I was preparing to preach on Luke's account of Martha entertaining Christ (Luke 10:38-42) last week, and, as usual, I read Calvin on the passage first.
I'm fascinated when reading Calvin's commentaries by the incredible variety of passages which stirred up controversy in his day. You wouldn't think the story of Jesus commending Mary and chastising Martha would have any relevance to the debates of the Reformation, but it did.
Why? Because, as Calvin explains, the Roman church had distorted Jesus' commendation of Mary sitting at His feet into a wholesale commendation of the "contemplative life."
Usually we regard practitioners of the contemplative life as the monks and nuns, hermits and cloistered religious of Roman Catholicism. And Calvin does condemn monks in his exposition of this passage, but he adds another, rather unexpected, profession to his list of those who have perverted this passage...
A friend writes requesting "feedback regarding the following statement:"
The New Testament is clear that an elder is not to run a one-man show in a local church setting. There is to be a plurality of elders present (numbers will vary with the size of a church), who exercise their God-given authority in a group capacity, not an individual one (emphasis in original). Therefore, when we speak of submitting to church leaders, what we have in mind is submission to the authority that elders possess in their group capacity.
Does an elder have any authority as an individual apart from the session?
Usually discussions of this sort come out of a particular context, and context is everything when it comes to power struggles. So I think asking others their opinion concerning this statement is not likely to be helpful without particular knowledge of the situation this question arises from.
However, one elder (whether teaching or ruling) does have the authority of his office and that authority is not simply where the other elders agree beforehand with the particularities of his exercise of his authority. Similarly, the elders have authority as a smaller group even when the full congregation doesn't vote on their actions beforehand, to confirm them. (In some aspects of church discipline, for instance, the elders are acting as representatives of the full church [Matt. 18 "Tell it to the church...."], but that doesn't make them unable to act as a smaller group because those they represent haven't spoken to them prior to their action about the specific case before them.)
Insecure and/or egotistical elders would consider any pastor faithfully exercising his duties to be "running a one-man show" when in fact he may simply be exercising the natural authority that accrues to the feeding (teaching) elder because of the affection in which the congregation holds him.
For this reason I do not hold to a two-office view, and think those who do almost always have an axe to grind...
There are pastors who love the seat of preeminence and jealously guard it against any encroachment by the ruling elders--particularly in corporate worship; the platform's his stage and he shares it with no one.
However, ruling elders too love the seat of preeminence and this is the greater problem within evangelicalism.
For every church where one man, usually the pastor/teaching elder, largely bears the leadership of worship and the week-in, week-out preaching responsibility, there are fifty churches where a parade of men and women cross the stage, week after week, sharing the limelight and preening for the audience.
My father was fond of saying "Criticism is the manure in which Christian leaders grow best," but not all criticism is helpful. Pastors receive a disproportionate percentage of the destructive criticism that floats around churches, often allowing their work to be decimated by the submission syndrome that is the fruit of years of being brow-beaten by elders (or deacons) whose mothers never needed to worry about their self-esteem. The illegitimate use of a tool, though, does not invalidate its legitimate use.
Recently, my dear brother in Christ and fellow Presbyteryian Church in America pastor, Phil Henry, received a request from an elder in another congregation asking for advice concerning rules to follow in providing his pastor constructive criticism.
If, as I believe, there are three marks of the Church--the true preaching of the Word of God, the right administration of the Sacraments, and the right (biblical) practice of church discipline--then the following news piece, Woman Can Sue Pastor for Revealing Infidelity, is just one more in a long line of warnings that biblical churches will suffer growing persecution for their faith. This is, of course, to make no judgment about the likely outcome of this case as it goes to trial, nor to assume that this particular pastor and church are following biblical procedures in their practice of this discipline.
But the case is one of many harbingers of things to come and the wicked will not treat lightly those who model here on earth the coming Last Judgment of the Holy God when, eternally, there will be the separation of the sheep and the goats:
But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. (Matthew 25:31-33)
Eight and a half years ago, when our congregation was founded, we took Ken Sande's bylaws and adopted them for our own...
by David and Tim Bayly on September 16, 2004 - 6:19am
No time like the present to send out another of Kierkegaard's gems:
Imagine a fortress, absolutely impregnable, provisioned for an eternity.
There comes a new commandant. He conceives that it might be a good idea to build bridges over the moats--so as to be able to attack the besiegers. Charmant! He transforms the fortress into a countryseat, and naturally the enemy takes it.
So it is with Christianity. They changed the method--and naturally the world conquered.
-Soren Kierkegaard, Attack Upon "Christendom," (Princeton University Press, 1944), p. 138.
by David and Tim Bayly on September 27, 2004 - 12:33pm
Page one of the New York Time's "Sunday Styles" section carried a piece by Alex Williams on the upcoming presidential debates titled, "George 'The Squinter' Bush vs. John 'The Grinner' Kerry--A Showdown of Style!" Here are some excerpts:
...the candidate who voters perceive as the winner will probably be chosen not on the substance of what he says, but on the cut of his jib. The subtle style cues... account for as much as 75 percent of a viewer's judgement... the mano a mano is about style--those nonverbal messages that speak to hearts, not heads.
...in some sense it comes down to which man you would want in your living room for the next four years.
...even one deftly delivered witticism, as long as it seems spontaneous (like Reagan's "There you go again" in 1980) could be the deciding factor.
Each candidate must channel his gifts as an onstage communicator--that is, a thespian--said Susan Batson, a longtime acting coach. (Kerry's) greatest opportunity... is to laugh more, to radiate a vulnerability with his eyes, a sense of compassion and wisdom, as opposed to single-mindedness and aggression. He can be "sort of a combination of Henry Fonda and James Stewart," she said.
Note there's nothing here of substance. The entire discussion centers around the candidate's ability to cop a posture or to be an actor, to put his audience at ease. Even taking into account that the piece appeared in the "Sunday Style," rather than the more weighty "Week in Review" section, it's clear the debates are expected to be the pivotal event of this election. And Williams points out that campaign experts expect "hearts, not heads" to prevail in the conclusions voters draw from the debates.
So what does this say about our view of leadership? If our president must put us at ease as we sit with him in our living room, could Abraham Lincoln or Winston Churchill carry an election today? No, it's doubtful either Lincoln or Churchill "radiated vulnerability with their eyes."
But to get really serious, what does this say about pastoral leadership today? If presidents are picked with little concern for substance, but an overwhelming emphasis on "subtle cues," "non-verbal messages," deftly delivered witticisms" that "seem spontaneous," and their ability to "radiate vulnerability," no wonder our seminaries are turning out men who have few leadership skills.
If "single-mindedness" and "aggression" are a liability to John Kerry, one wonders which church in which suburb and denomination would issue a call to Jesus or the Apostle Paul? And anyone who responds saying that a different philosophy of leadership prevails among biblical churches should pull his head out of the sand.
by David and Tim Bayly on April 28, 2005 - 10:11am
(Note from Tim Bayly: Often I get calls from pastors and elders asking if I can give them help working through the issue of what work is and is not appropriate for men and women in their congregation. Five years ago Church of the Good Shepherd adopted such a statement drafted for us by one of our pastors at the time, Rev. David Wegener (a fellow member of Ohio Valley Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America).
Such a call came again this morning from a fellow teaching elder of the PCA, so I'm taking this opportunity to post the statement here for the good of the church at large. If our good readers know of another church statement that would be useful, also, and that honors the unequivocal teaching of Scripture that is patriarchy, please feel free to post that statement, or a link to it, in the comments below. Thank you.)
Church of the Good Shepherd's Understanding of the Biblical Roles of Men and Woman in Congregational Life Adopted by the Session (Board of Elders) of Church of the Good Shepherd November, 1999
1. All men and women are equally created in the image of God and therefore are equally worthy of our honor and respect...
