Written by Matthew J. J. Hoskin |
Wednesday, January 4, 2023
The Creed of Constantinople was, on the one hand, a necessary rearticulation of disputed points. On the other hand, it also expanded the section on the Holy Spirit and the church, making a more clearly Trinitarian creed than that of Nicaea.
Growing up in an Anglican church, we recited the Nicene Creed every Sunday—you know, “We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” I remember being quite surprised in confirmation class when I learned that the creed we recited at Holy Communion wasn’t actually the Nicene Creed but a later Creed, from Constantinople, with some added bits about the Holy Spirit. As I recall, I was a bit put out about this. Why didn’t we use the original? Why did we use some interloper masquerading as the Nicene Creed? Somehow, whatever lessons I got from confirmation class about why these two creeds exist just didn’t stick. I blame, of course, my teenage self. The priest who taught me was very good and a huge church history buff. I still talk church history with him to this day.
The question of my teenage self, setting aside the bizarre feelings that the Creed of Constantinople is an interloper, is a worthwhile question though: why do we have two creeds that we think of as the Nicene Creed? Isn’t one Nicene Creed enough? And why is the second such creed the one we use at Holy Communion?
The answer to this creedal question is the story central to my upcoming Hilary Term course with Davenant Hall, “The Theological World of the Nicene Controversy (325-407).” While sometimes you might meet someone who thinks that the Council of Nicaea convened by Constantine in 325 settled the Arian debate, the fact that I consider this the “Nicene Controversy” immediately shows that the debate did not die out or fizzle in 325. It quietened down for a while—until 337, when Constantine died and was no longer around to enforce Nicene orthodoxy.
In 337, those bishops opposed to the teaching of Nicaea seized the opportunity to undo the work of the council of 325. And Constantine’s sons were in on it, especially Constantius II (r. 337-361). From 337 to 381, fifty-four councils that were related to this controversy were held. Some tended towards what we call “Arianism” in its various forms. Others tended to favour Nicene teaching. Others tried to avoid the contentious questions altogether. Along the way, bishops were exiled, recalled, exiled, deposed, and so forth—most famously St Athanasius of Alexandria.
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By David de Bruyn — 11 months ago
Submission lives in hope: hope that by submitting, we will find more goodness and reward and joy than had we pursued our own ends selfishly. As we yield to his authority, giving our loving attention, hoping in his promises and power, it must culminate in the act of seeking to please God in obedient choices. By making God’s will our own, we are demonstrating love.
The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverse mouth I hate. (Prov. 8:13)
The fear of the Lord begins with the humility of otherness. It continues with the honesty of openness. The third component of the reverent, fearful love of God is submissiveness.
“In brief: whether a man be good, better, or best of all; bad, worse, or worst of all; sinful or saved before God; it all lieth in this matter of obedience”, said the author of the Theologia Germanica.
Reverent love for God submits to God’s will. It acknowledges God as the supreme authority. Not only is He ultimate, not only is He omniscient and omnipresent, but he is sovereign. He is Lord.
In an age of personal autonomy and glorified rebellion, we might struggle to understand biblical submission. What exactly is it? Submission is coming under another’s will. Another word for will is desire, for what a man wills is what he desires. Whoever submits to God desires to match his own desires to God’s, to bring them under God’s, to give God’s desires final veto over his own. The life of faith is a life of re-moulding our desires to be Christ’s. While communing with God, we are conforming to his loves, and making them our own.
An Old Testament law provides a helpful illustration. The Hebrew indentured servant had the option to depart after his sixth year. But if he had come to admire, love and respect his master’s authority, he could publicly pledge his voluntary submission:
“But if the servant plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ “then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever. (Exodus 21:5-6)
Here is the picture of our submission. We willingly and cheerfully give up self-direction, to dwell under the leadership of the Good Shepherd. Love is at the root of it, and it expresses itself in love.
The Hebrew servant came to trust in his master’s rule more than self-rule. He had come to place his hopes in another. The believer does the same thing with God. God has both the might and right to rule us, direct our lives, and lead us.
By Jacob Gerber — 6 months ago
While RONR acknowledges that “Each society decides for itself the meaning of its bylaws,” the next sentence gives an important qualification: “When the meaning is clear, however, the society, even by a unanimous vote, cannot change that meaning except by amending its bylaws” (RONR [12th ed.] 56:68). I have argued in this article that the meaning of our rules is clear, so that the only way to forbid a minority from Committee on Constitutional Business (CCB) from presenting a minority report would be to amend the RAO. Short of such an amendment, the General Assembly must permit such minority reports in the future.
