The American Reformed Church
In your handout to the congregation you state that no legitimate arguments have been advanced from the congregation to persuade you that we should not uphold the decisions of Synod regarding the pursuit of unity with the URC.
In past communications with you we have alluded to the URC as one of those federations that does not properly fence the Lord's Table with regard to visitors. However, we have never taken the opportunity of explaining more fully our reasons why you should not uphold and implement the decisions of Synod regarding the URC. Since this relationship is moving forward and you claim that no legitimate arguments have been advanced, we ask for your careful consideration of the following. There may be some instances in which it appears that we are advancing the same arguments as in the past, which might lead one to conclude that the test of Article 33, C.O. is not met; however, it should be noted that in most of these cases, you have not answered our points.
You may recall that in our letter of April 25, 2003, we made the point that the URC, along with a number of other church federations with whom we have recently entered into ecclesiastical fellowship, hold to belief in invisible/pluriform views of the church with the consequent practice of admitting guests to the Lord's Table either who do not profess the Reformed faith, or who do not obey Christ in their church life (e.g. who are members of the CRC).
In order to understand the URC belief and practice, we may look at their Church Order: Article 45 of the URCNA Church Order reads:
The Consistory shall supervise participation at the Lord's Table. No member shall be admitted to the Lord's Table who has not first made public profession of faith and is not living a godly life. Visitors may be admitted provided that, as much as possible, the Consistory is assured of their biblical church membership, of their proper profession of faith, and of their godly walk.
In practice, one can find a wide range of understanding and application of this criterion. This is in part the result of the broad, undefined nature of the criterion "biblical church membership." We know of verifiable examples in the URC in which the Table is open to people from virtually any evangelical church. On the other hand, there are URC churches that only admit people who are members of churches that have either the Three Forms of Unity or some "compatible confession."
While we may be thankful for those congregations that maintain a strict confessional definition of "biblical church membership," the fact is that the URC in its order has adopted language that allows for the kind of latitude noted above. It is reminiscent of the criterion used in the RCUS for admitting guests-they must be members of an "orthodox protestant church." In both cases, the failure to define what kind of churches are acceptable from a confessional perspective is quite telling especially given the fact that these churches lay claim to being themselves distinctively Reformed. At such a critical point of definition, why would these churches shy away from using precise Reformed language unless there was the intention to allow for latitude? It is clear that the reason for this is their belief in the invisible/pluriform church concepts.
In contrast, we should note that in our Church Order, Article 61, only guests from sister churches are allowed to attend the Lord's Supper. Such a definition is crystal clear-there is no room for ambiguity and the result is that there is uniformity in our federation regarding the admission of guests. The underlying reason for this is that we have rejected the practice of operating within the framework of either an invisible or pluriform church concept.
The vagueness of the URC's rule for the admission of guests to the Lord's Table has another important implication. It leads to an independentistic application. Specifically, there are documented cases, indeed strongly defended practices, of admitting members of the CRC to their sacraments. It must be emphasized that these are not rare anomalies that can be thus dismissed; rather, this practice is openly defended (documentation available upon request). The basis for this thinking not only has its roots in the invisible church notion, but it also has its roots in a lack of federational integrity that results from failing to tie their rules for admitting guests to the Lord's Supper to those churches with which they have established ecclesiastical fellowship.
Perhaps the easiest way to understand this is to again contrast it with our Article 61 which dictates that guests must be from our sister churches. These are churches that we as a federation have recognized and entered into ecclesiastical fellowship with. We are not allowed to pick and choose which local congregations qualify in this regard. Part of the reason for this is in order to maintain uniformity and integrity in our relationships with each other and with those sister churches.
The consequence of the URC view is that they could have one congregation admitting guests from a particular CRC but another congregation refusing admittance to that same guest. In addition, there are the implications for our churches to be in fellowship with churches that admit guests from a federation that we have openly and explicitly rejected-the CRC. Indeed, it can be fairly said that the very existence of our churches is a testimony against the CRC as unfaithful churches because of their unwillingness to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Liberation of 1944.
We must remember that the OPC's relationship with the CRC was an obstacle to our unity with them, and until it was removed we could not move forward. Now we are in fellowship with churches, and this includes the OPC, that admit guests from those very same CRC churches! As you can see there is often a disconnect between official ecclesiastical relationships and admission to the Lord's Supper. In these federations, such an anomaly exists because of their belief in the invisible/pluriform church concepts.
