I joined the Pittsburgh seminar a couple of years after it had its inception. One or two early members could not continue and when Clint asked me if I were interested, I jumped at the opportunity. I have valued and cherished this association ever since. Here is why: I am an “unrepentant” Calvinist. Born and raised Presbyterian, in an age when that still meant Reformed, I was nurtured and educated in a system of theology which really helped me to understand my own faith. The doctrines and tenets of Reformed belief have made my journey meaningful and challenging. As a church member, and elder, I was somewhat aware of changing standards and applications within our denomination, but only minimally.
Realizing a call to vocational ministry somewhat later in my adulthood, the experience of seminary, the challenges of scholasticism, and the rigors of theological preparation became a testing ground for my ability to present a cogent theological position to the world. In spite of the best efforts of many academicians and their fellow travelers throughout the seminary process, I emerged from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary the committed and “unrepentant” Calvinist referred to above.
Entering the pastorate and engaging in the mandated participation in the councils and ministries of the larger church made me acutely aware of how far the PC(USA) has fallen from being truly Reformed. I became, for a while, a loud, visible, and probably quixotic figure in the skirmishes for the traditional core of our denomination. I watch with increasing sadness the continued slide of this once faithful part of the body into syncretism, progressive humanism, and universalism.
My succor and peace has come from a decision to refocus on the task God first called me to do, the proclamation of His Word and the right administration of the sacraments in the congregation to which I have been called. This is where the Foundation has been such a gift to me.
Each Spring when we gather, I find myself with friends (new and old) who care for one another, challenge one another, and encourage one another in our calls. Each of us serves a unique, diverse, and faithful congregation of the particular church. I go home each Spring with the knowledge that there are at least seven sisters and brothers engaged in the same effort; that the “Five Solas” [five emphases of the Reformation: Scripture alone, grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, and to the glory of God alone] are alive and well; and that regardless of the failure of the larger church, there is a faithful remnant where the Word is truly preached, the sacraments are rightly administered, and church discipline is being maintained.
In addition, we all go home better equipped. We may spend the entire week on Augustine and one part of his Confessions or on marriage and the family in Calvin’s Geneva. When we do, I come back to Village Presbyterian Church with a broadened and enhanced understanding which in turn strengthens my teaching and preaching here.
Now, if you could just do something about the excessive focus on Barth and his neo-orthodoxy . . .