Invitation to a Pillar Fight by Charles Partee
Preamble: Beyond the blue horizon an even-keeled professorship goes into dry dock claiming that (1) doctrine unites, (2) reason divides, and (3) bondage
I. Surveying Our Rubble Let us begin by backing up. If you are a Protestant in the Reformed tradition you might have hoped that the 500th anniversary of Protestant Christianity in 2017 would have offered a solid opportunity for careful reflection on, and reaffirmation of, our family identity. However, the most pious remembrance will seldom recover what has been massively neglected and will miss entirely what has been completely dismissed.See the complete article in Theology Matters Winter 2019 Pg. 1
What Can My Church Do to Respond to Abortion and Infanticide? by Susan Cyre
The infanticide offhandedly described by Gov. Northam of Virginia shocked most Americans. The Northam interview coupled with New York’s just-passed radical abortion law, is a wake-up call to all of us to renew our commitment to stop the killing of our born and preborn children. What can we do?
We should make pro-life the first criteria in the election of any official. We also should support pro-life pregnancy centers that care for women in crisis.
There is more, however, that we can do. We should make sure that the medical insurance plan that covers our pastors and church staff does not pay for abortions. For example, the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s self-insured medical plan, which pastors are required to participate in, covers abortions through all nine months of pregnancy.
That means that donations by pro-life people put in the offering plate on Sunday morning in their local church will pay for abortions. If you are in a Presbyterian Church (USA) congregation and want to know how to redirect your medical dues, contact Presbyterians Protecting Life .
To live out the truth that each preborn child is a child, we should encourage local hospitals to support families in the death of a baby, full-term or premature. When our first grandchild was born at less than 24 weeks and only lived a few hours, the hospital social worker, affiliated with “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep”, ministered to our family. She provided a tiny outfit and hat for Caleb and then took black and white remembrance photos of him, including one of his little hand resting in his mom and dad’s hands. She made a plaster cast of his foot and hand for his parents to keep. Caleb’s photo is on our mantel alongside our other grandchildren. He is loved and not forgotten.
Another hospital’s ministry is described in the article, “One Hospital’s Ministry” in Theology Matters, found here.
Congregations also have a responsibility and opportunity to minister to families in the death of a premature child. Our son and his wife chose to have a memorial service for Caleb to give thanks for his life and witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They listed Caleb’s death in the newspaper obituary section and included the picture of his hand in his parents’ hands. In doing that, they witnessed to the community that Caleb is a precious child loved by them and by God.
During the memorial service we celebrated the gift of Caleb’s life and were reminded that God knew Caleb and loved him before the foundation of the world. We were reminded that God knit Caleb together in his mother’s womb and is holding him now in his loving arms.
Many years ago a woman challenged me saying that the reason we have so many abortions in this country is that the church did not treat the death of premature children as the loss of a child. Her statement made me look at myself as a pastor. Early in my first pastorate, a couple’s preborn child died in the first trimester. I prayed with them and thought I had done ministry. Nothing in seminary prepared me for ministering to families in the death of a premature child. My ministry to them was sadly inadequate.
After that time our church partnered with area hospitals to offer a worship service semi-annually to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and give thanks for the life of preborn children. We recognized that often when a couple’s preborn child dies, they receive no support from their church family because they have not told family and friends about the pregnancy. This service offered them a time to celebrate the gift of their child and grieve his/her death. At the service we read Scripture passages like Psalm 139:13-18 and Revelation 21:1-6. There was a short meditation and prayers expressing deep sorrow, seeking God’s comfort, and trusting God’s perfect love. Parents were invited to come forward and light a candle from the Christ candle and name their child either publicly or in their heart. (For the order of worship and litany used click here.
A woman in her late seventies explained to me that she was unable to come to the preborn worship service because the loss of her preborn child more than five decades earlier was still too painful. Her sorrow had never been comforted.
Our church also discovered that the local cemetery donated plots for preborn children in their “Angel Section”. If a congregation’s local cemetery does not donate plots, congregations could purchase them and donate them to families. Congregations could also purchase infant caskets through a local funeral home.
Our culture’s embrace of abortion is an opportunity for the church to not only teach and preach the sanctity of life, but also to minister to those families who have suffered the tragic death of a preborn or stillborn child. It is the church’s ministry that witnesses to the world the truth of Scripture that each child, born and preborn, is created in God’s own image. Each child, born and preborn, is loved by God and precious to Him.
Susan Cyre, M.Div. is the Executive Director Emeritus of Theology Matters and lives in Fredericksburg, VA with her husband, Walling.
Preparing for Baptisms And Supporting the Baptized by John P. Burgess
Opening prayer: Great God, we thank you for the gift of baptism, in which Jesus forgives us our sins yet lays your mighty claim upon our whole life. Call us back to the identity that you gave us at the font, that we would be free for grateful service to you and all your creatures. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Recovering the Office of Elder The Shepherd Model, Part II by Eric Laverentz
In 1898, the ruling elders of the Second Presbyterian Church in Kansas City, Missouri, became aware through local media that one of their members, Dr. H.S Lowry had become sexually involved with one of his employees. Dr. Lowry repented of the sin and admitted his offense in writing to the Session. However, the elders of Second Presbyterian Church sought further to set the matter straight between the couple. They spelled out their terms. Dr. Lowry was forgiven, but to regain full “communion and privileges of membership” he would have to marry the woman. They made it clear: “An adequate repentance it seems to us can only be fully evinced by giving to the young woman you have wronged the right to bear your name and to look to you for the protection which a husband alone can afford a wife.”
Returning to the Basics by Eugene H. Peterson
Sixty miles or so from where I live there is a mountain popular among rock climbers––Stalamus Chief. It presents itself as a vertical slab of smooth granite, 2,000 feet high. On summer days rock climbers are spread out in varying levels of ascent up and down its face. Occasional climbers spend the night in hammocks (they call it bivouacking), hanging like cocoons attached to barn siding. It always strikes me as a might dangerous way to have fun.