The Godly Commissioner

Getting it Right in Greensboro

A serious problem arises, however, when networks and partnerships constituted of PCA teaching and ruling elders go beyond public and transparent ministry to private meetings and ecclesiastical intrigues for the purpose of winning votes and transforming the denomination. If a real time, vote-by-vote, running conversation on the assembly floor becomes a regular practice by denominational networks, then men will inevitably vote their “party” rather than their conscience. This, of course, cannot be healthy for the future of the PCA. And, in time, it would create a party system inimical to biblical unity.


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” The well-known opening line from Dickens’ classic 19th-century novel, A Tale of Two Cities, might also be applied to the Presbyterian Church in America’s (PCA) annual General Assembly. In many ways, the annual gathering is the best of times. Friendships are renewed and made, unity is fostered, truth is championed, and Christ is exalted through the worship, business, and fellowship of the church. But the assembly can also be the worst of times. Brothers in Christ are vilified, positions are mischaracterized, unity is compromised, and charity is neutralized under a nasty cloud of cynicism and pride. Called to be godly examples to the flock (1 Pet. 5:3; BCO 21-5), we sometimes exhibit attitudes and behavior at the assembly that would perplex our congregations back home. If we are not careful, our politics can eclipse our piety. The General Assembly can bring out the best in us; but if we are honest, it can also bring out the worst.

As I was recently thinking about this year’s 45th PCA General Assembly, it occurred to me that a little encouragement might be in order for those of us who will serve as commissioners. The following are five characteristics that we would all do well to display this June in Greensboro.

1. Sincere Humility

Humility is the golden grace of the Christian life. It’s the fruit of walking closely with Jesus. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is humility. Moreover, humility counts others more significant than ourselves and is antithetical to selfish ambition and ecclesiastical oneupmanship. Humility is Christlikeness (Phil. 2:1–11). Therefore, as we approach this year’s assembly, may we remember the divine directive to “clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet. 5:5). As blood-bought sinners saved by sovereign grace, may our interactions on and off the assembly floor exhibit a spirit of sincere humility (Rom. 12:3).

2. Loving Charity

One thing I have noticed in past assemblies is a lack of charity among the brethren. I suspect we’ve all seen it, and have all participated in it in one way or another. It comes out in audacious ad hominemattacks during debate on the assembly floor and, perhaps more predominantly, in private conversations over coffee in the exhibition hall. We can think the worst of those we disagree with on key denominational issues, rather than giving them the benefit of the doubt and treating them as cherished brothers for whom Christ died. Uncharitable assumptions sow the seeds of bitterness, contempt, and disunity, and they should have no place in our beloved denomination. Strong, and even passionate, disagreements over theology, polity, and confessional fidelity will likely be a part of this and every other future assembly. Even so, loving charity must always rule our hearts and inform our words. It is the way of Christ (John 13:34).

3. Complete Transparency

The PCA has sometimes been described as a “big tent” under which there exists differing perspectives on the application of the Reformed Confession to ministry and life. It’s widely recognized that PCA churches sometimes differ on approaches to worship, mission, discipleship, women in ministry, ecumenism, and other matters. It’s really no surprise, then, that various networks and partnerships have emerged that seek to lead the PCA in one direction or another, especially as it pertains to the philosophy of ministry and mission. This is all a very natural part of denominational life. When carried out openly and publicly, these networks and partnerships can be beneficial. Indeed, they can help make the PCA a dynamic environment for honest and challenging dialogue about ministry. The resources that flow from these various organizations within the PCA can challenge our approaches to ministry in healthy ways, even if we may agree to disagree on the “non-essentials.” We all have weaknesses and blind spots and can learn from one another.

Read More