After the denominational adoption of the report and recommendations from the Theological Task Force on the Peace, Unity, and Purity of the Church, factions and interest groups, as well as churches and individuals, are working to understand how it will change, if at all, our life together as a denomination. Particularly for those on the more conservative side of the denomination, meditations like this one from the Reformed Angler are popping up all over the place. You can see the struggle, and I understand and pray for all those working through these matters as they are able.
What’s interesting (though not for a second surprising) to me is how Presbyterians for Renewal and many sister organizations are going on the offensive in this new climate, publishing an open letter and guidelines for ordination questions to be pursued. (My point isn’t to quibble with their analysis, which I could, at length; nor to complain about robust ordination examinations, since I think robust examinations need to happen, just not the way that PFR wants them to happen). The presbytery in which I serve has an ordination examination next week. I wonder what it will be like.
What I wish is that more reflection had been done by those on the Theological Task Force regarding our different ecclesiological understandings: what is it that the church is meant to actually be. Because I think that’s a foundational area of our differences: some of us think that the church must aspire to be a body of moral rectitude (sanctification, the third use of the law, to turn to Calvin); others see the church as a body of sinners who receive Christ’s forgiveness and work to embody Christ’s love as vitally and as universally as we can, given our individual conscience and responsibilities before God (again, back to Calvin).
I acknowledge that those aren’t mutually exclusive, but depending on which side you stress, one can have wildly divergent tolerance for difference, particularly given how the other areas of our struggle (biblical interpretation, polity, &c) impact our view of what a sanctified community might look like.
I worry that those who are trying to re-live our fundamentalist-modernist controversy for the 21st century are going to be sorely dissapointed by a church that will resist creating a longer shortlist for leadership than already exists. As the Reformed Angler asks: where are they going to go?* And, more importantly, when they get there, what is the next matter that will split them apart from that body.
(*FWIW, I don’t mean to connect the Reformed Angler with groups like PFR. I’ve no idea what he thinks of them. I just mean to point out different folk thinking through these things….)