Gerald R.Ford and the PRC Synod of 1961

Ford Museum celebrates anniversary of president’s birth; new exhibition opens today | MLive.com.

Gerald_FordAs many of you will know, Former U.S. Congressman and later U.S. President Gerald R. Ford (38th, serving from 1974-77; and prior to that 40th Vice-president serving under Pres.R.Nixon from 1973-74) is buried on the grounds of the presidential museum that bears his name (maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration), along the banks of the Grand River in downtown Grand Rapids, MI. You may also know that Ford’s presidential library is located in Ann Arbor, MI on the campus of the University of Michigan.

This past Monday, July 14, was the 101st anniversary of Pres.Ford’s birth (also my father’s birthday – more famous to us!), which was commemorated at the museum with the annual wreath laying ceremony, as the above-linked story on MLive reports.

Why do I bring this up on this Friday? Because I am running a day late with my posts this week and this post is going to be our PRC history/archives one for this week. OK, you may say; but still, what does PRC history have to do with Pres. G.Ford?

Well, here’s the answer – in the form of a question! Did you know that our churches have on record in our Acts of Synod a letter to and from “Jerry” Ford when he was serving as a congressman from Grand Rapids in Washington, D.C.?

That’s correct. In 1961 our Synod took the unusual step of adopting an overture that originated in Creston PRC (Grand Rapids, MI) and approved by Classis East in which we objected to the military’s requirement at that time “that our young men take part in military training and drill on the Sabbath day” (p.57). The overture had three grounds and included a letter to Congressman Ford, as well as his respectful and sympathetic reply (as you will see in the material below).

This matter directly involved Rev.George Lubbers, pastor of Creston PRC at that time, and as you will note, a son of his by the name of Cornelius, known to most of us as “Case”.

Before posting the overture itself, I will quote from the relevant article (39) of the Acts of Synod 1961 which gives the decisions made:

A motion is made to adopt I, A, i.e., ‘that synod adopt the overture of Creston as approved by Classis East.’ Carried

A motion is made to adopt I, B, i.e., ‘that synod send a letter to Major General D.W. McGowan, to the Chiefs of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Corps Reserve Affairs and to Robert McNamara, Sec. of Defense.’ Carried

A motion is made to adopt I, C. i.e., ‘that synod send a copy of the above letters to Rep.Gerald R. Ford with a letter of explanation.’ Carried.

Below is the overture with its supporting documents, including the letters to and from Rep.Ford (click on them to enlarge).

Acts 1961-2_Page_1

 

Acts1961-1_Page_1

I find this fascinating. Little did Synod of 1961 know that it would have on its records letters from a future President of the United States! I wonder if his archives (now part of our National Archives) contain these letters. Shall we try to find out?

Word Wednesday: “Polity” (as in Church)

Over the last month or so we have been examing a few words that are regularly found and heard in our Seminary environment. We have looked at “isagogics”, “exegesis”, and “homiletics”. Today we want to consider the word “polity”, as in “church polity”, another of the courses taught in the area of Practical Theology by Prof.B.Gritters.

ChurchPolity-CHodgeIf the word “polity” sounds a lot like “politics”, you are correct in your association, because they both have the same root – the Greek word for city (polis) and citizen (polites). And there are other English words that derive from this: police, polite, and of course, politician and political. If you look up this word in the dictionary, this is what you find for definition and origin:

World English Dictionary
polity  (ˈpɒlɪtɪ)
n  , pl -ties
1. a form of government or organization of a state, church, society, etc; constitution
2. a politically organized society, state, city, etc
3. the management of public or civil affairs
4. political organization
[C16: from Latin polītīa,  from Greek politeia  citizenship, civil administration, from politēs  citizen, from polis  city]

Now, of course, we despise church politics, by which we would mean using worldly craft and power to attain one’s goals in the spiritual city of God. We don’t want our pastors, professors, elders or deacons – or any citizen of God’s city for that matter – resorting to this kind of “polity”.

But we do want them to follow Christ’s polity for God’s holy city, which is nothing else but the rules He has ordained and revealed to us in His Word for how His church ought to be managed. The Head of the church (or the King of God’s city) has given us the principles and regulations by which His body (or city) ought to be organized and governed. And the study of these principles and regulations is called “church polity”.

And so, in our Seminary catalog you will find this description of the course known as “church polity” (course # 413 & 414):

A study of the biblical principles of Reformed church government relating to the institutional life of the church upon earth, and of the Church Order adopted by the Synod of Dordrecht and used in the Protestant Reformed Churches in America.

