A Nut Brown Discomfort

Timothy LeCroy has written about ecumenism and the Eucharist here, and a couple of things come to mind. Please keep in mind that I write with the porridge of my Scots Calvinist heritage sticking to my ribs, so to speak, and while this does not blow up the ecumenical venture, it does make it more of an adventure. I will return to that anon, as we old-timey writers sometimes say.Canoe Trip

LeCroy begins with an cheery assumption that I really think needs to be examined more carefully than it usually is.

“To me, without table fellowship all our other ecumenical dialogue is just talk. Jesus gave us a clear command to be one, and that unity is expressed most fully in the unity of the Lord’s Table. Eucharistic unity must be the foundational basis for any ecumenical program or effort.”

This is absolutely true. Jesus gave us a clear command to be one. But the hinge upon which all turns is this question — who are the “us” in that sentence?

Jesus gives us His express desire that we cultivate unity. “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are” (John 17:11). And this same Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms to assiduously pursue disunity. “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” (Matt. 7:15–16).

There is a fundamental question here and it needs to be asked and answered by clear-eyed people. Lenin, for all his evil, was not a vague man, and knew how to ask the right questions. “Who? Whom?” Anyone who urges us on in our ecumenical duty has an absolute responsibility to state clearly the criteria he believes we should use to identify whether we are in a John 17 situation or a Matthew 7 situation. The difficulty is that whenever I have been on the receiving end of ecumenical exhortations, this almost never happens. And in using that word exhortation, I am reminded of Bierce’s definition, which is, in religious affairs, to put the conscience of another upon a spit, and roast it to a nut brown discomfort.

The question cannot be answered without getting into the marks of a church — or conversely, the marks of a false teacher. The job of a shepherd is not to “gather” quadrupeds, sheep and wolves together. He cannot simply say that Jesus told us to “gather.” Yes, He did, but Jesus also used the kind of direct objects that mattered, and that could be identified.

“I do agree that eucharistic practice is a huge hurdle. We can say that we have (basically) the same liturgy and the same (or close to the same) beliefs about the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but we cannot deny that the differences in praxis between Protestants and Roman Catholics are very significant.”

Now in order to say that we have the same or close to the same beliefs about the presence of Christ in the Eucharist is to say one of three things. We must either say that our fathers in the faith at the time of the Reformation were fools, of the sort who tendentiously and tediously strain at gnats, or we must say that Rome has changed her position since that time, or we must say that we have. Because I don’t think any one of those options is tenable, I believe we are driven back to deny the truth of the initial statement. We don’t believe the same or basically the same thing about Christ’s presence in the sacrament. Sorry to break it to everybody, but we kind of no way don’t.

One last thing. My problem in responding to ecumenical exhortations is not the charity of the goal, but the wooliness of the premises. If you want to build a true granite block ecumenical building — as every goodhearted Protestant should — you are going to need better footings for a heavy building like that than wadded-up cotton-batting bromides.

In my experience, true Christian friendship is far likelier to occur between decided Roman Catholics and decided Protestants than it is when nice guys in each tradition start to exhibit the fact that they don’t really understand or hold to the tradition they are in. In real ecumenical work, such wooliness just gets in the way.

90
Leave a Reply

avatar
 
7 Comment threads
83 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
13 Comment authors
Ian PerryPerfectHoldcaroleinvisiblegardenerDarlene Recent comment authors

  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Darlene
Guest
Darlene

I have many Protestant friends and family as well. But as an Orthodox Christian, I recognize we differ vastly when it pertains to the Eucharist, or as my faith tradition says: the Holy Mysteries.

Seth B.
Guest
Seth B.

Can you recommend a book Pastor Wilson? =)

John Barach
Guest
John Barach

It seems to me that you’ve misunderstood what Dr. LeCroy wrote. What he’s saying in brief in the two paragraphs you cited is simply this: “If we’re going to talk about ecumenicity, it has to include us getting together at the same table. And no matter how much we might say that we have the same or similar liturgies or beliefs, there are still obvious differences in our practices.” He isn’t saying that there are no differences in beliefs or in liturgies. He’s saying that no matter how close we might think we are in those areas, our practices are… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Perhaps LeCroy is just noting that the success of an ecumenical project is (must be) ultimately measured by whether the groups could actually partake of the Eucharist in one another’s worship. To paraphrase LeCroy:

To me, without actually achieving the goal of mutual table fellowship, all our other ecumenical dialogue is just talk.

