Gene Helsel at Trinity Church in Wenatchee, WA) by Douglas Wilson pastor of Christ Church in Moscow Idaho, who at this point is the current moderator of one of two presbyteries under the general assembly. Doug Wilson is one of the four that spoke at the Auburn Avenue conference which was key to the development of Federal Vision theology and the theology plays a prominent role in the denomination's thinking. Thus during our discussion of Federal Vision and Catholicism, the topic of membership in CREC came up. Additionally, the denomination puts out Credenda/Agenda, is associated with the New Saint Andrews College.
Mike Lawyer is an administrator and an instructor in Greyfriars' Hall Ministerial Training School, as well a ministering elder in Christ Church (Moscow, ID) and Pastor Doug Wilson's executive assistant. He has graciously agreed to answer the questions below. These questions as they were given to him in green and his answers in black, any additional information will be provided in blue. Mike was aware this question and answer was intended for publication and this blog gives permission for redistribution with attribution to this material. This discussion assumes preexisting familiarity with the CREC constitution. Before simply quoting I would like to thank Mike Lawyer for his time and energy in answering these questions. Everything below this line is from our discussion
1) What is the reason behind household voting rather than individual voting? Is it an idea of Federal Representation (the father represents his family to the church) as per Abshire Federal Representation, or something else?
Mr. Abshire represented why we have household voting very well in his article. Our households are represented by the husbands and fathers of the homes. In cases where there is no father or no husband the mother or single woman acts as the head of her household and votes on behalf of the family.
I wouldn't sigh off on every little jot and tittle that Mr. Abshire said in his article, but over all it was very good. We wouldn't dissuade a woman from getting a graduate degree, for example. We would discourage going to debt to get it, but we do that with the men as well. A woman can be a great asset to her husband, children, church and community no matter how highly educated she is. We have women in our church who have law degrees, who are doctors, and who have other advanced degrees. They serve the Lord Jesus very effectively because of their degrees and training. They also reach people for Christ that they could not if they weren't so highly educated.
2a) If he is a representative then how far the headship of the husband extend? Is there a formal hierarchy involving family members?
Lets take a father A and his 18 year old living at home son B.There is definitely a hierarchy involving family members. The Father is the head of the wife. The children honor the parents. The parents are to bring up the children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Does A's moral status effect B's salvation / election?
Does A's moral status effect B's effectiveness of prayer?
A's moral status does not effect B's election. That is something only God knows about. But A's moral status does affect B's salvation because the sins of the fathers run down hill to the sons. B may be elect, but A's lifestyle may have taught him to follow in his path and thus influence his eventual salvation. B might grow up and need to run into someone from Campus Crusade in college to be saved as opposed to being raised in a godly home with a godly father who has taught him from the womb.
A's moral status effects B's effectiveness in prayer as well. His influence and modeling teach B how to pray and when to pray and whom to pray to. So B's prayer is definitely affected by A's lifestyle.
If you mean does A's moral status cause B's relationship with God to be negated simply because of A's existence, then I'd say no to both questions. A does not cause B to lose or gain his relationship with God simply by his immoral existence.
2b) I'm assuming the answer to both of these no. If so:
Does A's moral status effect B's membership?
Assuming A is a member can A cause B to be disciplined?
Assume A can, can A prevent B from being disciplined?
If A is a member of a covenantal church, then B will be a member of the church. This is an effect.
If B is disciplined by the church it will be because of B's sin, not A's sin. A might be involved in the process. He might be the first contact, confronting B with his sin (see below), or he might be the one the sin is against and he may be the one who brought to the elders in the first place. In this sense he would be causing B's discipline.
A can prevent B from being disciplined by helping to bring B to repentance before church discipline become a reality. For example suppose A finds out B is sleeping with the neighbor's daughter. A can gently bring B to repentance and thus avert any further discipline by the church. He might be the first step in the Matthew 18 process.
Discipline is not for the censure of the one being disciplined, it is for the restoration of the one being disciplined. It is never to be seen as a punitive action, it is always a cleansing and purifying action. It is meant to protect and purify the church and to bring the sinner to his senses and back to Christ.
2c) Assume that A isn't a member.
It seems that B can independently be a member of the CREC church? What if A objects?B could become an independent member if A is not. If his father, who is not a member objects, it would depend. We don't have a rule for this. We would take it on a case by case basis.
What if A is a member and B wants independent membership?
If in both cases B's wishes are respected in what sense is their a hierarchy?
If A were a member and B wanted independent membership, our loose rule is that B can't do that, but it would depend on the situation. I could see allowing B to have his own household membership in the right situation.
