For the record, I did not attend the Presbyterian Church in America’s 44th General Assembly, so I really am just trying to discern the tea leaves from what others have written. There are several articles by those who did attend that are particularly troubling. It is from these articles that I get the sense that GA is more concerned with social issues, than with being true to the calling we have in Scripture.
Many of my regular readers know that my contention for the church is that we need to be about the business of being the church, not getting off base by trying to save America, address every social concern, and please the general culture at large. If we focus upon that which we are given, building His kingdom through the preaching of the word, and worshipping Him as He has called us to do, all the rest will fall into place. It is when we think the job of the church is to change the culture, that we fall into the trap that leads to the culture changing us.
So given that, it is quite troubling to see some of the things written about the recent GA. One article that I want to highlight, is by a pastor’s wife who did attend. She wrote the following piece for the Heidleblog entitled: How the PCA GA Action on the Role of Women In the Church Appears to One Woman.
This pastor’s wife does a great job of showing that the premise that is taken by the GA in erecting “another” study committee on women’s role in the church, is based upon a false premise. The false premise is that most women in the PCA are in agony over the fact that they cannot be ordained as deacons, and eventually elders (since the slippery slope always proves to be true in such matters). You may scoff at that statement, but once you start ignoring what Scripture has said on an issue, it’s only a matter of time before you are ignoring Scripture on other issues as well, leading to greater disobedience. And yes, the PCA has studied the issue over and over again, each time coming to the same conclusion: there is no place for the ordination of women as deacons, or elders, in Scripture. (You can read more of this here.)
As for the pastor’s wife noted above, she makes it clear that she doesn’t need to be ordained as a deacon in order to serve the LORD:
This week, as I return to my home church, I return to my various roles: women’s ministries, greeting, hospitality, music, and mercy ministries. I have plenty of roles and I do not need to be ordained or certified to do them. I have value in the church superficially because my husband, the elders, and the congregation respect me for how I am serving them, but ultimately because I am serving my Lord and Savior.
Kudos to her for recognizing that the role she has been given by our LORD, is sufficient for her to serve Him. She doesn’t need a GA telling her that, the Bible has made it clear already. The truth of the matter is that those women who are serving in the church, are not wringing their hands in agony over the reality that they are not being ordained as deacons. They serve because they love the LORD and do not need a title to do so.
Just a side note: the last church I served as pastor actually had women deacons. The church was coming out of a more liberal tradition and moving toward the PCA and I was called there to help guide them in that direction. Every time we had a meeting involved with the deacons, all the women who were ordained as deacons made it clear to me that they were not going to lead, but follow the lead of their husbands, and the session in general. They didn’t want the title, or the ordination.
Back to the 44th GA. The other salient point that the woman above addressed is that the real problem is that the denomination is turning to culture for their marching orders, instead of Scripture.
Faced with moral ambiguity, our nation, among so many others, has turned to a morality of the majority. (I’m pulling this straight from Francis Schaeffer) Whichever law, movement, or organization can get the will of at least 51% of the population shapes the morality of the day. Morality evolves as the bloggers and Facebook posters make their views heard.
This moral evolution reflects a sort of humanism that ever seeks out the next “problem” to root out or allows the next minority to hurl itself into the face of the public. Americans see this evolution as bringing progress. Change is good. Seek what is next. Yes we can. Americans worship anything perceived as progress.
It is not so with God, however. Christian morality is based in God’s word, which endures forever. God’s word is unmovable because God is immutable and unchangeable. The nature of His Word reflects who He is and as followers of Christ, we ought to feel a rub between the moral evolution of our culture and the changeless of our faith.
Here we see the real problem in the GA. It seems that the GA is no longer being lead by Scripture and our calling as a church, as much as they are in going along with the program. As she quotes one presbyter as saying: “These other denominations have done it; isn’t it time we caught up?” it is clear that many of the presbyters have lost their way. They seem to be acting as if culture is the guiding light of what we should become, not Scripture in declaring to us what we already are in Christ, and what we should strive to become in Christ.
By the way, the statement made by that presbyter is really troubling to me. It shows the presbyter’s ignorance on so many levels. He assumes that since others have done it, then we need to do it too, never mind the reality that those denominations that have “done it,” are drying up (and hopefully blowing away soon). The problem is that if the PCA adopts some of the same views as the PCUSA, we won’t last 10 years because we don’t have the numbers that the PCUSA has.
The man’s statement also shows a lack of integrity. The PCA has spoken to this issue over and over again. We are not hiding the fact that we do not ordain women, either as deacon’s or elders. Yet, this man joined the PCA, when his views do not align with the stated views of the PCA, and seeks to change it. Why did he not just join one of the many other denominations if he believes that ordaining women is a need for the church? (Part of this is the fault of the PCA for allowing him to join in the first place. This is because the PCA no longer requires strict-subscription to the Confession. This slippery slope we are on today was predicted back when we changed those requirements).
He joined, as well as others, because they see the PCA as a mover-shaker denomination more than a denomination that holds to Scripture. This is why the issue of ordaining women has come front and center all over again. These men are progressives, and from what I have seen in my own presbytery, they are not interested in what Scripture teaches, or our Confession of Faith, or our Book of Church Order. They are concerned with being players on the cultural scene with a new morality as our guide.
The denomination has already been swayed by culture and, if we continue in this direction, we will become more and more like the very denomination we left back in 1973: the PCUSA. I feel this is exactly what will happen, since we see in church history the rarity of denominations becoming more biblical as they grow older. If you look, you will find the tendency is to become less biblical over time, and eventually apostate. This is always done with the understanding that those making the move away from biblical truth are doing so to become more progressive, more broad in their thinking, more erudite in their beliefs, more “with the program.”
But, as we look at the PCUSA, which leads in these progressive views, they are becoming more irrelevant as a body. One writer pointed out about the 222nd GA of the PCUSA, there was no real press coverage to speak of. As the author noted:
Why did the biennial meeting of the largest Presbyterian denomination in the country garner so little attention? Well, news outlets like extremes and from a worldly perspective, nothing particularly explosive happened. Volatile items of business like that related to Israel and fossil fuels, were answered in measured ways. The so-called “apology overture” in which LGBTQQ advocates were demanding a public and comprehensive apology for harms done in the past, was amended down to a statement of deep regret.
So, from the world’s perspective, little news was made during the eight day meeting that costs more than $33K/hour. But one must also consider the possibility that the lack of media coverage is an indicator of the world’s disinterest in the machinations of a declining denomination wherein the debates are now largely between varying degrees of liberalism.
The PCUSA is becoming a footnote in history. They are becoming just the opposite of what they so wanted to be: relevant. The PCUSA makes no difference at all in the Kingdom of Christ, or the kingdom of man.
Given the PCA’s recent tendency to let culture guide us in our actions, we are following the PCUSA’s lead into obscurity, all in the name of becoming more progressive. So very sad.
I know that there are a lot of men who stand opposed to this slide into irrelevancy. I hope that they can be the voices of biblical reason in the fight. But I fear that the progressives, who are prone to emotionalism and culture, will win the day and the denomination will lose its focus and relevancy for Christ.