In the history of the Presbyterian Church in America, there have been numerous overtures, and occasionally even "protests", from presbyteries to the General Assembly. Rarely, however, have presbyteries addressed their sister presbyteries with letters of concern.
But at its February, 1999, stated meeting, Covenant Presbytery did take to task Mississippi Valley Presbytery, expressing concern over the reception of men into the presbytery who are not sound on matters such as six-day creation, paedo-communion, Sabbath observance, the charismatic gifts, and female ordination. The resolution, which was adopted with no negative votes and three abstentions recorded, reads as follows:
Whereas Hebrews 3:13 commands us to "exhort one another daily, while it is called 'Today'";
Whereas Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up.";
Whereas Covenant Presbytery has a special affinity with Mississippi Valley Presbytery because it is geographically adjacent and because it participates in the Mississippi Joint Committee on Campus Work;
Therefore Be It Resolved that Covenant Presbytery instruct its stated clerk to send the following letter from Covenant Presbytery to Mississippi Valley Presbytery:
Dear Fathers and Brethren of Mississippi Valley Presbytery,
It is with a deep sense of reverence and admiration that we, your fellow Presbyterians in the PCA presbytery directly north of you, write this letter of pastoral and brotherly concern. We realize, of course, that there are factors in our own lives and ministries that are neither consistent, Biblical, Presbyterian, nor pleasing to the Lord. We would welcome any correction, admonition, or instruction you can give us.
With that sincere word of introduction, we turn to the matter on our hearts. The times in which we live are perilous. Humanism and post modernism are carrying the day. History proves that the church often imitates and emulates the surrounding culture, rather than the reverse. Jesus told us to be salt and light, and often times we are neither. Through some stalwart individuals, the Lord raised up the Presbyterian Church in America one generation ago. Now, it seems to us that we are already beginning to drift from our moorings. Pragmatism, emotion, and a reluctance to hurt feelings are becoming the order of the day in many of our church courts, rather than a desire to stand unashamedly on the revealed will of God, the Holy Scriptures.
Upon the basis of what we have heard reported to be in the minutes of the Mississippi Valley Presbytery, we are grieved and disturbed that in recent years Mississippi Valley Presbytery has approved examinations in which the following positions were acknowledged, and at times without the presbytery's even recording these positions as exceptions to the Standards which should not be preached or taught:
1. Various interpretations of "the space of six days" which deny creation over a period of approximately 144 hours, especially those interpretations which deny that the Biblical account of creation in six days is an historical narrative of events which occurred in time as we know it.
2. Paedocommunion, by which is meant either (a) a denial that the Lord's Supper should be administered "only to such as are of years and ability to examine themselves," or (b) the teaching that typical babes in the womb, infants and toddlers possess such years and abilities.
3. The teaching that worldly employments unrelated to duties of necessity or mercy, and organized or commercial recreations are moral uses of time on Sunday.
4. Continuing special revelation, including any teaching that forms of prophecy found in the age of the apostles, such as exemplified by the prophecy of Agabus in Acts 21, are still operative.
5. The ordination of women to the eldership-an issue clearly and recently referenced by our General Assembly in response to ordination of women by the Christian Reformed Church. To approve ordination of women in any of our presbyteries now would seem clearly hypocritical in light of that recent action.
Some of these issues are, obviously, more important than others; but, brethren, we believe these are serious matters and exhort you to re-examine your consciences as well as your minds. If these are the issues on which we cut corners now, what will be the issues 25 years hence?
With the exception of the issue of ordination of women, an issue that has not arisen before us yet, we have dealt carefully and to the best of our ability, Biblically, with each of these questions, refusing men entrance or counseling them not to teach or preach the exception.
We, therefore, exhort you in the name of God, before Whom we will all someday stand, to be more circumspect in your examinations and theological deliberations in the days ahead, in order that the peace and purity of the Church be preserved.
Sincerely in Christ,
Your Brethren in Covenant Presbytery