The article below reports on the beginning of a new reformed evangelical group in the USA, formed from Presbyterians who are unhappy with the abandonment of Scripture in the US Presbyterian Church.
The article below reports on the beginning of a new reformed evangelical group in the USA, formed from Presbyterians who are unhappy with the abandonment of Scripture in the US Presbyterian Church.
With possibility of secession by Southern Sudan, church leaders in north fear more land grabs.
NAIROBI, Kenya, October 25 (CDN) — Police in Sudan evicted the staff of a Presbyterian church from its events and office site in Khartoum earlier this month, aiding a Muslim businessman’s effort to seize the property.
Christians in Sudan’s capital city told Compass that police entered the compound of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) on Oct. 4 at around 2 p.m. and ordered workers to leave, claiming that the land belonged to Muslim businessman Osman al Tayeb. When asked to show evidence of Al Tayeb’s ownership, however, officers failed to produce any documentation, the sources said.
The church had signed a contract with al Tayeb stipulating the terms under which he could attain the property – including providing legal documents such as a construction permit and then obtaining final approval from SPEC – but those terms remained unmet, church officials said.
Church leader Deng Bol said that under terms of the unfulfilled contract, the SPEC would turn the property over to al Tayeb to construct a business center on the site, with the denomination to receive a share of the returns from the commercial enterprise and regain ownership of the plot after 80 years.
“But the investor failed to produce a single document from the concerned authorities” and therefore resorted to police action to secure the property, Bol said.
SPEC leaders had yet to approve the project because of the high risk of permanently losing the property, he said.
“The SPEC feared that they were going to lose the property after 80 years if they accepted the proposed contract,” Bol said.
SPEC leaders have undertaken legal action to recover the property, he said. The disputed plot of 2,232 square meters is located in a busy part of the heart of Khartoum, where it has been used for Christian rallies and related activities.
“The plot is registered in the name of the church and should not be sold or transfered for any other activities, only for church-related programs,” a church elder who requested anonymity said.
The Rev. Philip Akway, general secretary of the SPEC, told Compass that the government might be annoyed that Christian activities have taken place there for many decades.
“Muslim groups are not happy with the church in north Sudan, therefore they try to cause tension in the church,” Akway told Compass.
The policeman leading the officers in the eviction on Oct. 4 verbally threatened to shoot anyone who interfered, Christian sources said.
“We have orders from higher authorities,” the policeman shouted at the growing throng of irate Christians.
A Christian association called Living Water had planned an exhibit at the SPEC compound on Oct. 6, but an organization leader arrived to find the place fenced off and deserted except for four policemen at the gate, sources said.
SPEC leaders said Muslims have taken over many other Christian properties through similar ploys.
“We see this as a direct plot against their churches’ estates in Sudan,” Akway said.
The Rev. John Tau, vice-moderator for SPEC, said the site where Al Tayeb plans to erect three towers was not targeted accidentally.
“The Muslim businessman seems to be targeting strategic places of the church in order to stop the church from reaching Muslims in the North Sudan,” Tau said.
The unnamed elder said church leaders believe the property grab came in anticipation of the proposed north-south division of Sudan. With less than three months until a Jan. 9 referendum on splitting the country according to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005, SPEC leaders have taken a number of measures to guard against what it sees as government interference in church affairs.
Many southern Sudanese Christians fear losing citizenship if south Sudan votes for secession in the forthcoming referendum.
A top Sudanese official has said people in south Sudan will no longer be citizens of the north if their region votes for independence. Information Minister Kamal Obeid told state media last month that south Sudanese will be considered citizens of another state if they choose independence, which led many northern-based southern Sudanese to begin packing.
At the same time, President Omar al-Bashir promised full protection for southern Sudanese and their properties in a recent address. His speech was reinforced by Vice President Ali Osman Taha’s address during a political conference in Juba regarding the signing of a security agreement with First Vice President Salva Kiir Mayardit (also president of the semi-autonomous Government of Southern Sudan), but Obeid’s words have not been forgotten.
Akway of SPEC said it is difficult to know what will become of the property.