If it hasn’t achieved that milestone then it’s not accomplishing the measure of unity that is most basic (the covenant family meal together). Attempts at other forms of lesser unity may even distract us somewhat, as half-measures of success.

wtrsims
Member

So, are those decided Roman Catholics–with whom a decided Reformed type can have a truer type of ecumenism–the ones that, according to this blog post, are the wolves that you’re trying to keep away from the table? Given the context of the Theopolis post, being largely about the RC, isn’t that what is said?

Or, are you saying that RC and EO eucharist are legitimate, we all just disagree on some secondary issues surrounding the eucharist and more harm than good is done by seemingly brushing over those differences?

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

I believe Doug invites RC and EO believers to the table. But if he found himself at a mass, he’d abstain – first because their system and leadership publicly says they don’t invite folks like him, and secondly because their ceremony is so riddled with issues as to make one wonder if it really is the Lord’s supper in the first place.

Darlene
Guest
Darlene

As an Eastern Orthodox Christian, I can say that it matters not if we were invited to the table at Christ Church, or any other non-Orthodox Church. According to the teachings of our church, we cannot partake of the Eucharist outside of our church. This has everything to do with what we believe concerning the nature of the Eucharist as opposed to what other christian traditions believe. Of course, we are free moral agents and one can choose to ignore church teaching. But any Orthodox Christian who participates in the life of the church is quite aware of this teaching… Read more »

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Darlene — No doubt what you way about EO teaching is commonly taken as true.
But what exactly about the nature of the Eucharist prevents your from eating and fellow-shipping at the table of Christian friends who are not Eastern Orthodox Christians?
Is it that you don’t believe the Christ Church ceremony is actually the Eucharist?
Do you expect to eat the Eucharist in heaven?
Do you expect to see Christ Church folks there?

Darlene
Guest
Darlene

“But what exactly about the nature of the Eucharist prevents your from eating and fellowshipping at the table of Christian friends who are not Eastern Orthodox Christians?” Perfecthold: The Orthodox Church’s teaching on the Eucharist is at variance with the Reformed view, just as it is at variance with the low-church Evangelical view, i.e. – merely a symbol. When we partake of the Holy Mysteries, the communion is in our unity of understanding what we are doing. We can’t unite with Christians “at the table” (we call it the chalice), when different people think they are doing different things. I’d… Read more »

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Sure it did Darlene. Thank you.
So you expect to eat the Supper there, in heaven.
And you expect to do so with folks who were not Orthodox here, on earth.
Why not start now?
You say can’t share this meal with us because us other folks think differently about what the supper is.
So you won’t eat with us until we get our thinking straight?
What, are you saving us from harming ourselves, or you just don’t like us that much?

Darlene
Guest
Darlene

“Why not start now?” As I explained, because we are not united in our view and understanding of the Eucharist. Unity needs to precede partaking. Partaking with those who differ substantially about what the Eucharist is, will not bring about unity. In heaven, “We will be like Him, for we will shall see Him as He is.” There will no longer be misunderstandings, for we will all understand and know the truth/Truth fully. In that day, there will be actual unity – without ambiguity. “What, are you saving us from harming ourselves, or you just don’t like us that much?”… Read more »

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Dear Darlene, “Unity needs to precede partaking.” You don’t mean that, unless you are talking about unity in Christ. If you mean unity in Christ, are you denying that all believers are one in Him? Is Christ divided, Darlene? And if not — come eat with us already! Here — the table is set for you too, dear Darlene. Join us! We are members together — let us partake together. “Partaking with those who differ substantially about what the Eucharist is, will not bring about unity.” This blog entry was begun under the assumption that eating together surely makes us… Read more »

Darlene
Guest
Darlene

“It comes down to this: Either (1) you don’t like us enough…” No “…or have been prejudiced against us so you won’t eat with us,…” No “…(2) you find the Table here offensive and not His table.” No As Christians from different traditions – Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant – and all the variations thereof – we worship in different ways and have different practices. Sadly, there have been many schisms that have separated us. While we do agree upon certain doctrines, the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, for example, there are many areas in which we have sharp disagreement.… Read more »

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

God be with you too, Darlene!
Let’s catch up at the Table up there!

