/ James Faris

How Shall We Then Vote?

The Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America has a long and complex relationship with the subject of voting and the Christian’s involvement in civil government. Its in-house discussion continues today.

The historical and theological factors of the discussion are quite complex; they cannot be easily summarized. However, until the 1960s, Reformed Presbyterians generally would not take the oath to support and defend the United States Constitution (at least not without explicit qualification) because the Constitution does not acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ over the nation. Nor would Reformed Presbyterians vote for those who would take the oath in order to hold office. The implications were far-reaching as they touched not only voting but also military service, jury duty, employment with federal agencies, and more.

The Lord worked in various ways over more than a century and a half to lead the denomination to change its position in the 1960s. Through debates and discussions touching on many aspects of the church’s relationship with the civil government, the synod concluded that the oath to support and defend the United States Constitution is not demonstrably sinful. In the midst of those years of debate and change, the church also adopted a revised Reformed Presbyterian Testimony. It contained new language regarding voting that sought to capture the consensus of the church. These actions opened the door for the Associate Presbyterian Church to merge with the RPCNA by the end of the decade.

The study of Scripture, debate among brothers, and ultimate changes were not small things for the RPCNA as it sought to serve Jesus. The denomination widened her range of practice and held together. In God’s providence, these changes in the application of the doctrine of the mediatorial kingship of Christ helped open the door, arguably more than any other testimonial changes, to the expansion and growth of the RPCNA in the late twentieth century.

Today, the church debates afresh the meaning of the words of the Reformed Presbyterian Testimony regarding voting, in particular. In this in-house discussion, the synod’s Special Committee on Christ's Mediatorial Kingship submitted its Christ-Centered Voting: A Practical Guide For Christians to the 2019 meeting of synod which interprets the Reformed Presbyterian Testimony’s language on voting in a more limited way than some do. Synod chose not to approve the document but to only receive it for consideration within the church. It was published in the March-April print edition of the Reformed Presbyterian Witness and can be found for sale in print here.

A group of elders, of which I am one, has written How Shall We Then Vote? in response. We understand the wording of the Testimony on voting differently, especially in light of the original historical context. How Shall We Then Vote? is also slated to appear in the May-June print edition of the Reformed Presbyterian Witness.

We pray these contributions to our in-house discussion as a denomination will serve the good of God’s people and glorify our Lord Jesus Christ.

James Faris

James Faris

Child of God. Husband to Elizabeth. Father of six. Pastor of Second Reformed Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. Ordained as a pastor in 2003.

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