mgpcpastor's blog

A Small Alteration, A Significant Statement – Change To Ordination Vows #GAA_16

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The General Assembly considered a proposal to change one of the vows taken by ministers-elect and elders-elect at their ordination into their respective offices within the Presbyterian Church of Australia.
The question currently asks “Do you believe the Word of God which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, to be the only rule of faith and practice?”
The proposal was to omit the words ‘contained in the Scriptures’ and alter the question so that it would take the form “Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, the only rule of faith and practice”.
In doing so the intention is to embrace the intention of our church standards with regard to the nature of the Bible.
Changing understandings of the word ‘contained’ and a lack of understanding about the situation in which our church standards were framed can lead to confusion.
Our standards demonstrate that Holy Scripture is contained in the Old and New Testaments alone, not in any other writings, and the Holy Scripture contains all that is needed for what we are to believe and how we are to live out that belief.
The old question did not mean that God’s Word is present in the Bible along with other material that is not God’s Word, though it may mistakenly be taken to mean that, and might be used to defend defective interpretative practices as being valid in the life of our church.
The statement that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the Word of God, the only rule of faith and obedience is congruent with the Larger Catechism of the Westminster Confession, and so comfortably fits within our historical understanding of the Scriptures while better suiting the modes of expression and the theological issues in the age in which we live.
The proposal was debated, with consideration of what the change means and whether there were any unintended consequences.
The change has been approved and sent to State Assemblies and Presbyteries for their consideration before being considered for final implementation at the next GAA.
In a climate where the Bible is being eroded by sections of it being questioned or downgraded in the church, or where it is placed alongside other supposed sources of revelation from God; the Presbyterian Church of Australia has sought to affirm the unique and sufficient nature of the whole Bible, and its testimony to the Lord Jesus as the Word of God incarnate, the author and perfecter of our faith.

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