Wednesday, June 17, 2015
Final Note on the 43rd PCA GA: RPR
RPR is shorthand for the Committee on the Review of Presbytery Records. Being a connectional denomination, the PCA exercises “review and control” by means of higher courts (presbyteries and GA) reviewing the actions of lower courts (sessions and presbyteries). The purpose of RPR is to check that everything that the presbyteries do is proper and is done properly. If it is the opinion of RPR that what is done is not proper, this is considered an exception of substance. If it is the opinion of RPR that what is done is proper, but is not done properly, that is considered an exception of form. When RPR finishes its work, all exceptions of form are sent directly to the presbyteries. All exceptions of substance are brought to the GA for review and approval. This year, there were three particular exceptions of substance that drew debate. Two separate presbyteries were cited for exceptions of substance in that they approved men who hold to paedocommunion (the idea that young children, even very young children, may properly take the Lord’s Super). This view is directly contrary to our doctrinal standards, but how significant a departure it is, is a matter of debate. In both cases, RPR brought it as an exception of substance, though with significant minorities voting against the citation. In both cases, a minority report from RPR was also filed, asking that the exception of substance be removed. In both cases, the minority report was supported by the GA, so in the end, neither presbytery was cited.
We appear to have reached the point in the PCA where the paedocommunion view is being increasingly tolerated. This is a serious mistake, as the view weakens our commitment to our doctrinal standards, and undercuts the doctrine of the sacraments as it is laid out in our standards. For those who want a more detailed discussion of the issues, I recommend this: http://newgenevaopc.org/?page_id=71.
The other major exception of substance concerned a presbytery that ordained a man who wasn’t entirely sure that the New Testament forbids the ordination of women as elders. RPR brought it as an exception of substance. Again, there was a minority report, arguing that the presbytery should not be cited. In this case, the minority report was defeated. Two things about this are troubling to me. First, there is the fact that a majority of the presbytery did not find this man’s uncertainty problematic. This man was going to be teaching and preaching in a denomination that holds that the ordination of women to church office is contrary to the Scriptures. If he is uncertain on that point, on what else is he uncertain? Second, this case indicates that there is an undercurrent in the PCA that is not opposed to women in church office. The long-term effects of such an undercurrent will not contribute to the long-term health of the church.
However, the presbytery has now been cited, and must respond to the GA next year with an explanation of their actions.
In general, it was a peaceable assembly. My own sense, however, is that the assembly tries to do too much too quickly. As a result, many things do not get done well.