And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”
That is the closing of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s ‘I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day’. Below is a recording of Sandra McCraken’s ‘We Will Feast in the House of Zion’, recording at her congregation, Covenant Presbyterian Church in Nashville. God have mercy.
I made a change to the site last week, something I’ve put off for six (has it really been that long?!) years. I added a plugin so that all the Bible verses listed on the site can be hovered over and have the passage made visible. Alan Jacobs has pointed out that an important principle of blogging is making the blog as easy to read and use as possible, and this addition was clearly something that would assist in that.
Why did I hold off for so long? Partially because I didn’t want to commit to a specific translation on here, and had some hesitations about the English Standard Version, the translation I ended up using.
The ESV is a fine translation, but it makes some egregious errors in places and the instincts it follows to get there are bad. Now, I have no problem using the ESV or preaching from it…
This was originally posted in February, 2022 but I edited and wanted to re-up the essay.
Starting from the position that Jesus here, in what is often called the Great Commission, appoints every individual Christian to go and share the gospel as the central mandate of the church and Christian life ignores Matthew on his own terms. The 11 apostles are specifically identified as the ones who received this command from Jesus; the question is, What does that commission have to do with the church today? What does it mean to be a Great Commission church?
We see two things are given here. The first is the authority that Christ has received over all heaven and earth. The second is the command given by Jesus to disciple all the nations. The command to disciple is linked to the authority given to Christ. Because Jesus has received authority, he is giving the task of discipleship. The task given and those who received the task is intertwined with the nature of the authority Christ received….
Below is a report I wrote in 2021 assessing my denomination, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, remaining a member of the global ecumenical body the World Communion of Reformed Churches. I wrote this as a member of the EPC’s committee on theology to assist our committee on Fraternal Relations to think through that membership in light of the EPC’s revised endorsement policy. At the 2022 General Assembly, the committee on Fraternal Relations was instructed (at their request) to formally evaluate the EPC’s membership in the WCRC and to bring a recommendation for action to the 2023 GA. While the official recommendation has not yet been made public, the expectation is that it will encourage us to end our membership in the WCRC. The WCRC is more aligned with mainline and liberal churches in North America and Europe (such as the PCUSA) than evangelical churches, and the North American and European contingents dominate the ethos and meaningful leadership of the WCRC. This is the real reason the EPC would consider leaving: the WCRC is not a good fit for missional partnership.
I believe the EPC should remain a member of the WCRC, though only if we’re willing to actually engage it. There is a significant shift happening on a global level in the church (e.g. the changes in the Anglican Communion and among the Methodists) where the leadership is moving towards evangelical churches in the majority world. I think the EPC could stand to benefit from being part of global council of churches committed to the Reformed tradition, especially as things are changing. So below is a lightly edited version of the report I submitted in July 2021.
In 2011 the EPC instructed the Fraternal Relations Committee to evaluate all of our fraternal partnerships. This included the WCRC. At the time, part of the concern over the WCRC was our sharing a membership with the PC(USA), which had just revised its ordination vows to accommodate homosexual relationships. The FRC’s report, adopted by the GA in 2012, said this about the WCRC…