The Aquila Report

45 Miles North of Pittsburgh

Written by Carl R. Trueman |
Wednesday, July 17, 2024
The psalmist tells us to put not our trust in princes…But the awful events of Saturday remind us that this statement is true, not merely because our leaders are limited and flawed but also because, like the grass and the flowers of the field, they can pass in the twinkling of an eye. Only the Lord and the Word of the Lord remain forever.

Last week, whenever anyone asked me where I live, I typically responded, “45 miles north of Pittsburgh.”
By 8 p.m. on Saturday, I found myself a resident of the most famous county in the world. Ten miles from where I am sitting now, a 20-year-old attempted to take the life of Donald Trump at a rally. For the time being, everybody knows where Butler County, Pa., is.
It is odd to be so close to a moment in history, but it is also important to set that moment in context. Political assassinations are as old as politics itself. The histories of Greece, Rome, and, indeed, even the Old Testament kingdom narratives are not exceptional in this regard. And the modern age has produced enough of them. The Kennedy murders of the 1960s still loom large in the American mind. And if Charles de Gaulle died while watching television, it was not because of the lack of effort by his enemies to have him dispatched somewhat earlier and much more violently. Indeed, the last three decades in the West have arguably been the exception for their lack of assassins. Not yet 60, I can recall the deaths of Aldo Moro and Olaf Palme, the shooting of Ronald Reagan, and the Brighton Hotel bombing of the U.K. Conservative Party Conference in 1984. And it seemed at one point in the 1970s that everyone was trying to assassinate Gerald Ford. One early memory is asking my father if “Squeaky Fromme” was a cartoon character. The comparative lack of assassinations over recent decades could well be the result of better security procedures rather than a sea change in the nature of politics itself.
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Holiness in Corporate Worship

We have the holy duty of delight to clear and align our [Lord’s] day so that we may best rest in our Lord. This rest is accomplished not through laziness or isolation but with a holy vigor, as we earnestly pursue the service of God in both private and public worship.

Having grown up in a mainline church and having taken pride in faithfully attending Sunday service week in and week out, I must admit that I was a bit taken aback during my freshman year of college when one of my hallmates asked me to attend a Sunday evening worship service with him. On the one hand, I was shocked that there even was such a thing. But then also, when I looked into the face of my friend, I could see plainly through his smile that no one was forcing him to go but that he actually wanted to go back to church. “I get to go back to church” was a phrase that I distinctly recall my friend’s uttering.
I was blown away. I didn’t understand what he meant by that phrase or the delight he had in going to a second worship service on Sunday. I would not understand until two years later when I became a Christian. Now, by the grace of God and to my great joy, I get to go back to church to worship my Lord and Savior.
As we consider the subject of holiness and specifically how it applies to the Lord’s Day or the Christian Sabbath, I would like to approach our discussion from just this angle: “I get to go to church.” In other words, we Christians have an immense privilege to worship the Lord on Sunday, and we should delight in doing so.
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Digital Discipleship for Your Children, Part I

Technology is here to stay, and can be harnessed helpfully. We can worship, work, and play as worshippers and image-bearers without a total ban on screens or online access. But such spiritual success will only come with some vigorous cultivation. 

A little over eleven years ago, I published Save Them From Secularism. I wanted to fill a gap in the parenting literature. As I see it, the majority of helpful Christian parenting books deal with the heart, motives, behaviour, correction, communication, and roles. Few deal with a child’s deep view of reality: his imagination. The shaping of the child’s overall picture of reality is the most fundamental shaping force in his life. In the book, I argue that the imagination can be shaped, in cooperation with the Holy Spirit.
When I originally wrote, social media was just hitting its stride. There was no such thing as ten year-olds with smart phones and multiple social media accounts. Child YouTube stars hadn’t even been dreamed of. No one yet saw that screens were going to become the new cocaine. But in the online world, ten years is equivalent to a whole generation. It’s occurred to me to add some chapters to the book.
In the last few years, some good literature has come out that helps parents with the dangers. Predictably, the first Christian responses were all about the content: pornography, violence, and false teaching. That remains an important area to guard and shape.
More recently, writers have been dealing with the negative ways people use the internet: time-wasting, pseudo-relationships, addictive scrolling, gossip, and the negative traits that come out in people: envy, boasting, narcissism, lust, voyeurism, ungodly speech hiding behind anonymity, and covetousness.
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Do We Really Believe That Singleness and Marriage Are Equal in God’s Sight?

