Sunday, January 16, 2005

1/16/05, Second Washington Society Letter to the Elders

From: RT
To: GP, GB, LD
Cc: [Wash. Society]
Subject: RE: Reply To The Brothers And Sisters In The Washington Society
Date: Sun, 16 Jan 2005 17:09:28 -0800

To the Elders of the RPNA, GM
Dear Esteemed and Beloved Brethren,

Thank you very much for your letter of Dec. 10th. While we certainly appreciate your timely response and apologize for not getting back to you sooner, we would respectfully request clarification on a couple of points.

Your letter states under #2:

"Elder Barrow sent 27 taped sermons by mail and there are many online sermons (both read and preached) available at Sermon Audio (http://www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp) . . . . Still + Waters + Revival + Books . . . We suggest these options be used when Pastor Price is not in the
pulpit."

Yet #3 says:

"Since Still Waters Revival Books is not an official ministry of the RPNA, decisions that relate to posting sermons on that website do not involve the officers of the RPNA. However, these suggestions may be directed to Still Waters Revival Books."

While the one recommends that we turn to this site, along with Albany, to obtain approved sermons, the other says SWRB is not an official ministry of the church. Can you appreciate our confusion over this, brethren? If it is not an official ministry of the church, why is it recommended? This, not to mention, as in our first letter to you: "there are not that many covenanter sermons at the SWRB page at SermonAudio" which Elder Barrow first suggested to us to begin with and which your most recent also does.

More importantly, as again, our first letter to you, what we would really like to know is if Session considers making recorded sermons available, "an extension of the official preaching ministry of the church"? If so, we would respectfully suggest for your consideration that posting sermons on the official websites of Edmonton and/or Albany would be the most efficient and economical way to fulfill the apostolic charge to feed the flock with the Word of God, rather than mailing out tapes, (much more the tape sound quality leaves much to be desired in our particular circumstances as well the question whether we are supposed to reimburse SWRB for postage of the same recently sent to us?) Again, as we said before: "we consider this issue, the ministry of the Word, to be of primary practical Protestant importance to our survival as a church of Jesus Christ, even more as gathered in reformed presbyterian society meetings."

While we recognize that as you state, "It is also possible for one of the members of the Washington Society to read a sermon on any Lord's Day that Pastor Price has not preached," we would like to stay away from this option, if at all possible. Granted, we have private meetings rather than a public worship service, but historically as well as confessionally, much of what we already take upon us to do, has been restricted to at least an elder, if not a minister, i.e. reading scripture and prayer in public worship, which we model our meetings after, though they are not again, public worship services.

Which leads to our next question? While we are happy to hear that efforts continue to see Elder Barrow ordained by a faithful presbytery, much less that Pastor Simbajon is studying to the end of joining the RPNA, GM, there is no mention in your letter to ours regarding ruling elders. What is Session's vision and policy in this regard? We have no desire to run ahead of the Lord in insisting on having what the Lord has not given us, but we are not only destitute of ministers, we are destitute of ruling elders. We would be interested in your comments on this concern.

We are also still respectfully interested in why Session saw need for a name change to the RPNA,GM and its signifigance. While as your letter said, the RP,GM may largely have consisted in "business meetings with very little recorded by way of substantial information regarding decisions etc." and the "preponderance of information recorded usually revolved around Causes Of Fasting and Causes Of Thanksgiving," have we no need of fasting and/or thanksgiving today? Yet as our first letter mentions, there was at least "one stated public meeting of the RPNA, GM a year and likewise, a published/public record of that meeting." Our letter also asks whether "the correspondence and communication with the societies will be put on a more regular footing and basis," as opposed to the ad hoc and informal way things seem to be done now? In other words, is the name change only nominal - and if so, why the bother - or will we begin to implement more of the policy and practice of the RP,GM than we do now?

Which leads to the next question. While we are very glad to hear that both Pastor Price and Elder Barrow are scheduled to visit Jan. 21-24 DV, is there any possibility of Session coming up with a "more regular schedule for pastoral visitation" as per our first inquiry? We realize regular pastoral/elder visitation is out of the question, but in that it is the elders' duty to look after the flock - even searching them out, whether or not they stop by or call in and of themselves - at least one annual visit, if financially feasible on the society's part, would seem to be very much in order.

It is also appreciated that, as you mention, "any Society or member thereof may receive a quarterly financial report from either Elder Dohms or Eric Lauderdale whenever desired." Yet we respectfully suggest that an annual financial report should be automatic practice in the church of Christ. Again, respectfully, we see this as yet one more example of the disorganized state we find ourselves in these days in the RPNA,GM which however minute, combined with other instances, provoked us to write Session the first time.

In conclusion, we again appreciate Session's letter to the Washington Society. We are thankful you saw fit to respond and desired to help answer the questions/concerns the Wash. Soc. submitted to Session. Yet while we have no problems with conference calls per se which Session recommends if any concerns remained from our first letter, it is precisely the informal and ad hoc way business seems to be conducted that has driven us to resort to paper in the first place. Again, we have no quarrel with conference/phone calls. We also enjoy and appreciate very much our contacts with Session, whether in person in the past, this summer in Prince George, much less the upcoming visit, or those by way of phone or email. On the contrary, it is precisely because - bear with us please, brethren - from our perspective it appears that the informal predominates in the RPNA,GM, that we have chosen to write you in the first place, much less request a written response.

For that matter, in the past, the disorganization and lasseiz faire program, particularly as regards the ministry of the word, has been extremely irksome. While we rejoice that things have improved in this area, that you have not heard from us sooner, is only because we had and still have no desire to be any more intemperate in addressing Session than we already might demonstrate in this letter or the previous.
Thank you very much.

Yet may the Lord bless and keep you all in the knowledge, wisdom and love of Christ,

The Washington Society,

Paul R, Bob S, Rick T


Wednesday, January 12, 2005

1/12/05, Telephone Conversation/Cancellation of Birth Control Paper

From: JT
To: GB ; GP ; LD
Cc: [Wash. Society]
Sent: Wednesday, January 12, 2005 3:33 PM
Subject: Telephone Conversation with Greg Barrow

Dear GB, LD and Pastor GP

On Sunday, January 9, 2005, I called GB to see how he was feeling after the surgery for appendicitis which he recently experienced. I was relieved to hear that G. is doing well, although still in pain, and was confident he would be able to make the upcoming elder visit to Everson scheduled for January 21 through January 25. The last time Pastor P was here, G. had been planning to come also, but was quite unwell. . . .

I will seek to communicate what I understood GB’s comments to be.
I asked G. why we have never received a paper from you all defending your birth control position. G. gave me a few reasons:

1. He never promised us such a paper, though Pastor P may have, but he was unsure about this. In a letter which we received on June 14, 2003, signed by all of you, you said, “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 DE’ 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.” It is true that we have been patient for one and one-half years, but were we meant to forget about this promise made by you in writing to us?

This matter is of great importance to me, because an elder left our group over this issue, upsetting the orderly functioning of church and the progress being made towards Presbyterian church government.
It also is of great importance to me that the elders be righteous, and keep their promises.

2. G. also told me that it would be unwise at this time to set forth the elders’ beliefs on this issue because some people might be offended and leave the group who are currently resting content with the verbal explanations that they have received.

If a position is Biblical, it should be courageously set forth, open to the examination of all, that all might be edified. Those then who are offended, let them be offended by the truth, and hopefully be brought to consider what God’s Word teaches us on this subject. Is it not worldly wisdom to hesitate to proclaim this matter, which is evidently foundational to our unity as covenanted believers?

3. G. told me that he does not have enough uninterrupted time to write such a paper, because he is dealing with ethical dilemmas on an almost daily basis. I then said to him that it would be very helpful to those with difficult questions, and to all of us in general, to have easier access to our many subordinate standards, and to have a concise yet thorough written handbook of our terms of communion. I believe that G. agreed with these comments.

Upon further reflection, I am concerned that someone or some group of people may be monopolizing G’s time with endless questions which do not profit. Recently, RT, PR and BS asked some questions, in writing, of you elders, and were told to do so no more, but rather to call and talk on the phone as individuals. Isn’t this the more time-consuming way to instruct the brethren? Why not answer their questions and let them then see if these things be so according to God’s Word? The worrisome thought occurs that someone doesn’t want to be held accountable for what he has written. I hope that this is not the case. . . .

