‘MORE’ in the PCA: A Foundation Urging PCA Ruling Elders to Attend General Assemblies

If you are an RE concerned about the direction of the PCA and cannot go to General Assembly because your congregation cannot reimburse your expenses, contact MORE!

It occurred to me that there ought to be an organization that would address those problems and encourage REs to attend General Assembly, and presbytery for that matter.  Having found no such pre-existing organization, I founded one:  MORE in the PCA, Inc.  If you want to learn more about the organization, I encourage you to look us up at www.moreinthepca.org .  But my main goal is to communicate three things:

 

I grew up in a Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) church that joined the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA) and never looked back.  Despite all the controversies the PCUSA went through – one of which convinced me I had to leave the PCUSA – the congregation of my childhood never even rippled.  Today they either embrace the liberal social agenda coming out of the denomination or politely ignore it and go about their business.

My family and I, quite to the consternation of my wife’s in-laws, joined a PCA church a decade ago.  We have found our spiritual home here in a God-honoring, confessional, Bible-believing denomination.  I have served as a Deacon and now as a Ruling Elder (RE).

Last year, our presbytery appointed me to the Overtures Committee at General Assembly.  As I prepared to do the Committee’s work, I made a disquieting discovery that politics had seeped into the denomination some years ago.

Having attended more than my share of contested conventions, I figured that the 2017 General Assembly would be instructive and I would see a powerful minority struggle mightily to push the assembly in their own direction.

In retrospect, I shouldn’t have worried.  The 2017 General Assembly didn’t turn out like that.

It turned out much worse.

The experience was certainly instructive, but I found that the troublingly secretive caucus controlled the assembly entirely.  It installed its own candidate for Moderator; it cut off debate on topics about which it had already made up its mind; it defeated a measure to protect biblical marriage within the PCA; and it approved recommendations to open the door to ordaining women.

This all struck me as very odd and un-Presbyterian.  How are things being done “decently and in order” if a caucus is making decisions in secret and then imposing them upon the General Assembly?  How are we abiding by the plurality of elders principle if this caucus is predominantly Teaching Elders (TE)?

Worse still, I found that REs were outnumbered by TEs by 4:1 at General Assembly (apparently this is typical).  Ultimately, this is the root of the problem.  After all, we know that everyone – even a TE! – is a sinner.  And people who prioritize politics in a convention system will eventually network together for mutual benefit.  The formation of this caucus was inevitable.

One major reason why they were able exercise control was that there weren’t enough REs there to counsel them otherwise.  So that raises the question: why don’t more REs attend General Assembly?

Having spoken to many TEs and REs in the months since I returned from Greensboro, I think the answer boils down to two reasons: time and money.  For a TE, General Assembly is often part of the job and, if he’s going, his expenses will be reimbursed.   But for an RE, he needs to find the time and (often) the money himself. A RE will usually have to use precious vacation days to get away from work, will have (lots of) work pile up while he’s gone, and leave his wife at home to parent the children alone for a week. And even if the RE’s expenses are reimbursed by his congregation, he may be paying opportunity costs for lost business while he is gone.

It occurred to me that there ought to be an organization that would address those problems and encourage REs to attend General Assembly, and presbytery for that matter.  Having found no such pre-existing organization, I founded one:  MORE in the PCA, Inc.  If you want to learn more about the organization, I encourage you to look us up at www.moreinthepca.org .  But my main goal is to communicate three things:

FIRST, we believe we’ve solved the RE money problem for General Assembly.  If you are an RE concerned about the direction of the PCA and cannot go to General Assembly because your congregation cannot reimburse your expenses, contact us!  We are in contact with donors and churches that want to make sure that no confessional RE stays home from General Assembly for financial reasons.

SECOND, the solution to the time problem is to … do it anyway.  Seriously.  There are important things going on at General Assembly (and presbytery).  There are the issues mentioned above and many more.  And it is never clear when you’re making travel plans which issues will be decided at a particular General Assembly.  REs have to be there every time.  We have been ordained to an office obligating us to “exercise government and discipline, and take oversight not only of the spiritual interests of the particular church, but also the Church generally when called thereunto.”  (BCO 8-3, emphasis supplied)  In our opinion, every General Assembly is a “call thereunto.”

There are many important things to do in each RE’s life: family, church, work, and other obligations.  It is difficult to put them aside for a week to attend General Assembly.  But as REs we are called to “adapt and overcome,” “build a bridge and get over it,” “just do it,” or [insert your favorite cliché here].  It’s important.  It’s a calling.

THIRD, get in touch and stay in touch.  If you are interested in encouraging more REs to get involved in the life of our polity:

  • Follow us on twitter at @MOREinPCA
  • Follow our facebook group at @MOREinPCA
  • Visit our website at moreinthepca.org regularly
  • Send us an email at [email protected], especially if
    • you are interested in a stipend to cover General Assembly expenses,
    • you want to help recruit other REs to come to GA,
    • you want to donate, or
    • you want to be on our email list

Most importantly, remember the overall goal.  The PCA must remain confessional.  It must resist the siren song of “social justice” and cultural conformity that ensnared the PCUSA.  That way leads to heresy, madness, and death.  As Ruling Elders it is our job to ensure conformity to Scripture.  We can’t do that if we’re not in the room.

Charlie Nave is a married father of two and a ruling elder at Christ the King Presbyterian Church in Roanoke, Virginia.  He is a civil rights lawyer primarily representing nonprofits and fundraisers.