Dear Church Family,
The 42nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) was in Houston on June 17-20, 2014. I had previously written to you about five of the items that were going to be discussed, debated, and voted upon at this annual meeting of the highest church court in our denomination. Below, I will try – as simply and succinctly as possible – to describe what conclusions were reached concerning those five items. Before doing that, however, I wanted to share with you a couple of other interesting things that I heard or learned about during my time at General Assembly.
Institute for Creation Research
In addition to the business that is conducted at General Assembly, there is also an exhibit hall with booths from various ministries, colleges, seminaries, and vendors. One of those booths was the Institute for Creation Research (ICR). There, I got to meet Dr. Nathaniel Jeanson, Deputy Director of Life Sciences Research for ICR. One of the things that sets the ICR apart from some other Christian institutions that advocate for a biblical account of creation is in its name: they are Christians who conduct research in the academic world and which is submitted for peer-review.
I was also able to attend a seminar conducted by Dr. Jeanson called, “The Riddle of 6,000 Years: What Does Biology Say About the Date of Creation?” The seminar was excellent, and I recommend the ICR materials found that their website should you be interested to learn more. By the way, you might also be interested to know that ICR is located in Dallas, TX.
Dr. Derek Thomas
One of the highlights of General Assembly for me was to hear Dr. Thomas preach in one of the evening worship services. He preached on the three crucifixions of Galatians 6:14 – “But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” You may view a video of the worship service in which Dr. Thomas preached here (the sermon begins at marker 26:30 of the video).
Also, Dr. Thomas gave a talk during a luncheon hosted by the “Gospel Reformation Network.” His topic was the doctrine of sanctification. Many people are confused today about the doctrine of sanctification or how Christians grow in the likeness of Christ, being enabled more and more to die unto to sin and live unto righteousness (WSC 35). Dr. Thomas’ talk gives helpful corrections to some of the misunderstandings or outright mistakes that one finds espoused today concerning sanctification in the Christian life. His talk is a little less than thirty minutes, and I highly recommend it, as well. It may be viewed here.
Concerning the business of the General Assembly, you may find a detailed account of all that took place in the Stated Clerk’s Report. Here, as promised, is a brief account of the conclusions that were reached in the five items that I addressed previously in my series leading up to the General Assembly.
(1) Child Protection – I previously wrote about this issue here. The General Assembly approved the overtures urging all of the churches in our denomination to take the appropriate steps to protect all of our children from sexual abuse.
(2) Male-only Eldership – I previously wrote about this issue here. Under consideration was an overture to establish a study committee to determine if a candidate for ordination in our denomination could take an exception to the teaching of our Standards with regard to male-only eldership. This General Assembly did not vote to form such a study committee, reasoning that our Standards are already clear on this issue.
(3) Standing Judicial Commission – I previously wrote about this issue here. The Standing Judicial Commission (SJC) is a group of 24 elected ministers and elders which handles all disciplinary matters that rise to the denominational level. Basically, our General Assembly considered amending our constitution so that the decision of the Standing Judicial Commission (SJC) may be reviewed and approved or disapproved by the General Assembly as a whole. The overtures calling to amend our constitution failed. The General Assembly did not approve any suggested amendments to our constitution.
(4) The Insider Movement – I previously wrote about this issue here. Very simply, the Insider Movement is basically an attempt on the part of missiologists and missionaries to seek ‘converts’ to Christ, while those ‘converts’ continue to maintain the forms and practices of their birth and societal religions. The General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the Committee Report on Insider Movements for study in our churches. For my part, this was another highlight and encouraging decision for our General Assembly. To better understand the ramifications and significance of this report, I recommend a recently written synopsis and guide to the report. This synopsis also addresses the dangers which the Insider Movement poses for the Presbyterian Church in Bangladesh.
(5) Theistic Evolution – I previously wrote about this issue here. Under consideration was an overture to warn the officers of our denomination of the dangers of false teachers who promote evolution, undermine the historicity of Genesis 1-3, or teach a position other than the special, immediate creation of Adam from the dust of the ground and Even from Adam’s rib. Like the overture concerning male-only eldership, the General Assembly did not approve this overture, reasoning that our Standards are already clear on this issue.
This is just a brief synopsis of my own personal reflections on the 42nd General Assembly of the PCA, and quick summary of some of the business that occurred. Again, if you would like to see more of the details of what occurred, I recommend the Stated Clerk’s Report. At that end of the Stated Clerk’s Report, you may also find some statistical data about the PCA that you may find interesting.
The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch