Appoint elders in every city. -Titus 1:5
Since the post of Elder Brian Bailey and Pastor Joseph Bayly a couple days ago, we’ve had a chance once more to engage Doug and Toby, making another personal appeal to them to look carefully at the divisions they are causing in sister congregations around the country. This has been our theme: they are binding men’s consciences and fomenting division and rebellion among unruly men who are aided and abetted by them.
They respond saying yet once more that they don’t intend to do any damage to churches across the country. Doug mischaracterizes our concerns with them, claiming we have expressed concern that they not communicate negatively about us.
This is nothing we’ve ever communicated to them and this concern has never crossed our minds. Our congregation does not form its judgments of our pastors and elders based upon what men in Moscow might think or say about us.
CORRECTION ADDED August 21: One statement we’ve written could easily be understood to be expressing concern about Doug and Toby alienating the members of our own Trinity Reformed Church: “What I didn’t foresee was other Reformed pastors with high visibility through their podcasts and blogs—pastors we had cultivated respect for within our flock for many years—denouncing our elders’ leadership and decisions, and thus alienating the affection of our sheep.” I should have made clear this was not happening in Trinity Reformed, but in our churches of Evangel Presbytery. (Weeks ago, though, we had made this clear in private communications with Toby.) Nevertheless, I apologize for the lack of clarity in my statements above.
Our concern has always been over our fellow elders and pastors’ congregations, just as Brian and Joseph said in their post (footnote 1). Among our circle of fellow elders and pastors in the PCA, CREC, Evangel, CRC, and reformed baptist independency, congregation after congregation is suffering division over face masks. Significant numbers of unruly sheep are being schismatic and barring their wives and children from attending worship and church fellowship because, either:
- their elders don’t require face masks of their congregation, and this is a failure to love our neighbors; or
- their elders require face masks of their congregation, and this is a failure of idolatry.
We’re sad our posts and personal exchanges have resulted in no substantive communication on the serious matters we raised, so we write once more what we have said before: it is sin to forsake the assembling of yourselves together with the people of God in Lord’s day worship because your elders ask you to use a face mask. Contrary to the Moscow men’s national teaching on their blogs and podcasts, wearing a face mask is not idolatry.
We have no beef with the elders of any church or the board of any Christian school or organization deciding not to submit to this or that COVID-19 public health decree. These are the decisions elders are called to make, and if they believe the particularities of their context require them not to obey this or that law because it interferes with their church fellowship in a way injurious to their sheep, we trust them to lead their own flocks. What they must not do is rail against and revile authority. Also, they must not foment the rebellion of other sheep from other flocks against their own shepherds because they go a different way.