If a particular church's congregational meetings are pitched battles, the moderator of those meetings might take a lesson from the Army's Civil Disturbances Operations Manual, excerpts of which were reprinted in Sunday's New York Times. Here, for instance, soldiers are given basic instruction concerning the nature of unruly crowds. (Please excuse my own parenthetical comments.)
Crowd Development: Crowds are a gathering of a multitude of individuals and small groups that have temporarily assembled in the same place. (I've always said small groups are dangerous.)
Gatherings: The assembly process of a gathering refers to the movement of people from different locations to a common location within a given period. Gatherings are often assisted by ...yelling catchy slogans and cheers that everyone can easily pick up and join in on. (Yeah, like "I'm a charter member!" and "Who made you boss over me?" and "What's it to ya, fatso!")
Crowd Building: Crowds are not made of isolated individuals but of a minority of individuals and a majority of small groups. (Yup, like I was saying about small groups...) Groups and individuals in the crowd are not unanimous in their motivation.
Crowd Dynamics: Crowds provide individuals with a sense of anonymity ...giving a sense of invulnerability. Crowds provide individuals with the idea that their moral responsibilities have shifted from themselves ...to the crowd as a whole. (And from the crowd as a whole to vanishing entirely.)
Emotional contagion is the most dramatic psychological factor of crowd dynamics. It provides the crowd with a temporary bond of psychological unity. ("No one loved our pastor or desired his success more than I did when he first came, but after the way he treated my wife, I simply cannot support his ministry any longer. It was one of the hardest things I've ever endured, seeing my wife in tears after his pastoral visit. And when I spoke to the elders, they said there was nothing they could do about it. It saddens me to say it, but for the good of my wife and our church, Pastor MacDonald must be removed.")
Crowd Types--Agitated Crowds: Individuals with strong emotional feelings within a crowd can quickly spread ..., causing changes in the overall demeanor of the crowd. (Paul warn't so dumb: "Hey Pharisees, I'm on trial here because I believe in the resurrection of the dead!")
Lighten up, guys. I'm laughing.
Just one serious comment: the danger of emotional contagion is another reason congregational meetings ought to follow a standard of parliamentary procedure such as Robert's Rules of Order.
by David and Tim Bayly on September 27, 2005 - 8:31am
It's almost trite to say Americans are individualists. The impact this individualism has on church life is toxic. If you won't take offense at my saying so (fat chance, huh?), my greatest concern with the baptist movement is the degree to which it appears to endorse this unscriptural aspect of American ideology. But more on that later.
American individualism is an equal opportunity employer and presbyterians are susceptible particularly, I think, in the matter of church membership. Frequently I've heard and read my fellow presbyterians calling into question the biblical basis of church membership. And while allowing that we don't find in the New Testament any record that the church maintained a sessional record book containing names of members and the date of their reception into the particular church, I believe that the attack upon church membership actually goes much deeper than an attack upon writing things down.
At it's heart, the attack on (or feeble support for) church membership is an acceding to another major theme of American culture. We despise authority. And in a culture that despises authority, who in his right mind would enjoy exercising it? Hence the "servant leadership" mantra which so often is a simple cover for no leadership at all...
by David and Tim Bayly on October 21, 2005 - 8:51am
Our good readers will recognize this theme, but one of the most significant challenges to Christian orthodoxy is the tendency for the men who are her pastors to be women. An old French saying has it about right: "There are three genders; men, women, and clergymen." So given the problem of churches led by effeminate (remember that archaism?) men, it's no surprise churches are filled with women.
Christine Rosen has a piece titled, "Church Ladies: Women dominate America's pews. Is that a problem?" in today's Wall Street Journal pointing out the growing proportion of women going into the pastorate and the decline of men in the church pews. Although I don't agree with some of the author's conclusions, the problem she's pointing out is real and we have a duty to consider it and seek ways to reverse it.
Last week our small group met here in our home, and since several of our newest members are music grad students, we discussed how it came about that in our Lord's Day worship Church of the Good Shepherd moved from the exclusive use of a piano to a combined piano and full band.
by David and Tim Bayly on November 4, 2005 - 7:46am
This is more sad than funny, but here's the text of a postcard just received in the mail by members of a PCA mega-church that's rather cool-dudish. Apparently the elders are making an effort to reconnect with the flock under their care but hope to do it as efficiently as possible--postcards or E-mails work best for them:
Grace and Peace,
The elders of (Such and Such Presbyterian Church) are making an effort to connect with all of the households in our body. If you are not presently walking with any of our elders, I would be happy to serve you in any way I can. I would love to hear from you and also find out what small group you might be most involved with at this point--whether it is a Sunday School class, a Home Fellowship Group, Men's or Women's Ministries, or serving in one of our other ministries or classes. I generally communicate best through email, but would love to talk with you by phone, or meet for coffee.
by David and Tim Bayly on November 9, 2005 - 9:25am
Turns out Karl Rove, Joseph Wilson, and his wife, Valerie Plame, all attend the same church. On Larry King Live, Wilson had this to say:
Now, I'm prepared to think the worst of Karl Rove ever since he told Chris Matthews that my wife was fair game. And that's tough for me because Karl and I go to the same church. We go to different services, we go to the same church. I know his wife's name because we get a church newsletter. So, why he wouldn't know my wife's name, perhaps he doesn't read the newsletter.
So what church is it and are that church's pastors and elders the only ones in this country still ignorant of this blot on the name of Christ? Have they done anything to heal this division within the Body? Their responsibility is clear:
Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints? (1Cor. 6:1)
(Jesus said) "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. (Matthew 5:22-24)
by David and Tim Bayly on February 1, 2006 - 7:05am
Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come. (Hebrews 13:12-14)
Saturday, I wrote about my gratitude for the unity and peace of our own congregation, Church of the Good Shepherd. Since then, I've been thinking about how our unity came to be and I realize how central the battles a number of us went through in another prior congregation were for the development of this unity. In our prior congregation, the central issue was the refusal of a small group of influential leaders to allow any exercise of correction or rebuke by the congregation's elders. They considered anathema even the most private forms of church discipline.
It was a painful ordeal, but the Holy Spirit used it to produce the unity and peace of Church of the Good Shepherd we presently enjoy--including, now, ten years of loving and peaceful congregational meetings.
This comes to mind as I read of attacks other pastors are suffering, particularly our dear brother, Pastor Doug Wilson. David and I are not surprised Doug is under attack. He's a strong leader with biblical convictions, and he's at his greatest precision and boldness in preaching those convictions where the Evil One has focused his attack and there's a breach in the wall. But instead of other church officers giving thanks to God for raising up such a warrior, Pastor Wilson is the object of much envy and resentment. Like all of us, Pastor Wilson is a sinner in both his conduct and doctrine and we are confident he appreciates the licks he takes for his sin.
But taking his licks from fellow presbyters, his children, or his wife is a far cry from having any Tom, Dick, or Harry set himself up as a judge over every word of his pastoral conversations and session meetings extending years into the past and posting those judgments on this gabfest and gossip-pool known as the internet. Need I point out that Doug Wilson is not the only one suffering such persecution?
In both the church and secular world, leaders have lost the manly traits and pander to their constituency. Church officers are given to mollycoddling, equivocation, and self-doubt. One of my favorite cartoons shows a consultant meeting with a pastor in his office. The wall holds a graph of the congregation's attendance trends and they're down, down, down. Pointing to the graph the consultant says, "I'm no expert in these things, but I think it might help if you didn't end every sermon with, 'But then again what do I know, anyhow?'"
Pastor Wilson preaches, teaches, and leads as if he has received the good deposit and intends, come hell or high water, to pass it on to reliable men...
by David and Tim Bayly on February 9, 2006 - 8:20am
In our church we've had a discussion, recently, concerning the nature of the office of deacon. Granted, we're a presbyterian church, meaning we have a church government structure that emphasizes the plurality of the eldership ('presbuteron' being Greek for 'elder').
