Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Churches - Introduction and Part 1: ERPC

Introduction:

I've decided to post on a subject that I normally would keep somewhat private. The only reason I'm doing this is because these particular details are common knowledge and having them stated plainly for all who might be interested can't help but increase understanding where desired. There may be some difficulty in making sure I don't run ahead too far into matters which are best discussed with those directly concerned and likewise there are also matters of concern to me that I think have a more general bearing for all of us.

Our local church is going through a period of independence--we have left the Orthodox Christian Reformed Churches for reasons which amount in my estimation to be only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the difficulties that federation faces. Our consistory, along with another former OCRC are in the process of considering other denominational options. After meeting together and initial study, they decided to consider four possibilities (see respective links):

Evangelical Reformed Presbyterian Church
Reformed Church in the United States
United Reformed Church / (alternate link)
Free Reformed Church

I do wish I had started researching these options a lot sooner. As it is, I feel like there's a lot of catch up. First of all, it must be said that this is a pretty broad playing field. I'm going to try to use the blog a platform for bringing the specific church distinctives to light as I research them.

Part 1: Evangelical Reformed Presbyterian Church (ERPC)

The first two options, which are being currently considered together, are both presbyterian in form and therefore might seem more jarring to some members of my church. Personally, I tend to lean that way anyway so that isn't the hangup for me.

My main concern is that the ERPC is a self-proclaimed split-off from the PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) AND OPC (Orthodox Presbyterian Church). They claim that the OPC has become unfaithful to the "authentic" Gospel which is almost too much for me to even consider seriously. I understand why our church wouldn't be willing to join the OPC but it's quite another thing to join a group of ministers (which is what they are still) that makes such a sweeping claim.

I know I'm quite open to accusations of bias in the matter considering I have two close brothers-in-law who are OPC minsters (full disclosure: I write this from one's house and personal computer). But really, how can I not laugh when I have read the OPC Report on Justification. Somehow the ERPC still claims the OPC supports Federal Vision and New Perspective on Paul and men like Norman Shepherd and other innovators of our time.

One of the works listed on the ERPC site is by one of their own, Paul M. Elliott, in a book which supposedly condemns the OPC report on Justification. I haven't had the pleasure of reading this work at this point, nonetheless, I found this post on Beliefnet.com from a supporter of Elliott and he alludes to an OPC "cover-up"! The comments on the post are worth reading because the poster has no reasoned response to them.

I must leave it at that for the moment. I'll either continue with the ERPC or move on as I see fit later. Cheers!

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Blogger Robert said...

Dear Mark,
I just deleted a very angry reply that I was going to post, but decided against, thanks to my level-headed wife. I should say that we have listened to many talks on Federal Vision and the NPP, and find it unScriptural and wrong. That having been said, the way the Lynden former-OCRC handled this controversy has been very poor. Most importantly, our brothers in Burlington, for the most part, have had no idea what's going on, only that they've been branded heretics. To the outside Church, our tiny little federation has simply shown its colors as a divisive group of split-happy, frozen-chosen Dutchmen. We couldn't join with the URC five years ago because they had points of doctrine (beyond the Three Forms and Westminster) different from us. Anything that doesn't affect the church polity and isn't salvific should be differences from church to church within a denomination. We can't even say the Armenians are unsaved, only that they tend towards it. How then can we drop the H-bomb on our brothers who are otherwise Reformed? Machen split with the crazies, we're splitting from believers.

6:22 PM, June 07, 2007  
Blogger Mark R said...

Hey Robert

You know I was desperately trying to tempt you to venture some thoughts. And while I hope you will forgive me for a pathetic attempt at manipulative behavior, I must say I'm surprised at the track you chose.

First of all, I need to make clear a couple of things: These posts are intended (along with the reasons stated in the first paragraph of this post) to be study notes of sorts as I try to inform myself of the options our church is necessarily having to choose between at this point in time. My opinion on the whys and wherefores of our past decisions as a congregation is somewhat superfluous at this point. I have not published them up to this point and yet it sounds like you are responding to such an opinion--which makes your comment a bit incomprehensible for contextualization.

I'd love to share my opinions in this regard off the blog--I can't hold a discussion like that here in good conscience. If I can, (and I should because it sounds like you have been misinformed regarding some of the issues wrapped up in our leaving the OCRC) I'd love to do that as soon as possible.

I do appreciate your concern in this matter (you raised some important issues) and I hope you find the time to share these concerns with pastor.

11:26 PM, June 07, 2007  
Blogger Robert said...

If you want to leave a discussion as to the rightness of the decision for another place, I can honor that. I recognized these blog posts for what they are intended to be: you inner deliberations about the pros and cons of contemplated denominations with whom to join. What irked me so much was that the first denomination you ponder is of the same heinous error that spawned the necessity of these deliberations: they are "splitters" who can't even acknowledge that other brother with whom they quibble over non-salvific minutia are saved!.
I am responding with my pent up pathos here, in your blog comments, because no one is talking about this online anywhere else. Presbyterians are noticing and Doug Wilsonites are commenting, but the closest there is to an OCRC theological presence online is YOU! My lack of context is our whole denominations lack.

P.S. I am drafting a letter to the Pastor/Consistory, but I've just begun.

12:09 AM, June 08, 2007  
Blogger Mark R said...

Hey Robert-

Thanks so much for that clarification. It really puts us on the same page both understanding wise and (for the most part) opinion wise. There is a huge tendency among small "reformed," denominations to identify themselves by something that is not simply the gospel, or even Reformed doctrine. The problem of identification is huge. The very name "OCRC" indicates an problem to me. The name insinuates in my opinion that splitting from the CRC was just intended to create a purer version of the CRC, without bothering to examine whether a continued CRC identity was even healthy in the first place.

SPOILER ALERT: without having finished my study, and simply for the sake of this discussion, I must say that I am in favor of joining the URC at this point. As far as the health and well-being of our congregation is concerned, I can't think of a better denomination to identify with and be accountable to, especially knowing what I do about the strength of the local URC classis. Time will tell if we continue to let other issues (identifiers) keep us from this course of action.

(for the sake of full disclosure, yes I would also be thrilled if we could become an OPC but that really doesn't have any baring)

12:30 AM, June 08, 2007  
Blogger Robert said...

Hallelujah! What a wonderful answer, Mark! Having been at a PCA for the last year, I have been singularly impressed with Presbyterians ability to re-Unify, even after bitter splits. Let no anonymous browser read me wrong: Doctrine matters! But none of us should presume to judge another's heart, just their actions. Has no one ever heard of the theological term "visible church"?!
As for the OCRC, it was an uppity name, but at least in the beginning the documents show people hoped the CRC would change and they could rejoin. Over some issues, that's the best you can hope for. Thank God we're not Episcopals! ;-)

10:57 AM, June 08, 2007  

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