Last month, the General Assembly (GA) of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA, New Life’s denomination) met in Greenville, SC.
This is the annual four-day meeting of PCA pastors, ruling elders and denominational leaders to do the business of the church at a national and international level. It is not just a business meeting, however, but an annual church reunion that allows for corporate worship, fellowship, networking, seminar training and learning about ministry resources from exhibitors.
It is important to understand that the General Assembly of the PCA has no connection whatsoever to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church-USA, the largest Presbyterian denomination in the nation.
New Life has been kind to send either Pastor Brian or myself to GA in past years, but we were unable to attend this year, so this article is not a report from personal experience. Below are some of the major points of interest as culled from a summary report prepared by L. Roy Taylor, the PCA’s stated clerk:
- GA approved of entering into an assembly-level ecclesiastical relationship with the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico. This is good news, since New Life has a close relationship with a church in Monterrey, Mexico.
- “Intinction” is the practice of dipping the bread into the cup during communion. There was an attempt to amend our Book of Church Order to prohibit this practice, but since the amendment was not approved by the presbyteries during this past year, it did not come before the assembly.
- GA approved the formation of Tidewater Presbytery effective Oct. 19, 2013, as the 81st presbytery of the PCA.
- PCA Retirement-Benefits, Inc., is seeking to raise $10 million for assistance to impoverished widows of ministers, to assist ministers and church employees in preparing for retirement, and to enable all retirement plan participants to achieve the best investment program possible.
- GA has a 24-man Standing Judicial Commission (SJC), to which it has committed all complaints and appeals arising from PCA presbyteries. Pacific Northwest Presbytery and Missouri Presbytery had each tried and acquitted one of their ministers on allegations of holding to aberrant theological views known as “Federal Vision Theology.” Complaints were filed with the SJC on both cases. The SJC denied the complaint arising from Pacific Northwest, and ruled the Missouri complaint administratively out of order.
- There has been controversy in the church regarding “insider movements” in Bible translation. These are people who believe in Jesus, but remain inside the Muslim religious community. The translation challenge is how to present to Muslims the idea that Jesus is God the Son without any idea of sexual union between God the Father and Mary. Last year, GA adopted a recommendation that, “since social familial terms fail to capture the biblical meaning of ‘Son’ and ‘Son of God’ applied to Jesus and ‘Father’ applied to God, Bibles should always translate divine familial names using common biological terms.” The study committee appointed to review the issue will give its final report in 2014.
- The PCA now has 1,777 churches, a net increase of six from last year. Total membership is 364,019, an increase of 12,613 from last year. There were 9,145 professions of faith, a decrease of 922 from last year.
- Next year’s GA will be in Houston on June 17-20.