Review of the Ad-Interim Committee’s Report On Women Serving In The Ministry Of The Church

My suggestion is that the Assembly thank the committee for its work and send the report to the Presbyteries for study. The report establishes guidelines for in-depth discussion. If there are any substantive actions to be taken, they must come from the Presbyteries. Because, even if the report is adopted, it would have no binding significance.

 

The issue of men’s and women’s respective and complementary roles in the life of the church is one that has invited perennial controversy. Sadly, that integral feature of mankind which God has designed as a great gift to His creation (see Genesis 2:18-25) has been a cause for disruption in the church in our day. The denomination of which I am a part – the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) – has recognized that there is a widespread confusion and dissatisfaction with regard to how gender roles are understood in modern evangelicalism, and rightly so. Evangelicals seem to be confused about what the Bible teaches about the roles of men and women in the life of the church.

The 44th General Assembly of the PCA decided to address this confusion by forming an Ad Interim Committee on Women Serving in the Ministry of the Church. As we prepare to come together June 12-16, 2017 to evaluate and discuss the report from this committee, many dear friends and former students of mine have asked me to produce an article with my response.

I write this article, as many will recognize, as one who was opposed to the appointment of the Ad Interim Committee on Women Serving in The Ministry of The Church. I continue to think that the appointment of the committee was wrong on procedural grounds, even if well intentioned. Nevertheless, I thank the committee for its diligent work and desire to root its work in biblical exegesis and the historical practice of the Church. I also appreciate the pastoral tone of the report.

For the most part, I do not take exception to the committee’s exegetical work. I would, however, like to point out a few concerns. My first concern is with the sections dealing with women in the Old and New Testaments. With regard to the women in the Old Testament, the report draws certain conclusions that do not seem to be warranted by the text. For example, with regard to Huldah (2 Kg. 22:14-20) the report claims: “Huldah did not decree a course of action, but she proposed the course that king and nation followed” (Line 27, 28 page 2410). What evidence is there in the text that she proposed a course of action? Or as the report states with respect to women prophets: “However, they did serve as gifted leaders and teachers. Some had an exceptional ability to navigate situations wisely and train others to do the same. Huldah, Zipporah, Miriam, and Esther testify to the God-given talent and leadership ability of women in the Lord’s church” (Line 18-21 page 2410). Do the references to these women warrant such a broad-sweeping conclusion?

With respect to women prophesying in the New Testament, it would be helpful to note the distinction that John Owen made between the office of prophet and the gift of prophecy (Owen IV. 451, 452). The office of prophet, Eph. 2:20; 4:11, was an authoritative office in the church possessed only by men.  It was only said of women that they prophesied (Acts 21:9; 1 Cor. 11:5). If a woman prophesied, she was a receptacle of God’s message and offered no comment. In 1 Cor. 14:29, Paul referred to the office of prophet. Hence, women would not be among those listed in verses 30-33. As to the prohibition in 1 Cor. 14:34, 35 for women to keep silent, the report says the prohibition applies only to preaching or passing judgment on prophecies (line 8 page 2416). The prohibition, however, seems much broader: “The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves just as the Law also says (see 1 Tim. 2:13, 14). If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.” The word “improper is “shameful” or “disgraceful.” Asking husbands at home does not fit with passing judgment, nor would passing judgment by itself be shameful. Paul seems to prohibit any public speaking in worship apart from prophesying (in which the woman is only a receptacle for the Spirit) or unison speaking or singing.  Paul’s referenced to the law is unpacked in 1 Tim. 2:13, 14. Moreover, one should interpret 1 Corinthians 14:34, 35 in light of Paul’s clear prohibition in Timothy. 2:11, 12 for a woman “to remain quiet.”

I appreciate the report’s dealing with 1 Tim. 2:11-15. However, line 22, 23 page 2418 is unguarded: “Paul sometimes lets women teach men. He permitted female prophets to speak in Corinth and listed female coworkers.” The first part is true, if one distinguishes informal teaching, like Priscilla and Aquila, but where does Paul allow a woman to teach a man in a formal setting?  As to the second part, as is pointed out above, the New Testament does not refer to a woman as a prophet.

