PCA General Assembly - I Rise to Speak…Almost

This post is part of the 2012 general assembly series (click to view the other posts in this series).

Have you ever had that burning in your gut....those butterflies in your stomach....that conviction that you are going to have to speak but you really don't want to?  I had it today.  I know, a preacher who doesn't want to speak?  I love to preach the gospel, I love to teach the word, and in that setting there's a boldness that comes not from me but from the Spirit of Christ.  Sure, I believe He can do that in other settings and probably would have even done that today, but it's unfamiliar ground for me....and it's scary.  So I was relieved that as I could no longer deny that I must rise to speak on the floor of General Assembly, some wonderful, caring soul called the question.  In Robert's Rules, that means that there is no more debate and it's time to vote.  Shew! 

What was it that caused me to "almost" speak?  Well, there were two major issues that came as part of the Bills and Overtures portion of our assembly.  The first, and the one for which I thought I would have to speak was a recommendation that an overture from a presbytery requesting that other overtures concerning an "in thesi" statement with respect to evolution and the Scripture's teaching be answered by reference to actions taken by previous General Assemblies.  I know, that was a mouthful!  To summarize, previous General Assemblies had spoken concerning the issue of evolution and the historicity of Adam and Eve.  Our standards are clear what the Bible teaches concerning the creation of Adam:  "that after God had made all other creatures, he created man male and female; formed the body of the man of the dust of the ground, and the woman of the rib of the man, endued them with living, reasonable, and immortal souls; made them after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness,and holiness; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfil it, and dominion over the creatures; yet subject to fall" (Westminster Larger Catechism #17).  The committee suggested through its recommendation that this, along with Westminster 4.2 and Shorter Catechism #16, is sufficient in answer the issuing of Adam and Eve. 

And yet, a minority report was put forward as a recommendation that "the 40th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America affirm its historic and confessional stance on the subject of the creation of man" using language that had been adopted by previous General Assemblies of the PCUS prior to the formation of the PCA.  For my congregation, and others if you want to know, I voted against the minority report.  I voted against it not because I don't affirm the historicity of Adam.  I absolutely do!  And I am thankful that the PCA does as well.  We have already said so.  I voted against the minority report and voted with the committee because I believed that to "reaffirm" our belief would have been to lessen the authority of our standards - our documents that already define and summarize what we believe.  One commissioner said, "I am somewhat taken aback that we have to make a statement that we believe our standards!"  I agree.  In fact, I think to do so would have been extremely dangerous for our future because I think it is representative of a deep fear to stand by what we have already determined and a hesitancy to deal with those things through our judicial system.  We would be in danger of weakening our standards and governing from a top down model rather than from the bottom up.  In other words, we'd be asking the General Assembly to do that which we are unwiling to do as presbyteries.  Everyone agreed that our "standards are clear" concerning this issue.  If that is true, and there are those teaching in contradiction to our standards, why are they not being brought up on charges in thier presbyteries?  That is the proper way to handle this issue.  It was said that all the minority report was attempting to do was to ask people to stay within the "rails."  It is acknowledged that the "rails" have already been determined; therefore, the proper way to deal with this is through loving and firm discipline.  If we are unwiling to discipline on the grounds of our existing standards - what makes us think we will disicpline according to a new statement? 

The minority report failed to pass and the recommendation from our committee passed.  That means we will have no additional statement on this issue.  The Westminster Confession in Chapter 4, Section 2, Question 17 of the Larger Catechism, and Question 16 of the Shorter Catechism are sufficient already.  I pray that we will be willing to stand by them and hold one another to account in love and truth. 

The other issue that caused major discussion and debate was the overture to amend our Book of Church Order by adding a statement concerning the inappropriateness of intinction.  For those of you who do not know, intinction is the communion practice of dipping the bread into the wine prior to partaking.  The addition to the Book of Church Order (BCO) would read as such, "Intinction, because it conflates Jesus' two sacramental actions, is not an appropriate method for observing the Lord's Supper."  Our committee recommended that we answer this overture in the negative.  However, again, there was a minority report with a recommendation of its own.  That recommendation was to amend the change that would affect the BCO.  It would then read, "As Christ instituted the Lord's Supper in two sacramental actions, the communicants are to eat the bread and drink the cup in separate actions."  This recommendation passed, became the main motion, and was passed as well.  It will now go back to the presbyteries to be voted on there and then return again to next year's General Assembly in Greenville, South Carolina. 

All in all, I was again encouraged by the work of the PCA church at our 40th GA.  While we are far from perfect, while there are still times when one might cringe at what's said at a microphone, and while we have much to learn in loving the brethren, I do believe that we are striving to be faithful to the Word of God and faithfully apply that Word to faith and life.  We take seriously the Word of God and desire to love Christ and His people.  We seek to exegete the Scriptures, our people, our culture, and our times.  Sometimes we do that more faithfully than others.  But I do believe that we all seek to do so. 

Pray for God's continued blessing upon the Presbyterian Church in America.

This post is part of the 2012 general assembly series (click to view the other posts in this series).