Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Making Some Sense of the PCA

William H. Smith has a helpful piece that explains some of the tensions we feel in the PCA.  Here is his working hypothesis: 

"The PCA is a majority New Side/New School Presbyterian Church, with a substantial minority that is either New Side/Old School or Old Side/Old School."

I realize that the terms New Side/Old Side and New School/Old School don't make much sense to outsiders but they are explained in his article.  Smith does an admirable job summarizing American Presbyterian history since 1760 so that even those who are new to the discussion can easily navigate these waters. 

Smith identifies three influential groups that comprise the New Side/New School wing of the PCA:

"There are at least three groups within the PCA which share a New Side/New School orientation: the Columbia Seminary founding generation now passing away, the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES) influx, and the new leadership consisting primarily of large urban/metropolitan church pastors and denominational executives." (his emphasis)

These three groups largely control the denomination's agencies and committees.  By extension, they are also setting the agenda for the denomination through the Cooperative Ministries Committee.  Smith defines each group well setting each in its historical context.  He also demonstrates that "mission" has supplanted confessionalism in the PCA, at least officially since 2002. 

For those who love our denomination the piece is well worth reading and pondering.  Much can be explained about the 2010 General Assembly and the Strategic Plan by Smith's analysis.  Though this piece was originally written in 2002 it has been updated for 2011.  One update is this comment from the preface:

"One revision is a more modest title. It was originally titled Making Sense of the PCA. I am no longer confident I can do that." (his emphasis)

Read the entire article here: Making Some Sense of the PCA

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