St. Louis, Missouri (June 30, 1998)-Close to 1300 commissioners gathered for the 26th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). The annual meeting began Tuesday afternoon with the customary communion service.
Sam Duncan, an attorney from Hattiesburg, MS, gave the Retiring Moderator's sermon. Using Ephesians 2:8-10 and James 2:14-17, he focused "on the interplay between faith and obedience" in three areas: denominational; presbytery and local church; and "our own lives."
Mr. Duncan made reference to the retiring moderator's sermon by his predecessor (Dr. Charles McGowan), in warning the church against "embracing the gods of our culture." He averred that "we are only one generation away from apostasy"; adding, with reference to the 2nd Commandment, that "The unfaithfulness of fathers always leads to the unfaithfulness of the children." In order to avoid "the seeds of apostasy [which] are all around us," Mr. Duncan stated that the PCA must remain faithful to her founding standards: chiefly the Bible, then the doctrinal standards.
Referring to the current debate on Creation and the meaning of the word "day" in Genesis 1, the Mississippi lawyer commended the advice of Dr. Bryan Chapell, President of Covenant Theological Seminary, that we "not go beyond Scripture." But Mr. Duncan also stated that "while implementing his wise counsel, we must always be wary of going into liberalism as Princeton [Theological Seminary] or the old PCUS." Further, Genesis 1 must "never be viewed as poetic in any way."
With regard to presbyteries and local churches, the ruling elder exhorted the commissioners to "make sure that officers are well trained" and that "they put their faith into practice." Speaking of his experience at First Presbyterian of Hattiesburg, he said that too often the view of the church with respect to discipline has been "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil." Mr. Duncan urged a return to Biblical discipline-an emphasis which he has been heartened to see in various congregations. He encouraged the men to "stand firm to have qualified and dedicated men serving in office"; adding: "Don't lower your standards, just to get men into office."
With regard to one's personal life, the Retiring Moderator appealed to I Timothy 5:8 and taking care of one's loved ones. Referring to his own support of his mother and grandmother in their need, he told how the Lord had blessed him for the care he had displayed.
The forty year old barrister believes that the PCA has "passed through its adolescent years and is maturing." He expressed gratitude to the founders of the PCA, and said: "And I just hope that my generation will be as faithful as that generation."
Admitting that "the PCA is not without its share of serious issues," he stated: "I'm encouraged by the presence of these issues," since it forces him to re-consider what the Bible says about them. "I'm grateful to the men who bring these concerns," said Mr. Duncan.
In concluding remarks, he opined that "the PCA
will rise or fall with the ruling elders." He urged that
Sessions "not act solely as boards of directors."