As to the grounds of Paul’s injunction, I would have liked to see the report deal with verse 14, where Paul gave as his second ground that the woman was deceived. There seems to be a direct correlation between Paul’s injunction and the woman being deceived. (Read more on an interpretation I offer of this in another recent article). Moreover, there is a hint in verse 15, reinforced by verse 10, as well as Titus 2:3-5 and Mk. 15:41, that a woman’s primary role in the church is domestic, including teaching women and children, counseling women and children, serving, and assisting deacons.

The report does a very good job with 1 Tim. 3:11, although I wish they did not use the word deacon and women deacons in the narrative for the work of women. A reference to female deacons in the context of this report is not useful (line18 page 2427).

With respect to chapter four, encouraging a robust and gracious complementarian practice, I would have liked the committee to affirm that the wife’s calling is to be a helper corresponding to the need of her husband, with a robust endorsement of a married woman’s unique role in the home and thus her domestic role in the congregation (see 1Timothy 2:15).

Although approving a good portion of the exegesis, I have serious problems with several of the recommendations. I appreciate the pastoral tone of number 2, but it ignores the fact that there are some congregations in the PCA that are violating our standards: some churches are commissioning female deacons in a manner that is impossible to distinguish from ordination (reported on the floor of the 44th Assembly), and others are allowing women exhort in public worship. Moreover, in the blogosphere, some PCA women are pressing for ordination. It would be useful for the report to specifically and formally address and recommend that the Assembly prohibit these activities. In fact, a more thorough development of the arguments for male office bearers also would have been helpful.

Recommendation 3 goes against our historic commitment that we govern the church at presbytery and General Assembly levels by committees made up of ruling and teaching elders and not Boards or Agencies. I think the recommended overture is contrary to our founding principles. Surely women may and should serve on committees of the local church. Furthermore, they may serve as advisors for committees of Presbyteries and General Assembly. But there seems to be no warrant to place them in authoritative non-ordained positions at presbytery and General Assembly.

I concur with recommendations 4 and 6, although I find no biblical warrant for commissioning.

I think recommendation 5 is ill advised for two reasons: First, it does not consider the regulative principle of worship as to what should go into a worship service. Second, I think Scripture teaches that only ordained men and men being prepared for ministry are to have any leadership in worship (praying, reading scripture, administering the Lord’s Supper). I lay out the exegesis for this in my article mentioned above.

I am opposed to recommendation 7. The only grounds offered are the practice of the PCUSA in 1938.  That denomination was well on the road to theological Liberalism at that time. Where is the Reformed historical and exegetical warrant for such a practice? In connection, I would never encourage a woman to get a M.Div. degree (line 20 page 2457). Moreover, with so many impoverished seminary students preparing for the ministry, it seems that the church’s priority ought to be to finance their training.

In recommendation 8, why single out women? The church should affirm all underprivileged members and use their gifts (James 2:1-7).

My desire to keep this response brief is not a reflection of my view as to its importance. Rather, I think – as I hope the content of my remarks make clear – that this is a crucial issue and worthy of discussion and clarification.  I pray that these remarks contribute to further discussion of this important issue.

My suggestion is that the Assembly thank the committee for its work and send the report to the Presbyteries for study. The report establishes guidelines for in-depth discussion. If there are any substantive actions to be taken, they must come from the Presbyteries. Because, even if the report is adopted, it would have no binding significance. Moreover, if studied by the Presbyteries, Ruling Elders will be able to be involved in the discussion and any subsequent actions taken.

Dr. Joseph A. Pipa is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and is President of Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Taylors, SC. This article is used with permission.

The post Review of the Ad-Interim Committee’s Report On Women Serving In The Ministry Of The Church appeared first on The Aquila Report.

