Who May Read The Scriptures In A P&R Service

It’s a rare week when I don’t receive a message from someone in the conservative Presbyterian and Reformed world reporting a practice that the scandalized sender has witnessed in a NAPARC church. Often the report is of females reading scripture or leading some other part of worship, such as the call to worship, confessions, “pastoral” prayer, distributing Lord’s Supper elements—pretty much anything except sermon and benediction. Unsurprisingly, these reports usually concern PCA churches—unsurprising, I say, for two reasons. First, the membership of the PCA makes up about two-thirds of the 600,000 members in NAPARC churches, so there are proportionally more PCA churches to, well, do stuff. Second, there is simply more diversity of practice (i.e., doing stuff) in the PCA. This diversity of practice, some will aver, is because of the diverse geographical and cultural contexts that PCA churches and church plants inhabit compared to their stodgier NAPARC cousins. Missional faithfulness, some will say, requires contextualization, and contextualization requires adjustments. But the question may be asked: What is the real (or first) context that ought to govern practice in a presbyterian church?

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BRAD ISBELL | “Who ought to read scripture in public worship?” | February 7, 2024


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One comment

  1. GM all. Brad, thanks for the repost of this article, a subject that just doesn’t (and shouldn’t) go away. After a bit of back and forth with an RE about this subject, we came to the right conclusion that the reading of scripture during the confession/pardon is indeed placing the congregation under the authority of scripture ie. “from God’s mouth to our ears.” Where it goes from there we’ll have to wait and see.
    I don’t know if a recent comment I left somewhere promted this but I sure am glad you did. It might be of little concern for some but I just don’t appreciate being told as a congregation we are “lost” and that we need to “do better.” I would hope that when we hear these kinds of words during confession, coupled with the authority scripture demands, we should recognize that we have moved from grace back to the law.


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