On this Reformation day, five hundred and two years after Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the Wittenburg door, I wonder anew at the ordination vows all Presbytery clergy take. We are confident that the Reformation was indeed a type of revival or renewal of the Church. We note the sacerdotalism (rule by priests) of the Roman Catholic centuries ago, and say it is good that we have returned to believing that the Bible, the written Word of God, displaying the living Word of God, Jesus Christ, is available to almost all people groups around the world. We are spoiled in English to have a glut of translations and paraphrases to enjoy what God is saying to us in these days.
The fear that the “ordinary person” would misinterpret the Bible must be balanced by the reality that many scholars often study the Bible with the goal of disbelieving the text, the miracles and even the person of Jesus. We are drawn to the Scriptures because we know therein lies the source of our life and hope, discerning truth from error, from this life into the next.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
(2 Timothy 3:16-17)
We have moved from a time, centuries ago, when we believed it was all about the sacraments, and not mainly about relationship with Jesus. So the emphasis goes back onto the Bible as the written Word of God, and we believe this is good. This is why I bear the office title of Minister of Word and Sacraments. It is my duty in my office to be the teaching elder on many of the questions of the day. Sometimes this is easier than others.
Now in our denomination we are debating whether what Canada (and the US) has done in reference to re-defining marriage is God’s way and will into the future. We are debating new self-defined sexualities, and their place in the church, and what boundaries, if any, they would face in becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ in our denomination and congregation.
My own reading of Scripture allows me to only accept traditional heterosexual marriage and traditional sexual ethics, that is, sexual relations outside traditional marriage is sin. This is also the position of Session. While this is clear, and debatable, both inside the Church and outside it, we are having to be very clear on what decisions we will make both as a congregation and as a denomination.
On November 3, we are having a congregational meeting to give a lot more detail to the history, dynamics and actual decision-making process the denomination is going through in order to arrive at a decision on this controversial subject. Many families struggle with the question as they seek to be sensitive to family members. We too are asking ourselves what it means to welcome everyone here, and to call everyone to the same standard of discipleship, away from sin to God.
We are asking you what you think on a number of questions relating to this subject to value and respect what you think. We are not trying to weary you on this subject, but our denomination doesn’t really leave us an option, as we cannot responsibly avoid or deny these conversations and decisions.
These are hard discussions. They are difficult in the best of times, but Grace has also gone through years of difficult seasons, with Pastor Dan’s illness and many other trials and tribulations for the congregation.
I trust you will join me in prayer for our congregation and all the congregations of our denomination as we seek to be kind to one another and care for one another as we face another winter together. I wish I could tell you that everything will be okay. All I can tell you is that Jesus is faithful to us, and that whatever we decide in these days, must be unto the Lord. God is our faithful and righteous judge in these matters and every matter that is put before us.
Let us uphold each other in prayer…”let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings…” (Hebrews 10: 22). “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, and not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25, NIV)