I believe all of us at Trinity, and in the PC(USA), are trying to be faithful to God and the Bible as best we know how. But we have to admit we don’t all view God, the Bible and human experience the same, which cuts to the core of why Trinity’s session has requested that the presbytery dismiss our congregation from the PC(USA) ~ theological drift.
It’s helpful to understand how the leadership at Trinity views the Bible.
The Rev. Tim Fearer presented a series of classes at Trinity in February/March 2013 titled “Trinity Distinctives” where he used a continuum of views of the Bible to illustrate where Trinity’s leadership falls. You can see Tim’s entire presentation, including a full explanation of the different views of the Bible, here (the continuum of views starts 37 minutes into the video).
Trinity’s staff and elders identified themselves on the continuum as inerrant, infallible and neo-orthodox at their retreat in early 2013, although Tim tends to think the leadership is more inerrant and infallible than neo-orthodox in their views (think fundamentalist and conservative/traditional – using terms from yesterday’s post).
This assessment of how our leadership views the Bible is not exact, but it helps frame the situation we find ourselves in. If what Tom Trinidad says in his blog Thinking Faith is correct, that by and large the congregations seeking dismissal from the PCUSA are conservative/traditional to fundamentalist in their approach, then our session’s request for dismissal is not out of character with other like-minded congregations.
Clearly our session has concerns with staying in the PC(USA), but there are real concerns we need to have about leaving.
First, one of the freedoms and blessings of the PC(USA) is the denomination makes room for its leaders to exercise “freedom of conscience”, captive only to scripture, as it is interpreted according to the essentials of the Reformed faith and polity expressed in our constitution.
The PC(USA) believes the Holy Spirit works within an individual’s “freedom of conscience” and collectively, as a church, we believe the discernment of these individuals is most clear in the larger bodies (sessions/presbyteries/General Assembly). Currently the General Assembly, the largest body of the denomination, is moving in a direction our session believes is contrary to scripture. I think we have to be very cautious about asking for dismissal when we disagree with the collective discernment of the larger body.
Second, our different views about God and the Bible keep each of our theologies more true. This is a view shared by Jerry Deck, a self described evangelical and past executive director of Presbyterian Global Fellowship, in an opinion column titled “Liberal Conservative or Conservative Liberal?“, published in the Presbyterian Outlook dated June 25, 2012.
Jerry writes, “For the most part I feel this denomination (the PC(USA)) has given me that opportunity in ways that few others ever could, and for this I am incredibly grateful…the reality is that as a Christian community we are in peril if we lose one of our “ends” which hold us in tension. All too often when this tension is lost, we are left with a community that looks less like Christ and more like ourselves.”
I recommend the entire column to you.
Trinity, let’s stay PC(USA) where it’s better we’re not all like-minded.