It seems likely that women in the U.S. will soon be required to register for military conscription. Leaving aside the question of whether the draft is a just instrument altogether, the larger issue is how the American church will respond to this.
When the winds of this change began blowing in 2016, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod passed a resolution supporting those members who have “a religious and moral objection to women participating in the selective service system and being subject to a possible draft”. The LCMS followed up this resolution two years later with a theological report on women and military service that is excellent. It concluded that the, “cumulative weight of the Bible passages and principles discussed above can legitimately be read by Christians to the effect that it is not in keeping with God’s created design, intention and will for women to be employed in military combat or to be compelled to serve in the military in any capacity.” The report also includes sections on the conscience and practical considerations, and suggests that women registering for selective service as conscientious objectors, as currently allowed by U.S. law, is the wisest option for LCMS congregations…
Last week my denomination, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, held its 41st stated General Assembly in Memphis, Tennessee. This is the annual meeting and council (synod) of my church, and every pastor has a right to attend and every congregation may send elder representatives. Though there was plenty else going on at the GA meeting, below is a summary of the official actions taken by the assembly.
To amend the EPC’s constitution requires a majority vote of one assembly, a majority vote of a majority of presbyteries over the next year, and then a majority vote of the subsequent assembly.
We finalized an amendment to the vows and acts of ordination to clarify some differences between phrasing if the ordinand is a teaching elder (pastor), ruling elder, or deacon. We also amended the rules that govern our GA meetings to allow for virtual participation in case of a state of emergency. This change in rules was prompted by our experience with COVID, and not wanting to get caught flat footed again…
I have an article up at my denomination’s website, EPConnection, on adoptions to same-sex couples in light of Bethany Christian Services’ change in policy. Here’s an excerpt
Adoption is intended to be a means by which parentless, family-less children are joined to a family that can be the father and mother that their biological parents cannot. Adoption is to be a balm of healing to the injuries of sin. Children need parents, and parents are fathers and mothers. Other caregivers can be good and helpful, but the foster system with its inherent lack of stability also lacks the permanent family unit.
Do children need families? Yes. Do children need fathers and mothers? Yes. However, children adopted by a gay couple are not being protected from sinful distortions of marriage and family. Rather, they are placed into a sinful facsimile of them.
The article was written to explain to EPC people, and the broader public, why the EPC would withdraw our endorsement of BCS.
In its 1986 position paper on the Holy Spirit, the EPC affirms the gifts of the Holy Spirit as described in the New Testament as valid for the church today. The EPC is self-consciously charismatic, though expressly not Pentecostal. Along with the ordination of women, the gifts of the Holy Spirit is the other issue the EPC points to as a “non-essential” where there can be disagreement among its churches. Yet, even in the position paper there are limitations placed on what the EPC teaches to be valid expressions of spiritual gifts. It holds that the new birth of Christians and baptism of the Holy Spirit are the same thing (thus ruling out baptism of the Holy Spirit as a second work of grace) and that the manifestation of specific spiritual gifts, particularly the gift of tongues, is unnecessary for salvation. In short, there are boundaries on the view and practice of charismatic gifts in the EPC.
Beyond the explicit statements in the position paper, the Westminster Confession (WCF) and Catechisms also speak to the subject. While the modern charismatic movement has its origins in the early 20th century, the Reformers addressed many of the same topics as they encountered them in Roman Catholicism and the mystic evangelicalism of their day. Calvin’s Institutes famously begins by contrasting the false miracles of Rome with the sufficiency of scripture. The Westminster Standards have much to say on the subject of charismatic gifts, and though they are most compatible with a cessationist view on the miraculous gifts, there is a degree of freedom for charismatic expression. My intent is not to evaluate exegetical arguments or to provide historical criticism, but to examine the ways that the Westminster Standards bound the view and practice of charismatic gifts in the EPC…
My recent presbytery transferal exam included quite a bit of discussion on my opposition to the 1903 additions to the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) still held by the EPC, namely the chapters “The Holy Spirit” and “The Gospel of the Love of God and Missions.” Though I’ve written about the revisions to the Westminster Confession of Faith at length here, I thought it would be helpful to present a concise summary of how to understand these chapters and why I think they ought to be rejected, not merely on the basis of being superfluous, but for failing to meet biblical muster. I draw heavily on the 1936 analysis and critique from Ned Stonehouse and John Murray, as well as the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church’s 2014 report on the additional chapters, which I recommend people read if they want a fuller picture of the doctrines taught and neglected in the additional chapters.
In short historical review, in 1890 the PCUSA began the process of revising the WCF. This effort culminated in 1903 with several alterations, including the addition of the two chapters in question. The express purpose of these revisions was to soften the Reformed and Calvinistic theology of the WCF. Confessionalists, such as B. B. Warfield, Abraham Kuyper, and Geerhardus Vos opposed the changes. After the changes, Arminians stated that the WCF could now be read in a way that was compatible with their doctrine, and by 1906 the majority of the Cumberland Presbyterian church (Arminian in doctrine) had rejoined the PCUSA because of the doctrinal revisions. When the OPC formed in 1936, they rejected these additions as being compatible with the WCF’s doctrine, which was the course followed by the PCA at its founding in 1973. The ARP had added the revisions in 1959, but removed them in 2014 on similar grounds. During the EPC’s formative years in the early 1980s the new chapters were kept, but no discussion of their compatibility with the rest of the WCF ever occurred.
There are several ways of reading the new chapters in relation to the rest of the WCF and Catechisms…