Question and Answer

Should we support non-reformed diaconal agencies?

Question:

Should OPC congregations cooperate diaconally with other churches or organizations such as Love, Inc. that are not of like faith and practice? Does such collaboration entail implicit endorsement of charismatics, Roman Catholics, and UCC, etc.? Can we claim that these churches are joining with us in offering the ministry of mercy in the name of Jesus Christ?

Answer:

You have asked a very practical and important question. The Orthodox Presbyterian Church takes very seriously the true catholicity of the visible church and its purity and unity in the truth (Westminster Confession of Faith, chap. 25), even as we try to demonstrate mercy in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

There are certainly occasions when we cooperate with others, as the relief efforts following Hurricane Katrina, but what the diaconal efforts always attempt to find is an agency or a church through which we can work which does share our Reformed commitments. Thus, in the case of Katrina, much of our efforts as a denomination were channeled through local congregations of the Presbyterian Church in America. In Japan, efforts and funds would go through the Reformed Church of Japan, to give two examples. The OPC is blessed with a very active and very well structured Committee on Diaconal Ministries on the denominational level which you can learn more about here.

I am not familiar with Love, Inc., but assuming that it is a non-denominational para-church agency, we would want to look at their statement of faith and how they carry out their diaconal ministry. If, after careful search, there was no clearly Reformed alternative, we would probably want to wait for a bit and determine if this is the best means for disbursing the gifts of God's people. Oftentimes there are multiple churches or agencies which minister to specific kinds of needs and it is important to carefully explore them so as not to compromise the theological commitments. Those theological commitments do impact the actual kind of ministry which is carried on. To illustrate: if there is a clothes closet, and gospel tracts are given out to everyone who receives clothes, do the tracts clearly direct people to Jesus Christ? Is the gospel presented in such a way as to emphasize a works orientation rather than a grace orientation? Those in need, whether it is clothes, food, shelter, or medical treatment, do not need to hear more of what they must do to be acceptable to God, they need to hear that it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for the ungodly (Rom. 5:8, etc.). If we come with a works orientation we may be the people whom Jesus denounces in Matthew 7:21-23 who do good things to "prove" ourselves to God. It might be possible to use a non-denominational para-church agency if they permit Christ-centered gospel material that we supply to be used, but the implicit association with liberal or non-Christian churches such as you mentioned should make us pause and think hard before working with them.


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