From: Lyndon Dohms
Sent: September 17, 2003 9:20 PM
Subject: Society Funds
Dear Brothers and Sisters
under the oversight of the RPNA (General Meeting),
One of the true blessings I have, is to watch the secret work of the Lord translate into visible acts of service and sacrifice among his people. There are some among us who have been blessed with prosperity, and who faithfully use it to supply much of the needs of the church. There are others who have little more than food, shelter, and transport, yet they also sacrificially give, like the poor widow that Jesus commended in Mk. 12:42.
This letter is to encourage you not to be weary in this good work, no matter how small a part you may think you have. This is also sent to advise you of how we plan to make best use of your offerings.
We had originally hoped, and still do, that someday there will be local pastors for each of our society gatherings. With that in mind, we tried to keep separate records of the donations from each society, as individual funds, to be available for the call of their pastor and other local expenses.
However, we have found that this approach does not leave enough 'free' cash flow to take care of our current expenses and salaries for Pastor Greg Price and Elder Greg Barrow, who now minister to members from all the societies. For your information, then, we plan to draw proportionately from each of the "societies" funds to meet these needs.
If you have any questions related to this, please feel free to contact me.
Elder Lyndon Dohms
on behalf of the
RPNA (General Meeting)
2 Cor. 9:6 But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:
Wednesday, September 17, 2003
From: Lyndon Dohms
Saturday, July 12, 2003
From: Greg Barrow
Sent: July 12, 2003' :46 PM
Subject: RPNA (General Meeting) Fasting Announcement
"And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting" (Daniel 9:3).
Dear Brothers and Sisters under the oversight of the RPNA (General Meeting),
Considering the aggravated trials and difficulties we have together experienced over the past few months, with the defection of David Hart from his testimony of our Covenanted cause, and with Derek Edwards informing the church of his unfaithful position regarding birth control, which resulted in the subsequent dissolution of the Presbytery;
Considering also that we have a Scriptural duty before God to recognize our own sinfulness and weakness in these matters, and that we must sincerely humble ourselves before God's throne both individually and as a body;
Considering furthermore that we ought to earnestly supplicate our Lord to restore and preserve among us and our posterity the great benefit and blessing of an ordinarily established Presbytery;
It is both our desire and duty to publicly "require" those under our oversight (on Saturday, July 26th, 2003, from midnight to midnight), to humble themselves with us by means of biblical fasting and fervent prayer, abstaining from our earthly food and calling upon our God for grace and mercy, in order that we might glorify His name, follow His commandments, and imitate the Scriptural example of the faithful who have gone before us in this important duty ( 2 Chron. 20:3, Esther 4:16, Ezra 8:21, 2 Cor. 6:5; 11:27).
For your instruction in this duty, we bring to your attention the following citation from our subordinate standard entitled, "The Directory for the Public Worship of God," for each of you to review both individually and with your respective family members.
Concerning Publick Solemn Fasting.
When some great and notable judgments are either inflicted upon a people, or apparently imminent, or by some extraordinary provocations notoriously deserved; as also when some special blessing is to be sought and obtained, publick solemn fasting (which is to continue the whole day) is a duty that God expecteth from that nation or people.
A religious fast requires total abstinence, not only from all food, (unless bodily weakness do manifestly disable from holding out till the fast be ended, in which case somewhat may be taken, yet very sparingly, to support nature, when ready to faint,) but also from all worldly labour, discourses, and thoughts, and from all bodily delights, and such like, (although at other times lawful,) rich apparel, ornaments, and such like, during the fast; and much more from whatever is in the nature or use scandalous and offensive, as gaudish attire, lascivious habits and gestures, and other vanities of either sex; which we recommend to all ministers, in their places, diligently and zealously to reprove, as at other times, so especially at a fast, without respect of persons, as there shall be occasion.
Before the publick meeting, each family and person apart are privately to use all religious care to prepare their hearts to such a solemn work, and to be early at the congregation.
