I started this as a reply to a question James asked on Al’s post, and decided that it was getting too long for a comment, and needed its own post.
James asked this: “if we find ourselves in a status confessionis on, say, 12 June, just what do we do?”
That’s a serious question, one I am sure my remarks will not exhaust.
But I think that it’s extremely unlikely that a status confessionis, in the sense in which Al uses the term, could be reached already at General Synod. Rather, it could be reached in the abuse of a ministry at the hands of those who are given greater powers as a result of implementation of certain recommendations of the MSTF Report.
In short, we would see it down the road, in particular instances. We would see it in the appeals process that would then be lodged in the centralized board that would hear those appeals. We would see it in the application of implicit, theologically corrupt notions of righteousness, in the practical abandonment, at the congregational level, of the doctrine of justification.
What we would have, then, on June 12 would be the setting in place of structural preconditions for a status confessionis situation to occur.
That’s still pretty serious. And the question still is, “what will we do?”
I have a few ideas, limited as they are. Anyone care to expand on them?
1. Much of the anticipated payoff in the MSTF recommendations is lodged in the “open space” proposal. In our own classes and regional synods, we find ways of encouraging creativity and flexibility within our (non-suspended) polity. If we can get all such activity to happen within the polity, then it will show that there is no need to change the structure. The desired outcome of the MSTF will be shown to be unneceesary.
2. We work within our congregations, classes, and regional synods to reclaim the full integrity of the word “mission.” We insist, contrary to others, that it does not mean simply or even primarily the starting of new churches, or even of evangelism. It can and may include these. But mission means so much more, and can never be tied to a program for the self-preservation of a church institution.
3. We work within our congregations, classes, and regional synods to reclaim and develop a theologically robust ecclesiology. We teach and live out the truth that the church is not about one thing (for such reductionism always runs the danger of one or more besetting sins: sloth, hubris, idolatry, etc.), but is about several things in obedience to our Lord who was crucified and is risen. We proclaim. We worship. We serve. We teach. We lead. We pray. (See my sermon for Pentecost, “Blessed to Speak.”) None of these activities may be identified with a program or an ideal of congregational expansion, of church planting.
Of course, we should do all these things, even if none of the MSTF recommendations pass.