The evaluation of Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa in relation to the three marks of the church
Author(s)Pitikoe, Jurie Billy
Three Marks of the Church
Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA)
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AbstractChristian life today has been influenced by countless influences from the external
world. Although these external factors have a significant bearing on the church of
Christ, the greatest challenge however manifests itself from within the latter.
Where the core doctrine of the church constitutes issues of theological and
Christian importance, they seem to slowly dissipate and the practices of the
secular world seem to take ownership of the church of Christ. The Reformed
church has within its confines the three marks of the church whose sole purpose is
to ensure that the church of God remains and continues to be the true church of
Christ. These Three Marks are: (a) the proclamation of the Word; (b) the correct
administration of the sacraments, and (c) the correct exercise of discipline. Among
the three marks, discipline acts as a catalyst that enables the survival and proper
continuance of the other two marks and thus the true church of Christ.
These Three Marks prescribe the basic fundamentals of the Uniting Reformed
Church in Southern Africa (URCSA) as a Reformed Church and thereby serve as
a primary tool for this church. Discipline, therefore, forms an intrinsic part of this
church. However, as a controlling mechanism, its influence and/or instillation
appears to be neglected. This quagmire may very well be attested to the
overemphasis of democracy (of/or relating to majority rule doctrine) in preference
to theocracy (God as the ultimate authority in our lives), where even matters of
high religious stature are being compacted to human decision-making processes.
These influences needless to say are key in the regression and/or progression of
Christian life and life in general. However, their inclusion within the Christian
doctrine should not be cumbersome to the latter. The Christian way of life and
doctrines should be holistically adhered to without fear or favour.
The main purpose behind the formation of these marks by the Reformed church
was to sustain the true church of Christ and the only way to ensure this
sustainability, was to be consistent in exercising these marks. The church
therefore has an obligation towards God and its members to be consistent in
carrying out its mandate from God through the scriptures as the creator and father
of the church and the world at large. The premonition that forms the basis of this
research is that within the three prevalent marks of the church, there appears to
be certain discrepancies in that they are not all carried out in unison and are not
consistent with each other. With the over-emphasis of one above the other, the
church of God could be heading towards vanity, and all its efforts could be
fruitless. It is also my conviction that the starting point for rolling out these three
marks lie with the leadership of the church by the General Synod, Regional
Synods, Presbyteries, Ministers and their church councils. If found that any of
these key adherents are not protagonists of these marks, then they would have
neglected their God-entrusted responsibilities and their accountability towards the
entire community of believers. It is in this regard that this research seeks to
implement a litmus test of where the URCSA stands in terms of executing its
mandate with relation to the three marks of the church viz; proclaiming the word,
administering the sacraments and more importantly, exercising exercising discipline as these marks form the sinew that binds the entire church together.
The church of Christ as an entity is engaged in service, which is not to be
haphazard in nature, but must be structured. This service begins with serving God,
serving one another and finally serving the world at large. This will ensure that the
church of God maintains its holiness. For this holiness to be ensured, the church
of God has to be open to discernment and allow God take charge of His church.
Such uncertainties can be verified only by looking into discipline as the sinew that
brings these three marks together. The reason for this approach is that, the first
two marks are prescriptive with more parameters than discipline has, whereas
discipline can be easily influenced. It is to the benefit of this task that much
attention be given to discipline as the last mark of the three, as it is prone to
abuse, because it relies mainly on human behaviour, attitude and/or approach to
the Christian life. Therefore, the purpose of this dissertation is to outline the
possible disintegration of discipline as the sinew that binds the three marks of the
Reformed Church in general and URCSA in particular within the Southern Synod.
important to note that discipline in the lower strata of the church is carried out
religiously without question. The notion that prompted this topic is that contrarily,
those who occupy the highest echelons of the church (leadership in the church,
ministers and evangelists) do not appear to be enjoying the same reception
regarding discipline. The challenge that faces the URCSA is how to maintain equal
treatment of the three marks of the true church in a democratic society in the light
of the service of God, one another and the world.
Philosophy, Practical and Systematic Theology
M. Th.(Systematic Theology)
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