Some answers to some common questions we have received about the declaration
How did we develop this declaration?
The idea for it was born out of several conversations between Rusty and me. We then floated the idea at a gathering of evangelical Pastors from Beaver Butler Presbytery, our Executive Presbyter and an Elder in our Presbytery who happens to serve on COM. Rusty and I developed a draft and submitted it to our evangelical network within Beaver Butler Presbytery and received revisions from several of our brothers and sisters. Once the copy was finalized, I called a special meeting of our Session to have us submit it for consideration by the whole Presbytery. Rusty and I then gave the final copy to Hans Cornhelder for publication on Presbyweb and created this blog to receive feedback.
What is the process from here?
From here, it will be considered on the floor of our Presbytery at our September 23rd meeting at College Hill Presbyterian in Beaver Falls, PA as a first reading. Per our policies, at a first reading the Presbyters may ask clarifying questions about it but may not propose any revisions. They then vote to receive it as a first reading which moves us forward to a second reading. If it is not received as a first reading, we intend to bring it back to the next Presbytery meeting as a commissioner’s resolution. The second reading will take place at our November 18th meeting at New Bethlehem Presbyterian in Aliquippa, PA. Revisions may be proposed at the second reading and it will be voted up or down as a Presbytery declaration.
In the meantime, we are encouraging as many Pastors and Elders to place this declaration before their Sessions for endorsement and before their Presbyteries for a vote. We hope that you will join us in this effort.
What are the potential consequences of such a declaration?
Simply put, they are legion, some of which have already become a reality. I will try to take these in order of severity and I am sure the list will not be comprehensive. Basically, the declaration says that we will not be moved. Any action taken by anyone else is simply a reaction to our confessional, constitutional stand, which is one of its most endearing qualities. This is not reaction. This is pro-action. How governing bodies choose to respond to us is up to them. Those responses could and likely will include some of the following:
1. Demonizing the supporters. While we have not seen much of this in the blogosphere, I have been personally denigrated by posting this on my facebook page from friends outside and inside the Church. I am totally OK with taking those kinds of hits for the right reasons.
2. Ignoring the declaration altogether. That will be a difficult option for any governing body to sustain over the long term because we intend to be vocal.
3. Attempting to rebuke us for making such a statement.
4. Attempting to get us to participate in supervised rehabilitation.
5. Attempting to get us to renounce jurisdiction.
6. Attempting to remove credentials and/or seize property.
While upper governing bodies may and likely will attempt to overturn our declaration, it is our hope that we will sustain our convictions even in the face of pressure from the higher courts.
What motivated you to write this declaration?
Let us consider a few angles that have been suggested to us as motives. Rusty and I are not at all interested in personal gain. If we were, we never would have written or signed this document in the first place. We have no interest in angling for a larger congregation to serve. We love our respective congregations and cannot think of a better group of people with whom we would rather take our stand. We are not interested in being heroes. I only mention these because some have suggested these as possible motivations for us. We would both be more than content to serve in relative anonymity.
In short, by writing and signing this, we have everything to lose and nothing to gain. Jim Elliot once said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Our vows are first and foremost to the One Lord Jesus Christ. Our intent is to be faithful to Him at all cost. It is the least we can do given His sacrifice for us.
Each of us has been nurtured and raised within the bosom of the Church and have made our ordination vows to her (in Rusty’s case as Deacon and Elder as well as Minister of the Word and Sacrament and in mine as Deacon and Minister of the Word and Sacrament). We take these vows as seriously as marriage vows. We can neither renounce nor back away. We view this declaration as akin to confronting a spouse with adultery and refusing to respond with divorce. It is our call to her to come back to the faith once and for all handed down to the saints and to cease prostituting herself to other gods.
What do you hope to accomplish in writing this declaration?
Our hope is simple: we hope to stand together for Christ. Whatever else happens is in the Lord’s hands. Our intent is to confront our denomination with her deviation from orthodox Christian faith in all quarters by striving to act biblically. That fulfills our role as collective watchmen on the walls. The Israelites who remained in Jerusalem were still left to their own devises as to how they were to respond to Ezekiel’s prophetic ministry. Many of them perished because they did not listen. We hope this does not happen but recognize that it could and also recognize that we could become casualties ourselves. As we say in the declaration, our Defender is strong. We trust in His grace.
Is this some kind of combined renewal effort?
No. The genesis of this idea as described above came from two people. While we support the broad aims of the renewal effort, this declaration is not the property of anyone but the authors and those who subscribe it. We are not undertaking this effort as part of PFR, the Lay Committee or any other group under the Presbyterian Coalition banner though we would welcome their support should they choose to do so.
Our goal solely and constantly is to promote and defend biblical orthodoxy and orthopraxy. We stand with Luther in this:
"If I profess Christ with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point."
Rusty will be responding as soon as his electricity is returned to him by Allegheny Power. Hurricane Ike did not just devastate the Gulf. It made it's way all the way up here as well!