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Presbies themselves are often so bigoted as to be inhospitable to their own, let alone their historical enemies. Look, the PCA fences out ALL baptized, acknowledged believers unless such produce the proper papers – that they are on the rolls somewhere under an accepted and acceptable eldership cartel.

Ian Perry
Guest
Ian Perry

The PCA does not require that people be Presbyterian to commune, it practices open communion to everyone in a church where “the gospel is preached”–so the invitation is to professing Christians generally–though the qualifiers like “evangelical” and “gospel” might, according to some interpretations, limit the call to other non-liberal protestants, the phrase is not specifically defined that way as I recall, and anyone who wasn’t known to be non-Christian or under church discipline would be welcomed, as far as I have observed the PCA does not examine newcomers prior to giving them communion (though the situation with children is more… Read more »

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Ian: “in a church where” there’s a recognized and accepted accountability organization.

You can’t take communion simply by virtue of being an acknowledged Christian.

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Yes, the elders ARE charged to examine.
And we should have it so.
Just not for clan papers.

Jane Dunsworth
Guest
Jane Dunsworth

Well, yes you can. It’s just that there has to be a someone who is able to acknowledge you as a Christian. This has nothing to do with clans and acceptable cartels, it’s just that the word “Christian” has a definition, and there has to be some way of knowing who meets it. How this could possibly add up to being “hostile to their own,” I do not know — unless you’re talking about churches with closed communion, which is a sad reality, but hardly useful as a potshot against the content of this blog.

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Jane, Perhaps you did not know that the PCA holds to “close” communion — that being a known & acknowledged believer of good character is not enough credentials to take communion there under their leadership. One must also be known to be under the governance of a sister PCA church or under a church body recognized and accepted by the local Session. So yes, the PCA is essentially closed communion. And yes, this is a sad reality. I do not see how this observation is a potshot against the content of this blog, however. Doug and his denomination is not… Read more »

Jane Dunsworth
Guest
Jane Dunsworth

How can one be an “acknowledged believer” if no one with recognized ability to discern whether someone else is a Christian has ever made such an acknowledgment? That’s all it means to be under the authority of a Christian church — that someone, somewhere, with the authority to do so, has recognized the profession, and that the person is not currently in a state of having been put out of the church. You can’t be an “acknowledged” anything if no one has ever actually acknowledged it. As far as I understand it, having been a part of a PCA church… Read more »

Ian Perry
Guest
Ian Perry

To put it another way, PCA practice is very different in this regard from, say, LCMS practice.

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Jane — that indeed is all it SHOULD mean to be under proper authority.
But PCA polity does not mean just that.

Members of a PCA Session may each acknowledge a fellow to be a brother in Christ.
Would that count for what you call “recognized ability to discern”?
Stipulate they’ve rubbed shoulders with him for years.
They call me brother.
He’s under no discipline.
Table access not granted yet.
Need more.

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

The book or order informs the Session that (as one PCA pastor told me) at the end of the day there is no jurisdiction for discipline, and therefore no possibility of communicating or ex-communicating someone who has not taken membership vows in the PCA or a PCA-recognized church.
Therefore fellow believers are left “a-communicated” and fenced out, unless they comply with clan rules.
The bottom-line issue is that PCA pastors don’t acknowledge or accept the “jurisdiction for discipline” handed them by Jesus.
They see their authority derived from the PCA.
Hence my reference to the cartel.

Ian Perry
Guest
Ian Perry

Ummm, what do you mean by “PCA recognized” church? I think maybe you are misunderstanding the approach, or, at least, describing it in a way that is likely to lead others to misunderstand it. They require (though they do not inquire of visitors at any PCA church I have been to–it is on the visitor’s conscience to partake or not) that someone be a member of a church but there is not a credentialing process for churches whose members they would allow to partake, formal recognition is not required. People from the non-denominational church down the street would be welcomed.… Read more »

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

So Ian —
Are you making a case in agreement with the PCA?
It’s not enough to be a Christian?

Ian Perry
Guest
Ian Perry

Your characterization seemed inaccurate whether I agree or not, I was more trying to clarify that/be clear on what you were saying rather than make a positive case. However—I think it is more complicated with young people who are moving around, but if someone was intentionally not a member of a local congregation, not giving them communion makes sense, at least.

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Intentionally not a member?Isn’t one automatically a member by attending? I mean Biblically speaking.