“Police continue to guard the compound, and nobody knows for sure what the coming days will bring,” Akway said. “With just less than three months left for the South to decide its fate, we are forced to see this move as a serious development against the church in Sudan.”
Report from Compass Direct News
Fearing local religious leader, area police refuse to file murder complaint.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, July 8 (CDN) — A Muslim mob in Jhelum, Pakistan murdered the wife and four children of a Christian last month, but local authorities are too afraid of the local Muslim leader to file charges, according to area Muslim and Christian sources.
Jamshed Masih, a police officer who was transferred 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Gujrat to Jhelum, Punjab Province, said a mob led by Muslim religious leader Maulana Mahfooz Khan killed his family on June 21 after Khan called him to the local mosque and told him to leave the predominantly Muslim colony. Jhelum is 85 kilometers (53 miles) south of Islamabad.
“You must leave with your family, no non-Muslim has ever been allowed to live in this colony – we want to keep our colony safe from scum,” Khan told Masih, the bereaved Christian told Compass.
Masih had moved to Mustafa Colony in Jhelum with his wife, two sons and two daughters and were living in a rented house. Masih said that a Muslim neighbor, Ali Murtaza, told him that area Muslims notified Khan, telling the religious leader, “We cannot allow these non-Muslims to live here, they will be a bad influence on our children.”
An anxious Masih told his wife Razia Jamshed about the local Muslim response, and they decided to bring their concern to the pastor of a local Presbyterian church, Saleem Mall.
“Pastor Saleem said, ‘I will also advise you to vacate the house, as it can be dangerous living there – these people can harm your family,” Masih said.
Masih’s neighbor, Murtaza, confirmed to Compass the response of the local Muslims and related incidents that led up to the murders. Murtaza told Compass that after Masih went to work at 7 a.m. on June 21, his children could be heard singing hymns before breakfast.
“Razia sent their eldest son to buy a packet of Surf [detergent], and he was singing a hymn on his way to buy the Surf,” Murtaza said.
Neighbors saw Masih’s s 11-year-old son come into the store, he said. The shopkeeper asked him if he was a Christian; the child responded that he was.
“The shopkeeper refused to give him the packet of Surf and spoke very harshly to him, ‘I don’t sell to any non-Muslim, you are not welcome here, don’t you dare ever come to my shop again,’” Murtaza said.
The boy went home, upset, and told his mother about the encounter; she grew worried and called her husband, saying, “Jamshed, please come home quickly, the kids and I are very worried, we must leave this house today,” Masih said.
His neighbor, Murtaza, said that shortly afterward some area residents came to the door with the Muslim religious leader, Khan.
“Your son has committed blasphemy against Muhammad, our beloved prophet – we can’t allow him to live, he should be punished,” Khan told Razia Masih, Murtaza said. “Razia got scared and said, ‘My son couldn’t do such a thing, he is only 11 years old.’”
Khan became furious and said, “Are we lying to you? You call us liars, how dare you insult us,” Murtaza said. “Someone from the crowd hit something hard on her head, and she started bleeding. The children started crying and shouted for help. Razia kept shouting for help, ‘Please have mercy on us, please let my husband come, then we can talk.’”
Jamshed Masih said his daughter telephoned police as the mob attacked his wife and children. He said he later learned that “the people kept shouting, ‘This family has committed blasphemy, they should be killed.”
Before police arrived, his family was murdered, he said.
Murtaza said Masih rushed home and was devastated to find the dead bodies of his wife and four children.
When Masih tried to file a complaint against Khan for the murder, Station House Officer (SHO) Ramzan Mumtaz refused to do so, according to Murtaza and Mall, the Presbyterian clergyman.
“He said, ‘Khan is an influential man, and he said your son has committed blasphemy – we cannot do anything against him,’” Mall said.
Murtaza added, “The SHO just said, ‘I am a poor man, I have a family, and I was pressured by higher authorities not to register the FIR [First Information Report] as Khan is a very influential man. I am sorry, I don’t have anything in my hands.’”
Contacted by Compass, SHO Mumtaz confirmed that he responded to the request to file the complaint against Khan in these exact words.
Masih has filed a complaint with the chief minister of Punjab Province begging him for justice, Mall told Compass.
