I would like to offer a few comments in light of the decision of the PCA General Assembly.
First, as Pastor Wilson has mentioned, and I concur, we are not to speak out of anger because of this decision. Nevertheless, I confess that there was a certain level of discouragement after I heard of the news.
Secondly, for those of us who are members of the PCA and at the same time agreeing with much that is said in the Federal Vision literature, let us not lose heart. Sometimes decisions such as these serve to awaken us to the real need for careful interaction with our neighbors who find themselves disagreeing with our position.
Thirdly, I have heard from one who attended that the entire process was done very respectfully without any name-calling.
Fourthly, there appeared to have been at least 15-20%1 in disagreement with the decision. This says that there were many who found the decision to be irrational and unfair. Among those were people who disagreed with the general direction of the NPP/FV, but sensed that something less than proper was going on.
Fifthly, in the words of an attendant: “There were some who wanted to spend another year looking at the topic before bringing it to the General Assembly.” Among the dissenting party one pastor mentioned a proposal to postpone the report requiring at least three changes:
1) The need to add at least two voices to the report that find some value in the Federal Vision.2
2) Instead of comparing it only to the Confession, the report should present an exposition of the passages related to the various debates so that the Bible would be the final arbiter in all things.
3) The Assembly should provide tools so that pastors could go back to their congregations and explain the issues involved in the various debates.
In my humble opinion, the GA would have done well to listen to these brothers.
Finally, this decision is said to not be binding on the entire assembly. It is merely a recommendation of the Assembly. While this is true, when a recommendation receives approval from the majority of members in the Assembly it is liable to become an authoritative document in future disputations in these matters. With so many PCA ministers unaware of the issues around the FV/NPP they will now go back to their congregations and perhaps misrepresent the issues or assume that it is a done deal. As some are already aware, if you are a candidate for a pastoral position in some presbyteries and express sympathy towards FV/NPP, you will not have your call confirmed. I do trust our TE’s and RE’s, but I also realize that for some people when the assembly speaks, it has done more than recommend, but settled the issue. I cannot but be pessimistic about this entire endeavor. My prayer is that my brothers in the faith (particularly Pastor Steve Wilkins) remain in PCA as long as possible and continue to defend these important truths of covenant living and covenant worship.3 Though some may feel the immediate urge to leave the PCA for the CREC or another denomination, I urge you to stay in the PCA and fight the good fight until the very end.
Links for further information:
- Perhaps someone may clarify the numbers [↩ back]
- This was mentioned since all of those chosen to study the issue had either in print or some way expressed negative sentiments towards the Federal Vision and those who showed sympathy towards N.T. Wright and others [↩ back]
- The General impression is that “justification” was the central area of discussion. It would have been much wiser to separate the Federal Vision and the New Perspective in order to avoid confusion. [↩ back]