Saturday, June 22, 2013
Post-Mortem on the 41st General Assembly of the PCA
After a couple of days to reflect on it, and to seek to explain it to friends who weren't there, I have concluded that the event was not as bad as it seemed at first. There is a brief factual report of the main actions of the Assembly at http://theaquilareport.com/actions-of-the-41st-general-assembly-of-the-pca/.
First, with regard to the paedocommunion issues in the PCA, there were some encouraging developments. The minority report from the Committee on the Review of Presbytery Records (CRPR) regarding Central Florida Presbytery was adopted. Central Florida is now required to come back and report to next year’s assembly. That’s another opportunity for the assembly to address the issue. Second, Pacific Northwest Presbytery had to temper the language that it has used in the past when they approve someone who holds to paedocommunion. Those folks will no longer be told that they have full liberty to preach and teach their exception to the standards. Second, PNWP had to make it very clear that no one in the presbytery is now practicing paedocommunion, and no one will be allowed to practice it in the future. If evidence comes forth that it is being practiced, that will provide sufficient rationale for charges to be brought. In addition, though Overtures 19 and 23 were ruled out of order, Overtures 20-22 were referred to the Standing Judicial Commission (SJC). They will have to deal with those overtures at their October meeting, and that report will be dealt with at next year’s assembly. While many hoped that the CRPR minority report on PNWP would be adopted, it was not. But we cannot conclude that the PCA has decided that paedocommunion is an allowable exception (in the sense of men being allowed to practice it). Thus it behooves us to pray that the SJC would favorably regard the overtures sent to it for consideration.
Second, with regard to the “Insider Movements” (IM) report: the entire report was sent back to the committee for reworking. My hope is that whatever strengths were in the minority report can be worked into the majority report in such a way that the author of the minority report will be satisfied. I was pleased to see that the proposal to accept the whole thing—majority and minority reports together—was defeated. The minority report has some good intentions in giving practical direction to converts from Islam to Christianity who still live in a Muslim context. But it was seriously undermined by less than careful theological thinking and expression. It probably would have flown in the PC(USA). I was glad it did not fly in the PCA.
Third, I was also heartened by the fact that the Committee of Commissioners for the Interchurch Relations Committee (ICR) pressed the issue regarding membership in the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). The NAE is a seriously flawed organization. The ICR Permanent Committee will have to be more diligent in the coming year in reporting on what the NAE does. Perhaps when all those actions are put together in list form, it will become apparent to the PCA that we as a denomination have no business being part of that association.
Fourth, I was thankful for Mr. Sloan’s personal resolution regarding child abuse in the church and our pastoral responsibilities. It was given to the Overtures Committee for perfecting, but what they submitted gutted Mr. Sloan’s resolution. I was glad that it was sent back again, and will come before the assembly next year.
I conclude with three general observations. There were something over 1,200 registered commissioners at the assembly. Not great attendance, but better than the past couple of years. However, on the occasions when counted votes were taken, the total ranged from around 750 to about 900. That means that for the most part one fourth to one third of the commissioners were out doing something other than attending to the business of the assembly. Those of you who registered and did not attend the business sessions, shame on you! Particularly, shame on you if you led your church to believe that you would be going to do the work of the assembly!
I do not want to cast aspersions on Mr. Terrell. Moderating the GA is a hard and thankless job.But Mr. Terrell did not seem to be ready to be moderator. I am sure he is a fine executive, and a faithful ruling elder. But the moderator of GA ought to be adept enough at parliamentary procedure that he should only be glancing desperately in the direction of the Stated Clerk and the parliamentarians in particularly difficult situations. It seemed that the assembly ran more smoothly on the couple of occasions when there was a substitute moderator at the podium.
Now is not the time to be looking to leave the PCA. Now is the time to be devoting ourselves to prayer for our denomination and the substantive issues that are facing us, and that will face us in the coming years. I wonder how many of us spend as much time praying for our church as we do complaining about our church.