“We condemn this brutal murder of innocent children in the name of Islam,” Mall said. “This has to stop now. We appeal to the government to let us live in peace.”
Report from Compass Direct News
Two Christian believers in Karwar were brutally attacked recently. They suffered severe head injuries and broken limbs in the assault, reports James Varghese, special correspondent in India for ASSIST News Service.
According to a story published on the website of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), David Lambani, 25, and Satish, 34, are members of the New Life Fellowship Church.
The Presbyterian affiliated church placed Lambani and Satish in charge of church construction. On Feb. 28 at about 6.30 p.m., Hindu extremist organization RSS leader Rajagowda and members of his group illegally entered the believers home.
GCIC reported that the believers were falsely accused of forced conversion and subjected to verbal insults. RSS group members then beat them with sticks and left them unconscious on the street. Lambani’s left ear drum is damaged and he is unable to hear. Satish has severe head injuries and broken bones.
GCIC said Lambani and Satish were immediately taken to the nearby Government Hospital. They are in intensive care.
GCIC said Pastor John Quadron filed a complaint against Rajugowda and the other alleged perpetrators. GCIC said the organization is monitoring developments in the situation.
GCIC said some years ago, Quadron purchased the land upon which the church sits and got it registered as the New Life Fellowship Church. He also obtained the permission necessary for construction.
However, according to GCIC, last Nov. Rajagowda pressured the municipality to stop further church construction.
GCIC requested prayer for Lambani and Satish.
Report from the Christian Telegraph
MEXICO CITY, Aug. 13 (Compass Direct News) – At least 20 men accused of participating in a massacre in Chiapas state in December 1997 left prison early this morning – amid concerns over threats of violence at their home communities near San Cristobal de las Casas – following a Supreme Court ruling yesterday that their convictions violated fundamental norms of justice.
The release of the 20 men, most of them evangelical Christians, came after Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled in a 4-1 decision that they had been convicted in unfair trials in which prosecutors fabricated testimony and illegally obtained evidence. Area evangelicals view the imprisoned Christians as caught between survivors clamoring for convictions and government police and military forces eager to shift blame away from their minions following the Dec. 22, 1997 killing of 45 civilians in Acteal village.
“Acteal is a double tragedy,” attorney Javier Cruz Angulo reportedly said after the ruling. “On the one hand you have an abominable massacre, and on the other more than 50 human beings imprisoned without proofs.”
The court will review the cases of another 31 men convicted in connection with the massacre, and six more will be given new trials, according to news reports.
The identities of those released were not immediately known. As 32 of those imprisoned for the crime were Christians and another 15 received Christ while in prison, most of the previous total of 57 prisoners are Christians.
“In prison, the majority of us converted to the Presbyterian faith,” Tomas Perez Mendez, 60, told El Universal before the Supreme Court decision; at press time it was not known if he was among those released.
He told the Mexican newspaper that he bears no resentment even though his imprisonment led to illnesses that contributed to the deaths of family members. “My wife is ill, my father and one brother died from sorrow at seeing us here in prison . . . I no longer feel anger or resentment against those who accused me, and I plan to preach.”
Authorities had told a total of 57 prisoners that they would be freed after their paperwork was reviewed, a source in Chiapas told Compass.
“Naturally, those prisoners who had been informed of their impending release last week are extremely disappointed, as well wondering if they will ever be released,” said the source, who requested anonymity.
Two brothers, Pablo and Juan Hernandez Perez, reportedly said that they have no home to return to; their house was burned to the ground while they were in prison. Another hoping for release, Javier Vazquez Luna, told El Universal he played no part in the crime, and that indeed his father was one of the victims of the massacre.
The Supreme Court justices stated that they were not ruling on the guilt or innocence of the men, only on the violation of due process.
“During the investigation, their constitutional rights were violated,” the court said in a statement. “The majority of cases … were based on the use of illegally obtained evidence.”
In recent months relatives of the imprisoned men ratcheted up citizen campaigns seeking their freedom, backed by many others. For several years Presbyterian churches have carried banners outside their buildings requesting justice for those wrongly convicted in the Acteal violence. The Chiapas government had said it could do nothing because the case was under federal jurisdiction.
