Thursday, October 4, 2007

CREC and Membership (part 2)

This is a continuation of part1 of our interview regarding membership within CREC with Mike Lawyer. Mike is the administrator of Greyfriars Hall, teaches Biblical Pastoring, Bible Grammar, the third year recitation, and New Testament Greek. He is also an Associate Pastor of Christ Church and Doug Wilson’s Executive Assistant.

As per the previous section this was an "on the record" interview and permission is granted for redistribution with attribution. As per the last section the questions will be in green, and answers in black. However two of the questions required a second round of clarification and those will be in purple. Any additional information will be in blue. Again I would like to thank Mike and CREC for being willing to engage in this discussion. Its been extremely enlightening and they have been very forthright and helpful.


1) What about the issues of spiritual gifts? Do you believe that woman will never be better gifted to lead the home or in spite of them being more gifted the man should anyway?

I don't know what this question is asking. Could you ask it again?

The question is regarding spiritual gifts. Say for example the gift of prophecy or teaching or healing. The question was whether you believed that a woman will never have say the gift of being a talented preacher or that in spite of her being more gifted the man should lead a church anyone. Similarly with prophecy.

Again, I'm not sure of the question, but if you're asking if a woman who is a gifted teacher or preacher should submit her gifts to the clear teaching of Scripture, then yes I think she should. The clear teaching of Scripture is that a woman may not teach or exercise authority over a man (1 Timothy 2:12ff).

The gifts are given to us, but must be used in accordance with the rest of Scripture. This means, among other things, that a person does not get to use her gifts in a way that countermand other clear teachings of scripture.

This does not mean that a skilled and gifted woman cannot exercise those gifts at all. She simply needs to exercise them in areas of church life where she is not sinning in other ways. For example a woman gifted in teaching should teach her children at home. This is clearly a Scriptural principle (1 Timothy 5:4, 10, 14). Also, I believe it is a good thing for women to teach women. This too is a Biblical principle (1 Timothy 2:4-5).

This really has nothing to do with gifts at all. It has to do with godly roles in the family and in the church. God created roles that make the world work in certain ways when we abide by his decrees and when we try to do away with his commands in order to make ourselves "somebody" we stray from his way and have fallen into sin.
2) Most believe that in the bible both Jesus and Paul placed an obligation to follow God above the obligation to home for both men and woman. Do you agree with that assessment? For example in looking at the lives of many of the female saints, they disobeyed husbands, fathers and secular rulers in their desire to carry out what they saw as God's plans. [These two sentences split off in first response] Do you agree that woman can be called in this way? And if so how is that compatible with the view of membership as presented?
I would agree with the first part. Jesus said, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters-- yes, even his own life-- he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26). So if the question is do I obey God or man, the answer is always, as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.

The problem in the second part comes when you ask, what is God's will for my life or for the life of the wife in a family. The clear things of God are the ground for, and the lens through which we look at the unclear and subjective things claiming to be the will of God. The Scriptures are clear that the wife should submit to her husband (1 Pet. 3:1-6). The Bible says nothing about a man's wife going off to a convent or to start a TV ministry. Those might be nice things to do, but they are not as clear or obvious as how wife is to relate to her husband. If the husband is not trying to get his wife to sin, what he says fits under the authority of the specific passages on how a wife lives with her husband. So if Mr. Smith tells his wife that he wants her to stay at home and teach their children how to love God and serve him forever but she wants to go and be a muckety muck at the local hardware store, she will be in sin if she leaves the home to muck about; even if she claims that it is God's will. It is not God's will to go against what God has clearly laid out in his word. It is God's will to do what God specifically says, which in this case is to do what her husband has said.
[See note above]Do you agree that woman can be called in this way? And if so how is that compatible with the view of membership as presented?

I've lost you here too. Called in what way? To do what? And what does this have to do with membership?
These two sentences were part of the above. So the question is can a woman be called to server god in a way that would necessitate her disobedience to a husband a father or a secular leader? What it has to do with membership is that membership in the church is contingent on female obedience. So if you were agreeing that a woman could be called in this way, the membership rules could end up excommunicating a woman for obeying God's calls. Conversely if you had stated that a woman cannot be called in this way then the question asked what about the female saints who did disobey were they really not saints?
God's gifts never give a woman a reason to sin by not being respectful or submissive to her husband or the leaders in the church that God has placed over them. There have been, and currently are, many women who are living in sin because they have stepped into the holes in their lives left by husbands and male leaders who have abdicated their God given roles. But while the men's lack of leadership is sin, this is not a valid reason for women to jump onto the band wagon and join in the sinning.

When men lead in a godly, loving, and consistent way the women don't see any need to take up the reins and lead. So the answer to women leading isn't yelling at the women, it is yelling at the men. Men need to suck it up and gird up their loins and be godly, biblical men.

