“We want to align our primary affiliation with an association of congregations (a reformed body of congregations) who uphold the theological tenets and redemptive behavioral standards for church officers that we believe are true to Scripture.”
– Trinity’s “Reasons” for dismissal letter to The Presbytery of Los Ranchos
By requesting dismissal from the PC(USA) to affiliate with other like-minded Christians in a denomination that, as they say, “provides a more congruent theological fit with Trinity,” our leadership is breaking from the long standing historic principle of church order in the Presbyterian Church to “exercise mutual forbearance” toward others in our denomination with whom they disagree.
Aside from the serious concerns I have about affiliating with a denomination that places such a high value on being like-minded (see Birds of a Feather), I do not believe God has called the church to be like-minded in the way our leadership is defining it.
The Reverend Dr. Ted Wardlaw, President, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Austin, Texas, talked about his concerns regarding the church being like-minded at First Presbyterian Church, Houston, TX, last September saying,
“My biggest concern about the schismatic rhetoric going on now in our church is this emphasis upon the value of like-mindedness…my problem with like-mindedness is I don’t believe Jesus Christ ever imagined that value as a worthy founding principle for his church…at its best the church has never placed a high value on like-mindedness. Which is why we can find our place, by the way, in the church…As Tom Currie (the Rev. Dr. Tom Currie, First Presbyterian Church, Pasadena, TX) has said, ‘the heresy of the Reformed Tradition is that somewhere out there, there is a purer church.’”
Watch the 8 minute segment of Ted’s presentation below. Everything he says speaks right to the issue of being like-minded which we are facing at Trinity today.
Scripture does of course talk about being like-minded, but as Lyndon Unger, a graduate of The Masters Seminary writes in his blog post titled, “Thoughts on Being “Likeminded,”
“…there seems to be a clear pattern in the passages cited that being “likeminded” does not mean being in agreement in relation to doctrinal issues. Each passage is talking about Christ-like conduct, not points of belief regarding specific issues. Phil 2 specifically makes the point of being likeminded in reference to Christ, not other believers. Being likeminded means “thinking and acting like Christ”.
Philippians 2:5-11 (New Revised Standard)
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
This is what it means to be like-minded; to be humble, to empty ourselves, taking the form of a slave, and regarding others as better than ourselves, and in so doing share the same mind of Christ Jesus.
Dr. Barbara Wheeler, retired president of Auburn Seminary, published an article in Sojourners magazine titled, “Why The Liberal Church Needs the Evangelical Church” in which she wrote,
In 1869, the two Presbyterian denominations formed in the bitter split 40 years before came back together. Seeking, said their reunion plan, to create a church marked by “diversity and harmony, liberty and love,” both assemblies met in Pittsburgh, in separate halls from which their members marched to opposite sides of a broad avenue. Their moderators and clerks then stepped into the street and met in the middle. They “clasped hands,” according to a contemporary account, “and amidst welcomes, thanksgivings, and tears, they locked arms and stood together in their reformed relations.”
It was a powerful moment, but I can imagine a more powerful witness. We could skip the split. We Presbyterians, who share so much—a confession of faith, a rich theological heritage, the advantages and the burdens of wealth and social power—could covenant to stay together in our reformed relations, to labor with each other, in love, for justice and truth. It would be very arduous and painful, much more so than splitting or drifting apart. It would be worth it. The world would take note of what the gospel makes possible for those who confess their dis-ease with each other and their displacement by each other but still keep on going, strangers locked in covenant, toward the better country of diversity and harmony, liberty and love.
It is, of course, a long trip. We have only glimpsed what that better country might be like. But God, it says in Hebrews, was not ashamed to be called the God of those who stepped out in faith. Indeed, God has prepared a city for them. God has prepared a city for us strange Presbyterians and for all the other foreigners God loves. I pray that with God’s help, we will get there together.
Staying in the PC(USA) “would be very arduous and painful, much more so than splitting or drifting apart. It would be worth it.” This would be the mind of Christ Jesus.
Trinity, let’s stay PC(USA)