Over the past year and a half I have been working with a group of people (about 4 families and a few singles) in Ann Arbor discipling them in their undoubted Catholic Christian faith. At one time there was hopes that this group might be able to form a core group of a fledgling Church but that hasn’t, to date, happened. These folks had been Christians a very long time but had only recently come to the fuller understanding of the Christian faith that is Reformed. I must say that in my 20 plus years of being in the ministry I have never encountered a group of people that were so hungry to understand what it means to be Reformed. They were reading books that many pastors never get to. I was and remain impressed and thankful to God.
When it became apparent that a fledgling Church wasn’t going to work out I advised them on some area ‘Reformed’ churches they might want to investigate. Being a Christian Reformed minister I was somewhat hopeful that the local CRC church might be a place where they could find a home.
After checking many of the area Reformed Churches they finally decided to check out the local CRC congregation. They came back with some very encouraging reports regarding the worship and liturgy of the services they attended and were finding some of the Sunday School classes offered to be encouraging. Eventually they decided to check out the prospective new members classes.
Welcome brick wall.
After one week of attendance one of the men was pulled aside with a request to meet with some of the leadership. Now it should be said that this gentleman is certainly one of the most well read and informed Reformed laymen I have ever known. Indeed it is my opinion that his breadth of knowledge of Scripture and passion for Christ outstrips most of the clergy I meet in this world. He was the one instrumental in teaching this little group the beginnings of Reformed Theology and Worldview and God used him to impact the lives of these families that gathered weekly around God’s Word. It was at this man’s request that I became attached to this little flock and I came to love all of the members of this Wednesday group like they were the family they were. I have known this man only a few years and yet I already count him as one of my closest friends.
It was his breadth of knowledge and his passion for Christ that earned him a meeting with the leadership who expressed to him their concern that he might be a source of friction in their church. In the meeting he sought to allay their fears and thought that all had been settled. That didn’t end up being true. After the following week’s prospective new members class he received a letter which I cite in part,
We do not typically ask new members to sign statements upon joining our congregation. However, we are asking you to sign the following statement because we recognize your intense interest in certain aspects of Reformed Theology. Our concern is that your views and opinions may cause divisions in our congregation. Throughout the years we have established a fellowship of believers from differing traditions of those who follow Jesus Christ. Differences of opinion and interpretation are accepted.
Now understand that nothing had happened to precipitate this letter. My friend had entered into some friendly discussions where some polite disagreements had been registered on both sides but there was nothing that even approximated conflict or friction. In the first meeting my friend made it known that he opposed women in office but as the CRC allows both views to be held he didn’t think that would be an issue. He also made it known in a kind of an offhand way, in the course of a conversation, that he believed in a young earth citing a book by Douglas Kelly as support.
So why this letter? Please understand dear reader that he’s being asked to sign a letter, promising to stay on a short leash, in order to join a Reformed Church, for the danger he represents in having an intense interest in certain aspects of the Reformed Faith. Oh the shame. Oh the disrepute. Oh the horror of such convictions. Next thing you know they’ll be asking a prospective member to leave a deposit if they show up having the Heidelberg catechism memorized.
Now what of the fear of upsetting the different traditions? First, just exactly what ‘different traditions’ are we talking about here? Does this mean that in our Church membership we have Lutherans, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Wesleyans, and Jehovah Wittinesses who are all following Jesus Christ? Heaven to Murgatroyd … even — we wouldn’t want to upset that apple cart introducing somebody who really took the three forms of unity seriously would we?
Again, the paragraph cited above speaks of differences of opinion and interpretation are allowed… except apparently for a Reformed opinion or interpretation. And what of these differences of opinion and interpretation? Just how different of an opinion or interpretation can one be before one is told that is to different? Can one believe in Arminianism and be a member? Open Theism? Inclusivism?
Yeah, I’m a little pissed. Actually, more then a little. I would cut my right arm off to have this guy in the Church I pastor and what he is getting in another Reformed Church is the right boot of fellowship.
I am even more sizzled over the fact that this group of people can’t find a decent Reformed Church in a huge metropolitan area to Worship in without driving a sizable chunk to get to one.
I have these friends who rightfully are lamenting they can’t find a Reformed Church. I have my daughter in Florida who is living in a large Metropolitan area that can’t find a decent Reformed Church. Every where I go I meet people who say, “We don’t have a good Reformed Church in our area.”