And to some degree, what I've written below reflects what is, arguably, a rather typical Presbyterian Church in America polity, in which some distinction is made between what the Westminster divines refer to as "ministers of the Word" and "other church governors." (For more on the historical argument within the reformed world over the nature and number of church offices, I highly recommend Iain Murray's essay, "The Problem of the Eldership and Its Wider Implications." My own convictions closely follow Murray's on this, as on almost everything.)
But to return to the office of deacon, the question we found ourselves dealing with was whether or not it is proper to speak of the deacons as having "pastoral" responsibilities. And to the end of providing some perspective on that question, I wrote the following which I trust may benefit other men outside our own congregation.
Deacons and Pastoral Care
First, what's the meaning and origin of the word 'pastor'? Interestingly, from the etymology that follows, it could well be argued that the deacons have more of a pastoral duty than other officers since their work has so directly to do with food, or 'pasture' from which 'pastor' originates:
1242, "shepherd," also "spiritual guide, shepherd of souls" (1377), from O.Fr. pastur "herdsman, shepherd" (12c.), from L. pastorem (nom. pastor) "shepherd," from pastus, pp. of pascere "to lead to pasture, graze," from PIE base *pa- "to tend, keep, pasture, feed, guard" (see food). The spiritual sense was in Church L. (cf. Gregory's Cura Pastoralis).
But of course, there is food that perishes and food that doesn't perish. And whereas pastors feed the food that doesn't perish in their preaching and teaching duties, deacons are to keep to the distribution of food that perishes, and that's it, right?
Well, it's obvious deacons almost never do that today so we must be dealing with something a little more complicated here...
by David and Tim Bayly on February 16, 2006 - 11:13am
Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.
And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:26-32)
From the beginning, Christian faith is controversial. Not in a tight and rigid way, but in a way that demonstrates God's sovereignty and the loving affirmation of His sovereignty by those who are born again by His Spirit. Repentance is not simply the negative duty every Christian must walk through at the beginning of his spiritual life, after the completion of which he may breath a sigh of relief thinking "Thank God that's over."
Rather, as the first of Luther's ninety-five theses reminds us, "the life of a Christian is a life of repentance." It never ends. We must repent each year, each day, each hour. All Jesus' teaching, mirrored by the Apostles throughout the New Testament, emphasizes that the Christian life is a battle against principalities and powers, and that no growth, no sanctification will come to those who choose a life of peace. The life of repentance means we are to "take up our cross," to "endure hardship," to "fill up the cup of Christ's sufferings," to "wrestle," to "contend," to "guard, to "crucify our flesh," and always to keep in mind that "a man's enemies will be the members of his own family."
Few of us doubt the existence of this battle on a personal level since believers are well aware of the "law of sin and death" that wages war within us. With considerable relief (and even joy), we join in the prayer of confession near the beginning of our corporate worship services knowing that here, at least, among the people of God at worship we may rest secure that we are known as we really are, not as Robert Schuller or Dr. Laura thinks we should be.
But when faced with this battle on a corporate level, many of us revolt against it because here Christian faith is in direct opposition to the last value, the last moral or absolute left in these United States--namely, "Can't we all just get along?" We don't want to be in conflict with unbelievers because such conflict seems to be counterproductive to evangelism.
And beyond our squeamishness at the hatred the world showers upon Jesus Christ, His Truth, and His followers, conflict within the Church is the most grievous of all. After all, Jesus said that our love for one another will be the basis of unbelievers' judgments concerning the truth of our claim that we are Christ's disciples. "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples..." How can we honor Christ Who prayed that we might be one when we are fighting with each other?
This is where we must toughen up and think with our Bibles rather than our cultural prejudices and emotions. Scripture teaches that we'll always have the poor with us. Scripture also teaches we'll always have false shepherds and false doctrine with us and it is those false shepherds promoting false doctrines that are the instruments of schism and division with the Body of Christ. How is the peace and unity of that Body to be restored?
By exposing both false shepherds and their false doctrine. By fighting against the wolves who seek to devour the flock...
I've been asked by a nephew-in-law I respect to soften my response to a comment on this blog challenging Calvin's interpretation of the sin of Onan.
I admit my response may seem harsh on first reading. But here's the rub, and the reason I decline to take back my words.
Authority exists even when it is denied. It exists even when it does not press itself upon its subjects. Paul, in his letter to Philemon urging manumission of the slave, Onesimus, executes an intricate dance of authority. He does not emphasize his apostolic credentials at the outset as he does in most of his epistles. In fact, he never mentions his apostolic office at all. Yet he says that he possesses sufficient "confidence in Christ" to order Philemon to do "what is proper" in regard to Onesimus. And he suggests that he has the right to appeal to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus "since I am such a person as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus."
Though Paul never unholsters his biggest cannon--apostolic authority--he calls for obedience from Philemon on the basis of:
1. His (Paul's) confidence in Christ (which should be sufficient in itself to cause Philemon to obey)
2. The thing asked being proper (it's right, in accord with Christ's teaching, Scriptural)
3. The duty of love (Philemon's relationship of love to Paul), which includes:
a. His standing as Paul (to whom Philemon owes his own life)
b. His age (and, implicitly, service to the church)
c. His suffering for the cause of Christ
Paul emphasizes relational rather than official authority in his letter to Philemon. Purely on the basis of relational authority he tells Philemon he is "confident of your obedience."
But how can there be authority on the internet, a world devoid of relational context?
[NOTE FROM TIM: This article was posted on Baylyblog back in 2006. Church of the Good Shepherd is now called Clearnote Church, Bloomington.]
The 2006 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) met a few weeks ago and approved a measure that clears the way for practicing homosexuals to be ordained and installed as pastors and elders of the church. Many news organizations covered this event, but no one commented on the most newsworthy aspect of this radical step--namely, that the measure was itself the product of a Task Force that included a number of evangelicals, and that the evangelicals were instrumental in selling this proposal to the church. How does it happen that evangelicals promote the normalization of sodomy and advocate a plan that clears the way for sodomites to shepherd God's flock? There's a lesson here--a very important lesson--particularly for evangelicals who think all that's important is that people "love Jesus" and have prayed the sinner's prayer. Please read on...
Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it. For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds. (2 John 1:5-11)
The late Elizabeth Achtemeier was adjunct professor of Bible and homiletics at Union Theological Seminary in Virginia and served on the board of Presbyterians Pro-Life, a reform organization within the mainline Presbyterian Church (USA). Particularly because of her courageous opposition to some of the most poisonous aspects of feminism within mainline Presbyterianism, it came as no surprise that Elizabeth was appointed to the PC(USA) General Assembly's blue ribbon Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity and Purity as a representative of those on the evangelical end of the denominational spectrum.
When Elizabeth died in the middle of the Task Force's work, her son Mark Achtemeier, a PC(USA) seminary professor teaching systematic theology at Dubuque Theological Seminary, was appointed to take her place and he served on the Task Force through the completion of its work this past year. The Task Force brought a number of recommendations to the (national) General Assembly this year, all of which were carefully crafted to end the divisive battle over the normalization of sodomy.
Up until this time, those seeking to normalize sodomy and to ordain sodomites to the offices of pastor and elder had to contend with PC(USA) denominational standards that forbade such ordinations. If churches defied these standards, they could be brought up on charges, although through the years a variety of technicalities were used to escape accountability. True, the denomination's definitive guidance was a roadblock to those seeking to normalize sodomy, but the practice across the country was a far cry from that definitive guidance. Lesbians and gays were active at all levels of the church as members, leaders, and officers, and there was little accountability for those who flaunted their rebellion against God's Word.
Yet even as they rebelled against Scripture's doctrine of sexuality and got away with only a few slaps on the wrist, the sodomy lobby worked feverishly to change church law so that sexual perversion would no longer be formally condemned and informally overlooked, but positively celebrated. Nothing less would do. Thus for years every level of church government found its time consumed by the battle, and people grew so weary of the controversy that the PUP Task Force was appointed and given a mandate to find a way out of the quagmire.
