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Doctrinal Positions

Worship

Catechism

Missions

Church Government


 

Doctrinal Positions


 

Our position is confessional.  We hold to the three forms of unity:  the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort.  We see them as Forms of Unity because we believe that unity among Christians and churches first of all resides in the truth.  Therefore we are spiritually united with many churches outside our federation in two senses.  First, with all who presently hold these confessions with integrity.  Second, with the churches of Christ in history who have so confessed.  We wish then to define “reformed” in terms of the churches’ confessions in history, and not in terms of particular men or movements past or present.

We wish to preserve an essential distinction between Scripture and confessions.  The Bible is God’s Word, infallible, inerrant.  The confessions are man’s word — the churches’ word — fallible, subject to error.  The Bible comes from God to us; it is first.  Confessions are from us to God, are second, and are generated by that Word through the Spirit.

We strongly assert the importance of creeds and confessions for various reasons.  The first is that God demands it of His people.  He has spoken to them and He demands an answer.  This is the universal language of Scripture.  And since He speaks in His written Word to a body, His church, we believe He expects a written and unified response.

 

 

We live in an anti-confessional age.  Opposition to confessions is for various reasons, some of which are understandable, but not excusable.  To say confessions should be thrown out simply because many churches are hypocrites who neither preach nor live what they purport to confess, is unwarranted.  Further, when creeds are abandoned as though the church had to start over, we deny the work of the Holy Spirit for the last 2000 years.

We try to give our confessions a meaningful place by:

  • Requiring all office-bearers to sign a statement of subscription to these confessions;
  • Measuring the preaching by its faithfulness to the confessions;
  • Requiring preachers to follow the Heidelberg Catechism as a guide to preaching once each Lord’s Day;
  • Teaching the confessions to our children;
  • Requiring all who confess their faith to do so in terms of the confessions;
  • Enjoying unity of faith with all churches outside our federation who hold these confessions with integrity or who confess the same faith in other Reformation confessions.

Worship

We believe the highest duty and privilege of the church is to worship the triune God through Jesus Christ our Lord, by the presence and power of His Spirit and Word.

We believe in corporate, covenantal worship in Jesus Christ.  That statement reflects these scriptural principals:
  • Through Jesus Christ we possess a directness of access purchased by His blood to the throne of God.  Therefore we reject any return to the vicarious and spectator forms of worship, from the Old Testament. When the Roman Church compelled Godís people to
 

return to these Old Testament elements, God freed His people again in the Reformation.

  • The parties in worship are two:  God and His church.  Therefore the liturgy of worship consists of God speaking and His people responding.
  • The church is one, a covenantal body.  The church consists, as it did in both Old and New Testaments, of believers and their families.  Therefore she must worship as that body.  We reject, therefore, any devices that would separate portions of that body from unified worship.

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Catechism

With our strong emphasis on the covenant and family life, our church has a strong catechism program.

The catechetical program in many churches is divided into two main areas.  We believe the division is covenantal in this sense:  first of all, God speaks to us through His Word.  We must know what He says.  Secondly, His speaking demands a response, and that response must be with the covenant body of the church and with the historical church.

  Therefore the first years of instruction are devoted to a study of the Bible using study guides prepared for this purpose.  Following this, we teach from our confessions, using the Heidelberg Catechism and study booklets prepared for this instruction.

To see the catechism curriculum used in our church, go to the Line of Promise Press web page.
Missions

Each congregation supports whatever local or other mission work they deem worthy.  Such causes include:  local gospel missions, Wycliffe Bible Translators, the Gideons, Middle East Reformed Fellowship, Urban Nations, Christ for Russia, the Trinitarian Bible Society, Crisis Pregnancy Centers, Answers in Genesis, Greenville Seminary and Mid-America Reformed Seminary.

We also support the work of specific missionaries throughout the world, including Pastor Matt & Anne-Marie Van Dyken in Tepic, Mexico; Pastor Bill

 

& Aletha Green in Costa Rica; and Pastor Anup Hiwale in India.  This includes monetary support as well as prayer for them and their work, being aware of their particular blessings and struggles, and providing opportunities for church members to join short-term service trips to support their ministries.

Being a light in the local community through outreach and evangelism is also an emphasis.  For example, we conduct monthly services at The Lighthouse Mission, and support them financially.

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Our Church Government

Our church government is based on Reformation principles and formalized during the Synod of Dort, 1618-19.  Our document is the Church Order, which aside from minor revisions, dates from Dort.

The principle of church government is presbyterial rather than episcopal or congregational.  By that we mean that Christ is the only head of the church, and His word the only rule.  He has delegated (not transferred) His authority to elders.  The elders then (including the minister) rule as a body (consistory), and their rule is limited in extent to the congregation in which they serve.

We have federated to uphold each other as churches and consistories in our commonly-confessed faith and to help one another in the responsibilities Christ has given His church.  So in practical terms, our working together includes mutual supervision, and assistance in the training of ministers, in mission work, and in disciplinary matters.

We try to maintain our broader assemblies such as classis and synod under some important principles.  The authority of broader assemblies is delegated, limited, and temporary.

Delegated means that they have no authority of their own.  What they have is voluntarily delegated to it by all the consistories.  Limited means that the consistories only delegate a limited portion of their authority.  It is limited to areas agreed upon and specified by accepting the Church Order.  Temporary means that the authority of the broader assembly is limited to the time it is in session.  A classis or synod exists only so long as they meet.

 

 

Another important understanding we try to maintain in our federation is the manner in which we bring each other as churches, more into conformity to Scripture.  As we become more familiar with each other, we notice that some practices do not seem to some of us to be Biblical.  Now the question then is, “How shall we handle this?”  We have classis and synod, and we could introduce a measure, secure a majority, and so eliminate the practice from among us.

In actual situations, however, we have chosen not to deal that way with each other.  We felt that obedience then would not be obedience to the Word, but to a decision of synod.  So we chose a longer, perhaps less tidy, way.  We met together, formally sometimes as classis or synod, or informally, and sought to lay God's Word before one another.  So that by His grace, the church with the offending practice, came in time to recognize that it was contrary to Scripture, and then to change.

We then could rejoice together, not at what we had done by a vote of synod, but at what Christ had done by His Word and Spirit.  We all treasure this, and praise God He is pleased to enable us to use federation and synods in such a way to bring glory to Him.

We enjoy other practical results of federation.

Once each year we authorize one each of our more experienced ministers and elders to visit each consistory and review the condition of the congregation and the work of the consistory.

Our classis meetings are held bi-annually and synods usually once every four years.  Usually once a year on the west coast we have a day-long elders’ conference in which we discuss such topics as guarding the Lord’s table, family visitation, and catechism instruction.

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