Yes, church polity is about how we all – officebearers (sub-rulers in God’s city) and citizens – behave in the house of God (cf. I Tim.3:15). Do you know how to? If you want to learn more, study the Word of God - and our Church Order! You might also be interested in these “Notes on the Church Order” by Prof.(emeritus) H.Hanko. And perhaps someday, Prof.Gritters will invite you to his Seminary course :)

Hobby Lobby at the Supreme Court: landmark case for religious liberty to be heard Tues. – Baptist Press

Baptist Press -Hobby Lobby at the Supreme Court: landmark case for religious liberty to be heard Tues. – News with a Christian Perspective.

Today, as the Supreme Court returns to its work, our justices will begin treating the cases of two companies owned by Christian families who are opposed to the unbiblical and unethical demands of the Affordable Healthcare Act (unaffectionately known as “Obamacare”). Baptist Press carried this report about the significance of these cases, and indeed, as Christians we ought to be informed and concerned about the outcome of these cases (Read the full report at the link above.).

Which means that we ought also be in prayer today for our SC and those defending these Christian businesses. The AFA (American Family Association) offered a sample prayer in its mailing yesterday, which I thought was appropriate to use as a guide (see below).

hobby_lobby_300x225WASHINGTON (BP) — The fate of religious freedom for Americans, especially business owners, could hang in the balance when the U.S. Supreme Court convenes March 25.

The justices will hear oral arguments that day in challenges by two family owned corporations to the Obama administration’s abortion/contraception mandate, which requires employers to provide abortion-causing drugs for their workers. Hobby Lobby, a nationwide retail chain based in Oklahoma City, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a Pennsylvania business, contend the federal regulation violates their owners’ consciences and a 1993 law protecting religious liberty.

Religious freedom advocates predict the Supreme Court’s decision will be far-reaching.

The high court’s opinion “will determine the next 100 years of church/state jurisprudence,” said Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

Joshua Hawley, a lawyer assisting Hobby Lobby, described it as “a landmark case.”

“It has major significance for religious liberty” and “for what constitutional rights business owners can claim,” said Hawley, a member of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty’s legal team and an associate professor at the University of Missouri School of Law.

Matt Bowman, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, explained to Baptist Press the consequences for not only the Green family, the evangelicals who own Hobby Lobby, and the Hahns, the pro-life Mennonite family that owns Conestoga Wood, but other people who seek to exercise their religious beliefs.

“If the Hahn and Green families lose, the door would be open to allow the government to force people of faith to pay massive fines threatening jobs and health coverage just simply because they are choosing not to violate their faith and conscience,” Bowman told BP in an email interview.

“If the Hahn and Green families win, it will protect religious liberty as promised in the Constitution and American law, and people of faith will not be subject to massive fines just because they don’t want to help destroy human life.”

P.S. You may also be interested in this infographic on the Hobby Lobby case.

The AFA offered this prayer as a guide for Christians today (You will want to adapt some of the wording to match your own convictions, but I hope you can appreciate its emphasis on the sovereignty of God.):

Lord God, Our Father, you are the Righteous Judge over all the earth. We pray that you will have mercy on the United States as the Supreme Court hears a case that will shape the balance between government power and freedom of religion.

Give words to the attorneys for Hobby Lobby as they argue that our free exercise of religion includes how Christians live and work, not just what we do when we gather for worship, so that whatever we do in word or deed, we may do it in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

God, enlighten the Justices of the Supreme Court to acknowledge that you alone are Lord of our consciences. Give the Court humility to recognize that you are the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and that you have instituted human government so that your people may serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righteousness before you, all the days of our life.

And Lord, give us grace and boldness to use the religious liberty that we still have to make your truth and mercy known. Amen.

Scotland and the Birth of the United States – Donald Fortson – March “Tabletalk”

Scotland and the Birth of the United States by Donald Fortson | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-March2014The fourth and final featured article on “John Knox & the Scottish Reformation” in this month’s Tabletalk focuses on the influence of the Scottish Reformation on the beginnings of the United States of America. It is written by Dr. Donald Fortson, associate professor of church history at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC, and has the above-linked title.

Being interested in early American history and knowing precious little about how the Scottish Presbyterians played a part in our country’s beginnings, I was highly interested in getting to Fortson’s article. I did yesterday, and I was not disappointed. It is an important and fascinating story – and not without controversy. But you will have to read that for yourself.

I quote a portion of it here and encourage you as always to read the entire article at the Ligonier link above. Your eyes will be opened to a connection between Scottish Presbyterian history and U.S. history that you perhaps did not know much about before.