This year's national General Assembly was D-day, and the Task Force released its recommendations a few months before the Assembly so there would be plenty of time for commissioners to weigh its recommendations before the assembly convened. When those with biblical commitments saw the report and read through its recommendations, they were sickened to see that the Task Force had thrown in the towel and called it quits. Assuming the General Assembly adopted the Task Force recommendations (which it now has), they knew the definitive guidance would become obsolete. Rather, local rule would prevail. True, in theory this meant conservative churches and presbyteries could enforce the definitive guidance if they so chose, but only within their own jurisdiction. Meanwhile, liberal churches and presbyteries would be cut loose to do as they thought best--including ordaining and installing self-affirming active sodomites as pastors and elders. Really, the recommendations amounted to a ceding of the historic Presbyterian principle of connectionalism to the all-American ecclesiastical default of congregationalism.
But as shocking as the parameters of the surrender were, the shock turned into disbelief when the names of those who had signed on to the surrender included a number of evangelicals, including Elizabeth Achtemeier's son, Mark. People were flabbergasted. How could Elizabeth's son betray Scripture and the souls under his protection in this way? Did he care nothing for those tempted by same-sex intimacy? Was he really prepared to join the long line of self-proclaimed prophets who cry "Peace, peace" where there is no peace? As the smoke cleared, there was no denying that Mark Achtemeier had been co-opted by the sodomites...
The past few years there has been a growing division, bordering on fragmentation, of what used to be called the worldwide Anglican communion. The focal point of this division became the consecration in November 2003 of the Right Rev. Vicky Imogene "Gene" Robinson as the ninth bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire within the Anglican communion's American branch, the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (ECUSA).
Back in 1986 Robinson had divorced his wife and since 1989 has been living in a sodomitic relationship with New Hampshire state employee, Mark Andrews. His sexuality is not private, but very much a point of pride, and he seeks to lead others into the same shame he and Mr. Andrews bear--all this in the name of Jesus Christ and His Church.
A firestorm ensued and has continued to this day. For the most part, the breakdown has fallen along the lines of the northern and southern hemispheres, with the southern hemisphere--primarily Africa and the Diocese of Sydney in Australia--calling her northern sisters to repentance. Predictably, the vast majority of Anglicans today are members of southern hemisphere Anglican churches, so the Brits and Americans can't brush off the prophetic calls of Africa as they might otherwise be inclined.
As the ECUSA has hardened its position the past couple of years, steps have been taken by some churches and larger Anglican communions in the U.S. to sever fellowship with the ECUSA, transferring to various African communions where they would be in submission to church fathers of the African Anglican church.
This past week, a document surfaced that had been kept under wraps for the past couple of years...
by David and Tim Bayly on January 29, 2007 - 12:30pm
We all know what it is to play warfare in mock battle, that it means to imitate everything just as it is in war. The troops are drawn up, they march into the field, seriousness is evident in every eye, but also courage and enthusiasm, the orderlies rush back and forth intrepidly, the commander's voice is heard, the signals, the battle cry, the volley of musketry, the thunder of cannon--everything exactly as it is in war, lacking only one thing...the danger.
So also it is with playing Christianity, that is, imitating Christian preaching in such a way that everything, absolutely everything is included in as deceptive a form as possible--only one thing is lacking...the danger
-Soren Kierkegaard, Attack Upon "Christendom" 1854-1855, translated with an introduction by Walter Lowrie, (Boston: The Beacon Press, 1956) p. 258.
Addendum: Wednesday evening, March 8, Bryan Chapell and I met together to discuss this recent series of posts. After our discussion, here are several clarifications and corrections that I believe need to be made. I have made them here, at the top of the post, because it would be difficult to weave them into the post itself in a way that would call attention to them sufficiently as corrections.
First, it is unclear that the paragraph beginning, "The whole things is a tempest in a teacup" is not my judgment, but rather a hypothetical construct of what the average member of the PCA might have thought to himself.
Second, I refer to "the Covenant/Redeemer/Reformed mantra, "A woman may do anything a non-ordained man may do." Bryan told me that this is not his position and that he speaks against this position as an adequate representation of the Biblical perspective. This is an encouragement to me.
Third, Bryan rehearsed his actions in response to the chapel time in which Diane Langberg spoke, and clearly my own summary of those actions is not accurate. Here is an accurate record of what happened:
When General Assembly convened that summer and the time on the agenda arrived when President Chapell was asked to give an answer for what had happened on his watch, President Chapell told the assembly:
That Diane Langberg had been told ahead of time what the standards were for her speaking during the chapel time;
That after she spoke at Covenant Seminary, Diane Langberg received a letter reminding her of the standards, and expressing concern that those standards had not been followed; and
That the administration of Covenant Seminary met with students to explain the situation and to assure the seminary community that what had happened was not according to the standards they were committed to upholding.
Since I implied Covenant Seminary was not upholding the PCA position in its response to Diane Langberg's chapel time, I regret this inaccuracy and now believe Covenant's response was good.
Some wonder how I could accuse prominent teaching elders of the Presbyterian Church in America and the institutions they lead of sympathizing with the egalitarian, feminist cause? Don't I know the PCA's reason to exist is tied at the heart to opposing these ideologies? When a group of mainline PC(USA) churches left their own denomination for a more conservative one back in 1983, wasn't it necessary for them to found the new denomination, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, precisely because the PCA wasn't willing to compromise on women in office? And isn't the same reason behind our present failure to bring into the PCA many churches currently departing the PC(USA) train wreck: that these churches and their pastors are determined to enter a denomination that allows their women to serve as pastors, elders, and deacons?
So, as a denomination we've paid our dues. We've seen the cost of our convictions, and haven't wavered. What on earth am I thinking, then, to accuse our seminary and its president of being allies of the egalitarian, feminist ideology?
It's a fair question, although I have no confidence I'll be able to answer it to the satisfaction of more than a few because the heart of the answer is tied up, not with specific arguments about Scripture's teaching about sexuality, but rather its teaching concerning the nature of pastoral ministry.
Several years ago, Covenant Theological Seminary had a woman preach in chapel. When it was reported within our denomination, it scandalized a number of presbyters across the country...
…I disagree with the post’s saying that discipling, shepherding, and counselling requires authority. To guide someone along the right path requires only care by the guide and willingness by the straying person to listen and try to stay on the path. One Christian can do that for another without any authority. He can do that without any title, in fact, which goes back to the question of why the guides should be called Deacons instead of, say Guides, or Helpers.…
Yes, “one Christian can do (these things) for another without any authority.” But we must consider the context of the Kellers’ use of these words ‘discipling’, ‘shepherding’, and ‘counselling.’
The context for the Kellers’ paper and their congregation’s actions is twofold: first, the Manhattan cultural context in which feminism long has ceased being argued, and is simply understood—think Columbia University, Manhattan, Woody Allen, the New York Times, etc.; and second, a denomination whose identity and confession is inseparable from its polity which, among other things, is defined by authoritative church officers (yes, deacons exercise authority) who, submitting to the Word of God, are men only.
So yes, in another institution, place, or denomination we might talk about “guides” who come alongside fellow travelers and make astute observations (or even recommendations) that their companions are free to take or leave.
This is the typical understanding of church office in evangelical churches and denominations today, and is not an uncommon understanding of church office even within the Presbyterian Church in America. Yet Scripture and PCA constitutional documents make clear...
by David and Tim Bayly on February 22, 2008 - 8:16am
(Tim) In the discussion of the common practice of women serving alongside men as deacons within the PCA, one man comments, “I’m trying to figure out under what circumstances I’d need to think about submitting to a deacon.”
This is the nub of the issue and the fact that it’s so rarely discussed indicates either ignorance concerning the teaching of Scripture about the order of creation of man and woman, or a deliberate clouding of the issue by those opposed to that order. No doubt both are present across our denomination.
