2019 PCA General Assembly Report
This particular GA was the most attended PCA assembly in our history with 1,616 “commissioners” or, delegated elders. There were 1,209 pastors and 407 ruling elders in attendance. Considering that the PCA has 4,951 total pastors and 1,572 churches, this was a good representation (but could still be better). Part of the work of the Assembly is to review the work of the entire denomination. Pastor Bennett served on a committee that reviewed all the Presbytery records for 2018. Elder Wilson served on a committee that reviewed the work of the Committee on Discipleship Ministries. At that committee report our church, Covenant Presbyterian Church, was mentioned for being the first church to host Legacy, an Older Adult Ministry Conference.
Although there were multiple services of worship, along with communion and camaraderie, the primary focus of GA is an extremely lengthy business meeting where parliamentary procedure is the native language. Business began early in the morning and lasted well into the evenings, even going to midnight one night. If the purpose of the gathering is the business of the church, the heart of the Assembly is found in the worship services. Local churches lead the Assembly in three worship services that give a small taste of the glorious worship that is described in Revelation 4. Much like the small portions of communion bread and fruit of the vine point us to the Wedding Supper of the Lamb, the worship of such a multitude is a small taste of what is to come. The worship sustains and focuses the commissioners in terms of who the Lord is and who we are, even as we debate crucial issues.
General Assembly also brings a series of seminars, panels and discussions on important topics in the life of the church or in the broader culture. Appropriately, an important seminar was entitled, “Christian Civility in an Uncivil Age: Speaking the Truth in Love.” This timely topic focused on how Christian discussions can be done with the best intentions and yet still fall into the ungodly patterns of incivility that occur in the world through the manner of our speech and our presumptions about others.
The actions of the General Assembly were not exhaustive, however there were some important issues that were discussed and voted upon. Aside from some housekeeping actions, the Assembly spent a great deal of time discussing some controversial issues. The first was with regards to maintaining our presence as a denominational member of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), founded in 1942. The PCA has been a member of the NAE since our own inception in 1973. Concerns were raised that the NAE compromises theological convictions concerning sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) with regard to protecting religious liberty of Evangelicals. The stated clerk for the PCA, Dr. L. Roy Taylor, was asked to bring clarity to the Assembly as our denominational representative and a member of the NAE Board of Directors. Dr. Taylor shared that the NAE maintains our own theological position on SOGI and, furthermore, remains a substantial partner through which we are able to speak into national issues. The Assembly voted to retain our membership with the NAE.
In the summer of 2018 there was a conference entitled, Revoice, hosted by a PCA church in St. Louis. Revoice is a parachurch conference seeking to help those who struggled with same-sex attraction. Since that time there has been much discussion and a great deal of confusion (and controversy) about this conference as well as the nature of our denomination’s involvement. This GA dealt with a number of questions about how to respond not only to the framers and supporters of this conference, but also our culture at large. In a very concrete response, the General Assembly affirmed a document on biblical human sexuality from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), the Nashville Statement, calling it a “biblically faithful declaration.”
In another concrete response, the denomination “received” and “commended” a thorough Study Committee report published by the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America in 2011, called, “Contemporary Perspectives on Sexual Orientation: A Theological and Pastoral Analysis.”
In addition to these affirmations, the General Assembly voted to form its own study committee to study “the topic of human sexuality with particular attention to the issues of homosexuality, same-sex attraction, and transgenderism.” This report will include specific matters, including “the propriety of using terms like “gay Christian” when referring to a believer struggling with same-sex attraction, the status of ‘orientation’ as a valid anthropological category, and the practice of ‘spiritual friendship’ among same sex attracted Christians.” The report will be presented at the 48th General Assembly next June.
A second study committee was formed at this year’s GA. This study committee was tasked with researching and providing resources to assist in offering biblically appropriate care for those who have experienced domestic abuse and sexual assault, including “best practices and policy guidelines for elders, church courts, and agencies for protecting against these sins and for responding to them.” This is an important study committee for our denomination to invest time and resources as the Lord calls us to protect the weak (Ex. 22.22; Jas. 1:27).
With such a whirlwind of crucial issues to discuss the overall actions were relatively mild. There is a helpful report of General Assembly offered by Dr. David Coffin, pastor of New Hope PCA in Fairfax, VA. Each year, the Stated Clerk of the PCA, L. Roy Taylor, published a summary of GA, which has been published here: www.pcaac.org. The sentiment from commissioners as we concluded business appeared to be a desire for unity and purity (aside from the exhaustion).
Thank you for your continued prayers for our denomination. As you have specific questions about the actions of GA, please reach out to your shepherding elder, or to Pastor Jones, Pastor Bennett, or elder Mark Wilson directly.