Is the PCA Reformable?

Even a casual reader, we believe, would be able to discern that one of the major themes to this issue of the newspaper is that the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) is in deep trouble, and that many of the best and brightest in her ranks are concerned about her direction and her future. So concerned are some of her sons and daughters, that they are seriously contemplating abandoning the good ship PCA, out of a belief that the denomination is so compromised as not to be salvageable.

The departure of a church in New Jersey, coupled with the scheduled discussion by Louisiana Presbytery, should alert the church as a whole that all is not well. Beyond these public acts, there is an ongoing debate on at least one email list with regard to separation; and a group of men (the "Vanguard Group") has been preparing constitutional documents for a new denomination in case manning of the lifeboats becomes necessary.

We are sympathetic to those who believe that the PCA is past the point of reform. There is no question but that our beloved church is passing through a dark period-a time when preachers cannot define what preaching is, when churchmen twist and distort the "facts" in an effort not to have to adjudicate an embarrassing and inconvenient matter, when the denominational college thinks that singing in a Roman Catholic mass is a wonderful thing to do, when all kinds of bizarre hermeneutics are being applied to Genesis and the rest of the Pentateuch, when we cannot agree on the "original intent" of our historical Constitutional documents, and when scholars who could bring some sanity to the scene are deliberately shut out of posts of authority and prestige. We truly live in a very strange era. And, it is understandable why some would react out of a sense of despair.

But while we may be approaching an iceberg, we are convinced that we have not yet struck it. And we are also of the opinion that a concerted effort to wrest control of the church from the left-wing in our midst can be successful.

In order for that to happen, however, we must Pray, Preach, and Persevere. We must be on our knees; we must boldly and unabashedly proclaim the truth of the Word of God; and we must engage the battle with perseverance and in an intelligent manner.

Of course, all of our efforts will come to naught unless they are attended with divine blessing. Unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain to build it; unless the Lord keeps the city, the watchman wakes but in vain (Psalm 127). Nevertheless, we are responsible to use the "means of grace" which the Lord has ordained.

Will the PCA be spared from apostasy? Time and providence will tell. Can she, from our human perspective, be saved from going irretrievably into liberalism? To that, we answer with a resounding, "Yes!", in recognition that the same God Who can bring dead bones to life can revive a denomination whose spiritual condition, while showing signs of serious sickness, is not yet moribund.

We have committed ourselves to working for the reform of our beloved denomination. It is toward that end that we at P&R News have decided to go from a quarterly to a bi-monthly publication. We trust that many of our readers will join us in Prayer, Preaching, and Perseverance with the same noble goal in view.

-Frank J. Smith

The Secret Society of Jesus or the Commonwealth of Christ?

I was raised Roman Catholic. Shapiro was not the most common Catholic name (nor is it the most common Presbyterian one, either!) From my earliest memories, I remember distinctly thinking, even in first and second grade, that while people went to Church, the Church was really for the priests, the archbishops, the cardinals, and, of course, the Holy See. The affairs and management of the Roman Church was shrouded in secrecy, most typically seen in the selection process for the Pope. A secret enclave in a sealed chapel complete with white smoke! Secrecy has been a hallmark of Roman orders down through the ages. It is Romanism that produced such "open" systems as the Inquisition and Bastile.

Then I came to Christ and discovered the glorious doctrine of the Church as a holy commonwealth. That my elders, while called of God, are selected by the citizens of this holy commonwealth, to administer a sacred office for the good of the people and glory of God-what a liberating doctrine! Alas, how the silver has turned to dross in our beloved church courts!

We now have whole Presbyteries enveloping themselves with the shroud of Executive Session to overlook doctrinal lapses in our churches and teaching elders, to adjudicate (or fail to adjudicate) cases, to reject credentials of PCA ministers in good standing, and who knows what other mischief. I suspect these churchmen find it liberating in not being held individually accountable for their words and decisions. What is not realized is that every decision reached under the cloak of secrecy is by definition capricious (because we do not know why they reached that determination) and biased (because we do not know who voted for what and in what numbers) and undermine the very authority they seek to assert. As my law professor once said, "any decision arrived by undue process is no decision at all"; and so it is with our Church courts.

Consider, our God went to great length, even sending His Son, to reveal to His people (not just the leaders) what had been for centuries hidden in the mind and heart of God. Our leaders, like the ungrateful slave, have returned the favor bestowed by God by darkening counsel and acting like mere men. The people of God deserve better of their leaders. Even the civil courts and legislatures know they must be open with their citizens, as evidenced by CSPAN, published debates, deposed witnesses, and court reporters. Why are God's people treated more meanly than the world?

It is with this conviction that Presbyterian and Reformed News brings you the news from our presbyteries and it is our hope that our readers will take heart and DEMAND that their session and presbytery report to them their minutes and decisions. -Bob Shapiro