Authority isn’t the heart of the office as it is with elders, but to say the office of deacon is not one of authority, but service, is not to say the sex of the one being promised submission is immaterial to congregational vows.
If those pushing women deacons in the PCA were simply to call them “deaconesses” and make it clear that the implementation of the calling would be hedged about with clear lines of demarcation between deaconesses and deacons--all centered on the issue of reserving to men only the exercise of substantive authority over men--many of us would make common cause with them. The fact that this is precisely not what’s being practiced or argued for is most telling. Is this clear?
by David and Tim Bayly on February 28, 2008 - 10:17am
I’ve been deeply troubled for many years as I’ve noted how pastors, elders, and Christian health care professionals don’t bother to educate, let alone speak prophetically to the church about the attacks upon the Image of God multiplying before our eyes. Most of the attacks occur at life’s vulnerable margins—the unborn, the newborn, the feeble, the comatose, the elderly—and they happen in the millions each year. The souls that die are those souls Christians should be most concerned for because, in our time, these are the widows, orphans, and sojourners in distress.
But certain forces conspire to silence our consciences, keeping us blind, passive, and unfaithful to the watchman’s duties as these attacks grow. What are those forces?
Well of course, materialism, love of comfort, greed, selfishness, fear, unbelief, hatred of the gift of discernment, and more. But, for many of us, the critical factor is our own direct and indirect involvement in bloodshed.
Directly, we ourselves have fornicated and, to escape the mess, allowed our girlfriend to hire Planned Parenthood to murder our child. We ourselves have turned away from a pregnancy at an inconvenient age—say forty or forty-five—and secretly driven to the city to have our little one murdered. We have allowed our obstetrician to talk us into killing our unborn child after an ultrasound revealed certain serious fetal anomalies of a genetic origin. We have refused to allow our loved ones to be fed by tube, depriving them of the means of the sustaining of life when death was neither imminent nor inevitable. We have institutionalized our fathers and mothers, declaring our work for the Lord more important than the Fifth Commandment; and, shortly after institutionalization, we were greatly relieved that death came quickly.
Indirectly, we have been silent in the face of changes in medical standards and technology that assault life. We have prescribed and fulfilled prescriptions for drugs we knew worked in a statistically significant number of cases (or normally) as abortifacients. On our visits to the hospital or nursing home, we have turned a blind eye to the pneumonia that is not being treated with an antibiotic...
Yet most I thank thee, not for any deed, But for the sense thy living self did breed That Fatherhood is at the world’s great core.
-George MacDonald (1)
(Tim) Some years back when I first entered the pastorate, I sat in a small-town café listening to the son of a prominent church member summarize his relationship with his father: “Nothing I did ever pleased him.” In his late twenties, the son was a neer-do-well; divorced and not able to hold down a job, his children were shunted back and forth, week-by-week, from one broken home to another.
He came to church only on Christmas and Easter so our breakfast appointment was about the only chance I had. His eyes revealed the last flicker of what once had been the bright flame of father-hunger—that hunger God places in the heart of every son. None of my seminary professors had mentioned this hunger to me and I was at a loss as to how to cure his soul. Not knowing how to respond to this great sadness, I was silent...
(Tim) Here's a response to this comment left by a reader: "It seems that many in the complementarian community spend almost all their energy on the negative side of the equation."
Feminism is toxic and its relentless attack on Scripture and the Church doesn't give faithful shepherds a lot of opportunity to take their preaching and teaching somewhere else, avoiding this breach. We must focus our defensive work where the good deposit is under attack. In response to people complaining of the frequency of his preaching against fornication, Spurgeon said once that he'd stop preaching against it when people stopped doing it.
Pastors today aren't preaching or teaching against this heresy. And when we do, we do it half-heartedly making it clear to our flock and other shepherds that we wish the need for battle would go away because we're men of peace and love and grace, and we really don't enjoy beating up on women.
Now I may not have captured our critic's sentiments, personally, but from many years experience I know I've hit the mainstream. So think where we'd be if Calvin or Luther or Knox of any of hundreds of other shepherds had tried the positive approach in the darkness of Rome's shadow across the Middle Ages? What if Calvin had written his Institutes without the central thrust of opposing and exposing Rome? Would anyone read them?
The real issue isn't that many within the complementarian camp spend almost all our energy on the negative side of this equation, but that we live in an evil day much like the day of the Apostle Paul and Athanasius and Peter Waldo and John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards and John Newton and J. Gresham Machen and Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Francis Schaeffer, and that our work must follow theirs in being faithful with God's "yes" and His "no." And if our only "no" is said in opposing those who don't say "yes" often enough to suit our tastes, we're not really saying "no," are we?
…Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed… For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him. (Genesis 18:18,19)
(Tim) When the Lord entered into a covenant with Abraham, He was pleased for that covenant’s fulfillment to be dependent upon Abraham “command(ing) his children and his household… to keep the way of the Lord….” Still today, it pleases God to use means to accomplish his will, and he has declared the Church should be built up, instructed, and guarded by men—not angels. Where those men are missing or their work is soft and effeminate, the Church has suffered the removal of her vital manhood; she has been emasculated. (n. 1)
When we speak of the emasculation of the church, though, we are not saying she has been robbed of her Bridegroom nor that her adoptive Father has cast her out of his household. Christ is “faithful over God’s house as a son” (Hebrews 3:6 RSV), (n. 2) and we have his promise that the gates of hell shall not prevail against her. So then, the Church can never be emasculated in any definitive sense, even though her officers may be characterized by a womanly softness and sentimentality.
Such, though, is the church of our time. About twenty years ago I heard Elisabeth Elliot Gren say, “The problem with the church today is that it’s filled with emasculated men who don’t know how to say ‘no’ to a woman.” At the time, I was floored by Elliot’s audacity, but now I realize she was guilty of understatement. Christian men today have a problem saying “no” to almost anyone—not just women. Preachers, elders, and Sunday school teachers place an overwhelming emphasis on the positive and have an almost insurmountable aversion to the negative.
In the mid-eighties, my father was asked to represent the pro-life side at a campus-wide dialogue on abortion held at the Stupe, Wheaton College’s student union. He began his presentation with the statement, “I am not here to represent the pro-life, but the anti-abortion side of this issue..."
(Tim) Within the church today, why are we so reticent to recognize sexual distinctions that go beyond God's command or certain "roles" the result of His command? Pastors and elders can bring ourselves to swallow the very specific biblical prohibitions against women serving as elders, and the equally specific commands for wives to submit to their husbands--even going so far as to defend those prohibitions with some small talk of the nature of sexuality (although we always call it "gender" rather than "sex" because gender is a social construct while sex is a hard biological reality); but still, despite this supposed submission to the biblical command, we show a complete absence of any biblical theology of sexuality.
Why? Why are we so chip-on-the-shoulderish when it comes to a discussion of the nature of man and woman beyond the obvious body parts (which are undeniable and very useful for advertising), and certain small aspects of authority in the church and home? Why do we read sexuality in such a mind-bogglingly narrow way? We claim to love diversity, right? So why such a penurious, such a tight-waddish reading of this one so basic to our lives?
A central part of understanding our culture is seeing the hatred for distinctions at its core, and few distinctions are more despised than this one present in the womb from our earliest days--male and female.
Typical believers in Jesus Christ will think we've seen the goodness of sex when we've decided to marry a woman rather than a man...
(Tim: This is written by Steve Moxey, one of our third year pastors college students.) Here's an exchange from NPR's Fresh Air hosted by Terry Gross. Her guest was Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop of the worldwide Anglican denomination.
