This is the final part of an essay I drafted a few years ago, intending to publish it in the now-defunct Reformed Presbyterian officers’ newsletter, Semper Reformanda

Let me end with some suggestions as we think about how to pursue unification.

We should unify bigger and not smaller. With the exception of a short-lived entente with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, we have only seriously considered absorbing micro-denominations, not merging with a larger one. The humble thing to do would be to pursue absorption by a larger Presbyterian body.

We should carefully reduce and revise the Testimony of the PRCNA to be once again historical and theological in nature, and no longer to be a vehicle for piecemeal revisions of the Confession. The current iteration of the Testimony has excellent content, but the need of the hour is something “portable”. Wouldn’t it be better to put much of the content of the Testimony into a series of position papers, and reserve the document itself for those claims of the Covenanters to Christ’s kingship that we still hold dear?

Related to the above, the larger body with which we unify would need to accept the doctrine of mediatorial kingship and the basic validity of our historical testimony to it (though not every historical action of the RPCNA or its predecessors) as part of the terms of merger.

We shouldn’t worry very much about preserving exclusive psalmody or a cappella worship. This suggestion will make a lot of people flinch, I know. Please consider two things. First, our worship distinctives became distinctives by default; we never set out to make them such (though we hold them to be true and treasure them). Second, as one of my professors at RPTS was fond of saying, the truth is tough. If we believe that psalmody is something that has to be “preserved” we are shortchanging it as a practice. Crown & Covenant publications sells more Psalters each year than the entire membership of the RPCNA. Psalmody is on the rise, and does not need our protection.

Questions on office (two issues: delineation of offices – two, two-and-a-half, three – and women deacons) need to be dealt with but must not derail the process.

Any one of these sets of questions and issues could halt reunification, and must not be allowed to. We are in serious danger of death by committee when discussing union more than in any other area, since it does not seem urgent on the surface. We must not allow the flesh to make us simply fear non-existence. “He must increase, but I must decrease.” This is a potential area for leadership in the wider Reformed and evangelical world by the Reformed Presbyterian Church.

Who will take the unity of the Church of Jesus Christ to heart if not those who claim to most dearly love his kingship?

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3 thoughts on “The RPCNA and Church Union, a rough game plan

  1. I agree. Rescinding our rights as a separate denomination would probably be the healthiest move for the church – not just the RP church, but all churches. If we humbly set aside our pride, we can move the gospel as a whole body, not just a bunch of toes or a bunch knuckles.

  2. I should add that I drafted this without much awareness of the ARPC/RPCNA conversation that was already going on – we have been talking about unification with the ARPC for about 130 years now. Let’s go! 🙂

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