It is good for us to understand that the modern focus on marriage in the church is not how it has always been. The monastic movement, for all its flaws, was an attempt to take 1 Corinthians 7 seriously and to use your life to wholeheartedly serve Jesus without the divided interests that come from marriage and children.

Those who are not married and those who are married are of equal value in God’s sight. All people are made in the image of God. All Christians are saved only by grace through the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross for our sins. In no way does our marital status impact whether we are of value to God.
The apostle Paul famously says this in 1 Corinthians 7. In fact, he holds up singleness as superior for serving God in some ways, for instead of having divided interests you can live for God with all your heart.
This is not controversial theologically, yet do we truly believe this in practice? Christians and churches can teach marriage as such a worthy goal that single people are unintentionally alienated. Christian groups campaign for marriage in the wider culture, which is needed and timely. There are all kinds of ministries in most churches for marriage enrichment or for children. Well-meaning Christians can make unhelpful comments to single Christians in their churches about marriage, even trying to set them up with others they know. While marriage is a good gift from God, we can give the idea that it is the goal in life rather than serving God in whatever state we happen to be in.
And that’s before consider the family pressure many young adults feel to get married. There are many tense moments at family gatherings for the average single adult when their parents imply (or simply say!) that they are in some way less worthy because they have not been married.
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Why Did God the Son Become Human?

Hebrews 2:5–18 gloriously explains why the divine Son had to become human to redeem us from our sin and to restore us to the purpose of our creation. It’s no wonder that Jesus alone can save us, given our plight before God and the kind of Redeemer he is.

In the eleventh century, Anselm of Canterbury famously asked, “Why did God become man?” It is an important question to ask since it takes us into the rationale for the incarnation, and thus into the heart of the gospel. Anselm’s answer was that God the Son became man to fulfill God’s plan to save sinners by making satisfaction for their sin. No less can be said. But Scripture gives a number of reasons for why the incarnation was a necessity in the divine plan, and the most detailed text that gives us some of these reasons is Hebrews 2:5–18.
The entire book of Hebrews focuses on the supremacy and glory of the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. By expounding multiple Old Testament texts, and by a series of contrasts with various Old Testament figures, the author encourages a group of predominately Jewish Christians with the truth that Jesus has come as the Lord in the flesh to fulfill all of the promises and expectations of the Old Testament.
Beginning in Hebrews 1:1–4, the author uses a series of comparisons and contrasts to unpack his thesis that Jesus is superior to all of the Old Testament figures before him, including Moses, Joshua, and the high priests. But he begins by demonstrating that Jesus is superior to angels. First, Jesus is greater than angels who serve God because he is the divine Son (Heb. 1:5–14). In contrast to angels, the Son is identified with the Lord due to his greater name (Heb. 1:4–5), the worship he receives (Heb. 1:6), his unchanging existence as the universe’s Creator and Lord (Heb. 1:10–12), and the rule and reign he shares with his Father (Heb. 1:7–9, 13). Angels, on the other hand, are simply creatures and ministering servants (Heb. 1:7, 14); they are not God-equal with the Father. Second, Jesus is superior to angels because he has come to do the work that no angel could ever do. By assuming our humanity, the Son becomes the representative man of Psalm 8—the last Adam—who undoes the first Adam’s covenantal disobedience and ushers in the new creation by bringing all things into subjection under his rule and reign.
In Hebrews 2:5–18, the author focuses on the centrality of the incarnation to the fulfillment of God’s redemptive plan, which is his final argument for the superiority of the Son. In so doing, a four-part rationale for the purpose and necessity of the incarnation is given. Let us look at each of these glorious truths in turn in Hebrews 2:5–18:
5For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. 6It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? 7You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, 8putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. 9But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
10For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, 12saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” 13And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.”
14Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
1. The Divine Son Became a Man to Fulfill God’s Creation Intention for Humanity (Heb. 2:5–9).
The author demonstrates this point by an appeal to Psalm 8. In its Old Testament context, Psalm 8 celebrates the majesty of God as the Creator and the exalted position humans have in creation. The Psalm reminds us of God’s creation design for humans, namely that we were created as his image-bearers to exercise dominion over the world as his vice-regents (Gen. 1–2). In fact, in transitioning from the quotation of Psalm 8:4–6 to Jesus, Hebrews stresses the honor and glory of humanity by emphasizing how God intended that all things be subjected to Adam and, by extension, to all humanity: “Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control” (Heb. 2:8b). However, as we know from Genesis 3, Adam disobeyed, and as a result, all humanity is now under God’s judgment. Hebrews makes this exact point: “At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him” (Heb 2:8c). When we look at the world, we know that God’s creation design for humans has been frustrated; we do not rule as God intended us to rule. Instead of putting the earth under our feet, we are eventually put under the earth as God’s rebellious image-bearers.
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Blaming the Devil for Bad Things Denies God Is Sovereign

We need to hold onto the truth that God is sovereign, that even through hardships he is working what is good. If we don’t, when hardship comes we will either label God impotent (by blaming the evil) or we’ll question his goodness.

