Monday, June 08, 2009

Thoughts on GS Today

[A brief prefatory note. I was up until 3:40AM and awake an out of bed by 7:15AM so if there are typos, grammatical errors, or sentences that make no sense, it is the fatigue speaking as it is after 11PM of a very busy day.]

Today was an historic day in the RCA, at least it was the first step. What may you ask was this historic event? It was the passing of the recommendation to add the Belhar Confession as the RCA's fourth standard of unity.

I think my study of the Belhar started more or less several years back. I read through an early copy and found it difficult to understand, and the parts I did understand were troublesome. When I arrived, I was quite sure that while I supported what the Belhar called for as concepts, that at the same time I could not support it as a standard of the RCA. What I appreciated though, was what seemed like a much better translation of the Belhar that was distributed to delegates. I read through it several times, and although I still had difficulties with it, I was much happier about it should the vote be positive to add it. Yet, I was still concerned for possible misuses in particular in the area of using it to support advocacy for homosexual ordination and marriage, in areas of weakness, in particular in terms of the foundation and root and fountain of our reconciliation being reconciliation with God through Christ's death on our behalf for our sins, and the resulting ministry of reconciliation being primarily, albeit not exclusively, one of calling others to be reconciled to God. From that the reconciliation, unity, and justice exhibited by the people of Christ grows and finds its power. (That may be a run on sentence, but I am tired.)

I went through the advisory discussions, and the rest of a Synod that left the impression that those who had concerns were being pushed very hard to vote in favor, although I realize this was likely not intentional but more of a reflection of the passion and joy those who had worked to get to this day viewed things; and I was still not in support of it. By Saturday, I was exhausted, frustrated, and while not as adamant in not voting for it, still unable to do so.

Sunday, however, was a blessing, worship with the people of Fair Haven Ministries was like healing rain for me, filling me with praise to God and feeding me with the fine preaching of the Word of God. Yet, the Belhar was still there. Sunday night it seemed the push went into overdrive with several people speaking from ecumenical partners speaking of the importance of passing the Belhar. I started to feel pressed, guilted, and manipulated again. Yet, instead of thinking the worst, or assuming the worst of intentions from those who planned things, I decided instead to work as long as it took into the night in study of the Belhar and Scripture and in prayer in hopes I could speak in solid support or denial of the recommendation to adopt the Belhar.

I labored into the night. I spent time talking with a brother and sister in Christ about my struggles. I prayed. I read. I thought. I prayed some more. This kept going until the early morning, and even after I had realized I had moved closer to having my concerns satisfied and went to bed still unable to support the recommendation, in bed I prayed some more until the last time I checked my clock at 3:40AM.

Then, Monday, having come to appreciate and value the Belhar, but still being held back by my concern on its lack of expansion on the foundational reconciliation being between God and people through faith in Jesus, and that our message of reconciliation is primarily that we are to be reconciled to God, I was unable to vote for the Belhar the way it stood. The recommendation came, and the discussion started. I stood to speak, frustrated by an earlier speaker. I told of the strengthened joy I had in the truth that we are all from one family in Adam, and the terrible further truth that due to his sin we are also all in the same pit, under the power of sin without the redeeming, reconciling work of Christ received through faith, and my concern on the weakness of the Belhar's development of that foundational reconciliation with God through faith in Christ, and our ministry being one primarily of calling others to be reconciled with God. Then I said I could not vote for this because of that.

As the discussion progressed I heard person after person, brothers and sisters in Christ, people who are part of the far greater unity we have beyond Adam, that unity in Christ through faith; speak of how then needed the Belhar. They spoke of how it would be for the benefit of the congregations they served, the communities they ministered in, the teaching of their children, and more. Then verses I had studied the night before while studying the Belhar came to mind, Philippians 2:3b-4, "in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." My brothers and sisters needed this. Yes, that could mean struggles I would have to face due to misuse of the Belhar. Yes, that meant me not being completely satisfied with the short mention of the foundational reconciliation and ministry of reconciliation that is found in the Belhar. But, I realized I was, at least in part, looking out to my interests before theirs. I stood up to speak of how the discussion from the floor and the scripture moved me to now be willing to support the recommendation, only to have the delegate before me call the question. I would have liked to see the discussion continue, for it had benefited me greatly, giving me clarity so I could vote in favor of the Belhar as our fourth standard, and rejoice with those around me in this historic move to battle divisions between fellow believers based on colour, ethnicity, and culture which have so marred the church.

To my brothers and sisters, family in Adam, all sinners in need of a Saviour in Adam, children of God through faith in Christ, and brothers and sisters much deeper than blood in him as well . . . I rejoice with you this day, and pray that your hopes for the Belhar to help bring healing and reconciliation might not only come to pass, but that God, "who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think" may do this far more than you hope and pray even now. To him be the glory forever.


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