Saturday, June 26, 2010

Marginalization and The Christ Party in Corinth (or of the PCA GA)

You know Corinth. It was a very messy church. It reminds us that the church has always had BIG problems. One of the problems was factions, each of whom claimed to follow a man: the Cephas party, the Paul party, the Apollos party (he was such a splendid orator!). And then there was the "Christ" party. I don't know, but I am willing to bet they were the most annoying of all. Kind of like the Church of Christ, who says on the radio here, "Are you tired of man-made creeds? Do you want a church that just follows the Bible? Yes, we're the New Testament church." Every church claims to follow the Bible, which is why we need creeds --but I digress.

Anyway, I stand on the cusp of our annual denominational bacchanal, the General Assembly. And, being of a sociological bent, I always find what people say both regarding and during GA interesting, for it is human nature on display. It is not always what is intended that is most interesting, but the subtext of words that I find interesting. Each of us wants to think that our own motives are pure (the purest!), our own positions are most consistent and well-reasoned, and therefore the other guy stinks.

Perhaps that is even true of me as I write this blog.

What so frustrates me about the PCA, other than our overweening pride, is just the way we marginalize those who disagree with us. If you are a member of the PCA, go and watch this video here. Tell me if you catch him marginalizing those with whom he disagrees. Here's a hint; it's about @ 1:30.

Note well, I do not think President Chapell INTENDS to marginalize. He simply assumes certain things, and his assumptions sneak into his choice of words.

Another example would be found here, paragraph 3. Those who think we need a new strategic plan genuinely believe, as Pastor Robertson does, that it is a needed next step in denominational development. I disagree, and that disagreement is fine. At least it is to me. According to Pastor Robertson, it is not. He writes, " Some are threatened by it as they are by anything new, but over all it is something we must adopt if we will continue to be a leading denomination for biblically faithful churches." To be against the plan, you see, is to be " anything new," (and yes, I've written George about this).

Other examples can be found across the blogosphere. Conservatives in the PCA fit Jim Hunter's definition of disaffected groups, but those who devised the plan, are spirit-led and prayerful ( I have no doubt the planners are prayerful and spirit-led, but could this not be equally true of those who dissent? Why must we marginalize?

So, what's the problem? I want to note that my problem is not with the "hungry progressives" because they are progressive. Though my own convictions fall on the conservative side, I do not think that everyone must agree with me. What I detest is marginalizing someone for dissenting: the "I count, you don't count" statement. I would hasten to add that conservatives can be just as guilty of this. It is just that the conservatives are not in power.

The powers that be are presenting a plan that will "unify," but in the process, it becomes apparent that by "unity" they mean "uniformity," or, perhaps, "leaving behind those who disagree." Suppression of dissent is, to my mind, a mark of insecurity.

Even if you're not PCA, and have no idea about the issues, it makes an important point. We each want to cast ourselves as the "Christ" party --above the fray, looking down at those insular, short-sighted, fractious nincompoops who don't understand how to behave in a gospel way. We, the enlightened, are above all this, and if others could just see it our way, they would understand. We are, after all, good men, entrusted with positions of leadership.

As I often point out, whether one is a good man or not is important, but not determinative. I have no doubt that there are many good men with whom I disagree. Being good (and truly there is none good but God, I know a bit of my own heart) and being right are not the same thing. I can be wrong; they can be wrong.

All of this is why my main fear for the PCA is not liberalism or even cultural capitulation. My main fear is that we are a proud lot, and I put myself and my conservative brothers right in the midst of that indictment.

At the same time, I am grateful for our leaders, past and present, who are anything but proud. I had the honor of working for Cortez Cooper, and of counting him as a friend and mentor. Corty was one of the most prominent and visible men in the PCA in his day. To this day, at almost 80, though he is not as visible at the denominational level, he continues to pastor. He has done interim work at churches of over 2000, and of churches of 20. He has labored in places as diverse as Greenwood, MS, St. Louis and Narrows, VA. He goes where he is called, preaches to presidents, stock car drivers, sturdy mountain folk and catfish farmers. He is a humble, godly man. I pray that many of our more prominent men might manifest the spirit of a Corty Cooper, and not think of themselves more highly than they ought.

Me included.

1 comment:

  1. Good post.

    This was my biggest complaint to the PPLN and their attempt to create an explicit, permanent inner circle within the PCA. To their credit, they heard these complaints from many and disbanded after a couple of years (that is, as an official group anyway).

    I have seen how many who think they "get" grace better than others are often the least gracious and humble. Paul shows more patience than this, cf. Romans 14, Philippians 3:15, etc.

    And note that when the inclusion party justly and soundly won the debate at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, they still include compromise language (e.g. asking Gentiles to refrain from eating meat sacrificed to idols, contra Romans 14), so that the Pharisee party is not totally humiliated.

    See you soon,
    Chris Hutchinson