Terry Gross: "Five Anglican Arch-Bishops from Africa and South America said that they would boycott the Lambeth Conference because they couldn't share communion with Evangelical Bishops who had consecrated you. So that even though you're not going to officially be there, Bishops who consecrated you are going to be there. So these Anglican Bishops don't want to come and so they're holding an alternate international gathering in June in the Middle East. How do feel knowing that the Anglican Church worldwide…is on the verge of schism…and it's largely about homosexuality and you are the figure at the center signifying the whole controversy?" Bishop Gene Robinson: "You know, we don't get to choose our family. You have brothers and sisters, some of whom you adore and some of whom you don't get along with. But you don't get to choose who your brothers and sisters are. And, in fact, by virtue of your baptism we are brought into the same family. And so, it seems to me that we cannot write one another off no matter how much we might disagree...
(Tim) For the record, I'm disappointed Rocky Mountain Presbytery's City Church in Denver was allowed to take the PCA's ball and go home without being disciplined for her rejection of biblical sexuality and polity. A plant of the Presbyterian Church in America, she (and particularly her pastor) should have heard a clear "No" from her presbytery, somewhere or sometime. Instead, she saw her presbytery enmeshed in a bunch of split votes that demonstrated tepid leadership, at best; and trendy postmodern commitments to biblical sexuality, at worst.
What would a pastor or session have to do in order to receive a clear disciplinary "No" from a presbytery of the PCA today in this matter of sexuality?
I can hear some responding, "No one's ordained a woman elder or pastor, yet."
If we think it's possible to avoid declaring the boundaries of biblical sexuality at every point leading up to the eldership, but then to hold firm there, our problems are much deeper than the biblical doctrine of sexuality...
Register now for the Christ Church Ministerial Conference on Father Hunger October 16 & 17 in Houston, Texas. The conference is aimed at pastors, elders, deacons, and those aspiring to the work of these offices. David and I attended the conference last year and greatly appreciated it. We hope we'll see you there. (From time to time, I'll put this ad back up on the top of the page, so please look below to see if there are other more recent posts. Thanks.)
(David) Advocates of an inclusive diaconate in the PCA show greatest disdain for primary sources not in their treatment of the works of men but in their handling of the Word of God. If it's embarrassing to misread Warfield, it's shameful to permit a tendentious view to warp our teaching of God's Word.
Where is this failure most evident in the arguments of advocates of mixed diaconates?
First, in claiming the office of "deaconess" for Phoebe while generally denying that office to the seven selected to serve the needs of widows in Acts 6, advocates of a mixed diaconate display a troublingly selective approach to what constitutes the office of deacon in Scripture.
(Tim) Divorce is one of the most difficult questions pastors and elders face as we shepherd God's flock. Providing spiritual counsel in cases where husband and wife don't get along is relatively easy. Much harder are those cases in which husbands or wives physically abuse their spouses, fathers or stepfathers sexually abuse their children, husbands or wives commit serious sexual sin (what Jesus refers to as "porneia" in the exception clause of Matthew 19), or husbands demand their wives and children deny the faith. Each of these matters requires the most careful study of Scripture, prayer, and pastoral counsel. Sometimes the result is a session (board of elders) recommendation of divorce.
In the twelve years since Church of the Good Shepherd was founded, our session has made such a recommendation two or three times, each by unanimous consent. Sometimes it's hard to say whether the believing or unbelieving spouse is the one taking the initiative in the divorce. This is why it's impossible to say precisely how many times we've counseled divorce. We don't make the decision--the innocent party does. Yet neither do we abandon that innocent party to their own counsel. Our Westminster Standards are correct..
(Tim) Within a number of reformed denominations holding to the Westminster Standards, we have men who seem not to have a heart for opposing the heresy of feminism. To work to reform this reality, we would do well to ask several questions on the floor of presbytery of candidates for ordination. Here are a couple that might serve the purpose.
First, we might ask, "Do you believe it's a faithful summary of the Biblical doctrine of sexuality to say, as many have said publicly in our denomination, that 'a woman may do anything a non-ordained man may do?'"
If the man responds, "Yes" or "Maybe," it's clear he's either woefully uninformed or opposed to the Biblical doctrine of sexuality and has no heart for opposing this heresy even though he likely knows he can't advocate women elders or senior pastors. Certainly no prior father of the Church would recognize this as a faithful summary of Scripture's teaching. They would be left scratching their heads.
If he says "No, I don't think that's a good summary of Scripture's doctrine" we ought to be encouraged, but still, we're not yet finished.
The first follow-up question could be: "Will you require the bride to repeat, as part of her marriage vow, the historic Biblical promise to "obey" her husband in those marriage ceremonies at which you officiate?"
If he says "No," our work is cut out for us. If he says "Yes," we're still not finished...
Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss. -1Thessalonians 5:26
(Tim) Not to express the slightest opinion on any part of the Brett Favre debacle... And yet, pastors and elders would do well to learn from this statement at the end of the NYTimes' article on Favre's welcome to NYC by Mayor Bloomberg, and his statement about how he plans to win the support of the men who are his new Jets teammates:
I want these guys to know me, know what I’m about. I’m
not going to call team meetings. I’m not going to rah-rah. I’m going to
do what I have to do, pat guys on the back, hug them, pick them up off
the ground and hope they do the same for me and hope that’s enough to
by David and Tim Bayly on August 18, 2008 - 12:10pm
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. (John 10:1)
(Tim) Today, when a church member is lovingly corrected or rebuked, it's normal for him to respond by rejecting the discipline. When the older women encourage a younger woman to stop gossiping, often the younger woman will lie about what the older women said; or worse, accuse them of evil motives in saying it. If youth leaders ask to meet with a father and mother about their teenage son's obsceneties or physical aggression toward other boys in the youth group, the Dad makes excuses for his son, then goes to the elders with the report that the youth leader is lying about his son.
If initial steps to correct a member are stiff-armed, more formal steps will usually fail, also. When the elders ask the member to meet with them, he'll refuse; and if they ask a second time, he'll refuse again and likely leave the church.
But leaving, such souls aren't done with the church--not by a long shot. They have to justify their departure so they slander the church they've left behind. The lies may attack the elders, older women, deacons, pastors, or youth leaders. They may even attack the church's children.
Regardless of where the attack's aimed, it's here the danger occurs for the leaders of the new congregation. These bright new faces will arrive in our congregation with subtle (or not-so-subtle) demands that we listen...
by David and Tim Bayly on August 23, 2008 - 1:22pm
All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (Hebrews 12:11) (Tim) Last week, I received this e-mail from a former member of the church where it originated. I've kept the church's name hidden, but think the firm godly response of the pastors and elders to this situation is a model for all those who serve as officers in Christ's Church. Be encouraged, brothers. And pray for the brothers and sisters of this congregation--particularly those who have fallen into sin.
by David and Tim Bayly on September 27, 2008 - 12:33pm
(Tim) Few things have been responsible for more souls rejecting Church of the Good Shepherd than our fencing of the Lord's Table according to the requirement of the Presbyterian Church in America's Book of Church Order, that those who come to eat and drink must have placed themselves under the authority of the elders of our church or be a member of some other Bible-believing, evangelical church.
Typically, we surround those words with some explanation of the words' meaning and intent, focusing particularly on the fact that we cannot claim faith in Jesus Christ while rejecting the authority of Christ's Church and her officers which He Himself has commanded us to honor and obey. Whew, do the sparks fly!
Travelling around the country, I've been discouraged to observe how few PCA pastors submit to this Book of Church Order requirement. It's such a good and necessary rule, perfectly suited to drive a dagger into the heart of the cheap grace and hatred of authority at the heart of the reformed church today. So why aren't shepherds faithful to fence the Lord's Table in any other than a pro forma way?
Well, surely the rule has escaped the notice of some. Not every PCA pastor spends his life looking through the Book of Church Order for more rules to obey. Such a life takes a special kind of guy.
And yet, there are many of us who know about this rule and still don't obey it. Why not?
Well, as I said at the beginning, few things have been responsible for more souls rejecting Church of the Good Shepherd than our fencing of the Lord's Table according to this requirement. In other words, most of us don't do it because we don't want to discipline the flock to love and obey the Church and her officers. In a day when Rob Bell is hissing hatred of authority to everyone who will listen, it takes faith and faithfulness to teach, let alone require, submission to authority.