Ian Perry
Guest
Ian Perry

The Bible does not directly say that attending a congregation makes you a member. It also says to obey your leaders and ties this to the leadership of a particular congregation, so it seems wise to try and follow such rules regarding good order as far as conscience and a love of the well-being of Christ’s church permits.

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Wisdom says exclude from Christ’s table Christ’s members? — at least those who are members of His body but aren’t members (by our man-made, extrabiblical criteria) of our bodies?

Ian Perry
Guest
Ian Perry

Does extra-biblical = anti-biblical?

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

A prophet — actually I should capitalize that — the Prophet once excoriated the religious leaders for their practice of adding these sorts of exclusionary devices to the function of His Body.
Later He told Peter to feed my sheep.
Peter did not have the temerity of these Presbyterian bosses, else He would have shot back: “Nay, Nay Lord — not all of them. I’ll pick and choose which ones.”

Matt Bell
Member

If you’re a sheep, get in the flock and eat already!

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Yes — but then when some of the sheep belly up to the trof, the “sheepherder” passes over them and won’t plop down the slop!

carole
Guest
carole

If you are a “regular attender” and still not a member, I believe they do allow you to come to the table. So if you have spoken to your pastor about your membership concerns, he may still consider you a regular attender…

Ian Perry
Guest
Ian Perry

PerfectHold, are you objecting to the practice of church membership (beyond merely counting everyone attending as a member) as such, or merely to requiring that people be church members in order to partake of communion?

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Ian — as Doug notes in this blog — start by identifying who/whom.
Are they members in His flock?
Then feed them already!
Should we demand further than Body membership, Ian?
You don’t want to eat with just any of His tribe?
Playing favorites?
Will you refuse to say the Lord’s Prayer with them too?
Refuse to baptize one who you know has come to know the Lord?
This sounds like wisdom to you?

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

The real issue is control.
Pharisees really digged that.
So do many of the Presby Cartel.
They don’t like what they perceive as independents, mavericks.
Those are better silenced & crucified.
If you told them to receive & feed all His sheep that gather into a herd near them, they’d balk.
Their first order of business is to get those sheep shackled.
Get them to swear not to cause trouble.
That, and to fork over regular payoffs.
Then, and only then, do WE LET THEM IN.

carole
Guest
carole

PerfectHold, this issue regularly comes up from a regular attender where I worship, and I gather that the real issue from the elders is that mavericks don’t like to be under authority? Do you see any truth to that…sorry for jumping in, but I am very interested in this topic.

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

carole — You’re right.
From the elders point of view, they want the reassurance of compliance from the get go.
The hold a-communication (fencing from the table) until they get agreement from the prospect that they’ll be compliant and submit, and agree to be excommunicated if the elders so determine.
The reason for all this, of course, is elder-insecurity.
They don’t have the guts to stand up and lead any and all takers from the get-go.
Essentially they think asking for an oath will substitute for their wielding the control God gave them.

carole
Guest
carole

well, I just want you to know that my pastor doesn’t. He specifically calls this family regular attenders and doesn’t fence the table, but they don’t have the yearly home visit and they don’t vote. Our church is pretty small so nothing goes unnoticed. Thank you for sharing about this.

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

I wouldn’t be offended much at being called other-than-member if they treated me as a member.
Lot’s of folks act better than they talk.
But it seems a shame that a pastor can get around to folks only once a year.
No wonder it’s a small congregation.

Matt Bell
Member

Try turning it around on yourself – Are you a sheep? Get in the flock already! No, being a sheep does not automatically make you a church member. Have you ever requested membership? Not all who attend desire to be members. Not all of God’s sheep find a church. If you have found one, you are blessed – get in it! If the “Presby Cartel,” if that’s where you’re attending, is not where you feel led to be, then prayerfully move on and look for the right thing.

Ian Perry
Guest
Ian Perry

You misunderstood or dodged my question, I can think of arguments for not limiting communion to people who have joined a local congregation–but is your argument also saying that people should not join a local body?

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Ian — you can think of arguments for allowing folks to eat?! But I did dodge your question. This blog thread is about ecumenical activity and sensibilities. Doug’s point is we need to be honest about our differences, and so Reformedarians ought not accept transubstantiation just to make room at the table with RC’ers. And I’m saying that at the other end of the spectrum we have the PCA as an example of how anti-ecumenical some in the Reformed camp are. The PCA won’t even accept fellow Reformed! — unless they do the limbo under their extra (and dare I… Read more »

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

invisiblegardener — Wherever did you get the idea that being a sheep in His pasture, a member of His body, does not automatically make you members one with another?
If I am in Him, and you are in Him — are we not brothers?
Are we not in the same family?
Are we not responsible to watch each other’s back?
Are we not commanded to assemble together?
To pray for and support each other?

