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Reverend William E. Flippin, Jr. Headshot

Promoting a Spirit of Inclusion and Peace

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About a month ago there was a meeting held in Orlando, Florida that developed a "new Reformed body" created by the Fellowship of Presbyterians that will be called the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians.

The majority of those who make up this group claim that they are in "a period of discernment" about denominational alignment. "We are not angry, we are determined ... we are not 'after' or 'against' them -- we all need time, space and grace ... We want to flesh out the options and then let God lead so we have the sense that we're all working together."

"We want to honor, not dishonor, our brothers and sisters in the PC(USA)," he said. "Why bother? What problem are we trying to solve? The problem is not denominational ambiguity or ecclesiastical disunity or even ineffectiveness; we are doing this because people are going to hell and Jesus came to save them and we must be instruments of that salvation."

In this time of many questions being raised concerning the Presbyterian Church USA, Paul challenges us in Philippians to place our focus on the peace of God, rather than on wins and losses. Too often we look at the church as though it were a baseball team -- particularly in this season of serious discussions on pertinent issues that will affect the our full communion partner Presbyterian Church USA -- we must not spend time and energy debating who's going to win and who's going to lose. We wonder: Who's in? Who's out? Who's on top? Who's on bottom?

Church can be an excellent place for people to wrestle with difficult issues, share perspectives and learn from one another. But if such discussions are going to be fruitful, Christians have to ground their comments in shared religious values, and make a commitment to search for the truth in a spirit of gentleness. Paul knew that Christians are not always going to agree, which is why he urges Euodia and Syntyche "to be of the same mind in the Lord" (Philippians 4:2). It may not be possible for them to be of the same mind about tough political issues, but they can be of the same mind "in the Lord." Especially if they come together to rejoice in the Lord.

The challenge for those who have formed the Evangelical Order of Presbyterians, is to find joy in being a fan of Jesus, and to discover peace in the living of a Christ-like life. World championships, presidential elections and other worldly prizes have no real significance for the Savior who emptied himself, humbled himself "and became obedient to the point of death -- even death on a cross" (2:8). Any true victory is going to come from God, who raised Jesus from the dead and highly exalted him. Any lasting achievement is going to come from imitating the Christians who have gone before us, living in ways that are true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise. As Paul says to the Philippians, and to us, "Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you" (4:9).

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