The 40th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) met from June 19-21, 2012, in Louisville, KY. The 1,120 commissioners, consisting of 832 Teaching Elders (ministers) and 288 Ruling Elders (elders), elected Dr. Michael F. Ross, pastor of Christ Covenant PCA in Matthews, NC, as Moderator. Dr. Roy Taylor serves as Stated Clerk of the PCA and posted a summary of the Assembly’s actions on the Administrative Committee’s website: http://www.pcaac.org.
Although 44 overtures and other matters were submitted prior to the General Assembly (GA), pre-assembly advice committees helped commissioners tackle docket items in a timely manner.
“Over all, the GA continued to be a force for the truth,” wrote Rev. Wes White, a PCA minister in Spearfish, SD, on his “Johannes Weslianus” blog (http://www.weswhite.net).
The GA decided to remain in the National Association of Evangelicals (NEA), declared that the Westminster Standards sufficiently address theistic evolution, prohibited the Lord’s Supper practice of intinction, accepted the initial work of a study committee on the Insider Movement, referred paedocommunion matters back to committee, approved its Administrative Committee’s funding, celebrated a “joining and receiving” anniversary, and dissolved a small presbytery.
According to Dr. Taylor’s online report (found at http://www.pcaac.org), a 2011 overture requested that the PCA withdraw from the NAE at the soonest possible date the Interchurch Relations Committee (IRC) was directed to study the issue. Commissioners adopted the IRC recommendation for continued membership, while closely watching developments.
Commissioners approved an overture stating that the Westminster Standards are sufficiently clear on God’s creation of Adam and Eve and that additional declarations are not necessary.
Rev. White sees this as a “loss for those who want to preserve a confessional and conservative Presbyterian denomination.” He believes “this action will have the effect of discouraging opponents of theistic evolution and encouraging its proponents.”
Intinction is the practice during the Lord’s Supper of communicants dipping bread into a common cup of wine and receiving both elements together. By a 14-vote margin, commissioners approved a minority report prohibiting intinction.
Presbyteries and the next GA need to approve this addition to the Book of Church Order: “As Christ has instituted the Lord’s Supper in two sacramental actions, the communicants are to eat the bread and drink the cup in separate actions.”
Last year’s GA established a committee to study what has become known generally as the Insider Movement. Some advocates of this trend allow believers in contexts where persecution takes place to remain in their original faith communities. Another aspect of the trend is to remove references to God the Father and Jesus the Son from biblical translations in an effort to make the translation more acceptable to those from certain religious backgrounds, such as Islam.
Commissioners gave the committee another year to finish its work and recommended for study its initial report: “Part One: Like Father, Like Son,” which is available at: http://www.pcaac.org.
“The report of the ad interim committee on the Insider Movement was excellent,” writes Rev. White. “I thought this was the PCA at is best, using its unique resources for the good of world mission and a stand for biblical truth and the heart of the gospel.”
The PCA has a committee that reviews presbytery records and reports to the GA. The issue of paedocommunion came before the body through that avenue.
Don K. Clements wrote on The Aquila Report (http://theaquilareport.com) that three separate actions from the minutes of three different presbyteries dealt with paedocommunion: “In the minds of many, these actions were internally inconsistent, in two cases approving Paedocommunion, in another not approving (broadly speaking).”
After close votes and the failure of two substitutes motions, the three items were recommitted to the review committee, which was directed to bring a consistent report to next year’s Assembly.
Administrative Committee Funding
Funding for the PCA’s Administrative Committee (AC) was a hot topic last year, but became a non-issue at this year’s GA.
“The new funding plan was a snoozer,” write Rev. White. “It passed easily.”
According to Rev. Taylor, the new plan features: contribution requests to churches based on a percentage of the church’s operating budget rather than per member, a request (not a requirement) that all PCA ministers contribute at least $100 per year, a GA registration fee, fees for services as appropriate, and increased communication from the AC to the churches.
Part of the controversy last year dealt with the denominational online and print magazine: byFaith. The editor reported that the website (http://byfaithonline.com) has been upgraded and that free subscriptions of the print magazine will now be sent to individuals and churches at their request.
Joining and Receiving
This year’s GA celebrated the 30th anniversary of “joining and receiving” of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES) with the PCA. According to Rev. Taylor, the RPCES adopted the PCA constitution and joined the PCA. In the process, the PCA gained a number of congregations as well as Covenant College and Covenant Theological Seminary.
Rev. Taylor wrote that “the Assembly approved the request of the Louisiana Presbytery that it be dissolved and its seven churches transferred to contiguous Presbyteries with new boundaries.”
The 41st General Assembly of the PCA is slated to begin on June 18, 2013, in Greenville, SC.
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 10-11 in the August 1, 2012, issue of Christian Renewal.