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Monday, January 23, 2012

What a surprise... a new Protestant denomination

RNS) Conservative Presbyterians launched a new denomination on Thursday (Jan. 19), saying that the Presbyterian Church (USA) is too consumed by internal conflicts and bureaucracy to nurture healthy congregations.

“This ‘new Reformed body’ is intended to foster a new way of being the church, just as traditional, mainline denominations rose to serve in their day,” wrote leaders of the new Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians.
Read the rest here.

HT: T-19

18 comments:

The Archer of the Forest said...

I thought that was what the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA) was for.

Visibilium said...

Another destination for the professional religion-hoppers. Maybe the Bible Presbyterians are too biblical.

William Tighe said...

Without knowing anything about this new denomination, and with little interest in finding it out, I'd be willing to wager that its sole raison d'etre (as opposed to those fleeing the PCUSA joining one or another of already existing conservative Presbyterian denominations such as the PCA, the OPC, the RPC [each one progressively more conservative than its predecessor]) is because these ersatz "conservatives" are anti-homo but pro-WO, and since these above-mentioned denominations have the sense not to "ordain" women, they need one that will do it. Of course, there is the EPC (Evangelical Presb. Ch.) that leaves it up to each presbytery whether to "ordain" women or not, but most of them don't, and that would not be suitable for folk who embrace yesterday's droppings of the Zeitgeist as ardently as they reject today's.

We saw the same thing recently in those Lutherans who left the ELCA over the same issue: instead of joining denominations like the Missouri Synod, the Wisconsin Synod or the AELCA (which originated in 1987 among those pastors and congregations who refused the mergers that created the ELCA), all of which don't "ordain" women, they had to create their own NALC, which does.

Anonymous said...

William,

Just on a side note, since the Presbyterians and Lutherans don't have the same theology on the liturgy or priesthood, as Orthodox and Catholics, would ordaining women really make a difference?



Savvy

William Tighe said...

Well, it "really" constitutes a departure from their own traditional (small-t) practice and, more importantly, how they have interpreted the relevant Scriptural passages, as well as their customary/historical approach to Scripture. And it opens the floodgates to other diabolical developments.

Chris Jones said...

Bill,

I was going to say, this new Presbyterian group seems to bear the same relationship to the PCUSA that ACNA does to the Episcopal Church; but you beat me to it.


Anonymous,

since the Presbyterians and Lutherans don't have the same theology on the liturgy or priesthood, as Orthodox and Catholics, would ordaining women really make a difference?

Well, the Orthodox and Catholics do not, strictly speaking, have exactly the same theology of liturgy and the priesthood as each other (for example, there is no "indelible character" in the Orthodox conception of the priesthood), but both communions find the ordination of women to be impossible. Differences in theology, small or great, do not necessarily require a different answer to the question of the ordination of women. Each Church body must approach the question in the context of their own confessional commitments and answer the question on their own terms.

In any case while I cannot (and would not care to) speak for the Presbyterians, the classic Lutheran doctrine of liturgy and priesthood is not "generic Protestant" and has more in common with traditional Christianity than you might think. While it must be admitted that the preaching office is more central to the Lutheran conception of the pastoral office than to the Catholic conception, a Lutheran pastor is not "just a preacher." A Lutheran pastor stands in the place of Christ at the altar and consecrates the bread and wine to become the very body and blood of Christ, and he exercises the power of the keys in the confessional. And among us the preaching office is not to be contrasted with or opposed to the pastor's "sacramental" ministry, because preaching within the context of the liturgy is itself a means of grace and thus has a sacramental character.

For us, the priest is the icon of Christ at the font, at the altar, in the confessional, and in the pulpit. Thus the ordination of women "would really make a difference."

Alice C. Linsley said...

I'd bet Dr. Tighe is right on this.


Savvy, my grandmother was ordained a Baptist pastor in 1925. A female pastor is a different species than a female acting the role of a priest. The female pastor is in the mold of women like Phoebe, Lydia, and Pricilla.

Anonymous said...

Chris,

A priest is one who offers sacrifice. A Christian priest offers the sacrifice of Christ and is also an icon for Christ.

I think this is what Alice is also trying to say about our different views on the priesthood.




Savvy

Chris Jones said...

Savvy,

I was not claiming that the Lutheran doctrine of the priesthood is identical to the Catholic or the Orthodox, only that it has more in common with it than you might think (which is what I wrote). On the Catholic view, yes, a priest is one who offers sacrifice, and a priest is one who has received episcopal ordination in the Apostolic Succession, and Lutherans dissent from this. So there are significant differences. But the simple dichotomy of Catholic/Orthodox sacramental and sacrificial priesthood vs. Protestant "just a preacher" is too simple to account for the reality of what Lutherans believe about the pastoral office.