Imagine you wake up early in the morning and tuning into the radio you hear of an incident that took place in the night. You hear the reporter saying that they have never seen something like it before. All the bars and nightclubs have burned up and no one was hurt. Knowing what happens at bars and nightclubs, if you’re a Christian you would probably rejoice; you’d praise our sovereign God. ‘Thank God something happened to those places. Now our young people won’t be wandering around in them.’ We will say that God did something in the night. We’d praise him in the morning.
Now imagine a different scenario. Another morning. You wake up to the news that your government wants to stop the gatherings of believers. I am sure that we’d come together and pray against such a thing. We might even be tempted to say that the devil is at work.
So, who’s in control when major events happen? Do we attribute the good to God and the bad to the devil? Well, the devil is undoubtedly at work. And we know that he opposes God, both his plans and his people. While Jesus gives new life, in abundance, the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10-11). Does this make our world a kind of cosmic wrestling match? Should we attribute bad things to God? Or can we just blame it on the devil? In this article I’m going to argue that God uses everything for his purposes, whether good or bad. Nothing falls outside of his power or plans. He is sovereign over everything he made.
Who Stands Above Suffering and Evil?
When we only attribute good things to God’s action, we limit him. For it implies that God is powerless to prevent bad things. In fact, by doing this we give power over to the enemy. We share God’s sovereignty with the evil one.
Now, consider the biblical witness. Scripture contains countless stories of people experiencing hardship, even immense suffering (Job 1:14-19). Were these things to happen to us we’d be tempted to say God doesn’t love us; or that he doesn’t care about his people. We rightly associate God with power and protection, preventing harm. However, the men and women who endure tremendous suffering in the Bible often recognise God’s control. They entrust themselves to his sovereignty. They cling onto God’s love when they don’t necessarily understand his purposes.
As Job cried out, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked shall I return. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:20-21). Joseph understood, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20a). Neither deny God’s sovereignty. Nor do they question his goodness. Instead they understand that God is in control.
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Corinth, Christ and Celebritiesb

Televangelists and mega-church pastors strut their stuff for all the world to see. Not all misuse and abuse their positions in this way of course, but far too many do. And how often does mere eloquence, wit, good looks or youth become some of the main qualifications?

In many ways things are not so very different today than what they were 2000 years ago. Problems we face in the church today were problems back then. We might have new names for some of these things, but the core issues continue. Anyone familiar with the two letters the apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth will get my drift.
Back then a major issue Paul had to deal with were the “super-apostles”. These were leaders and teachers (often false teachers) who tended to put their personalities, their prestige, and their power forward as their credentials. They thought they were superior and more authoritative than people like Paul.
In 2 Corinthians especially we find him spending a lot of time dealing with this. In 2 Cor. 11:5-7 he puts it this way: “I do not think I am in the least inferior to those ‘super-apostles.’ I may indeed be untrained as a speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way. Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge?”
He boasts not in great power or speaking ability or popularity, but in his weakness, so that Christ might be glorified: “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it. I ought to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least inferior to the ‘super-apostles,’ even though I am nothing” (2 Cor. 12:10-11).
He had made all this clear in his first epistle to the Corinthians (1 Cor 1:26-31):
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
Today things are no different. Indeed, with the new technologies and global media, it can be even more of a problem, with televangelists and mega-church pastors strutting their stuff for all the world to see. Not all misuse and abuse their positions in this way of course, but far too many do. And how often does mere eloquence, wit, good looks or youth become some of the main qualifications here?
I recall some 16 years ago writing about one of these super-pastors who would not go anywhere without first sending through a list of his demands. I had mentioned a terrific article in Charisma magazine by J. Lee Grady which spoke of the “deadly virus of celebrity Christianity.” This is how he described what one celeb leader required before coming to speak:

a five-figure honorarium
a $10,000 gasoline deposit for the private plane
a manicurist and hairstylist for the speaker
a suite in a five-star hotel
a luxury car from the airport to the hotel
room-temperature Perrier

Wow. Imagine Paul or Peter or John or Luther or Spurgeon or Lewis or Paul Washer sending out such a ludicrous list of demands. Indeed, I once was speaking with a pastor and he discussed having me speak at his church. He asked me what my speaking fee was. I laughed and said it was as much as Paul had charged. I have never had a fee, and I never will.
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Do Christians Deserve to Be Blessed?