One of the reasons American Presbyterians had organized themselves was a belief that joint effort could strengthen religious toleration. Under the 1689 Toleration Act of William and Mary, Makemie and other ministers had secured Dissenter licenses. Makemie’s house had been designated as an authorized preaching point in Anglican-established Virginia, but he was arrested in New York by the governor, Lord Cornbury, for illegal preaching. He was jailed and eventually tried, but was acquitted in 1707. Makemie’s exoneration was a notable milestone in the advancement of religious liberty in the colonies and made Presbyterians popular with Dissenters.

Within a decade of Makemie’s trial, the massive immigration of Scots-Irish would commence. Beginning in 1717, a steady stream of Ulster Scots populated the Middle Colonies, particularly the frontier in western Pennsylvania. By the time of American independence, nearly five hundred thousand Scots-Irish had come to America. The Virginia and Carolina Piedmont areas were unoccupied before 1730, but Scots-Irish settlers coming down the “Great Philadelphia Wagon Road” began to populate the backcountry. By 1750, they had moved into the South Carolina Piedmont and north Georgia. Scottish Highlanders settled along the North Carolina seaboard and coastal areas of Georgia.

The most remarkable spiritual event to shape Scots-Irish colonists in the generation preceding the Revolutionary War was the revival known as the First Great Awakening. Many Presbyterians were keen supporters of revivalist preachers George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards, who deepened American passion for freedom to worship God according to the dictates of one’s conscience.

One fruit of the revival was renewed Christian piety, which many American clergy saw as central to God’s blessing on the colonies. There were also millennial overtones to the Spirit’s work as a sign of America’s providential destiny. These elements helped create fertile soil for the American Revolution, and Presbyterian ministers utilized these themes as advocates for independence from Britain.

Roe v. Wade’s Days Are Numbered | Christianity Today

Roe v. Wade’s Days Are Numbered | Christianity Today.

AbuseofDiscretion-CForsytheThis coming Sunday, January 19, 2014, is designated by various pro-life organizations as “Sanctity of Human Life” Sunday here in the United States. In connection with that Christianity Today highlights a new book (Sept., 2013) which calls into question some serious legal issues with the infamous Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision (1973) and points to the fact that it could actually be overturned someday.

Part of this article is an interview with the author, Clark Forsythe. Below is the opening part of this article. It is worth reading from many points of view, not the least of which is that we may know what developments there are in undoing this tragic law in our land. To read the entire article, visit the CT link above.

Forty years after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its Roe v. Wade decision, a leading pro-life legal expert believes the decision has never been more vulnerable to being overturned.

In his new book, Abuse of Discretion: The Inside Story of Roe v. Wade, Clark Forsythe, senior legal counsel at Americans United for Life, details what he uncovered in examining the private papers of the justices, their case files, and oral arguments. After 20 years of research, Forsythe found that:

  • The justices decided to hear Roe under a misunderstanding that it concerned state criminal prosecutions, not a constitutional right to abortion.
  • They arbitrarily expanded fetal viability from 12 weeks to 28 weeks with little discussion or medical knowledge.
  • The Court’s majority relied heavily on popular, but unproved, ’70s-era evidence that there was an urgent need for population control in the United States.

Since Roe, there have been 50 million abortions in the United States. Currently, there are about 1 million per year. But public opinion has slowly been shifting toward ending abortion on demand. The 2013 Gallup poll showed that since 1995, more Americans than ever consider themselves pro-life. Overall the nation remains very evenly divided on abortion. Gallup reports that there is a difference of only 3 percentage points between pro-life and pro-choice (48 percent vs. 45 percent).

Timothy C. Morgan, CT senior editor of global journalism, recently interviewed Forsythe about his book, which The Wall Street Journal said “provides a cautionary tale about the political and constitutional hazards of unnecessarily broad Supreme Court decisions.”

ObamaCare’s marriage penalty: Cohabitating couples will pay less for healthcare than married couples – LifeSiteNews.com

ObamaCare’s marriage penalty: Cohabitating couples will pay less for healthcare than married couples | LifeSiteNews.com.

ObamacareWe already know that the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) is bad in terms of finances (increasing costs) and healthcare (loss of good care). We also know it is bad morally, with its forced mandate for employers to provide birth control to employees, even if it violates their religious principles. Now we are also finding out that this law is bad morally in terms of its attacks on marriage and family. But should this surprise us?

In this online article, LifeSiteNews reports on how traditional marriage is being punished under ACA (posted Nov.11, 2013). Let us hope that this sinister law is soon undone and our freedoms restored. But if not, let us also be prepared to suffer for righteousness’ sake.

Below is a clip from the LSN article; read all of it at the link above.

Would you pay $10,000 a year to stay married to your spouse? Some American couples are being faced with exactly that decision as they consider their health insurance options under ObamaCare.

…In 2010, the Heritage Foundation warned of this hidden marriage penalty in a report criticizing the ObamaCare bill for its “profound anti-marriage bias.” They also pointed out that focusing on the yearly penalty misses the bigger picture: the penalty is assessed over and over again throughout the couple’s life, meaning the real cost of marriage is much, much higher.

According to the group’s calculations, a married couple who remained married throughout their lives might pay more than $200,000 in penalties under ObamaCare.

“Most people feel that marriage is a healthful institution that society should encourage and strengthen,” wrote Robert Rector, the report’s author. “Inexplicably, [ObamaCare] takes the opposite approach. At nearly all age and income levels, the bill profoundly discriminates against married couples, providing far less support to a husband and wife than to a cohabiting couple with the same income.”

Rector said that ObamaCare’s passage means that “married couples across America will be taxed to provide discriminatory benefits to couples who cohabit, divorce, or never marry.”

Leanna Baumer, a senior legislative assistant for the Family Research Council, told LifeSiteNews.com that ObamaCare’s marriage penalty is a giant step in the wrong direction, one that could negate years of hard-won tax reforms aimed at encouraging marital stability.

“Not only do these penalties discourage couples from marrying, they ignore the bipartisan work that has occurred in the past decade to decrease marriage penalties in the tax code,” Baumer told LifeSiteNews.

Pres.B.Obama’s Thoughts on Islam and Christianity

40 mind-blowing quotes from Barack Obama about Islam and Christianity | Young Conservatives.

Our readers will also be interested in this post made by Joshua Riddle at the “Young Conservatives” website on Oct.2, 2013. I give you the first five from each section here; find all of them at the “YC” link above.

20 Quotes By Barack Obama About Islam and Mohammed

#1 “The future must not belong to those who slander the Prophet of Islam”

#2 “The sweetest sound I know is the Muslim call to prayer”

#3 “We will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over the centuries to shape the world — including in my own country.”

#4 “As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam.”

#5 “Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance.

20 Quotes By Barack Obama About Christianity and the Bible

#1 “Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation”

#2 “We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation.”

#3 “Which passages of scripture should guide our public policy?  Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK and that eating shellfish is an abomination?  Or we could go with Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith?”

#4 “Even those who claim the Bible’s inerrancy make distinctions between Scriptural edicts, sensing that some passages – the Ten Commandments, say, or a belief in Christ’s divinity – are central to Christian faith, while others are more culturally specific and may be modified to accommodate modern life.”

#5 “The American people intuitively understand this, which is why the majority of Catholics practice birth control and some of those opposed to gay marriage nevertheless are opposed to a Constitutional amendment to ban it. Religious leadership need not accept such wisdom in counseling their flocks, but they should recognize this wisdom in their politics.”

“Praying for Politicians” – David Robertson

Praying for Politicians by David Robertson | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

The final article to appear in the March Tabletalk and the final one I read yesterday is this one by pastor David Robertson (see biographical information below). I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly impressed with what Robertson wrote. Writing for the rubric “Beyond the Wicket Gate”, he begins by criticizing the way the church has often involved herself politically. But then, basing his thoughts on the call of I Tim.2:1-4, he shows how vital it is that the church use the means of prayer to address the needs of her political leaders and the needs of the church under these leaders.

I believe (based on my own limited experience and my own prayer life) that we are not following the charge of this Word of God very faithfully. We are quick to complain about the bad policies and wicked manueverings of evil men and women in government, but we are slow to bring these matters to the Lord. As God’s providence would have it, this morning’s devotional from the April issue of “TT” is based on Isaiah 37, where godly king Hezekiah takes the blasphemous letter of the Assyrian Rashekah, enters the temple, spreads the letter out before the Lord, and prays about it! I (we) need more of this attitude and action.

Here are a few of Robertson’s thoughts on this matter. You may read the full article at the Ligonier link above.

The church must be involved, but not in the way we so often have been. When the church seeks political power, the church inevitably ends up being corrupted. Creating or supporting particular political parties, policies, or philosophies is not the way of Christ. For the church to be identified with one political party is a sure-fire recipe for disaster.

Does that mean we are doomed to be pious pietists, huddling in our small groups as the world rots, just waiting for the Lord to return? God forbid. The Bible gives us very clear instructions on how we are to participate in the political process—instructions that, if we followed them today, would make an enormous difference to the politics and government of our countries. These instructions are found in 1 Timothy 2:1–4: “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness… (NIV).
 