One might argue that in its history the URC also exists over against the CRC. However, this is only true in a broad sense. The reality is that while most or all URC congregations once were part of the CRC, the fact is that they did not come out in a secession from the CRC. Furthermore, they existed as independent churches for some time before organizing as a federation of churches. As a result, their present practice vis-à-vis the CRC is in conflict with our historical position and adopted practice.
Another way of viewing this problem of the URC admitting guests from the CRC is in terms of the life of the guest. An additional criterion for the admission of guests in the URC is that the serving consistory assure itself of both the doctrine and life of the visitor. Surely, it must be clear to us that a visitor who is a member of the CRC, no matter how ignorant, is not living a faithful Christian life, at least in the area of his church life. Thus, from our perspective, such a visitor not only fails the test with regard to Biblical church membership, but he also fails the test, simultaneously, in regard to his Christian life.
Finally, it should be noted that the URC find our use of attestations to be repugnant. They describe them as "cold and formal." It appears that a common practice among URC churches is to conduct personal interviews of visitors who request admittance to the Lord's Table in order to determine if they meet the criteria mentioned above. The result of not requiring attestations from the visitor's overseers is that the consistory must rely on the personal testimony of the visitor. It is not reasonable to believe, apart from some extraordinary circumstance, that a consistory can elicit a credible confession of the Reformed faith with such an interview-there is simply not enough time (cf. the extent of your interviews with people wishing to confess their faith). Even if it were possible for a consistory to be satisfied that the guest professed the Reformed faith, it would be wrong to accept the testimony of the guest regarding his own life. We don't do that for our own members and surely we should not do it for visitors. (We have only to think of the extent to which we go to assure ourselves that someone professing their faith in our midst is leading a godly life-we announce their names to the congregation two weeks in advance in order to allow opportunity for members to bring anything pertinent regarding the life of the person to the attention of the consistory which would render their profession invalid.)
The whole point of our requiring attestations, in Article 61, is to avoid the above pitfalls and hence uphold the proper Scriptural principles. Our practice recognizes that our local consistory does not have the oversight, and hence the duty, to determine the profession and life of a visitor. However, we do rely on those whom Christ has appointed to oversee the doctrine and life of the visitor just as we oversee that of our own members. Thus, an attestation is merely the official document required to verify that this guest meets the same criteria in their own church that we also require of our members in ours.
It is sometimes argued that Article 61, and the use of attestations, are merely our chosen method for administering the sacrament to visitors. Other churches have different rules that are equally valid. We can't impose our rules on them, especially since we agree on the basic principle of elder supervision.
The above line of reasoning is fallacious for various reasons. First, while it may be true that we agree with various other churches about the necessity of elder supervision, our different rules for exercising that supervision reflect different beliefs and principles about the church and discipline. Some of these differences have been outlined above. Here it is important to emphasize that these different ways of administering the sacrament to visitors result in different consequences-they admit people we reject, and we reject people they admit. This difference is not merely an unavoidable accident of administration, but it reflects the differing beliefs and principles already mentioned.
Perhaps this point can be better understood with an illustration from civil life. It is possible to do your income taxes in a variety of ways. One can do them on the computer with a tax program. One can do them by hand. Or one can pay a tax accountant to prepare his taxes. No matter which method is used, if the taxes are prepared correctly, the result will always be the same because the same laws are being followed. On the other hand, if all that was required was that tax-preparers agree on adult supervision but that differing methods and rules could be used, then the outcomes would vary widely and the taxation system would unravel.
The problem with granting the legitimacy of varying methods for admitting guests is that these varying methods rely on varying sets of laws or rules with the result that the outcomes are different. If it were possible to have varying methods for admitting guests that all ended with the same result, then there would be no problem. But this is not the case.
It is sometimes said that attestations are not the only way to do it. Upon reflection, we can think of no other way of fencing the Table that preserves the essential Biblical principles (of course the actual principle is not the document per se, but the testimony which could also be received orally-the principle is that the verification come from the legitimate parties). Let us also note that our Article 61 is not simply an arbitrary administrative rule devised to cover a particular situation. Rather, this article faithfully reflects the principles and criteria for admission to the sacrament found in L.D. 30 and 31. It is true that there are elements in our church order that reflect arbitrary administrative choice since in those cases no Biblical principle is at stake (e.g. Article 55 and the number of hymns to be sung). However, most of our church order contains rules that reflect Biblical principles. (See the attached addendum on "The Keys of the Kingdom and Closed Communion" for a fuller explanation of these points).
