REDACTED LETTER TO A FORMER MEMBER OF THE REFORMATION PARTY by J. Parnell McCarter
All personal and denominational names have been removed below:
I want to let you know that I have removed your name from the Board of Theological Advisers and Reformation Party membership roll, as you have requested. I am also letting the other officers of the Reformation Party know that your name is being removed at your request, especially since you have been a member of the Board of Theological Advisers. I want personally to thank you for the time you have served in this capacity, and the helpful advice you have provided.
You also will see I have revised my personal webpage http://www.puritans.net/Reformation_Party/ . The webpage previously had said it was not the official website of the Reformation Party and referred people to the official Party website , but I have sought to revise it to make that even more clear, and that the webpage is simply to report on the Reformation Party, from the vantage of one that supports it. It was never my intention that my webpage appear to be the official site, but I have taken steps to make that even more clear.
In the Netherlands, the SGP political party consists of people from a number of reformed denominations (some strongly and publicly disagreeing with one another where there are ecclesiastical differences), but with the political and ecclesiastical goal of one day seeing the remaining differences resolved, the civil nation of the Netherlands reformed and supporting an established reformed church fully subscribed to the Three Forms of Unity. It seems to me the idea of the Reformation Party is basically along the same lines, and inspired by it, but in this case to the Westminster Standards (which in my opinion are a more precise doctrinal statement than the Three Forms of Unity, sitting as it were on the shoulders of the Three Forms of Unity, composed later in time and as the finale of the Reformation).
I am now especially speaking for myself, but it seems to me the Reformation Party cannot prohibit officers and members from expressing their personal opinions outside the Reformation Party, especially when there is no evidence such statements are contrary to the doctrines of the Westminster Standards. Of course, I am not saying you are arguing for such a prohibition, but simply you do not want to be part of a political party where an officer or member is stating things contrary to the stance of the … or critical of the …, or views with which you personally disagree and are unpopular (specifically my view regarding the propriety of ethnic homelands).
From my personal standpoint, I will not be part of a political party where I am not free to explain why I am a member of the … and not other denominations, and sometimes in very frank terms. In my opinion, in order to resolve the ecclesiastical divisions there needs to be frank discussions and debates on the issues that are dividing the denominations, and keeping them as separate denominations. I welcome such discussion and debate, which is why I have never deleted a Facebook post of another Christian disagreeing with my position on this or other topics on my Facebook page. Also I will not be a member of a a political party where I would not be free to argue for the propriety of ethnic homelands (as I have defined them), since I am persuaded the position is not contrary to scripture (or relevantly, though less importantly, to the Westminster Standards).
At the same time, I expect other Reformation Party members and officers to be able frankly to say why they are members of another denomination and not the …. To give one publicly known example, member … has publicly explained why he is …, and that he objects to the … on grounds that he believes it is legalistic. And various party members, including …, have very ardently explained why they disagree with my personal view regarding ethnic homelands.
If such expressed views were prohibited of officers and members, we would have to be in effect adding additional requirements upon membership, and we would be moving away from the position that the Westminster Standards are our comprehensive outline of what members and officers profess to agree to. In other words, we would be adding our own de facto “Testimony” on top of and in addition to the Westminster Standards, such “Testimony” composed by the Reformation Party’s small band of members. As you probably know, I would personally be opposed to such a direction. If one day, perhaps in the “millennium”, Church and State of covenanted reformed nations join in an endeavor like the Westminster Assembly was set up to even further refine and make more precise, but not to contradict, the Westminster Standards, then that is one thing. But I personally differ with the “Testimony” approach.
I also stand by the right of Reformation Party members not to elect me as a Reformation Party officer, but for other members to run as officer and for members to elect another officer. So far it has been easy for me to win office, since only 3 have run for each 3 open slots with each election J I realize I say some things that do not exactly endear me to some members, but I am only willing to be a politician on such terms as I can stomach, and I cannot stomach being silent on my views regarding looser confessional subscriptionism, Bible versions supportive of the critical text position, fraternal relations among churches with contradicting confessional standards, etc.
There is an argument to be made that the Reformation Party should only consist of members of one denomination, which would resolve some of the difficulties mentioned above (but in my opinion introduce some greater ones). Actually, that was my stance at one time. However, I moved from that and am still persuaded it is proper and right to do so. The civil realm is separate from the ecclesiastical realm, even though ideally the two should be in sync, in agreement, supporting one another, and working with one another. While I can personally recommend the … as a church to join, I cannot endorse its current practical approach to politics as a whole (albeit its doctrinal stance outlined in the Westminster Standards is spot on), similar to the way I cannot personally endorse its current practical approach as a whole to education, both of which I have publicly stated on multiple occasions on my Facebook page. The Reformation Party represents the political party I personally endorse and embrace, while the … represents the church denomination I personally endorse and embrace. Both institutions are fully subscribed as institutions to the doctrines outlined in the Westminster Standards, which is the bottom line reason why I am members of both of them.
Please know that from my standpoint you are welcome to resume being a Party member and Board of Theological Advisers member whenever or if ever you should so choose in the future (of course, provided you meet the stated Party requirements for such, as you have to this time).
Again, I want personally to thank you for all of the assistance you have provided the Reformation Party. I think your endorsement of it when you did showed much courage, as there have always been many things about it (not least that I have been an officer and member) that make it unpopular, even in professedly reformed Christian circles.