This blog represents the thoughts of the author. While they may reflect the theological position of The Renewal Fellowship, they should not be seen as an official statement.
Like many of you, I am tired. I’m tired of the negativity, the toxic spin on the Gospel, the lack of Holy Spirit submission in so-called Christian ministry, the butting of heads. I yearn to rediscover what it is to be the church. It’s been so long.
So I’m not going to dwell on the conclusion in the “Report of the Special Committee Regarding Implications of Option B” at 2019 General Assembly” which began: “At times of great stress it seems our differences are insurmountable. In truth we differ theologically on many things … the virgin birth, the resurrection …” Stop. Really? The virgin birth. The resurrection. Either they happened as stated or they didn’t.
I’m not going to dwell on the anthropocentric worship at General Assembly – centred on human struggle, the quest for social justice and focused on an agenda for change – when true worship is about giving glory to God (who is the same yesterday, today and always) submitting to the Spirit of Christ. It’s about God, not us.
I’m not going to dwell on the fact that gifted, Spirit-led, Christ-centred people who are eager to grow and learn are seriously considering leaving their PCC congregations in the belief that we are on a trajectory to apostasy.
I’m not going to dwell on the plight of ministers and elders who are torn between planning their exit from the PCC in search of a denomination of kindred souls who are focused on Christ (rather than ourselves) and their call to “stay and pray” and remain as light in a spiritually dark place.
No, I’m going to move on.
I am going to spend some serious time this summer dwelling on the fact that the church is alive.
On July 22, I joined 30 other teaching and ruling elders in one hour of powerful worship in a Toronto-area Presbyterian church. It was Monday midday manna, food for the weary soul, surrounded by sisters and brothers in Christ who have pledged to the same ordination vows and actually want to uphold them. It was followed by three hours of sharing – hopes and dreams, fears and challenges, great uncertainties – as our presbyteries are faced with an enormous decision over the remits. Our time included laughter and joy, and anxiety and tears. It was a rich experience.
The week before, all 12 members of the Renewal board, along with the executive director and administrative assistant, gathered for our annual two-day retreat. It was a similar time of sharing and growth. The Holy Spirit was alive and working.
A few weeks earlier, I sat in the boardroom of another Toronto-area church with a dozen other ministers. We represented virtually all corners of our cultural diversity in the PCC. We shared our hopes and fears. We agreed to work together.
Several times a week, I hear talk of gatherings planned for the West Coast, Atlantic Canada, and Montreal – all centred on the need for those who reject the idea that the Gospel is about human fulfillment, to work together on holy synergy to defeat the remits. And if the remits are approved by General Assembly in 2020, to look ahead to new life elsewhere, or retrenching where we are – if we are allowed to do so.
I’m also going to dwell on the fact that the world of beautiful orthodoxy in the PCC is a rich cultural medley. We are the true biblical rainbow: African, Arabic, Francophone, Hungarian, Filipino, Chinese, Korean, First Nation, Taiwanese, and English. And in that beautiful chorus are thriving congregations which are centred on the unchanging Gospel truth that God wants us to submit to Him completely, that Christ will walk with us, and that the Holy Spirit will empower us and provide. They are inspired by the fact that God is willing and able through His power working within us, to do more than we can imagine or do for ourselves.
I’m going to dwell on the fact that congregations whose first language is not English – which are almost exclusively traditional – are growing exponentially. Over the last 20 years, The Ghanaian Presbyterian Church of Toronto and Chapel Place (Arabic/English) have grown to become the largest congregations in their presbyteries.
I’m going to dwell on the fact that some of these vibrant congregations have already come out with clear statements opposed to the remits. Chapel Place has posted a powerful defence of the faith on its home page. It ends with these words: “It is time to be united in prayer and fasting. May God keep us all in His perfect will and guide us to the right steps that honour His name.”
As we approach decision time in our presbyteries over the next few months, may we be united in prayer — fasting also, if that’s your call. Renewal Fellowship is turning up the prayer volume to 11. We have some prayer groups out there, but not enough. If you are hearing God’s holy call to prayer, get in touch with me and we will work together to set something up in your area.
Stay tuned, for the best is yet to come.
Andy, your title is awesome. It suggests refreshing hope! But where are scriptures to complete the thought? Such as:
1. “[God.] your dwelling place is secure, your nest is set in a rock;” Numbers 24: 21
2. “Surely [God’s] goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23: 6
Clearly, these scriptures are not about institutional organizations, including those labeled “The Church”.
I suggest that besetting discouragement and fatigue is not caused by perceived opponents. We become our own enemy by allowing our thoughts to dwell primarily on institutional and human matters. That becomes our internal dwelling place; it’s where our thoughts are camping out. That’s our functional residence, even though, doctrinally, we believe otherwise.
As long as our internal “dwelling place” is dislocated, we’re defeated, regardless of the church organization we connect with. In this regard, personal repentance is a need among conservatives as much as anyone. I’m referring to a switched “dwelling place” for one’s focus, thoughts, dreams, and priorities. It’s a change in the direction we face – to the place we belong… forever.
Only then can we truthfully and joyfully finish your title: “My dwelling place shall be ___”
And only then can we think biblically, pray with the Spirit, and be an authentic witness – anywhere.
I’m sure that you’d agree.