At the 49th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), the Committee on Constitutional Business (CCB) presented its annual report, which included the results of its review of the minutes of the Standing Judicial Commission (SJC), according to the PCA’s Rules of Assembly Operations (RAO):
The minutes, but not the judicial cases, decisions, or reports, of the Standing Judicial Commission shall be reviewed annually by the Committee on Constitutional Business. The minutes shall be examined for conformity to the “Operating Manual for Standing Judicial Commission” and RAO 17, violations of which shall be reported as “exceptions” as defined in RAO 14-11.d.(2). With respect to this examination, the Committee on Constitutional Business shall report directly to the General Assembly. If exceptions are taken with respect to a case, the Assembly may find this a ground to direct the Standing Judicial Commission to retry the case. (RAO 17-1)
This year, two members of CCB issued a minority report, arguing that they differed from the majority by finding exceptions with respect to the SJC’s handling of Speck v. Missouri Presbytery. The Moderator ruled that this minority report should neither be heard nor moved as a substitute for the Committee’s report, and, upon appeal, the General Assembly narrowly sustained the Moderator’s ruling by a vote of 970-856.
In this article, I will explore the details of the parliamentary rules concerning minority reports to argue that, in my opinion, this ruling was in error. In a future article, I will argue why maintaining this procedure is so important for the health of the PCA.
I want to be clear at the outset that I am not interested in re-litigating the case in question, Speck v. Missouri Presbytery. That decision stands as the “the final decision of the General Assembly…to which there may be no complaint or appeal” (BCO 15-5). Thus, it is important to set aside the specific issues that this minority within CCB was trying to address from the general principle of whether any minority within CCB has the right to submit a minority report. I will argue that minorities of the CCB do have this right, and that future General Assemblies should allow them to do so.
Furthermore, I do not write this with any disrespect for past or future members of CCB, nor the Moderator of the 49th General Assembly. These are fathers and brothers whom I highly esteem, even though I may disagree with them here. Again, I am writing less with an eye to the past, and more with an eye toward preparing the way for future minority reports that may come from within CCB.
Accordingly, I will first explain the procedure for offering minority reports, and the implications of that procedure for CCB’s review of SJC minutes. Then, I will consider various objections that have been made against considering a minority report from CCB, comparing them to the binding principles that guide us in how we should interpret our rules.
What are Minority Reports?
First, let us briefly consider what minority reports are, and what they may accomplish. While our RAO includes a few relevant rules detailing the function of minority reports in the General Assembly of the PCA, the foundational rules for minority reports are in Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised (RONR; 12th ed.) 51:64–71. Robert’s Rules defines a minority report as “the presentation of an expression of views in the name of a group of committee members not concurring with the committee report” (RONR [12th ed.] 51:64).
Minority Reports for Recommendations
Often, but not always, minority reports offer differing views regarding proposed recommendations in a committee’s report. In such cases, the minority can “(a) recommend rejection of the resolution [i.e., recommendation]; (b) recommend amendment of it; or (c) recommend adoption of some other suitable motion designed to dispose of the resolution appropriately” (RONR [12th ed.] 51:67).
The vast majority of minority reports dealt with during the proceedings of General Assemblies (e.g., from the Overtures Committee) deal with minority recommendations in this fashion.
Minority Reports for Information Only
Other minority reports, however, address proposed recommendations. In these cases, minority reports do not offer differing recommendations, but only different information: “If the committee report is for information only, the views of the minority may be similarly constructed [to the committee report] or may conclude with a motion” (RONR [12th ed.] 51:68).
Two paragraphs later, this concluding motion is clarified as a motion to substitute the minority in place of the committee report: “When a minority report is presented, it is for information, and it cannot be acted upon except by a motion to substitute it for the committee report.” (RONR [12th ed.] 51:70). If such a motion to substitute were adopted, the minority report would become the committee report.
If both the committee report and the minority report are for information only, what would the point be in substituting the minority report for the committee report?
Minority Reports from CCB
While there may be a number of reasons in different organizations for this procedure, the ability for a minority on CCB to move its report as a substitute for the Committee’s report is an important procedure. Within CCB’s review of SJC minutes, a minority may seek to present a minority report if the minority finds procedural errors in SJC’s handling of a case where the majority of the Committee does not. Or, vice versa, the minority may believe that the SJC’s handling of a case was free from error if the majority of the Committee believed that there were errors.
The importance of this procedure hinges on the fact that the General Assembly may only direct the SJC to retry a case after the CCB report determines that there were procedural errors in the case (BCO 15-5.a; RAO 17-1). Thus, the CCB report is the mechanism that permits a motion from the floor of the General Assembly to direct the SJC to retry a case. While the report itself is for information only, and without recommendations, the Assembly’s ability to make a motion to retry a case requires the presence of specific information that report: “If exceptions are taken with respect to a case, the Assembly may find this a ground to direct the Standing Judicial Commission to retry the case” (RAO 17-1).