What is this concept of existence in Him that you have, that keeps folks on the side of the road?

Jane Dunsworth
Guest
Jane Dunsworth

How can I know that I must watch your back because you’re my brother if I have no way of knowing if you’re actually my brother? Eric, your method seems to depend on some kind of mind meld whereby everybody knows who’s a sheep the moment they walk in the door. The membership thing is merely about identifying who is identifiably a sheep. I don’t know how it works to be a “member” of anything if there’s no actual way to identify the members from the non-members, except some kind of “you’re just supposed to know that about me, but… Read more »

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Jane — yours is the right question: How do we know who’s in?
Is that your question, Jane?
But Jane — work with me on this — if you and Session DID know or believe they knew that person X is indeed in Christ (I haven’t said yet how you gained this knowledge) — would there then be any reason to exclude X from the Table?

Ian Perry
Guest
Ian Perry

“The PCA won’t even accept fellow Reformed! — unless they do the limbo under their extra (and dare I say it, in this case) antiBiblical polity sticks.”—the PCA, in terms of Christianity, one of the more open denominations with regard to communion–they are as open as they can be while still officially requiring (they don’t generally check, and if someone was in the process of changing churches I suspect would still commune the person if they were so informed) some sort of church membership—and I am not denying that there are circumstances in which that could be a gray area… Read more »

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Ian,

Local church attendance is commanded in Scripture and in common sense.
“Forsake not the assembling …” = attending
“yourselves” = with the other believing folks around you

Membership in Christ & in & with one another = what it means to be believers.

Put it all together and you have required and delightful local church attendance by members in Christ.
Why do you think I’d be against that?

And if you attend two churches, why shouldn’t the folks at both correctly discern you’re a member of both?

Ian Perry
Guest
Ian Perry

Perfecthold, you seem kinda “low church”–but I think your view on church membership is in some respects more problematic for low church bodies which allow a lot of congregational decision-making. If there is no membership process other than attendance, does a local church body have to let just anyone who shows up and is baptized vote in church decisions? Is there some threshold level of attendance you think should be required? (This is a separate question from communion, but given how strongly you have framed some of the issues your answer on this question seems relevant.)

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Vote in church decisions?
Who’s in charge here?
Why don’t we leave decisions up to the leaders, and if they want our opinion (or not!), we’ll give it to them?!

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Jane — you imply that making a “public commitment” to membership is a reasonable and effective means by which ministers gain adequate knowledge of who should be given access to the Table, is that right? In the PCA, such public commitment is preceded by Session examination of the candidate’s profession of faith. The examination — not the oath-taking — is actually what suffices to give the Session that identify-ability of sheephood you rightly insist upon. But even if the Session concedes sheephood, this is not enough for Table access. The oath of obedience must be taken. So the “membership thing”… Read more »

Matt Bell
Member

I can see that you are not distinguishing between the family/kingdom/body of Christ and His local churches, but there is a difference. Some church members may not be elect, and some elect never find their way to church membership. Are you being kept out against your will? Find a church that you love, and tell them that you want to join.

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

All elect are elect in Him.
If they are in Him, they are members of His body.
His body is the church.
All elect are members of the church.

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

What we should do instead of “tell them you want to join”, is tell them to do their job and feed the sheep.

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Yes, being a sheep does automatically make you a member of His body — and His body is the church.

Whether or not one desires to be a member doesn’t change his responsibilities and privileges as a member.

You think attenders aren’t commanded by God to love one another, visit the widows, respect the pastor, partake of communion?

Ian Perry
Guest
Ian Perry

I actually am not familiar enough with your theological opinions (given the ambiguities of discerning tone on the internet) to be 100 percent sure whether that statement in response to my question on voting is satire or not, though I guess that bit was satire–do you think that congregations should not vote in church decisions? How much attendance should be required before one can vote in the decisions of a local congregation?

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Ian,
I’m not against a pastor / elders taking a straw vote for something on occasion, as an easy quick way to get the immediate temperature in the room on something or other.

