Contrary to the uncharitable assumptions of some of our detractors, we do not rejoice in being a “micro” denomination, either in terms of size or strictness. We believe that there are many who share our convictions and look for the Lord to add to our number in His time. We believe that there should be latitude in matters beyond our common commitments. However, we respectfully disagree with the prevailing wisdom of our sister denominations in the matter of defining what is a sufficient common commitment as to provide for the lasting peace and unity of the Church.
Dear Readers of the Aquila Report,
Though we greatly respect those who edify so many with this publication, we did not request our Testimony and Covenant to be posted on the Aquila Report, as we take no delight in the weakness of the Bride of Christ and did not wish to magnify her failings. As to the accusations which have been posted in response to this announcement, we do not regard the court of public opinion to be the proper venue before which to lay the evidence which would clear our names and put to shame those who have slandered us. The evidence would surely sadden and shock you as it has us, would edify no one, and would only bring more grievous dishonor to the name of Christ before a watching world. At our separation from Vanguard Presbytery, we provided evidence to our brothers there sufficient to provide our rationale for leaving, to clear our names of the baseless slanders and threats of legal suit which this same member of that presbytery was already making, and to provide them with the evidence they should require to hold this rogue presbyter to account. As to the slanders which have been repeated since we left, we refer these to Vanguard Presbytery’s attention, as they are the party which Christ has made responsible to address the chief source of the slander. If Vanguard Presbytery publicly denounces these slanders, then we will consider ourselves vindicated of these baseless attacks and will gladly keep the shameful evidence which exonerates us as contained as possible. (1 Cor. 12:23) If Vanguard Presbytery continues a pattern of refusal to hold this individual to account and does not denounce these accusations, we will consider ourselves further vindicated in our decision to leave and will continue to make available the documentation proving our innocence of these charges to any who contact us and have need to know. In the interim, we are content that the unprejudiced child of God is already able to discern in the slanders against us, the anger of a man not accomplishing the righteousness of God. (James 1:20)
For those who have been quick to criticize us, we are not overly concerned about the opinions of those who lack the information or jurisdiction to render any just judgment. “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” (Prov. 18:13) With Paul, we are content to answer before the throne of Christ. “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.” (1 Cor. 4:3-5)
To address the matter of why we felt compelled to form a new denomination upon separation from Vanguard Presbytery, we wish to clarify that we count those of many other denominations as brothers in Christ and legitimate expressions of the visible Church. We firmly believe in the catholicity of the Church. We are not schismatics without love for Christ’s Church or a desire for her unity. However, we have not been able to find any of our sister reformed presbyterian denominations which require faithful subscription to the Westminster Standards without either allowing exceptions or adding their own distinctive requirements.
Contrary to the uncharitable assumptions of some of our detractors, we do not rejoice in being a “micro” denomination, either in terms of size or strictness. We believe that there are many who share our convictions and look for the Lord to add to our number in His time. We believe that there should be latitude in matters beyond our common commitments. However, we respectfully disagree with the prevailing wisdom of our sister denominations in the matter of defining what is a sufficient common commitment as to provide for the lasting peace and unity of the Church. We do not claim any such wisdom as to provide our own answer to this question, recognizing the wisdom set forth in the creeds of the Church, most especially the Westminster Standards of Faith. As stated in our Book of Church Order:
“Our Constitution requires faithful subscription to the Confession of Faith and Catechisms of the Westminster Assembly as adopted with minor revisions by the initial synod of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America in 1788. By faithful subscription, is meant what has sometimes been described as “strict” or “full” subscription, specifically, that the main point of each paragraph of the Confession and each answer of the Catechisms is subscribed to without reservation. Thus, it is the solemn obligation of the Presbytery to determine that the candidate so faithfully subscribes, or else the Presbytery must determine that the candidate has not sustained his examination.”
All of our sister reformed presbyterian denominations join in admiration of the wisdom of the Westminster Assembly in producing a magnificent summary of biblical truth. However, the Westminster Standards were not written abstractly as a summary of the biblical system of doctrine, but specifically to provide the core of Christian theology necessary to provide a sufficient foundation for the union of the Christian church. While we grant that this Assembly and its documents are fallible, we believe that church history bears out the wisdom of the Assembly in identifying the doctrines they did as being necessary to secure peaceful and lasting unity. By allowing exceptions to the Standards, whether more generally as “system” subscription provides, or more specifically, as a departure from the plain language of the statement regarding Creation exemplifies, other reformed presbyterian denominations have rejected the wisdom of the Westminster Divines in this respect. Rather than eliminating division, consolidating differing convictions on these essential matters within a denomination only serves to bring the lines of division within the denomination. As a current example, the division between PCA Missouri Presbytery and certain other presbyteries in the PCA is no less a real division than the divisions which exist between denominations. We certainly do not rejoice in this strife, but recognize that differences over such fundamental issues within any association of churches is not sustainable. “If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” (Mark 3:25) While we are under no delusions that ours will be a fellowship free of the spots and blemishes which are common to this age of the Church, we do hope that by requiring faithful subscription to the Westminster Standards, we will be able to avoid much of the disunity and strife which men of differing convictions must engage in elsewhere, such that we can pursue our ministry of fulfilling the Great Commission without such distractions and pain of conscience as are burdening our brothers in other fellowships.
Free from the covenant obligation of contending with others who simply do not share our convictions, we desire to share to the greatest extent possible ecumenical partnership and fraternal relations with other expressions of the visible Church which are pursuing the same ministry on behalf of the same Lord and Savior. However, the realization which motivates us above all else is that by holding the essential tenets of the Reformed Faith without apology, as expressed in the Westminster Standards, we can best serve our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As God knows our hearts, it is not from any sense of superiority or pride, but because we would rather contend with the evil of this world in the power of God than with brothers of different convictions, that we have joined together to form the Christ Reformed Presbyterian Church with faithful subscription to the Westminster Standards as our defining distinctive.
We love Christ, we love Christ’s Church, and we do not believe that Christ is best served when the Church is employing her gifts and expending her time and energy in an inward facing war. As sad as the multiplication of denominations may be, we believe that separating from brothers holding fundamentally different convictions is a more honest and more peaceful approach to the division which must exist among us over issues of truth, than is the attempt to remain in a common fellowship marked by constant strife. Christ will bless the ministry of those who are standing for what He approves, and we look for the Holy Spirit to continue disciplining each of our fellowships such that as we all draw closer to Christ and become more faithful to his Word, we might see a day when our fellowships might reunite. Until then, we do not have the heart to fight against brothers when there is so much work at hand to carry out the Great Commission where Christ has placed us. We have seen the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and have many new converts and covenant families to disciple as well as older saints to edify as we continue the ministry which Christ has given us. To any who would call us away from this work to defend our names of baseless accusations or to engage in an endless war against brothers in an existing fellowship, we say with Nehemiah “I am doing a great work and cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” (Neh. 6:3) God will bring all things to light in time and until then, we cannot think of anything better than to entrust our souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. (1 Pet. 4:19)