Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Report from PCA General Assembly


I'm blogging while in the middle of the Presbyterian Church in America's General Assembly (a.k.a GA). We are in the stage of the meetings where various ministries give their reports to the Assembly. It's kind of a passive process of sitting and listening, for quite some time, to many different people who are leading these various ministries. While our church doesn't have immediate involvement with all the ministries reporting, it is certainly exciting to be part of a denomination a that labors diligently to bring the gospel to the various parts of our country, world, and culture.

The PCA is a reformed denomination that is connected to the broader evangelical world in a way other reformed denominations are not. Such a "broadness" brings blessings and challenges. One of the challenges for me, someone committed to a more historical, liturgical form of worship, is the PCA's widespread worship practices. There is no uniform code or guideline for worship style in our denomination. If you are a member of a PCA church in one place traveling to another place in search of a PCA church to attend for worship, chances are high it will look quite different than the church you normally attend. Is this a weakness? I tend to think so, but I'm not very wise about too many things, I admit that. I also tend to be pretty conservative in my views on worship matters, but I don't think everyone has to care what I think, my charge is the local congregation that called me, not the whole denomination or the wider evangelical world as it relates to overseeing worship.

All this to say, last night's opening worship service was ordered very well and I was blessed by the thoughtfulness that clearly went in to it's planning. I liked it so much because it looked remarkably like the order of worship we practice at Redeemer. In many previous opening GA worship services it seemed like they were a bit disjointed, lacked flow, and had too many worship leaders involved. Last night included just two worship leaders who led us enthusiastically through the liturgy and in to the Lord's Supper after a very faithful and effective sermon by the retiring moderator. Verbosity is often an issue in such opening services. Usually there are 5 or 6 ministers assigned to lead the service who take too long with the part of worship they are leading. In my view, a well-crafted liturgy doesn't require a lot of extra comments from the worship leader. Short, succinct, thoughtful transitions are enough. That's basically how the worship service was last night. The liturgy was allowed to do it's job, so to speak. The same is true for the Lord's Supper. It is a major liturgical pet peeve of mine when ministers talk endlessly before communion. Very little needs to be said. A brief invitation, a warning about not taking of the Lord's Supper in an unworthy matter, the words of institution from Scripture, and prayer is all that is needed before the elements are distributed- not a mini sermon. The Sacrament doesn't need our help. Again, last night the minister administering communion did so wonderfully.

Well, Dr. Chapell is now giving his report on my Alma mater, Covenant Seminary- I better shut down and listen...

7 comments:

Andrew Malloy said...

Tony,
Hope you are having fun.

I hear that Overtures Committee voted down all overtures concerning a study committee for Deaconesses, although there was one vote which was close (40 something to 30 something) so there will be a minority report slated for tomorrow to be brought in favor of a study committee given presented by Bryan Chapell.

What do you think of this (for/against study committee and also what will happen based on a guess)?

Stand on the Word of God!

Andrew

Reepicheep said...

Andrew,

I am on the overtures committee and participated in the vote you are refering to.

There was one main overture that asked the PCA to form a committee to study the ordination of deaconesses. The committee voted to recommend the General Assembly not form such a committee. The vote was something like 44-31-3, but don't quote me on that.

I voted against forming a study committee. I see no reason for such a committee. Personally, I do not see sufficient warrant in Scripture to ordain women to the office of deacon. It is not an office of authority or teaching, so I'm not ultra freaked by the notion, but naturally I wonder what is fueling such an overture. I am sure there are a multiplicity of reasons for why different people would advocate women as deacons, but it's hard not to think egalitarianism is behind this.

I see no good reason to change our practice and think Scripture is on the side of our historic practice.

I had not heard that Dr. Chapell was presenting the minority report, so you know more than I do on that.

I was actually surprised the committee voted the way it did, so I won't be shocked if the GA does in fact form a study committee overruling our committee.

I think study commiettees are generally a waste of time and money.

Frontier Forest said...

I am sure that the brothers speaking at this great gathering left all ego’s at home! I remember, just before leaving the United Methodist denomination, thank the Lord for the PCA, I had the honor of attending the 2005 UMC World Mission Conference that was also held in Big D. With great expectations and all kinds of enthusiasm, I left with joy in my heart! Unfortunately, one pastor after another “proudly” came forward, each exploiting their own enormous religious qualifications, degrees and mission accomplishments. After immediate exposure to this pure “wood, hey and stubble,” my spiritual expectations were quickly dashed to pieces. One by one, it seemed that each had to try and “out-flesh” the previous. The only blessing I got out of the entire conference was getting to see several dear Russian-speaking brothers and sisters. Boy was I bummed out! Once again, Romans 8:28, I Thessalonians 5:16-20 and Ephesians 5:20 was soon made manifest to me!

Andrew Malloy said...

I heard from another TE who is there. I am glad about your thoughts. I think a study committee is wrong and it can only do harm. It is clear in Scripture and in the BCO 7-2 (HEHE --> I have been studying for my ordination exams, which I passed before oral committee :) )

I do think however the office of deacon is one of authority (not one of rule). They are called, ordained and empowered to lead the ministry of mercy in a church. Deacons, by the very fact of the office, exercise authority. It is merely in a different sphere from that of elders. At least in my opinion. :)

Reepicheep said...

Andrew,

As you know, our BCO doesn't use the language of authority (or "leading" either, I may be wrong) regarding deacons. I think it says something about "developing" mercy ministry, etc. In fact, it explicitly places the deacons under the authority of the elders in 9-1 or 9-2.

Still, however, and to your point, practically speaking, it would be hard to discern how a deacon "leading" a mercy ministry wouldn't have authority in that role. That's were it gets dicey for sure.

Andrew Malloy said...

Right,
I agree with your assessment. Good point.

Hope you are having fun!

jeff said...

*scratching head*

This post is just about as polar opposite from Raptured Tomatoes as you can get!

Have a great time in Texas! Just be careful, I don't think you're supposed to drink the water down there! What language do they speak in far-off & exotic Texas?