Commissioners and observers of the biennial General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) are spoon fed some assumptions at the outset, and probably many of them accept those assumptions as foundational and true. One of those foundations of the General Assembly gatherings is that commissioners discern the Spirit of Christ together, regardless of (and sometimes in opposition to) formerly held opinions. But is that true?
The Ecumenical Advisory Delegate from the Orthodox Church in Belarus, Archpriest Siarhei Hardun, brought greetings from his country and his church. After thanking the PCUSA for its mission work in Belarus, Hardun offered a calm, yet blistering, critique of the General Assembly and punched holes in the assumption that commissioners are discerning the mind of God. Here is an extended quote:
I was really struck while listening to your discussion about homosexuality, same-sex marriage, civil unions and other moral issues. Christian morality is as old as Christianity itself. It doesn’t need to be invented now. Those attempts to invent new morality look for me like attempts to invent a new religion – a sort of modern paganism.
When people say that they are led and guided by the Holy Spirit to do it, I wonder if it is the same Spirit that inspired the Bible, if it is the same Holy Spirit that inspires the Holy Orthodox Church not to change anything doctrinal or moral standards? It is really the same Spirit or perhaps there are different spirits acting in different denominations and inspiring them to develop in different directions and create different theologies and different morals?
My desire is that all Christians should contend earnestly for the faith, which was once for all delivered to the saints, as St. Jude calls us to do (Jude 3). And my advice as an Ecumenical Advisory Delegate is the following: ‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.’ (Romans 12:2).
Leave it to an outsider to offer an honest assessment! He probably won’t be invited back in 2012. But his commentary begs the question for those of us who claim the motto, “Reformed and always reforming, according to the Word of God and the call of the Spirit.” And that is, “Which spirit?” Scripture warns us along similar lines: “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)
We Reformed Christians must be careful and ask ourselves, “Are we reformed and always reforming, or just inventing a new religion–a modern paganism–that gives the green light to our favorite agendas?” And, “If we are reforming according to the call of the ‘Spirit,’ which spirit are we actually listening to?”
UPDATE: Here is a video of the archpriest’s address to the General Assembly (he starts speaking about 1:35 into the clip): Ecumenical Advisory Delegate addresses the General Assembly. (As posted by Terry Mattingly at GetReligion)