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Review of the Ad-Interim Committee’s Report On Women Serving In The Ministry Of The Church

My suggestion is that the Assembly thank the committee for its work and send the report to the Presbyteries for study. The report establishes guidelines for in-depth discussion. If there are any substantive actions to be taken, they must come from the Presbyteries. Because, even if the report is adopted, it would have no binding significance.
 
The issue of men’s and women’s respective and complementary roles in the life of the church is one that has invited perennial controversy. Sadly, that integral feature of mankind which God has designed as a great gift to His creation (see Genesis 2:18-25) has been a cause for disruption in the church in our day. The denomination of which I am a part – the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) – has recognized that there is a widespread confusion and dissatisfaction with regard to how gender roles are understood in modern evangelicalism, and rightly so. Evangelicals seem to be confused about what the Bible teaches about the roles of men and women in the life of the church.
The 44th General Assembly of the PCA decided to address this confusion by forming an Ad Interim Committee on Women Serving in the Ministry of the Church. As we prepare to come together June 12-16, 2017 to evaluate and discuss the report from this committee, many dear friends and former students of mine have asked me to produce an article with my response.
I write this article, as many will recognize, as one who was opposed to the appointment of the Ad Interim Committee on Women Serving in The Ministry of The Church. I continue to think that the appointment of the committee was wrong on procedural grounds, even if well intentioned. Nevertheless, I thank the committee for its diligent work and desire to root its work in biblical exegesis and the historical practice of the Church. I also appreciate the pastoral tone of the report.
For the most part, I do not take exception to the committee’s exegetical work. I would, however, like to point out a few concerns. My first concern is with the sections dealing with women in the Old and New Testaments. With regard to the women in the Old Testament, the report draws certain conclusions that do not seem to be warranted by the text. For example, with regard to Huldah (2 Kg. 22:14-20) the report claims: “Huldah did not decree a course of action, but she proposed the course that king and nation followed” (Line 27, 28 page 2410). What evidence is there in the text that she proposed a course of action? Or as the report states with respect to women prophets: “However, they did serve as gifted leaders and teachers. Some had an exceptional ability to navigate situations wisely and train others to do the same. Huldah, Zipporah, Miriam, and Esther testify to the God-given talent and leadership ability of women in the Lord’s church” (Line 18-21 page 2410). Do the references to these women warrant such a broad-sweeping conclusion?
With respect to women prophesying in the New Testament, it would be helpful to note the distinction that John Owen made between the office of prophet and the gift of prophecy (Owen IV. 451, 452). The office of prophet, Eph. 2:20; 4:11, was an authoritative office in the church possessed only by men.  It was only said of women that they prophesied (Acts 21:9; 1 Cor. 11:5). If a woman prophesied, she was a receptacle of God’s message and offered no comment. In 1 Cor. 14:29, Paul referred to the office of prophet. Hence, women would not be among those listed in verses 30-33. As to the prohibition in 1 Cor. 14:34, 35 for women to keep silent, the report says the prohibition applies only to preaching or passing judgment on prophecies (line 8 page 2416). The prohibition, however, seems much broader: “The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves just as the Law also says (see 1 Tim. 2:13, 14). If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.” The word “improper is “shameful” or “disgraceful.” Asking husbands at home does not fit with passing judgment, nor would passing judgment by itself be shameful. Paul seems to prohibit any public speaking in worship apart from prophesying (in which the woman is only a receptacle for the Spirit) or unison speaking or singing.  Paul’s referenced to the law is unpacked in 1 Tim. 2:13, 14. Moreover, one should interpret 1 Corinthians 14:34, 35 in light of Paul’s clear prohibition in Timothy. 2:11, 12 for a woman “to remain quiet.”
I appreciate the report’s dealing with 1 Tim. 2:11-15. However, line 22, 23 page 2418 is unguarded: “Paul sometimes lets women teach men. He permitted female prophets to speak in Corinth and listed female coworkers.” The first part is true, if one distinguishes informal teaching, like Priscilla and Aquila, but where does Paul allow a woman to teach a man in a formal setting?  As to the second part, as is pointed out above, the New Testament does not refer to a woman as a prophet.
