Volume. XXV, No. 32
Sunday, 06 February 2011


The Practice of Ecclesiastical Separation - Part 3 (Final)


(This article is written by Preacher Mark Chen, and is applicable to us at Hope Bible-Presbyterian Church, Adelaide) Ecclesiastical Separation Biblically Restored
 
How then are we to restore a biblical ecclesiastical separation?  If indeed many separate over minutiae, bind the conscience of others, and ignore biblical processes, then to do the opposite in practicing separation is pleasing to the Lord.
 
Separation over clear biblical doctrine
 
The Bible is clear on many things, yet it is not always clear on others.  One way that Christians down the ages have articulated these clear teachings of the Bible is through creeds and confessions. These become the doctrinal standards for churches.  By providence, Life Bible-Presbyterian Church has a doctrinal standard found in the Westminster Confession of Faith and its catechisms.
 
Church historian Philip Schaff says that such standards are for the purposes of defining theological standards, of distinguishing one church from another, of defending the faith by guarding against false doctrines and practices, of disseminating doctrines to succeeding generations, of developing sound interchurch relationships, of discipling and nurturing and teaching young Christians, and of deepening our connection and understanding of the church in the past.
 
An additional use of creeds and confessions is that they promote matured and charitable liberty. Things which are not dealt with in these documents are considered peripheral and secondary.
 
The reason why the Confessions may be silent on these issues is because they are not as plainly expounded in the Scriptures as other things are.  Article 1.7 of the Westminster Confession of Faith states, “All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.”
 
If these things are not as plainly expounded, how can these things be central to Gospel truth? Is it justifiable to separate over these things?  How can Bible versions, head coverings, and the length of a woman’s hair be justifiable reasons for ecclesiastical separation?
 
But whatever the doctrinal issue, such questions need to be considered carefully and by all the men that God has called and appointed to disseminate His truth and to guard his church.  That is why due process is so important.
 
Separation by going through due process
 
The church is not the Wild West.  There are no Indian chiefs and there are no lone rangers.  No one can make decisions independently and no decision can be made or pushed through without the consensus of the entire church government.
 
In making decisions about fraternal relationships, doctrinal controversies, and ecclesiastical separation, the church has a due process. Beyond the local church, there is a higher court of a presbytery, and beyond that, a synod.  This is Presbyterian church government.  There should be no independency in Presbyterianism.  No individual or handful of individuals may make decisions concerning doctrine or separation.
 
Article XXXI:3 of the Westminster Confession of Faith states, “It belongs to synods and councils, ministerially to determine controversies of faith, and cases of conscience; to set down rules and directions for the better ordering of the public worship of God, and government of his Church; to receive complaints in cases of maladministration, and authoritatively to determine the same; which decrees and determinations, if consonant to the Word of God, are to be received with reverence and submission; not only for their agreement with the Word, but also for the power whereby they are made, as being an ordinance of God appointed thereunto in His Word.”
 
Upholding a doctrinal standard, knowing on which issues to separate, and having a wider church government to regulate these issues liberate our conscience from the bonds with which other men seek to hold the church.
 
Work Towards Biblical Unity
 
If independency is not scriptural, then being independent is not expedient.  Thus, there needs to be an effort to work towards biblical unity.
 
Often the theme of unity is looked upon suspiciously in separatist churches.  Naturally, we are tempted to think of any Christian unity as unbiblical ecumenism.  And the topic of true visible Christian unity is never given the weight that it deserves.  It is often classified as a “by-the-way” principle of Biblical Separation, rather than the opposite.  But Christian unity is biblical and it should be something that even separatists should work towards.
 
One example of separatists working towards unity can be seen in the Reformation.  Despite their justifiable separation from the Roman Catholic Church, the Reformers did strive for unity amongst themselves. They did not always achieve it, but they certainly did try.
 
In 1529, the Reformers met in Marburg to discuss their similarities and differences.  The chief participants were Luther and Zwingli. They had much to agree on, in fact, 14 points, but they parted without agreeing on the 15th, being the nature of the Lord’s Supper.  It would not be the last time that Protestants would be out of agreement. But what follows is more encouraging.
 
The next year in the Diet of Augsburg in 1530, Luther’s friend Philip Melancthon wrote the Augsburg Confession, as a careful and cautious summary of Lutheran doctrines. In the preface, there was a plea for Christian unity, and a promise that the Lutherans were “neglecting nothing that may serve the cause of Christian unity.”  And this promise was indeed fulfilled, for 10 years after Augsburg, Melancthon produced a revised edition, The Variata.  He rewrote some parts in order to make peace with Calvinists.  And John Calvin himself signed the 1540 version.
 
Similarly, Heinrich Bullinger, the successor of Zwingli, forwarded the efforts of unity. Just as Luther disagreed with Zwingli on the nature of the Lord’s Supper, Calvin, too, disagreed with Zwingli.  However, in 1549, Bullinger and Calvin succeeded in overcoming the differences in doctrine and produced the Zurich Consensus.  This resulted in a united Reformed witness.
 
Conclusion
 
Ecclesiastical separation is a biblical doctrine and practice.  It must be obeyed and applied.  The purity of the church and the testimony of Christ must not be compromised.  Just because there are excesses does not detract from the doctrine itself; they simply show that the corruption of the doctrine is unbiblical.
 
Knowledge of the doctrines over which to separate and the procedures of church discipline, regulated by a plurality of many men from many churches, are all safeguards against unbiblical separation.  These also promote a unity that is pleasing in the sight of God.
 
Life Bible-Presbyterian Church has gone through 60 years of history. It has seen the hand of God protecting her from the increasing apostasy in the world.  It has also seen the ugly side of unbiblical separation in her recent history.  May the Lord continue to preserve her and protect her, and may she remain true to the whole counsel of Scripture.
  
                      


More Lively Hope

 

Announcements

Announcements
*Kitchen Rosters: Team Leader: Dn Edwin D’Mello. Next Lord’s Day: Team Leader:  Bro Boongs Atijatuporn.
*Deepest Sympathy to Rev George van Buuren & family on the home-going of the late Sis Nantje last Sunday (30 Jan).
*Hope Bookstore - open 12:30 - 1:30pm. Books & cards are for sale.
*Please note: Ladies’ & Men’s Fellowships, & AFG commence this week.
*YAF Welcome Dinner: Please invite your friends and family.
*Greetings to all Hopefuls from Sis Marion Chan (Myazaki).

 
Looking Ahead
*YAF Adelaide Uni O-Week - 21 & 24 Feb.
*YAF Welcome Dinner, Fri, 25 Feb at 6:30 pm.
*Easter Family Bible Camp, 22-25 April.
 
Praise & Thanksgiving
Journey mercies: Rev George van Buuren’s family (Adl); Dn Colin & Sis Grace Gan & family (S’pore); Bro Joseph Selvanayagam (Nice); Sis Grace Seow (S’pore); & others who have arrived safely at their destinations.
Surgery - Bro Samuel Ki
Church activities - over the past week.
God’s daily mercy, guidance & blessings

 
Prayer Items
Health & God’s healing - Dr Gary Cohen (USA), Dr SH Tow; Rev George van Buuren; Rev & Mrs James White; Preacher Zhang, Dn Yaw Chiew Tan; Bros Colin Creaser;  Elton Law, & Len Pearson; Mr Swee Liang Ng; Grandpa Ki (S’pore); Auntie Oei; Sisters Lynette Booth, Mabella Booth, Lydia Fan, Myung Ki, Choon Fong Lee (KL), Gillian Ong, Lehia Paauwe, Margaret Pearson, Julie Tan, Irena Kurek-Braden; & others in affliction.
Hospital - Sis Susan Varadi in RAH, Ward Q8.
Post-surgery - Bro Samuel Ki. For good recovery.
Cambodia Missions - Rev Moses Hahn & Ministry; Preacher Zhang & Ministry (Sihanoukville).
Laos Missions - Bro Surish Dharmalingam & Ministry (Vientiane).
Batam Missions - Sis Ang Liang Phoa (Filadelfia Church).
iSketch&Tell Studio - Pr H S Lim & ministry.
IBPFM (USA) - Rev K Coleman, Board & Missionaries around the world.
Ministry in London - Ps & Sis Ki.
Presbyterian Missionary Union - Missionaries.
Ps & Sis  Weng - ministry in Hope BPC.
Hopefuls in S’pore; In Kuching: Teo family.
Journey mercies: Bro Raymond Chia & family; Bros Joseph Selvanayagam & Jason Teng; Sisters Xandrea Cai, Shu Ai Cho, Annie Li,  Katrina Loh, & Sally Teng (Adl); Bro Raphael & Sis Bernadette Ng & family; & Sis Serene Wong (S’pore); & all those who are travelling.
Job - Bro Raymond Ang & Sis Corinne Teng.
Good recovery following delivery - Sis Myra Horenung (Mindanao).
The Horenung’s ministry in The Philippines.
Interpreters of sermon into Mandarin.
God’s comfort - Rev George van Buuren & family; & others still in grief.
God’s guidance & help - Bro Christanto Budiman & family (Per); Bro John Wong & family (Melb); Sis Grace Seow (S’pore).
 Cyclone Yasi in N Queensland & Floods in Queensland, Northern NSW & Victoria - Comfort for those affected by the floods; & volunteers.
 Bro Peter Blake & Rev Tracy Minnick & their families, & brethren in Christ affected by Cyclone Yasi. Pray for God’s protection & encouragement.
School & some Uni students starting their studies.

 

 

© Hope Bible-Presbyterian Church
PO Box 398, Fullarton, Adelaide, South Australia 5063