I call your attention to the actions of Grace P.C., approvingly reported in the denominational bulletin insert. This strikes me as naked will-worship. Why so much whining in PCA about the prospect of a few lady ministers in the CRC (unbiblical as that is), but virtual denominational approval of man-made worship and "holy days" which are probably worse than lady ministers?
Sierra Madre, CA
[Mr. Rodgers was referring to the July, 1998, edition
of the PCA's Bulletin Supplement, with special note of two churches'
activities, as follows: "At the Foot of the Cross: On Easter
Sunday morning, members of Park Cities Presbyterian Church
in Dallas, Texas, brought cut flowers from their yards and
placed them at the outdoor cross in front of the church. They
saw it as a way to glorify the Lord with the beauty of His creation."
"Pentecost Celebrated: Jesus, the second person of the Holy
Trinity, has a huge celebration in His honor at Christmas, but
not the Third Person, God the Holy Spirit. Grace Presbyterian
Church in Ocala, Florida, changed that. On May 31st, the
church celebrated the Gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church-the
Bride of Christ. The Kingdom Kids sang, the Handbell Choir played,
trumpets sounded and the Sanctuary Choir presented special music.
Members of the church wore red to testify to the Spirit's presence
in their lives, and they decorated the church building, the meeting
place of the Bride of Christ."-Ed.]
Dear Dr. Smith:
Reading the Spring 1998 issue of Presbyterian and Reformed News gave me both pleasure and sorrow. It had been some time since I had read any detailed news of the PCA, and I was glad to be brought up to date on many matters.
I had visited the Park City [UT] Presbyterian Church 3 times, but had not had an opportunity to really talk with the pastor. I did notice on my first two visits that more choruses than hymns were sung. When I attended the service at which the congregation was organized as a particular congregation of the PCA, I was dismayed that no hymns at all were sung. After reading this issue, I came to a better understanding of what is desired there in the way of worship. (Also, when talking with Mr. Jason Wallace, I learned more of the situation there.)
Soon after Mr. Wade Smith began holding public meetings, I attended one Lord's Day morning, even though I knew from a newspaper article that he was attempting to appeal to people by avoiding the use of hymns. I did not tell him that his choice of "music" was offensive, but I did let him know that I did not expect to return. I was grieved to learn that he had to be disciplined.
I am greatly disturbed that a minister in the PCA would be allowed to state that for an evangelist to be allowed to labor in a certain area it is necessary for the evangelist to declare support of a form of "worship" that he cannot support. Could such a view be the reason for his departing the OPC?
I could comment at greater length, but I will close with a request that you enter a subscription to Presbyterian and Reformed News in my name.
John B. Degges
West Valley City, UT
[Formerly a PCA minister, Mr. Degges was one of the
denomination's first church planters, being sent in 1974 from
Warrior Presbytery to Salt Lake City. The reference to the minister
"departing the OPC" is to Lewis Ruff, Western Coordinator
for the PCA's Mission to North America Committee, who held the
top bureaucratic post for home missions in the Orthodox Presbyterian
Church in the 1980s.-Ed.]
Dear Dr. Smith,
Last year, I decided to stop reading "Presbyterian & Reformed News" because of the general tone of your articles. I simply threw subsequent issues in the garbage without even opening the envelope. When I received the Spring 1998 issue, I decided once again to open the envelope and read the issue. But I found the same tone and character to your articles and reporting. So, I ask you to remove me from your mailing list.
I am not asking you to do this because I disagree with your concerns about things happening in the PCA. I am also very concerned about the need for good biblical teaching and preaching in the PCA, and for a good understanding of Reformed theology by all members of our churches. I, too, want people to be shaped by Scripture and biblically-guided wisdom in their corporate worship of God. And I urge people to be critical and discerning in their use of ideas and practices from our society and culture. So, I am not at all in disagreement with your paper's practice of raising issues about questionable beliefs and practices in the PCA, and evaluating them in the light of scripture, our standards, and our Presbyterian and Reformed tradition. But what I do not find acceptable is the manner in which your paper does this.
I am a professor at a Christian college in Canada. In my courses I have my students look at all sorts of ideas and practices that I disagree with. Whenever I present such an idea or practice with which I disagree,
I always present it in the strongest and best way possible. And then, having given it its most positive presentation, I set forth my arguments against it. This is my attempt at showing respect to those with whom I disagree, and at preparing my students (many of whom may go on to deal with these things, first hand, in graduate studies or in their future lives) for their own biblically-shaped discernment.
I do not think that in your articles you are fair, even-handed and present other views in their best possible light. In fact, I find many of your investigative articles to be little more than thinly-disguised
editorials. Your presentation of the facts of an issue is clearly slanted toward the concerns that you have about it. The articles concerning New Song-Salt Lake focus on the questionable things that have
occurred there. You say little about the positive things going on in the witness and life of the church. And you do not raise the whole matter of contextualization, which missiologists have come to realize is not issue
merely for people who take the gospel to non-western nations, but it is also an issue for us in our presentation of the gospel in North America and Europe. (As an illustration, many of the tunes of the staunch old hymns we love to sing in the Trinity Hymnal were considered much too "wordly" when they were first put to music because they used the styles of music popular in their contemporary society).
You also use a number of things in your reporting that are clearly meant to present people and church practices in a negative light. Some of these are:
1. Presenting information about your contacts with people that make it appear that they avoided talking to you, and then listing questions that you would like to have answered. This clearly insinuates that these
people did not want to answer these questions, because they would expose wrongdoing.
