My Take (from afar) on the General Assembly of the PCA
I’m thankful to be Presbyterian. Chiefly we have a rich theological history that proudly proclaims the truth of Scriptures and each week I can proclaim the Gospel fully and freely. Furthermore I believe we have a biblical form of church government. It is not perfect because the men that govern within it are not perfect. But more days than not I am thankful for the connectionalism and collected wisdom that comes from having many at different levels of church government and not just a few. That church government takes place on three levels: Session (local level), Presbyteries (regional level), and General Assembly (national level).
Our denomination just concluded its 44th General Assembly in Mobile, Alabama. I usually attend these meetings but this year with the transition to Smyrna I knew that our schedule would be too busy and I was not going to make it. However I stayed connected through others who were there and also through the livestream of the event. I’ll give you a quick synopsis of some of the major decisions.
Racial Reconciliation Overture
If you followed the GA last year then you will know that one of the topics that was discussed was a personal resolution from two pastors in Mississippi on racial reconciliation. The resolution laid claim to the fact that several of our founding churches were complicit in segregation back in the 60’s. Last year’s GA decided that this topic needed some time to think through and pushed it off to this year’s. Over 40 overtures this year dealt with this aspect of racial reconciliation. The GA approved a modify version of one these overtures (the overture can be read in its entirety on byFaith Online Magazine). I personally have no difficulty with this overture as a whole. I desire our denomination to resemble the nations and what heaven will be like with people of every tongue, tribe and nation. Our nation has an ongoing issue of racism and the Church should be leading by example on how reconciliation takes place and pointing to the answer which is Christ Jesus alone. However I believe (along with others) if there was sin of a racial nature that was committed by individuals, sessions, churches, – those individuals or groups must repent for themselves. However the overture took a corporate repentance, which I am not convinced is the right or most biblical approach. I can’t repent for you and you can’t repent for me – we must repent of our sins specifically and individually. Allegations of racism should go through the process of church discipline, not just blanket statements of repentance. Furthermore we are corporately repenting of sins that were done when we were not even a denomination (the PCA formed in 1972). Yet with all of that being said, the actions of this General Assembly made it very clear that racism is wrong, it’s sinful, and it will not be tolerated in the Church of Jesus Christ – for that reason I hope it is helpful to the Church as a whole by promoting greater unity with people of all races.
Study Committee on Women in the Church
I think the issue that must be kept an eye on going forward is the issue of women’s roles in the Church. The GA has had several overtures in the past wanting us to study this topic. Each year that request has been turned down. This year that request (made through a different process than the normal overtures route – which in itself was a bit troubling) was overwhelmingly passed. Those that proposed it and advocated for it were continually stating that they did not want this so that women could be ordained officers in the Church, but they were merely seeking clarification and more study. However you know as well as I do that you do not make a request to study something unless you are not satisfied with the current state of affairs As Rev. Terry Johnson recently wrote:
Women are in ministry and always have been. However, they are not to be ordained as officers or given the titles of officers. That particular matter has been studied for 2000 years…A study committee is proposed not because study is needed, but because, at least for some, it is seen as an intermediate step that is viewed as a vehicle to broaden the denominational stance to ordination or something like ordination.
I tend to agree with Rev. Johnson but we will have to wait to see how the report comes back from the committee to see if this broadening is indeed true. I hope and pray that this issue will not be a divisive one like it has for so many other denominations.
Those were the more “hot topic” subjects of the GA for this year. There were a few other items that were worthy of note but will save those for those of you interested to learn more. One other thing I will mention is that after 44 years since its formation the GA approved a denominational logo for the PCA – yippee!
But still after all of the aforementioned, I am thankful for the PCA – hope you are as well.