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The Memorial Auditorium in Greenville,, South Carolina, provided the setting as the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America was gaveled to order by Retiring Moderator, Judge Leon F. Hendrick, on Tuesday evening, September 14. This was the fourth meeting of the court to be held in the nearly three years’ existence of the PCA, and the first to be held some other place than in one of the denomination’s churches. There are now some 400 churches in the PCA, all of which are entitled to send at least one commissioner to General Assembly. And, there are 431 ministers, each of whom may also sit in this court. Since there are few churches in the Assembly capable of handling so many commissioners, plus alternates and visitors, it is likely the court will be meeting in such auditoriums many times in the future, at least until the number of congregations exceeds 500, at which time the current practice of “grass roots” representation will be reviewed. 

The first major order of business to come before the Assembly was the election of a new moderator. Two men were nominated: Ruling Elder Kenneth Keyes, a Miami, Fla. businessman who was quite active in the establishment of the PCA, and Dr. William A. McIlwane of Pensacola, Fla., a retired missionary with over 40 years service in Japan who also was active in the beginning stages of the PCA. Mr. Keyes, pleading ignorance of parliamentary procedure, asked that his name be withdrawn. Dr. McIlwane was elected without opposition. 

The remainder of the first session was taken up mostly with worship, including the observance of the Lord’s Supper. There was some business tended to, however. Fraternal delegates from other churches were recognized and allowed to bring greetings from their respective denominations. The Assembly heard from representatives of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, and the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. Fraternal delegates from the Christian Reformed Church were recognized and heard from in a later session. All of the fraternal delegates, except the one from the ARP church, were from denominations involved, with the PCA, in the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC), the establishment of which was formally recognized by this Assembly. 

Another item of business disposed of the first evening. was a recommendation from the Committee on Administration that the PCA make a bid to purchase Sullins College in Bristol, Va., with a view to housing Assembly offices there as well as establishing a college and seminary and having a place for various conferences. There is little doubt that this was a good deal, a real bargain, if you will. But, the prevailing mood was that this was simply too much of an investment, fraught with too many uncertainties, to be undertaken at this time. Also brought up in the discussion was the matter of whether a church, as such, ought to be in the education business, at least apart from seminary training. It was felt more study was needed in this area. Finally, as one commissioner pointed out, at the rate colleges are going under these days, should the PCA ever decide she wants a college, there will probably be several around from which to choose. 

On the question of seminaries, the Assembly did approve a study of the matter which hopefully will result in the establishment, soon, of a denominational seminary. This course has received more support of late due to the deterioration of the situation at Reformed Seminary in Jackson, Ms., where a woman has been admitted to the Ministerial Degree program and grave concerns have been raised over the teachings of some professors. 

One of the main areas of conflict at previous assemblies has been the foreign missions policy of the church, centering basically around the cooperative agreements which the PCA has with some independent evangelical mission boards. The Third Assembly sent to the churches, for study and suggestions, a policy manual for missionary activity. On the basis of that study, revisions were made and presented to this assembly, which approved the manual for a two-year trial run. Though much has been done to overcome the objections of those who want a thoroughly Presbyterian and Reformed program, there are still some problems. The provision for cooperation with independent boards, which are not the church, remains, though the terms of the agreement which must be signed by these boards has been toughened up a bit, requiring that those sent under such arrangements must be free to preach and teach the Reformed faith and practice Presbyterian polity as comprehended in the Westminster Standards. Even so, cooperation with independent boards is a basic denial of the sufficiency of the courts of the Church as established by the Word of God. This sufficiency is recognized by the founding documents of the PCA, such as the “Message to all Churches of Jesus Christ” adopted by the First Assembly, which expresses the traditional Southern high view of Presbyterianism. Also, the Confession of Faith, Chapter 25, Section 3, states that Christ has given, “unto this catholic visible church. . .the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, in this life, to the end of the world: and doth, by His own presence and Spirit, according to His promise make them effectual thereunto. ” (Emphasis mine- ECC). And, even the missions manual states that Presbyterian polity is Biblical and that the believer is to discharge his missionary responsibility through the church. Cooperation with boards, which are not the church, contradicts this. It may indeed be granted that movement in this matter has been, generally, in the right direction. However, there is the fear that progress may stop and even be reversed due to a prolonged usage of erroneous methodology. Corruption, in a respect, needs but a little beginning to become widespread. 

