Exit Strategy: How One Church Left the PCA

I applaud the men of Reformed Presbyterian Church (GRPC) in Greeneville, Tennessee. They recently led their church out of the PCA with a congregational vote that was unanimous. They recount the reasons why they did so in an article on The Aquila Report where they answered Honorably Retired pastor Larry Ball’s article about their departure. TE Ball wrote saying that the church should have consulted with the presbytery before doing voting to leave the denomination. The elders of GRPC reported that they did consult with other members of the presbytery, but did not consult with the presbytery itself. Then they gave their reasons for leaving.

They didn’t leave because their presbytery was at fault (the reasons many churches actually leave). They were members of Westminster Presbytery, a more confessional presbytery. They left because of the actions of the General Assembly over that past several years, which is cause enough for a church to leave the PCA.

Here are a few of the reasons they cited:

  1. The PCA in recent years has become more focused on becoming a social justice denomination, rather than being a biblically based denomination. The PCA seems to be more focused on being politically correct than being biblically correct. An example is the Racial Reconciliation Committee that had been erected by the PCA. At the 2016 GA, the PCA repented of past and present sins of racial discrimination within the denomination and started a study committee to stop racial discrimination. In our many years of service in the PCA we have never seen or heard of racial discrimination in the PCA, and no specific examples were provided directly related to the PCA. GRPC seeks to bring all nations and peoples to Christ as Matthew 28:19-20 declares. We also seek to have fellowship with all, but the means by which this is done is through the proclamation and teaching of the Word of Christ (Romans 10: 12-17).

  2. There is an unbiblical view of women in ministry in the PCA. The 2016 GA erected a study committee on women in ministry in the PCA. This study committee had no ruling elders on it while several un-ordained females served on the committee – remember this was to study what the Biblical truth is about women in ministry. It seems the goal was to give the appearance of fairness rather than to seek the true teaching of Scripture.

  3. The PCA adopted the report at the past GA with several alarming effects. Let us just mention a few:

  • Sessions, presbyteries, and the GA should be using qualified women in all sorts of roles, and sending overtures that would allow women to serve on committees and agencies (previously only open to elders, and in some cases, deacons);

  • That Sessions consider how to include non-ordained men and women in the worship of the church;

  • That the PCA begin the process of creating an office that everyone agrees is not to be found anywhere in Scripture, namely that of “commissioned church worker.” When we do, we will no longer be able to say that our polity is derived solely from the principles found in Scripture;

  • That Sessions, Presbyteries and the GA consider how they can affirm and include underprivileged and underrepresented women in the PCA.

They list several more reasons as well, but you get the idea. The GA of the PCA is going rogue. I know that many in the PCA think they can stem the tide, but I believe the horse was already out of the barn once they have moved away from “strict subscription” to “good-faith subscription.” Strict subscription holds one accountable to what the Westminster Confession actually says. The second position allows you to take as many exceptions to the standards as you want. I know of one pastor in the PCA who boasts of taking 12 exceptions to the WCF. (Let those words sink in for a moment.)  If you can take 12 exceptions and still be in good standing, then taking any vows at all to uphold the WCF is meaningless. Given that, the purity of the PCA will continue to erode.

With GRPC’s departure, and the other church that they mention, that is four churches that I know of that have left the PCA since the first of the year. Two of the churches that have left, have done so because of the actions of their presbyteries. Both churches felt that their presbyteries no longer served them, or were concerned with them. For some presbyteries, their main concern has become The Presbytery, their image with the world, and making sure every one is on board with The Presbytery’s progressive views. In other words, they no longer care for Christ’s reputation and His word. They have become wise in their own eyes.

Given such an attitude on the presbytery level, and the actions of the GA over the past several years, I feel that is enough to justify leaving the PCA. I have talked with other pastors before, and they seem to be waiting for a magic moment to occur before they lead their churches out of the PCA. I think, with the actions of the GA, that the magic moment has come and gone. The denomination will only continue to degrade, especially given the fact that more and more confessional bodies are leaving.

The simplicity of departure from the PCA has astonished those presbyters ignorant of their own Book of Church Order.  If the session of the church, and a majority of the congregation agree that it is time to leave, the steps that need to be taken in accordance with the BCO, the PCA’s own constitution, are as follows:

  1. Call a congregational meeting at least 10 days in advance, with the stated purpose to vote to withdraw from the denomination.
  2. With a quorum present, vote to withdraw. The vote only has to be a majority of the quorum.
  3. Notify the presbytery that the congregation has voted to leave, effective immediately.

At that point, the congregation is no longer a member of the PCA. The PCA has no say in the matter at all. When the denomination was founded, they were founded on the principle of free association, therefore the rules were written in such a manner that a congregation could leave at any time without any interference from the presbytery. I know that might come as a shock to some of the pastors in the PCA, given that so few actually know their own constitution. But it’s true. It is very simple to leave the PCA. To help you see that, let me quote from BCO 25-11, which deals with this matter:

Particular churches need remain in association with any court of this body only so long as they themselves so desire. The relationship is voluntary, based upon mutual love and confidence, and is in no sense to be maintained by the exercise of any force or coercion whatsoever. A particular church may withdraw from any court of this body at any time for reasons which seem to it sufficient.

Since the relationship is voluntary, and based on mutual love and confidence, if those things are lacking, the body should not worry about leaving. If a congregation no longer has confidence in its presbytery, or in the denomination, they are free to go. It’s that simple.

Congregations need to know that they do have the freedom to leave the PCA at any time. The PCA is not like the PCUSA in which the denomination owns the property. That was always one of the tenants of the PCA, each church owns it’s own property. Therefore, they are free and clear to leave at any time for any reason.