward?

Huizenga argues we should attend to both doctrine and liturgy, “so that our faith becomes neither an acrid intellectual system nor an empty form but rather an all-encompassing culture embracing the whole person, body, mind, soul, and spirit, in a community of love.”  He concludes, “Traditional doctrine and liturgy work together to give people a transcendent sense of home in a robust culture, the Church.”

While writing as encouragement to Roman Catholics, his article should serve as a wise warning to Protestants on both ends of the liberal and conservative divide.

The article can be read here.

… And Another One Bites the Tiber

Jason Stellman’s departure from the PCA is already old news in the blog world.  Stelllman was made famous for his obsession with 2 kingdoms theology and his actions as the prosecuting party in the heresy trial of the Rev. Dr. Peter Leithart.  His departure came as a shock, but his “brand” of confessionalism required him to be on a never ending quest for certainty.  The best review of Stellman’s actions is found in the Barlow Farm’s blog.  The post can be found here.

In a recent post by Stellman (found here) Stellman says that, in the midst of his struggles with questions about sola Scriptura and sola Fide, he met with Mike Horton, Ligon Duncan, and James White.  I honestly think, sitting down with Leithart or Meyers and discussing these issues might have been more helpful than he realized. But, as we all know, sometimes our allies become our enemies and our enemies enemies start to look like our friends.

I’ve been praying for Jason. I know how it feels to be confused and frustrated about catholicity and messy ecclesiology.  I am constantly praying for his wife and children. They will be part of this conversion too.

Intinction and the PCA

The 40th Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in American will be debating the topic of intinction (i.e. dipping the bread into the wine during the Eucharist meal).  Intinction is currently practiced in the Eastern Orthodox Churches and some Protestant Churches. 

While I think the Eucharist meal ought to be taken seriously, I cannot help but wonder why the PCA will not be debating the use of wine (instead of grape juice) or the use of leven bread (as upposed to unleaven bread) or the use of glutten free bread. 

The overture can be found here.  Pray for the PCA’s 40th General Assembly. 

Intinction and the PCA

The 40th Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in American will be debating the topic of intinction (i.e. dipping the bread into the wine during the Eucharist meal).  Intinction is currently practiced in the Eastern Orthodox Churches and some Protestant Churches. 

While I think the Eucharist meal ought to be taken seriously, I cannot help but wonder why the PCA will not be debating the use of wine (instead of grape juice) or the use of leven bread (as upposed to unleaven bread) or the use of glutten free bread. 

The overture can be found here.  Pray for the PCA’s 40th General Assembly. 

Gnostic Ecclesiology

I am not sure what is more disturbing about this article, the author’s poor ecclesiology or the fact that over 500 people have commented on this post. 

If one is going to take on the monstrous task of saying “I am a member of the catholic church, just not a local one,” I would hope to see some interaction with the Scriptures as to how that is possible. Also, It is serious business to leave a local church, and again, I would love to see Mrs. Evan’s arguments as to why her local church deviated from the Scriptures.

I would highly recommend that Mrs. Evans pastor sit down with her, and help her see from the Scriptures the importance of things like ordination, baptism, membership, etc. … Oh wait, she has no one in ordained authority over her.  That’s right. 

Saying you are a member of the church universal and not a member of a local church is almost as silly as saying your soul is Christian but your body is not.  This is gnostic ecclesiology at its finest. 

Understanding the Church of England

Here is David Attenborough’s documentary on the Anglican Primates

A Beautiful Response to the Jesus vs. Religion Video

Jesus Verses Religion

More than likely, you have seen this video:

While it is tempting to write a lengthy ecclesiological response to it, Matthew Cantirino over at First Things did the hard work for me.  His review of the video can be found here.

It is important that we do not forget that a similar dichotomy has been popularized by Rev. Dr. Tim Keller.  He draws the false dichotomy between the Gospel and Religion (see his Gospel in Life curriculum for the most clear example of this).  I am well aware of the fact that Keller inherited the dichotomy from Jack Miller and the Sonship movement.

While a lot of criticism has been offered to BBall1989’s video, I do not think people realize they are subtly criticizing Keller and Miller.  I wonder why nobody has pushed back at Keller’s dichotomy.

These dichotomies are dangerous.  These dichotomies are to blame, in part, for our present lack of concern for ecclesiology.  Let us not forget that the Church is part of the Good News.  It is not in opposition to the Gospel.

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