It is interesting for me to note how many non-responses may be
furnished as responses to a few simple questions.
"1. How many different 'Covenanter' groups are there (i.e. groups
which hold to the binding obligation of the Solemn League and
I know of at least two. Is that correct? or are there more than the
RPNA societies on the one hand, and the society (or societies)
associated with the "original Steelite" group? What is that group's
name (is it, as stated on the TrueCovenanter.com site, "The
Covenanted Reformed Presbyterian Church")?
How do Jim Dodson, Derek Edwards, and Frank DiLella figure into all
of this? Are they associated with any of the groups now in
existence, or do any of them today form their own
independent "Covenanter" societies?
I was rather surprised to see Ps. 36:1-4 quoted against Mr. Dodson.
Would it not have been sufficient to say that you disagree with him,
or with certain actions of his (I do not know the situation), rather
than vilifying him on a public forum, without giving him opportunity
to defend himself?
"2. What are the reasons for these 'Covenanter' groups maintaining a
distinct and separate existence from each other?"
I know that they arose separately from each other, in two different
countries. But I know also that the elders of the PRCE were in
contact with Jim Dodson prior to their dissociation from Dr. Bacon's
presbytery in 1996. If the two were in contact with each other prior
to the formation of the RPNA (2000), it seems that the two must have
had differences which prevented the RPNA from uniting with the
What are those differences? I have heard headcoverings, movies, and
birth control put forth so far. Is there nothing more substantial
than these? I know that the RPNA lists "Reformation Principles
Exhibited" as being among its subordinate standards, whereas David
Steele himself later repudiated this document. It also seems obvious
to me that when earlier authors spoke of "terms of communion," they
were not speaking merely of terms of "table fellowship" (which seems
to be all this phrase means for the RPNA), but of terms of church
membership. Are these some of the issues between the RPNA and the
original group? Are there any other issues?
I am not trying to "stir up debate" on these points. I really do not
want to discuss any of these issues, or care to have anyone else on
this forum debate headcoverings, birth control, differences in
understanding "terms of communion," etc. Neither do I ask these to
be a "mocker" or a "jeerer." I am simply asking what are the
differences between the two main "Covenanter" groups that exist
today -- or, if there are more than just two, what all of their
differences are. I understand the desire to work toward unity with
separated brethren; but such unity is rarely, if ever, obtained by
simply ignoring differences, or trying to put on a "united front"
"3. How do these distinct communions give support to the claims
of 'Covenanters,' when groups agreeing with each other on the
binding obligation of the Solemn League and Covenant (a document
claimed to be the most perfect vehicle of visible church unity)
cannot maintain visible church unity with each other on that basis?"
> Who specifically made that claim, btw?
I understand the phrase "covenanted unity and uniformity" to refer
to maintaining church unity on the basis of the Solemn League and
Covenant; and the emphasis placed upon the Solemn League and
Covenant, in any "Covenanter" discussion of church unity, to refer
to the excellency of that document toward furthering the goal of
church unity (if not outright necessitating that document for any
true church unity). See Greg Barrow's "Covenanted Reformation
Defended," pp. 30-33 as an example of this. Note especially the
"[T]he Westminster divines taught and practiced (in agreement with
Scripture) that each nation was to have one National church
covenanted together in unity of doctrine and uniformity of
practice... This idea of covenanted unity and uniformity is the only
possible way for the independent Presbyterians of recent years to
extract themselves from a palpable dilemma" (p. 30).
"The PRCE is committed to promoting Covenanted National Presbyterian
Churches which will rule the Church of Christ in covenanted unity
and uniformity. Perhaps some may scoff and think that the PRCE is
just dreaming about a pie in the sky ideal, but if we stop and
consider what the millennial church will be like, we will recognize
that covenanted unity in doctrine and uniformity in practice are its
essential components" (p. 31).
"We cannot walk together with Mr. B---- in his schismatic practice
and agree to this endless multiplying of rival church courts. We
believe that it is sin to associate or comply with such schismatic
societies. We call upon all those who see the Scriptural principles
being violated to separate from such schisms and work together with
us toward one national covenanted unity and uniformity" (p. 33).
I would also note that Greg Price's (still) forthcoming work "A
Peaceable Plea for Worldwide Protestant Unity" was quoted at length
in Mr. Barrow's "Covenanted Reformation Defended," pp. 59-68, as
concerning the question of the obligation of the Solemn League and
Covenant falling to Canada and the United States. I cannot but think
that a work with that title, which is so much occupied with the
binding obligation of the Solemn League and Covenant, would contend
for church unity principally or primarily on the basis of the Solemn
League and Covenant. (But, again, the work is STILL listed at Still
Waters Revival Books as "forthcoming," although published in 2000,
so I can only cite Mr. Price in an inferential way.)
The phrase "covenanted unity and uniformity," of course, is not
original with Mr. Barrow, appearing in the Auchensaugh Renovation,
as well as certain writings of David Steele ("Declaration and
Testimony for the Present Truth," "Short Vindication of Our
Covenanted Reformation"). I am sure that the phrase could probably
be found in other documents or authors. The phrase indicates the
centrality of the Solemn League and Covenant in "Covenanter" thought
on church unity.
Which makes separate and distinct "Covenanter" communions all the
This discussion does not concern the NAPARC denominations, or any
other churches, for that matter, since none of these other churches
hold to the binding obligation of the Solemn League and Covenant.
But for those bodies which to hold to its abiding obligation, how do
you meet the charge of schism and separatism, at least as far as
your relations to each other are concerned? If you hold that there
can only be one true church in the nation, to which all
congregations are bound to be united, must you not hold each other
as being a sinful body, without any authority for its separate
Sean P.M. McDonald