Reasons For Confessionalists In The PCA To Remain Optimistic

Despite The Defeat Of Overtures 23 And 37

Despite voices warning the PCA was slipping down a progressive slope, for the most part confessional churches (now referred to by the chic as “Neo-Fundamentalists”) and progressive congregations (are they the “Neo-Liberals” according to the new chic nomenclature?) got along well enough until recently.

While they had concerns regarding some currents in the PCA, many small-and-medium-sized confessional churches were content to leave the work of General Assembly largely to others. As a result, the PCA lurched slowly, yet steadily in a broad, progressive direction until about 2019.

The 2019 and 2021 Assemblies represented a clear rejection of the broad, progressive, wing of the General Assembly. And elders at the Assembly took heed to the warnings about the slippery progressive slope.

I. Changing the PCA Trajectory

The recent unveiling of a series of emails from the once-secretive National Partnership (NP) reveals the alarm of the Progressives regarding the new trajectory of the General Assembly beginning in 2019. A member in the NP sent this email as voting was about to begin in Dallas: Read more»

Ryan Biese | “The Rise and Fall of the Presbycrats” | Feb 14, 2022


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  1. The only part of this “glass half full” assessment that is hard to reconcile is why the overtures would fail to be ratified within the friendly confines of the presbyteries where REs wouldn’t have to travel long distances to attend. Has the GA attendance the last few years really been representative?

  2. I have wondered if it is possible to get a vote count of each Presbytery’s vote on the two overtures to see the proportion of TEs/REs voting. But aside from possible imbalance, at some point the issue of unaffiliated TEs participating in Presbytery voting needs to be addressed, as well as the Good Faith Subscription. Both are fatal to sustained orthodoxy in the long term.

    • Right on, Randall.

      One thing that has always baffled me is this: Ordained TEs in the PCA that don’t attend PCA churches (I’m aware of this happening in the OPC as well, and wonder if the practice is also common and/or allowed in Reformed denominations like the URCNA?).

      It would make a little more sense to me if you were providentially hindered from participating in a local church where your ordination and presbytery membership are at, so you then attend a different NAPARC church, perhaps.

      However, I’m over here in the Northeast and the practice of ordained TEs (“presbycrats” to use the author’s designator) choosing to worship outside of their credentialing denomination—while there are many solid churches within that denomination in close proximity to where the TE lives/works—is alarming and very problematic, I think.

      If someone knows why this is allowed and not reigned in more by presbyteries, please elaborate.

      Blessings in Christ

      • Brandon,

        In American Presbyterian polity the membership of the ministers resides in the Presbytery. It is not just a delegated broader assembly, as in the URCs, but rather it is a higher court of the church. The Presbytery is the TE’s church/congregation. He is on loan, as it were, from the presbytery to the congregation. Men have been known to take advantage of this feature/bug of presbyterian polity.

  3. I hope this is right. I am a PCA RE, and I was at the general assemblies in both Dallas and St. Louis. I am disappointed that the Presbyteries failed to muster the 2/3 majority necessary for Overtures 23 and 37. But this article does give me hope.

  4. As a Scot, I find this all very confusing. I double-checked the Practice of the Free Church (to take one example — I think the CoS may have 2 TEs for every RE), but it was as I supposed. Why does the PCA not do as follows?

    PART I: Constitution and Officials of the General Assembly

    1. Temporary Character: The General Assembly differs from the Inferior
    Church Courts in the circumstance that, as a body, it has no permanent existence.
    Whatever powers or functions belong to the General Assembly belong to it entirely
    as a representative and temporary body.

    2. Membership: The General Assembly consists of an equal number of
    Ministers and Elders, commissioned annually by each recognised Presbytery of
    the Church. The exact number to be elected and commissioned by each Presbytery
    is fixed from time to time by Act of Assembly, with consent of a majority of

    3. Principles for regulating membership: Two principles, at least, are held
    to be permanently fixed in the constitution of the Free General Assembly, viz.:

    (1) that the number of Ruling Elders commissioned by each Presbytery shall be
    equal to the number of Ministers; and (2) that the proportion of representatives
    from each Presbytery be just and fair as compared with the representation from
    other Presbyteries.

    • Allan: All of what you outline might make sense if we were talking about two groups within the PCA which are looking for some kind of compromise. They are not.

    • Allan,

      I can speak to 2 and 3. The PCA was founded as a separating body from the old Souther Presbyterian body, the PCUS, as the latter prepared to merge with the more liberal Northern Presbyterians (the split going back to the American Civil War). The PCA was founded as a “grassroots” body and the idea of delegated assemblies, though it has picked up support in recent years, may be hard to square with the democratic/egalitarian ethos manifested in its founding.

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