So large a portion of the day as conveniently may be, is to be spent in publick reading and preaching of the word, with singing of psalms, fit to quicken affections suitable to such a duty: but especially in prayer, to this or the like effect:
"Giving glory to the great Majesty of God, the Creator, Preserver, and supreme Ruler of all the world, the better to affect us thereby with an holy reverence and awe of him; acknowledging his manifold, great, and tender mercies, especially to the church and nation, the more effectually to soften and abase our hearts before him; humbly confessing of sins of all sorts, with their several aggravations; justifying God's righteous judgments, as being far less than our sins do deserve; yet humbly and earnestly imploring his mercy and grace for ourselves, the church and nation, for our king, and all in authority, and for all others for whom we are bound to pray, (according as the present exigent requireth,) with more special importunity and enlargement than at other times; applying by faith the promises and goodness of God for pardon, help, and deliverance from the evils felt, feared, or deserved; and for obtaining the blessings which we need and expect; together with a giving up of ourselves wholly and for ever unto the Lord."
In all these, the ministers, who are the mouths of the people unto God, ought so to speak from their hearts, upon serious and thorough premeditation of them, that both themselves and their people may be much affected, and even melted thereby, especially with sorrow for their sins; that it may be indeed a day of deep humiliation and afflicting of the soul.
Special choice is to be made of such scriptures to be read, and of such tests for preaching, as may best work the hearts of the hearers to the special business of the day, and most dispose them to humiliation and repentance: insisting most on those particulars which each minister's observation and experience tells him are most conducing to the edification and reformation of that congregation to which he preacheth.
Before the close of the publick duties, the minister is, in his own and the people's name, to engage his and their hearts to be the Lord's, with professed purpose and resolution to reform whatever is amiss among them, and more particularly such sins as they have been more remarkably guilty of; and to draw near unto God, and to walk more closely and faithfully with him in new obedience, than ever before.
He is also to admonish the people, with all importunity, that the work of that day doth not end with the publick duties of it, but that they are so to improve the remainder of the day, and of their whole life, in reinforcing upon themselves and their families in private all those godly affections and resolutions which they professed in publick, as that they may be settled in their hearts for ever, and themselves may more sensibly find that God hath smelt a sweet savour in Christ from their performances, and is pacified towards them, by answers of grace, in pardoning of sin, in removing of judgments, in averting or preventing of plagues, and in conferring of blessings, suitable to the conditions and prayers of his people, by Jesus Christ.
Besides solemn and general fasts enjoined by authority, we judge that, at other times, congregations may keep days of fasting, as divine providence shall administer unto them special occasion; and also that families may do the same, so it be not on days wherein the congregation to which they do belong is to meet for fasting, or other publick duties of worship.
Additionally, below is a citation from Samuel Miller's book entitled, "The Duty, The Benefits, and the Proper Methods of Religious Fasting," which we encourage each of you to review personally and with your families prior to the day of our public fast.
"In delineating the method in which a religious fast ought to be kept, let it be observed:
1. First of all, that it will be outwardly kept in vain, unless the heart is sincerely engaged in the service.
Let pagans, Mohammedans, and nominal Christians flatter themselves, as you have heard, with the dream that the mere physical observance of abstinence, independent of the state of the soul, will recommend them to God. But let us remember that the character and exercises of the inner man are everything here.
Yes, my friends, in fasting, as well as praying, the engagement of the heart is the great and essential matter. There is no piety in merely abstaining from food aside from the spirit and purpose with which it is done. It is in this case as in the observance of the sabbath. A man may shut himself up from all the world on that day; or he may spend the whole of it in the house of God; and yet, if his heart is all the time going after the world, he does not sanctify the sabbath at all in the most important sense of the term. So it is with the case before us. We may keep multitudes of fast-days -- with all the external exactness of popish, or even Mohammedan vigor -- and yet be nothing the better for them; nay, instead of receiving benefit, may contract guilt by them all. A holy God might, and doubtless would, still say to us, as he did in substance to his professing people of old, "Is this such a fast as I have chosen?" (cf. Isa. 58:5). "Have ye fasted to me, even to me, saith the Lord?" (cf. Zech. 7:5). "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me" (Matt. 15:8). "Their appointed fasts are an abomination unto me; I am weary to bear them" (cf. Isa. 1:13-14).
