The following note is a back and forth from a friend of mine and fellow church member on my thoughts on the 40th GA of the PCA. My thanks to Wes White for doing most of my work for me on his blog weswhite.net
Sent: Friday, June 22, 2012 12:34 PM
Subject: Fw: [New post] http://www.weswhite.net/2012/06/summary-of-the-40th-general-assembly-of-the-presbyterian-church-in-america/trackback/
What do you think of White’s perspective here?
—– Forwarded Message —–
From: Johannes Weslianus
Sent: Friday, June 22, 2012 12:30 PM
Subject: [New post] Summary of the 40th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America
New post on Johannes Weslianus
Summary of the 40th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America
by Wes White
I will be taking a vacation the next two weeks, and so my posts will be sporadic. However, I did want to write a brief summary of what happened at the 40th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America. You can also read my reports on pre-GA news, Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3 of the General Assembly. Here are the highlights and my thoughts on some of them.
1. The failure to pass the theistic evolution was a loss for those who want to preserve a confessional and conservative presbyterian denomination. We were told that the right thing to do on the evolution issue is for pastors to teach on the basis of the Confession and the Bible, but the GA itself declined to do so. As a result, there is question as to where the PCA stands on this crucial issue. Also, theistic evolutionists will be encouraged by this vote to continue to press for the allowance of theistic evolution within the PCA. I know that many of my most trusted friends voted the other way on this and in no way support theistic evolution, but I believe that contrary to their intentions, this action will have the effect of discouraging opponents of theistic evolution and encouraging its proponents.
2. The PCA is thinking carefully through its position on the Lord’s Supper. For many years, the PCA has made it clear that it is not a Baptist denomination. It will not have Baptist elders. It holds to a particular view of the sacraments. However, many presbyteries have allowed men who hold to paedocommunion to be elders in the church. It is apparent that we are thinking through whether or not this is the right thing to do. Many think that now is the time to close the door and maintain our presbyterian particularity in regard to the Lord’s Supper. This was demonstrated by the GA’s unwillingness to say that Pacific Northwest’s response to GA was satisfactory and the approval of the first stage of the amendment process in explicitly banning intinction. I think that some in the PCA had not given much thought to the paedocommunion issue (in part because of the reasons I laid out here) but are now beginning to do so. I think this will be a good discussion over the next couple years.
3. The report of the ad interim committee on the Insider Movement was excellent. I would highly recommend that you watch the video of the report and the ensuing debate, if you have not seen it. I thought this was the PCA at its best, using its unique resource for the good of world mission and a stand for biblical truth and the heart of the gospel (read more here).
4. Over all, the GA continued to be a force for the truth. On the issue of our membership in the NAE, I am actually unsure if we should leave. I thought the measure adopted was a good one. We should stay in but keep a closer eye on what they are doing. The RPR did good work over all, in spite of the confusion on paedocommunion. They took stands against allowing someone to deny that Sunday was the Christian Sabbath and that images of Jesus could be used to enhance worship. Both of these points were challenged, but the Assembly overwhelming approved the RPR’s view.
5. The changes to the Rules of Assembly Operation were also helpful. According to our new rules, all amendments to the Constitution will be referred to the Overtures Committee. This will help create a better balance between the permanent committees and the General Assembly.
6. The new funding plan was a snoozer. It passed easily. The committee of commissioners and the permanent committee agreed to reduce the registration fee for poorer churches to $300 from their original proposal of $450.
7. I was happy with the nominations to the permanent committees and agencies. Particularly, I was very glad to see TE Martin Hedman elected to serve on the Administrative Committe, since he is both gifted in these matters and asked good questions about the Strategic Plan. TE Art Sartorius was not challenged, and he was elected to the Committee on Constitutional Business. He is a very gifted man who will serve our denomination well in this capacity.
There you have it. These were the highlights from my view. What are your thoughts on the Assembly? I’d love to read your comments on it.
Wes White | June 22, 2012 at 10:28 am | Tags: 40th General Assembly, Overtures, Paedocommunion, Presbyterian Church in America, theistic evolution | Categories: PCA news |
Sorry, this is going to be long…..
The pastor and I actually voted for the minority report. But, when that failed, we voted for the Potomac overture because, the PCA does have a position on this issue and it is rooted within the WCoF and the WLC and WSC. There is no doubt that there are errant doctrines being taught by the PCA in some of its churches; however, the PCA needs to have a grass roots reawakening at the presbytery level, in my opinion and quit allowing aberrant exceptions to be held out of precedence and start denying requests of TE’s to become TE’s that are not in accord with our doctrines, e.g., [a certain new TE] and paedo-communion. The PCA needs to grow a spine and start standing in the breach and not just pointing to our confessions and saying, “Yeah, what they said.” And our presbyteries need to lead that fight and not falter when those in the “TE boys club” are examining their seminary buddies and letting their friends into the club, even with weak credentials. Maybe they need to mature in their faith a little longer.
Becoming an elder when I did has really caused me to grow and change over the last 2 ½ years. When I first became an elder, I was not a part of all of the fireworks of the [remitted judicial] case; I only saw the conclusion, as he stepped down and left the church. But the [second] complaint has changed me completely, it has firmed my resolve and for the most part, the rest of the Session has grown stronger as well. I am no longer afraid of a complaint being lodged against the Session, or for that matter, for the Session to charge an erring brother in an effort to bring him back into the flock.