As to the grounds of Paul’s injunction, I would have liked to see the report deal with verse 14, where Paul gave as his second ground that the woman was deceived. There seems to be a direct correlation between Paul’s injunction and the woman being deceived. (Read more on an interpretation I offer of this in another recent article). Moreover, there is a hint in verse 15, reinforced by verse 10, as well as Titus 2:3-5 and Mk. 15:41, that a woman’s primary role in the church is domestic, including teaching women and children, counseling women and children, serving, and assisting deacons.
The report does a very good job with 1 Tim. 3:11, although I wish they did not use the word deacon and women deacons in the narrative for the work of women. A reference to female deacons in the context of this report is not useful (line18 page 2427).
With respect to chapter four, encouraging a robust and gracious complementarian practice, I would have liked the committee to affirm that the wife’s calling is to be a helper corresponding to the need of her husband, with a robust endorsement of a married woman’s unique role in the home and thus her domestic role in the congregation (see 1Timothy 2:15).
Although approving a good portion of the exegesis, I have serious problems with several of the recommendations. I appreciate the pastoral tone of number 2, but it ignores the fact that there are some congregations in the PCA that are violating our standards: some churches are commissioning female deacons in a manner that is impossible to distinguish from ordination (reported on the floor of the 44th Assembly), and others are allowing women exhort in public worship. Moreover, in the blogosphere, some PCA women are pressing for ordination. It would be useful for the report to specifically and formally address and recommend that the Assembly prohibit these activities. In fact, a more thorough development of the arguments for male office bearers also would have been helpful.
Recommendation 3 goes against our historic commitment that we govern the church at presbytery and General Assembly levels by committees made up of ruling and teaching elders and not Boards or Agencies. I think the recommended overture is contrary to our founding principles. Surely women may and should serve on committees of the local church. Furthermore, they may serve as advisors for committees of Presbyteries and General Assembly. But there seems to be no warrant to place them in authoritative non-ordained positions at presbytery and General Assembly.
I concur with recommendations 4 and 6, although I find no biblical warrant for commissioning.
I think recommendation 5 is ill advised for two reasons: First, it does not consider the regulative principle of worship as to what should go into a worship service. Second, I think Scripture teaches that only ordained men and men being prepared for ministry are to have any leadership in worship (praying, reading scripture, administering the Lord’s Supper). I lay out the exegesis for this in my article mentioned above.
I am opposed to recommendation 7. The only grounds offered are the practice of the PCUSA in 1938.  That denomination was well on the road to theological Liberalism at that time. Where is the Reformed historical and exegetical warrant for such a practice? In connection, I would never encourage a woman to get a M.Div. degree (line 20 page 2457). Moreover, with so many impoverished seminary students preparing for the ministry, it seems that the church’s priority ought to be to finance their training.
In recommendation 8, why single out women? The church should affirm all underprivileged members and use their gifts (James 2:1-7).
My desire to keep this response brief is not a reflection of my view as to its importance. Rather, I think – as I hope the content of my remarks make clear – that this is a crucial issue and worthy of discussion and clarification.  I pray that these remarks contribute to further discussion of this important issue.
My suggestion is that the Assembly thank the committee for its work and send the report to the Presbyteries for study. The report establishes guidelines for in-depth discussion. If there are any substantive actions to be taken, they must come from the Presbyteries. Because, even if the report is adopted, it would have no binding significance. Moreover, if studied by the Presbyteries, Ruling Elders will be able to be involved in the discussion and any subsequent actions taken.
Dr. Joseph A. Pipa is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and is President of Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Taylors, SC. This article is used with permission.
The post Review of the Ad-Interim Committee’s Report On Women Serving In The Ministry Of The Church appeared first on The Aquila Report.

