Had a great time with the folks at Springs Reformed Church in Colorado Springs, at the “Recovering the Reformation” conference. Attendance was good and reception of the talks and sermons was positive and enthusiastic. Thanks to everyone at Springs Reformed Church, to those who prepared food, to Shawn, to Pastor David Reese, to the session, and to John Terrell who was there representing WSC. While in the Springs, however, I was reminded that we might not be ready to “move on” yet.
As wonderful and warm as the reception was it became clear from conversations I had with some of those attending the conference that reminded me that the Federal Vision controversy is not dead. This is no reflection on the good folks at the Springs Reformed Church. Pastor Reese and the session there are among those who confronted the Shepherdite error and the FV early, clearly, and confessionally. Nevertheless, despite the clear and unequivocal rejection of the FV by most of NAPARC it continues to affect some Reformed congregations.
Pastors are busy people. In the nature of the life of the minister life often moves from one “issue” (problem) to the next crisis. In between meetings and counseling sessions the pastor has to try to squeeze in a little study time. When issues crop up (like weeds) in the presbytery or classis the temptation is to say, “let the other fellows deal with it. My hands are full.” As tempting and realistic as this response may be the problem is that every other minister may be thinking the very same thing! In such a case the FV problem may go untreated. If left to fester it may spread and soon you may find it in your own congregation.
Then there are cases where entire majorities in presbyteries either do not understand the issues presented by the FV or do not care or who think that “tolerance,” diversity,” or multiple perspectives require or permit them to “live and let live” regarding the FV. In these cases, the question, in part, is this: what are the duties of the minister relative to the broader (in Dutch Reformed circles) or “higher” (in presbyterian circles) assemblies? What are the obligations of the minister’s ordination vows?
When a minister is ordained he takes a vow not only to uphold the Word of God as confessed by the churches but also to defend the same. Yes, there are issues on which we ought to be tolerant because they do not affect the substance of what it is to be Reformed, but the nature of the gospel and the nature of faith in the act of justification, a redefinition of election, justification, and the sacraments these things are surely of the essence (substance) of what it is to be Reformed. These things are of the essence of our faith and confession. When we ministers took vows before God and the church we promised fidelity to these things and to see to the order and faith of the churches. In other words, with all the pressing daily business of ministry, seeing to the truth of the gospel in the broader or higher assemblies is also a part of our vocation.
This isn’t a purely theoretical issue. Our congregations are full of people who depending upon us to defend and protect them, to tell them the truth, to love them, in short, to serve them as shepherds. God give us grace to fulfill our vocation in the Kingdom of God.