Enough has been said to demonstrate that for us to continue implementing ecclesiastical fellowship, and further unity, with the URC compromises our biblical integrity. These issues must be straightened out before proceeding. Your failure to do so makes it impossible for us to participate in the sacrament when such people are admitted. The reason for this is our responsibility in the general office of believer. If you in your special office fail to properly guard the table, then we must act in our general office.
Brothers, we again raise the question of the local URC here in Lynden. We don't know the details, but we have been informed that talks with the URC consistory in Lynden ended in the past with a stalemate over this very matter of admitting guests to the Lord's Table (this was certainly the case for us in our Grand Rapids experience). Is this true? If so, how has it been resolved? It is troublesome to think that a Synodical decision has somehow made it possible for you to waive this issue. If unity on this issue with the local URC was not possible before, what has changed from the practical perspective?
In light of the above, we want to remind you of an argument we brought forward in one of our past letters but which you have ignored. The point is that if it is acceptable or legitimate for the URC, and the other federations in question, to be broader in their administration of the Lord's Supper to visitors, then have we not been too narrow? Our practice with Article 61 has often been criticized by others as too narrow, and even sectarian (by some in the OPC).
In fact, we should not forget that while we, historically at least, have always believed that our closed practice was only being faithful to Scriptural principles, those like the URC and the OPC have always believed that their open practice is also a matter of being faithful to Scripture. We can't both be right. If they are correct, then we indeed are guilty of sectarianism and should not only publicly repent but also change our practices immediately to conform to those alleged principles. On the other hand, if we are correct, then we should not accommodate others in practices we believe are not faithful to scripture.
There is another practical dimension to all of this. We understand that you are in the process of implementing pulpit exchange with the URC ministers. How can we be assured that they will not preach things against the scriptures since we know that they do not hold to the same beliefs about the church as we do? We surely do not want someone in our pulpit preaching positively about the pluriformity of the church or preaching in such a way that approval is given to some CRC congregations. Nor do we want someone preaching that our use of attestations is cold, formal and unnecessary. Simply hoping or trusting that these ministers would be wise enough to avoid such topics is not a defensible excuse to proceed. You, as overseers, have the duty to insure that those who enter our pulpit are in full agreement with our confessions and church order, rules of Synods notwithstanding.
Brothers, it is not enough for you to respond by simply arguing that Synods have been and are dealing with these "differences," or "weaknesses," as they are often termed. For one thing, these differences are not mere "weaknesses," but rather patterns of disobedience to God's Word. Secondly, it is wrong to enact unity with those who are not living in full obedience to Christ without first confronting them about this. We are putting the cart before the horse!
By analogy, you would not admit into membership and to the Lord's Supper someone who professed the Reformed faith but was at the same time practicing some sin even if it was in ignorance. You would first confront the person about this sin and require repentance before fellowship could be established. You would certainly not redefine the person's sin as a mere weakness for the sake of bringing him into the church! Given such a practice, then how can you abandon those same principles when it comes to entering fellowship with federations of churches that openly practice sin? Let us not forget what Christ tells us in Mark 3:33-35: "Answering them, He said, 'Who are My mother and My brothers?' Looking about at those who were sitting around Him, He said, 'Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.'"
Again, we want to emphasize that if decisions of Synod are against the Bible and Church Order, we may not uphold or implement them. In the book, The Liberation: Causes and Consequences, Prof. J. Faber writes the following: "When we are convinced by the Word of God's Spirit, and when it is proven to our conscience that an ecclesiastical doctrine is not taken from the Word of God, we may not yield for a moment. Indeed, we are then also obliged to try to convince others But within the communion of saints locally and within the federation of churches we should liberate ourselves immediately from un-Scriptural binding. The Word of God has absolute and exclusive authority within God's church." (p.114). We are not even required to uphold un-scriptural decisions during the appeal process because we may never bind ourselves to the word of men over the Word of God. Refusing to implement un-scriptural decisions is not mutiny; it is obedience to Christ and to His Word. In this connection, we believe brother Theo Kingma was correct in refusing to submit to the implementation of these Synodical decisions. He may not have proceeded properly in every instance and some of his subsequent reasoning may not have been correct, but his fundamental stand looks remarkably like that quoted above.