The primary consideration, then, in keeping a religious fast, is that the whole soul be truly engaged in the work; that while we use the outward symbol of humiliation, and penitence, we labor to have our minds deeply occupied and affected with the humbling realities which we express with our lips. A heartless and hypocritical prayer, in any circumstances, is a virtual insult to him to whom it is addressed; but a HEARTLESS AND HYPOCRITICAL FAST seems to be a DOUBLE INSULT, because offered under the guise of double solemnity and humility. In searching, therefore, for the characteristics of an "acceptable fast," we must begin here. The more deeply, feelingly, and constantly the heart is engaged in the service, the more pleasing to God, and the more profitable to ourselves will it ever be found.
2. While the state of the heart is everything here, a real abstinence from aliment [food--RPNA] is also essential to the proper and acceptable performance of this duty.
Such a remark as this may appear to many unnecessary; and I should certainly deem it, were there not some serious persons who adopt, and endeavor to inculcate, the strange notion that nothing more is implied in the duty in question than "fasting," as they express it, "in spirit:" meaning, by the phrase, mere moral abstinence, or "abstinence from sin." Hence, those who adopt this opinion suppose that a regular and acceptable gospel fast may be kept, while the animal appetite is fully indulged as usual, provided there be an effort made, for a season, greater than usual, to shut out evil and to maintain a spiritual and devout frame. In this sense they interpret that solemn passage in the fifty-eighth chapter of the prophecy of Isaiah, "Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness," etc. (Isa. 58:6)? In this pointed appeal it is manifest we are to understand Jehovah not as saying that "loosing the bands of wickedness" includes everything that belongs to a religious fast; but that the true penitence and moral reformation form, as we have before intimated, its best accompaniment and its most essential fruits.
I am constrained, then, to consider this notion which I am opposing as a mere evasion, and not a very plausible one, of a plain Christian duty. It is nothing less than egregious trifling with the heart-searching God, and cheating ourselves by a miserable subterfuge. We might just as well talk of giving alms "in spirit," or paying our debts "in spirit."
No, my friends, real abstinence from food is, no doubt, intended in all the examples and precepts which are given us on this subject in the word of God. And we "rob him" (Mal. 3:8), and "wrong our own souls" (Prov. 8:36), when we shrink from the literal self-denial implied in the abstinence in question. In fact, those who decline submitting to the literal privation of food of which we speak not only contravene both the letter and spirit of scripture (when describing an acceptable fast), but they entirely give up some of the most important benefits to which, as we have seen, this privation is naturally subservient.
3. It is important to the proper observance of a religious fast that we retire, during its continuance, as much as possible from the world, shut out its illusions, and endeavor to break its hold of our hearts.
One grand object of observing such days at all is that we may occasionally come to a solemn pause; that we may break the spell which is so apt to bind us down to the grovelling pursuits of time and sense; and take an honest retrospect of our infirmities, failures, and sins. It is of the utmost importance, therefore, that in solemnities which have such an object, we should sacredly withdraw, for a time, from all worldly cares and allurements, that we should put a firm negative upon every appetite and passion which might tend to drag us down to the dust of the earth; and try to get away from the snares and entanglements of this passing scene. With the utmost propriety, then, when a public fast is proclaimed, it is commonly recommended that all servile labor and recreation be laid aside. This is no less important to the spiritual observance of the day than as a testimony of outward respect. And quite as indispensable is it, when an individual or family resolve to fast in private, that every occupation be as far as possible suspended, which may even remotely tend to draw off the mind from an entire and unreserved devotion to the appropriate exercises of the day.
4. Days of religious fasting are to be devoted to a deep and heartfelt recollection of our sins and unfeigned repentance for them.
It is true, indeed, that in all seasons of special as well as ordinary prayer, our mercies as well as our sins ought to be recollected and acknowledged. And, therefore, in celebrating a religious fast, thanksgiving is by no means inappropriate or to be forgotten. It is a matter of thankfulness to a sinner, in any situation, that he is out of hell; and, surely, the sinner who is truly penitent can never see greater reason for gratitude than when he is deeply pondering before God the number and aggravation of his sins; and remembers that to such a rebel, life and glory are offered.
Still, it is evident that the primary object of a religious fast is evangelical humiliation. To attempt to keep such a fast, then, without entering deeply into the consideration of our sins, and mourning over them, is really to place out of sight the most prominent object of the observance. This is peculiarly "a day for a man to afflict his soul" (Isa. 58:5) for all the pollutions of his nature, for all the evil he has done, and for all the abominations which are committed around him. This is a season in which it is incumbent upon us, if ever, to call to mind with cordial penitence our personal sins, our family sins, the sins of the church, and of the nation; to labor, if I may so speak, with concentrated effort, to take strong, profound, and abasing views of our heinousness in the sight of God; to meditate upon them again and again, until the heart is in some measure broken and contrite; to repent, as in dust and ashes; and to apply anew to that atoning blood, by which alone our guilt can be washed away, and to that "Holy Spirit of promise" (Eph. 1:13), who alone can destroy the reign of corruption and "heal all our backslidings" (cf. Jer. 3:22). Such exercises, though humiliating, "do good as doth a medicine" (cf. Prov. 17:22). "Blessed are they who thus mourn, for they shall be comforted" (cf. Matt. 5:4).
5. As days of religious fasting ought ever to be marked by a special recognition and a deep sense of our sins, so this recognition, if it is of the right stamp, will ever be followed by genuine reformation.
That confession which is not succeeded by amendment is worse than vain. It is manifestly heartless, and, of course, adding sin to sin. Where the heart is really broken and contrite on account of transgression, that transgression will be sincerely loathed and forsaken. If, therefore, a season of humiliation and fasting leaves us as much in love with sin, and as hardened in habits of iniquity as it found us, there is abundant evidence not merely that we have failed of being profited, but that we have contracted guilt by the observance. Hence we find a holy God expressing his righteous displeasure, and denouncing his severest judgments against his professing people of old, because, while they wearied him with their fastings and prayers, they remained as obdurate and disobedient as ever. To such he declares, "When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and an oblation, I will not accept them: but I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence" (Jer. 14:12).
6. In keeping a religious fast, everything like ostentation, or self-righteousness, should be put far from us.
The Jewish hypocrites, in the days of our Lord's ministry, displayed much of this unseemly spirit. As they loved to "pray standing at the corners of the streets, that they might be seen of men (cf. Matt. 6:5);" so even in their private fasts (for to these the Saviour seems to have had a particular reference in reproving them), they put on "a sad countenance, and disfigured their faces, that they might appear to men to fast" (cf. Matt. 6:16). And when the Pharisee went up to the temple to pray, it was one of the grounds of his boasting, and his confidence toward God, that he "fasted twice in a week" (cf. Luke 18:12). In both these cases, our Lord denounces the spirit which they manifested as diametrically opposed to all true religion, and warns his disciples against it.
And, truly, if there is any exercise in the Christian's life from which a spirit of ostentatious display and of proud self dependence ought to be shut out with abhorrence, it is when he is prostrate before the throne of mercy, professing to mourn over his sins, and to acknowledge his ill-desert in the sight of God. Then, surely, if ever, the most unfeigned abasement of soul, the most cordial self-renunciation, the most heart-felt application to and reliance upon the righteousness of the divine Surety, as the only ground of hope, ought not only to be expressed in every word that is uttered by the lips, but to reign in every feeling, affection, and hope of the inmost soul. The only language ever becoming the redeemed sinner, and especially in such a season as this, is "God be merciful to me a sinner!" (Luke 18:13). "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Gal. 6:14).
7. Once more: Christian fasting ought ever to be accompanied with more or less of sympathy and benevolence to the destitute.
This point has already been alluded to, but a distinct notice of it in this connection is indispensable. The word of God lays much stress upon it as a concomitant and evidence of acceptable fasting. "Is not this the fast that I have chosen," says Jehovah by the prophet, "that thou deal thy bread to the hungry; that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?" (Isa. 58:6-7). What occasion so appropriate to sympathize with those who are hungry from necessity, as when we submit to the privation from choice, and as an aid to prayer, in approaching him who is the common Benefactor of the rich and the poor?
With many people, it is almost as much a matter of mortification and self-denial -- that is, it requires almost as much, and, in some cases, even more of painful effort -- to give a trifle to the poor, as it does to abstain, when hungry, from a favorite meal. It appears peculiarly proper, then, for all professing Christians, and especially those who feel this backwardness to an important duty, always to make their seasons of special prayer occasions of liberality, in some form, to the indigent. Surely there are few things more reasonable and becoming than that, while we are engaged in mourning over our sins, and confessing our unworthiness of the least of all our comforts, we should practically show mercy to others, as our heavenly Father has done to us. Then is the time to devise plans of mercy and benevolence; to cherish forgiveness of injuries; to make restitution to those whom we may have injured; to feed the hungry, and clothe the naked, and cause "the widow's heart to sing for joy" (Job 29:13). Above all, such solemnity is an appropriate season for devising the best of all charity to the benighted, perishing heathen: FOR OPENING THE HEART IN PRAYER AND CONTRIBUTIONS, THAT THE PRECIOUS BIBLE AND THE LIVING TEACHER MAY BE SENT TO THE MILLIONS WHO HAVE NEVER HEARD THAT "FAITHFUL SAYING, AND WORTHY OF ALL ACCEPTATION, THAT CHRIST JESUS CAME INTO THE WORLD TO SAVE SINNERS" (1 Tim. 1:15)."
May the Lord humble us and bless us as we together obey His commandments and offer ourselves in prayer before His throne.
For the Cause of Christ,
Saturday, June 14, 2003
From: Greg Barrow
Sent: Saturday, June 14, 2003 5:17 PM
Subject: Letter from Greg Price, Greg Barrow, and Lyndon Dohms
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
When differences in doctrine and practice arise between brethren, and especially when they arise between Presbyters, it is the duty of all to deal with these differences with true biblical love and God honoring actions. True love to God and faithfulness to His cause demands, at times, that we express our love by sharp rebukes, and clear testimony of truth. The purpose of such is not to harm or to take vengeance upon another brother, but rather to reclaim him from the error of his way and to preserve the pure testimony of the church from a dangerous error or a promoter of error, in order that we might all walk with a clear conscience before God and transmit a faithful testimony safely to our posterity.
Accordingly, we share the sentiments of our faithful forefathers when they say:
To speak thus publicly against those who may be the precious sons of Zion, is a painful duty. That charity, however, which rejoiceth in the truth, requires of Christ's witnesses that they censure and rebuke, in a way competent to them, those of the household of faith whom they see and know to be in a course of error or of sin; Is. 58:l; Tit. 1:13 (Act Declaration and Testimony, Supplement to Part 3, Section IV).
Sadly it is now our solemn duty to testify against the error of Derek Edwards who has openly maintained an error in both doctrine and practice regarding the use of contraception.
The letter announcing the lamentable separation of Derek Edwards from the remaining three Elders was approved by each of us. Thus, by his own approval, Derek Edwards, has in this letter, summarized the position he holds--openly maintaining (by his evident disagreement with us) that his position is correct and our position is sinful.
1. We conversely are duty bound to solemnly testify that Derek Edwards' position, as stated in that letter, is contrary to Scripture, and that because of his stated error in doctrine and practice, he ought "not" to be countenanced or received by the Societies as a faithful Minister of Jesus Christ until such time as he repents and is restored to communion with us.
2. Derek Edwards would likewise maintain that we are unfaithful Ministers or Elders because we have adopted a doctrine and practice that he believes is contrary to Scripture. If disagreement over this specific doctrine and practice was serious enough to dissolve the Presbytery, it must be serious enough to view one another as unfaithful Ministers and Elders as it relates to that issue.
In the coming days and weeks, it is our intention to provide those under our oversight with a written defense of the birth control position which we have publicly maintained for as long as we have been united together as Covenanters, along with a written refutation of Derek Edwards errors in this matter. This, of course, will take some time to prepare, and we pray that patience will be exercised by all so as to promote the truth and encourage us in this duty [italics added].
The main purpose of this communication, other than that of making a testimony against the position and ministry of Derek Edwards, is to answer a question which has been asked by some in the various Societies -- Has the dissolution of the Presbytery fundamentally changed the membership status of those persons who were under its oversight?
In short, we maintain that the dissolution of Presbytery does not change the agreement that each of the members made at the time they became members. Our unity is in the truth of Scripture, and it is in our stated doctrine and practice as summarized in our six terms of communion.
Changing the "form" of organization from a Presbytery back into a state in which one teaching elder and two ruling Elders have the general oversight over the Societies does not alter our membership commitments or change the status of those who have already passed our communion examinations. Those who were formerly members we still consider to be members and those who were allowed to come to the communion table can still do so.
We do not believe that the error of one man (which consequently led to the dissolution of Presbytery) make null and void all of our membership agreements, and our mutually expressed unity in the truth with their mutual duties. If we maintain that one Pastor's defection from the truth can void other real agreements, then our whole visible unity is based "not" upon the truth, but hangs merely upon unknown future circumstances or the alteration of one Elder's beliefs, which may variously alter our outward form of government.
We maintain that even if "all" the Pastors and Elders were suddenly killed, disorganizing the Societies one degree further, yet the union of the Societies (which is based upon our six terms of communion) would remain intact and our covenanted testimony would remain the same. In such an event, it would be incumbent upon those remaining alive to maintain the same unity under the same terms of communion. Ministers and Elders and their associated government are given by God for the well being of the church and even their total removal does not mean that all of a sudden the covenanted remnant are without principles or visible unity in the truth.
A short history of the formation of our Societies will illustrate this fact.
Subsequent, to agreeing upon our six terms of communion, Pastor Greg Price, Elder Greg Barrow, and Elder Lyndon Dohms, formed the Session of the Church in Edmonton and in that context and under those terms of communion many members voluntarily joined with us in order to promote the cause of Christ and uphold our mutual covenanted testimony. The agreement with these Elders was real and substantial and cannot be voided except by the formal separation of each member.
During the next few years we conducted interviews for both membership and admission to communion, and it was our joy to receive most of those who now make up our present membership in that context. During these years, as birth control cases came before us, we were unanimously agreed that we held to a position which allowed of no exceptions to the rule--no cases that were presented to us warranted the use of contraception. Although we did maintain that we were always open to examining hard cases, it was openly and forthrightly maintained by the Elders that we presently knew of no exception where the use of contraception was lawful.
Our actual practice was consistent with our position. Consequently, at least three families (and probably more) either did not join the church or else they left the church because of the position we maintained and practiced on the use of birth control.
Thus, even though our present circumstance demands that we, in writing, become much more explicit regarding our position, [italics added] it is undeniable that our position and practice clearly demonstrated our belief regarding the use of contraception. It is undeniable that at all times prior to the formation of the Presbytery we maintained the same position and practice regarding the use of contraception that we now maintain.
When the Presbytery was formed we continued to bring people into membership under the same six terms of communion. We also continued to maintain our same position on birth control and mentioned this in numerous, if not most, membership and communicant interviews. Whether Derek Edwards was aware of this or not, we do not know, as he was very rarely practically involved in the actual process of interviewing. Nevertheless, it is a fact that our birth control position was openly mentioned and defended in these interviews, and we received no objection from Derek Edwards regarding the doctrine and practice we presented as the position of the church. Consequently, we do not believe that the defection of one man (Derek Edwards) necessarily makes each of these membership agreements null and void. Our position was both stated and maintained exactly as it was prior to the formation of Presbytery.
Now, we are providentially placed into a situation where we do not have an organized Presbytery, and we do not "yet" have an organized Session--although we still have the same three Elders who originally brought people into membership from Edmonton, who formed the majority of the Presbytery, and who continue to maintain their original contraception position and practice.
What then can we do without a regularly organized Session?
In such extraordinary situations we must consider carefully what must be done to organize and edify the covenanted remnant in consistency with Scripture and in accordance with the testimony of our covenanted ancestors who sadly found themselves in similar circumstances.
Here we would note that we must carefully distinguish between our intention, (e.g. what "ought" to be done in an ordinary and more settled state of the church), and our ability to perform (e.g. what "can possibly" be done in an extraordinary, and less settled state of the church). Where it is possible to do things in an ordinary manner, that is what we intend to do, and where it is not possible, we intend to do all that we can to bring the church into that state in the future (endeavoring at all times to keep as close as possible to the rule).
