Review of the 47th General Assembly of the PCA
Last week Chris and I had the opportunity to attend the 47th General Assembly of the PCA in Dallas, TX. As promised, what follows is a brief report of the actions taken by the assembly. Please feel free to speak with either of us if you have any questions.
First, some statistics. According to the stated clerks report, a snapshot of the PCA last year in comparison to 2017 is below:
2018 Statistics Compared with 2017
- The number of churches increased by 4 to 1,572.
- The number of mission churches increased by 11 to 355.
- The number of ministers increased by 69 to 4,951.
- Sunday school attendance increased by 679 to 94,349.
- Total professions of faith increased by 338 to 10,071.
- Total membership (communicants, non-communicants and ministers) increased by 10,057 to 384,793.
- Total giving increased by $33,574,188, to $870,679,800.
The PCA has a total of 88 presbyteries, over 1500 churches, over 4900 Pastors, and a total membership of roughly 384 thousand, making us the largest conservative Presbyterian denomination in the country. While our growth rate has been slow, the fact that we are not declining is significant compared to many other denominations.
Major issues discussed and decisions made at this years Assembly:
- To Stay or Not to Stay?
One of the longest debates on the floor this year was over whether or not the PCA as a denomination should stay affiliated with the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). We have been affiliated with the NAE for some time, but due to some recent pronouncements by the organization, the cost to stay associated, and the fact that we are the only reformed denomination that is connected to the NAE, there was a push by one presbytery to disassociate. After lengthy floor debate, a small majority (roughly 700 to 500) of the assembly felt that the benefits of staying affiliated outweighed the concerns and voted to remain.
- To Recommend or Not to Recommend?
Without a doubt the most important issue the Assembly had to deal with was how the denomination should respond to last year’s REVOICE conference, and the many questions and concerns that it has raised inside our churches regarding LGBTQ issues. If you are unfamiliar with REVOICE, you can read some helpful analysis here. Many Presbyteries asked the Assembly to make or adopt some kind of statement clarifying what the church believes on these issues. The debate on the floor focused specifically on whether or not the PCA should recommend the Nashville Statement, which was written in 2017 by the council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Again, by a small majority (roughly 800 to 575) the assembly voted to approve Nashville statement. To be clear, those who voted against the Nashville statement did not do so because they disagreed with the substance of the statement per se, but because (1) they felt that the PCA could do better by erecting a study committee and making our own statement, (2) The Nashville statement focuses on truth, but lacks pastoral nuance, and (3) The Nashville statement has a few questionable phrases which many of the pastors in the denomination did not feel comfortable affirming.
Alongside the Nashville statement, the assembly voted to erect a study committee to study these issues and bring a report back to the denomination at next year’s assembly. It is possible that this committee will bring further recommendations for action to the Assembly next year, we will wait and see.
- To Study or Not Study?
The assembly, with far more unity, voted to approve a study committee report on the issue of domestic violence and sexual assault. Many Presbyteries asked the assembly to do this, so it was not at all surprising that it was approved by wide margin. Given some of the scandals that have come to light in other denominations, I believe it is wise for the PCA to try and get ahead of the issue and put something out that can get sessions on the same page regarding how to respond to these kinds of sins in our churches. Next year the study committee will report back to the denomination.
There were MANY other issues that the Assembly dealt with of course. There were a total of 48 overtures to the Assembly, votes on BCO ammendments, worship services, and more. If you really want to nerd out on everything that happened, you can read this summary by David Coffin.
I'll finish by making a personal observation, which is that I think the PCA is in generally good health. We are certainly not a perfect denomination, and it is true that the PCA is more of a "broad tent" then some other reformed denominations, which inevitably creates some tension. Nevertheless, the PCA at its broadest is still radically conservative compared to the rest of the American Church. The assembly showed its desire to give both a biblically truthful and pastoral response to the LGBTQ community by both affirming the Nashville statement and approving a study committee. Yes there are disagreements on some of these issues, but the desire to hold fast to Biblical truth AND reach out to LGBTQ people is a healthy balance that the denomination is trying to strike. While there are still some important issues to be studied and debated, it seems that the denomination is willing to do it. Only time will tell, of course, and every generation must guard carefully the faith once for all delivered to the saints, but I see nothing that suggest to me that the PCA is not committed to the authority of the Bible or the fundamentals of the reformed faith.
As always, I am thankful for the opportunity to attend GA and participate in the life of the denomination. As distant as we can seem to be from the denomination in TC, participating both in presbytery and GA are always a good reminder and encouragement to me that we are not alone. There are many congregations just like ours all over the country who are remain faithful to God's word, and are impacting their cities for the Kingdom through both word and deed witness. Please pray that God keeps our denomination faithful for decades to come, and that the individual churches that make up the PCA, like Redeemer, will bear fruit and be used for the spread of the Kingdom of God.