A few years ago, I was part of a lengthy e-mail discussion within our presbytery over whether or not this requirement was biblical. And as the discussion proceeded, the issue went beyond how the Lord's Table should be fenced, to the discussion of church membership itself--is it even biblical?
This afternoon, I was reading Calvin's sermon on 1Timothy 1:1,2 and came across a section that makes our duty clear in this regard. If pastors and elders read this and still allow men and women to come to our Lord's Table while rejecting the Church, her officers and authority...
by David and Tim Bayly on October 22, 2008 - 4:10pm
(Tim) Pastor Tim Keller recently did a piece promoting woman deacons. It ran in the Presbyterian Church in America's byFaith e-monthly. Section by section, from time to time, I'm critiquing parts of Pastor Keller's article. This is the third installment. (Here are installments one, two, three, four, five, and six.) Readers will note I've not cut any of Pastor Keller's text. His words are indented, mine are not.
The Case for Commissioning (Not Ordaining) Deaconesses
by Tim Keller, published in byFaith, Issue Number 21, August 2008
Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City has since its inception commissioned (but not ordained) deaconesses working alongside male deacons in diaconal work. Why do we do this?
The first note struck is misleading. Reading Pastor Keller's words, we're led to believe that Redeemer is living well within the bounds of PCA polity, making a clear distinction between the men and women who serve in diaconal ministry. This is, of course, the one thing necessary in order to submit to Scripture's doctrine of sexuality--that male and female be clearly delineated in anything approximating authoritative function or office. So, according to Pastor Keller's words, here, he's led his congregation to make a distinction between the men and women serving as deacons. The women are commissioned, the men ordained, right?
That's what I thought when I first read the above. Yet in the back of my mind, a little bell was ringing, causing me to wonder if there wasn't some confusion, here...
by David and Tim Bayly on November 13, 2008 - 4:41pm
(Tim) The Presbyterian Church in America's magazine, byFaith, recently published an article by Tim Keller arguing that we should change our Book of Church Order to allow woman deacons. We have had a series of posts critiquing Tim Keller's article and this is the fifth in that series. (Here are installments one, two, three, four, five, and six.)
First, this excerpt from Keller's article which we'll see is in need of correction:
A Personal History In 1982 the Reformed Presbyterian Church Evangelical Synod (RPCES) joined with the PCA shortly after its 154th Synod had narrowly defeated a motion to ordain women as deacons. But the 156th Synod added, “We also remind churches that they are free to elect Spirit-filled women as deaconesses and set them apart by prayer... We affirm the right of a local church to have a separate body of unordained women who may be called deaconesses.” The 1982 PCA General Assembly did not consider the actions of the RPCES Synods to be binding on us, but rather “valuable and significant material which will be used in the perfecting of the Church,” and therefore to be granted respect.
In this first paragraph of his "Personal History," Tim Keller tells us the 154th (1976) RPCES Synod "narrowly defeated a motion to ordain women as deacons."
In fact, the request made by the Study Committee on Role of Women in the Church, that the Synod change its polity to "ordain woman as deacons," received the following response...
by David and Tim Bayly on November 20, 2008 - 1:33pm
(Tim) Adding to the historical record, here's another article on deaconesses by Princeton theologian, B. B. Warfield. As an explanation for the way we label such things, please note that not all who argue for deaconesses agree with the thrust of Tim Keller and his followers who are seeking to have the PCA change her polity to allow men and women to serve indiscriminately together in the diaconate.
B. B. Warfield here describes the work of deaconesses. And the one thing we can say about deaconesses is that they are not deacons. When Warfield asks "What is a deaconess?" he doesn't respond, "A deaconess is a deacon."
Unordained men and women serving in the same diaconate, on the same deacon board of a church with no distinction in their duties or authority, are what is being sought today by men like Pastor Keller. This is precisely what is contrary to the historic practice of the Church.
For this reason, when we refer to the change in polity sought by Keller and his followers, we call it "woman deacons." Woman deacons are not deaconesses.
If you finish this article more confused than ever, you'll understand the title of this post. Warfield seems to have slipped into an uncharacteristic obtuseness...
by David and Tim Bayly on December 2, 2008 - 4:48am
(Tim) The past couple of weeks, I've spent a great deal of time tracking down the historical record concerning the actions of the 154th (1976) Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church Evangelical Synod (RPCES) related to woman deacons.
Tim Keller wrote an article, recently, for the PCA's byFaith magazine arguing that the PCA should allow woman deacons because, just before joining with the PCA in 1982, the 154th (1976) Synod of the RPCES, "narrowly defeated a motion to ordain women as deacons."
Keller suggests the trajectory of the RPCES immediately prior to her union with the PCA was towards lifting her own restrictions against woman deacons, and therefore this same trajectory should lead the PCA now, thirty years later, to change our polity. Here's how Keller puts it:
A Personal History: In 1982 the Reformed
Presbyterian Church Evangelical Synod (RPCES) joined with the PCA
shortly after its 154th Synod had narrowly defeated a motion to ordain
women as deacons. ...The
1982 PCA General Assembly did not consider the actions of the RPCES
Synods to be binding on us, but rather “valuable and significant
material which will be used in the perfecting of the Church,” and
therefore to be granted respect.
For Keller's argument to work, though, his version of history has to be right.
The RPCES did not vote whether to have woman deacons at its 154th (1976) Synod. And when the vote was taken, woman deacons were not "narrowly defeated." The vote was decisive...
by David and Tim Bayly on December 9, 2008 - 10:49am
(Tim) When I was a child, Dad subscribed to Time for a time. Then came the day they ran an ad for men's cologne pictured in a bottle shaped like a phallus. Dad wrote them strenuously objecting to such degradation.
Since then, our family hasn't been big on news magazines. The only one that's ever entered our home is World, to which we have a lifetime gift subscription kindness of its founder. Truth be told, I'm not at all fond of Time and Newsweek (especially), and Newsweek's current issue provides a good example of my reasons.
The cover story is a puff piece on sodomite marriage. The really disgusting thing, though, is that Newsweek's editors allowed their female (and yes, I believe sex matters here) religion editor, Lisa Miller, to play the schoolmarm to the nation on the true doctrine of Scripture concerning sodomy. The story's title tells it all: "Gay Marriage: Our mutual joy; Opponents of gay marriage often cite Scripture. But what the Bible teaches about love argues for the other side."
Yes, of course; Newsweek's religion editor is going to lecture us on the Bible's teaching on love. And I'm guessing she believes in the slaughter of little babies in their mother's womb, too, and could lecture us on Scripture's doctrine of love there, also. Our chattering class has Goebbels' principle down cold...
by David and Tim Bayly on December 29, 2008 - 8:25am
(Tim) Responding, I believe, to the inclination of pastors to avoid the biblical doctrine of election in their teaching and preaching work, Calvin points out that all Scripture is God-breathed, and therefore profitable. Those who avoid any doctrine Scripture reveals are denying the profitability of that doctrine for the souls under their care.
Brothers, think of the many doctrines we avoid. Do we really know better than the Spirit of God what is profitable to those whose watch-care has been entrusted to us? Are we wiser than God? Should each generation produce a Bible with the texts most suited to its day intact and all others excised?
But of course, the irony is that the doctrines we cut out today are precisely those must suited to the battle that rages around us. For twenty years, now, I've tried to get pastors to preach and teach on the biblical doctrine of sexuality--all to almost no avail. Too controverted. Too controversial. Too compromised in my personal life. Too cowardly.
