If conservative and confessional congregations leave the PCA now, this beloved and faithful communion will indeed fall into the abyss of compromise, accommodation, and Postmodernism. Let us stay together and ensure the PCA enters her next half-century “faithful to the Scriptures, true to the Reformed faith, and obedient to the Great Commission.”
The PCA is at a crossroads; in many ways she is in a spiritual crisis, but I do not believe now is the time to depart the denomination (I explain more here). Instead, we must make a realistic assessment of our situation and stand firm to ensure the PCA enters her next half century as a Reformed and Confessional Protestant denomination for generations to come.
Standing firm in the PCA during this season of heavy debate will involve both difficulty and sacrifice; I give some advice for how to proceed during this season here.
We are currently debating what sort a denomination we will be. If conservative and confessional elders stay the course, participate in presbytery meetings and General Assembly, and prayerfully seek the Lord’s Spirit for blessing and reformation, I believe the PCA will be characterized by vibrant, warm confessional integrity and joyful, beautiful biblical fidelity for generations to come.
In the meantime, there will be calls for conservatives and confessional members and congregations to give up on the PCA and reaffiliate. But I think now is the worst time to do that.
V. Assessing Reasons for Departure
I am sympathetic to those who desire to leave the PCA, and I share many of their concerns. But here is a short summary of some common arguments for leaving followed by a short evaluation.
The argument goes something like this: “If we leave the PCA, we can align with churches and elders who have not been influenced by a Postmodern view of language, who share our commitment to the Westminster Standards, to Reformed piety, worship, and polity. This will free up resources currently devoted to battling over basic matters of what it is to be Presbyterian. This will be good for everyone’s blood pressure.”
This is attractive, but consider what the New Testament church was like. Also consider the reasons people left either the PCUSA in 1936 or the PCUS in 1973.1 Those with whom we disagree in the PCA still claim to affirm inerrancy and the PCA has not altered the Westminster Standards from their 1788 form.2
It is time to obey the command of Christ to contend for the faith and do the hard work of holding elders and churches to the Standards, not retreat because of a concern many do not sincerely embrace those Standards.
B. The Church Judiciary
1. The Standing Judicial Commission (SJC)
For many years there have been questions raised over the way the PCA’s SJC has functioned as the final court of appeal. People have argued the SJC focuses too much on procedure and not enough on substance to decide matters. As a result, it is claimed, the SJC has been unable or unwilling to hold men accountable for deviant theological views. The question has been raised whether the PCA is able to exercise church discipline. Others claim the progressives have managed to take control of the SJC.
The recent decision regarding Missouri Presbytery (MoP) has served to support these claims. Some, by the way, have referred to this as the “Johnson Decision;” such a designation is inaccurate and misleading. There was no one named Johnson who was a party to this case; it concerned a complaint against MoP by TE Speck. No one named Johnson was on trial nor was anyone named Johnson vindicated or exonerated by that recent decision.3
Nonetheless there were clear procedural anomalies in that SJC decision, which raise additional questions about the operation of the SJC.
But the decision to vindicate MoP, was not decided along progressive versus confessional lines. So don’t give up on the SJC; even those SJC members who sided with MoP acknowledged “serious concerns” regarding TE Johnson, his lack of clarity, and even his “tone-deafness.”4 Far from exonerating TE Johnson, the SJC has signaled he must be far more circumspect and precise in the way he speaks and ministers.