There are at least two problems with women filling the void left by their abdicating men: First, they are in sin when they usurp the leadership roles of their men (as I've mentioned above) and second, their jumping into the void almost certainly seals the fate of their men ever taking up the mantle of leadership. Once women get into leadership, men will not lead anymore (if they ever did in the first place). They may not be man enough to lead in the ways God has commanded, but they are man enough not to let their women lead. So, when they abdicate and the women jump in, the men back off and never come back.

So what is the answer? If the men won't lead, the women need to follow 1 Peter 3:1-6 and let the lights go out, the garbage pile up, the water run, etc. Don't take up his slack. Don't fulfill those things in the home that are his responsibility. Go on doing what God has called you to do and make sure that you pay special attention that part in 1 Peter 3 where it says "without a word." This means not a sign of discontent, not a word, not a glare, not a folded arms "hmmph", not a rolled eye, not a burnt toast. Without a word means let your glowing, godly life shine on your disobedient husband or church leader. Continue to look for ways to respect them and be their greatest cheerleader, even if the house is sitting in darkness because he forgot to pay the electric bill. Let the Holy Spirit of God work on him. And you are not the Holy Spirit of God.

If you try to fix the situation or the man, you will fail at every turn and you will be going directly against the command of God and that is sin.

Someone will point to churches that women pastors and make mention that there are men on their boards, but I have never seen or heard of a church where women are pastors where the men were worth much as men. They might argue with me about that in front of their women leaders, but they wouldn't in private. A man who is being led by his wife has really checked out of the family; he's off watching TV, or off playing with the boys, or out hunting, or into some sort of vial sin. Its just the way God made men and women.

To answer your last question, a woman in leadership over men is not necessarily reprobate. She might be, but she might also simply be a confused and sinful believer.

I hope this helps.
3) In the discussion on the issue of membership you had mentioned that the primary right of members was the election of elders and leaders. What would be the position of a CREC church towards a regularly attending non-member woman? Would she be allowed to attend perhaps for years without her husband?
First, you need to know that I am not an official spokesperson for the CREC. Any comments I make here should be considered representative of Christ Church of Moscow. The CREC churches are independent enough to have pretty varied ideas on some of the opinions that I've expressed here. In this area, however, I would venture to say that I am being pretty representative of CREC views.

The answer to your first question here is that she would be treated in the same way as any other regularly attending non-member. We would love her and minister to her in any way we could.

The answer to the second part would depend on the situation. I can imagine situations when a woman could attend for years without her husband attending too.

The only time we would force any person to stop attending our church is if she/he were in open rebellion against God. And this might include her rebelling against her husband and not attending church with him.
4) In the answer to question (2) there was a distinction between election and salvation being made. [Material quoted from first round answer in italics]
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.
I had trouble understanding how this distinction was being used. Could you elaborate a bit on how the terms are being used (a short definition) to help elucidate the above paragraph?
The short answers to these questions are: Election, we're talking about decreetal election, means that God has chosen some to eternal life and some to eternal destruction. Those God has called to life are called elect. Those chosen for destruction are called reprobate.

The elect are made up of two kinds of person: Those who have met God through Jesus Christ already, and those who before they die will meet him. They meet Him, by the way, through the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This preaching can be done through the example of a godly Christian living in their midst, or through some kind of literature, or most normally through the preached word as the person attends church.

When a person meets God and they realize that they have, up to this point, been living as if they were God. This is not a good thing and because of this kind of living God will reject and damn for eternity all those who will not bow the knee to him. But when they realize their silliness in rebelling against the sovereign God, the person hearing the good news (which is what Gospel means) of Jesus believes the word, confesses his rebellion and turns to God in gratitude and joy. The gratitude and joy are the result of realizing that Jesus took the penalty of his rebellion on himself when he died on the cross.

This transformation is called salvation. A person is said to be saved when they believe that the news is true, true for them as well as those "other guys" and when they turn from their sins and turn to God (this is the definition of "repentance"). There is also a sense that a person who has met Jesus is being saved as well. This is because while living in this life we face all the temptations to sin we did before, but there will be a day when Jesus will come for us and we will be finally saved from sin and the effects of sin.

Until a person is saved, he is called unregenerate. You can't tell the unregenerate people from reprobate people until they receive the Gospel and are saved. Until then everyone looks the same. Also, in a church you can have all of these kinds of people present. There are elect and reprobate (or non-elect). There are saved and not saved yet and never to be saved. It all depends on how you come to the conversation.

So, the elect are people who have been chosen by God to be with him in glory. Salvation is when the realization of God's choice is made known to us as we hear and believe the Gospel. We are elect, chosen by God and saved from Sin to God.

Getting back to the paragraph above. I said the moral status of A does not effect the election of B. This is because election is something that God does independent of anything men do.

A's moral status does affect B's salvation because, if he is elect, it might take longer for someone with the Gospel to get to B then it would if A were a godly man and was bringing B up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Many Christians, even those who grew up in "Christian" homes had to wait until they were deep in sin in college to find a person who would tell them about Jesus. And thus the sinfulness of his parents affected how and when B might have begun enjoying the fruit of the Spirit of God in his life.

