Over the PCA’s 47 year history, hundreds of churches have chosen to withdraw from the PCA for a variety of reasons. BCO 25.8-11 makes it abundantly clear that the PCA, from its inception, chose to enshrine in its Constitution the principle of granting congregations full rights over their own property and the liberty to choose their ecclesiastical affiliation. The intent of this principle in BCO 25 was not only to give liberty of property and affiliation to local congregations, but also intended to prohibit higher courts from imposing any unwarranted burdens on them. This promise is stated as a “solemn covenant” between the PCA and its member churches.
Presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) are voting on a number of proposed amendments to the Book of Church Order (BCO). As they consider the proposed amendment to BCO 25-11, here are reasons for Presbyteries to vote against amending this provision.
- There are no urgent, necessary, historical, structural, compelling or rational reasons to amend BCO 25-11.
- In 2017, on a similar type of amendment, Presbyteries in the PCA voted “NO” on amending BCO 25-3, which would have increased the quorum for congregation meetings when the purpose of the meeting was to consider withdrawing from the PCA. The bottom line effect of amending BCO 25-11 would be the same: Restricting and abridging local congregations of their right to determine their denominational affiliation.
- In 2018 another amendment was proposed by the PCA General Assembly to try one more time to restrict the freedom of PCA churches to determine whether to remain or withdraw from the Church. This time the restriction is tied to amending BCO 25-11.
- While it may appear as a small, almost insignificant amendment, in reality it is another significant attempt to restrict local churches from determining their affiliation.
- It is important to keep the promise of the Solemn Covenant *BCO 25-10). The concept of the “solemn covenant” was dismissed as irrelevant when this amendment was considered by the General assembly.
- BCO 25-10 makes it clear that the entirety of BCO 25 is to be construed as a solemn covenant: “The provisions of this BCO 25 are to be construed as a solemn covenant….” Not just some parts of BCO 25, but all of its provisions. This includes any type of action that would restrict local PCA churches from determining their affiliation.
- The proposed amendment to BCO 25-11 misses the mark by going contrary to the principled rooted and enshrined in this provision: One of the principles is the idea that congregations are at liberty to determine their affiliation.
- BCO 25.8-11 makes it abundantly clear that the PCA, from its inception, chose to enshrine in its Constitution the principle of granting congregations full rights over their own property and the liberty to choose their ecclesiastical affiliation. The intent of this principle in BCO 25 was not only to give liberty of property and affiliation to local congregations, but also intended to prohibit higher courts from imposing any unwarranted burdens on them (Read more about the history behind BCO 25 here).
- It is ironic that the wording of the proposed amendment, by adding the more restrictive language, is placed at the end of BCO 25-11, the very wording of which stresses the freedom and self-determination of particular churches regarding their affiliation with the PCA.
- The amendment language clashes with the “voluntary” intent of the BCO 25-11 when it suggests adding: “provided, however, the congregation is given at least thirty days’ notice of any meeting where the congregation is to vote on a proposed withdrawal from the Presbyterian Church in America.” (Read the present wording BCO wording and phraseology and see how it clashes with the paragraphs flow and intent).
- The present BCO 25-11 provision has worked for 47 years without a hiccup or complaint; the proposed amendment does not provide any valid data to assert and certify that something is broken that needs to be fixed.
As PCA Presbyteries vote on the proposed amendment to BCO 25-11, they should vote as they did in 2017 on BCO 25-3: Vote NO on amending BCO 25-11.
Dominic Aquila is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America. He is President of New Geneva Seminary in Colorado Springs and Editor of The Aquila Report.