Christmas announces His lordship over all creation. His life, obedience, death, and resurrection ensure that the darkness will end, and that He is the light that comes into the world and reveals the truth about everything. In this and every season, there is hope. This invites us to sing along and share these truths with a world in darkness.
Recently, my colleague Kasey Leander sat down with Dr. Andrew Newell of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, to discuss the Christmas hymn, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” Originally published in 1739, the song is a treasure of orthodox Christology, something just as needed today as it was in the 18th century.
As Newell explained, England at that time was beset with theological challenges. After a profound cultural upheaval during the previous century, the Church of England had replaced much of its theological vigor with a more stagnant faith, one that de-emphasized doctrine in favor of “reasonable religion,” outward works, and Enlightenment thinking. Largely missing was a commitment to the notion that Christianity was actually true, and thus required of Christians personal conviction, repentance, and transformation.
Likewise, heresies such as Arianism, the false religion centered around the idea that Jesus was not God incarnate but merely a created being, had gained new traction. In fact, Charles Wesley thought Arianism a big enough threat to directly counter, when he compared it to the “wormwood” of Revelation 8:10-11:
How has he shed his baleful power,
Wasted the earth, and peopled hell,
While millions drink the Arian lie
And yet, in the midst of this bleak scene, revival was stirring, which could be seen in central Europe among the Moravian Christians, across the Atlantic with Jonathan Edwards, and at Oxford University in the “Holy Club” founded by George Whitefield, John and Charles Wesley, and others. In England, members of the Holy Club preached, wrote hymns, and published sermons. When church doors were closed on them, they met in open fields.
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By Memorial Presbyterian Church Session — 3 months ago
It is with a mixture of sorrow and hope that we, the elders of Memorial Presbyterian Church, after fifteen months spent fasting, praying, waiting, consulting and listening, now write to call a meeting of the congregation for 5:30–6:30 p.m. Friday, November 18, 2022, in the Auditorium for the purpose of deciding on matters pertaining to denominational alignment. We are recommending the congregation vote to withdraw from the Presbyterian Church in America in accordance with Book of Church Order 25-11
October 18, 2022
Dear church family,
Memorial exists to bring the Welcome of Jesus through his Gospel as found in his Word to St. Louis. We have seen how he provides for us. We have experienced his Spirit’s work among us. We have had our hearts captivated by the gospel. We have had the privilege of being coworkers in what Jesus is doing on the earth. For the past 40 years, we have done so as a member church of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).
Since our first letter on July 13 and last letter on September 8, troubling new circumstances have arisen that move us to believe it is time for us to take the next step toward denominational realignment.
It is with a mixture of sorrow and hope that we, the elders of Memorial Presbyterian Church, after fifteen months spent fasting, praying, waiting, consulting and listening, now write to call a meeting of the congregation for 5:30–6:30 p.m. Friday, November 18, 2022, in the Auditorium for the purpose of deciding on matters pertaining to denominational alignment. We are recommending the congregation vote to withdraw from the Presbyterian Church in America in accordance with Book of Church Order 25-11, which states:
Particular churches need remain in association with any court of this body only so long as they themselves so desire. The relationship is voluntary, based upon mutual love and confidence, and is in no sense to be maintained by the exercise of any force or coercion whatsoever. A particular church may withdraw from any court of this body at any time for reasons which seem to it sufficient, provided, however, the congregation is given at least thirty-days’ notice of any meeting where the congregation is to vote on a proposed withdrawal from the Presbyterian Church in America.
Memorial exists to bring the Welcome of Jesus to sinners like ourselves, helping them embrace that Welcome, live out that Welcome and unleash that Welcome in the power of the Holy Spirit. Continued attacks from within our denomination have and continue to hinder and distract from that mission. We need a team that is for us.
This is a historic moment. As historic as our vote in 1980 to leave what was then our denomination. We believe this step is necessary to protect Memorial’s ministries and ministers from distraction and abuse. More details about our recommended path forward will be forthcoming in the coming weeks.
In our last letter, we explained that there were some questions about which we still needed further information. Two questions related to our reception into another denomination. We are still working on those questions and hope to have full answers for you soon.
Two other questions were related to timing and unity. We heard the congregation asking:
If Greg is tried (or re-tried) by the PCA sooner rather than later, will that hold up the church’s denominational realignment until after the trial and ruling has come—a judicial process that can take months or years?