Slow to Speak

I realize that we all do not agree on every issue in the PCA. I even realize that there are sharp disagreements about significant matters in the PCA. But it would do us all well to remember that in the midst of our disagreement, we are brothers. The belief that Jesus Christ is fully God, or that God is the Author of the authoritative and sufficient Scriptures, or that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone is not up for grabs. To understand that does not make us milquetoast, indecisive men. Paul and Barnabas disagreed so sharply that they could no longer work closely together in ministry (Acts 15:39). But neither Paul nor Barnabas viewed the other as the equivalent of a Pharisee, or a Roman centurion. We can, and should (yea, must!) disagree without viewing our “opponents” as those who wish to destroy the Church or abandon Jesus. GA is a meeting of the Church of Jesus Christ, and we should treat it as such.

 

It’s that time of year again for the Presbyterian Church in American (PCA)—summer is here and General Assembly (GA) is upon us. GA is the annual gathering of pastors (Teaching Elders or TEs) and elders (Ruling Elders or REs) that serves as a meeting of the entire Church, an opportunity for friends to catch up, and a convention where a variety of ministries connect with people. I have been attending GA since 2001 (in Dallas), first as a Ruling Elder, and after 2006, as a Teaching Elder. Over the course of those many years, I have noticed a continued and disturbing trend at GA: the tenor and tone of discourse is often unbecoming of a church gathering. I wonder what many would think if the media actually covered our GA and published extensive quotes from our debates? Now let me be clear, I am not saying that men should not vigorously discuss important issues, or that we should not seek to sharpen each other using Scripture. I am saying that we need to be wise in our speech, no less than if we were speaking to our congregation from the pulpit or in a congregational meeting. Wisdom, discretion, and patience are important qualities for a churchman.

Learn Before You Teach

Let me start with a principle that might seem obvious, but my observation of GA teaches me otherwise: you need to learn before you can teach. What that means is that if you are a young man at his first GA or two, you really should not be quick to jump up to the microphone to share all your insights. This is not because every man just needs to wait his turn or navigate some hazing ritual, but the best way to develop skill and to understand how to be effective speaking at GA is to watch and learn. This is the biblical principle expressed in James 1:19, “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak.” Far too often, new commissioners (especially young pastors) believe that they have a burden to immediately correct the problems and errors in the PCA. What most do not realize is that they do not know the way that arguments have been conducted in the past, or why certain polity structures are the way they are. They have no experience with past debates, and they have not heard what the more experienced, wise elders have expressed on a given topic. Think about it this way: how would you like it if a stranger came into your congregation and at a meeting immediately tried to tell you what your church should do, without having any background or experience with your church’s life and ministry? I would encourage newer commissioners to watch and learn and to trust the Lord that there will be other more experienced commissioners who will make the point you wanted to make.

Remember Where You Are

If you do speak, an important consideration is to remember where you are. You are not in a town hall meeting. You are not in a debate with an atheist. You are not even at a community gathering of various denominations of Christians. You are at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America. You are among fellow elders, men who have made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ, who have been nominated, trained, and elected to serve the Lord in their congregations, and who have taken a vow “faithfully to perform all the duties [of an elder], and to endeavor by the grace of God to adorn the profession of the Gospel in your life, and to set a worthy example before the Church” (BCO 24-6, vow #4). I realize that we all do not agree on every issue in the PCA. I even realize that there are sharp disagreements about significant matters in the PCA. But it would do us all well to remember that in the midst of our disagreement, we are brothers. The belief that Jesus Christ is fully God, or that God is the Author of the authoritative and sufficient Scriptures, or that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone is not up for grabs. To understand that does not make us milquetoast, indecisive men. Paul and Barnabas disagreed so sharply that they could no longer work closely together in ministry (Acts 15:39). But neither Paul nor Barnabas viewed the other as the equivalent of a Pharisee, or a Roman centurion. We can, and should (yea, must!) disagree without viewing our “opponents” as those who wish to destroy the Church or abandon Jesus. GA is a meeting of the Church of Jesus Christ, and we should treat it as such.

