Many people who know me know that one of my pet peeves is when people try to pass The Battle Hymn of the Republic off as a Christian hymn. My blood pressure goes up every time I hear it.
At church this morning, we sang what I now consider the antidote. You can hear the tune if you have a means by which to play midi files.
The Son of God Goes Forth to War
The Son of God goes forth to war,
A kingly crown to gain;
His blood-red banner streams afar!
Who follows in His train?
Who best can drink His cup of woe,
Triumphant over pain,
Who patient bears his cross below,
He follows in His train.
The martyr first, whose eagle eye
Could pierce beyond the grave;
Who saw his Master in the sky,
And called on Him to save.
Like Him, with pardon on His tongue,
In midst of mortal pain,
He prayed for them that did the wrong!
Who follows in His train?
A glorious band, the chosen few
On whom the Spirit came,
Twelve valiant saints, their hope they knew,
And mocked the cross and flame.
They met the tyrant's brandished steel,
The lion's gory mane;
They bowed their necks the death to feel:
Who follows in their train?
A noble army, men and boys,
The matron and the maid,
Around the Savior's throne rejoice
In robes of light arrayed.
They climbed the steep ascent of heav'n,
Through peril, toil and pain;
O God, to us may grace be giv'n
To follow in their train.
I found a post by a guy I hadn’t read before, linked from Mark Hornes’ blog. It’s comments on the recent PCA General Assembly, but I really loved his quote at the end:
Chapter 1 of [The Westminster] confession seems to be saying this in essence “Stop arguing about the confession. Go do Biblical Theology. Not all parts are clear. Bring clarity to the discussion via the discipline of Biblical Theology. Then talk about it in terms of Systematic Theology. Then go do Biblical Theology. Repeat till Jesus comes!” Going beyond the confession is actually the way to be confessional. The way to be married isn’t to stand around in a suit and a dress repeating words. Go enjoy your union! Our union with Christ came to us through the word. Our clarity, like our vows, come through creeds and confessions. But we camp out in the Scriptures, just as we must sleep in our marriage bed and live in our family home. (emphasis mine)
I’m writing this article in the midst of a lot of turmoil going on in our church right now.
Many people who grow up in a certain lifestyle have difficulty figuring out whether they hold their beliefs through a conscientious decision, or whether they’ve come to that conclusion by default. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a member of Immanuel Presbyterian Church, later Olive Street Presbyterian Church. I don’t remember any time when I didn’t hold Christian beliefs, and more specifically, Christian beliefs that are Reformed, and Presbyterian (definition). My belief in a Presbyterian form of Church government has always had some reservations, and recently those “theoretical” reservations have expressed themselves in the life of our church. Hence, the writing of this article.
From PCA News Time Capsule:
Twelve Rules for Promoting Harmony Among Church Members
by Thomas Smyth
- To remember that we are all subject to failings and infirmities, of one kind or another. – Matthew 7:1-5; Rom 2:21-23.
- To bear with and not magnify each other’s infirmities. – Galatians 6:1.
- To pray one for another in our social meetings, and particularly in private. – James 5:16.
- To avoid going from house to house, for the purpose of hearing news, and interfering with other people’s business. – Leviticus 19:16.
- Always to turn a deaf ear to any slanderous report, and to allow no charge to be brought against any person until well founded and proved. – Proverbs 25:23.
- If a member be in fault, to tell him of it in private, before it is mentioned to others. – Matthew 18:15.
- To watch against shyness of each other, and put the best construction on any action that has the appearance of opposition or resentment. – Proverbs 10:12.
- To observe the just rule of Solomon, that is, to leave off contention before it be meddled with. – Proverbs 17:14.
- If a member has offended, to consider how glorious, how God-like it is to forgive, and how unlike a Christian it is to revenge. – Ephesians 4:2.
- To remember that it is always a grand artifice of the Devil, to promote distance and animosity among members of Churches, and we should, therefore, watch against everything that furthers his the Devil’s end. – James 3:16.
- To consider how much more good we can do in the world at large, and in the Church in particular when we are all united in love, than we could do when acting alone, and indulging a contrary spirit. – John 13:35.
- Lastly, to consider the express injunction of Scripture, and the beautiful example of Christ, as to these important things. – Ephesians 4:32; 1 Peter 2:21; John 13:5-35.
Thomas Smyth (1808-1873) was pastor of Second Presbyterian Church, Charleston, S.C.
We received a package today from Grant McCabe, the Stated Clerk for the new Philadelphia Metro West Presbytery. The package contained a cover letter describing the members of the commission appointed to hear our complaint we sent in a few months ago. While no date has been set for the actually commission hearing, they’ve given two weeks for people to look through the package that was sent along with our complaint, and respond to the sufficiency of the packet.
And Micah has just spilled blue paint all over himself and the dining room. I’ll write more later.
Almost a year ago, Tom highlighted an excellent blog post from the Wittenberg Gate called “Controlling Personalities in the Church”.
This month, WG featured an excellent post from Rev. Reed DePace, PCA, entitled “Advice When Facing Spiritual Abuse” regarding the difficult task of confronting others – and what to do if that person is in a position of authority over you.
It’s lengthy, but worth the read.
I was recently made aware of a recent motion by the Evangel Presbytery (PCA) regarding this whole Federal Vision thing going on in Reformed Churches right now. While I haven’t received this first hand, this is the entirety of the motion as far as I know:
Evangel Presbytery declares that the doctrines of the “New Perspective on Paul,” “Auburn Avenue Theology / Federal Vision,” and the teachings of Norman Shepherd, N. T. Wright, and Douglas Wilson which foster these positions; to be outside the bounds of acceptable theological doctrine for Teaching Elders and Ruling Elders in Evangel Presbytery and are not to be believed or taught within the churches of this Presbytery; and each Teaching and Ruling Elder be charged with equipping the members of their churches to stand against these doctrines.
