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I am a 1967 graduate of The Citadel (Distinguished Military Student, member of the Economic Honor Society, Dean's List), a 1975 graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div., magna cum laude, member of the Phi Alpha Chi academic honor society); I attended the Free University of Amsterdam and completed my History of Dogma there and then received a full scholarship from the Dutch government to transfer to the sister school in Kampen, Holland. In 1979 I graduated from the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Churches of Holland (Drs. with honors in Ethics). My New Testament minor was completed with Herman Ridderbos. I am also a 2001 Ph.D. graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary (Systematic Theology) in Philly with a dissertation on the "unio mystica" in the theology of Dr. Herman Bavinck (1854-1921). I am a former tank commander, and instructor in the US Army Armor School at Ft. Knox, KY. I have been happily married to my childhood sweetheart and best friend, Sally, for 43 years. We have 6 children, one of whom is with the Lord, and 14 wonderful grandchildren.

Friday, June 04, 2010

The PCA’s New Strategic Plan (IV)

Creating a Perspective for Planning (IV)

It’s getting close to time for the PCA’s 38th General Assembly in Nashville, so I’ll probably only write this and one more installment on the proposed 2010 PCA Strategic Plan. By necessity, I will skip over quite a bit of this document, but will comment that the general tone of the SP is what I’d call “PC.” In other words, it smacks of something you’d expect to hear at the U.N., on Oprah, or read in the Los Angeles Times. You may take that with however many grains of salt you wish.

On a more positive—sort of—note, the document does speak of “Perspectival Divides” in the PCA and contains an admission that we are made up of “cynical progressives,” “Emergents,” “Transformationists,” and “Planters” who are entrepreneurs and innovators (p. 13.). Two other groups are worthy of note: “Aggressive TRs,” who are out to eradicate unReformed people, and “Doctrinalists,” who constitute the “theological-erosion policemen.” I would add to this list the “Euphemists.” They are those in the PCA who refuse to call illegal aliens, illegal aliens. They prefer the euphemism, “undocumented workers.” I am not certain why some in PCA headquarters insist on calling felons, who are in gangs, “workers,” unless, of course, they’re selling the drugs that American drug dealers just will not sell. The felons are probably categorized with the rest of the illegal population so that we can sound compassionate. Personally, I believe there is something dreadfully wrong about not calling a spade a spade.

For instance, there were—and probably still are—two brothers at PCA headquarters who admired a great deal in the “Emergent Church” or “Emerging Conversation.” Whatever. They were given ink in byFaith to espouse their view. Others, who took an opposing view, were not given the same access. I contacted headquarters and left messages for a colleague who insisted on calling illegal aliens “undocumented workers.” I would have been fine if he would have contacted me and said, “I think you’re all wet.” Fine. At least I get a response. Instead, I got nothing. I wonder if these same people will actually answer questions from lowly delegates on the floor of GA if the Administration Committee presents this Strategic Plan.

Back to the spade issue: Something goes “bump” and “crash” in the night. Your wife says, “Honey, I think there’s a burglar in the house,” and you reply, “Nah. It’s probably just an undocumented hurting soul.” But I digress. I’m skipping ahead to page 17 of the plan (VI. Questions to Address in Making Strategic Plans for the PCA). The “introduction” reads this way: “The questions below identify issues that should be addressed by a Strategic Plan for the PCA in light of the preceding analysis.

Most questions were suggested by the 2008 Cooperative Ministries Committee after reviewing the analysis. Additional questions were added by 2008 General Assembly commissioners who attended its Strategic Planning Seminar and also reviewed the preceding analysis. The questions are not arranged in any priority order.” Okay. Let’s take a look at some of these “questions.”

Providing Safe Places

Number 1 (in no particular order, mind you) reads, “How to Provide Safe Places to Talk about New Ideas to Advance the PCA’s Faithfulness to Biblical Belief, Ministry, and Mission.” What jumps off the page for me on this one (in no particular order) are the words “Safe Places.” I mentioned in the previous installment that this document suffers horribly from a lack of precision and definition. This first “question” (in no particular order. I cannot help but wonder what the psychological effect would have been if this first question had been shoved to number 12, which is the last one. I’m just wonderin’.) begs the question: What constitutes a “Safe Place”? In my home congregation, it is safe to bring up any topic you want. There are no taboos. Once you bring that question to the forefront, however, you can expect to have to defend it biblically.

So, for example, let’s say that Jennifer Knapp, the Christian singer, dove award winner, and lesbian wants a “Safe Place” to discuss female homosexuality, or homosexuality in general. We can have that discussion in an age-appropriate setting. In that sense, the venue is “safe.” It is also “safe” in the sense that no one will do bodily harm to Ms. Knapp and it is “safe” in the sense that the conversation will be polite and respectful. Nevertheless, I do not believe that Ms. Knapp will like the conclusion of this “safe” conversation because she will be presented with biblical truth and that presentation will be unbending, uncompromising. She would receive simple yes and no answers regarding whether God considers homosexuality a sin, no matter how much “in love” the couple in question might be.

