Pastoral Notes for Sunday, July 7, 2019

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) met in Dallas, TX, on June 25-28. It was, in my opinion, one of the more encouraging assemblies in recent years. In saying that, I’m not suggesting that all is well in the PCA. Like any branch of the visible church, we have our issues. Taken as a whole, however, I see many reasons to be encouraged. In the space below, let me highlight two reasons.

First, the assembly took a strong stand for truth. This could be illustrated in a number of ways, but one of the clearest evidences was the assembly’s decision to commend the Nashville Statement ( as a biblically faithful declaration on human sexuality. As expected, this action didn’t please everyone. Some expressed concerns about the statements lack of pastoral care. Others questioned the way sexual identity is conceptualized in article VII. Still others suggested it was unnecessary and redundant, since the PCA already has strong confessional standards in support of the Bible’s teaching on gender and sexuality. At the end of the day, a strong majority of the assembly were unconvinced by these lines of thought and voted instead to commend the Nashville Statement, believing that reaffirming what we believe in this way is needed in a time where biblical distinctions of gender and sexuality are being jettisoned and the church is increasingly confused on such matters.

Further, the assembly also commended the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America’s statement on sexual orientation Still further, the assembly erected it’s own study committee on the issue of sexuality in order to bring together our best minds and create our own statement. So, more on this topic is coming in the year(s) ahead. 

Second, the assembly took a stand for grace. Again, I could point to three or four assembly actions, but one case in point would be the overwhelming support to erect a study committee on domestic abuse, oppression, and sexual assault. With the rise of the #metoo movement and growing prevalence of these sins in society and, sadly, even in the church, the PCA committed itself to study the issue and supply the assembly with a report that will include best practices and guidelines for protecting against these sins and responding to them biblically and pastorally.

If you have specific questions about these issues or other business at the General Assembly level, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. If enough of you have questions, we can organize a GA debrief. Seriously, I’d be happy to reserve a room at the church and talk through any particulars over coffee.

Before I sign off, it’s worth noting that whenever pastors and elders from all over the world gather in one place to debate and decide matters of business on controversial topics, there’s bound to be disagreements. That was certainly true this year. But the spirit in which the disagreements were discussed were, on the whole, temperate and gracious and focused on what will glorify God and best serve the mission of the church. That makes me proud (in a good way!) to be a part of the PCA.

But don’t just take my word for it; take Rev. Andy Young’s word on it. Andy is a church planter from Oxford, England. Andy is not ordained in the PCA, and this was his first General Assembly to attend. At the end of his time, he wrote a short piece entitled, “An Outsiders Take on the PCA GA 2019.” In that piece, he made several helpful observations, but none more helpful than his comments on disagreement and debate. He wrote, “…I simply give thanks to God that both on the floor of GA, in discussions afterwards, and in the various online postings since, PCA men are expressing their views, engaging with the issues, and debating the truth. This is encouraging and long may it continue. In addition, the tone of debate has been congenial and compassionate. Of course it is easy to find exceptions to this, but let’s not overly focus on the negatives. The vast majority of interactions I personally heard and have read online have exuded a tone befitting men of God. Let us pray for our brothers that they will know humility, discernment and courage as they debate together, and that through their debates they may stand for the truth and maintain the peace and unity of the PCA.”

I couldn’t agree more. Let me urge us to take up Andy’s prayer for our denomination—that we would stand on the truth of God’s Word, striving by every means of grace to maintain the peace, purity, and unity of the church. That, I pray, is a prayer that God would be pleased to answer.