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Re: [Covenanted Reformation] Re: re RPNA (GM) controversy

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  • Gary
    Thanks for this Bob. You have clarified some points for me. Kind Regards, Gary ... From: bob_suden To:
    Message 1 of 4 , Aug 15, 2007
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      Thanks for this Bob. You have clarified some points for me.
       
      Kind Regards,
       
      Gary
       
       
      ------------Original Message------------
      From: "bob_suden" <bsuden@...>
      To: covenantedreformationclub@yahoogroups.com
      Date: Mon, Aug-13-2007 4:16 PM
      Subject: [Covenanted Reformation] Re: re RPNA (GM) controversy

      Dear  Mr. Milne,
      In answer to yours of 7/28/07 re. the excommunications in the "RPNA(GM)" which didn't seem to get much response:

      >I have watched this interchange for some months now, and have been
      trying to understand the events which have pierced many of you so
      deeply.

      >I understand that the RPNA (GM) elders imposed an oath on members who were questioning the legitimacy of the church court.

      No, the elders supposedly had a charge before them and required an oath affirming the legitimacy of the court, before they would continue process. When presented with the oath, members then balked at it, having previously and privately questioned the legitimacy of the court.

      >The oath required the members to agree to the terms of communion plus
      the position papers on various subjects which had been written at
      various times over the past few years.

      Pre eminently the Position Paper on Sessional Authority    (PPSA) of 6/4/06, (but also  Tattoos and the Word of God  of 4/30/06   which  didn't make the official list on the oath , but which one is still required to assent to as a condition of membership, even as the oath is essentially the new oath of membership in the "RPNA(GM)".)

      >The elders argued that the membership vows required members to accept their authority

      Not just as officers, but also as constituting a lawful and permanent extraordinary out of  town session

      >which also meant that when they had added new position papers, even after one had become a member, the membership vow was then adjusted to include these new theological positions.

      Implicitly/tacitly.

      >When the session required the members to swear a new oath, which the session claimed was merely [and implicitly] a reaffirmation of the membership vows, some members were unable to do so. The diffident members argued that they had questions about the position papers?

      Again, pre-eminently the PP on Sessional Authority.

      >The session's response was to declare that the members who would not commit to a lawful oath (WCF: 22) excommunicated themselves - the latter term being an idea I am not familiar with.

      In that the "Session of the RPNA(GM)" claims to be the namesake and continuing moral person of the Reformed Presbytery of America,  its judicial minutes are included in the constitution of the former. Those Minutes for June 2, 1886  state, regarding Mr. Campbell, Rev. Peoples and Rev. Clyde that, "(T)hat party having excommunicated themselves, no further action in their case by this Court is at present deemed necessary."

      >I have not wanted to get involved in taking sides in this issue, but I am someone who is trying to promote a covenanted Reformation down- under and would like to try and see brothers and sisters come together if at all possible. It is always distressing to see disaffection, especially between brethren who agree on so much and agree on such a vital area of the truth of God's Word. 

      But also disagree on other vital areas.

      >I would appreciate some brief answers to the questions I have posed above to help my understanding please.

      >It seems to me that if the oath was lawful and the session required it, then a member should comply.

      If the oath was lawful and the session was lawful, yes. If not, then no.

      >The session are correct if this is how they are arguing.
      IF  the session is lawful.

      >The question then becomes is it a lawful oath, and was it wise for the session to require it?

      There are problems here also, in that IMO even if the session is lawful, the PPSA is itself an abuse of Scripture, history and reason and it is not only unreasonable, but also it is unlawful to require agreement to it, regardless of the lawfulness of the court it purports to justify. As for the wisdom of it, again  pastorally, I would say not. If the elders via the PPSA are going to appeal to Acts 15 (pp.7-9) to legitimize their international jurisdiction, you would think they could at least  follow the apostolic example a little more faithfully, in that the handwritten letter/decree from synod - the admittedly primitive  technology of the day - was accompanied personally by the apostles and elders as they made the preaching and teaching rounds in presenting the decree to the churches and congregations under the synod's oversight. IMO You cannot argue that modern communication  technology overrules the need to follow the apostolic example, much more ignore how modern transportation technology makes following the apostolic example that much easier and just dump the decree of the PPSA via email on the membership of the church after a three year silence of teaching on church govt. if ever and then require submission to it in four months. But that was what was done. Go figure.

      >Leaving the latter point, for the time being, I have some further questions around the legality of the oath.

      Don't we all!?

      >When Rev. Price (http://docs. google.com/ View?docid= dfpdhc2h_ 29drdvg2) writes his apologia for the events, he argues that the oath is analogous to taking the Solemn League and Covenant, and he uses some of the arguments those covenanters applied to their situation about the legality of taking or refusing the SL&C. It does seem to me that this is a mistake, because the SL&C was imposed having been adopted by the national churches and parliaments of the kingdoms. The principles which belong to such an important covenant do not necessarily transfer to such an oath of a reaffirmation of membership – designed to solve a pastoral problem in a small church with only one church court.

      Not only that, to assert that the oath is a lawful oath because the SL&C is lawful and therefore the same things that apply to the latter must necessarily apply to the former is no argument but an appeal to implicit faith, whatever is asserted to the contrary.

      >It also appears to me that Rev. Price argues that the oath should be taken if it was substantiated by Scripture, Confession, reason and history. I wonder if this has been proven in this case? I have written a book (The Westminster Confession of Faith and the Cessation of Special Revelation) which will be available in a few weeks (Paternoster is the publisher) in which I demonstrate from the sources that the Westminster divines meant to teach and do teach in WCF 1:1, that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, including New Testament extraordinary and immediate prophecy, had ceased in the days of the Apostles. The Confession, Scripture and also Reformed orthodoxy, it seems to me, contradict the position paper on this matter requiring assent by the session. Similarly the paper on headcoverings has some merit in that they do correctly point out the views of some in church history, but their arguments are hardly conclusive either exegetically, historically or according to the light of nature.Calvin is read both ways, but it seems to me that he did affirm the contemorary use of headcoverings in Geneva. If a member has understood at their time of being received into communion that these were the views of the elders and that this was something he was tying his membership to, then had he changed his mind he should have advised the elders. If, however, these position papers were written after others had become members, it is difficult for me to quite understand why the session would be so insistent that these papers be assented to, especially since some are controversial, and in the view of many who hold a covenanting position contain incorrect conclusions.

      Welcome to the confusion/status quo. Long live uniformity to the nth degree.

      >If the view of the session is that every member, in order to retain their membership, must agree with every position paper the minister or session writes, and every point of every sermon that the minister preaches, then their oath of membership cannot escape the taint of requiring an implicit faith – again something contrary to the confession. I have not, in any event, read of any covenanting church imposing such a burden on her members. Perhaps this has happened and someone will let me know.

      >Dear friends, I don't want to make the controversy any more difficult for anyone involved, but I am naturally concerned when brethren are in such sharp disagreement. Perhaps a wider consultative group of sympathetic covenanters could endeavour to try and bring the session and the former members closer together. Would this be possible?

      If you admit they are a lawful session/court of Christ, for their part they would be willing to talk to you. As for the exed, most if not all,  right or wrong, have done what sheep do best  and scattered to other non RP/Covenanter folds, much more none would I think, at the very least admit the lawfulness of the "RPNA(GM)'s" court. Again, I know I can't/won't. Even if it is a lawful court, the PPSA is a miserable excuse of an argument for it and not something anybody should be asked to swear to. But that is what is required if one is to be a member or to be reconciled.
        
      cordially in Christ
      Bob Suden

       
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