2. Quoting people in interviews with their pauses and hesitancies (that people normally have in conversations) so that they appear to be evasive and unclear in their responses to questions.
3. Quoting written correspondence--letters and e-mail--with obvious errors in spelling and grammar (which an editor could easily correct), thereby making them appear ignorant and uneducated.
4. You make a selective use of overtures, correspondence, personal experience, and 3rd party studies to support your agenda of raising "concerns" about a significant story.
Overall, what I find lacking in your articles is a clear tone of love. I do not mean a love that abandons or compromises the truth. What I mean is a love that attempts to understand an alternative perspective or
practice by a brother or sister that may have validity. A love that is not quick to attribute evil or sinful practices to a brother. A love that realizes that we are all sinners, and that an editor may use the power of the press to promote his point of view while making the point of view of one with whom he disagrees appear sinful and unbiblical. And yet, a love that humbly still argues for one's own point of view.
Let me conclude by borrowing from you. I will close by raising a number of questions that I would like you to answer:
1. Would you be willing to have a good third-party Christian journalist evaluate the objectivity of the manner in which you raise a story about an issue?
2. Why do you not smooth out the words of an interviewee before you print them?
3. Why don't you correct the obvious spelling and grammatical errors in written correspondence before you publish it?
4. Why do you insinuate that people's failures to get back to you were due to their unwillingness to talk to you, yet you mention that your unwillingness to fly out to Salt Lake City at their expense to check out
the church was due to your "schedule and time constraints"? Why the imbalance?
5. In discussing the worship practices of new churches (e.g., New Song-Salt Lake), why do you not mention any of the issues raised by the ever-growing literature on contextualizing the Christian faith in North
America, for example, by The Gospel and Our Culture Network? Are you simply unaware of this? If so, would you be willing to print an article on this issue?
6. Are you open to the fact that some people do not wish to talk to you because their experience is that you will either report their comments in a negative light, or suggest that their actions are questionable or
In conclusion, let me repeat: I am not opposed to these issues being raised; and I, too, want people to take the Bible and Reformed theology more seriously. But I believe that such issues should be raised in a
manner that is fair to all concerned, and that is infused with Christian love. I do not believe that your publication does this. For these reasons, I ask you to remove my name from your mailing list.
Sincerely in Our Lord,
The Rev. Dr. Guenther Haas
[We are always sorry to lose one of our valued readers; however, we always honor such a request. Instead of a lengthy reply by ourselves to the whole letter, we will simply respond to the six questions which Dr. Haas posed to us, and make an additional comment at the end.
1. Several professional journalists have commended us for our accuracy and fairness.
2. We have used ellipses when appropriate, so as to make for smoothness.
3. Often we do correct obvious errors. In one instance in the last issue, in which a person wrote a threatening email, we printed the correspondence as it came to us. We did so for several reasons, including the fact that we thought that if we printed "[sic]" a dozen times in the text, those errors would become even more pronounced; and including the fact that, since it was a threatening missive, we thought we should print it as it came.
4. Quite frankly, we are at a loss to understand how one could equate an unwillingness to speak on the telephone, with a reluctance for a pastor, with little advance notice, to travel over a weekend; or even to equate an unwillingness to converse via telephone with a reluctance to travel 2000 miles one way (New York to Utah). With regard to people not getting back to us, we were not going to raise this issue again; but since we have been attacked on this matter, please remember the following facts (which we reported in the Spring 1998 issue). In speaking with one of the denominational bureaucrats, we made a definite arrangement to call again several days later. He was well aware that we were on deadline, and that we were reserving space for him for the continued interview. When we called on that Monday (June 1st), the receptionist stated that the gentleman was not even in the office that day. Moreover, he apparently made no effort to be in touch with us, either that day or the next (when we were still making last minute adjustments). Furthermore, he had indicated that his office could supply us with requested information. His office e-mailed us on that Monday that that information was not going to be forthcoming. And, he also encouraged us to contact the Western Coordinator for Mission to North America: when we called the Western Coordinator, he hung up on us. We will let the reader draw his own conclusions.
5. Having co-edited a book on worship and taught the course on worship at the seminary level, we are not exactly unaware of trends on the subject. That does not mean, however, that we agree with those trends or the thinking behind them. Nevertheless, we are happy to run "Open Forum" pieces for people who disagree with traditional Presbyterian orthodoxy to express their views.
6. The Editor of this publication is a minister in good standing in the Presbyterian Church in America. Like any minister or member of the PCA, he has a right to have his questions answered. To the best of his knowledge, he always tries to be polite and cordial. He doesn't yell or scream or query inappropriately. Every PCA officer is mutually accountable to every other officer. That truism is especially applicable to those officers who are denominational employees. Those whose salaries are paid by the General Assembly are, in a particular way, accountable to the church as a whole. They are servants. As servants, they do not have the right to refuse to answer questions about their work. It does not matter if they personally like this editor or not-they may not lawfully refuse his inquiries. Having said that, let us say that we try very hard to employ the Golden Rule in our dealings with others. Our efforts normally include our letting the people whom we have interviewed, etc., an opportunity to review what we have written. If anyone feels he has been wronged or somehow treated unfairly, our columns are open for response or rebuttal.
By way of comment, we hope the overwhelming majority
of our readers can discern that we have shown love in our dealings
with others, including denominational officials. Indeed, out
of respect for people, we have often refrained from printing as
much information as we have.-Ed.]