Our denomination’s annual General Assembly convened last night, electing Bryan Chapell as the Assembly moderator as its first order of business. Over a thousand teaching and ruling elders from across the country have gathered to do what each member of a PCA church vows to do: to seek the peace and purity of the church. If you’d like to peek in on any of our proceedings this week, click here for the livestream.
Last night we heard from Florida pastor Ray Cortese preach from Jesus’ scrum with the Pharisees over the Sabbath in Matthew 12. His sermon explored the contours of, as he put it, a “beautiful orthodoxy.” His was a fitting word for anyone, but all the more appropriate for a thousand presbyters because we can be…well, crabby. That’s putting it euphemistically. Given the degree of detail we’ve seen from the Westminster Assembly in Storyline this spring, it should be no surprise to you that the elders of our denomination have a proclivity for making impassioned defenses of their position. Sometimes the defenses become defensive, even to the point of trending toward the acrimonious. The deliberation then devolves into what is anything but beautiful–even if it may be orthodox. So Pastor Cortese’s words were fitly spoken on the front end of several days of critical and often convoluted issues.
This morning we’ve heard a number of reports from other Reformed denominations.
This afternoon the docket includes reports from the several committees within our denomination.
But if that sounds as exciting as watching paint dry, there’s far more to GA than administrative updates. There’s quite a bit of significant deliberation occurring here–on issues cultural, doctrinal, linguistic, and juridical. Something for everyone.
Overtures are resolutions sent up to the Assembly from a particular presbytery. We elaborated on the nature of these overtures, as well as the process of considering them, in a post from last year’s Assembly. In a nutshell, overtures purpose, as a few examples,
- changes to our rules for polity (our Book of Church Order),
- commissioning of study committees to research questions related to doctrine or polity, and report back to the Assembly,
- exhorting the denomination to enact new measures for the sake of faithful witness throughout the world
The most significant and culturally-relevant overture considered by the Assembly this year involves the protection of our youngest from sexual predation within our churches. The stream of reports continues unabated not only of more cases of sexual abuse but also of negligence by those in authority to report evidence of such abuse. An overture was presented at last year’s assembly which was recommitted to a committee for further refinement. The revised version came before the Overtures Committee (OC) this year, which offered its own refinements and then committed it to the full Assembly with its commendation. We’ll consider that refined version thursday afternoon. I’ll forward that version when it becomes available. It is surely a sorrow that we’re having to contend with a matter like this, but a nevertheless heartening thought that our denomination has taken steps to fortify its churches’ measures to protect our children.
You can read about all the Overtures presented to this year’s Assembly here, and you can see the Overtures Committee’s recommendations about each Overture here. Most times the Assembly ratifies the OC’s assessments. We’ll see what OC’s report on Thursday yields.
You should’ve received a reminder email by now about this Saturday’s talk by Drew Trotter, director of the Consortium of Christian Study Centers, about what film today reveals about the way we see the world. If you haven’t yet RSVP’d you can do through the email, or click here.
Of late, we’ve been in a series on the Ten Commandments. This Sunday we’ll pause for one week in that series, but only so that we might recover some perspective as we work through those foundational commands. We’ll do so by fast-forwarding a bit in the Exodus narrative–after Israel’s golden-calf-incident, and after God had renewed His covenant with His errant people. Israel’s generosity toward the building of the Tabernacle will be the event we’ll explore in Exodus 35:4-29. But we’ll look at the event with a view to remembering what kind of heart He wants from those who would fulfill the Ten Commandments–or any commandment for that matter.
That’s all from the Assembly for now. More to come.
Thank you for sending me here both to serve our denomination and learn from its wealth of experience.