Every day when I drive to the office, I pass 5855 Riverside Drive, NW, an address that was once the home of the Church of St. Andrew. That local church has been gone for months. This past week, even the name was scratched off the sign that sits near the road. A wooden cross is still perched in the yard, the last bit of evidence that a local church once called those grounds home.
The Church of St. Andrew was a member of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), a denomination founded in 1983 when two mainline Presbyterian churches merged, the PCUS and UPCUSA, into the PCUSA.
The PCUSA is part of a Presbyterian tradition that has slowly drifted away from its historic, orthodox standards. For example, in its statement of faith, The Confession of 1967, the PCUSA sees the cross not as the means by which a holy God reconciles specific, individual sinners to himself but rather, “God’s judgment on man’s inhumanity to man.” Erased from the doctrine of this denomination is the reality that all of us have sinned against God and we deserve his judgment. Furthermore, the PCUSA long ago abandoned the absolute necessity of Christ for salvation insisting instead that the church “must approach all religions with openness and respect.” It’s clear the PCUSA teaches that the gospel is the best way for man to know God. It’s unclear that the gospel, however, is the only way.
Numbers cannot finally testify to the success of a ministry, God has always worked through a remnant. Still, it is telling that the PCUSA claimed 2.9 million members in 2007 and that number has declined to 1.8 in 2013. A church that is open to all religions will find a hard time staying open.
I don’t drive by 5855 Riverside with a sense of glee or spiritual superiority. I pass that empty building with sadness. A tradition that once held so tightly to the gospel has loosened its grip only to see the biblical gospel fall into the grass, just below a neglected wooden cross, on land where a local church once stood.
The closing of that church should be a reminder to every church. We can praise God that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church (Matt 16:18). But let’s never forget that it is our responsibility to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3)--a faith that preaches we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.