November 19, 2018
To The Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Re: “Kindom Building for the 21st Century” and Renewing the PCUSA Vision
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who came into this world to give His life for our salvation, who rose again for our assurance, and who now sits enthroned as King at the right hand of the Father.
We give thanks to God for the energy and boldness with which you promote the family bond of fellow believers. As the church unites around Christ, we look left and right to see people of all nations worshipping together. As we sing, we hear our voice as one in a multitude, singing God’s glory in a choir of saints and angels. However, we acknowledge and lament that not all those in the church seek unity in Christ and harmony with others, and we recognize your diligence in exposing this dissonance. We also acknowledge your desire to reach those who may be repulsed by traditions in the church that may not honor God.
It is around this matter that we write you, that while you identify disharmony in the church, you have adopted a new gospel of “kindom” that abandons the only Good News capable of unifying God’s children. This new gospel replaces the King with “kin,” as if the security of one another is what gives hope and unity to a broken church. To “draw the welcome circle wider,” this kindom gospel discards the very hierarchy that God has put in place, the hierarchy where our Lord reigns. In its place it is a theology that sees God’s own kingdom as an oppressive hierarchy. While this theology stems from liberation theology, it actually undermines it by dethroning the very One who is here to set us free!
Instead of attracting broken people to the True Light, this theology seeks to widen the circle of welcome by a play on words, as if to make Christ more palatable. However, we must preach truth. The King has real authority, and citizen-ship involves real obedience. Matthew 7:21 says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the king-dom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” Denying, discounting, or deflat-ing the kingdom as such will cripple the message and calling of the church, and one cannot simply change the words of Christ to accommodate sensitive ears.
Unfortunately, supporting this kindom gospel has brought pastors to a place of changing Scripture, having people “strive first for the kindom of God” and teaching people to pray for God’s “kindom to come.” Instead of inviting the world into God’s salvation and a restored relationship with Him as King, the kindom gospel reads into Scripture a false hope in humanity, our kin. Matthew 25:34 gives real hope of a real kingdom, one that Jesus Himself says is not of this world and one in which Jesus is King (John 18:36). While the numerous, explicit, and central explanations of the kingdom in Scripture is ample reason from a sola scriptura stance, the kingdom per se is foundational to the DNA of the church throughout its history.
The kingdom of God is a core tenet of the church’s creeds, confessions, calendar, and constitution.
The writers of the Nicene Creed saw fit in the year 381 to include the words “whose kingdom shall have no end.”
The Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 31 speaks of Jesus as “our eternal king who governs us by his Word and Spirit, and who guards us and keeps us in the freedom he has won for us.”
This letter was written in the week leading into “Christ the King Sunday.”
The Westminster Shorter Catechism explains, “In the second petition, (which is, Thy kingdom come, [Matt. 6:10]) we pray, That Satan’s kingdom may be destroyed; (Ps. 68:1,18) and that the kingdom of grace may be advanced, (Rev. 12:10–11) ourselves and others brought into it, and kept in it; (2 Thess. 3:1, Rom. 10:1, John 17:9,20) and that the kingdom of glory may be hastened (Rev. 22:20).” In question 107, it further states that we should “take our encouragement in prayer from God alone,” which precludes any notion of kindom replacing the kingdom.
The PCUSA’s own Book of Order (F-1.01) begins by describing the foundation of Presbyterian polity as looking to God’s mission. It says, “The Gospel of Jesus Christ announces the nearness of God’s kingdom, bringing good news to all who are impoverished, sight to all who are blind, freedom to all who are oppressed, and proclaiming the Lord’s favor upon all creation.”
While we could provide many, many more samples, these suffice to prove the fact that the church only exists in the context of God’s kingdom, that any effort to replace “king” from “kingdom” guts the church of its God-given identity.
Therefore, we call on the PCUSA to repent, to refute this kindom gospel, and instead to celebrate the kingdom of God. We encourage the PCUSA to build unity and solidarity with all whose identities were purchased by the Cross. We call on the PCUSA to assert that Christ’s gospel is exactly the message we are commanded to present to the world, because it is exactly the message humanity needs to hear. This repentance would be reflected by the following:
Cease the promotion and endorsement of any “kindom” materials, programs, or curricula that would replace the use of “kingdom.” While kinship is important in a kingdom, it remains a kingdom nevertheless.
Cease and oppose the practice of alternate readings of Scripture (e.g., “seek ye first the kindom…”).
Assert publicly that the kingdom of God is a comfort rather than an oppression, that the kingdom of God, while hierarchal, is good because our God is trustworthy and good. This includes magnifying the distinction between hierarchies on Earth that have been corrupted by sin and God’s good and complete sovereignty.
Re-read the Book of Order F-1.01 in the next General Assembly, re-committing to the tenets that bind us as a church organization.
Maintain all explicit kingdom assertions as stated in Scripture, interpreted by our creeds and confessions, and included in the Book of Order.
Our unity, the unity of the Church, is secure precisely because we are in the Dominion of the King. We must not confuse God’s Kingdom with the corrupt kingdoms of this world; Jesus said His kingdom is not of this world. We must not think that a kingdom that Jesus rules is oppressive to its citizens, but instead we must shine a light on it as what a kingdom is supposed to be, full of justice, mercy, and righteousness. We must have discernment to see that the accusation of God’s kingdom as an oppressive hierarchy comes not from its citizens, who, rather, sing of God’s mercy and goodness. This accusation comes from the very Serpent whose head was crushed at Calvary.
We urge you to practice discernment, to see the lie that the “kindom” agenda brings. May the Spirit of God create in you repentance, changing your mind to realize once again the true gospel message that God’s kingdom comes. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2). The poor in spirit and the persecuted receive no comfort thinking about a “kindom,” as if their hope comes from humanity. They need to know that theirs is the kingdom of heaven. This is the message that the world needs to hear; this is the light on the hill that we are called to show; this is the salt the church is meant to be.
May God’s grace be with you,
The Session of First Presbyterian Church, Moncks Corner