Would a Division be Good for the PCA?

Some history and a proposal for meetings of the Presbyterian Church in America General Assembly

One year, let’s call it the ‘A’ Year, would keep the current convention look. We would have vendors, we would have visitors, and we would have reports from our Committees and Agencies (and approve their budgets), and we would have large worship services open to the public….The next year (and from then on rotate) we have the ‘B’ Year.  This assembly would be a delegated assembly. Presbyteries would elect delegates according to their size and be responsible for funding the travel expenses of their delegates.


Did not the Prophet Amos pose the question: ‘Can two walk together, except they be agreed?’

Monday July 28th was the 40th anniversary of my ordination in the PCA, although my certificate says I was ordained in the National Presbyterian Church.

I was one of a small handful (about 10) who was ordained between December 1973 and September 1974 when our denomination had a different name. We started out as the National Presbyterian Church and changed our name – twice – at the 2nd General Assembly the next September.

At the very begin there were two large groups within the PCA. One group was younger men who had recently been trained in seminaries that still taught theology as defined in the Westminster Standards. I was in that group. The other group was the more traditional former Southern Presbyterians and was basically conservative and thoroughly committed to the inerrancy of the Bible. It’s not as though the second group held to a different theology; they just had not been trained thoroughly and that brought a certain amount of tension.

The tension came to its first real crisis in 1975 at the 3rd General Assembly. There were a number of overtures seeking to stop Mission To The World (MTW) from working with non-Reformed groups and focus only on planting Reformed and Presbyterian churches around the world. I chaired that Committee of Commissioners. We stayed off the floor until Friday trying to iron out a consensus. (I’ll tell the rest of the story when I write my planned book of anecdotal history of the PCA. I intend to call it: “Confessions of a Recovering ‘T.R.’”)

My point about this tension is that it was almost 50-50. In the Committee of Commissioners the ‘Young Turks’ had the majority, but most of us saw the wisdom in finding a way to bring the two groups together, at least in this area. The votes on the floor of GA were long and greatly debated, and the first few were passed by extremely small margins, until it was clear that the house was going to end up supporting the report of the Committee of Commissioners.

Now, let’s face it – the PCA is still divided. Some see two groups, some three. I’ve even seen blog posts that define up to six different groups. But at the end of the day, I still see two main groups (with splinters among both). One group leans to the old ‘T.R.’ ideas (without the nasty attitudes for the most part). The other group leans to being the same ‘B.E.’s they have always been (that’s Broadly Evangelical for those not ‘in the know’).

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