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"...Calvin goes on to argue that the quality of life of one’s fellow church members should not be the basis on which one decides whether to stay or leave the church. Speaking of those who would leave the church in offense over the behavior of others, he points to the Apostle Paul’s remarks in I Corinthians 5 and 11. He comments that “in thinking it a sacrilege to partake of the Lord’s bread with the wicked, they are much more rigid than Paul. For when Paul urges us to a holy and pure partaking of it, he does not require that one examine another, or everyone in the whole church, but that each individual examine himself.” (IV, I, 15). The theme of sections 17-22 of this chapter of Book IV is summarized as “The imperfect holiness of the church does not justify schism, but affords the occasion for the exercise within it of forgiveness of sins.” (Book IV, Section I). ..."Joan Gray, moderator of the 217th General Assembly has posted a reflection on the aftermath of this year's meeting in Birmingham. In this short excerpt from the middle of her article, she calls on John Calvin to offer a suggestion on how to approach al this talk of apostasy and schism.
Reading this triggered some memories of my reading the Book of Confessions several years ago, and I went back to the Second Helvetic Confession, Chapter XVII, and located this:
WE MUST NOT JUDGE RASHLY OR PREMATURELY. Hence we must be very careful not to judge before the time, nor undertake to exclude, reject or cut off those whom the Lord does not want to have excluded or rejected, and those whom we cannot eliminate without loss to the Church. On the other hand, we must be vigilant lest while the pious snore the wicked gain ground and do harm to the Church. -- Book of Confessions 5.140The section preceding the above quote likens the Church to a net that catches all kinds of fish (Matthew 13:47) or a field in which both wheat and tares are found (Matthew 13:24).
I sincerely hope and pray that the PC(USA) will not split over the PUP report, especially since so much that was good came out of GA 217.
We are not called to ignore problems in the name of "unity", but neither are we called to go through the field uprooting the weeds we see. We are to be vigilant and, as Calvin suggests, examine ourselves first, realizing that imperfection in the Church is not neccesarily grounds for schism.
Nearly 450 years ago there was near schism in the newly reformed Church, and the Second Helvetic Confession was a response to the charges and countercharges of heresy being hurled back and forth in the mid-1500s. The Church survived then, and the Church can survive today.
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