MNA Responds to Central Georgia

In a letter dated October 5, 1998, the Mission to North America Committee responded to Central Georgia Presbytery regarding the questions which the Presbytery had posed at its July 1998 stated meeting. The MNA reply is as follows:

. . . We seek to work in harmony with Central Georgia Presbytery, and seek to satisfactorily address your concerns for the sake of the peace of the church and the advancement of the gospel.

(1) Is too much power or control respecting church planting in the West concentrated in the hands of TE Lewis Ruff? Is it wise to have one man functioning as an assessor, a regional coordinator, and hold presbytery positions as well?

(2) Is adequate oversight of area coordinators being given?

Regional coordinators work under the policies and administrative direction of the MNA Committee and its staff. MNA staff are constantly in communication with regional coordinators about their work and the MNA Committee believes their ministries are adequately supervised. We are well pleased with their work, and affirm the great contribution they make to the advancement of the Kingdom through church planting. Regional coordinators carry extraordinary workloads, and the Lord has accomplished much through them. We invite any concerned parties to communicate directly with the MNA Coordinator if there are areas of specific question.

It is common practice for regional coordinators to serve as church planting assessors, and we see no conflict in this. Regional coordinators know the work of church planting well, are church planters themselves, and therefore are well equipped to assist in evaluating others. They work with church planters on the field, so the assessment process provides a good beginning to their working relationship.

Since PCA numbers in the West still are not strong, Lewis Ruff is called upon for extra duties that would not be necessary in most presbyteries east of the Mississippi River. In addition, beginning in late 1997, there were great challenges in overseeing the ministry of New Song Salt Lake resulting from the sin of the church's pastor and his subsequent removal from the church. Merely keeping the church together required substantial intervention and assistance from Lewis. There were many issues in the church that had not been addressed appropriately at that time and have been addressed since then.

The MNA Committee affirms the leadership of Lewis Ruff and its other regional coordinators and staff, particularly in the special challenges presented by the "frontier" church planting efforts of the PCA, and we are grateful for their labors in the Lord's work. We are grateful for Lewis Ruff's leadership in addressing the needs of New Song Salt Lake. We thank the Lord for His work through Lewis in sustaining the very crucial ministry of this mission church. We request your prayers that the Lord will produce more workers for His mission field.

With regard to New Song Salt Lake, a new interim pastor is now in place. The Lord has been gracious, and the congregation is doing well, considering all that they have been through, but these brothers and sisters in Christ still very much need our prayers. In particular, we ask the prayers of Central Georgia Presbytery for Lewis, as he continues to work with them.

(3) Is it the view of MNA, explicitly or implicitly, that the future of the denomination is with "contemporary" worship rather than traditional Reformed worship?

(4) Is it the view of MNA that it is legitimate to use drama, dance, video, and rock music in Reformed worship?

(5) What, in the view of MNA, is forbidden in worship and would not be permitted in a church under its supervision?

(8) Does MNA actively encourage the basic elements of reformed worship, such as metrical Psalm-singing, expository preaching, and biblical prayer?

Worship standards for MNA are the Scriptures, as interpreted by the confessional standards of the church and as interpreted by the Book of Church Order and MNA's "Healthy Church" document. Each church planter affirms his commitment to these standards in his ordination and affirms his commitment to the "Healthy Church" document with his signature. Church planters are expected to work within the guidance of these standards, and whenever there appears to be departures from this, the church planter is admonished to correct his practice.

Admonition is brought specifically when the content of worship music is not biblical, the Lord's table is not properly fenced or where there appears to be only a broad evangelical commitment and a lack of developing the congregation's appreciation for our rich biblical and reformed tradition in doctrine, worship, piety and polity. As indicated at the General Assembly, MNA Staff will work toward improving our processes for regular review of these practices and distinctives.

While at various times in the past, MNA may have emphasized particular styles of worship, current church plants reflect the worship style diversity of the PCA as a whole. Statistics are not firm (in part because these categories are difficult to define precisely), but approximately one-third of our church plants use "contemporary" worship; at least one-fifth are liturgical-utilizing the rich historical traditions of the church in forms of worship that includes extensive use of the confession and creeds, as well as weekly communion. The remaining churches use a "blended" style of worship, or lean toward the use of traditional hymns and other worship forms very common to longer-established PCA churches.

We repeat here the theme expressed by the MNA Coordinator and MNA Chairmen at the General Assembly 26th, namely, that the PCA has a wide variety of worship forms, both in viewpoint and practice, and that MNA should not be called upon to settle controversies to which the Assembly has not found answers. Final responsibility for worship rests under the supervision of the presbytery. While MNA will provide guidance to church planters that is in accord with the documents cited above, the practices of the mission church come under the purview of the presbytery. MNA is not a court of the church. It is the responsibility of the church courts to ensure that biblical standards of faith and practice are observed.

(6) Is it possible that preference has been shown, whether overtly or subtly, to contemporary or novel forms of worship over traditional Reformed worship?

(7) Have the accusations of favoritism towards those who advocate contemporary worship been investigated? Have participants in assessment centers been asked? Have church planters been surveyed?

MNA Committee and Staff have received neither indication of preferences shown, nor accusations of favoritism, toward any particular forms of worship. We are aware that there is great diversity of worship styles in the PCA. In the past, the freedom we have enjoyed in worship styles-while remaining faithful to the essentials of reformed worship-has been a healthy mark of equipping church planters in contextualizing their ministries. We do not currently, nor have we in the past, used worship style preferences to qualify or disqualify potential church planters.

Should such favoritism become evident at any point, the appropriate biblical way to address this would be to express the specific concerns in writing to the MNA Committee Chairman and MNA Coordinator. We appreciate Central Georgia Presbytery bringing your concerns to our attention, and express again our desire to satisfactorily address these concerns for the sake of the peace of the church and the advancement of the gospel.

The MNA Committee stands with Central Georgia in a full commitment to developing PCA churches who lead the Lord's people in biblical worship, and who bear witness to the world that we worship the one true living and holy God, who calls all people everywhere to worship Him in spirit and in truth.