Reflections – 2014.07
Last week I attended the 42nd PCA General Assembly (GA) in Houston, TX. Thank you for sending Jason and me there to represent you and for praying for us. Here are some highlights from the Assembly this year (you can check in with Jason for more):1) Personal – GA is a time of catching up with old friends from around the country. Ample time is given for this purpose and I was able to enjoy meals and conversations with men who have ministered to me and to my family over the years.2) Worship and Greetings – As I have mentioned in previous years, the worship services each evening are an encouragement. The preaching is Christ-centered and thought provoking, and the singing is, well, 1000 men singing … so it’s enjoyable to be a part of that … During GA, there are also greetings delivered by representatives from other reformed and/or Presbyterian denominations from around the world. These are particularly exciting to me. I am reminded a little of Acts 15, where Paul and Barnabas pass through Phoenicia and Samaria “describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to the brothers.” It is a blessing to hear of the Lord’s work around the world.
3) Resolutions – Throughout the year, resolutions are proposed by different presbyteries within our denomination to be taken up at GA. A full listing of these is on the denomination’s website (from the website, go to ByFaith online – there is a GA link there). Some resolutions are administrative in nature and concern such things as splitting one large Presbytery into two smaller ones. These usually pass fairly quickly. But the bulk of the resolutions are proposed with the desire for the GA to take a firm stand on a particular issue. These usually will lead to a debate on the floor of the assembly. Any commissioner (i.e., an elder with the right to vote) can stand and speak to the issues before the assembly. The assembly tends to make one of two judgments – (1) we have already spoken definitively on this in the past and so we needn’t speak again OR (2) we need to speak (or at least form a committee to study the issue). On the “we needn’t speak again” side of the slate come issues like marriage, the sanctity of life and evolution, as well as some issues that are a bit more specific to our denomination, like Federal Vision and paedocommunion. We have taken views on these in the past. In fact, you can read the positions of the PCA on these and a variety of other issues at www.pcahistory.org (The PCA’s Historical Center – there is a link to PCA position papers). On the “let’s speak” side, we chose to speak against what is called the Insider Movement, which is a particular approach to evangelizing Muslims which the PCA finds dangerous. We approved a resolution related to Child Sexual Abuse, aiming at encouraging diligence in our congregations in the protection of the children the Lord has brought among us. And we approved a resolution to pray for those in our churches who are feeling pressure from the culture of late to conform to its take on marriage and homosexuality. The pressure seems to be particularly acute for chaplains.
4) Seminars – In the morning, before the assembly begins, seminars on a wide variety of topics are offered. I attended two seminars, very different in terms of topic, but both very beneficial. Ellen Dykas from Harvest USA presented a talk entitled, “Gay Identity and Identity in Christ.” Dr. Philip Ryken, president of Wheaton College and former pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, presented a talk entitled something like “Thomas Boston and The Fourfold State of Man” which was an exploration of Boston’s writings on the topic of sanctification. Ryken is a part of the Gospel Reformation Network, which you can check out online. I took notes and if you are interested in either seminar, I could probably (at least for a few more days) give you a decent summary.
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 third year in a row now, I left the Assembly glad that we are a part of the PCA.