Should We Stay or Should We Go?
It’s a question that more than a few PCA elders and members are asking right now. The recent Standing Judicial Commission’s (SJC) decision to reject the complaint against Missouri Presbytery has left many disheartened. Moreover, the current presbytery voting tallies on Overtures 23 and 37 show that there is no guarantee they will meet the two-thirds threshold necessary for a vote at next summer’s General Assembly. What if the overtures fail? Would this mean that all positive momentum gained this past June at the 48th General Assembly is lost? Has the time to depart the PCA finally come? The answer is a resounding NO!
It is not time to depart the PCA. It’s time to contend for the PCA—to humbly contend for the biblical and confessional faithfulness of our beloved church.
Divergent Visions for the PCA
The recent disclosure of National Partnership (NP) emails punctuates the fact that there are vastly divergent and competing visions for the future of the PCA. Most are now recognizing that these disparate visions are highly incompatible. The cache of NP emails also reveal that there are profoundly different methods of seeking to advance those visions. Over the years we (the GRN Council) have been encouraged to adopt similar political machinations as the NP, but we’ve firmly resisted. It’s not our way. It never has been.
The progressive wing’s sympathy with, or doctrinal indifference to, various tenets of Side B gay Christianity has been a major contributing factor to this sad incompatibility and division. It’s caused a heartbreaking rift in the PCA. To be sure, there are other matters fostering discord. It hardly needs mentioning, however, that Revoice doctrine is the most divisive issue at present. Even with the adoption of the excellent Ad Interim Committee Report on Human Sexuality there remains significant confusion, obfuscation, indifferentism, and fracturing over whether officers in the PCA should be permitted, for any reason, to retain and promote a settled gay identity. From my perspective, a split is inevitable if Revoice doctrine finds a permanent home in the PCA. Christ’s followers are called to renounce, hate, and mortify their sins, not foster and promote an identity with them. We are called to kill our sin, not manage it. Those in the PCA who believe otherwise should repent or peacefully depart and find a denominational home elsewhere.
A Compelling Reformed Vision for the PCA
Over the past several years the Gospel Reformation Network has sought to publicly promote a compelling vision for the PCA—a transparent vision to cultivate warm-hearted biblical and confessional Presbyterianism in our churches and presbyteries. Through public articles, videos, conferences, lectures, seminars, booklets, seminary chapels, and luncheons we’ve aspired to encourage fellow elders to hold fast to the PCA’s founding vision—to be Faithful to the Scriptures, True to the Reformed faith, and Obedient to the Great Commission. We haven’t always done this perfectly, but from the beginning, it’s been our aim and focus; and by God’s grace it will continue to be.
The GRN’s purpose and distinctives are published on our website, in case you haven’t seen them. Moreover, we will host our second GRN National Conference, May 4–5, 2022 in Birmingham. Mark your calendars for this wonderful time of worship, teaching, and fellowship. We would love for you to join us. All are most welcome!
Members of the GRN Council have maintained regular interaction with our brothers on the opposite side of controversial issues facing the PCA. This is something for which I’m deeply grateful, despite the frustration that we (and they) often feel in our conversations. What many around the denomination do not realize is how much discussion actually occurs behind the scenes. I’ve personally grown from these interactions. They’ve helped me to understand better where my brothers are coming from, and what their positions truly are. These exchanges have also helped me to recognize the sin lurking in my own heart.
Perhaps you are thinking, “So, if it’s not yet time to go, then what must be done? What can be done? What should I do personally? What should my session and congregation do to contend for the future faithfulness of the Presbyterian Church in America?” Here are a few actions items that I would humbly ask you to prayerfully consider:
Pray for the PCA — Why is prayer so often the last thing we think to do? Calling upon the name of our sovereign Lord should be our first impulse, and never an afterthought. Let us, therefore, make earnest, humble, and consistent prayer for the PCA a priority in our closets, living rooms, and sanctuaries. Let me encourage you to resurrect (or resuscitate) your congregational prayer meeting and pray boldly for our beloved denomination. Organize seasons of prayer with fellow elders in your presbytery. Pray that biblical and confessional Christianity would prevail in the PCA. Pray for reformation. Pray for unity in the truth. Pray that the concepts of Critical Race Theory (CRT) would not get a firm foothold in the PCA. Pray for a renewed confidence in the gospel as the sin-expulsive, life-transforming power of God. Pray for deepened conviction in the efficacious nature of the means of grace, divinely instituted means that feed us upon Christ. Pray for a revival of reformed piety in our lives, homes, and churches. Pray that we would carry out the true mission of the church, to make disciples of all nations through faithful gospel proclamation, and the planting (and strengthening) of biblical churches. Pray sincerely for (and with) those with whom you disagree. Pray that the PCA would hold fast to a biblical view of marriage and sexuality. And pray for the 2022 PCA General Assembly in Birmingham, Alabama.