This week at one of the GA seminars, a TE from WA state but originally from NYC made a comment that really rang true to me. He of course grew up in NYC and has that NYC state of mind to tell it like it is and now he is ministering in WA state who have the attitude of “so what, whatever, dude.” He has come to realize that the PCA being predominately Southern, is too nice and too willing to let troublemakers make trouble in the hopes that if they ignore them that the problem will go away. I can totally agree with that, seeing evidence in my own upbringing and life, the South is just like that. The PCA wanted to grow, so they merged with the RPC-ES which gave them Covenant College and Seminary and I believe, opened the door for liberalism to come in. Not all from CTS are liberals but, I would say that the residue of liberalism is infectious. What the PCA needs to do and those of us in the PCA need to do is have the courage to stand up for the faith and bring charges when a TE or a particular church wanders off the path. That starts at the presbytery level. We need to stand up and be heard at presbytery when the Candidates and Credentials committee wants to allow an exception, like paedo-communion, from a candidate based on the idea that we have allowed it before. Just because you let it happen in the past on the grounds that he agreed not to preach or teach it and he is a good guy otherwise, is not good policy for letting it continue.
The greatest problem with the GA and I’ll submit all presbyteries, not just JRP, is the ratio of TE to RE present. This year at GA there were 1000-1100 commissioners, 750-800 TE and 250-300 RE. JRP the ratio at meetings is similar, last meeting 49 TE and 16 RE were present with 32 TE and 17 churches not sending RE to the meeting. For a TE, being a TE is his job, and presbytery and GA are job requirements. RE on the other hand all have other jobs and must balance work and vacation time and make a concerted effort to attend. Second, it is a tedious 3 days of meetings and dry parliamentary procedure that grows old quickly when you don’t understand Robert’s Rules and the dance that is danced within that framework. I would dare say that most Sessions operate like ours, with very little regard to Robert’s other than the framework of the minutes and the docket. Knox has the right to send 2 RE to GA to vote as commissioners. Churches with less than 350 members can send 2 RE and 1 extra RE for every 500 members over 350. Maybe Knox needs to rethink and find a way to send 2 RE. All TE can go. If more churches sent more than 1 RE it could potentially override the “TE boys club” that is there.
While there are a lot of great, young, conservative TEs out there, a lot of these new TEs have never had real world experience to temper their academic journey. They have been in school all of their lives, go to college and either find God in college or have that RUF experience in college that drives them into seminary and then right into a church. Many of their theological positions haven’t been forged in the furnace of the world but over the campfire of seminary. Consequently, they don’t want to throw their errant theological comrades over the rail at presbytery as they seek ordination, but want to allow them to sharpen their views over time alongside them in ministry. Most of the REs are businessmen, many, like me, aren’t college graduates and find it intimidating to stand up to some of these TEs and thereby are afraid to lock horns theologically with them. Conversely, a lot of these young TEs look at their Sessions as the enemy blocking their ministry aspirations and the new evangelism methods they learned in seminary.
I’ll close by saying this…I agree, on the one hand, that the PCA whiffed at this pitch on theistic evolution; the laity needed us to knock this hanging curve ball out of the park with a decisive statement affirming the Biblical account of creation because people want to hear the church stand up for truth. On the other hand, one of the reasons that many folks were against this overture was that it didn’t go far enough, that it wasn’t as clear as it needed to be, that it was a weaker statement than we made 12 or 13 years ago. Rather than throw up something weak, they would rather stick with what has been said before. I think that this was the direction the majority view was taking. They were in essence stating that if you want to get the cancer out of the body, you don’t pass resolutions condemning cancer; you find the cancer and cut it out using the courts of the church. That will be harder, it might not always be successful, but I think in the long run it will be effective. If you shine the light into the darkness the roaches tend to run away.
Otherwise, I think Wes White was right on. I do agree with him on point one even with my diarrhea of the mouth above. I am thinking we might see a better worded overture condemning this next year, this isn’t over quite yet. But, I think we have cracked the door a little for the Biologos folks. I didn’t attend their seminar but it sounds like they were not ready for the packed house they got and even seemed to shrink back a little (too much light shining on them perhaps?) We seem to be flirting with taking a stand against paedo-communion, since the issue has been brought up the last 2 years in the Review of Presby Records committee report. That committee isn’t really the right forum to address that issue so, I would see an overture coming that might begin the process to cut that out as an exception, another multi-year battle. I was shocked (but very happy) that the minority report banning intinction passed and that now this goes to the presbyteries for ratification and then once ratified by at least 2/3 of presbyteries it will need a 2/3 vote at next year’s GA. So, like Wes, I see the PCA examining its views on the Lord’s Supper and maybe beginning to rethink its big-tent posture on other things as well.
I don’t think it is time to fold up the tent and pull up the stakes just yet. I think, just like in our secular politics, those of us that are conservative have always thought our opponents would be as gracious to us as we are to them. Now, seeing that truth must be fought for to be preserved, I think the PCA is coming to that conclusion as well. We have played nice and let some error creep in in the name of diversity. Now, we are beginning to see that error bloom in federal vision, paedo-communion, intinction, theistic evolution. We have attacked the federal vision position and called it heresy. Now, I think we will begin to attack the rest of it and root it out.