To Whom Are You Speaking?

At the same time that we realize that GA is gathering of not only Christians, but Presbyterian Christians, we cannot help but see that there are issues that divide us.

Read More

The post Slow to Speak appeared first on The Aquila Report.

Slow to Speak

I realize that we all do not agree on every issue in the PCA. I even realize that there are sharp disagreements about significant matters in the PCA. But it would do us all well to remember that in the midst of our disagreement, we are brothers. The belief that Jesus Christ is fully God, or that God is the Author of the authoritative and sufficient Scriptures, or that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone is not up for grabs. To understand that does not make us milquetoast, indecisive men. Paul and Barnabas disagreed so sharply that they could no longer work closely together in ministry (Acts 15:39). But neither Paul nor Barnabas viewed the other as the equivalent of a Pharisee, or a Roman centurion. We can, and should (yea, must!) disagree without viewing our “opponents” as those who wish to destroy the Church or abandon Jesus. GA is a meeting of the Church of Jesus Christ, and we should treat it as such.
 
It’s that time of year again for the Presbyterian Church in American (PCA)—summer is here and General Assembly (GA) is upon us. GA is the annual gathering of pastors (Teaching Elders or TEs) and elders (Ruling Elders or REs) that serves as a meeting of the entire Church, an opportunity for friends to catch up, and a convention where a variety of ministries connect with people. I have been attending GA since 2001 (in Dallas), first as a Ruling Elder, and after 2006, as a Teaching Elder. Over the course of those many years, I have noticed a continued and disturbing trend at GA: the tenor and tone of discourse is often unbecoming of a church gathering. I wonder what many would think if the media actually covered our GA and published extensive quotes from our debates? Now let me be clear, I am not saying that men should not vigorously discuss important issues, or that we should not seek to sharpen each other using Scripture. I am saying that we need to be wise in our speech, no less than if we were speaking to our congregation from the pulpit or in a congregational meeting. Wisdom, discretion, and patience are important qualities for a churchman.
Learn Before You Teach
Let me start with a principle that might seem obvious, but my observation of GA teaches me otherwise: you need to learn before you can teach. What that means is that if you are a young man at his first GA or two, you really should not be quick to jump up to the microphone to share all your insights. This is not because every man just needs to wait his turn or navigate some hazing ritual, but the best way to develop skill and to understand how to be effective speaking at GA is to watch and learn. This is the biblical principle expressed in James 1:19, “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak.” Far too often, new commissioners (especially young pastors) believe that they have a burden to immediately correct the problems and errors in the PCA. What most do not realize is that they do not know the way that arguments have been conducted in the past, or why certain polity structures are the way they are. They have no experience with past debates, and they have not heard what the more experienced, wise elders have expressed on a given topic. Think about it this way: how would you like it if a stranger came into your congregation and at a meeting immediately tried to tell you what your church should do, without having any background or experience with your church’s life and ministry? I would encourage newer commissioners to watch and learn and to trust the Lord that there will be other more experienced commissioners who will make the point you wanted to make.
Remember Where You Are
If you do speak, an important consideration is to remember where you are. You are not in a town hall meeting. You are not in a debate with an atheist. You are not even at a community gathering of various denominations of Christians. You are at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America. You are among fellow elders, men who have made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ, who have been nominated, trained, and elected to serve the Lord in their congregations, and who have taken a vow “faithfully to perform all the duties [of an elder], and to endeavor by the grace of God to adorn the profession of the Gospel in your life, and to set a worthy example before the Church” (BCO 24-6, vow #4). I realize that we all do not agree on every issue in the PCA. I even realize that there are sharp disagreements about significant matters in the PCA. But it would do us all well to remember that in the midst of our disagreement, we are brothers. The belief that Jesus Christ is fully God, or that God is the Author of the authoritative and sufficient Scriptures, or that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone is not up for grabs. To understand that does not make us milquetoast, indecisive men. Paul and Barnabas disagreed so sharply that they could no longer work closely together in ministry (Acts 15:39). But neither Paul nor Barnabas viewed the other as the equivalent of a Pharisee, or a Roman centurion. We can, and should (yea, must!) disagree without viewing our “opponents” as those who wish to destroy the Church or abandon Jesus. GA is a meeting of the Church of Jesus Christ, and we should treat it as such.
To Whom Are You Speaking?
At the same time that we realize that GA is gathering of not only Christians, but Presbyterian Christians, we cannot help but see that there are issues that divide us.
Read More
The post Slow to Speak appeared first on The Aquila Report.

