The 42nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) has adjourned in Houston, Texas. There were many issues considered including Insider Movements, child abuse, and prayer for Christians facing penalties for their stance on abortion and homosexuality. What follows is an overview of some of the main actions of this year’s GA.
Unlike previous years, there was very little discussion or debate over the report from the Review of Presbytery Records committee. The Nominating Committee report also went quickly with all committee recommendations, except one, receiving a majority of the votes. So only one floor nominee was elected.
The Presbyterian Church in America’s Christian Education and Publications Committee (CEP) has taken two actions to “convey [its] renewed purpose to connect and equip those who serve the church in discipleship ministry.” The first action was to revamp its Internet web site, and the second was to ask the 42nd General Assembly to change its name. In its report to the PCA’s 42nd General Assembly, the CEP Permanent Committee recommended “that the General Assembly change the name of the Committee on Christian Education and Publications … to the Committee on Discipleship Ministries (CDM)….” The Permanent Committee believes that the new name would better reflect both “the mission and vision of the ministry” and “the goal of connecting and equipping God’s covenant people.” The 42nd General Assembly granted this request. Visit the Committee’s improved web site at http://www.pcacept.org.
Last year, the 41st General Assembly voted to recommit the report on the Insider Movement to the Ad Interim Committee to give it an opportunity to clarify language and concepts in the report. This year the committee made three recommendations:
- That “A Call to Faithful Witness, Part Two: Theology, Gospel Mission, and Insider Movements” serve as a Partial Report (part two of two parts).
- That the 42nd General Assembly make available and recommend for study “A Call to Faithful Witness, Part Two: Theology, Gospel Missions, and Insider Movements” to its presbyteries, sessions, and missions committees.
- That the 42nd General Assembly dismiss the ad interim Study Committee on Insider Movements with thanks.
A motion was made to include the minority report as part of the report sent to the presbyteries. After debate, the motion failed. The three recommendations above were then approved by the General Assembly.
While there were an unusually large number of overtures, over half of the 52 overtures dealt with the issue of child abuse and protecting our children. Overture 6, Child Protection in the PCA, was answered in the affirmative by the Overture Committee with amendments. The original amendment stated:
Therefore, be it resolved that we exhort all church leaders to become informed and to take an active stance toward preventing child sexual abuse in the church by screening staff and volunteers, training them in child protection, and actively maintaining child protection policies pertaining to our obligations to love our children and protect their rightful interests as God’s image-bearers from the devastating actions of abusers (Matthew 18:5-6; WLC 129-130); and
Be it further resolved that we remind all churches that the heinous crime of child sexual abuse must be reported to duly appointed, God-ordained civil authorities, and that we must cooperate with those authorities as they “bear the sword” to punish those who do evil “in such an effectual manner as that no person be suffered . . . to offer any indignity, violence, abuse, or injury to any other person whatsoever” (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14; WCF 23.3); and
Be it further resolved that we urge all church leaders to use their influence for the protection of children, by any and all godly means, including preaching and teaching against the heinous sin of child sexual abuse, warning anyone with knowledge of these sins to “take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (Ephesians 5:11), and by supporting victims who often suffer in silence and shame without the vocal and compassionate support of the church; and
Be it further resolved that we direct the Permanent Committees and Agencies of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America to review their policies, procedures and practices in the area of child protection, including their response to child sexual abuse disclosures, their faithfulness in reporting child sexual abuse to duly appointed God-ordained civil authorities, their care for survivors of child sexual abuse, and their future plans to help educate the PCA on child sexual abuse, and report back to the 43rd 10 General Assembly; and
Be it finally resolved that the 42nd General Assembly urge all members of the PCA to renew our allegiance to our Lord Jesus by loving our children as he loves our children, “for to such belongs the Kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14).
The General Assembly voted to affirm the Overture Committee recommendations on the remainder of the overtures except for one. Overture 43, Expression of Support for Sanctity of Life and Marriage, was answered in the negative by the Overture Committee. A minority report submitted a substitute motion on the floor of the General Assembly. It stated:
Be it resolved that the Presbyterian Church in America expresses its gratitude to the Lord for sustaining by His grace ministers of the gospel, chaplains, and Christians serving in the public sphere who are experiencing ostracism, penalties, and persecution for taking a Biblically faithful stand for the sanctity of human life and declining to participate in the cultural redefinition of marriage; and
Be it further resolved that the General Assembly pause and offer prayer to the Lord on behalf of such ministers of the gospel, chaplains, and Christians.
There was considerable debate on the floor over whether to affirm this statement. Several commissioners were concerned about the effect such a statement would have on their ministries, especially concerning homosexuals. David Coffin and Harry Reeder both spoke in favor of the minority report. Perhaps the most striking statement in favor of the minority report was one given by a commissioner who confessed his struggle as a young man with same sex attraction. He spoke about those in his family and church who pursued and challenged him in truth and love. After the debate and discussion, the General Assembly voted to affirm the minority report by a small majority.
The rest of the overtures were answered as follows:
- Overtures 7, 12, 18, 19, 21, 23, 24, 30, 33, 34, 35, 36, 38, 39, 41, 42, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 50 – answer with reference to the Assembly’s action on Overture 6 (see above)
- Overture 22 Establish a Study Committee Regarding BCO 21-5, 3rd Ordination Vow – answer in the negative
- Overture 31 Add Proof Texts Cited in the Confession of Faith 24.1 to The Directory of Worship 59-3 regarding Marriage– answer in the negative
- Overture 32 Issue Warning Regarding Erroneous Views of Creation– answer in the negative
- Overture 37 Amend BCO 43-3; 43-8; 43-9 Regarding Complaint Procedures– answer in the affirmative
- Overture 49 Amend BCO 18-7 Regarding Removal of Candidates and Interns – answer in the affirmative
- Overture 13 Revise BCO 15-1 and 15-5. a and b– answer in the negative
- Overtures 3, 8, 11, 15, 17, 20 – answer with reference to the action taken on overture 13
- Overture 40 Amend BCO 15-1 and 15-3 Regarding Presbytery Judicial Commission Decisions – return to the teaching elder who submitted it
- Overture 9 Revise RAO 17-1 to allow CCB to take exception to SJC Case Decisions– answer in the negative
- Overtures 2 Concerning Same-sex Marriage, 5 Concerning Our Present Need, and 14 Receive the Report of the Ad Interim Study Committee on Insider Movements and Dismiss the Committee with Thanks were ruled out of order by the moderator.
The General Assembly adjourned on early Thursday afternoon, June 19. It was announced that the 43rd PCA General Assembly will be held in Chattanooga, TN, June 2015.