Below, Teaching Elder GP responds to JT’s concerns

From: GP
To: JT ; GB ; LD
Cc: [Wash. Society]
Sent: Wednesday, January 19, 2005 5:55 AM
Subject: Re: Did you receive my email?

Dear J,

I did receive your email, and we would like to discuss it with you when we arrive.

I have had a tremendously busy schedule since returning from Canada and have been playing catch up on many matters.

I could have responded to let you know that your email was received, but since we planned on seeing you this week, I did not consider that you would want an email immediately from me simply to acknowledge we had received your concerns. For this misunderstanding I am truly sorry. I intended no offence if such was taken.

I look forward to addressing your concerns during our visit this weekend.

The Lord be with you,

GLP

[At best, what was resolved at the elder visit can be found in #2 below, when the matter was brought up again in a email discussion about the Public Fast Day called for Jan 21, ‘06 in the RPNA(GM) - verbal promises, that for whatever reason, never bore any fruit. Neither in a birth control paper or even a timely explanation by way of the same forum and format the promise was made, why it would not be met.]

From: BS
To: Pastor GP; Elder LD ; List
Subject: Apology, further remarks Re: : Public Fast - Resources still needed )
Date: Fri, 20 Jan :32:

Greetings all,

. . . . .
Refreshing Our Memory

It has been two and half years since the dissolution of presbytery on June 6, 2003.

1. Since then, there has been no written defense of our position on birth control as intended, promised and demanded by "our present circumstance" as stated in the letter on dissolution of presbytery, June 14, '03 [see #2, 2nd paragraph].
2. Nor has there been a written notification and clarification of the retraction of the promise and intent to write such a paper since then and about which retraction those of us in Everson have been told only in person or on the phone in Jan. 05, rather than in print. As if this was not one of those "decisions that affect the Societies at large" in which the elders would "communicate in a more formal manner by email"* to some degree. After all, being faithful to one's word is part of being faithful to one's testimony, is it not? [*See #5 in the 12/10/04 letter from Elders to Wa. Soc. ]
3. There has been no further real explanation or clarification written or otherwise of the church government we are under, or the name change from the RPNA to the RPNA, (GM) and now, back again to the RPNA, never mind whether our practice even begins to conform to either.
4. There has been no further explanation or clarification written or otherwise re. the well known, by rumor and hearsay, paper on ordination that another brother and I were told Jan. 24 '05 in Everson would be forthcoming for discussion at the then upcoming July '05 gathering in Edmonton.

And so on and so forth. But not to multiply instances, however minute, which taken by themselves are hardly something to get upset about, but when they are taken as a whole, only further aggregate and aggravate our situation. There are exceptions and there is the rule. In other words, the snowball effect. What started out small at the top of the hill, grows considerably by the time it reaches the bottom. We are not at the top of the hill.

The Question Again

As the Nov. 28, '04 letter from the Everson Society stated,

"the lack of official or regular communication and prevailing disorganization can be very discouraging/confusing at times for us as a society, as we assume it also is for Session. Yet we hope something can be done about it, as was done in the past, in like circumstances by the RPNA,(GM) those whom we claim to faithfully follow and continue as a church."

In short again, we forget that we forget and no matter how well intentioned, the lack of due process, good order and a paper trail is one of the chief shortcomings of the ad hoc, laissez faire, informal, extraordinary church government we find ourselves under. All these things fall through the cracks of our collective and individual memory and further retard, stunt and confuse our growth, development and edification as a church of Jesus Christ. Will we acknowledge it, much less repent of it? That is the question.

Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth. (John 9:41.)

Before the Lord and mindful of the upcoming Public Day of Prayer and Fasting, does God have a controversy with us or not? Does it have anything to do with how we conduct or what we call ourselves publically, whether in office or out, whether in part or as the whole congregation, whether before him, the rest of the church, or the world, if not all three? Even further, does it have anything even remotely to do at all with church government? And our answer?

Thank you very much,

cordially in Christ,
Bob S
Member of, but not speaking for the Everson, Wa. Society of the . . . . ?