Dear friends of the GRN, there is nothing more important (or consequential!) that we can do than pray. J.C. Ryle was right— “Prayer is the very life-breath of true Christianity.” Therefore, may prayer be the life-breath of our churches as we contend on our knees for the future faithfulness of the PCA.
Stay Informed — One thing that has surprised me over the last couple of years is how many PCA officers and members are unaware of the current challenges facing the PCA. After a few minutes of conversation with fellow Teaching Elders, it’s evident that many have taken little to no time to educate themselves or their sessions on these weighty issues. Therefore, I urge you to carve out time to learn about some of the modern threats to Christian orthodoxy in the PCA and the wider church.
I encourage you to watch the outstanding lectures from the GRN’s 2019 A Time to Stand Conference that deal with Revoice and human sexuality. Watch or listen to the messages from the GRN’s 2021 O Church, Arise National Conference on an array of important topics facing the PCA. Fellow GRN Council Member, Rick Phillips, and I, delivered six messages this past spring at the Alliance of Confessing Evangelical’s One Voice conference on God, the gospel, and human sexuality. Another excellent resource is GRN Council Member, Harry Reeder’s, recent sermon series at Briarwood Presbyterian Church on the nature and dangers of progressive Christianity. I also encourage you to read and listen to opposing views. There are lots of articles published online from varying perspectives. It’s important to listen to views that rival one’s own, if only to understand them better. In fact, be on the lookout for contrasting articles by Rev. David Coffin and myself for ByFaith Magazine, as we’ve been invited to present our rationale for why overtures 23 and 37 should or should not be adopted and added to our Book of Church Order. Finally, take time to study the various PCA reports related to current denominational issues. There are a lot of them!
Get Involved — Few of us are as committed and active to the work of the denomination as we should be. Our lives and local ministries keep us very busy, and it’s often hard to imagine adding anything else to the schedule. If we are going to contend for the faithfulness of the PCA, however, we must all be willing to get involved and make the necessary sacrifices. This excludes, of course, inflammatory posts on Twitter or Facebook, which are almost always unnecessary.
How then should you get involved? In addition to prayer and staying informed, if you are an elder, be willing to serve on a presbytery committee. You would be surprised to learn how many presbytery committees are underserved, especially by ruling elders. Another way to get involved is to attend and actively participate in the highest court in the PCA, the General Assembly. You can represent your presbytery on the committee of commissioners or on a permanent committee. Are you willing to serve in this way? Inform your session and the clerk of your presbytery. Finally, make it a priority for your church to have full representation at next year’s General Assembly in Birmingham. We can’t rightly complain about the way things are if we are not willing to work to make things better.
Another way to get involved is to bring charges against those who are teaching doctrine contrary to our confession. To be sure, presenting charges against a minister or a session can be an unpleasant business; but it’s biblical and, at times, necessary to protect the peace and purity of the church. Discipline is one of the essential marks of a true church. If a church no longer possesses the will to discipline its ministers over doctrinal error, the future of that church is grim.
Since the recent SJC decision, I’ve heard from more than a few PCA pastors of small, medium-sized, and large congregations who have expressed deep frustration, and a desire to leave the PCA. Perhaps, like me, you and your session have been experiencing this same frustration. My encouragement to you, on behalf of the GRN Council, is not to frustratingly depart, but to humbly contend.
Dear friend: don’t give up on the PCA. Double down in your commitment to pray, stay informed, and get involved. Obviously, there may be a time in the future to organize and depart together as a large group of confessional churches. But now is not the time. There is much to be encouraged by after the last General Assembly. Will you, therefore, along with the GRN, seek to prayerfully, winsomely, transparently, boldly, compellingly, and with integrity, contend for the future faithfulness of the PCA?
 Shouldn’t we all be gravely concerned when a PCA minister feels the freedom to publicly post #LGBTinChrist?