Some Reflections on the PCA General Assembly – July 2013
Last week I attended the 41st PCA General Assembly (GA) in Greenville, SC. Thank you for praying for me and for sending me there to represent you. Here are some personal highlights:
1) The boys were able to travel with me and we all stayed with my parents, who live about 45 minutes from the convention center where the Assembly was held. It was great to be able to visit.
2) Lunch and visits with John Sackett and Neal Ganzel … John was the associate pastor at New Covenant when I first became the youth minister there in 1999. Neal was our pastor in Ormond Beach, Florida (Coquina Presbyterian) when we lived there during my final year of seminary. Both men were at the Assembly this year and it was great to catch up on their lives and work.
3) The Worship – there is a worship service every evening at GA, reminding us why we are all at GA in the first place … the singing and musical accompaniment were beautiful, the preaching was outstanding …
4) The Greetings – near the beginning of the Assembly, time is set aside to hear from representatives from other Presbyterian and/or reformed denominations from the US and around the world. This year, representatives from the Reformed Church of the Netherlands, in addition to various US churches (the Reformed Episcopal Church of North America and three other Presbyterian denominations (the OPC, ARP and RPCNA)) addressed the Assembly. I find the reminder that we are a part of a larger Church exciting.
5) And the Work of the Assembly – It was a fairly light Assembly in terms of difficult business to attend to. Significant time is given each year to reports from various committees and commissions (such as Mission to the World, Covenant College, Christian Education and Publications). These tend to be non-controversial and informative in nature. Three items that came up during the reports to the Assembly, however, drew a lot of discussion and debate. One discussion we are currently having denominationally concerns the practice of paedocommunion (defined as being admitted to the Lord’s Table on the basis of baptism alone, without the need of a profession of faith). Although the practice is not allowed in the PCA, there are some PCA pastors and ruling elders who believe it should be (and many who feel quite strongly that it should not). I don’t believe we moved very far on this – there is a muddiness to the issue that has not been resolved, and so it will be back on the table next year for sure. The other issue which we sent back to a study committee for some more work concerned the Insider Movement, which is an evangelical approach to Muslim outreach that uses questionable, even harmful (my opinion) methods in communicating the Gospel. There was lively discussion here and an effort to hear from those who see some favorable elements in the Insider Movement. We will take this up again next year. Finally, a motion was brought up regarding the need for the PCA to have an official approach / statement related to Child Sexual Abuse Policies in the denomination’s churches. Although some effort was made to come up with a clear concise statement on this issue, there just was not enough time, so it too ended up in a committee for discussion next year. I think it would be safe to say that we took the “controversy can” and kicked it to Houston, where the 2014 General Assembly will be held.
Please feel free to ask me any question you would like about the Assembly. Next year, make a point to watch some of it online or read about what is happening on the By Faith website. Become familiar with your denomination. For the second year in a row, I left the Assembly glad that we are a part of the PCA.