Brothers, don't be intimidated into wrongly thinking that somehow you must sublimate your personal opinions in order to uphold and implement Synodical decisions. If you believe they are unscriptural and/or unchurchorderly, then you have a duty to liberate yourselves from them immediately. To do anything less is to act hierarchically.
The root problem is that the Synods have refused to come to terms with these real differences in belief and practice. It is far too easy to simplistically approve the URC rule for admission of guests merely because it is possible for us to give formal assent to the words themselves-as we said before, who can argue against "biblical church membership" and "a proper profession of faith?" However, as we have seen, these expressions inherently carry the kind of vagueness that allows for people of many persuasions to give assent-one could even imagine a Roman Catholic agreeing with them. However, we must be reminded of what K. Schilder once wrote about seeking ecclesiastical unity: the first thing on such an agenda is not where we agree but rather precisely where we disagree.
Another point, raised in your letter of Jan. 19, 2004 to us and in your recent public handout about progress with the URC is the importance of seeing the three marks of the true church in the URC and the other federations with whom we are seeking unity. In the case of the URC, as well as the OPC, RCUS, PCK and FCS, all of whom hold to nearly identical views and practices on the matter of admitting guests to the Lord's Supper, we must conclude that they do not properly exercise the discipline of Christ in the administration of the sacrament and thus do not truly possess the third mark of a true church. It should also be noted that when one mark is corrupted, the others will be also.
As is clear from L.D.s 30 and 31, the administration of the sacraments directly involves the use of the keys of the kingdom of heaven (cf. Matt. 16:18,19; 18:15-20). In LD 31, it is explicit that excluding (binding) from the sacrament in the case of persistent sin and readmission (loosing) to the sacrament in the case of repentance is one of the keys of the kingdom of heaven. It is clear from this that the church has the authority and duty to use the keys in determining admission to and exclusion from the sacrament, and it should be clear that the criteria are two: doctrine (profession of the Reformed faith) and life.
While it is true that we cannot use the keys directly in the case of visitors since they are not members of the congregation; nevertheless, it is unarguably the case that the same principles must be maintained in determining the admission and exclusion of visitors. Our churches have recognized that this is so by the formulation of Article 61, C.O. Since the administering consistory doesn't have jurisdiction over the visitor directly, it seeks attestation regarding the two criteria from those who have used the keys in their instance. Biblical consistency demands that the same measure of judgment be applied in the case of the visitor as is applied in the case of our own members: hence we require attestation that the visitor has professed the same Reformed faith and lives a life consistent with such a profession. (Again, see attached addendum for further elaboration on the keys of the kingdom and closed communion).
This understanding of LD 30 must be seen in contrast to the view you expressed in your March 17, 2003 letter to Glenn Hofford in which you state:
"The task of consistory, according to Q. & A. 82 is to exclude those who show themselves to be unbelieving or ungodly. On the other hand, those are to come to the table who are truly displeased with themselves because of their sins and yet trust that these are forgiven them and that their remaining weakness is covered by the suffering and death of Christ, and who also desire more and more to strengthen their faith and amend their life. (Q. & A. 81). What then about the possibility that a guest admitted to the table would be living a sinful life unbeknown to the consistory? Consistory draws your attention to a parallel circumstance-that of a church member who lives a godly life as far as is known, confesses the Reformed faith, but is in fact a hypocrite. Consistory judges such a person as best they can. The clear teaching of scripture and Q. & A. 81 is that when such a person eats and drinks, they eat and drink judgment on themselves. The wrath of God that is kindled on the whole congregation per Q. & A. 82 arises when the church condones known unbelief or ungodly living. The excluding that the church is duty bound to do in Q. & A. 82 in fact (as you indicate) the exclusion of those who are under the oversight of the local consistory."
In our public letter of April 2003, we responded as follows:
"Consistory describes its responsibility as that of excluding a member of the local church who shows that he/she is unbelieving or ungodly. Consistory explains that a guest who is unbelieving or ungodly is parallel to a local member who is a hypocrite. The fallacy of this reasoning is that in fact a consistory does have a responsibility to exclude visitors who are unbelieving and ungodly. The visitor might only exhibit unbelief or ungodliness in his or her home church, and feign to be believing and godly when traveling to a different church in order to take the Lord's Supper. Our Church Order, Article 61 deals with this situation by requiring the use of attestations for guests."
