By Parnell McCarter


Recently I received an inquiry concerning my family’s divided ecclesiastical condition.  My response is found below:


Dear  XXX,


Let me first try to answer your question, and then discuss with you some things about what you wrote.  It is very non-ideal that Charlotte and I will be in different denominations, but I do not know how to avoid it with a clear conscience.  If I looked at the issue of denominational affiliation as just a preference issue, then I may give in to Charlotte's preference.  But on this particular issue, I do not look at it in that way.  And Charlotte is adamant she will not join with the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland (FPCS) or any church that uses a common cup in communion (combined with some other reasons for not joining with the FPCS).


When I married Charlotte, I knew what I was getting.  She was the first in her family to leave Romanism, against much opposition from her relatives.  After coming to Calvinistic convictions, she moved to go to a Calvinistic church, leaving behind churches which had people of her own native ethnicity and culture.  And she even further distanced herself from her native background when she married me.  All of that takes a pretty strong personality, but that same strong personality can sometimes make it hard to lead Charlotte when she thinks she is right.


So there you have it: my conscience cannot allow me to budge and her conscience cannot allow her to budge.  But though I think the FPCS is the right church to join, I do not believe it has a monopoly on true believers.  So I will try to make the best of this situation, which probably means we will be in different denominations, until God changes my mind or her mind or both.  Thankfully, on many, many issues Charlotte and I are quite agreed.


What I have told my family is that my biggest difference with the RPCNA is this matter of loose (versus full) subscriptionism.  I simply do not know what the RPCNA regards as non-negotiable in its WCF/Testimony.  My fear is that every Reformation distinctive is somehow negotiable and subject to compromise with this form of subscription.  And I think my fears are confirmed when I see things like the RPCNA synod not taking action to make sure its own college's chapel operates according to the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW), or when I see people who are obviously Arminian given communion and a guy from Young Life appointed as CUTS director and still links with Navigators, etc. If even RPW and the doctrines of grace are on the table and negotiable, then why not join Rome?  Furthermore, it is absolutely devastating to the foundational Protestant doctrine of the perspicuity of scripture if a church cannot come up with a confession based on scripture that all ministers and communicant members agree in.  If scripture is not clear enough to do that, then is not Rome right?


Yes, I have differences with the amendments to the Westminster Standards found in the RPCNA WCF/Testimony, but those are actually secondary to the one stated above.


I agree with you about church splinters, which is one reason my conscience is bound to the FPCS.  I do not agree with the reasons for separation that created other denominations, but I do agree with the reasons for separation that led to the FPCS.  (eg, I think Cameronians were wrong to leave the Church of Scotland (CofS) for the reason they did [following the “Glorious Revolution” in Britain’s history], and now most churches that originally were Cameronian like the RPCNA admit the same by their own changes to their standards).