The biggest disappointment in the area of foreign missions came with regard to the possibility of co-operation with national churches which are members of the World Council of Churches. At present, there is no such cooperation. However, in some nations, especially those of the so-called Third World, churches are required to join the WCC in order to organize. If the PCA is to work in these nations with these churches, she would have to accept this fact, so we are told. Rather than surrender a field, it is felt that we should be willing to work with a church even if it is a WCC member. This, of course, involves a most loathesome kind of compromise—compromise by working with a church which will not take a stand for the exclusive kingship of Jesus Christ over His Church. For this principle, many of our covenanting forefathers in Scotland gave their lives. But now, many are willing to abandon that heritage in order to get into as many fields as possible as quickly as possible, not turning away any requests for principle’s sake. This reflects the attitude of many in the PCA ,who refuse, it would seem, to acknowledge that the Lord closes some doors. If this attitude had been assumed by Paul when he was forbidden by the Spirit to preach the Word in Asia (Acts 16:6), that apostle likely would have told God that He lacked vision. General Assembly apparently approves such insubordination and does so by an appeal to the Great Commission. But Paul also served under that Commission, so surely that can not be introduced as a reason for attempting to bridge, with the shaky timbers of compromise, chasms which God has established. 

What little press attention was given the Assembly focused upon the issue of abortion which came before the court in an overture from Calvary Presbytery asking that the PCA, “protest, decry and abhor this mass slaughter of unborn babies who are persons by every right of the just laws of God and man,'” and that the Assembly call upon every responsible citizen td support the enactment of moral legislation that will protect the life of the unborn. This overture was answered in the affirmative, but not without some misgivings on the part of many. Does this involve the PCA in the area of social pronouncements in a manner unlawful insofar as a court of the Church is concerned? Or is this a legitimate condemnation of murder on an unprecedented scale? Perhaps the study committee appointed to deal with the issue will be able to give us some guidance on this matter. Most of us have had quite enough of the type of social and political intermeddling engaged in by the church of our former connection and cling strongly to the idea of the spirituality of the church. We do not, as one commissioner pointed out, want to see our agenda crowded with social and political matters. 

One final thing which should be of interest to readers of this periodical is the fact that an attempt was made to get the Assembly to express fraternal concern to the Christian Reformed Church in connection with the issues raised by the Dutton appeal at the recent CRC Synod. This the Assembly refused to do, mainly (one hopes) because of the lack of information on the matter. But, would not such an expression of concern be a means of getting more information? Some of us question whether, in the light of this, the whole concept of NAPARC and fraternal relationships is nothing more than a mutual association of back-slapping “good ole boys” from the various churches. The only matter of substance anyone in NAPARC seems much interested in now is the union of the various bodies. One of the fraternal delegates was noted to have said, I do not wish to die an Orthodox Presbyterian.” To which this writer would reply, “Neither do I.” It will be interesting to see how things develop in this area. 

