More than Innovation
by Rob Weingartner
This is a week in which we focus our prayers on the Presbyterian family. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly is meeting in Portland, OR, and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church General Assembly is meeting in Northville, Michigan. I hope that you will join with us in praying for the commissioners at each of the assemblies, praying that they will make decisions that will build up the church and strengthen these denominations for God’s mission.
General Assemblies are not perfect. Dating back to 1788, historic principles of Presbyterian church order remind us that “no Church judicatory ought to pretend to make laws to bind the conscience in virtue of their own authority; and that all their decisions should be founded upon the revealed will of God. Now though it will easily be admitted that all synods and councils may err.…” The commissioners who meet will do their best work when they rely upon “the revealed will of God.”
With all the changes that we face as American Presbyterians – the decline of the mainline church in the West, the marginalization of religious voices in public discourse, increasing interaction with people of other religions, just to name a few of the changes – two unhelpful tendencies often appear. The first is to disengage, hunker down, and ignore what is going on around us. But to do so is to cut ourselves off from the world for which Christ died and into which he sends us as his witnesses. A second tendency is to innovate like crazy, opening ourselves up to most anything out of a desire to stay relevant and connected. You know the catch phrase: “the church reformed and always reforming.“
But reformed and always reforming does not mean anything goes. Whether it is a General Assembly voting on issues that face the church or a follower of Christ seeking how to adapt to the changing world around her, we do well to remember that the historic affirmation Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda secundum verbum Dei, that is, “The church reformed, always to be reformed according to the Word of God,” sees reformation less as a matter of innovation and more as an opportunity for obedience.
So please pray for brothers and sisters in Christ who have gathered in Portland and in Northville; pray that in this age so given over to assertions of the self that they will yield to the purposes of the One who made us, redeemed us and sustains us.