Pressure to reopen the case has intensified each December with remembrances of the massacre. In spite of intense political pressure to the contrary, the Supreme Court finally agreed to review the facts.
Threats of Violence
Amid statements by survivors of the Acteal crime that tensions could heighten in the area – and a grim warning from a former leader of Las Abejas, a supposedly non-violent group sympathetic to rebel militants whose members were killed in the massacre – defense attorneys and family members of the released men appealed to authorities to provide security and guarantee social peace.
“A former leader of the Abejas made a public declaration that if the men returned to their homes, the Abejas would be waiting for them, and the released prisoners would be repaid for the pain they caused 12 years ago,” the Chiapas source told Compass. “Tensions exist, and with statements like he made, the government is nervous about letting the men return to their homes due to possible violence. At this point, there are still no violent actions, but the threat of an outbreak is real.”
At press time authorities had prevented the released men from returning to the Acteal area, keeping them in a hotel in Berriozabal after loading them onto a truck through a back door of the El Amate prison at 3:35 a.m., El Universal reported.
Initially the prison director refused to see the men’s lawyers when they arrived at El Amate prison in Chiapas near midnight with orders for their release, the Compass source said.
“When he finally relented and met with the lawyers, it was only under extreme pressure from the Mexico City lawyers who refused to be dissuaded,” the source said. “There was an extended time of wrangling before the warden eventually released the prisoners, only under threat of returning to the Supreme Court and the Human Rights Commission about his intransigence.”
The released men had been promised there would be a government-paid bus waiting to take them to San Cristobal de las Casas, he said, but instead they were taken to the hotel in Berriozabal.
“The men were to meet with government officials today in Tuxtla, and we are still awaiting word on their arrival in San Cristobal after some five hours of waiting,” the source said. “It appears there are delaying tactics, hindrances and lack of cooperation in the entire release process.”
Some of the released men were able to meet with family members, and most expressed desire to return to the Acteal area, but the prison director said that authorities had determined that it was not safe for them to go back to their communities, according to El Universal. Authorities have reportedly proposed the possibility of providing them land parcels to avoid their returning to the area of the original conflict.
The evangelical Christians convicted were serving 25- or 36-year sentences and had exhausted all appeals. Some of them say they were arrested because rebel sympathizers with whom they had been embroiled in years of land disputes named them. Others said they were simply nearby when authorities made random round-ups.
Of the 34 men originally convicted, one died in prison and another had been released as a minor.
The family of one prisoner, Agustin Gomez Perez, tried to visit him in 2005. He told El Universal that they had an accident on the way, killing one small child and putting his wife in the hospital for 20 days – leaving their other five children without parents during that period.
Controversy over who killed the 45 people has revolved around whether there was a “massacre” by numerous “paramilitary” villagers or a “confrontation” between a handful of neighboring peasants and Zapatista National Liberation Army rebels. Historian Héctor Aguilar Camín has argued that there was both a confrontation and a massacre, with some overlap between each, but that they were largely separate incidents.
Five confessed killers have testified that they and four others engaged only Zapatista militia to avenge the death of a relative, while the federal attorney general’s office charged that at least 50 pro-government “paramilitaries” descended on a relief camp hermitage full of displaced peasants bent on killing and robbing them. The testimonies of the five confessed killers – four others remain at large – agree that the nine avengers were the only ones involved in the firefights, and that the decision to attack the Zapatistas was a private family decision made with no involvement from government authorities.
They also agree that the sole motive was to avenge the assassination of a relative – the latest of 18 unprosecuted murders by Zapatistas over the previous three months, according to Aguilar Camín.
Government prosecutors unduly dismissed much of the testimony of the five confessed avengers, Aguilar Camín wrote in a 2007 article for Nexos, noting that the killers testified that state security forces were nearby and did nothing. He highlights the judicial irregularities of the round-up and conviction of the peasants – apprehensions without evidence or warrant, charging 83 people with homicide when only 45 people were killed and lack of translators and attorneys for the suspects, Tzotzil Mayans who did not know Spanish.