Twelve years ago, I spoke with R. C. at a conference in Chicago. Lamenting the unwillingness of men to take a stand against neutered versions of Scripture, R.C. said something I've often thought of since...
by David and Tim Bayly on January 14, 2009 - 2:11pm
He who conceals hatred has lying lips, and he who spreads slander is a fool. (Proverbs 10:18)
(Tim) This afternoon, I was talking with a man who was describing how a young couple had been alienated from their church, in large part because of a bad report they heard from a couple who had left that church to escape the discipline of its elders. And yesterday, I heard a similar report from a couple who had been subjected to their church leadership repeating evil and malicious words against another church, while every indication was that their leaders had never spoken personally to those they were attacking. "Lying lips" and "he who spreads slander" are constants in pastoral ministry, and always have been. Thus the Apostle Paul writes:
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. (Ephesians 4:31)
Man leaves church angry and bitter at church's leadership for their correction or rebuke of him. He's accepted into another neighboring church without question. Yet he's not content to have left his former church. From bitterness, he slanders it to anyone who will listen--starting with his new pastor, church board, and members.
But maybe it's not slander at all, right? Churches do abuse people and you can't be too careful guarding against church popes and dictators who oppress the souls under their care. So how do you know when you're listening to slander and when the bad report is actually true?
A few simple tests will make things clear.
First, ask the person badmouthing their former church whether he has been formally disciplined by that church...
by David and Tim Bayly on January 26, 2009 - 6:43am
(Tim) Like it or not, to the American unbeliever today we are all "evangelicals." That is, we all believe in the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ, honor His Word, and call those lost and without hope in this world to repentance for their promotion and commitment to baby-killing, adultery, child molestation, sodomy, and greed. To them, we are not split into Reformed and Arminian. They can't distinguish between Reformed, Evangelical, and Emergent, let alone Barely-Reformed and Truly-Reformed.
So when Rick Warren prays, he prays for us. When Franklin Graham speaks, he speaks for us. When Tyndale House publishes, they publish for us.
Tragically, this means those who watch HBO's documentary, The Trials of Ted Haggard--or interviews Haggard and his family are doing for The Oprah Winfrey Show and Larry King Live--will believe they are peering through a periscope into our souls, our marriages, our families, our churches, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Filmed by Nancy Pelosi's daughter, Alexandra, this documentary is what has given rise to this latest shame of ours. Due to be aired by HBO this coming Thursday, January 29th, Haggard taking his story public and appealing for sympathy led to another tragic revelation.
by David and Tim Bayly on January 30, 2009 - 9:10am
(Tim) Before we get too far removed from the attack upon God's Word carried out by Micah serving as an advocate for self-affirming sodomites while claiming Scripture was the foundation of his advocacy, I'd like to direct our readers' attention to the work of Robert Gagnon as a resource against such men.
Prof. Gagnon's a mainliner and would not share the doctrinal commitments of most of us concerning Scripture, but no one has come close to doing the careful historical and exegetical work he's done exposing these men's lies. You might start with his web site, but if you're a pastor or church officer who believes in standing in the gap and sounding a clear note, sooner or later you'll want to buy and keep close at hand for reading and loan his definitive, The Bible and Homosexual Practice.
Professor Gagnon is a friend of David's and my cousin, John DeWalt. They both attend Pittsburgh's Bellefield Presbyterian Church.
by David and Tim Bayly on February 3, 2009 - 12:26pm
(Tim, w/thanks to David C.) From both outside and inside the
Roman Catholic church, we've watched the exposure of sodomite priests
across North America this past decade or so--priests who have raped
minor boys they vowed to protect as church fathers. We've read the
secular media's investigative reports. As a subscriber, I've also read
the most conservative publications of the Roman Catholic communion
respond to each revelation. Then too, I've followed the matter through
personal letters received from a friend who was a priest, but now is
doing prison time for crimes he claims he's innocent of.
by David and Tim Bayly on February 5, 2009 - 6:12am
I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. (John 10:11)
(Tim) One of the men just interviewed and accepted into ClearNote Pastors College for matriculation this coming September is a middle-aged recently-retired law enforcement officer whose gift is keeping the peace. He's trained men for SWAT team duties and has a deep understanding of the weaknesses and strengths of warriors. What will he add to CNPC's curriculum?
This morning, this brother sent me the poem below which has been widely circulated within the law enforcement community in recent years. As I read, I found myself thinking what an excellent commentary it is on Jesus' teaching in John 10 on hirelings, wolves, the flock, and the Good Shepherd.
Fellow pastors and elders: We're all happy to live in a nation that's never suffered any serious invasion by hostile forces, but we are silent when our President is attacked precisely for his vigilance in our behalf. We're all pleased as punch to live in the suburbs where we never hear the crackle of gunfire as we watch our male soaps of urban warfare, but we look askance at discussions of weapons, wondering what kind of monsters have a zeal for this or that brand of hand gun? We worship in Protestant churches holding to Protestant doctrine faithful to Scripture, but our skin crawls when our pastor warns us against heresy. Any heresy. Any heresy at all--but particularly Roman Catholicism.
In other words, we live in peace given to us by the Man of Blood; we live in the midst of a civil security given us by men of blood who laid down their lives for the sheep; but then we pull back in horror when one of them barks, kills a wolf, or comes to church with blood on his hands. "He's so dirty! He should be Baptist or Pentecostal."
by David and Tim Bayly on March 18, 2009 - 10:07am
A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work. (1 Timothy 5:9, 10)
(Tim, w/thanks to Kamilla) In her new book, Marriage, Mitres, and Being Myself, First Lady of Canterbury, Mrs. Rowan (Jane) Williams, speaks of the hardships of being married to a bishop. In a news piece announcing the book, the Telegraphquotes Mrs.Williams in ways that remind me a great deal of the wife of the new provost of David's and my alma mater, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary:
(Mrs.) Williams said clergy and their families have to endure "poor
boundaries" between their public and private lives, "laughable"
job descriptions and "few opportunities to congratulate oneself on a
job well done". She claimed the spouses of church leaders are expected to entertain guests as
well as raising children and following their own careers, and admitted
visitors to Lambeth Palace are sometimes "shocked" at how untidy
Mrs Williams ...is a mother-of-two and theologian as well as the wife of Dr
Rowan Williams... "Housework has never been very high on my list of priorities," Mrs
"The Church can be a thankless employer, with poor boundaries between
private and public space, vague practices about holidays and days off,
laughable job descriptions and few opportunities to congratulate oneself on
a job well done and completed."
Mrs Williams, 51, said many bishops' spouses feel "bitter resentment"
and "positively weighed" down by the expectations placed on them.
How David and I have been blessed by the wives God gave us! But also, by the wives of our fellow pastors and elders! Thank you Heavenly Father.
When Sydney Anglican, Phil Jensen, and his wife, Helen, were visiting with us some years ago, one of our conversations was about choosing staff members...
Question: What is the typical composition of a PCA presbytery?
Answer: Since I'm not the Stated Clerk of the denomination (who has all the stats in his office), I can't answer your question, other than by personal impressions gathered from conversations as well as attendance at both my own and other presbyteries' meetings. It would be my sense that the more southern and rural the presbyteries are, the greater the participation of ruling elders proportional to teaching elders (pastors). In the past week I've heard from one man down south that some of the southern presbyteries have nearly 50/50 teaching/ruling representation. But across the denomination, this is a constant integrity issue given our community's deep commitment to the parity of ruling and teaching elders. We work at it, trying various schedules and enticements to get more ruling elders to serve as commissioners, but little changes long-term. Why?
It would be impolitic to have a public discussion of this, I think, so I'll leave it for now.
Back to the larger issue...
Back to Metro NY Presbytery, though: their stats are exceptionally dismal. And, as I see it, what those stats reveal is part and parcel of Metro NY Presbytery's susceptibility to the sort of Biblical, theological, and polity error they as a presbytery have now adopted at their most recent March 13, 2009 Stated Meeting.
An explanation: in the past few weeks, the same twenty-one page document titled A Proposal to the ____ Presbytery Regarding Women in Diaconal Ministry was presented for adoption by Northern California, Metro New York, and Philadelphia Presbyteries. Adoption carried in Northern California and Metro New York Presbyteries, while Philadelphia took a...