Breathing Fresh Air in the Rockies
The 25th PCA General Assembly has come and gone. As with most meetings of a church court, we were not always in agreement with the decisions reached. However, we are happy to report that we voted with the prevailing side the vast majority of the time. (In our estimation, that constitutes a successful Assembly.)
But more than the actual outcome in terms of "Ayes" and "Nays", there was an almost tangible atmosphere of respect. Contributing to that was RE Samuel J. Duncan, who did a fine job as Moderator.
The 1996 Assembly was also largely devoid of considerable tension. This is in wonderful contrast to General Assemblies of recent memory where one could cut the air with a knife.
Since last year's gathering was in hot and steamy Fort Lauderdale, one cannot necessarily attribute a salubrious spiritual atmosphere to the cooler temperatures and majestic setting at the edge of the Colorado Rockies. (We would hasten to add, of course, that the panaroma certainly didn't hurt.) But we are glad that in Colorado Springs, the Assembly had a mountaintop experience. And we are hopeful that the church will continue to view things from Mount Pisgah's heights, and thus to breathe fresh mountain air in all future deliberations.
The 'Year of the Woman'
Did anyone else notice the amazing number of times the women's issue kept on coming up at this year's General Assembly? At least six committee or agency reports dealt with the role of women in church and society.
The most obvious was Bills and Overtures, which, for a variety of reasons, turned down the anti-feminist overture from Philadelphia Presbytery regarding women in combat.
In the Interchurch Relations report, the female ordination issue was key in breaking ties with the Christian Reformed Church, and in ensuring that the IRC will never, ever, ever again vote for admission of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church to NAPARC unless the denomination changes its official position on women ministers and elders.
The General Assembly, during the report of the Committee on Review of Presbytery Records, successfully defended its taking exception to the minutes of Southern Florida Presbytery for having a woman lead in prayer and another lady read Scripture in an organization service of public worship.
The major concern in the Ridge Haven report was over the issue of women addressing mixed gatherings of men and women, and in making sure that that doesn't happen again.
Under the Mission to North America report, the overture from New Jersey Presbytery asking that MNA not use women as teachers or worship leaders for its seminars was answered in the negative. But the Assembly made clear that "seminars led by women on biblical and theological exposition will have women as the intended audience. The Scriptures and the subordinate standards are clear that only men are to be appointed as elders. The subordinate standards are clear that the preaching of the Word in the public worship on the Lord's Day is to be conducted by elders, under the oversight of the session. The GA recognizes that the ministry of women within the church, including MNA, must be exercised within the bounds of Scripture, including I Timothy 2:11-12."
South Coast Presbytery had overtured for a study committee on the role of women in the church, asking that such a study be undertaken while there is still a basic cohesion in the PCA. Following the recommendation of the Christian Education and Publications Committee, the General Assembly turned down that overture, stating that following the Book of Church Order was adequate.
Even during the debate over final adoption of the BCO to allow churches to set age limits on voting in congregational meetings, the distaff issue came into play. At least one speaker intimated that, in his view, the problem with the concept of children participating in congregational voting was that of egalitarianism having infilitrated the church, and that the only real solution was to have voting by male heads of households.
We are pleased with the strong stances taken by the Assembly which should make clear that, as far as the PCA is concerned, there is no place for feminism in our beloved denomination.
The problem is, however, that there are folks in our church who in some measure, at least, are sympathetic to feminism. The large negative vote on the victory regarding women not leading in prayer or reading Scripture in public worship may indicate a weak underbelly on those matters, either because of lack of understanding and/or because of some who wish to push a feminist agenda.
We predict that the women's issue is not going to go away anytime soon. We hope and pray that the church, especially at the presbytery level, will be vigilant so that we not go the way of left-wing denominations which have ignored the clear teaching of Scripture regarding the role of women in the church.
Taking Risks for the Gospel
We are increasingly aware in recent weeks of the many risks which missionaries often take in bearing testimony for the gospel of Jesus Christ. From Robert S. Hayes comes news about the escape in mid-June of a World Harvest Mission (WHM) Team as the Ugandan town in which they were ministering was attacked by rebels. For a full account of this dramatic escape, as well as for an update on the situation, please contact TE Robert S. Hayes, Covenant Presbyterian Church, 2350 Frankford Avenue, Panama City, FL 32405-2297; (914)769-7448.