Robert McCurley on civil disobedience of churches

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NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
This is long at 70+ minutes but if I could make every Christian listen to it I would; the last 25 or so minutes on coming persecution was really important listening. It may be coming but the church is not ready for it. It's about much more than the title, so don't let that put you off.
 
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Jeri Tanner

Administrator
Staff member
I had listened to part of it around the time it first broadcast, so listened to the last 30 minutes or so tonight. I’m glad I did, I appreciated the solemn exhortation to begin to press into Christ more earnestly than ever, because if we don’t, how will we stand in the days of persecution that may be coming upon us. Rev. Curley pointed out how obviously reasonable it is to speculate that state-approved churches could become our norm.
 
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Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I'm about 1/2 way through. I like it for the most part.

I'm not an establishmentarian, so I doubt certain insistences RMcC makes on interpretation of certain passages (e,g, Ps.2 or Is.49:23) or standing on the claim that God treats with nations qua nations in the present age, and expects certain enforcements from them (incl. 1st table duties); or that we're now generally in a stricken age (as not prior to the Enlightenment) where religious liberty granted across the board is a toxic condition. I would have my own principled objections to those points.

However, his identification of the current obsequious regard for the state by many churches with Erastianism is spot on. I have said the same thing, repeatedly, when I could get a hearing. Our decisions as a congregation (session) to maintain inviolate our AM and PM worship has been because of what Scripture teaches, and what the WCF states, 23:3, even in the American version as our Confession. The state's regard of Christ's stated worship as "nonessential" is the equivalent of ancient Rome regarding Christianity as an outlawed religion. Our response should be to make the query: "How is that opinion relevant to my devotional duty?"

He's right that the church (broadly conceived) should be repenting, and it is not. He's right that the virtual experience isn't public worship. He had some terrific illustrations or analogous situations in which the same statements or conclusions, if applied to those contexts as they've been applied to worship, would be laughed out of court, by anyone with a functioning brain. It's not a honeymoon if you aren't together on the trip. And if you think you are, its delusional.

There's a lot of good there. I don't agree with him lockstep, I believe I listened to the sermon referenced (back when) and found it good and lacking in similar respects to my criticism here. I expect that I will also agree with the latter portion re. potential for persecution. There is a day of sifting coming for those who claim Christianity, of that I am growing more sure by the week. It is a subject that is infusing my own preaching lately.
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I wasn't aware that Les had another podcast going. That's bittersweet as it does nothing for my FOMO problem. :)
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Graduate
Our decisions as a congregation (session) to maintain inviolate our AM and PM worship has been because of what Scripture teaches, and what the WCF states, 23:3, even in the American version as our Confession. The state's regard of Christ's stated worship as "nonessential" is the equivalent of ancient Rome regarding Christianity as an outlawed religion. Our response should be to make the query: "How is that opinion relevant to my devotional duty?"
Amen! Well said. Our congregation never stopped meeting and our God has preserved us from both the ravages of the virus and the harassment of the authorities. For these mercies, we are immensely grateful.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Amen! Well said. Our congregation never stopped meeting and our God has preserved us from both the ravages of the virus and the harassment of the authorities. For these mercies, we are immensely grateful.
I think it proper to say to any church that has done differently from yours (or mine): that any well-thought-out decision, driven by first commitment to Christ and also by contextual exigencies, should not be condemned. I do not condemn them, but I hope their decisions are made not primarily out of fear of men or nature, but God.

We have not sought any public attention, nor advertised ourselves as the church-resistant. We have tried only to keep our eye on the ball. We tried to make all our members comfortable, without compromising. We closed down our own "non-essential" activities during times of greatest public restrictions. But we don't consider the dutiful assemblies of the church to be such.

Our elders have informed themselves, as the government officials they are, using many resources not limited to secular government outlets (but not ignoring them either), in order to make wise and prayerful decisions about the proper actions of the church, and concern for the wellbeing of its members, attendees, and connections.
 

MChase

Puritan Board Freshman
There is a good bit that I liked in this, but I’m not quite as enthusiastic about it as others. He grants that there is a possible situation in which a plague could in fact cause a church to shut down. If that’s the case then I don’t understand how one gets to “is it not honoring to Christ to die at church?” if one knew a plague had the potential to wipe out mass numbers of people. Further, he grants that it’s possible to cancel services in a snow storm. Why? Is it not more honoring to Christ to die on the way to worship than to stay home? Were sessions sinning if they shut down for any period? What if church kept meeting but certain members stayed home because they had health concerns?

We all agree there is a point where cancelling services for some reason might be inevitable, so I am afraid that some of the strong language binds people’s consciences. For instance, a man under care of the US presbytery of the FCC publicly told people that if their congregation shut down for any period of time and did not repent (not just re-open, but publicly repent for closing) they ought to leave that church. From my point of view that’s incredibly dangerous, especially when it was almost universal for FCC congregations in Scotland to shut down for a time.
 

Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Sophomore
There is a good bit that I liked in this, but I’m not quite as enthusiastic about it as others. He grants that there is a possible situation in which a plague could in fact cause a church to shut down. If that’s the case then I don’t understand how one gets to “is it not honoring to Christ to die at church?” if one knew a plague had the potential to wipe out mass numbers of people. Further, he grants that it’s possible to cancel services in a snow storm. Why? Is it not more honoring to Christ to die on the way to worship than to stay home? Were sessions sinning if they shut down for any period? What if church kept meeting but certain members stayed home because they had health concerns?

We all agree there is a point where cancelling services for some reason might be inevitable, so I am afraid that some of the strong language binds people’s consciences. For instance, a man under care of the US presbytery of the FCC publicly told people that if their congregation shut down for any period of time and did not repent (not just re-open, but publicly repent for closing) they ought to leave that church. From my point of view that’s incredibly dangerous, especially when it was almost universal for FCC congregations in Scotland to shut down for a time.
There is a difference between being physically prevented from going to church, like a snowstorm or hurricane, or if the building is on fire, and shutting things down "because someone might get sick."
I think the decision to stay away for fear of catching something is very personal, and I don't judge those who even now have not returned to our church--to their own master they must stand or fall--but I do object to the church closing down entirely and not giving people the option to worship. It was a move on the part of our congregation that we may never recover from, and I mourn for the things brought in "because of Covid" that would never have gained a foothold before: livestreaming the service; meetings over "zoom" ("We simply can't believe how well-attended these are!" Should have done it sooner!"); emails urging members to mail in their tithes, rather than bring them along when they come ("Bring your tithes to the storehouse" the Bible says); The Lord's Supper served in separate rooms over loudspeaker--it's all so very sad.
 

C. M. Sheffield

Puritan Board Graduate
I think it proper to say to any church that has done differently from yours (or mine): that any well-thought-out decision, driven by first commitment to Christ and also by contextual exigencies, should not be condemned. I do not condemn them, but I hope their decisions are made not primarily out of fear of men or nature, but God.

We have not sought any public attention, nor advertised ourselves as the church-resistant. We have tried only to keep our eye on the ball. We tried to make all our members comfortable, without compromising. We closed down our own "non-essential" activities during times of greatest public restrictions. But we don't consider the dutiful assemblies of the church to be such.

Our elders have informed themselves, as the government officials they are, using many resources not limited to secular government outlets (but not ignoring them either), in order to make wise and prayerful decisions about the proper actions of the church, and concern for the wellbeing of its members, attendees, and connections.
Yes, I completely agree. We have held our position while also endeavoring to do all that we can to maintain gospel-unity with those churches and brethren who do not share our convictions on this matter. And thankfully, this is another way God has been merciful. Both within our church and with those churches we hold communion, the unity of the Spirit has been maintained.
 

TylerRay

Puritan Board Graduate
We all agree there is a point where cancelling services for some reason might be inevitable, so I am afraid that some of the strong language binds people’s consciences. For instance, a man under care of the US presbytery of the FCC publicly told people that if their congregation shut down for any period of time and did not repent (not just re-open, but publicly repent for closing) they ought to leave that church. From my point of view that’s incredibly dangerous, especially when it was almost universal for FCC congregations in Scotland to shut down for a time.
As a man under care of the US presbytery of the FCC, I disagree with what you report that some unnamed man under care of my presbytery "publicly told people." I seriously doubt whether any officer in my presbytery would agree with that perspective, and I certainly don't think that Rob McCurley would want to bind anyone's conscience to it.

I don't doubt that what you've reported is true, but it isn't representative of the FCC US presbytery.
 
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MChase

Puritan Board Freshman
As a man under care of the US presbytery of the FCC, I disagree with what you report that some unnamed man under care of my presbytery "publicly told people." I seriously doubt whether any officer in my presbytery would agree with that perspective, and I certainly don't think that Rob McCurley would want to bind anyone's conscience to it.

I remember listening to Pastor Mattull's sermon around the beginning of COVID (this one I believe: https://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=32720143357461) and he clearly states that if someone feels uncomfortable attending due to the current circumstances, it is understandable. I was incredibly happy to hear that (we visit the FCC in STL when visiting family and it has always been a great blessing). I in no way think the FCC is on the whole off the wagon on all of this. I think we need to show patience and brotherly love when someone has come down on either side of us on this particular issue - particularly at the beginning when we did not know what this virus was.

However, I fear some of the things Pastor McCurley has said have been taken in a direction I do not believe he would go. This was quoted in a rather large facebook group ~15k members (not on facebook at the moment so I cannot remember off hand).

"If your church caved under the pressure of covid to cease public assembly, do you think she has the spiritual fortitude to maintain worship in the face of coming persecution? We do not need the church to cave to the influences of the world. Find a sound church that worships as God commanded, does not vacillate with every wind of social justice doctrine, and remained open in the face of magisterial and public opinion backlash amid the Covid deception fearing God rather than man."

So if I do not think that COVID writ large is a deception (even if having high confidence that the numbers are not reflective of death tolls) and think that there was liberty for sessions to close down for a bit, am I somehow "caving to the influences of the world?" And if my session closed and I disagreed, I am supposed to "find a sound church"?

I am concerned with how far some folks will take some of the more "edgy" statements that Pastor McCurley made.
 
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