Dear Family of Bel Air,
I hope you have some fun plans in the coming summer months for refreshment. Do take advantage of the really great camps and retreats planned for our church.
I wanted to take a moment and let you know about some of the decisions your leadership has made in response to the challenges in our denomination. Many of you could not attend our annual meeting and a quick update may be helpful.
Just what is the conflict over?
Basically it is the ongoing disagreement over how to interpret scripture. The two main concerns are the Biblical understanding of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ (Christology) and human sexuality (anthropology). The historic and traditional understanding of the Person and work of Christ is that He alone is Lord and the only way to salvation. The second hot-button issue is the move from the historic and traditional understanding that God's creative purposes (why we were made) and God's redemptive purposes (how we should live) are reflected in marriage between one man and one woman. We stand with over a million fellow Presbyterians who hold these truths within the PCUSA.
What can we do?
First of all, we can be a faithful witness to the scriptures and God's Word ourselves. Second, we can align Bel Air with hundreds of thousands of other evangelical Presbyterians in trying to reclaim and redirect the fleet of over ten thousand churches of the PCUSA in the right direction. Your Session voted unanimously to act on behalf of the recommendations of our Denominational Issues Committee. These faithful men and women met for the last year studying, praying, and discerning what the best options for Bel Air are at this time. Here are the three action items we completed to date.
1. Joined the Fellowship of Presbyterians:
This is a new organization that seeks to create a new way of living together within the denomination. More than another renewal organization trying to energize a stagnant denomination, the Fellowship of Presbyterians is about deep structural change within the PCUSA. Over fifteen hundred congregations nationally have shown deep interest or joined already in this new venture. For more information visit: www.fellowship-pres.org.
2. Started the process of creating a new Presbytery: The technical term for this is a "missional unit" which our form of government already allows. The goal is to weave at least ten like-minded churches into a new governing body in order to protect the power of ordination under the authority of scripture and our confessions.
3. Keeping our options open for other responses:
In other words, if the ongoing disagreements within the PCUSA reach an untenable level, Bel Air Presbyterian would seek to join another Reformed denomination where the integrity of our beliefs and values are protected and cherished. This would be done in an orderly and Christ-honoring way through our Presbytery's "Gracious Dismissal Policy."
Why not leave now?
Your leadership does not feel the interests, goals, and values of our church and the Kingdom of God would be better accomplished by leaving at this time. The Presbyterian Church in the United States of America is a three-hundred-year-old denomination with a profoundly Biblical history and remarkable resources available today. There are no perfect leagues out there to belong to without their own issues. We also believe, at this time, that teaching our next generation to stay in the "lover's quarrel" is better than simply breaking off relationship with people we disagree with on key issues. Having said that, if in the coming days we have so little in common with the teachings of others, it may be better to be honest and redefine our relationship. We would of course treat others as friends and even brothers and sisters in Christ, but step out of mutual submission in our deeply connected form of government to another Reformed Body of believers.
What is our hope?
Our five-hundred-year-old Heidelberg Confession says it best, "our only comfort and hope, in life and in death, is that we belong not to ourselves, but to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ." I truly believe the Spirit of God is doing a new and powerful move before our eyes. There will be some choppy waters ahead for the good ship Bel Air but our Captain is firmly in control of our destinies. I will be letting you know in the coming days the ongoing developments as we continue our mission of sharing the Good News in word and in deed. If you want to make a difference in life, you couldn't ask for a better time and a better spiritual family than what we have at Bel Air Presbyterian!
Yours in serving the Risen Christ,
Dr. Mark A. Brewer
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