Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Too Cool for You? Whither the PCA

As General Assembly approaches one wonders what will come of the ongoing debates about deaconesses and Federal Vision.  While those issues are important there seems to be an overall issue that is going unaddressed. 

Below is an excerpt of an article that I've cited before.  It seems like a good time to link to it again.  Here Darryl Hart raises some probing questions of us who call the PCA our home. 

"Calvary OPC in Glenside, Pennsylvania is a fairly vanilla Orthodox Presbyterian congregation. Granted, the exterior is aesthetically quirky, and the constraints of parking leave visitors wondering if they’ll be left behind should the rapture occur during a service. But the services are modest, centered on the word read and preached, the hymns are traditional; the Supper is administered once a month. Calvary is by no means high church, nor is it happy-clappy.

So when the PCA decides to plant a congregation only two miles from Calvary OPC, some on both sides might wonder about the need or advisability of a new conservative Presbyterian work in the area. What makes the situation even more anomalous is that the new plant is a daughter church of Tenth Presbyterian, a Center City Philadelphia congregation whose worship differs from Calvary’s only noticeably by virtue of special music...

Comity agreements aside...if Bible-believing Presbyterians in the Northwest section of Philadelphia and the southeastern parts of Montgomery County were looking for a church with reliable preaching, sane worship, Sunday school and catechesis, and fairly winsome fellowship, why would they pass over Calvary OPC?

One possible reason for the inability of PCA Philadelphians to recommend Calvary OPC to Presbyterian communicants in the area is that the PCA, even in some of its more traditional sectors, like Tenth, no longer cultivates a sense of being Presbyterian. Instead, what appears to drive the PCA, and has been doing so since roughly 1995 when Tim Keller and Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City became such a phenomenon, is exegeting, engaging, and redeeming the culture. From Keller’s “word and deed” model of ministry, cultural transformationalism as a working assumption at the denomination’s Covenant College, Equip magazine’s self-conscious effort to be hip, to Mission to North America’s self-understanding of home missions and the relevance of a congregation to its community, the PCA’s members, and increasingly her ministers as well, are less recognizable as Presbyterian than they are as evangelical Protestants who do not want to be mistaken for the Religious Right (emphasis mine). They appear to want to establish the Lordship of Christ over America without the baggage of Rush Limbaugh or D. James Kennedy.

This puts the PCA in an odd predicament. It is in fellowship with communions that should be reasonably attractive to its members should they be moving to a new location or looking for a church while traveling away from home.  As it happens, however, the communions with whom the PCA has the closest ties through NAPARC are expressions of Reformed Protestantism increasingly foreign to the ministry of the PCA (emphasis mine). Those communions represent various branches of twentieth-century Dutch Reformed (Free Reformed, United Reformed), or contemporary expressions of Scottish Presbyterianism (the Covenanters and the Associate Reformed), or older version of American Presbyterianism (the OPC). In effect, the PCA does not seem to be giving its own members enough acquaintance with the Reformed tradition to feel comfortable in these other embodiments of it.  Instead, the understanding of the Reformed tradition and Presbyterian ministry within the PCA apparently makes her members uncomfortable with those who practice the Reformed faith differently from PCA’s quest for relevance and influence (emphasis mine)... 
So the question is which way is the PCA headed. Is it moving in directions that are recognizably Reformed? Are its officers and members capable of discerning and encouraging ties to churches of like faith and practice if the faith and practice of the PCA is increasingly without coherence (emphasis mine)? The PCA appears to be heading down the path that the CRC turned almost twenty years ago. Will that make the PCA too cool to hang out with Covenanters, conservative Dutch Reformed, and Orthodox Presbyterians?"

I hope that all who care about the PCA understand that Federal Vision theology, deaconesses & the role of women, emergent/emerging theology, etc. are symptoms of a larger illness.  Until that illness is diagnosed and treated we will continue to talk past one another. 

Click on the link to read the full article which includes insight from the head of one of the PCA's agencies.

Old Life Theological Society » Blog Archive » Too Cool for You? Whither the PCA


Bobby Avant said...
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Anonymous said...
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Kaitiaki said...

I'm not sure if this thread is still open, Dave, but I think if your analysis is correct then you are absolutely right. A Presbyterian Church should be, first and foremost, recognizably Presbyterian.

That implies that sister Church relationships are important and that (as you pointed out) both similarities and differences should be understood by ordinary members. It should make deciding to establish a new work in the same close neighborhood as a sister Church something which is undertaken (at least) with consultation.

I hope something can be done to encourage a return to a more informedly Presbyterian position