The Supreme Court pointed out those violations in its ruling. Arturo Farela Gutierrez, head of the National Association of Evangelical Christian Churches, praised the court decision.
“We are in the presence of a court different from that of 12 years ago,” he said, according to El Universal. “The court is strengthened without fear of anything or anyone, and it’s the court that democratic Mexico needs.”
Report from Compass Direct News
Members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, two mainline Protestant denominations, are considering whether to allow the ordination of non-celibate gays and lesbians as members of their clergy.
The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, finds that majorities of both denominations say that homosexuality is a way of life that should be accepted by society.
Among mainline Protestants overall, 56% say homosexuality should be accepted, compared with only about one-in-four evangelical Protestants and four-in-ten members of historically black Protestant churches.
As violence continues to spiral out of control in Pakistan, ANS has received news that indiscriminate firing by a group of Muslim men on congregants of a Presbyterian church in Gujranwala district on Monday, March 2, left a woman dead and 11 others injured, reports Dan Wooding and Sheraz Khurram Khan, special to ASSIST News Service.
Several Muslim men, identified as Amjad, Balal, Zeeshan, Azam and others whose identities could not be ascertained by ANS, opened fire on worshipping Christians at the Presbyterian Church in Songo, which is a town that is some 7 kilometers from Gujranwala city, a week after two Muslim men robbed a Christian resident of the area on gunpoint.
On February 25, two Muslim men intercepted a Christian man, Imran, on his way home and robbed him at gunpoint of 3,000 Pakistani Rupees ($37.3506 USD), a mobile phone and a wrist watch.
Bleeding, Imran, after going home, he then went to the local police station to report the incident. The matter was “resolved” after Muslim notables brokered reconciliation between Imran and the accused.
However, the patch-up proved short-lived, as several armed Muslims made forcible entry into several homes of Christians on March 2 and allegedly harassed and threatened Christians.
Another group of Muslims, who were carrying iron rods, clubs, and guns, entered into the church. They opened fire at the congregants. The culprits allegedly also smashed the windows of the church and desecrated Bibles. They removed the cross erected at the roof of the church and left the scene shouting at the Christians that they would face worse attacks if they did not leave the town.
Talking to ANS by phone, Pastor Patras of the Presbyterian church, said that moving the inured Christians to the local hospital was not without a struggle. Elaborating on this, he said the Muslims had blocked the road leading to hospital apparently to stop Christians from going to Gujranwala District Headquarter Hospital. He said they were eventually able to shift the injured to the hospital after police intervention.
”Police vehicles ferried the injured to the hospital,” he said.
Commenting on the death of Christian woman, Shakeela, who succumbed to her bullet injuries, Shahzad Kamran of the Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan (SLMP) called for her post-mortem.
He alleged that the police “are not taking any action to arrest assailants.”
Mr. Sohail Johnson, Chief Coordinator of SLMP, who visited the scene of incident, condemned what he called “a brutal attack” on Christians and urged prayer partners of the ministry to pray for protection of Pakistani Christians.
“Fundamentalist Muslims are targeting Christians as they cannot tolerate their existence in Pakistan,” he told ANS.
Pastor Patras claimed that the attitude of the nursing staff and medics at the government-run hospital was “callous and indifferent” toward the injured Christians. He said the gunmen had “exercised their influence over the hospital staff” after failing to “stop injured Christians from arriving at the hospital.”
“The medics at the DHQ Gujranwala asked us to take Shakeela to Lahore. It took us a long time to arrange an ambulance as we had no resources,” said Pastor Patras, who believes, Shakeela’s death could have been averted if multiple odds were not stacked against them.
Asked if the police had made any arrests, he said they arrested a couple of people but said “the real culprits are still scot-free.”
Pastor Patras described the situation as “extremely tense”, adding, “Fearing attacks, Christians have shut themselves in their houses. We are scared and are praying for our safety.”
He said Muslims had also attacked Christian residents of Kotli Sahvo, a village in Gujranwala district on February 28. “Police did not even file a report, let alone take action against the culprits,” he alleged.
“Even if a report was lodged. We would lose it in the court as we would not have resources to hire a lawyer,” he said.
ANS has discovered that local Christians have protested against the incident and have demanded immediate arrests of the culprits.