The Godly Commissioner

A serious problem arises, however, when networks and partnerships constituted of PCA teaching and ruling elders go beyond public and transparent ministry to private meetings and ecclesiastical intrigues for the purpose of winning votes and transforming the denomination. If a real time, vote-by-vote, running conversation on the assembly floor becomes a regular practice by denominational networks, then men will inevitably vote their “party” rather than their conscience. This, of course, cannot be healthy for the future of the PCA. And, in time, it would create a party system inimical to biblical unity.

 

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” The well-known opening line from Dickens’ classic 19th-century novel, A Tale of Two Cities, might also be applied to the Presbyterian Church in America’s (PCA) annual General Assembly. In many ways, the annual gathering is the best of times. Friendships are renewed and made, unity is fostered, truth is championed, and Christ is exalted through the worship, business, and fellowship of the church. But the assembly can also be the worst of times. Brothers in Christ are vilified, positions are mischaracterized, unity is compromised, and charity is neutralized under a nasty cloud of cynicism and pride. Called to be godly examples to the flock (1 Pet. 5:3; BCO 21-5), we sometimes exhibit attitudes and behavior at the assembly that would perplex our congregations back home. If we are not careful, our politics can eclipse our piety. The General Assembly can bring out the best in us; but if we are honest, it can also bring out the worst.

As I was recently thinking about this year’s 45th PCA General Assembly, it occurred to me that a little encouragement might be in order for those of us who will serve as commissioners. The following are five characteristics that we would all do well to display this June in Greensboro.

1. Sincere Humility

Humility is the golden grace of the Christian life. It’s the fruit of walking closely with Jesus. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is humility. Moreover, humility counts others more significant than ourselves and is antithetical to selfish ambition and ecclesiastical oneupmanship. Humility is Christlikeness (Phil. 2:1–11). Therefore, as we approach this year’s assembly, may we remember the divine directive to “clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet. 5:5). As blood-bought sinners saved by sovereign grace, may our interactions on and off the assembly floor exhibit a spirit of sincere humility (Rom. 12:3).

2. Loving Charity

One thing I have noticed in past assemblies is a lack of charity among the brethren. I suspect we’ve all seen it, and have all participated in it in one way or another. It comes out in audacious ad hominemattacks during debate on the assembly floor and, perhaps more predominantly, in private conversations over coffee in the exhibition hall. We can think the worst of those we disagree with on key denominational issues, rather than giving them the benefit of the doubt and treating them as cherished brothers for whom Christ died. Uncharitable assumptions sow the seeds of bitterness, contempt, and disunity, and they should have no place in our beloved denomination. Strong, and even passionate, disagreements over theology, polity, and confessional fidelity will likely be a part of this and every other future assembly. Even so, loving charity must always rule our hearts and inform our words. It is the way of Christ (John 13:34).

3. Complete Transparency

The PCA has sometimes been described as a “big tent” under which there exists differing perspectives on the application of the Reformed Confession to ministry and life. It’s widely recognized that PCA churches sometimes differ on approaches to worship, mission, discipleship, women in ministry, ecumenism, and other matters. It’s really no surprise, then, that various networks and partnerships have emerged that seek to lead the PCA in one direction or another, especially as it pertains to the philosophy of ministry and mission. This is all a very natural part of denominational life. When carried out openly and publicly, these networks and partnerships can be beneficial. Indeed, they can help make the PCA a dynamic environment for honest and challenging dialogue about ministry. The resources that flow from these various organizations within the PCA can challenge our approaches to ministry in healthy ways, even if we may agree to disagree on the “non-essentials.” We all have weaknesses and blind spots and can learn from one another.