There were, of course, many other issues, chiefly of denominational interest, to come before the Assembly. This report has intended to touch only upon those of broader interest. It makes no claim to objectivity. This writer views the work of this assembly from a very definite theological and ecclesiastical perspective, which, it might be noted, is a minority perspective, at least in the PCA. On balance, one can only say that things are not as good in the PCA as might be hoped for or expected. But neither are they as bad as might be feared. The PCA is still very much in the toddler stage. Our prayer is that her formative years may be God-directed years. The Memorial Auditorium in Greenville,, South Carolina, provided the setting as the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America was gaveled to order by Retiring Moderator, Judge Leon F. Hendrick, on Tuesday evening, September 14. This was the fourth meeting of the court to be held in the nearly three years’ existence of the PCA, and the first to be held some other place than in one of the denomination’s churches. There are now some 400 churches in the PCA, all of which are entitled to send at least one commissioner to General Assembly. And, there are 431 ministers, each of whom may also sit in this court. Since there are few churches in the Assembly capable of handling so many commissioners, plus alternates and visitors, it is likely the court will be meeting in such auditoriums many times in the future, at least until the number of congregations exceeds 500, at which time the current practice of “grass roots” representation will be reviewed. 

The first major order of business to come before the Assembly was the election of a new moderator. Two men were nominated: Ruling Elder Kenneth Keyes, a Miami, Fla. businessman who was quite active in the establishment of the PCA, and Dr. William A. McIlwane of Pensacola, Fla., a retired missionary with over 40 years service in Japan who also was active in the beginning stages of the PCA. Mr. Keyes, pleading ignorance of parliamentary procedure, asked that his name be withdrawn. Dr. McIlwane was elected without opposition. 

The remainder of the first session was taken up mostly with worship, including the observance of the Lord’s Supper. There was some business tended to, however. Fraternal delegates from other churches were recognized and allowed to bring greetings from their respective denominations. The Assembly heard from representatives of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, and the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. Fraternal delegates from the Christian Reformed Church were recognized and heard from in a later session. All of the fraternal delegates, except the one from the ARP church, were from denominations involved, with the PCA, in the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC), the establishment of which was formally recognized by this Assembly. 

Another item of business disposed of the first evening. was a recommendation from the Committee on Administration that the PCA make a bid to purchase Sullins College in Bristol, Va., with a view to housing Assembly offices there as well as establishing a college and seminary and having a place for various conferences. There is little doubt that this was a good deal, a real bargain, if you will. But, the prevailing mood was that this was simply too much of an investment, fraught with too many uncertainties, to be undertaken at this time. Also brought up in the discussion was the matter of whether a church, as such, ought to be in the education business, at least apart from seminary training. It was felt more study was needed in this area. Finally, as one commissioner pointed out, at the rate colleges are going under these days, should the PCA ever decide she wants a college, there will probably be several around from which to choose. 

On the question of seminaries, the Assembly did approve a study of the matter which hopefully will result in the establishment, soon, of a denominational seminary. This course has received more support of late due to the deterioration of the situation at Reformed Seminary in Jackson, Ms., where a woman has been admitted to the Ministerial Degree program and grave concerns have been raised over the teachings of some professors. 

One of the main areas of conflict at previous assemblies has been the foreign missions policy of the church, centering basically around the cooperative agreements which the PCA has with some independent evangelical mission boards. The Third Assembly sent to the churches, for study and suggestions, a policy manual for missionary activity. On the basis of that study, revisions were made and presented to this assembly, which approved the manual for a two-year trial run. Though much has been done to overcome the objections of those who want a thoroughly Presbyterian and Reformed program, there are still some problems. The provision for cooperation with independent boards, which are not the church, remains, though the terms of the agreement which must be signed by these boards has been toughened up a bit, requiring that those sent under such arrangements must be free to preach and teach the Reformed faith and practice Presbyterian polity as comprehended in the Westminster Standards. Even so, cooperation with independent boards is a basic denial of the sufficiency of the courts of the Church as established by the Word of God. This sufficiency is recognized by the founding documents of the PCA, such as the “Message to all Churches of Jesus Christ” adopted by the First Assembly, which expresses the traditional Southern high view of Presbyterianism. Also, the Confession of Faith, Chapter 25, Section 3, states that Christ has given, “unto this catholic visible church. . .the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, in this life, to the end of the world: and doth, by His own presence and Spirit, according to His promise make them effectual thereunto. ” (Emphasis mine- ECC). And, even the missions manual states that Presbyterian polity is Biblical and that the believer is to discharge his missionary responsibility through the church. Cooperation with boards, which are not the church, contradicts this. It may indeed be granted that movement in this matter has been, generally, in the right direction. However, there is the fear that progress may stop and even be reversed due to a prolonged usage of erroneous methodology. Corruption, in a respect, needs but a little beginning to become widespread. 

