A PERSONAL RECOMMENDATION TO THE WPCUS
Let me state emphatically at the outset that this is simply my own personal recommendation to the folks in the WPCUS. I have no church authority in the FPCS (Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland) or the WPCUS. My membership lies in the FPCS, but I am not even a church officer, much less an official representative of the FPCS speaking on its behalf.
I am persuaded that Christians should strive for visible church unity, as Mark Hausam has ably articulated in a series of articles, such as at http://freethoughtforchrist.blogspot.com/2012/10/one-holy-catholic-and-apostolic-church.html. More specifically, I am persuaded that the Biblical doctrines outlined in the original Westminster Standards as adopted by the Church of Scotland in the 1640s should serve as the basis of that church unity, as I describe at http://www.puritans.net/news/biblicalrealism021207.htm. Furthermore, I am persuaded that when a church body exists that fully subscribes to those standards as the FPCS has for many years, it is not appropriate to be creating whole new denominations in the world, but rather there should be a striving for the churches to become attached to the FPCS. For a brief explanation of the FPCS, see http://www.puritans.net/bookreviewseconddisruption.htm . I am not by this asserting that the FPCS is without its faults and shortcomings. Indeed, it and we its members have plenty of them. But realistically, as long as the Christian church is run by sinners (which it will be until Christ returns), there is not going to be perfection of execution of the sound confessional standards. We cannot expect all judicial decisions of the church courts to be perfect. There will inevitably be instances when the church courts are too loose (when they should be more strict) or too strict (when they should be more loose). They are sometimes going to undershoot or overshoot in their application of Biblical principles to a given issue or situation.
So what do I recommend in the specific case of the WPCUS churches? I would recommend they unilaterally decide and publicly announce their decision on a long term basis to seek to join with the FPCS as one denomination in the world. In addition, I recommend they adopt the judicial decisions of the FPCS as their own, for the furtherance of that long term objective. Let me give one concrete example of what that would mean: it would mean members of WPCUS churches cannot attend the Romish Mass, based upon the judicial decision of the FPCS church courts in the Lord MacKay case (see http://www.puritans.net/news/lordmackaycase081505.htm ). In essence what I am suggesting is that the WPCUS become an interim holding tank for American churches that want to avail of it to leave their current denominations, join temporarily with the WPCUS, with the intention that over course of time individual churches would leave the WPCUS and become part of the FPCS. The churches in the WPCUS during their interim period would continue with their various labors and ministries. So their period in the WPCUS would not be a period of suspended animation, which is really not feasible or advisable.
Of course, much longer term, if God should raise up sufficient FPCS churches in America, there may be a FPCS-tied American presbytery and even later synod. I realize there can be sensitivity about name, especially if the number of FPCS churches in America were to ever grow to a significant number. I would simply point out that the FPCS in the Ukraine does go by the name “Free Presbyterian Church of Ukraine” (see http://www.fpcu.odessa.ua/home/ ), which is an important precedent. It seems to me name is not a sound reason for denominational separation or creation of new denominations.
I can imagine one objection to such a course for the WPCUS would be that in their view the FPCS has been wrong on certain of its judicial decisions, so why should they be burdened with such? My response to that is this: the FPCS elders have diligently sought to be faithful in applying the confessional standards. There is always the possibility that the one making the objection is wrong, and the current majority of FPCS elders is right. But even if the current majority of FPCS elders is wrong, it is not like those submitting to their decision *for now* are being required to agree with their decision, but simply respecting it until at some point down the road there would be a change of mind of the majority of elders respecting that application. What is required of all FPCS officers is full subscription to the Biblical doctrines outlined in the original Westminster Standards as adopted by the Church of Scotland in the 1640s. There are all sorts of laws passed by Congress which we obey even though we do not agree with them. I fail to see why that same practice cannot be followed here.
The alternative to this course of action is endless church divisions and schisms because it is simply unrealistic to believe any sinful body of elders is always going to perfectly apply the confessional standards in their judicial decisions. The vision of the Solemn League and Covenant was that churches would be united by covenanted adherence to common confessional standards – namely, the Westminster Standards. That vision also included the nations being covenanted to those standards. That vision is one worthy of continuing to pursue both ecclesiastically as well as politically.
Finally, as Americans I think we must be prepared to eat a lot of humble pie. We have led the world in many ways on a path of rebellion against God, having been the first and greatest beacon of “Enlightenment” secular humanist principles enshrined in our US Constitution, following a revolution in which we allied ourselves with Roman Catholic nations. Our churches altered our confessional standards in following this trend, and they became subscriptionally looser. There is much for us to learn from the Scots. (I believe there is much also to be learned from certain conservative Dutch Reformed denominations like the NRC, which retained adherence to their Reformation standards.) By this, I am not saying there is nothing that can be learned from us as Americans. But, overall, our posture should be one of humility, because there are many ways we have been ill-affected by our spiritual declension.