Actions do have consequences in this world. If people are mean, they won’t have many friends. If plants aren’t watered, they will die. On the other hand, a person who is driving safely might be hit and killed by a drunk driver. Cancer may strike a little child for no known reason. Both believers and unbelievers experience sorrows and joys in this fallen world.

Many Christians think that if something good happens to them, it’s because God is rewarding them for being obedient. On the flip side, if something bad happens to them, they think that God is punishing them for some sin in their life. We all know people who have received good things they didn’t deserve, as well as others who have received bad things they didn’t deserve.
Consider Jesus’ words about our heavenly Father who “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). Frequently Christians read verses regarding blessings and curses in the Old Testament that were meant for the nation of Israel and attempt to apply these promises to their lives today. The Mosaic covenant (also called the old covenant; see Gal. 4:24) was a conditional agreement between God and the people of Israel that was mediated by Moses (Exod. 19–24) with different outcomes based upon the people’s obedience to its terms.
This covenant was extremely important for two reasons: 1) it showed the nation of Israel (and us) the impossibility of keeping God’s law perfectly due to our sinful natures, teaching us about our need for a savior, and 2) the Mosaic covenant provided a forum for Christ to come and be the perfect Son of Israel who would obey God’s law in all things and be the once-for-all sacrifice for sin.
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Providence and Presidents

Written by R. Albert Mohler Jr. |
Tuesday, July 16, 2024
Why? Because the Christian faith underlines the two realities of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Both are absolutely necessary to Biblical Christianity, and both are absolutely necessary to the Christian worldview in every respect. But though both are necessary, they are not equal. Human responsibility is real, but it exists only within the transcendent reality of God, and within the context of his unconditional providence. The reality of God’s providence is something many Americans, and no doubt many Christians, think about with far too little seriousness.

The attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump represents one of those rare historical moments when fundamental truths are clarified. Yesterday’s attack at President Trump’s rally in Pennsylvania shocked the nation and the watching world, and it instantly revealed so many essential truths.
First, life and death can come down to a matter of a millimeter. The video of President Trump grabbing his ear and then diving onto the platform will be indelibly etched into the nation’s historical memory. Just the slightest deviation in the path of that ammunition round would have changed a bleeding ear into a dead former president, even as Trump is just days from his official nomination as the Republican candidate in the coming election. How can human life be so fragile as that? But the fragility of life is essential to our understanding of the gift of life. In a world of sin and evil, assassins and pathogens, every breath we take is a gift. At some point, a single breath will be our last.
For Donald Trump, his last breath could have come yesterday, broadcast to the entire world. Thankfully, that was not the case. But why? Those who hold to a purely materialistic and naturalistic worldview have no answer but luck, which is a major doctrine of secular theology. But Donald Trump (and the watching world as well) must surely know in his heart that something far greater than luck preserved his life. Speaking to the press, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., acknowledged the hairline distance that separated life and death in the assassination attempt: “Fate stepped in.” Interestingly, it was President Trump himself who clarified the issue, posting on Truth Social that it was “God alone who prevented the unthinkable from happening.” Indeed, it was God and God alone, for God alone is the sovereign ruler of the cosmos.
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Christian Reformed Church Synod 2024 – What Happened?

Synod 2022 clarified that “unchastity” in the Heidelberg Catechism “encompasses adultery, premarital sex, extra-marital sex, polyamory, pornography and homosexual sex,” all of which are violations of the Seventh Commandment…That Synod instructs churches who have made public statements, by their actions or in any form of media, which directly contradict synod’s decision on unchastity to repent and to honor their covenant commitments to the CRCNA.

