The Elders and the Administrative Council for B’ney Yosef North America meet on a quarterly basis via zoom.us to insure our bi-weekly individual Council meetings are well coordinated and moving in the same direction. Our discussions and interaction is always rich and warm as we compare notes and chart the course for the coming months and year as our Father leads.Each gathering yields little nuggets that are priceless and last weeks was no different! I am not sure who said it, an Elder, I think, but someone said, “Denominations rally around a common belief, families rally around a common father.”
WOWSERS!!! So much truth and so many sudden trails of thought exploded in my head that I had to gather myself. Here is a statement that bears exploration!!
Even before following the Spirit (Ruach) on this Hebraic/Messianic/Torah-keeping walk, while still filling a church pulpit as a seminary trained ordained pastor, I was concerned by the number of denominations and the plethora of doctrinal divisions that separated people. In seminary is was good fun to verbally joust, or debate, with colleagues who held differing positions. I was a solid Calvinist who knew that Reformed Theology had all the right answers and I loved, in a friendly sort of way, poking my Arminian brothers in the eye with their free will and dispensational eschatology.
We all worshiped and studied together, so, in the ivory tower of seminary, we lived and functioned as family with this quiet little division. We were each training for our specific denomination and it was to that denomination that we would eventually have to give some sort of allegiance.
Once in the world, the playing field changed a bit. While I maintained contact for a number of years with several of my seminary brothers of differing thought, my strongest ties began to be pastors in my denomination and with like-minded denominations in my community. I pastored two small congregations of similar background (ARP and PCUS), taught weekly in another ARP church and participated for several years in a weekly men’s Bible Study at the PCA church I was reared in. Even the casual eye can see how steeped I was in Presbyterianism and Reformed theology.
At the point that the Father, by His Spirit, began to wake me to His everlasting and unchanging Torah, I wrote an explanatory letter to my denominational ordaining committee. They initially said that as long as I kept my thoughts to myself and did not share them from the pulpit, everything was okay. My thought process, however, continued to evolve as I compared the denominational doctrines to Scripture. Increasingly, I could not support some things in the Westminster Confession of Faith precisely because those points were clearly opposed to Scripture, a subject I have explored on this blog before. I wrote another letter to the ordaining committee outlining my further concerns with the WCF to which they asked for a meeting.
I distinctly remember the day that met with two pastor representatives from the committee. They drove to Winnsboro from Columbia and we met at a Chinese restaurant. (Only a couple months earlier my family and I had begun eating clean and a Chinese restaurant is notorious for unclean meats…. So, I played dodge the pig on the buffet line. 😉 ) As we sat to eat and talk, they opened with prayer and then asked me to share a bit. I opened my Bible and began to tell of my journey and share a few verses regarding the seventh-day Sabbath. Amazingly, neither had brought a Bible into the restaurant. Visibly uncomfortable, they kindly cut me off and bluntly asked, “We just want to know if you still subscribe to the Westminster Confession of Faith. Do you?”
“Well, here is what I am finding,” I said, as I began thumbing through my Bible.
Again, they cut me off and simply said, “Do you subscribe to the Westminster Confession?”
“I believe parts of the Confession do not accurately reflect Scripture.”
“We would like you to meet with the whole committee and explain your differences.”
Our meeting ended with pleasantries, but I was deeply saddened. The measuring stick was not Scripture, but a doctrinal statement held in judgment over the Word of God.
I studied and prepared for my meeting with the whole committee. The invitation came and a couple weeks later, I again sat before these and several other men with Bible in hand, but the discussion never even started. Their opening line was, “Thank you for coming, Peter. We don’t want to get into a discussion or debate. we simply need to hear that you no longer agree with the Westminster Confession of Faith.” My negative reply resulted in a response of thanks and well wishing, but my credentials in the denomination were to be immediately withdrawn.
I walked to my car and cried.
The rallying point for the denomination was not the Word of my Father, but, a common belief in a doctrinal statement written by men in the 1650s.
Whoever it was in the meeting last week that said, “denominations rally around a common belief, families rally around a common father,” had it right.
Unfortunately, even after I came into the Hebraic/Messianic walk, I found this maxim to be true in a negative way. Many in this walk divide over pronunciation of the Name, calendar setting, manner of observance and myriad other minutiae. Personally, I have come to believe that the dividing is often a matter of, or lack of, maturity.
What I see in Ezekiel 37:15-28 is a gathering based on family, not based on a particular belief. The allegiance to and gathering of the House of Joseph and the House of Judah has to do with family affiliation, not how one ties their tzitziot or sights the moon. It is the Father, and His servant, David, who binds us together and leads us to the central expressions of how to love Him as evidenced by verse 24!!
Our present concerns must be worshiping the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and loving/fellowshipping with our brothers of Judah and Ephraim, whether we agree on the details of the Father’s Word or not. In particular, we must cease to try to make Judah be like us and Judah must refrain from trying to woo those coming to Torah. We all must enable the Torah awakening, but allow the Father to sort us into the appropriate stick. What we must understand is that this isn’t a competition where one has to be right and the other wrong. This is a family that loves and accepts each other and leaves correction and discipline up to the Father. We stick together!
This is our litmus test: Do we rally around a common belief, or do we rally around the Father?
Personally, I choose the Father and choose to associate and build relationships with others who abide by this rule, even if we have differing beliefs. I choose to associate and align myself with those of Judah and Ephraim who will accept others based not on a particular belief or understanding, but rather based on our common Father and common fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
As we all grow and mature, we should all move in this direction resulting in the fulfillment of the first part of Ezekiel’s two stick prophecy. We will be able to see two clearly identifiable sticks, not one stick that looks Christian or Jewish, nor will it be a pile of twigs like denominations or the messy Hebrew roots community.
Take the test: Do you associate based on common belief or based on common Father/father?