I have just been to an Emergency Meeting of the NSW General Assembly, which met at Roseville Presbyterian Church on Wednesday, 6 April 2016.
The issue, to test the appropriateness of the NSW Trustees’ suspension of the Council of Scots College, Sydney and to appoint a Management Committee to govern the College until the 2017 General Assembly. Some argued that the Trustees’ action was appropriate, others, that it was inappropriate.
Members of our churches often write to me about issues they would like me to solve, but the reality is that the Moderator is the chairman, in my case of the General Assembly of Australia, and I have no more or less authority than a Teaching Elder in the local church.
The State Assembly is the highest court of the Church to decide matters that revolve around Trustee and Council relationship at a State level.
At Wednesday’s meeting each viewpoint had God honouring advocates and the quality of the debate was generally respectful to both sides, how far we have come from the very fiery meetings pre-union when motives were impugned and disrespectful allegations made.
Differences will arise between us, but we commonly have a concern to maintain our unity, to respect one another as brethren in Christ, and then, after the issue is decided, to restore relationships and get on with spreading the word and pastoring people.
In Ephesians 4, Paul urges believers to live worthily of our calling by “making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace”(Ephesians 4:3). Our unity in Christ is precious, we cannot manufacture Christian unity, but we can make every effort to maintain it. We do that by, “being completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). This is worthy Christian living, respectful of our blood-bought unity, this is the equivalent of Jesus’ words, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). We are to make every effort to reconcile, to consciously work to dissolve factions, to be a bridge between warring parties, this is living worthily of our calling.
To slur, to deliberately set out to upset brethren, to agitate over non-essentials, to bear grudges or to be aloof, all are unworthy of our calling.
However, Paul is not calling us to be theologically limp wristed, to make unity our primary goal. Christian unity must never be at the cost of truth, and true Christian unity is built on the revealed truths of the gospel, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism …”(Ephesians 4:4 -5).
As well, our unity is not bland uniformity. It is a unity in rich diversity, a diversity of personalities, backgrounds, interests and giftedness which Paul describes in Ephesians 4:7 – 11. This unity in diversity is God’s way of building a mature, Christlike body of people (Ephesians 4:12 – 16).
6 April was a day of being part of a people, who in the power of the Holy Spirit, were walking worthily of our calling to be mature members of the new humanity.
The result? It is how the issue was debated that is most important but the Assembly validated the Trustees’ intervention and ratified the appointment of the Management Committee to the School.