NEWS BULLETIN #27-3 JUNE 16, 1999

Personal Resolutions Create Stir on Floor

Louisville, Kentucky (June 16, 1999)-The 27th PCA General Assembly this morning received two personal resolutions from commissioners, and refused to receive another. In all three cases, what normally is a perfunctory matter-to receive such resolutions-turned into controversy.

Leading off those presenting resolutions this morning was the Rev. Mr. Jeff Black, pastor of White Oak Presbyterian Church, Fremont, N. C., and a member of the Mission to North America (MNA) Committee of Commissioners. His concern revolves around the published report that a woman spoke at the MNA church planting conference in California in February. The resolution says that "this female speaker purportedly engaged in exhortation to the church planters and in application of Scripture"; and that "this report, if true, would violate the clear instructions given to the MNA Committee by the 1997 General Assembly." That Assembly stated, with regard to MNA, 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 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." After objection was raised, the Moderator put the question of receiving the resolution to a vote. By an overwhelming margin, the Assembly received it. At first referred to Bills & Overtures Committee, the resolution was finally sent to the MNA Committee of Commissioners for consideration.

Next up was Mr. Hugh Belcher, a ruling elder from Dickenson First Presbyterian Church, Haysi, Va. who brought a resolution regarding a report on the internet that the Covenant College choir sang in a Roman Catholic mass. After he presented the resolution, several commissioners wanted to know in what forum this report came, and if he had brought the matter to the attention of Covenant College before presenting it on the floor. Concern was voiced by some that not first going to Covenant College personnel was a violation of Matthew 18 regarding church discipline. The Rev. Mr. David Coffin countered that contention, by saying that Mr. Belcher had not done anything amiss by having a concern for the public reputation of the denomination and its college. The court declined to receive the resolution, 316-488.

The third resolution was offered by the Rev. Mr. Bob Hornick, Stated Clerk of Gulf Coast Presbytery. His resolution has to do with amending the Rules for Assembly Operations regarding the Committee on Review of Presbytery Records. On a divided vote, the Assembly received his resolution.

Covenant College Officials Present Report

Louisville, Kentucky (June 16, 1999)-Covenant College Board Chairman Joel Belz was obviously delighted to have the opportunity to bring the affairs of the college before the church. Mr. Belz, Editor of World magazine, urged the commissioners to use their time and energy to focus on whether the administration of Covenant College is taking seriously its commitment to provide a Christ-centered education. "Hold our feet to the fire," he declared. However, he exhorted them to "do a complete job of your investigation." He stated that each commissioner had taken a vow to uphold the Shorter Catechism, including the directions regarding the Ninth Commandment about upholding the good name of one's neighbor. The investigative journalist exclaimed that "there's nothing that spoils a good story like good research." He asked the commissioners to "understand things in context." The 1200 to 1500 people associated with the college are "an energetic bunch," which "do things spontaneously sometimes, and have to be held to account."

President Frank Brock talked about the high quality of the faculty. He also addressed the allegation raised earlier that the college choir sang in a Roman Catholic mass. He explained that some Covenant College students come from former Communist countries-many of them non-Christians, who subsequently become interested in spiritual things after receiving instruction from Covenant professors. A Roman Catholic lady in Slovakia who is appreciative of the work of the college, requested that the choir perform two concerts in order to acquaint more people with Covenant College. The concerts were held in a Catholic Church (which functions as a concert hall in many communities). Dr. Brock believes this woman to be a genuine Christian. The lady indicated that if the choir performed at the mass held earlier that evening in the same building, more people would be likely to come afterwards. The desired result was that of more people becoming interested in Covenant College, where they could be exposed to the gospel through its teaching. According to Dr. Brock, Professor John Hamm, who accompanied the choir to Eastern Europe, thought that the choir singing in the mass would be fine.

Assembly Votes to Explore Joint Meetings

with other Reformed Denominations

Louisville, Kentucky (June 16, 1999)-The 27th PCA General Assembly this morning voted to approve an overture from Philadelphia Presbytery, which asks for a study as to how the highest judicatories of several Reformed denominations could meet together in a national synod. The recommendation was approved after commissioners debated whether or not it was wise to explore such joint meetings if there was not a serious intention of actually becoming one with those other bodies.

The overture had been referred to two committees-Interchurch Relations Committee (IRC) and the Administrative Committee (AC). Both IRC and AC Permanent Committees had recommended approval of the proposal, as had the IRC Committee of Commissioners. Disagreeing with the proposal was the AC Committee of Commissioners. Its Chairman, Sam Duncan, the Moderator of the 1997 General Assembly, presented his committee's rationale.

Arguing for the overture was another former Assembly Moderator, Dr. Will Barker of Philadelphia Presbytery. Also speaking in favor was the Rev. Mr. Tom Vanden Heuvel, formerly a minister in the Christian Reformed Church, and Editor of the Outlook. It was in that conservative magazine in which the original proposal by Dr. Robert Godfrey regarding the joint meetings appeared.

Assembly Vindicates MNA Committee

Louisville, Kentucky (June 16, 1999)-The 27th General Assembly vindicated its Mission to North America (MNA) staff with regard to allegations that it had violated the instructions of the 1997 Assembly. At the heart of the dispute was a woman speaking at a church planters conference in California in February of this year, whose two addresses allegedly contained exhortation to the men and application of Scripture.

The Rev. Mr. Roland Barnes, who serves on the MNA Permanent Committee, offered a substitute motion to the recommendation from the MNA Committee of Commissioners. The substitute would have stated that the staff did violate the instructions of the Assembly. However, by a substantial margin, the court decreed that the activity did not violate the directives, and also voted that "the MNA staff be considered vindicated from any bad reports." The Assembly also instructed the MNA Permanent Committee to "study the issue of women speaking and teaching in public, and present clear guidelines to the 28th GA of their application of 1 Timothy 2:11-12 and other scripture when selecting women for such ministry."

In other action, the Assembly approved all requested boundary changes for several presbyteries. But approval of two of those proposals did not come automatically: the transfer of I-35 corridor counties in Oklahoma from Mid-America to North Texas Presbytery, and the extension of North Texas' boundaries to include much of west Texas. Minority reports on both of them sparked considerable debate on the floor.

With regard to Mid-America, the MNA Committee of Commissioners wanted the four remaining churches to "work with MNA over the next year to determine which presbytery they may wish to join." The Assembly, however, agreed with the ruling of the Moderator, that that terminology was out of order in that in essence it was advising the Presbytery with regard to dissolution, and the Constitution does not allow the Assembly to dissolve a presbytery without its consent.

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