The main point here would be that B would have to be his own household. For example if, for some reason, B were to get married at 18 he would be his own household, or if he were in town as a soldier stationed here for some reason, we might let him join as his own household. And life is funny, I'm sure there would be other situations where it would make sense to recognize B as his own household.
3) When you have representatives the representatives are supposed to have advantages: more knowledge, more time to dedicate, more experience.... What is the husband bring here to church matters? Moreover, does picking middle age men as the primary voting population not create severe bias.
I'm not sure what your question is here.
Being the husband or father does not imply any of the advantages you list. In fact, my wife thinks it is an advantage to not have to be the one who votes and who attends these boring meetings. Being the head of my house does not imply any advantage at all it implies that I am under authority. I am responsible to lead my family under the authority of God almighty.
I said earlier that the family has a hierarchy, and while the world sees any hierarchy as one of who gets to be in charge, the Bible says the hierarchy is who get to serve whom? The Lord Jesus came as a servant, the fathers serve their families, the husbands serve their wives, the mothers serve their children, the children serve and honor their parents. Whenever you hear that someone is supposed to submit themselves to you, your immediate response should be fear and trembling and a diligent search to see who you should be submitting to.
it is not at all uncommon for a wife to be more educated, more biblically savvy, more wise, more intelligent, etc. But the man is still the head of the home. It is still his responsibility to lead his family to the throne of grace. It has nothing to do with skills, smarts, gifts, abilities. It has to do with the Word of God and what God says about how things are.
4) Sarah [reference to "Sarah" here is to Sarah Hodges, a participant in the prior discussion who knows Pastor Wilson to whom the questions were originally directed] was fairly sure they would not forbid membership in all cases, "And I am pretty darn sure that it is a case by case basis. I bet you a sum of money that if a woman came to CREC wanting to join alone, and her husband was a member of the local Catholic church, she would not be told to go worship with her husband... she'd be welcomed with wide open arms. "
I don't know who Sarah is, but again, it depends. We wouldn't automatically let a woman in this situation join our church. We might very well send her back to worship with her husband in the Catholic church. We would strongly advise her not to sin while doing so, but to do it in a very unobtrusive way. Don't cause a scene, don't cause a ruckus. The goal being to win her husband through quiet and chaste behavior (1 Peter 3).
4con) I then gave some scenarios:
a) The local Mormon church
b) The local Lutheran Church (liberal)
c) The local Lutheran Church (conservative)
d) Local PCUSA church
e) Local OPC church
f) Local CREC church which the woman absolutely refuses to attend and the husband does not have the session's permission to abandon (recently married)
It would be the same in all of these situations. I don't understand (f). Each one of these would differ a little bit from the others. For example, the Mormon church is not, in any sense, a Christian church. So, how long the woman stayed there to worship (2 Kings 5:18) would vary from situation to situation. The best thing would be that she would win her husband to Christ or to a higher calling in Christ by how she lives in front of him.
But there might be situations where we would let her join immediately.
5) Sarah asserted that "They just think that is the more biblical way of doing things."
However she couldn't identify where Wilson saw the doctrine that the bible does talk about the church as a collection of families rather than a collection of believers?
There doesn't appear to be a question here.
The Bible clearly talks about 3 areas of government (church, family, civil). It also talks about individuals. It is our contention that when the Bible talks about individuals that it always assumes that they are in some sort of relationship to other people. And when those other people are related in one of the particular governmental relationships they are to treat one another in particular ways related to those governments. And these are always loving and submissive.
Here are a few passages that talk about households. Notice how important they are to the functioning of the churches around them: Jn. 4:53; Acts 16:31, 34; 18:8; Rom. 16:10; 1 Co. 1:11, 16; 16:15; 2 Tim. 1:16; 3:6; 4:19; Tit. 1:11; Heb. 11:7. And this doesn't even begin to point out how central the family is to the Old Testament or to the teaching on how to live in the family. To say that the family has nothing to do with the church is sort of funny. It seems to me, I could be wrong, that everywhere the Bible tells us how to live as individuals it also, somewhere close by, tells us how to live as families. And we do it all as members of Christ's body the church.
Notice that I have no problem with talking about individuals, here I am simply pointing out that the household, because we live in covenant with our family members, is central to our lives as Christians and this is done in the church.
6) Finally on issues on discipline do all CREC churches have to respect each other's discipline absolutely or do they have appellate rights?
They can discuss what is going on and either respect the other's discipline or reject it. There is nothing written anywhere that decrees how we work together in these situations. We would be very careful before overturning another church's discipline. But this would be with any other church, not just CREC churches.
This interview continues here.