Read More

The post The Godly Commissioner appeared first on The Aquila Report.

The Godly Commissioner

A serious problem arises, however, when networks and partnerships constituted of PCA teaching and ruling elders go beyond public and transparent ministry to private meetings and ecclesiastical intrigues for the purpose of winning votes and transforming the denomination. If a real time, vote-by-vote, running conversation on the assembly floor becomes a regular practice by denominational networks, then men will inevitably vote their “party” rather than their conscience. This, of course, cannot be healthy for the future of the PCA. And, in time, it would create a party system inimical to biblical unity.
 
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” The well-known opening line from Dickens’ classic 19th-century novel, A Tale of Two Cities, might also be applied to the Presbyterian Church in America’s (PCA) annual General Assembly. In many ways, the annual gathering is the best of times. Friendships are renewed and made, unity is fostered, truth is championed, and Christ is exalted through the worship, business, and fellowship of the church. But the assembly can also be the worst of times. Brothers in Christ are vilified, positions are mischaracterized, unity is compromised, and charity is neutralized under a nasty cloud of cynicism and pride. Called to be godly examples to the flock (1 Pet. 5:3; BCO 21-5), we sometimes exhibit attitudes and behavior at the assembly that would perplex our congregations back home. If we are not careful, our politics can eclipse our piety. The General Assembly can bring out the best in us; but if we are honest, it can also bring out the worst.
As I was recently thinking about this year’s 45th PCA General Assembly, it occurred to me that a little encouragement might be in order for those of us who will serve as commissioners. The following are five characteristics that we would all do well to display this June in Greensboro.
1. Sincere Humility
Humility is the golden grace of the Christian life. It’s the fruit of walking closely with Jesus. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is humility. Moreover, humility counts others more significant than ourselves and is antithetical to selfish ambition and ecclesiastical oneupmanship. Humility is Christlikeness (Phil. 2:1–11). Therefore, as we approach this year’s assembly, may we remember the divine directive to “clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet. 5:5). As blood-bought sinners saved by sovereign grace, may our interactions on and off the assembly floor exhibit a spirit of sincere humility (Rom. 12:3).
2. Loving Charity
One thing I have noticed in past assemblies is a lack of charity among the brethren. I suspect we’ve all seen it, and have all participated in it in one way or another. It comes out in audacious ad hominemattacks during debate on the assembly floor and, perhaps more predominantly, in private conversations over coffee in the exhibition hall. We can think the worst of those we disagree with on key denominational issues, rather than giving them the benefit of the doubt and treating them as cherished brothers for whom Christ died. Uncharitable assumptions sow the seeds of bitterness, contempt, and disunity, and they should have no place in our beloved denomination. Strong, and even passionate, disagreements over theology, polity, and confessional fidelity will likely be a part of this and every other future assembly. Even so, loving charity must always rule our hearts and inform our words. It is the way of Christ (John 13:34).
3. Complete Transparency
The PCA has sometimes been described as a “big tent” under which there exists differing perspectives on the application of the Reformed Confession to ministry and life. It’s widely recognized that PCA churches sometimes differ on approaches to worship, mission, discipleship, women in ministry, ecumenism, and other matters. It’s really no surprise, then, that various networks and partnerships have emerged that seek to lead the PCA in one direction or another, especially as it pertains to the philosophy of ministry and mission. This is all a very natural part of denominational life. When carried out openly and publicly, these networks and partnerships can be beneficial. Indeed, they can help make the PCA a dynamic environment for honest and challenging dialogue about ministry. The resources that flow from these various organizations within the PCA can challenge our approaches to ministry in healthy ways, even if we may agree to disagree on the “non-essentials.” We all have weaknesses and blind spots and can learn from one another.
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