I'm not trying to argue here, by the way, that the Lutheran teaching on the pastoral office is correct. I am only trying to correct a false understanding of what the Lutheran teaching actually is, right or wrong. The attitude that "those Lutherans don't have real priests, so the ordination of women needn't matter for them" will not do, because it is based on a misapprehension of what Lutherans actually believe (again, right or wrong).

Anonymous said...

Chris,

Thank You. The issue on every side is that theology is now being confused with gender or social politics. that sees everything as a power struggle between men and women.

There are even Liberals who use the Reformation as an argument for liberalism, when it was about theology, not women or gays.


Savvy

Jodie Anna said...

I think the next one should be called the "Independent Church of United Presbyterians." Now that would be a good acronym ;)

Alice C. Linsley said...

I attended the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia (though I was ordained in ECUSA) and I am familiar with the Lutheran view of the Eucharist, priesthood and ordination. The traditional Lutheran view of the Eucharist has much in common with churches in the catholic tradition. That said, they do not hold to the catholic tradition when it comes to the priesthood or to ordination. They don't have priests since all
share in the Priesthood of believers. Further, one is ordained only upon receiving a call to serve a local congregation. Upon leaving that congregation, the Lutheran pastor is no longer ordained and will be reordained upon accepting the next call. Ordination for Lutherans is not ontological though it is necessary to officiate at the Eucharist. There are some Lutherans who view the Pastor at the altar in persona Christi, but this is also confusing since the mainline Lutherans ordain women.

Jay said...

Alice - I am a Lutheran pastor, and I can tell you that no major Lutheran denomination that I am aware of re-ordains pastors when they change congregations. Ordination occurs once, including pastors who leave the ministry and then come back to it later.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Re-ordain was not a good word to use. However, there is no ordination without a call, correct?

Chris Jones said...

Mrs Linsley,

There is no ordination without a call; this is not a peculiarity of Lutheranism, but the historic practice of the Apostolic Church. The sixth canon of the council of Chalcedon states the principle:

It is decreed that no one shall be ordained at large either a Presbyter or a Deacon, nor anything else at all in the ecclesiastical ranks unless he be particularly assigned to the church of some city, or to a martyry [that is, a Church built over the tomb of a martyr], or to a monastery. As for those ordained at large the holy Council has determined that any such ordination shall be null and void, and that those so ordained shall not be allowed to officiate anywhere, to the dishonor of him who ordained them.

Thus according to canonical practice, there can be no "ordination at large," that is, an ordination without a call to a particular parish or other ecclesiastical assignment.

Of course, as a canon of an ecumenical council this is still in force in the Orthodox Church.

Alice C. Linsley said...

As I understand it, the Lutheran rationale is not a response to the Council of Chalcedon, but to the Roman assertion that the one valid priesthood was that of Rome. Reading the 95 Thesis, it appears that Luther himself didn't have a problem with this, but as things developed, his followers did.

Chris Jones said...

The 95 Theses are not authoritative for Lutheranism, nor are the opinions or writings of Luther, other than his writings which are included in the Lutheran Confessions.

It is sometimes asserted (even by some Lutherans) that "the call makes a pastor" (rather than "the ordination makes a pastor"), and I assume that that is what you mean by "the Lutheran rationale." But that is a misunderstanding of the classic Lutheran position. It is certainly true that Lutherans regard a proper call to a pastoral position in a parish as a necessary prerequisite to entering into the office of the sacred ministry. But that is no more than what proper canonical order requires (as canon six of Chalcedon testifies), and it does not mean that ordination is unnecessary or meaningless.

No congregation is allowed to call a man as pastor who is not ordained or eligible for ordination; and if an unordained man is called (such as a recent seminary graduate), he must be ordained before he may serve. If a congregation calls a man, but the ecclesiastical authority finds him unworthy and will not ordain him, then he may not serve as pastor. In other words, a proper call is a pre-requisite of ordination, but it is not equivalent to or a substitute for ordination.

The idea that a pastor is simply a layman who has been hired by a congregation to be its preacher, rather than a man who has been properly called and ordained to the sacred ministry, may be true of other Protestant groups; but it won't wash in Lutheranism.

Alice C. Linsley said...

I took the Lutheran Confessions course the same time I took Anglican Polity with Jeffrey Steenson, a fascinating juxtaposition.

Lutherans have progressively distanced themselves from Luther, which is both understandable and unfortunate. I assume Luther's catechisms are still valued, as they appear in the Book of Concord.