Because of the irregular state of the church at the outset of the Reformation, the Scottish Church was likewise forced by circumstance to operate, for a time, in an extraordinary manner. Sometimes adjacent congregations were ruled by a joint session, composed of elders from a plurality of congregations.
In that regard, the Second Book of Discipline, Chapter 7, Section 10, states:
"The first kind and sort of assemblies [the local Eldership--GB] , although they are within particular congregations, yet they exercise the power, authority, and jurisdiction of the kirk with mutual consent, and therefore bear sometimes the name of the kirk. When we speak of the elders of the particular congregations, we mean not that every particular parish can, or may, have their own particular elderships, especially to landward; but we think three or four, more or fewer, particular kirks may have one eldership common to them all, to judge their ecclesiastical causes. Albeit this is meet, that some of the elders be chosen out of every particular congregation, to concur with the rest of their brethren in the common assembly, and to take up the delations of offences within their own kirks, and bring them to the assembly. This we gather from the practice of the primitive kirk, where elders, or colleges of seniors, were constituted in cities and famous places."
Likewise we must now do that which is expedient for the edification of the body, until such time as the Lord grants that we can return to a more settled and ordinary method of governing the church.
We would also affirm that according to Scripture and in agreement with clear historical testimony, we have both the right and the duty (even without a regularly organized Session) to celebrate the sacrament of the Lord's Supper and to administer baptism among our present Societies for the simple reason that Pastor Price as a minister of the Visible Church-- may and ought to perform all of his duties as a Pastor.
As we look to the past for guidance, we see that James Renwick and Donald Cargill celebrated the Lord's Supper with the scattered remnant-- even in a state wherein there were no formal Sessions.
For these faithful ministers of the past to preach and celebrate communion in that extraordinary and disorganized context implies that they clearly understood they had the Scriptural authority from God to proceed in this manner-- the right as Pastors of Christ's Visible Church to admit or refuse people from coming to the communion table.
To admit or demit persons from the communion table, they, like us, used the six terms of communion, and all who refused to own the same terms in doctrine or practice would be barred from celebrating the Lord's Supper.
From this example we may extract these necessary conclusions.
1. Without a regularly organized Session they:
a. Interviewed people to ascertain whether there was positive agreement in their six terms of communion and whether there was negative agreement on all known points of doctrine and practice.
b. Exercised ecclesiastical discipline (at least up to the lesser excommunication) since they, as the Ministers of Christ, had the right and duty to refuse and bar people from the Lord's Supper, who for reasons of either ignorance or scandal did not qualify to participate.
Even though the flock was scattered into a relatively disorganized stated, they adopted the wise measure of meeting in organized Societies into which formal membership was granted by agreement to the six terms of communion.
Where and when Elders were present they assisted in all ways appropriate to their office, and together, under these disorganized circumstances, the Pastors and Elders did all that they could to promote godliness, declare and defend the truth, maintain discipline, and promote the faithful worship of God.
This is what we believe we also must do in these current circumstances. It is our desire and our joy to continue to serve you in this capacity as called Elders of the flock of Jesus Christ. May the Lord continue to grant His merciful grace in the midst of the tribulations of his little flock.
A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the LORD will hasten it in his time (Isaiah 60:22).
Sunday, June 08, 2003
Sent: June 8, 2003 12:32 PM
Subject: Correction to previous announcement of RPNA
It has come to my attention that there was a problem in the first email sent out [10:05 AM] and that one portion of a sentences line was excluded from the original announcement. Here is the corrected version. My apologies for any confusion this may have caused.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This is one of the most difficult letters we have ever had to write since the formation of the Reformed Presbytery In North America.
We have earnestly examined all of our known lawful options and alternatives, but have been unable to come to any other conclusion than the one we must herein sadly communicate to you.
This past Friday (June 6, 2003), each of the officers of the Presbytery sorrowfully concluded that the Reformed Presbytery In North America must be dissolved due to the recent discovery that fundamental differences exist among us over the issue of the use of contraception in difficult cases.
