The impulse to be outward-facing and welcoming to our fallen and broken world is a good one, a biblical one. But we must never accommodate error in our attempt to be winsome. This wasn’t the modus operandi of Jesus, the prophets, or the apostles. It mustn’t be ours either. It can never be repeated enough: We are called to speak the truth, with clarity and love. And if ever there was a time for the church to speak with clarity about sexual ethics, biblical justice, and qualifications for ordination, it is now. The future health and mission of the PCA depend on it.
The PCA doesn’t want a bigger tent.
That was the clear message sent last week to the 48th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) in St. Louis, Missouri by a record number of commissioners. It’s a message that has ignited joy and optimism among many presbyters and laypeople who are decidedly opposed to expanding the PCA’s “big tent” to include Side B gay celibate Christianity and other potentially menacing cultural ideologies. For many, it seems, the tent is big enough.
No Room for Unbiblical Cultural Creeds
Since its inception in 1973, the PCA has been home to numerous expressions of Reformed Presbyterianism. Anyone familiar with the history of the PCA recognizes this distinct feature of our denomination. Some expressions of Reformed Presbyterianism in the PCA are more broadly evangelical, while others are more narrowly Reformed. Some emphasize doctrinal purity over evangelism, while others emphasize the reverse. We all try to be faithful in both, while doing neither without fault. It’s how we’ve done it for close to fifty years. We challenge and learn from one another, even when we disagree on how best to interpret and apply our confessional standards. And for the peace and purity of the church, we’ve agreed that some things do not belong in the PCA, causing more than a few to act with integrity and find an ecclesiastical home elsewhere.
To be sure, plenty of debate has occurred within our PCA family over the years. Like all denominations, we’ve had our fair share of controversy. At times our disputations have been intense. For example, think of the debates on Good Faith Subscription, Federal Vision, the Strategic Plan, and the Insider Movement. Nevertheless, we’ve carefully worked through our issues—biblically, confessionally, ecclesiastically—and managed to move forward in relative solidarity. It’s what we are doing again in response to the emergence of two culturally driven ideologies within our churches and presbyteries; namely, Side B gay Christianity and Critical Race Theory (CRT).
Creating space for these unbiblical cultural creeds in the PCA will facilitate serious and irreparable damage and division. Therefore, they must be rejected. There is no room for compromise. The Assembly’s voting margins from last week foster hope that the PCA’s future plans do not include tent expansion. We mustn’t make room for Side B and CRT.
The Big Issue
In the early 2000’s my wife and I lived in Edinburgh, Scotland. Our charming flat was in the heart of the city, just off Princes Street, in the iconic Rock House on Calton Hill. We walked everywhere—to church, to university, to parks, to friends’ homes, and to the grocery store. It was lovely. A not-so-pleasant feature of our walks, however, was being regularly accosted by sellers of The Big Issue, a magazine that serves to fight poverty in the UK. Vendors refused to take no for an answer, and often voiced their frustration with colorful language. They were certainly passionate about promoting their Big Issue.
So what’s the PCA’s big issue:
Maintaining biblical fidelity, confessional integrity, and mission priority in an increasingly post-Christian culture.
That’s our big issue. But how do we—the PCA—stay true to our doctrine and mission without accommodating the culture, especially in the strong wake of the sexual and social-justice revolutions? How do we carry out our mission without over-contextualizing and changing our message? Answers to these questions divide us. Indeed, after countless exchanges over the years with brothers who identify with the ethos of the National Partnership, one common theme continues to surface. It’s that we, the PCA, mustn’t do anything to unnecessarily alienate the culture, lose a hearing with the lost, or be inhospitable to the sexually broken. This includes statements and overtures such as the Nashville Statement and this year’s Overture 23.
Overture 23 is a motion, passed by this year’s General Assembly, to amend the PCA Book of Church Order by adding the following to chapter 16:
16-4. Officers in the Presbyterian Church in America must be above reproach in their walk and Christlike in their character. Those who profess an identity (such as, but not limited to, “gay Christian,” “same sex attracted Christian,” “homosexual Christian,” or like terms) that undermines or contradicts their identity as new creations in Christ, either by denying the sinfulness of fallen desires (such as, but not limited to, same sex attraction), or by denying the reality and hope of progressive sanctification, or by failing to pursue Spirit-empowered victory over their sinful temptations, inclinations, and actions are not qualified for ordained office.
 There were 2,140 teaching and ruling elders (commissioners) at this year’s General Assembly. The previous record number of commissioners, 1,652, was in 2019.
 See Rosaria Butterfield’s article, “What is Wrong with Gay Christianity? What is Side A and Side B Anyway?“
 For more on this subject see my two-part GRN article entitled, “Mere Presbyterianism: A Positive Way Forward for the PCA.”
 The overture passed by a vote of 1438 to 417.