A Response to the PCA “Moderators’ Letter”
May We Ask a Question?
During the new members class of my church, I tell the people that there is one question I will never resent them asking. The question is: “Are we being biblically faithful?” They have the right to ask this question of their leaders, and we leaders have an obligation to answer carefully, accurately, and respectfully. As the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) prepares for its 2021 General Assembly, it is seems, however, that many denominational leaders do resent this question: “Are we being biblically faithful?”
In the last week, two anonymous letters have appeared on the internet. First was “A Faithful PCA,” signed by several hundred PCA elders. This letter declares that the PCA is a faithful denomination and then characterized concerned teaching and ruling elders in extremely pejorative terms (violating the very precepts advocated in the letter). Today, a companion letter has been published (on the same website) by former moderators of the PCA. It is titled “A Firm Commitment.” Thirteen of the last fifteen moderators expressed their conviction that all is well in the PCA, except for rancorous voices unduly sounding an alarm. These moderators assure us that conservative criticisms “are not doctrinal in nature” and amount to nothing more than “differences in philosophy of ministry, worship style, and ministry focus.”
As a council member of the Gospel Reformation Network (GRN), a group of concerned pastors and elders probably among those described by these letters, I offer four observations. The first is that a preemptive disparaging of opponent’s concerns is not likely to achieve the letters’ stated goal of unity in the PCA. When Christian leaders ask, “Are we being biblically faithful?” an answer that derides the nature and motive of their concerns is not likely to bring peace. The men “sounding alarms” include ministers of long service and high repute who have a demonstrated track record of gospel fruitfulness. To disparage their motives and character prior to our gathering (a tactic known as “gaslighting”) does not foster brotherhood but incites a climate of increased conflict.
Second, given the statements that the GRN (among others) is concerned only with matters of style and ministry philosophy, one must wonder if the former moderators have actually listened to or read our concerns. The challenges of homosexuality and Critical Race Theory pressing into our denomination are not matters of mere style, and mischaracterizing these concerns will not make them go away. Progressive PCA leaders may multiply letters and signatures denouncing the motives and attitude of concerned confessionalists, but Revoice and Critical Race Theory require an answer to the question: “Are we being biblically faithful?” The mere fact that PCA power brokers have acted with such preemptive strikes raises a question of what they mean by unity in the PCA. Do they mean that conservatives must surrender to the progressive agenda? If so, the letter writing and signing progressive leaders will only widen the breach within the PCA, indeed they have already done so.
Third, the former moderators’ letter dismisses the sincere concern of confessional conservatives over the vigor of our commitment to biblical authority. We read their dismissal of the “slippery slope” concern with a tragic irony, given that the issues before our coming General Assembly involve matters that would have been inconceivable a mere five or ten years ago. To be clear, the reason why concerned PCA elders warn against the “slippery slope” is because the PCA’s commitment to God’s Word seems to be eroding under cultural pressure. Are “gay Christian” and the tenets of Critical Race Theory ideas that have come through the Word of God or from the anti-Christian culture? Our belief is the latter, and we would appreciate a respectful discussion of the matter without a preemptive dismissal.
Fourth, and finally, we raise our concerns not out of desire to shatter but rather to preserve the true unity of the PCA. We speak out because like-minded brothers and churches are already leaving. We ask the question, “Are we being biblically faithful?” because the unity of the Spirit is always in the truth. We call on our opposing brothers to cease with letters supported by the power emblem of signatures and to listen with open hearts to fellow churchmen who come with sincere concerns arising from our commitment to Christ and His Word. It is true that the unity of the PCA is perilously fragile in this hour. But it will only be by “speaking the truth in love” that we will grow up together into Christ, and it is only through truth that our PCA may then “build itself up in love” (Eph. 4:15–16).
 See “A Response to the ‘Open Letter‘” (June 11, 2021) by Dr. Jon Payne.