According to a recent presentation I observed, the only material difference between the PCUSA and ECO is that ECO has said to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Christians “You cannot be called. You are not gifted,” while the PCUSA has left that option open.
In every other respect, the presenter maintains, the two denominational bodies are virtually identical–reformed, evangelical, missional. For that reason, he insists, it makes no sense to contemplate departing the PCUSA for ECO unless your exclusive desire is to escape GLBTQ folk.
Is this true? On balance, the answer has to be no, not really.
I agree. They both belong to the same ecumenical alliance; so departing the PCUSA for the ECO is pretty much a lateral move. Joining a denomination that is a member of NAPARC (PCA, OPC, RPCNA) on the other hand is clearly refuting and denouncing any and all vestiges of extra- Biblical thought and practice.
Eric, I disagree. While it appears that its a lateral move, there is much more accountability and biblical faithfulness in ECOp, then in the PC(USA). As Jeff points out in his blog, while the terms used may be the same, the in practice the denominations are very far apart.
I too diagree with Eric, but not strongly. If I recall correctly, the ECO uses the confession of 1967, or really the book of confessions. So, as far as being reformed, they wouldn’t be reformed like the PCA, OPC, RPCNA, or the EPC (yes, I put the EPC in the same category as all these denominations as it holds to the Westminster Confession – though there are differences in the strictness and flexibility for exceptions – e.g. the Sabbath). Even this statement needs qualifications, as I see some ECO churches that do emphasize the Westminster Confession, so they are certainly more reformed than the PCUSA. As far as missional, that term has so many meanings and uses that it is hard to use. Missional could mean outreaching, like the EPC use of the term, or it could mean emergent, like the McLaren’s of the world. Evangelical is also a term which means much less than it used to, but in terms of standing for the Bible and for the gospel, even if not so strongly reformed, then this is not a lateral move. It is a “more lateral” move than going to the EPC or any of the other reformed denominations mentioned. It does raise the question, perhaps unfairly, as to those churches that haven’t even left for the ECO: Do these churches really stand for the gospel at all? It’s unfair, as a move is at least partially related to the relationship with the presbytery, so some “evangelical” churches may not feel the pressure or the need to leave at this point, thought the question should be asked of all “evangelical” churches in the PCUSA.
Far apart, that is, for now. As the ECO belongs to the same ecumenical alliance (WCRC) that the PCUSA does, it’s merely a question of time, I predict, before we see the effects of the dreaded “slippery slope” effect. While I don’t expect it to happen overnight, I nevertheless expect it.
But joining a denomination that is a member of NAPARC would not be protection either. If you expected a PCUSA church to join the PCA at this point in time, I would say that you had unrealistic expectations. The OPC and PCA have their own set of problems too. However, as I said in my earlier post, I share some similar concerns, not because of WCRC (that doesn’t really matter), but because of the confessional stance that the ECO has. The real question is how will the ECO develop over time? Will they grow to emphasize the Westminster Confession, or will they still have the plurality of confessions. That will be interesting to see. The EPC had to grow into their understanding of the Westminster Confession, and there is more growth that needs to happen there.
My sentiments, precisely…
A moratorium against the dangerously vague 1967 Confession would be a step in the right direction.
I recall that when Jerry Andrews spoke at one of the Fellowship Gatherings he acknowledged that less than 25% of those in attendance were “Westminster Calvinists.” Keeping the PC (USA) Book of Confessions seems like a sensible plan while ECO solidifies its theological identity, in part by studying The Heidelberg Catechism and the French Confession.
I am an outsider, a PCA TE, but I come to faith in the PCUSA and was directed by my pastor to Wheaton. The Confession of 1967 tells us more about Reconciliation than ever before. If that is added to WCF on Propitiation that is a gain. If it replaces WCF that’s a great loss. 1967 was accompanied by a weakening of ordination vows. 1967 with decent vows is OK, I believe.