51st General Assembly Reflections

I pray that the PCA would continue to grow, and be fruitful in her ministry. I want to see the PCA live into the fullest expression of historic, reformed presbyterianism. After the past several General Assemblies, my spirit is encouraged. I am thankful and hopeful for the PCA. While one overture I had supported failed(Overture 3), my overwhelming response to the 51st General Assembly is that of joy. As thousands of pastors and elders return back to their churches to preach the Gospel, shepherd members, run committee meetings, and more, we ought to do so refreshed in what God is doing in the PCA.

Last week, Teaching and Ruling Elders of the Presbyterian Church in America gathered together in Richmond, Virginia, for the General Assembly. Our time together is marked by sweet fellowship, and serious business. The work we do as the General Assembly enables the PCA to remain faithful and effective in her ministry. Below are a few of this year’s highlights, and my overall response to the 51st General Assembly.

The Final Approval of Item 1 (Overture 26-2023)

In 2023, the 50th General Assembly approved Overture 26, which dealt with the use of officer titles. There has been a confusing practice amongst some churches in the PCA, to use officer titles(Pastor/Elder, or Deacon) to describe unordained persons. In most of these cases, the churches who are misapplying titles are doing so with regards to the diaconate. No men are ordained for the office in these churches, but rather, unordained men and women are “commissioned”(in a way which often is indistinguishable from a ordination service) to serve under the title of deacons. This practice is contrary to the clear instruction of our Book of Church Order(BCO).

This was debated in 2023, thanks to the submission of Overture 26. This overture sought to add a section in our BCO which would prohibit the use of officer titles for non-ordained persons. Overture 26 was approved by a nearly 1000 vote margin at last year’s General Assembly, a supermajority. In our polity, an overture must be approved at the General Assembly, and then be approved by two thirds of the presbyteries. Once it has met that threshold, it must then be approved again for a final time at the following General Assembly. Overture 26 was approved by 70 presbyteries(>80%), another supermajority, and a high bar for an overture to achieve. The 51st General Assembly voted to approve the overture, and codify it in our Book of Church Order.

The importance of this overture cannot be overstated. It brings clarity to who can and does hold office in the PCA. It affirms our commitment to the Biblical truth that the offices of elder and deacon are to be held only by ordained men. This overture will helpfully correct and instruct churches which have erred in different practices to establish “unordained diaconates”. Overall, this overture will help our churches in the PCA be faithful to the Scriptures.

The Commendation of our Statement on Gender Reassignment for Minors

In 2023, at the 50th General Assembly, an overture was put forward asking the General Assembly to make a statement regarding gender reassignment procedures for minors. This came in the wake of increasing pressure to support and affirm the practices as genuine health care. While this has gained some traction in the United States, especially in political groups like the Democratic Party, it has rightly been rejected by Christians. We know that such procedures are damaging to children, often in irreversible ways, and ultimately against God’s created order.

The General Assembly is often hesitant to enter into discussions regarding current events/political issues, and rightly so. This issue, however, was seen to be so drastic that it called for a response. The Moderator, Fred Greco, was empowered to form a commission to write and then distribute a statement to members of our Federal Government. The commission was comprised of Christian medical professionals and theologians. The statement, which was written excellently, was sent to the President, members of Congress, and the Supreme Court justices.

This year, we had a chance to commend this statement, and give thanks to the commission which wrote it.

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