I believe a majority of those in most PCA presbyteries are opposed to Revoice and all that it represents. The failure of Overtures 23 and 37 was not a vote for Revoice Theology. Those who denigrate the PCA with this line of thinking are ignorant of the PCA and her presbyterian procedures. I believe that anyone identifying as a celibate homosexual (SSA) would be rejected for ordination in most PCA presbyteries today.
As someone who voted against the Proposed Changes to the Book of Church Order (contrary to my Presbytery which voted heavily in favor of the changes), I would venture to suggest some reasons why the proposed changes failed to gain the necessary votes by presbyteries.
First, I believe a majority of those in most PCA presbyteries are opposed to Revoice and all that it represents. The failure of Overtures 23 and 37 was not a vote for Revoice Theology. Those who denigrate the PCA with this line of thinking are ignorant of the PCA and her presbyterian procedures. I believe that anyone identifying as a celibate homosexual (SSA) would be rejected for ordination in most PCA presbyteries today.
Secondly, I believe that the battle is not over, but just beginning. Numerous new overtures will come before the 49th General Assembly this year in Birmingham, Alabama. Expect in the next few years a new look in regard to the membership of permanent committees and agencies. Also, expect at least one overture to change the structure of the Standing Judicial Committee (SJC). The losing side has been knocked down, but this will only arouse their enthusiasm to recapture the PCA. They now know how the opposition (NP) works, and they are much wiser in regard to how to fight.
So why did the proposed changes fail? Unlike presidential elections in the United States, we do not have access to “exit polls” that give us a clue as to why men voted as they did. However, by following discussions on the Internet, and by looking at maps, three reasons can be identified.
First, the language of the proposed amendments was confusing. The proposed amendments were in essence a distilled version of the PCA Study Committee on Human Sexuality. The authors of the proposed changes tried to capture the nuances in this Study in short statements, but that is nearly an impossible task. Many presbyters simply voted against the changes because the language was too confusing. The baffling meaning of the placement of commas and the impact of parenthetical statements became a stumbling-block for many voters.
Secondly, if the changes had passed, it would have made no difference. Even with new language in the BCO, the ultimate decision resides in the courts themselves meeting on any particular day. Men in the courts will interpret the BCO in accord with their own theological presuppositions. Greg Johnson is already a teaching elder in the PCA and he will remain as one regardless of any changes in the BCO.
Thirdly, we’ve all seen those maps of recent national presidential elections. The east coast (from North Carolina northward) and the west coast are blue. Also, the large cities in the United States are generally blue. Fly-over America (rural America) is red. Here is a surprising fact. If you were to create a map of the PCA presbytery votes, and place it as a template over a similar map of the United States presidential popular vote, then there would be almost a perfect match.
Indeed, the voting demographics of PCA presbyteries tended to follow the voting demographics in the recent elections for the president of the United States. The connection is uncanny. Progressive Presbyterian elders on the coastlines and in the big cities tended to vote like progressive politicians, and conservative Presbyterian leaders in fly-over America tended to vote like conservative politicians.
Theology and geography tend to be common bed-fellows. It’s similar to the old North-South geographical division of the Civil War. The number of new presbyteries is growing, and these new presbyteries are being created in larger cities and outside of the southeast. Most seminaries that feed the PCA are now much more progressive. The younger seminary graduates, as the whole, are much more progressive than the older generation, and they tend to gravitate to the coastlines and to the larger cities. This is a third reason for the failure of the BCO changes. Just look at politics in America, and you will understand what is happening in the PCA.
Conservatives in the PCA should not be discouraged. The battle is not over. They had only weak weapons with which to fight in this round. They underestimated the power of their opposition. Actually, we still have the numbers to win. They should remain in the battle long-term for the sake of the PCA and for the sake of our children’s children. Hopefully they have learned a great deal, and will be ready to fight more wisely at the next General Assembly.
Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tenn.