Ian Perry
Guest
Ian Perry

If they are selecting a new pastor should it just be a straw vote? In such a vote, should there should be no distinction between someone who just happens to be there that day (or that month) and someone who has been going for years? Why not have a membership process to make it clear who participates?

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Ian — so you think sheep are qualified to pick (by means of what, majority vote?) which sheepherder they like?

Maybe the Body of Christ should be more like a family than a democratic republic?

Ian Perry
Guest
Ian Perry

My understanding is that the practice of the early church was for the bishops or elder/bishops to ordain but for the people to elect. That said, as a (apparently non-episcopalian) protestant, what do you believe the difference between pastors and sheep is? Do you believe in Presbyterian apostolic succession or something? If there are no elections ever, and you don’t believe in a necessary succession of an ordained clergy back to the apostles, how do you determine who is a pastor?

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Great questions, Ian. I’d agree that election might be a sign that God has made this guy a pastor. Or it might not. I’d agree that God might grow him into the office and gifts, at or after election. Or not. BTW, the early church should properly be understood to begin with Adam & Eve. So our search for who & how leadership occurs should begin there. God chooses any & all leaders. He’s the one that divees up the gifts needed. I think He uses all kinds of means to that end. But how do we determine whom He… Read more »

Ian Perry
Guest
Ian Perry

So, if I understand you, this last post is saying that election could be legitimate, at least sometimes. Now, if there is a group of Christians selecting a pastor due to (say) the previous pastor retiring of dying, is it reasonable to have some standard of membership to determine who can participate in that local election other than who happened to show up that day? Is having a standard for voting other than showing up that day even potentially legitimate, in your view?

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Ian — a standard for voting is completely legit.
Making that the same standard for who is part of the body there is devilish.

Ian Perry
Guest
Ian Perry

So, it isn’t wrong to go through the formal process for becoming a member of a church body?

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

If a local assembly constructs this extra Biblical creature called formal membership, it should be made clear that such formality in no way defines membership in that body.
Therefore such “formal membership” would at best be confusing, at normal be hurtful, and at worst be satanic.

Ian Perry
Guest
Ian Perry

“in no way defines membership in that body”–so are you agreeing that there are local bodies which, while part of the Body of Christ, are distinct from the Body of Christ and that this is okay? You use the term “that body” which seems to imply that you do believe in local congregations, but then you apply a membership criteria that seems to shift to the body of Christ generally, without explaining how the two relate. If I go to three different churches, on average, every month, with (supposing them to have different worship times) an average attendance of every… Read more »

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Ian — first: good on ya for digging this out. There are local bodies — cells — glands — organisms that are part of the One body. They are distinguished by the folks in there that live & move in that local organism — not by some artificial oath-taking. Each member there is part of all the members there, and part of the greater Memberhood which is Christ & the Church everywhere and in all places and all times. The local body is known by their being there, loving there. The only difference in the body part (local assembly) here… Read more »

Ian Perry
Guest
Ian Perry

So, earlier, you said (correct me if I am misinterpreting you) that it was okay to have a standard for voting that was different than membership in “the body”–so, can the standard for voting involve an oath?

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Take an oath before voting?
“Do you folks, who are about to vote, swear to make your votes in accordance with love for all the folks this vote will effect?”
I suppose — but it might be more biblical to let your yes be yes.
But I guess.
Smells funny though.

Ian Perry
Guest
Ian Perry

Wouldn’t such a system (oaths only immediately before voting, or just saying you will act in accord with love before voting) undermine the continuity of local congregations? A bunch of credo-baptists could show up at a paedo-baptist church the Sunday of a vote and vote in a credo-baptist pastor? A group of Roman Catholics could show up and vote to make the church Roman Catholic? Of course these examples may be far fetched but it seems difficult for a church to operate if it is forbidden to have a membership list, only a list of attenders.

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Assuming we’re not equating voter rights with membership, you could qualify voting rights.

Example, you’ve had to have been coming here for a month, or have blue eyes, or attest that you intend to keep coming here for the forseeable future. Any qualifiers you find important.