Synod 2024 was a clash of two competing visions of the Christian Reformed Church in North America. One sees the CRC defined by its heritage and history. The other sees the CRC defined by its beliefs from Scripture as described in the creeds and confessions. This is the current tension in the CRC. Synod 2024 said the CRC is defined by its confessions. Adherence to the CRC’s statements of faith is what unites a people together as the CRC. Whoever you are, from wherever you come, if you believe what we believe from Scripture, you have a place in the CRC.
Gravamen
Synod 2024 closed the gravamen loophole for CRC officebearers to sign the Covenant with exceptions. By a vote of 137 to 47 (74.5%), synod said, “confessional-difficulty gravamina are not meant, nor should be used as an exception to the confessions,” because “Holding a settled conviction contrary to the confessions in perpetuity would contradict the Covenant for Officebearers.” (9A – Gravamen)
Church Order supplements were changed to say a confessional-difficulty gravamen is a “temporary” gravamen “subsequent to their ordination” when an officebearer has a difficulty with a doctrine but does not “have a settled conviction contrary to” the confessions. Signing the Covenant for Officebearers “’Without reservation’ means that an officebearer does not have a difficulty or hold a settled conviction contrary to any of the doctrines contained in the creeds and confessions. This includes what synod has declared to have confessional status.” The council upon receiving a gravamen “shall … Set a reasonable timeline for the resolution of the confessional-difficulty. The total timeline shall not exceed 3 years from the time the difficulty is received by a council.” Those with a gravamen filed “shall … Refrain from teaching contrary to or disparaging the church’s confessions or what synod has declared to have confessional status…” and “Recuse themselves from being delegated to broader assemblies”. Also added: “A confessional-difficulty gravamen is not a settled conviction contrary to the confessions themselves or anything that holds confessional status. Therefore, an assembly may not merely acknowledge an officebearer’s reservation regarding a confession—it must work toward resolving it” (9A – Gravamen).
In other words, a gravamen gives space to struggle. It is not a loophole to disagree. The Covenant for Officebearers says of the Reformed confessions, “We heartily believe and will promote and defend their doctrines faithfully, conforming our preaching, teaching, writing, serving, and living to them.” The duplicity of signing this covenant and simultaneously filing a gravamen is not allowed.
Discipline of Churches in Public Defiance of Synod
Synod 2022 clarified that “unchastity” in the Heidelberg Catechism “encompasses adultery, premarital sex, extra-marital sex, polyamory, pornography and homosexual sex,” all of which are violations of the Seventh Commandment.
After Synod 2022, at least 18 churches made public statements contrary to Scripture and synod and published on the All One Body website. Contrary to Scripture and synod, Jubilee Fellowship in St. Catharines, Ontario said on their website’s “Inclusion” page, “We honour committed monogamous marriage between all persons.” The homepage of Hessel Park CRC of Classis Chicago South included, “The full inclusion of LGBTQ members includes marriage, baptism, communion, and leading as pastors, deacons, and elders. Same-sex weddings may be held in the church building, and the pastor may officiate LGBTQ weddings.”
In response to these public statements, Synod 2024 voted 134 to 50 (73%) to adopt the following recommendation (from Advisory Committee 8D – Discipline Matters – Majority Report):
That Synod instructs churches who have made public statements, by their actions or in any form of media, which directly contradict synod’s decision on unchastity to repent and to honor their covenant commitments to the CRCNA. 
Actions demonstrating this repentance would include: 

A statement to classis indicating repentance. 
A removal of any public statements, opposed to the teaching of the CRCNA regarding chastity, including materials designed to teach against or otherwise contradict the denomination’s position. 
A commitment to not ordain as officebearers individuals who are in a same-sex marriage, in a same-sex relationship not in keeping with a holy Christian sexual life. 
A commitment to not publicly instruct against the denomination’s position in our “preaching, teaching, writing, serving, and living,” as we promise in the Covenant for Officebearers.
A commitment not to recognize same-sex marriage as ecclesiastically valid, either in officiation or any manner of blessing a wedding rite or a baptismal rite (cf. CO Art. 56, 69-c, Supplement, 69-c; HC Q&A 82, 85). 
A commitment that officebearers not serve in any organization designed to specifically advocate against the teachings and confessions of the CRCNA.

The same vote also included consequences for breaking covenant:
That after the conclusion of Synod 2024, all office-bearers from churches in non-compliance, by actions or in any form of media, be placed on a limited suspension. That suspension would include a loss of ability to send delegates to classis, synod, the COD or other CRCNA agencies. Officebearers under limited suspension may attend classis with the privilege of the floor but not as a seated delegate.
Additionally, synod instructed the General Secretary to “prioritize the development of resources to help classes and churches navigate the process towards repentance and restoration or towards disaffiliation.” For churches that refuse, the consequences include discipline: “If neither restoration nor disaffiliation are completed after the defined limited suspension, classis is to remove the council, revert the church to an emerging status, placing the church under the authority of a neighboring council.”
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