Wednesday, July 05, 2006

General Assembly Round-Up

The General Assemblies of the PCA and the OPC recently met, and I would like to make a few comments. However, my information is second hand, so feel free to correct me if anything is off.

First, I want to congratulate Rev. Dr. Dominic Aquila for his election as the Moderator of the PCA General Assembly. Dr. Aquila is the President of New Geneva Theological Seminary, from which I graduated, and he is deserving of the post. The JollyBlogger says that there was not as much "heat" in the discussions this year at the Assembly, and I have little doubt that Dr. Aqulia as the moderator had a great deal to with the civility of the discussions.

Second, I think the PCA made a mistake by creating a study committee on the Federal Vision, New Perspectives on Paul, and Norman Shepherd’s views, commonly called Shepherdism. The vote to create a study committee overturned the majority opinion of the Bills and Overtures committee. One reason I believe this is wrong is the same reason I objected to the Mississippi Valley Report a few years ago: the scope is too broad. As a result, the report will either take years to complete or be too shallow. The RCUS handled it well, in my obviously biased opinion, by breaking each group into its own study committee. The majority opinion of the PCA Overtures Committee, which was overturned by the General Assembly, stated that the creation of a study committee would interfere with ongoing Standing Judicial Committee (SJC) cases. This is clearly a most important point. To what extent are the rulings of study committees binding? If the committee were to find that the Federal Vision is heresy, no Federal Visionists would be automatically removed from office; charges would still have to be brought before the SJC. Would the SJC even be bound to deliver a verdict that conforms to the Study Committee? If it were to take several years for the committee to report back, what happens to the trials pending? When I read Acts 15, I see the church coming together in a court to decide things, not creating non-binding study committees. Not to mention the nightmare of deciding who serves on the committee. Do you appoint a Federal Vision proponent to serve on the committee? If so, then how many? If not, then how do you answer the cries of foul that will most certainly appear? I would bet this committee comes back with a minority report, and then what happens? Study committees work well for deciding the biblical approach to denominational pension plans or for determining the biblical position concerning women in the military. However, the investigation of possible heresy charges is absolutely not the business of a study committee. This is why we have church courts. This debate will end up in the church courts anyway, so why bother with the committee? This is why I favor judicial process instead of study committees. It should be noted that I am in a minority on the web. JollyBlogger favors the study committee approach, and so does Rev. Polski. Rev. Polski has a great post on the PCA GA that reports how the Assembly decided to allow a minister to teach his exception to the Westminster Confession to his congregation without notifying his congregation that his teaching is out of accord with the WCF. This makes one wonder what the point of declaring an exception to the WCF is in the first place, but then I do come from a strict subscription church.

Third, I am also disappointed with the report brought back by the OPC study committee on the Federal Vision, even though it entails a negative assessment. This report itself has other detractors, and will merit an upcoming post. For now I want to note that the report was not adopted, instead it was commended to the churches for study. Now what exactly that means is up for discussion, and therein lies my problem with it. The Assembly, by neither recommending it nor voting it down, failed to clearly approve or disapprove of it. So, then, what is the will of the Assembly on this matter? I believe “straddling the fence” is the best phraseology. A similar discussion is taking place in conservative PCUSA churches over the new names for the Trinity report. The PCUSA decided neither to approve nor to adopt, but rather to commend for study, the idea that the Trinity could now properly be called, "fountain, well-spring, and river" or other manmade non-masculine names, and even a few feminine ones like "Mother, child, and life-giving womb." It is the perfect way to satisfy both sides: by not taking one at all.

All in all, this General Assembly season has to be regarded as a giant victory for the Federal Vision movement (yes, I believe there is a movement, but if you would rather call it an impetus, that is fine). The RCUS failed to do anything by recommitting their report for another year, the PCA failed to allow the judicial process to take its course, the OPC failed to adopt its report critical of the Federal Vision, and the Christian Reformed Church passed paedocommunion.