The biggest disappointment in the area of foreign missions came with regard to the possibility of co-operation with national churches which are members of the World Council of Churches. At present, there is no such cooperation. However, in some nations, especially those of the so-called Third World, churches are required to join the WCC in order to organize. If the PCA is to work in these nations with these churches, she would have to accept this fact, so we are told. Rather than surrender a field, it is felt that we should be willing to work with a church even if it is a WCC member. This, of course, involves a most loathesome kind of compromise—compromise by working with a church which will not take a stand for the exclusive kingship of Jesus Christ over His Church. For this principle, many of our covenanting forefathers in Scotland gave their lives. But now, many are willing to abandon that heritage in order to get into as many fields as possible as quickly as possible, not turning away any requests for principle’s sake. This reflects the attitude of many in the PCA ,who refuse, it would seem, to acknowledge that the Lord closes some doors. If this attitude had been assumed by Paul when he was forbidden by the Spirit to preach the Word in Asia (Acts 16:6), that apostle likely would have told God that He lacked vision. General Assembly apparently approves such insubordination and does so by an appeal to the Great Commission. But Paul also served under that Commission, so surely that can not be introduced as a reason for attempting to bridge, with the shaky timbers of compromise, chasms which God has established. 

What little press attention was given the Assembly focused upon the issue of abortion which came before the court in an overture from Calvary Presbytery asking that the PCA, “protest, decry and abhor this mass slaughter of unborn babies who are persons by every right of the just laws of God and man,'” and that the Assembly call upon every responsible citizen td support the enactment of moral legislation that will protect the life of the unborn. This overture was answered in the affirmative, but not without some misgivings on the part of many. Does this involve the PCA in the area of social pronouncements in a manner unlawful insofar as a court of the Church is concerned? Or is this a legitimate condemnation of murder on an unprecedented scale? Perhaps the study committee appointed to deal with the issue will be able to give us some guidance on this matter. Most of us have had quite enough of the type of social and political intermeddling engaged in by the church of our former connection and cling strongly to the idea of the spirituality of the church. We do not, as one commissioner pointed out, want to see our agenda crowded with social and political matters. 

One final thing which should be of interest to readers of this periodical is the fact that an attempt was made to get the Assembly to express fraternal concern to the Christian Reformed Church in connection with the issues raised by the Dutton appeal at the recent CRC Synod. This the Assembly refused to do, mainly (one hopes) because of the lack of information on the matter. But, would not such an expression of concern be a means of getting more information? Some of us question whether, in the light of this, the whole concept of NAPARC and fraternal relationships is nothing more than a mutual association of back-slapping “good ole boys” from the various churches. The only matter of substance anyone in NAPARC seems much interested in now is the union of the various bodies. One of the fraternal delegates was noted to have said, I do not wish to die an Orthodox Presbyterian.” To which this writer would reply, “Neither do I.” It will be interesting to see how things develop in this area. 

There were, of course, many other issues, chiefly of denominational interest, to come before the Assembly. This report has intended to touch only upon those of broader interest. It makes no claim to objectivity. This writer views the work of this assembly from a very definite theological and ecclesiastical perspective, which, it might be noted, is a minority perspective, at least in the PCA. On balance, one can only say that things are not as good in the PCA as might be hoped for or expected. But neither are they as bad as might be feared. The PCA is still very much in the toddler stage. Our prayer is that her formative years may be God-directed years.