More than 500 Southern Presbyterian ministers have signed a “Declaration of Commitment” vowing continuance of a denomination that is both Calvinistic in doctrine and representative in government.
The declaration was published as a three-quarter-page advertisement in more than thirty metropolitan newspapers from Baltimore to Fort Worth. A similar message was to appear in four church periodicals.
The statement appeared just after a committee of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. (Southern) began merger negotiations with the United Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. It is addressed to the denominational membership (nearly a million persons) and comes at a time of considerable anxiety among the rank and file.
Among other points of tension is the Southern Presbyterian General Assembly’s decision to commission a confession. A special drafting committee has announced it would not recommend adoption of the highly controversial United Presbyterian Confession of 1967.
Included in the advertisement was a coupon and an invitation to other Presbyterians to commit themselves to the statement. The signatures are being collected by the Rev. John E. Richards of the First Presbyterian Church of Macon, Georgia. He is a leader in the organization known as Presbyterian Churchmen United.
Adjoining is the declaration text:
To the membership of the Presbyterian Church, US, in light of the questions and concerns being expressed in the Church as to the nature of our faith and order, we, the undersigned ministers declare our conviction:
—That the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ turns men from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. By coming to faith in Him alone is there genuine reconciliation between man and God and man and man.
—That the Holy Scriptures are the infallible Word of God, and that these Scriptures commit the Church to a mission whose primary end is the salvation and nurture of souls.
—That Christian faith must bear fruit if it is to remain virile. These fruits vary from believer to believer. But common to them all are evidences of love, concern and neighborliness, toward all races of men without partiality and without prejudice, especially to the poor, the oppressed and the disadvantaged. The man of faith views all men as neighbors and himself as debtor, for Christ’s sake.
—That, for the implementation of the above principles, in obedience to our ordination vows, we must strive to preserve a confessional Church, thoroughly Reformed and Presbyterian. Thus, our support of or opposition to any proposed union will be determined by these considerations.
—That, being fully committed by our ordination vows to the system of doctrine set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, we must oppose all efforts to change in substance or otherwise debase our historic doctrinal commitment.
—That we are in the same context by vow committed to historic Presbyterian polity with its representative system and its parity among teaching and ruling elders. Thus, we are forced to oppose any effort to take our Church into the massive organization envisioned by COCU.
—That, should the basic theology or polity of the Church be altered or diluted, we shall be prepared to take such actions as may be necessary to fulfill the obligation imposed by our ordination vows, to maintain our Presbyterian faith.
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