Report from the Christian Telegraph
Would-be rapist instigates attack in response to charges leveled against him.
ISTANBUL, March 9 (Compass Direct News) – Gun and club attacks on a Presbyterian church and neighboring homes in the predominantly Christian area of a village in Pakistan last week killed one woman and left 16 people wounded.
Seeking revenge for a robbery complaint that a Christian filed against him, local Muslim Waseem Butt on March 2 led groups of his friends and family members in indiscriminate attacks aimed at the Christian community in Sangu-Wali, village, near Aroop town in Gujranwala district, reported advocacy group Sharing Life Ministries Pakistan (SLMP).
Groups of between five and 15 Muslims arriving from different directions attacked the church and area homes, said Sohail Johnson, head of SLMP. During the violence, 45-year-old Shakeela Bibi sustained bamboo rod blows to the head and died before reaching the hospital.
“The death of my wife is an irreparable loss to me and my children,” Manzoor Masih, Bibi’s husband, told SLMP. “I am concerned that Muslims are very strong here, we are poor, and we can not afford enmity with them. They will kill us too.”
Armed members of the attackers prevented ambulances from attending the scene by firing shots into the air, according to the SLMP report.
SLMP and the Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) reported that the attack followed an attempt by a Christian to file a First Instance Report (FIR) with police against two Muslims for robbery and attempted rape.
Imran Masih, 18, accused Butt and Zeeshan Butt of stealing a cell phone and 3,000 rupees (US$40) before trying to sodomize him. Masih reported that he was on his way home from work on Feb. 26 when the two Muslims attacked him, and that he managed to escape before they could rape him.
“The Christians are poor and have no weight here,” said SLMP’s Johnson, so Muslims assume, “‘We are Kashmiri, we are Muslim, we are rich – they are sweepers, they are poor, they are weak, they are the minority, how are they going to move a [criminal charge] against us?’ This was in their mind.”
The mother-in-law of the woman who was killed suffered head and spinal injuries in the attack. Naziran Bibi, 80, remained in the hospital along with two others at press time. Another 10 victims, most suffering from head injuries, were treated overnight and released the next day.
Police arrested Waseem Butt shortly after the FIR was filed, and in the past few days they have also tracked down and jailed two other suspects. Widower Masih named more than 10 people in the FIR, accusing them of murder and trespassing. The other attackers have fled the village. Police told SLMP that they will continue to pursue the fugitives and bring them to justice.
Masih, however, has come under pressure to drop the case. He has received both threats and offers for financial settlement, an official with the National Commission for Justice and Peace said. Yousaf Benjamin of the commission said Muslims “see that it is very easy for a Muslim to kill a Christian and then offer some money to the family.”
“So Mr. Manzoor [Masih] has to be an example for the others,” Benjamin said. “He should not hesitate to go for legal procedures. He should not go for the money, he should go to the court and see the decision they make.”
Disregard for the rights and liberties of minority Christians in Pakistan is worsened by a culture of bribery, which often precludes the poor from fair treatment by authorities and recourse to legal protection. But investigating police officer Mohammad Riaz has promised that officers will ask for nothing and do their utmost to help the victims.
“It was very shocking to me that the culprits trespassed in Christians’ houses and attacked females of the family,” Riaz told CLAAS and SLMP investigators.
Report from Compass Direct News
One of the things you would expect a Reformed Church to be doing is reforming after the Biblical model, whether they be Baptist, Presbyterian, Anglican, etc. But is this the case or have the Reformed Churches lived up to their name – Reformed? Have they already reformed enough – hence the name Reformed? This is a question that we perhaps would do well to ponder – especially if we like to regard ourselves as reformed.
As a Particular Baptist I would be classed these days as being pretty much a Reformed Baptist ~ as much as I would like to protest that I do not believe I am like many modern-day Reformed Baptists, this is still a fairly accurate description. However, I am committed to the idea of constantly reforming after the Biblical model. Now this doesn’t mean that I have to adopt 1st century music, a Grecian Bible, etc. It simply means that I would like to put into practice those principles that are outlined in the Bible as being the Biblical method of doing church, of living, etc.
