Highlights from General Assembly 2017
Last week, Tracy and I attended the annual meeting of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) called the General Assembly (GA) in Greensboro, North Carolina. GA is a time for the church to come together for worship and to deliberate on matters. One of the purposes is for continuing education as there are several seminars led by some of the most talented and knowledgeable people in the church.
It was an encouraging week of worship and connecting with old friends and making new ones. I am very encouraged that the PCA continues to be true to its charter of being faithful to the Scriptures, true to the Reformed faith, and obedient to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).
There were many good aspects to the week. I will highlight two of them here.
For the first time in the 45 year history of the PCA a non-anglo moderator was elected. Alexander Jun is a Korean ruling elder of a Los Angeles area 20-year-old church plant (read about him here). The moderator runs the meeting which is a tall order given the over 1,000 people in attendance with the vast majority being pastors who like to hear themselves talk. Prior to a particularly convoluted part of the floor proceedings, Jun humbly and temporarily yielded his seat to the runner up in the moderator election. I have never seen that happen before. The runner up, John Bise, aptly managed proving that sometimes a team effort is the best approach. The church working together across racial lines is a beautiful thing.
The second highlight is the submission of a study report about women in ministry. The report was crafted in response to a request during the 2016 GA. The idea was to assemble a diverse team of scholars and church men and women to survey the Bible about women in ministry and record their findings in a single document. The PCA maintains that the ordained offices of elder and deacon are for men only which is in contrast to our culture’s egalitarian ethic and the practice of many other denominations.
You can download the report here. You will notice line numbers run down the left side of the page. That is so that parts of the report can be referenced. The recommendations of the report are at the very end of the document and were debated and amended multiple times.
The report is an encouragement to fully deploy people into the ministry of the church, especially women according to the Scripture. Seeing each person using their gifts to serve Christ in the church is something we all want to see happen (Ephesians 4:11-16). Nothing in the report is outside the Scripture nor does the report encourage anything that is outside the constitution of the PCA (which is composed of the Bible, the Westminster Confession of Faith, and the Book of Church Order).
All to say, we should be supportive of God’s people doing ministry God’s way, which is according to the parameters of the Bible. This is exactly what the report encourages: a robust and biblical complementarian ministry. (Complementarianism is the belief that both men and women are made in the image of God, are different than each other, and are equipped and called to biblically different and important ministry roles within the church.)
The following recommendations were adopted and some of them are different than the original report:
- That sessions, presbyteries, and the General Assembly recognize that, from the founding of the PCA, there has been a variety of views and practices regarding the ways in which women may serve the Lord and the church within scriptural and constitutional parameters, without ordination, and that such mutual respect for said views and practices continues.
- That sessions, presbyteries and the General Assembly strive to develop, recognize, and utilize the gifts, skills, knowledge, and wisdom of godly women in the local, regional, and national church, and particularly consider overtures that would allow qualified women to serve on appropriate committees and agencies within the church.
- That sessions, if possible, establish a diaconate of qualified ordained men.
- That sessions consider how to include non-ordained men and women in the worship of the church so as to maintain faithfulness to Scripture, as well as utilizing the gifts God has poured out to His entire church (see exegesis of 1 Corinthians 14:26 in Chapter Two).”
- That sessions and presbyteries select and appoint godly women and men of the congregation to assist the ordained diaconate.
- That presbyteries and the General Assembly consider an overture that would establish formally the right of sessions, presbyteries, and the General Assembly to establish the position of commissioned church worker within the PCA for qualified and gifted unordained men and women.
- That sessions, presbyteries and the General Assembly consider how they can affirm and include underprivileged and underrepresented women in the PCA.
These are some great recommendations to strengthen the church and see all her members involved in ministry and exercising their gifts according to the Scripture. May God continue to strengthen his church and be glorified as God's people worship and serve together!