Respecting Elders and Adjudicating Church Property

[Note: I’m fighting the flu, which is why I didn’t post at all yesterday. I’m up to reading again today, and found a few things to comment on.]

Peter Kirk posts on the church congregation of which J. I. Packer is a member, which has voted to leave its diocese and join the southern cone. This is not in my denomination, but it is becoming a more and more common issue as various denominations turn leftward, and conservative congregations try to leave their denomination.

There are two issues that concern me a great deal. The first is about the treatment of J. I. Packer. Now you don’t have to read more than a few posts to realize that I’m not very near J. I. Packer on the theological map. But I think those of us who are moderate to liberal in persuasion need to make sure that we treat people who disagree with us with a certain degree of respect. I am open to correction on this, but I fail to see where Dr. Packer has done anything to warrant this type of treatment. It appears to just be an attempt to silence him, and probably not a very effective one at that.

But second, this reminds me of a number of cases in this country in which property issues have landed churches in court. Now I don’t see that happening here in this particular case, but in many cases here in the United States, congregations are winding up in court over church property. There is very little value, I think, if a denomination keeps a piece of property, but loses the members.

When the dust has settled, and when we all stand before the great judgment seat of Christ, I don’t want to be the one who took a congregation to court over property issues. I can see some technical justification, but I think with Paul that we should say “It would be better to let yourselves be cheated and robbed” (1 Corinthians 6:7 CEV).

Where we have to separate in terms of congregations and denominations, we should all be able to agree to make a maximum effort to do so in a Christ-like manner, at least as much as is possible when disuniting. (Christ-like schism? Is that possible? Maybe it’s the flu!)

From a Christian point of view this treatment of Dr. Packer seems to come from the same angle. It looks like a rather unChrist-like attempt to score points because someone annoys you. Liberals should be in favor of openness. More importantly, Christians should treat one another with respect, and treat an elder with due respect. This looks like scoring cheap points.

Update: Can I use the illness excuse again? I somehow missed the fact that there is a property issue in this case. So it is more precisely an example of the issue I’m talking about here.

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One Comment

  1. Thanks for this, for putting things so well. I agree with you in having some serious disagreements with Packer on theology, especially concerning his complementarianism and his view of ESV. But I have great respect for him. It is sad that his bishop does not.

    I’m not sure if there is an open property dispute relating to this particular Anglican congregation, but there certainly are for other Anglican congregations in Canada which have joined the Southern Cone.

    See also my update on the charges made against Packer, in a comment.

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