We have now learned that, yes, once a court of the church (whether local Missouri Presbytery, denominational supreme court or General Assembly) takes a case, thereby entering into judicial process, the pastor involved must see the case through unless another denomination receives him into it. Other denominations can be hesitant to receive a pastor under such circumstances, and would likely require a supermajority vote to receive him. This could hold us all up.
Greg was exonerated by our denominational supreme court a year ago. But his critics have been busy retargeting him and—just this month—now targeting other Memorial pastors.
Our denominational supreme court already has requests from several regional presbyteries to try (or re-try) Greg in an attempt to reverse last year’s ruling. They could vote to accept this case as early as this weekend or as late as February. If they refuse to take the case, a minority report is likely, setting Greg up for a possible trial on the floor of General Assembly next June in Memphis.
Additionally, our local Missouri Presbytery has received a number of new requests for investigations even since our last letter to you. One misrepresents Greg’s views and involves accusations that his 2021 book doesn’t properly reflect the nuance of the Westminster Larger Catechism.
And yet another most recent one requests that pastors Sam Dolby and Keith Robinson also be investigated—alongside Greg—concerning their Christian character due to their support for our Chapel ministry to artists.
Other possible cases against our pastors are also developing. The flow of these baseless judicial attacks is unlikely to slow down. We are being deliberately targeted. To protect our pastors—and to keep our presbytery from having to do multiple formal investigations of baseless accusations—we therefore think it wise to take this next step in realignment sooner rather than later.
We also heard you asking, whatever we decide—and it will be the congregation that decides, not the Session—we are your servants—how can we do it together as a family, with love even when perspectives differ?
We are therefore scheduling two additional fireside chats, which also will involve intercessory prayer for our protection and unity as a congregation.
This will not be an easy decision for some of us. Greg has shared how deeply sorrowful this decision is for him. Greg is not alone in these feelings. This will not be a time to celebrate.
While Memorial will continue to send students to Covenant College and continue to support our MTW missionaries and especially our RUF minister at Wash U, many of us and many of our Memorial siblings are already grieving a loss. Please be in prayer for them. Speak kindly to them. Reach out to listen and to love. And respect your sibling’s perspective, especially if it differs from your own.
Also, realize that it is common to experience feelings of anxiety during periods of uncertainty or transition. We encourage you to channel any anxiety into prayer for the church.
We will have a Fireside Chat and Prayer Gathering Monday, October 24 at 7:00 p.m.
We will have another Wednesday, November 9 at 7:30 p.m.
Our intention has been to bathe this process with prayer and with love. We believe this decision to be the most loving option for Memorial, for same-sex oriented believers, for our pastors and, yes, for the PCA itself.
We hope that Memorial’s withdrawal from the PCA will strengthen the hands of our friends within the denomination. As their opponents have capitalized on the “wedge issue” they found in knowing the PCA had a celibate same-sex oriented pastor, we can now remove Memorial from that equation. Critics will have to find some other cause with which to rally their troops. Lord willing, that will help our friends in the denomination as they work hard to once again take leadership to ground the denomination in a humble, winsome and missiological grace.
We believe Jesus is walking with us through this process, as is our current presbytery. The gospel is at work among us. The Lord’s Spirit is within us. We are not afraid.
In this letter, we have described what we believe we must move away from to protect our mission. In a fourth letter, we hope soon to offer a clearer picture of what we hope to move toward. We are still discerning that matter, and we are excited by the possibilities. Jesus loves Memorial, and we are confident that he will preserve us in our mission as he pours his love and Spirit out upon us—and through us to others.
We love you and thank God for you.
Your servants in Jesus,
The Session of Memorial Presbyterian Church
By Reuben M. Bredenhof — 3 months ago
Written by Reuben M. Bredenhof |
Thursday, November 17, 2022
It’s crucial for our spiritual vitality to keep encountering the true glory of the Lord. This happens whenever we read Scripture with open eyes and see God as our Creator, our Saviour, and our Renewer. Have high thoughts of God, knowing that this holy God is behind you, above you, beside you, and within you.
There’s a great quotation I’ve come across a few times recently.
It goes like this:
What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.
Maybe you recognize this as being from A.W. Tozer’s timeless book on the attributes of God, The Knowledge of the Holy.
I love this thought because it orients us in the right direction. Our whole life is about being in relationship with God. That is the most important thing: knowing God, loving God, and serving him.