The same drill would be followed by questions regarding abortion on demand, adultery, fornication, kleptomania, murder, foul language, and the like. I contend that by being so vague and supplying virtually no parameters regarding what a “Safe Place” might look like or be, this report does a huge disservice to the PCA. Moreover, the phrase “New Ideas” is as vague as it is broad. Besides, new ideas typically have to be “time tested” to ensure that they achieve and advance the PCA’s stated goals: Faithful to Scripture, True to the Reformed Faith, and Obedient to the Great Commission (p. 3). Since the document has already stated that the PCA has struggled to implement being true to the Reformed Faith, it might seem both wise and plausible to work on that “Old Idea” before we try to move forward with a bevy of “New Ideas.” I’m just ponderin’. It might seem like a worthwhile undertaking for the PCA to sit down and try to figure out what it means to be Reformed. That might cause some people to leave the PCA because they are not Reformed, but rather broadly evangelical

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More Seats at the Table

Number 2 (in no particular order, mind you) asks how “to Provide More Seats at the Table,” (especially younger leaders, women, and ethnic leaders) for PCA Ministry Direction and Development. Where are we heading with this one? The older I get, the younger everyone else begins to look. It seems to me that the average age of the lion’s share of today’s PCA pastors is “young.” Just how young are we talking about here? If the idea is to get 15-18 year olds at the table, I might pass. Don’t get me wrong: I love that age group and personally have a lot of fun with them. I can relate to them well, I think, but I don’t want them setting “PCA Ministry Direction and Development.”

Hey, I got it! This is a “New Idea”! Depending on what it means, it could be a very bad new idea. Besides, it’s not really new. I came to faith in a liberal PCUS congregation in Knoxville, TN. As an available “warm body,” I became the youth leader two weeks after my conversion. Yikes! The next year I became a deacon. Double yikes! While I served and before I went to seminary, there was a movement afoot to have at least one eighteen-year-old serve on Session. Unless that kid was Charles Spurgeon, there was going to be mega-trouble. Is this what the PCA is asking for now? I don’t know. It is very, very unclear.

Moreover, what role would women serve “at ‘the’ table,” wherever “the table” is. Does anyone know where to find “the table”? Where should we start looking? Does this mean the Session table? The Presbytery table? The GA table? None of the above? All of the above? What role will the women serve? Will it be in an authoritative capacity? Will their place at “the table” mean that what they decide must be considered settled and binding? Why or why not? As far as “ethnic leaders” are concerned, we’re all PCA colleagues. While we can all learn from one another, I am very hesitant to start dividing up and separating our “ethnic leaders.” One of the great joys in my congregation is the diversity represented there. We are Christians. I tend not to think about Christians in terms of their ethnic backgrounds, but rather in terms of who they are as Christian people.

Corporate and Global Missions

This one really disturbs me for a number of reasons, not least of which is the progressive (meant as a political movement) and PC tone of the wording. Apart from finding the phrase “How to Do Mission Corporately and Globally” (this includes learning from the Global Church, as well unifying ourselves to minister to and with the Global church) cheesy, it is more important that I find that it can lead to the secularization of the Church. Let me explain what I mean.

Most recently, we have heard very liberal politicians and pastors speaking more and more about global-this and global-that. The liberals speak frequently these days about “Global Governance.” If you haven’t heard that, you’ve been watching too much CNN. Everyone from President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, Al Gore, and virtually every “czar” in the current administration drops the phrase “Global Governance” with a high degree of regularity. In terms of number 4 (no particular order, mind you), where do I find “the Global Church”? Is it anywhere near “the table”?


If this question is referring to the universal Church of Jesus Christ, then it begs the question: Haven’t we been doing this all along in the PCA? What has MTW been trying to accomplish, if not this very thing? I am hesitant to adopt the language of the secularists on this and the so-called “undocumented worker” plane, but it appears that our headquarters has less trouble with it than I do. As negative as this plan is towards NAPARC, are we now going to go the route of a quasi-Reformed (we still haven’t figured out what Reformed is) World Council of Churches? I suspect not, but some clarification would be helpful. Once we get out our ecclesiastical GPS devices, we’ll probably have more success locating “the Global Church.” This criticism—and it is a criticism—also applies to number 10, “How to Inspire and Engage Churches and Presbyteries in a Global Strategy.” If we cannot figure out who we are in three decades and change, how are we going to be able to implement a global strategy for others? “Hey, you might want to copy the PCA, even though we’re not sure of who were are or what it is to be Reformed,” doesn’t sound like a good action plan.

As promised, I’ll finish next time.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Infinity8Ball said...

When I read the "seats at the table," what instantly came to my mind was what happened back when I was in the PCUSA.

I was a "youth voice" on our pastor nominating committee, representing the youth group.

I was also a "youth delegate" to the GA back in '98. Where you'd have votes by youth, seminary students, and foreign delegates. Then, taking those votes into consideration, the regular delegates from each presbytery would vote.

I guess we'll have to wait and see.

1:56 PM  
Blogger Pastor St. John said...

And all of this, because of the "S Curve."

Does growth in numbers trump everything else? I'm afraid that's the modern mindset of "evangelical" Christianity.

When will recall that the number of the elect can neither be increased nor diminished?

4:24 AM  
Blogger David Talcott said...

Thanks for this excellent series, Ron. Thanks also for the fine pics of San Clemente and other beaches. Makes me homesick!

9:31 AM  

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