In short, we may not equate visitors with hypocrites. If this were so, then you might just as well open the table to any visitor who wants to attend since you could plead ignorance. Second, while it is true that we don't have direct oversight in the case of visitors; nevertheless, the principles of L.D. 30 regarding admitting and excluding our own members are by analogy just as relevant to visitors. As we said above, this is why we have Article 61-an article which accurately reflects this very fact.
If we contrast the practice of the churches in question with the above description, it should be evident where they fall short. While it may be true in some cases, e.g., in the URC, that the requirement for their own members is profession of the reformed faith and a life consistent with it, this standard is not asked of visitors. As we have already noted, guests may be from churches that do not profess the Reformed faith, and consequently the measure of their lives will also vary accordingly. Indeed, in the case of the OPC, the requirement for their own members is different from ours: they do not require confession of the reformed faith for membership-only belief in a core gospel.
Again, we must conclude that it is impossible for us to uphold and implement the decisions of Synod regarding the URC, as well as the other churches in question, because none of them meet the criteria set by Scripture, confession, and Church Order with regard to the administration of the sacrament. While we maintain that there is still a question mark beside the third mark of the church-and until it is removed, we can't practice unity-we need not be forced into saying that the URC is therefore a false church. Again, we believe that our churches have not fulfilled their duty with regard to the application of I John 4:1 to test the spirits.
It might be argued that our Synods have applied the criterion of I John 4:1 to the various churches with whom we have established EF. In doing so, they found that in their confessions, they did indeed profess belief in Jesus as the Son of God. However, we must recognize that as good as the confessions in question may be (leaving aside for the moment the additional question of the so-called "divergences" in the Westminster Standards), the life and practice of the churches in question must also enter into the basis for judgment. The necessity of this can easily be seen in the case, for example, of the CRC which has a Biblical confession (The TFU), but whose practices show they are quite deformed. Similarly, in the case of the URC, the confession per se is not the problem, but rather how they live with and apply the confession and how they respond to all the commands which God gives us in His Word. We have already shown that in their policy and practice of admitting guests to the Lord's Supper, the URC fails to live faithfully with L.D.'s 30 & 31.
It should also be noted that I John 4:1 does not stand alone. The entire book of I John has a strong emphasis on not sinning. We cannot artificially isolate the confession of Jesus as the Son of God from a life of obedience to that Son. We must beware, brothers, of a confessional reductionism that argues that we need only concern ourselves with whether or not someone professes the Name of Jesus. Given the historical and religious context of our day we would be naïve to act on such a basis. If we were to do so, we would have to admit Roman Catholics and a host of others to our fellowship since they too confess Jesus as the Son of God. However, we rightly reject such people/churches because we recognize that their other beliefs and practices are not consistent with such a confession. On a smaller scale, this is exactly the problem we confront with the EF churches.
In addition to these matters concerning the URC, we also want to call to your attention something else about the OPC. In our public letter to the congregation in April of last year, we outlined the case against ecclesiastical fellowship with the OPC. At the conclusion of that section, on page 2, we presented the evidence of the secession of the Laurel congregation from the OPC. We include that paragraph here for your convenience:
"We present a final piece of evidence that our churches should not have fellowship with the OPC-the testimony of those who formed Tri-Country Reformed Church in Laurel, Maryland. This took place in 1983 by a group of approximately 20 believers after seceding from the OPC over the problem of open communion. As we sought affiliation with the Canadian and American Reformed Churches, a classis in 1986, after receiving a complete report on our history (compiled by a classis-appointed committee), adopted the report's conclusion that we were correct in our position and that the OPC should be called to repent. This decision of classis was forwarded to the next General Synod, which then gave the matter to the Committee for Contact with the OPC for further review. When we were received into the federation, we acknowledged that there was a potential conflict for us since the federation had recognized the OPC as a true church in 1977, whereas, we had established from our interaction that they were not faithful churches. We decided to join based upon an awareness of the opportunity and responsibility for appealing the '77 decision. Now that a General Synod has actually established Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the OPC without dealing properly with either the issue of open communion or with the significance of Laurel's history, we find ourselves in an impossible situation. Since Lynden Consistory, knowing the above situation, persists in upholding this decision regarding the OPC, they, along with the federation, have effectively betrayed those who took this stand by denying the legitimacy of their secession."
