On Early Protestantism and the Adopting Act

Michael Lynch agreesĀ with Guy Waters and believes a presbytery may forbid a minister from teaching any exception he may have to the church’s confession. Lynch argues that this is consistent with the approach of early Protestantism. He’s right on the merits but wrong on the details. Yes, the early Reformers did not allow ministers to teach contrary to the position of the church, even if the minister personally disagreed. But this is because the early Reformers did not ordain ministers who personally disagreed. Lynch makes reference to the positions of the Church of England in 1571 and the Synod of Dort, held in 1618-1619. But ministers in the Reformed tradition were only allowed to begin taking exceptions to the church’s confessions after the New England Adopting Act of 1729.

So it wasn’t that presbyteries were forbidding the teaching of exceptions, but that exceptions weren’t allowed. I believe Lynch is right that personal belief was subordinated to the teaching of the church, but this was because the expectation was that ministers would agree, in all points, with the church’s confession. The ordination process and vows in Scotland after the Westminster Assembly in 1645 did not leave room for disagreement with the church’s position. Lynch’s position, like Waters’, fails to address the relationship between exceptions and ordination vows. If a presbytery grants an exception, then the minister is vowing subscription to the confession, exceptions excluded. If the presbytery doesn’t want him teaching anything contrary to the church’s confession, then it shouldn’t grant exceptions.