Now the point of this particular posting is to do with the organisation of the church and church practice – is the modern-day reformed movement being Biblical in its approach to the organisation of the church and church practice? From my observations of the Reformed Baptist movement and those who could be loosely described as such, I would have to say, probably not. A way has been found to do things and there is great reluctance to change that way, even though the Bible would suggest that it isn’t quite right, etc. This would certainly indicate a Reformed Church in so much that it has moved from an error to a certain point and stopped – reformed. This would be like the Church of England in the days of the Reformers and Puritans. There were many men who would have liked to have had the church reform even further than it had done, but this was prevented by the powers that were then in place, hence the withdrawal of these men from the established church and the formation of other assemblies that sought to further reform after the biblical model.
We need today a new committment to one of the principles of the reformation and the reformers, a committment to be constantly reforming after the model of the Scriptures. This is simply an implication of the great reformation catch cry of ‘Sola Scriptura.’ We see what Scripture says should be the way we do things and we then set about to do it. Perhaps this should be a ‘UGR (unwritten ground rule)’ for the church, except it is written, for it is what the Scriptures would have us to do. We read and study the Scriptures, see what it says, and then we set to do it in the true spirit of ‘Sola Scriptura.’
Are we reformed (as in stopped) or are we reforming, as the name was originally seeking to suggest? In what way can we still be reforming in the modern-day reformed setting as churches with a reformed heritage?
This was one of the things we were seeking to do when the ‘Northlake’s Reformed Baptist Church (NRBC)’ was seeking to become established (sadly it is no more) – to be reforming after the model of the Scriptural way of doing things.
One of the things we sought to do was return the Lord’s Supper to the context of the fellowship meal as was the practice of the New Testament church. We would observe the Lord’s Supper as part of our fellowship together, having a meal together after a worship service on a Sunday. It was something we all looked forward to. Now there is no command for that I admit, but it was something we saw great advantages in and so we changed the way we did things and adopted the practice – it was a case of reforming after the biblical model, even though it wasn’t expressly commanded.
We also sought to learn as much as we could from the Biblical text regarding the Lord’s Supper, spending several Lord’s Days preaching through the Corinthians text relating to the Lord’s Supper and seeking to put into practice, both individually and as a church, the truths taught there. Again, an example of reforming the church instead of remaining reformed (reaching a certain point and stopping).
I am not suggesting that NRBC was the perfect model at this sort of thing, no not at all – I am simply holding up the example of NRBC as a church committed to the principle of always reforming the church after the Biblical model. I’m not convinced that we were really brilliant at the task of reforming the church, but we did seek the Lord’s will through prayer and a careful consideration of the Word of God, as well as seeking the ability from the Lord to actually put into practice what we discovered in the Word of God.
There are so many areas that we need to carefully consider again in the light of Scripture – things that have now become merely the tradition of men, rather than the tradition of the apostles (meaning after the biblical model).
When I first got onto the Internet some years ago now, I came across a site that really encouraged me and our church in this area of reforming the church. It has changed URLs once or twice since that time, but I keep returning to it. It is a site called ‘A 21st Century Puritanism,’ operated by a guy called Mitch Cervinka. Obviously what is presented needs to be carefully considered in the light of Scripture and I certainly wouldn’t agree with everything that Mitch presents, yet there is a lot that I find myself having to agree with (gladly) because it is founded on the Scriptures.
The link is:
A 21st Century Puritanism
There are two articles that I really like on the site and these are:
There are some excellent points made in these articles and they should really be considered by reformed churches in this matter of perpetually reforming the church.
I had the opportunity today to join in with the worship of a local Presbyterian Church and I quite enjoyed being there. The message cam from Isaiah 66 and was not too bad considering that the preacher took on the entire chapter. Indeed, the blessing of the coming future glory of the church is therein expressed in figurative language, as well as the dreadful end of the wicked. Thankfully there was no Pre-Mill extravagance with the text!
The folk there seemed a friendly lot and I enjoyed several conversations with members of the congregation. While there I was pointed to a Blog is operated by one of the congregation and I will visit it shortly:
I have just had a bit of a quick look and I think I may just like it :-)