Since that letter went out, we have heard that this evidence is being dismissed on the grounds that it represents the personal grievance of those folks who were personally involved-the Hoffords and the Browns. On this basis, the evidence is thus dismissed as not having any further relevance. Perhaps such a response is based on the somewhat personal way in which the evidence was presented-indeed, the Hoffords and the Browns did experience that history.
However, we want to emphasize here that such a response fails to take seriously the implications of that historical event. It is not merely a personal event for the Hoffords and Browns, but it was an event-indeed a work of the Lord--that confronted the entire federation of churches. You, as a consistory, and the federation of churches at large, can't have it both ways: accept Laurel into the federation based on the legitimacy of their secession from the OPC, and establish ecclesiastical fellowship with the OPC. This is a simple contradiction, and this is why we said in our April letter that we found it an impossible situation. Not only do we find it an impossible situation, but you also must so find it! Somebody must repent-either Laurel or the federation. In the meantime, you, as consistory, may not uphold and implement a Synod decision that makes a mockery of obedience and repentance by failing to take this contradiction seriously.
In this instance, we find it saddening, and ironic, to be put into the position of having to prove from the bible, confessions and Church Order that the decisions of Synod, and your submission to them, are not right since the views we are proving and defending are the very ones that our churches have historically held! It really should be the other way around: the churches should prove to us that what we have all believed and practiced for years is no longer biblical, confessional and church orderly. We can't help but be frequently dismayed at the evasive and sometimes distorted reasoning used to defend these changes. It is as though unity must be achieved at all costs. In any case, we believe that if insufficient proof has not been given in the past, it surely has been now. May the Lord give you the eyes of faith to see the truth and the courage of heart to obey it. In this way our Savior's prayer in John 17 may be fulfilled: the prayer not only for unity among his people (vs. 20,21) but also the prayer for sanctification in the truth of His word (v. 17).
In conclusion we want to reiterate a point made in our letter of October 20, 2003 and respond to your reaction. In the letter we made the following point:
"A few weeks ago, we heard a sermon on I Samuel 15 about Saul's sin with regard to the Amalekites. Among other things, we were warned about the danger of rationalizing a little act of disobedience under the cloak of religiosity (Saul spared just a few of the best animals with the argument that he would use them for a sacrifice to the Lord). Are you not in danger, brothers, of falling into the same sin? You are accepting what are perceived as just little steps into ecclesiastical fellowship with churches that believe in pluriformity and that don't properly fence the Lord's Table-this is the sin. Further, this little sin or compromise is then cloaked in the pious garment of the good cause of unity. We were rightly warned in that sermon that Saul's disobedience was one more step in the path leading away from the Lord and down to death. Don't forget, brothers, that this is how deformation usually takes place in the church: one little step, usually rationalized in pious garb that, if unchecked, ultimately leads to death."
You responded by saying: "Saul was given a clear and direct command of the LORD in an indisputable matter long-established in the law of Moses. Saul failed to follow that simple, straightforward command. No one has shown from the Word of God that there is a direct command from the LORD not to seek unity with churches which, according to the discerning eye of God's people show the three marks of the church according to the Word of God, even when certain matters are worthy of further discussion."
First, you should not be misled by the contrast between "clear and direct command," "indisputable matter long established in the law of Moses," "simple, straight-forward command," and our argument regarding seeking unity with churches that do not properly fence the Table. If the summary of Scriptural teaching in L.D. 30, 31, and the consequent practice in Article 61, are not "clear and direct, indisputable and long established" based on the teachings of the bible, then we don't know what is. The fact that some of you may not be convinced is beside the point. It's like arguing with a Baptist who doesn't accept infant baptism: of course it is not a simple and straightforward command, etc. for him. Nevertheless, the church has concluded that the bible does indeed command it.
Furthermore, we have shown before and now again in this letter that the Lord does command us in His Word to not consummate unity with those who do not live in full obedience to His Word. And how discerning is the "eye of God's people" in assessing the marks of the church according to the Word of God when we have shown that the alleged discernment contradicts what we confess the bible teaches?
The reference to "certain matters worthy of further discussion," is a euphemism for "unscriptural practices" that certainly must be discussed but only before establishing unity, not after.
So again, brothers, we warn you not to yield to the sin of Saul.
With brotherly concern,