These issues were thoroughly discussed before the formation of the Reformed Presbytery In North America, and we all believed that we had reached an agreement at that time. However, last Wednesday, during a discussion regarding a real case placed before us, we learned that, within the Presbytery, there in
fact "still" existed two fundamentally different doctrinal positions regarding the use of contraception.
Greg Barrow, Lyndon Dohms, and Greg Price believe that only abstention is biblically permitted to preserve the life and health of a mother (whose health would be at risk in the event of a pregnancy) and that other means are prohibited by Scripture.
Derek Edwards believes that abstention is likely the least effective means of preserving the life and health of a mother in such a case and that the Scripture warrants the use of other means to preserve the life and health of a mother (such as condoms for men and diaphragms for women).
This is not the only case or point concerning this issue upon which Greg Price, Greg Barrow, and Lyndon Dohms significantly differ with Derek Edwards.
Additionally, a hypothetical case was discussed which supposed the following:
A married woman in a very weakened condition, who lived in a poor country gripped by famine, had numerous children. Some had already died of starvation and many people around her were also
dying of starvation. Hope of any relief was, for the sake of discussion, negligible, both for the woman, her living children, or any children to be yet conceived/born in the near future. In her mind it was nearly certain that any children she would bear in the near future would in fact suffer and quickly
die of hunger, and that her own health and life would be in extreme danger due to the added stress on her body during the pregnancy. One of the questions before us was this--in this circumstance, could this woman intentionally and actively use contraception to prevent other children from being born in
order to protect herself? Also the question was asked--Is it morally necessary that the woman use contraception in an extreme case?
Derek Edward's represents that he thinks it would be "sinful" for this woman to have more children in this particular circumstance. He represents that in this circumstance she should intentionally and actively prevent further children from being born, and that in this case, since she is married, it
would be both lawful and wise for her to use something other than abstinence to fulfill her sixth commandment duty to protect herself. The reason is, that over time, in the environment of the marital bedroom, it is more than unlikely that abstinence would be maintained. He also maintains that in
certain very extreme cases and circumstances, that it is not optional, but morally necessary for a woman to use contraception to prevent the life of further children.
Greg Price, Greg Barrow and Lyndon Dohms, represent that in this particular circumstance this woman can lawfully bear more children, and that it would be sinful for her to intentionally
and actively prevent further children from being born via methods of contraception. They can presently see no case in which they believe that it is morally necessary for a woman to
intentionally use contraception (although they remain open to examining hard cases), and thus they oppose the intentional use of contraception for the purpose of preventing life.
This past Friday, we, as a Presbytery, concluded, that we would not be able to with a clear conscience, maintain unity in our Presbytery without unity upon this important subject.
This issue affects the very counsel we give to others in very serious practical situations. The doctrine we promote and practice in this important area of Christian obedience directly exhibits our understanding of what does or does not constitute a violation the Sixth Commandment. If persons on either side of
this question believe that a fellow Presbyter is advocating a sinful and unbiblical position, practically, we find ourselves unable to with a clear conscience, support that ministry. If it were possible to consistently maintain our principles while holding these two diverse positions, we would do so, but it is
painfully evident to us all that we cannot do so with a clear conscience before God.
We realize (with much love for you all), the difficult position into which you are put (and this weighs heavily upon us). Presently, you must exercise the right of private judgment (in
your families and societies) in determining which of these positions is biblical and which elders you desire to financially support and minister to you.
We invite you to call us or email us in order to discuss these matters. You may also, in the future, expect to receive position papers from us which will seek to defend the respective positions taken. Where there is yet uncertainty over this issue in societies, there is no reason to make quick decisions. We exhort you to carefully consider and prayerfully weigh the evidence presented before coming to a decision in this matter.
Let us all be humbled before almighty God, understanding that for our well-being He has seen fit to take us through yet another trial of our faith. Where we have sinned, may we be quick to repent and seek the Lord's forgiveness.
May the Lord yet promote reformation in the truth so that we may see in the near future the Reformed Presbytery In North America formed and established anew in the truth of Jesus Christ.
Let us love one another and pray for one another.
With love for you all in the Lord Jesus Christ,