I'm pretty sure I've confused the tar out of you, but hopefully the conversation will move in a good direction from here.
5) In terms of membership, and its connection with voting one follow up question was I had here was whether the voting issue pertained only to church issues or whether CREC advocates a similar position for civil election. In question (1) of the previous question set you had agreed with Abshire on the issue of federal representation. He explicitly extends this to the civil sphere as well. Does CREC?
If we were to write the laws of the land I think we might make the voting representative, hmmm, just like they started out in our republic, when it still was a republic.

But right now we follow the laws of the land and ask all those who are lawfully able to vote to vote in the civil realm.

I think this goes pretty much across the CREC.

One other note to the fact that I am not representing the CREC: The CREC is not a postmillennial denomination. In other words you don't have to sign on to federal government to be in the CREC. I don't know if there are any churches in the CREC that are not postmillennial, but there could be. So, their voting ideas, even within a church's government might be different than ours at Christ Church. In other words, at Christ Church we have family memberships. Other CREC churches might have individual memberships. In those churches where the membership is by individual everyone votes; men and women.
6) In the follow up discussions, you had responded that the only issue that membership decide on was elders and deacons. What happens in a CREC church when membership disagrees strongly with an elder decision? In particular does the majority need to vote on an excommunication?
At Christ Church the elders work very hard to know what is on the minds of our people. We work very hard to not make any changes that have not been worked out a long time before the change is implemented. For example, our pastor came to the conclusion that wine ought to be used in the worship service around 10 years before we implemented it in our worship service. And even now, a person who has scruples about wine can pick up a cup of grape juice before or during the service.

If there were a time when an elder or the session said or did something that a significant number of the congregation disagreed with, we have a mechanism for them to bring grievances to the session and have their concerns heard. This does not have to be a certain number of people, one person can come.

Members do not vote on excommunications. Members are asked their opinion at the hearings and they are given very heavy weight, but in the end they do not vote. Also, the vote, by the elders, must be unanimous to excommunicate someone. We have 13 elders right now.

Again, I don't know the procedures in the other CREC churches.
7) Do you consider the Federal Vision to be a sacramental, a theological or a moral doctrine?
Yes. Because theology is about God and God is about everything, Federal Vision is about everything. Your theology shows itself in how you live. If you say you have good theology and you live like a pagan, you don't have good theology. If you say you live according to the Bible, but your family falls apart, you are not living according to the Bible. You're just fooling yourself.
8) What do you see as the relationship between the Federal Vision and the new perspective on Paul.
The only real relationship between the 2 is in the minds of the critics. There are some things the New Perspective folks said that were very thought provoking and actually correct, but over all the main tenants are wrong. Credenda/Agenda magazine had a whole issue devoted to their attitude to the New Perspective theology. You can find it here:

Also, the latest issue of Credenda is all about the Federal Vision. It isn't on-line yet, but you can get a copy by calling our church office (208) 882-2034.
9) In an email exchange you had indicated that CREC frequently disciplines men for failing in their duties as husbands (being unloving). It was unclear to me which parts of this were public. What if anything would you like to have be part of the 2nd set?
I don't know what your last question here means. [The question refers to two cases Mike had spoken about. In both cases CREC had disciplined male members for "failing to be loving to their wives" which amounted to irresponsible and/or self indulgent behavior.]

The answer to the first part is that we let the congregation know what is going on to the extent that the problem has already been made public. For example if the person under discipline is drunk in public and it gets into the newspapers, we tell everyone what is going on. But if the problem is a private family problem we will keep it private until it gets to the point where the Bible tells us to take their sin to the whole church. This might be in a hearing where we end up suspending the person from the Lord's Supper or where we actually go all the way to excommunication. Suspension is temporary meant to be a warning. Excommunication is permanent (excepting full repentance).

In the two cases we had this past Sunday, both men were excommunicated and the whole church could have known about them before hand. The trials/hearing/gatherings (we don't know what to call these meetings) were public to our congregation and the congregation was informed of them at the Heads of Household meeting prior to the trials.
10) Are there distinctions between an adult woman living alone (never married) and a male head of household in terms of membership?
Only that we try to care for the woman more carefully than we do the man. We might be a little more on the lookout for the woman in terms of things she might need. For example house repairs, snow shoveling, lawn mowing, etc. But in terms of church government there isn't any difference.
11) What is the status of New Saint Andrews with respect to CREC? Is it a member organization or does it report in at the denominational level?
NSA is its own entity. The board of directors is made up mostly by Christ Church and Trinity Reformed Church elders. There is at least one member who is not from our area and he is a CREC pastor. But NSA is not an official CREC institution.

All of the faculty and staff are members of either Christ Church or Trinity Reformed Church, both here in Moscow.

I hope this helps,