And what we think about the Lord—how we regard him—really shapes everything we do. For instance, if you are able to see God as your loving Father, you will strive to trust him. If you see God as the perfectly wise Lord, you will humbly submit to him.
But if God is a vague and distant being to you, or if you think of the Lord mainly as a stern judge, this will surely change how you relate to him.
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” The following line from Tozer’s work explores the implications a little:
Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.
Do you have high thoughts of God? Big thoughts? Thankful and holy thoughts? Then you can expect that this will begin to transform your prayers to him, your worship, and your loyalty.
This is without question a Biblical idea. Whenever God shows himself to his people by his mighty deeds, or when God gives his promises, He expects a response.
By E. Calvin Beisner — 3 months ago
Written by E. Calvin Beisner |
Saturday, November 12, 2022
Because much of the environmental movement embraces socialism and global governance to replace capitalism and sovereign nations—recipes for poverty and tyranny—we sometimes compare what we’re doing with fighting “Cold War II.” In Cold War II, the threats to liberty and justice don’t come so much from foreign nations—though those remain. Instead, they’re right inside America—and every nation. They come from the elite leaders of the Green movement, which threatens, ironically, to rob America of its productive capacity in the name of saving the planet.
Two scenes from my toddlerhood in Calcutta, India, have flashed in my mind thousands of times over the last 60-plus years. The first was of a beautiful tree with a red-flowered vine hanging from its branches. The second was of the emaciated bodies of people who had died overnight of starvation and disease.
I saw the tree and its vine as my aia, or nurse, led me by the hand through the courtyard of the building housing my family’s apartment while my father worked with the U.S. State Department. I stepped over the bodies as she led me block after block to the home of an Indian family who cared for me through the day while my mother was paralyzed for six months. Ever since I became a Christian in middle school, the first image has reminded me of the beauties of God’s creation. The second, of the horrors of poverty.
Caring for the Planet & the World’s Poor
After spending much of the first two decades of my Christian life in personal evangelism and apologetics, I found myself led into work that addresses both creation stewardship and the conquest of poverty, along with the gospel.
My two books, Prosperity and Poverty: The Compassionate Use of Resources in a World of Scarcity (1988) and Prospects for Growth: a Biblical View of Population, Resources, and the Future (1990), opened doors for me, initially, to speak at churches and conferences on poverty and the environment, and later, to teach, first at Covenant College and then at Knox Theological Seminary.
In 1999, some thirty scholars and I worked together to produce “The Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship,” issued the next year with over 1,500 endorsements from religious leaders, scientists, and economists, and later signed by many thousands. Then, in 2005, I founded the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.
Over the years, Cornwall Alliance scholars have developed ideas about environmental protection and about how mainstream environmentalism actually posses a significant threat to the world’s poor, despite environmentalists’ frequent warnings that environmental abuse harms the poor more than anyone else.
Cornwall’s thinking on environmental protection rests on the idea that the bottom-line measurement of environmental quality is human health and well-being, coupled with the understanding that a clean, healthful, beautiful environment is a costly good and that wealthier people can afford more costly goods than poorer people can. (Hence, one looks for the dirtiest parts of a city in the poorer areas—not because the poor don’t care about cleanliness, safety, and beauty, but because they can’t afford them as much as the rich.) The number-one aim of environmental protection, then, should be human thriving, though this doesn’t mean jettisoning or even ignoring the health and well-being of the rest of creation. Those matters, too, can and should be pursued.
Another idea the Cornwall Alliance weaves into environmental protection is the economic reality that life is full of tradeoffs. Hence, for example the proper answer to the questions, “How clean is clean enough?” or “How safe is safe enough?” or “How beautiful is beautiful enough?” is not “As clean or as safe or as beautiful as possible,” but “As clean, safe, or beautiful as we can make it before the cost of making it cleaner, safer, or more beautiful exceeds the value of the added cleanliness, safety, or beauty.” (If you doubt this, just ask yourself: Why don’t you spend all your time sanitizing your house? Clearly, because the cost would exceed the benefits. Could it be cleaner? Yes. Should it be? Not if making it so costs more than the benefits.)
It’s not that no other living things matter, but that human beings—alone created in the image of God—are the most important, and that their God-given vocation to subdue and rule nature (Genesis 1:28) is going to be practiced one way or the other, for good or for ill. We should want to practice that rule—what the Bible calls dominion—for good, not ill.
Granted that a clean, healthful, and beautiful environment is a costly good, and that wealthier people can afford it more than poorer people, it becomes clear that economic development.