So, at the 49th General Assembly, a minority believed that there were errors in the SJC’s handling of a case. If that minority report had been permitted to be heard (as it should have, in my opinion), then the first question before the General Assembly would have been whether to substitute that minority report as the report of the committee (RONR [12th ed.] 51:70; RAO 19-2).
Subsequently, if the first motion to substitute the minority report as the committee report had been adopted, then a second question would have become permissible: namely, it would have been in order then (and only then) for someone from the floor at the General Assembly to move to direct the SJC to retry the case in question. If the first motion to substitute the minority report for the committee report had been defeated, then the second motion to direct the SJC to retry the case would not have been in order.
Regardless of what may have happened during these first or second motions, the minority report itself should have been presented. While we will deal more thoroughly with the importance of this procedure in the next article, two brief comments will suffice for the moment. First, this procedure of minority reports protects the authority of the General Assembly over its own committees by giving the Assembly the final say as to which version to receive as the report of a given committee. Second, this procedure of minority reports preserves the only check of accountability that the General Assembly has reserved to itself (BCO 15-5.a) over the otherwise carte blanche judicial authority delegated to the SJC. Overall, minority reports protect the General Assembly from being handcuffed by a bare majority of CCB in the execution of this constitutional oversight over SJC.
Next, we will examine the arguments that were presented against the minority report’s consideration in light of the PCA’s binding principles for interpreting our rules.
The PCA’s Parliamentary Rules Require Minority Reports from CCB to be Heard
The parliamentary rules of the PCA clearly require minority reports to be heard. While many of the rules for dealing with minority reports are found in RONR (see above), one of the biggest differences between RONR and the RAO is that RONR requires the permission of the Assembly by majority vote before hearing a minority report (RONR [12th ed.] 51:69). Our RAO (which supersedes RONR), however, grants this permission to all minority reports when it states that a minority “shall” be permitted to have the privilege of presenting:
When a minority of a committee wishes to present a minority report, the member reporting for the minority shall have the privilege of presenting the minority report and moving it as a substitute for the portion of the majority report affected. (RAO 19-2)
CCB member RE Matt Fender made reference to this provision when he attempted to move the minority report as a substitute for CCB’s report, observing that RAO 19-2 does not limit which committees are entitled to issue a minority report. When in conflict, particular rules apply rather than general rules (RONR [12th ed.] 3:2), and without a particular rule that excludes CCB from presenting minority reports, the general rule in RAO 19-2 applies.
By Michael J. Kruger — 1 year ago
Written by Michael J. Kruger |
Wednesday, December 29, 2021
Despite all the buzz about diversity in early Christianity, we have no reason to doubt that the mainstream church during this time period was still one that could be generally identified as “orthodox.”
I’ve noticed that Michael Bird has recently posted an article on heresy and orthodoxy in early Christianity. From what I can tell (I can’t see the entire article because it’s behind the paywall), he is pushing back against the popular narrative, originally suggested by Walter Bauer in his 1934 book Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, which insists that Christianity was wildly diverse in the earliest centuries and that the heretics outnumbered the orthodox. It was not until the 3rd and 4th centuries, according to Bauer, that the orthodox began to turn the tide.
But I think there’s an additional way to test Bauer’s theory. Let’s ask a simple question: who were the bishops in second-century Christianity? If heresy was as widespread as orthodoxy, we should expect to find a number of bishops that are openly Marcionite, Ebionite, Gnostic, and beyond.
The problem for Bauer’s thesis is that this is precisely what we don’t find.
When we examine bishops from the second century we find a litany that fit nicely within the orthodox camp: Ignatius, Polycarp, Clement of Rome, Papias, Hegesippus, Irenaeus, Theophilus of Antioch, Anecitus of Rome, Polycrates of Ephesus, Victor of Rome, Demetrius of Alexandria, Melito of Sardis, Theophilus of Caesarea, and Dionysius of Corinth.
While these leaders certainly did not agree on everything, it is evident from their writings, or from historical reports about them, that there are no reasons to identify them with heterodox groups like the Marcionites, Gnostics, or Ebionites.
What is particularly noteworthy about the above list is that they represent a wide geographical range: Lyons (Gaul), Smyrna, Antioch, Hierapolis, Rome, Sardis, Ephesus, and Corinth. In other words, these orthodox leaders were not cordoned off into some small outpost of early Christianity.