17 Points Adopted by PCA GA

You saw it on the HB on April 30 in draft form. Then, on May 27 David Hall let us know about the action of the NW Georgia Presbytery to adopt a version of the 17 Points. Wes White has the version adopted by the PCA GA.

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  1. I’m all in favor of the 17 points and wish that they alone had been passed by our General Assembly. That said, the way in which they were passed was less than desirable.

    The Assembly debated for 5 hours plus on the Strategic Plan and those opposed to the plan could only point to one point that had been defeated. At midnight, after the last part of the Strategic Plan was approved, came the 17 points. I don’t think anyone voted against them.

    Using an analogy, the debate felt like being on the receiving end of a Nebraska football game where the score was 55 – 0 with thirty seconds left on the clock. INMO the ‘victorious’ side allowed the 17 Points to be passed as a consolation to the ‘losing’ side. In the end the vote to approve the 17 Points seemed hollow.

    • That was certainly the feel of the event. Clearly the intent of the document’s writers (to offer an alternative to the burgeoning strategic plan) was not fulfilled in the way it went through (as an additional reaffirmation that the SP doesn’t mean we are liberals).

      I love the analogy!

  2. While I think the 17 points are a wonderful summary of some of the basic contours of Word and Sacrament ministry (with Scriptural support, which is a breath of fresh air), I remain puzzled as to the purpose and value of this document. This is certainly the theology and practice which I as a PCA pastor confess in the constitutional documents I have affirmed (WCF, WLC, WSC, BCO), yet one wonders if 17 is enough or too many to cover what we as a church have already confessed. Our Confession has 33 chapters, so why not 33 points? On the other hand, doesn’t number 14 cover all the rest (“A renewed commitment to the Reformed Confession”). Maybe all we needed was 1 point.

    To me having to restate this seems to undermine what we have already confessed in our confessions. I’m also not sure what this “renewed commitment” language means. I haven’t lost my trust in God’s means of grace, and if there are others who have, does their approval of this document mean that they have recovered that trust?

    Shakespeare’s words may be appropriate here, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” I certainly have all the highest hopes for this, but so far I haven’t had enough of my questions answered either.


  3. It was nearly midnight on Thursday when the 17 points were passed. If I had been able to speak on the floor, I would have pointed out the contrast between the 17 points and the themes/objectives of the Strategic Plan. The 17 points are full of pure, clear Gospel truths, God-centered, Scripture-based, and true to our confessional commitments. The SP, on the other, is yet another recital of corporate-style process, a good bit of obvious common sense mixed with some grandiose visions. But, time had run out, everyone was “whooped,” and clearly the 17 points were a slam-dunk anyway.

    I have the same mixed feelings toward the Assembly adopting the 17 points as some others have expressed. My conclusions vary from day to day, based on my mood in general. Is the glass 3/4 empty or 1/4 full? On the one hand, the old cynic in me concludes that the Committee merely threw a bone to the conservatives to silence their barks. That’s not the judgment of charity, however. It lacks any real proof, and I really shouldn’t go there. On the other hand, I should be thankful that this much was accomplished, especially at the end. The 17 points will, I trust, by God’s grace, be used as the basis for discussions in Sessions and classes in the church. I’ll be surprised if the details of the SP inspire more than a handful in leadership or in the pew out here at the “grass roots.”

    When all is said and done, we should trust the 17 points to influence the church for good, in spite of the imperfect process by which they came to us.

    “Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29, ESV).

    -FWA, PCA Ruling Elder, Hattiesburg, MS

  4. Frank,

    I hear you. However Dr. Chapell was clear that the 17 Points were seen ‘to be hostile’ (his words) to the Strategic Plan. Hence, they were set aside so that the Strategic Plan could be voted up or down first. They are not the foundation of the Strategic Plan or the soil from which the Strategic plan grew. They are an addendum tacked onto the plan as if to say, “Oh sure, yes we believe in ordinary means of grace. Thanks for that reminder.”

    You said,

    “When all is said and done, we should trust the 17 points to influence the church for good, in spite of the imperfect process by which they came to us.

    “Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29, ESV).”

    I don’t question that at all and know that God can use the 17 Points for good. However, the PCA is already fractured and ‘balkanized.’ People hear what they want to hear and they will use whichever elements of the Strategic Plan that suit their interests. Rare will be the person or group who uses the 17 Points as the starting point to discuss and implement the rest of the plan.

    I’m certain that a year from now or even five years from now it won’t be the 17 Points that will be remembered and used by the majority of the PCA as much as the rest of Strategic Plan.

    • Dave,

      I hope you’ll turn out to be neither a prophet, nor the son of one, in your final paragraph. Maybe the fractures in the PCA run deeper than I realize. I still hope that the 17 points, with their clear Biblical emphasis, will resonate with many and will have a long and fruitful life.

      I didn’t hear or read Dr. Chapell’s remarks that the 17 points were “seen to be hostile to the Strategic Plan.” I agree with that assessment. The 17 points as originally presented were an alternative to the SP. Whether or not the Committee viewed the 17 points as a tacked-on addendum (shall we say “perfunctory reminder” ?), the fact remains that they were approved and they’re officially out there now. Just imagine the outcome if NW Georgia Presbytery had not sent up the original Overture.

      I don’t much enjoy the present situation of “battling documents.” (There are some, I’m sure, who see no conflict between the SP and the 17 points. God bless ’em.) To repeat another cliche, “It is what it is.” At least in my church and Session, the 17 points will get a wide circulation. Today I’m printing dozens of copies.

      During the past two weeks, I’ve had to ponder this question: Is it better to have the Strategic Plan without the 17 points, or to have the SP with the 17 points? I finally realized that to ask the question is to answer it. Given the present reality in the PCA, the best option-17 points with no Strategic Plan-cannot come to pass. So, we work with what, in God’s good providence, we have at the moment.

  5. Frank,

    Agreed. I spoke to Jon Payne after GA adjourned and thanked him for his work. The Strategic Plan is better with the 17 points included than in its original form. I will follow your example of distributing the 17 Points with my Session and in my presbytery.

  6. Actually, Dave, in 5 years, the 17 points will endure in local churches, perhaps not remembered as “the 17 points,” per se, but just ordinary ministry, which was going to happen anyway with or without the Strategic Plan. All ministry is local.

    Better — what will be remembered in 50 years, or even 500 years? Not the 17 points, per se, but what they represent will most certainly continue. That is rather their point. Yet in 50 years, no one will remember this Strategic Plan. We could not even remember whether Scriptural work had been done in the Plans from 2000 or 2003. Horses and Chariots methinks. Not evil of themselves by any means, but since they are “common grace insights,” our trust had better not be placed in this Plan as our best hope.

    That is why I think it was very helpful for the 17 points to be passed almost unanimously. I think it was much more than a bone but an expression of unity around what we most value as a denomination. At least I hope so.

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