Today’s Sacramento Bee has an article on a theological crisis that has affected several local churches. Because of a decision by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to allow homosexual ministers, seven of Sacramento’s congregations have decided to divorce themselves from that organization and join a smaller one, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC).
But many local church members said they are unclear about where the EPC stands on several issues – from divorce to women serving in the church. They worry the group adheres to a narrow theology and say they don’t know enough about the denomination their faith leaders asked them to join.
The article itself answers at least some of these questions.
The EPC believes in the infallibility of the Bible, that homosexuals should not serve in ministry and that those who are divorced should meet with congregational leaders before serving in the church.
That sounds simple enough. There ya go – that’s what the new organization believes. But hold on. What does it mean to say that the church believes those things? The EPC is an organization. Organizations are not conscious agents. They don’t have thoughts, opinions, or beliefs.
But they can promulgate an official doctrine, and of course that’s what it means in this case. When the Bee says that the Evangelical Presbyterian Church believes a certain thing, all they mean is that the church says that thing. There is a message that the church promotes.
A church can’t have beliefs. What it has is slogans.