Over the last couple of years, our pastor has permitted and actually encouraged the display of pictures of deceased members in the sanctuary during church services—both at funeral and regular services. Pictures of the deceased and family have also been included on church funeral service bulletins. I have always understood that to display pictures of the deceased or pictures of persons for any reason is inappropriate in the sanctuary. It seems to me that these practices are at best tacky and distracting and may constitute idolatry. Am I over-reacting?
I commend you for your concern for the pure worship of God. The second commandment forbids "any religious worship not instituted by God himself" (Westminster Larger Catechism, answer 109). From the situation you describe, it does not appear to me that the pictures in the bulletin are objects of worship, or that they are even intended to assist worshipers in worship. If either of these were the case, then your concerns would be a matter of biblical principle.
However, I suspect that such pictures in church bulletins are meant to console mourners as they remember and give thanks to God for the lives of the deceased. I find no doctrinal grounds for objecting to this. A bulletin not only provides the order of worship on the Lord's Day, but also information that concerns the life of the congregation. The death of members and their family is certainly noteworthy. Even if you find the pictures "tacky or distracting," I would encourage that love and sympathy for grieving brothers and sisters be your pre-eminent concern.
"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)
The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.
The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.
While we will respond to every serious questioner, we are not bound to give a substantive answer to every question, should we deem the question to be beyond the scope of our purpose or our own ability to answer.
You will receive an answer by email. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.
The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.
Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been editedall personal references are removed, Scripture references may be added, and sometimes portions are expandedto make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.