8 people out there – hopefully a mixture of men and women (although, that’s not guaranteed), hopefully a gathering of people from across the denomination culturally and linguistically as well as geographically (although, only the geographic expectation is guaranteed), and hopefully from a broad spectrum of theological tendencies and experiences related to the issue but with a spirit of cooperation and grace (although, that’s perhaps even less likely than the previous two) – will gather in the coming months to attempt some kind of response to General Synod 2012′s R-56 (substitute).
I don’t envy their job.
These 8 people (whom, as far as I know, have not yet been named) make up one of those rare committees that will probably be hated regardless of the outcome of their work — indeed, the Recommendation itself ties their hands in such a way as to make their task almost impossible. Seriously, I don’t know that they can “present a way forward for our denomination” without at least potentially “revisiting our stated position” (by which the Recommendation means the position in the previous paragraph, not – as I would argue – the position of the denomination). Nor am I convinced that they can “operate” under the framework of the first paragraph which, as mentioned in a previous post, attempts to make a position paper into a binding, “disciplinable,” theological statement without any Classical approval.
Having said all that. Here’s what I hope they come back saying:
We, the R-56 (substitute) committee after hundreds of hours of prayerful consideration and nearly as much conversation, ask the General Synod of 2013 to reaffirm that the Holy Scriptures are the only rule for faith and life and that our Standards of Unity are, indeed, the fundamental theological principles that hold us together. We recognize that the solid, well-accepted biblical theologians have varying positions related to the scriptural mandate on this topic (and many others) and that none of our Standards of Unity discuss it. We also recognize that position statements, in the Reformed Church in America, only become binding upon the denomination when constitutionalized (and thus, approved by 2/3rds of the Classes).
Therefore, considering the biblical and theological realities mentioned above and the lack of a Classically approved position, we recommend the following addition to the Book of Church Order reaffirming the current denominational standard be sent to the Classes for approval:
Rename “Sec. 11″ to “Sec. 12″
Add new Sec. 11 as follows:
Sec. 11. The Classis shall firmly protect the freedom of all office holders within its bounds and students under its care to hold (and promote) a diversity of theological and biblical positions on matters not referenced in our Standards of Unity or affirmed through the constitutional process.
I know such a thing would never make it… but I wonder…
We are, after all, a confessional church with a Presbyterian system – I can think of worse things than reaffirming that.
Grace and peace,