So, I've been thinking about this whole covenant thing. It's pretty central to Reformed theology and polity, which is why we have papers relating it to, say, our insurance plan. But it seems to me that we may be a bit confused about what we're talking about when we appeal to the concept of covenant.
It is my understanding that we (or at least I) refer primarily to the covenant God makes with us - that whole unconditional promise that we will be God's people, and God will be our God, and such. Thus, I tend to understand covenant ontologically: we are God's covenant people, members of God's Church, bound not by our own choice but by Christ. Our functional calling exists within that identity; we are supposed to try to act like what we are: a body whose head is Christ, people who belong to God and to each other. That's what I'm talking about when I speak of covenant.
I see denominations - particularly my own, because, well, that's the one to which I belong, and because at our best we are so covenant-focused - as one of the ways we live out our identity as God's covenant people. We live together in structures of support and accountability because those communal structures express our recognition that we are unified by God.
So perhaps you can understand why I get a bit befuddled when people talk about covenant as something we can leave or kick others out of, as if it is we who have made this covenant and may break it freely. And I simply don't get it at all when I'm accused of focusing too much on the unity of the Church (and specifically its expression in the RCA) as opposed to its purity. I just don't think these things are separable. Unity is our identity in Christ; the question is how to best embody that identity. We may disagree about the answer to that question, but we're still a body. It seems to me that the Church is not purified by hacking off body parts or wounding them beyond functionality or immobilizing them or pretending they aren't part of the body at all. The number of ways we've found to cripple ourselves just astounds me - most of all when we do so in the name of the growth or purity of the church.