What does Reformed really mean? #fellowshippres

January 19, 2012

I’ve just stepped out from a session on the theological identity both of the Fellowship of Presbyterians and the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians (ECO for short), a new Presbyterian expression of church under the Fellowship umbrella.

As I left, Calvin College prof Laura Smit was discussing our identity as a reformed church. What does ‘reformed,’ really mean? There are rival conceptions. The progressive wing of the church envisions reform as progress toward an inclusive gospel and community. Evangelicals, rather, define reformed in terms of fidelity to Scripture and the perennial duty of church officers to guard the witness and teaching of the church even as we take it to the world. To paraphrase Tim Keller, “we have to both get the gospel right and get the gospel out.

The Fellowship/ECO finds itself drawing on evangelical ministers from the PCUSA, many of whom are not Calvinist. Jerry Andrews (First Pres, San Diego) suggested that perhaps 10% of ministers attending the conference would be “Westminster Calvinists.”

So how do we deal with this? Wisely, the Fellowship/ECO has decided to maintain the ten confessions of the PCUSA as a foundation as well as to adopt an essentials document that will inform our reading of those confessions.

Now, as Smit puts it, we begin the long process of once more falling in love with the classical formulations of our faith and placing them once more into the heart of our community life. I got excited as she spoke because I believe that theology is important because it helps us how to both think and to live. And, as Smit reminded us, it is a “pernicious error” to claim that the truthfulness of our beliefs has no significance.

Let the journey of deepening theological reflection, begin (continue). If you’re a PCUSA minister and affiliated with the Fellowship, are you a “Westminster Calvinist”? I like to say I’m a Heidelberg Calvinist or a Calvin-Calvinist!