…First, prayer is realistic because it recognizes our own weakness and causes us to humbly bow before God, conscious that we do not have the power to accomplish anything. With all our money, strategies, techniques, and human wisdom, there really is nothing we can do that will control or change the course of history. True prayer recognizes the sovereignty and agency of God. Prayer stops us relying on ourselves and thus stops the frustrations and panic when we and our political philosophies and strategies fail. It is important at this stage to note that prayer is not to be used as a political tool, as though by holding prayer meetings we are courting or forcing God’s vote. Prayer is not protest. It is petition, which realizes that even the hearts of President Obama or Prime Minister David Cameron are not out of God’s control. Proverbs 21:1 says: “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord. He directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases” (NLT).

 

Rev. David A. Robertson is minister of St. Peter’s Free Church in Dundee, Scotland. He is author of The Dawkins Letters: Answering Atheist Myths.

Obama Administration vs. the Law on Same Sex Marriage

Obama Administration vs. the Law on Same Sex Marriage.

From the Heritage Foundation (Feb.25, 2013) comes this important update on what our current administration is doing with regard to its determination to establish homosexuality with full legal rights in our land, including marriage rights. Of course, that also means you have to try and destroy God’s definition of marriage as the law of the land, which is exactly what it is attempting to do. Yet there are others who are fighting back. Read the full article at the link above.

President Obama has so many flip-flops in his policy positions that it’s hard to keep track. After running for President supporting traditional marriage, he “evolved” to support same-sex marriage—and now his Justice Department has officially urged the Supreme Court to overthrow the law of the land.

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) defining marriage as one man and one woman for the purposes of federal law passed Congress with an overwhelming bipartisan majority and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996. It is the subject of a court challenge that the Supreme Court will hear on March 27. Last Friday, the Obama Justice Department filed a brief with the high court stating the Administration’s position that DOMA is unconstitutional.

Normally, it is the Justice Department’s job to enforce the nation’s laws. But as Heritage’s Hans von Spakovsky has noted, Obama’s Administration is different:

But now we have a Justice Department so politicized that it is actually arguing against federal statutes in court, and doing so not based upon the dictates of the law…but based on the apparent policy preferences and political ideology of this administration. So much for taking care that the laws be faithfully executed.

The Supreme Court will also hear arguments against Proposition 8, California’s state constitutional amendment defining marriage as one man and one woman, which was passed by popular vote of the citizens of that state. The March 26 arguments will come the day before the DOMA arguments. Several organizations, led by the National Organization for Marriage, are holding a March for Marriage in Washington, D.C., on March 26.

Dr. B.Carson Speech at 2013 National Prayer Breakfast

Dr. Carson Speaks about Fiscal Responsibilty at National Prayer Breakfast.

The Heritage Foundation also reported on the amazing speech Dr. Benjamin Carson gave at the recent National Prayer Breakfast held Feb.7, 2013. I referenced this Christian doctor before in a post and this talk he gave is worthy of being noted as well. While the “HF” focuses on the remarks he made about our debt crisis in this country, Dr. Carson also spoke openly about the moral decay crisis in our land. I can understand why our President, who was seated just to his right, squirmed throughout the speech.

He does not hide his Christian faith or his love for the Lord (though we may differ with some of the things he says) – in fact, he begins this speech by quoting four Bible passages – and he is openly critical of the “thought police” and politically-correct crowd in this country. Dr.Carson speaks with praise of his godly mother and the Christian upbringing he received in his dirt-poor home. Of special note is the fact that he says his mother would not let him and his siblings watch much TV but instead encouraged them to read, with books from the Detroit Public Library.

Here is how the Heritage Foundation introduces Dr.Carson’s speech, and the reference he made to his reading. Be sure to listen to the speech by means of the video provided (about a half hour in length).

Yesterday, world-renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson presented the keynote address at the 61st Annual National Prayer Breakfast. With President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and other national leaders in attendance, Dr. Carson spoke plainly about the great challenges America faces today: “moral decay and fiscal irresponsibility.”

Growing up in dire poverty, Dr. Carson tells of taking responsibility for his own decisions thanks to “a mother who believed in me, who would never allow herself to be a victim no matter what happened—she never made excuses, and she never accepted excuses from us.”

Carson says his mother paved the way for a better life by insisting he and his brother read rather than watch television:

After awhile, I actually began to enjoy reading those books. I read about people of great accomplishment.

As I read those stories, I began to see a connecting thread: the person who has the most to do with what happens to you in life is you. You make decisions, and you decide how much energy you put behind those decisions. At that point I didn’t hate poverty anymore, because I knew it was only temporary: I could change that.

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