Open letter to General Church Council

Just as God’s Word does not change, regardless of the era, so too the way we receive our Lord’s teaching does not change.  He gives and we receive. (Cf Ephesians 4: 11-16, Constitution 6.1 “The Church acknowledges that Jesus Christ is its one Lord and Head, and that all power and authority exercised by the Church must be governed by his will as revealed in his Word.”).

We are a Confessional Church.

The Constitution of our Church, just as was modelled at amalgamation, seeks to promote and ensure the work and message of the Church is in accord with receiving the teaching of Christ.  That is not affected by the circumstances or times or the attitude of people at the time we live.  (Article 2 Constitution).

The bar for our Church set at a two thirds majority vote as necessary for matters of teaching and doctrine is not high, given “we walk together” as Synod.  Unity is in Truth.  Scriptural authority marks the distinction between the Church and just, not-for-profit, organisations.

A compromised position does not bring truth, nor is there truth in unity.  It is scripture only, not scripture and culture, circumstances, attitude, anxiety or even theology.  We humble ourselves before our Lord to receive His Word.

All councils including General Church Council (GCC) and Synod itself, are human institutions.  These councils are limited with the qualification “constitutional authority” as opposed to “scriptural authority” under which all teaching, doctrine and life are governed (Constitution Article 2; Thesis of Agreement VI The Office of the Ministry 5 “…nor does it deliver the ministers of the Word up to the arbitrary directions and commands of” people; Matthew 15:9 “in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines”).

I am grateful for the time spent with Bishop John to understand the situation placed before the GCC.  I have grappled with how GCC can come out against the teaching office of the Church, the office itself received as a gift from the Lord of the Church, to use “sound doctrine” (Titus 1:9) to bring the Gospel of what God in Christ has done, to the world, in the matter of ordination, in this case.

General Pastors Conference (GPC) correctly informed the Church that any discussion on ordination requires a biblical/theological statement to address.  Having done that itself, the GPC then discussed the Draft Doctrinal Statement (DDS) on the ordination of both gender. It did not, however, reach a simple majority, let alone the necessary consensus needed to support it on any presented biblical basis to change what we have in Thesis of Agreement VI. 11.  A change in teaching necessitates overwhelmingly convincing biblical substance.

It follows that despite its own disclaimer, the GCC in this case has inadvertently and dangerously weighted the discussion in which it is not biblically or constitutionally in a place to do.  (The GPC has not recommended change based on the DDS).

In the end there is no required recommendation before the Convention of Synod, to change our teaching.  GCC forwards to the GPC matters requiring a recommendation on the theology and doctrine of the proposal placed on a Synod agenda.  It is scriptural substance on which GCC requests a recommendation from GPC.

Article “A matter deemed to be of a theological and confessional nature which has been referred to the General Pastors’ Conference for consideration shall be considered by the convention only after recommendation has been received from the General Pastors’ Conference.”  The pastors (teachers) of the Church are required to overwhelmingly agree on what is revealed in Scripture, to ready the Church to receive and acclaim any doctrine or teaching.

We are unable to proceed at this point.

For the integrity of our confessional Church and in compliance to the humanly devised system of Synod which supports the Objects of the Church laid out in Article 3 of the Constitution it is unthinkable that our doctrine and teaching become a casualty of popular thinking.

Delegates on causes may be in danger of compromising the integrity expected of a delegate of the Church.

With concern.

In Christ

Mike Semmler

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