Ian Perry
Guest
Ian Perry

It seems odd to say that a local congregation would be equally right in putting these qualifiers on voting rights–the blue eyes one is absurd, the “coming here for a month” one at least as some perceivable ground in rationality. –just because the Bible doesn’t spell out that “blue eyes” limits are irrational and doesn’t spell out processes for becoming part of a local congregation doesn’t mean that we can’t examine possible methods for becoming a member of a local congregation based on their suitability to the nature and appointed function of a local congregation. Also, even if you disagree,… Read more »

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Ian — again, thoughtful questions. Here’s answer #1 followed by challenging the inadequacy and antiBiblicality of your system. You say the Bible “doesn’t spell out processes for becoming part of a local congregation” — but it does: “Don’t forsake the assembling of yourselves together.” And we have documented, authoritative histories of these assemblies — beginning early in the OT. They all have the same processes: ALL believers are called to glob together in their locales & support each other & honor God together. The Biblical means by which Christian congregations are formed & identified is the assembling of believing folks… Read more »

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Ian — do you agree that every believer is a member of His body? Do you agree that His body is the church? Do you agree that every believer should, if possible, assemble with other neighboring believers? Do you believe where & when those believers do gather, there you see the great Church, His body, in real time — visible & functioning? And yet you want to say that some of those members of His body aren’t members of His local assembly by virtue of some man-made extra-Biblical (anti, in this case) oath that some of those assemblers have not… Read more »

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Because the “membership process” you seem to support is an equivalent of circumcision — I say the Bible does indeed condemn it. Circumcision had been the accepted means by which Israel was identified. The first NT leaders had quite a struggle abandoning that as a necessary means for the identification into the visible Church at large. But they soon saw that if you demand ANYTHING other than a recognition of the baptism that occurs by the Spirit — you are denying the cleaning He has accomplished in folks. Your demanding of oaths to enter as members is by default calling… Read more »

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

You ask: “why … wouldn’t you just join a local congregation…?”

Wait — the Bible & common redeemed sense says to assemble together to worship.

When I do that, am I not joining a local congregation?

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

You ask: “Does objecting to any restrictions on table fellowship have to equate to yourself refusing to go through church membership requirements that you find a little too formal?” I don’t object to “any” / every table restrictions — just the anti-Biblical ones. The Bible says some folks SHOULD be excluded based on discipline. Do you know of other Biblical restrictions? Yet your system has devised them. Like Peter, you need to sit down and eat with all His folks, and not keep some undisciplined folks fenced away from your meal. If you’re going to eat separately from some of… Read more »

Ian Perry
Guest
Ian Perry

Are you opposed to pastors having to subscribe to the Nicene creed, because that creed is not contained in the Bible and subscription to that creed is not specifically named among the requirements for leadership in the church in the Bible?

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Ian — If you are talking membership requirements, then yes, I’m totally opposed. No one, pastor or sheep, should be received and recognized as members in a local body of His body for anything other than their faith, their baptism by the Spirit. If you are asking if it is Biblical for a given sheep to ask a given pastor if he holds to the Nicene creed — then sure — ask away. But a pastor is not made a pastor by subscribing to anything. A pastor is a gift, given by God. If you are asking if a local… Read more »

Ian Perry
Guest
Ian Perry

Do you think a congregation could use the Nicene Creed as part of the process of examining a pastor for suitability?

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Every congregation should always use the Nicene and other historic creeds as part of the process for examining pastors, and sheep too, for that matter.

For sheep — we’re talking their understanding of their profession of faith.
For pastors — for their understanding and submission to Scripture.

Ian Perry
Guest
Ian Perry

If a congregation can rightfully use the Nicene and other creeds this way (though these develop on the Bible and are not limited to a lengthy quotation from the Bible), why can’t they have someone stand up and profess their faith and publicly identify with the congregation as part of joining?/Why is it wrong to do this (if I understand you, you are saying it is wrong to do this and you won’t do it)?

christian
Guest
christian

I have heard it said that the entry to the Table should not be more narrow than the gate to heaven.

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

christian — yes.
Of course, God enables & judges who gets access up there.
And He makes no mistakes.
But He gives ministers down here to administer access for His table.
And they often make mistakes.

PerfectHold
Guest
PerfectHold

Doug — you imply that Timothy LeCroy either doesn’t understand his Presbyterian tradition, or doesn’t hold to it.
Reading his article, I see he’s not an ignorant fellow.
So he clearly feels able to own much of Roman tradition (pre, non & extra-Reformed).
His sentence “Furthermore, Bonaventure still remains a respected authority in their (our) tradition” — reveals his desire, and conflict, in reclaiming old Christian traditions that many Reformed have ceded.

Perhaps that conflict has led him to fudge a little on the Presence?