Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What do Missionary Church pastors have to believe?

The Missionary Church is working on coming up with a minimum set of core beliefs that all Missionary Church pastors need to reaffirm on an annual basis. That is to say, they need to sign on to a set of doctrinal statements, affirming that they believe them.

The challenge has been coming up with those core beliefs. This has been a work in process for 4 years. This year a set of statements came before General Conference, and much discussion ensued.

What are the core beliefs, the minimums we require pastors to affirm? Essentially, I would look for the primary doctrines, those doctrines that are non-negotiable. I would not want secondary doctrines in this, doctrines over which good Christians can disagree and still be good Christians.

So here are some of the interesting points of the document that came to us this week.

With regards to eschatology (doctrine of last things, or end times), not only do pastors not have to sign on to a particular tribulation view (pre, post, or mid), but they do not even have to sign on to a premillenial view. Very surprising, though not unwelcome in my view.

With regards to anthropology (doctrine of man), included in the core values is an affirmation of the sanctity of life as well as a commitment to heterosexual marriage only. Some have a problem with statements touching abortion and homosexuality in our core values, but I don't. I think we need to address hot button issues that could put pressure on pastors to conform or compromise.

Then there's the Arminian-Calvinist issue, and the current document forces pastors to affirm the Arminian view of salvation. After working with a Calvinist for several years, attending a seminary where there was mix of Arminian and Calvinist profs, and attending a few years another church where the pastor was Arminian and many of the elders were Calvinists, I don't see this issue as a primary issue, but a secondary doctrine. I would like to see it struck. As someone said, why can't we just say that Missionary Church pastors believe that people are saved by grace through faith?

The document has been referred back to the Constitution Committee and the district conferences for more discussion.

The reality is we have a lot of Calvinist pastors in the Missionary Church even though the denomination is historically Arminian. So how will current pastors sign on to such a document every year? In good conscience, they cannot. I know one who plans simply to line out the one statement with which he does not agree and sign the document, if it actually comes to that.

Then it will be up to the Missionary Church to enforce however they see fit. And if they decide to remove a Calvinist pastor, will the church affected go along with the denomination, or will they decide to leave the denomination in order to keep their pastor? The answer could go either way in this age of diminished denominational authority.

For now we have two more years of deliberation.

PS We heard a sermon today at Conference by an Arminian pastor who cited in his sermon both John Piper and Tim Keller, Calvinists.

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