Now, Doug Wilson and others have already commented on the imprecision of the motion. I’ve even written a few posts (1, 2, 3) on the subject on others lists.
But what really bothers me beyond the imprecision is the implications of the motion, and the expectations and attitudes of the men who passed it.
Look… I understand all the critiques that a lot of Reformed folk have with the “seeker sensitive” churches. Sure, we can all tell those churches by their worship theater and entertainment extravaganza. The services are dynamic, the hair is peroxided, the teeth are whitened, and the worship team is speaking in the tongues of angels (or something).
However, methinks many Reformed folk have responded to this “sensitivity”, by saying that all focus on the perceptions or needs of the unbeliever is bad practice. In other words, they’re preaching is seeker insensitive.
The church in America is full of full-time seekers. They’re the people who “still haven’t found what they’re looking for”, for a long time. If the Church is the body of Christ, they are the parasites… receiving without any intent to give back. They contribute to the life of the church as much as Roger Ebert contributes to the film industry. The modern church has conformed their worship services to entertain these critics, and they deserve whatever condemnation we heap on them.
But for all those transients, there are people in the world who really are hurting, and who really are seekers. Despite the abuses of those who claim to being “seeker sensitive”, we need to truly be sensitive to real seekers, and the problems they really are facing in life. You’ll know them when you see them, but you need to look to find them.
The Session of Olive Street Presbyterian Church (we changed our name) has once again decided that they are unable to try Sarah and me, and have referred the trial to Presbytery. Maybe they think that since we’re in a new Presbytery, they’ll get a different answer. I’m not sure why it took ten months to figure it out, but there we are.
The last time they did this, their reasoning was that they didn’t have enough active members to conduct a trial. Now, it seems that they’re doing so because they conclude that they need the members of the court to act as witnesses. I have a tough time believing that the Philadelphia Metro West Presbytery is going to reject this any more gently than Heritage Presbytery.
One odd item of interest is that Wayne Brauning, our former pastor, is referred to as “an additional witness”. He was already listed as a witness on the indictment. Of course, the indictment was delivered one year ago… it doesn’t surprise me if they’ve forgotten.
The body of the message from the court moderator follows:
The Court has concluded that in light of BCO 32-17, we must refer the matter of Olive Street Presbyterian Church v. Thomas III & Sarah Albrecht for decision to Philadelphia Metro West Presbytery.
Accordingly, the record of the case as it stands at this point will be referred to RE Grant McCabe, Stated Clerk, Philadelphia Metro West Presbytery.
The Indictment continues, as will the prosecution. However the Prosecutor will call additional witnesses: RE Jim Sauer, RE Ray Doreian, and TE Wayne Brauning.
All other matters in relation to the complaint will continue under the venue of Philadelphia Metro West Presbytery or its Commission, as the Presbytery decides is appropriate.
TE Dale T. Van Ness
So, last night’s trial session was cancelled due to rain. We had some strong rain come through the area, and it knocked out the power at our prosecuter’s house. I guess he assumed that the power was out at the church building as well, so he called around to people to cancel the meeting.
Oddly enough, after the twenty minutes of strong winds, it turned out to be a beautiful night. Thomas came up to me and said, “Dad!! We stayed up all night, and it’s morning again!” It had gotten so dark we had turned the lights on the in the house, and when the storm passed, we just caught the sunset.
Anyway, I guess I need to clear my calendar for the trial to be rescheduled for May.
After sending in our last complaint to the Session regarding their having delayed the trial for 10 months, we received a letter from them saying that the trial will resume on July 18, 2006.
Interestingly, while they’ve chosen to resume the trial, they also rejected our complaint about the delay of a trial. When questioned on this, the Clerk of Session replied that resuming the trial was the answer to the complaint. We complained about the delay, therefore, they ended the delay. However, this doesn’t really solve the problem. Our complaint said that the delay was fundamentally problematic. If I was beating my wife, and was reprimanded on that, it’s not sufficient to me to simply state, “Well, I stopped beating her… isn’t that enough?”
Anyway, that’s a different issue, and one the Presbytery will have to deal with. Right now, we’re focusing on the trial, and continue to ask your prayers regarding this situation, and our church and the Philadelphia Metro West Presbytery.
I received an email the other day from someone who has been following the issues that have been going on in our church, and wondering whether anything has happened since my last post eight months ago. I haven’t been writing, because there really hasn’t been much to write about. Literally, nothing had happened for months since our trial began in September.
Well, it seems that the prosecution in our case intends to use our blog as evidence in the trial, and we’ve received selected posts in our packet of evidence, so while I’ve always assumed that anyone in the world could read this, I now have that knowledge in the back of my mind as I write.
Our trial is now scheduled to begin Tuesday, September 27. There really isn’t too much more information that I’m aware of, except for one major issue. Despite our request, the Session has apparently decided to close the trial. I have no idea why they’ve chosen to do this, but Sarah and I are rather concerned by their desire to keep the proceedings secret.
Please keep us in your prayers this Tuesday. We’ll be sure to keep you all posted.
An anonymous source sent me an excellent series on the Wittenberg Gate on spiritual abuse, and the techniques that abusive leaders will use to control the congregation. I don’t know the woman who wrote the article, but she does do a good job listing the traits of manipulative leaders, including some of my favorites like being preoccupied with appearances, paranoia, and blame-shifting.
The author references many of the existing works on the subject, including The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse and Toxic Faith, but she does a good job summarizing the works and breaking down the subject.