What Membership in Grace Fallbrook (PCA) Means (Membership Class #4)
#4. What Membership in Grace Fallbrook (PCA) Means
In this fourth of the five-part membership class we reflect on membership in Grace Fallbrook (PCA) as a membership in a Reformed and Presbyterian congregation. For review the notes from Class #1 are here and the notes from Class #2 are here and the notes from Class #3 are here.
Membership in Grace Fallbrook is a membership in a Reformed and Presbyterian congregation. When we identify ourselves as a Reformed congregation, we are asserting an identify that is historically informed, theologically shaped, and has clear boundaries in our piety.
A Reformed Congregation
Grace Fallbrook (PCA) is a Reformed congregation. But what does that mean? Today the meaning of the word “Reformed” is becoming all too fluid, and therefore increasingly meaningless. Some people are recasting what it means to be Reformed along purely subjective and historically misinformed ways. Others are attempting to downplay their Reformed heritage and identity. But we are both proud and grateful for our Reformed identity.
Our identity is historically informed.
The Reformed faith is the outcome of the Protestant Reformation. There is not now enough time to review either the Protestant Reformation or its outcome. But our historical connection to the Protestant Reformation means we trace our roots to the ancient Apostolic church through men and women whose desire was to uphold the five distinctive principles of the Protestant Reformation: sola fide, sola gratia, sola scriptura, solo Christo, and soli Deo gloria.
Our identity is theologically shaped.
It is common practice today for churches have a brief “statement of faith” that fits in a single sheet of paper. The assumption is that Scripture speaks clearly only on a narrow range of topics, and that the rest are best left to the individual’s conscience. But we believe that Scripture teaches clearly on more things than will fit on one sheet of paper. While we recognize not all things in Scripture have equal priority, it is nevertheless important for us to take our stand with Scripture wherever and whenever it reveals what God wills us to know and believe. Indeed, this is what objectively defines what it means to be Reformed. We share a common confessions of faith which both describe and prescribe our faith. In the PCA our confessional standards are the Westminster Confession of Faith with its Larger and Shorter Catechisms. There are other Reformed confessions, which, while not officially a part of the PCA’s constitution, express the same faith. Some examples include the Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dordt, and the Heidelberg Catechism.
A Presbyterian Congregation.
A part of being Reformed is having a biblical ecclesiology. The biblical model of church government is presbyterian, a rule of elders. Hierarchical church government as represented in the Roman Catholic or the Anglican Communion, or congregational church government represented in Baptistic traditions, do not meet the standards set forth in the Bible. Instead, a local congregation is ruled by the teaching elder (i.e. the pastor) and the ruling elders. They jointly make up the Session of the church. Presbyterianism is represented regionally in a presbytery, which is a representative meeting of the pastors and elders from area churches. Nationally, presbyterianism is expressed in the General Assembly.