[Note: The item below expresses the views of the individual to whom the material is ascribed and does not necessarily reflect the position of the WRF as a whole.]
Whence Comes Authority? A Response to the PCA Study Committee Report
WRF Member Mr. Robert Heerdt
A few observations from the other side of the pulpit. The Westminster Confession of Faith subscribed to by my church (PCA), states in Chapter 1, VII, “All things in scripture are not ...alike clear unto all.” But deciding which things are clear to all, or unclear to some lacks a clear solution. Considering the differences in understanding and practice, by churches and others who believe God’s word is authoritative, leads me to think that the issue of the role of women within the church as institution is one where we should be charitable.
Luke tells us, “as Jesus continued to grow in body and mind, he grew also in the love of God and of those who knew him.” How did this happen? Jesus had a most favoured teacher, his mother Mary, who undoubtedly taught by precept and example. The church has persevered and grown through history - consider Luke’s mother, Augustine’s mother Monica, and uncounted millions including my own mother who graciously taught me daily about my Savior. And yet our church teaches that the primary means of grace are the preached word and sacraments. Really? I suspect our church still has a bias against women (our subordinate standards are silent on the subject except acknowledging that they are fit subjects for marriage) because of the seventeenth century culture in which Presbyterianism arose and our continued acceptance of that ideal.
We have an anomaly in our congregation. We have some very gifted Christian women among us, women who are Biblically and theologically informed, very competent speakers, with all sorts of initials after their names. They teach on occasion in our Sunday School forum. They have given reports during our regular Sunday assembly, but not from the pulpit. Which makes me wonder about the distinction between the forum lectern and the assembly pulpit. Where does the authority come in speaking? From the locale? From the person? I have always assumed it comes from the scripture, or really from the scripture’s author And we have saintly women who teach based on the Bible in other church classes, home gatherings, retreats, etc. Complementarianism seems easy within marriage, but gets murky thereafter, and it’s difficult to determine what is cultural baggage and what are transcendent verities.
Jesus prayed for the unity of His body. The oneness of the church is the demonstration to the watching world of the father’s love for the world. I’m too old to hope for a spirit or practice of unity with the Serbian Orthodox Church, but it would be an encouragement to those of us within the PCA if we thought our leaders had a concern with taking down walls of separation within our fellow small reformed groups. That would be pursuing the peace and unity of the church. Hanging our hats on the role of women, or the propriety of intincture, or how many angels, etc., isn’t very encouraging. More damaging to the church would be an inability to live together in love while holding different interpretations.