Posted by: reformedmusings | June 21, 2007

The PCA Constitution and the Federal Vision Study Report

There has been some confusion on where the committee report falls into the overall PCA scheme of things, given its commissioning by the 34th General Assembly and its overwhelming approval by the 35th General Assembly.

Dr. Fowler and John White both clearly addressed the 35th General Assembly on this issue. As John said in his remarks, the report does not change the PCA constitution in any way. The Book of Church Order says, in part, of the General Assembly:

14-6. The General Assembly shall have power:

a. To receive and issue* all appeals, references, and complaints regularly brought before it from the lower courts; to bear testimony against error in doctrine and immorality in practice, injuriously affecting the Church; to decide in all controversies respecting doctrine and discipline;
b. To give its advice and instruction, in conformity with the Constitution, in all cases submitted to it;
c. To review the records of the Presbyteries, to take care that the lower courts observe the Constitution; to redress whatever they may have done contrary to order;
d. To devise measures for promoting the prosperity and enlargement of the Church;
e. To erect new Presbyteries, and unite and divide those which were erected with their consent;
f. To institute and superintend the agencies necessary in the general work of evangelization; to appoint ministers of such labors as fall under its jurisdiction;
g. To suppress schismatical contentions and disputations, according to the rules provided therefor;

BCO 14-7 provides that in doing so, actions of the General Assembly such as deliverances, resolutions, overtures, and judicial decisions are to be given “due and serious consideration by the Church and its lower courts when deliberating matters related to such action.” The Ad Interim Study Committee report constitutes a deliverance of the assembly. It does not amend the Standards or the BCO, but it is to be given due and serious consideration by the Church and its courts.

The question has arisen as to whether the GA voted–or even has the power to vote–FVers out of the PCA. The study committee neither had nor desired any authority to act against any individuals or groups. It would have been inappropriate to do so anyway, since this was a study committee, not a court.

All that said, the General Assembly overwhelmingly voted approved/accepted all five recommendations of the report, including accepting the nine declarations as faithful to the Standards. Those declarations then delineated specific views the GA accepted/declared as out of accord with the Standards. That is now the GA’s official position in accordance with Preliminary Principle 2 and BCO 3-6. The vote didn’t change the constitution at all. All the GA did was make explicit what was already true but being denied by the FV community. That, I believe, is the pill on which the FV proponents are choking.

My point is that every TE and RE in the PCA freely accepted the Westminster Standards as “containing the system of doctrine taught in the Scriptures,” and swore to be in submission to the brethren. If anyone hold views contrary to the nine declarations in the report, which have been accepted as faithful to (and subordinate to) the Standards, they are now unquestionably out of accord with the Standards in the PCA. That’s not new–they were already out of accord. All the report did was say so. So all this constitution-changing stuff you may be reading about is just one more smoke screen.

Here’s where the rubber meets the road. Any TE or RE than cannot answer the nine declarations in conformity with the Westminster Standards now, in accordance with their ordination vows, is duty bound to declare their non-conformity to their presbytery, like one had the courage to do earlier this week.

It absolutely amazes me the lengths that folks will go to ignore their sworn responsibilities under the BCO, blaming the committee and the General Assembly instead of their own aberrant views which they freely hold. The committee faithfully carried out its charge–as exactly as possible–given by the 34th GA and reported to the 35th GA. That our committee, after considerable study, came to the same conclusions as the OPC, RCUS, BPC, RPCNA, WTS, Mid-America, etc., and that those conclusions were accepted by 95-98% of our brethren at the General Assembly, should greatly magnify the impact of BCO 3-6 which I quoted in a previous post. Let’s not forget the “submission to the brethren” part of the ordination oath.

Now, if anyone thinks that their FV views really are Biblical, yet those views are out of accord with the Westminster Standards as reinforced by the General Assembly vote and the decisions of all those other Reformed bodies just mentioned, then may they go in peace with God’s blessing. There are plenty of other places to serve besides the PCA. The CREC comes to mind.

Again and for the third time to be perfectly clear, the report didn’t change anything in the PCA’s constitution. All it did was state what was already true but was being denied by a very small minority of officers in the PCA. Given what was already true, I would think that in the interest of the peace and purity of the church, FV proponents would quietly move on to someplace that welcomes their views rather than foster continued division and harm the peace of the Church. Just my humble opinion.

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