Dr. Morton H. Smith, the first Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church in (PCA) and one of the of Greenville (S.C.) Presbyterian Theological Seminary and current Dean, presided over the 28th General Assembly of the PCA at its meeting in Tampa, Florida, 20–23.
The General Assembly/Mission to North America (GA/MNA) Permanent Committee was instructed by lat year’s General Assembly to study the issue of women of the church speaking and teaching in public, and to present clear guidelines to the 28th General Assembly of their application of 1 Timothy 2:11–12 and other Scripture.
This report, presented by the GA/MNA Permanent Committee, recognized the fact that often PCA conferences and seminars include a time of worship and that the preaching of the Word at these services must be restricted to elders (teaching and ruling) only. However, seminars are usually designed to provide church leadership with greater insights and skills for ministry. Since this context is not a worship service, the content does not require the same degree of protection as the content of worship. “The primary difference between the preaching of the Word in worship and the subject matter of seminars has at its heart the issue of authority. The content of seminars is not intended to carry the weight to which the description ‘teach or have authority over’ (1 Timothy 2:11–12) would apply. The context of this passage is the Apostle’s presentation of instructions for the proper conduct of public worship and not that of the more informal seminar which is generally more subjective, informal and based on personal experience than is the preaching of the Word in worship.” The general assembly voted to adopt the committee's report which is now offered to Sessions (consistories) to use as guidelines for determining the role of women in the church.
The General Assembly also approved Reformed University Ministries (RUM) as a separate permanent committee. This decision will require the approval of the General Assembly of 2001 because it will require amendments to the Book of Church Order and Rules of Assembly Operation which must be passed by a two-thirds majority. Currently RUM has ministries on sixty campuses in 21 states with over 100 staff members serving as campus ministers, interns and office personnel. The budget for RUM this fiscal year is over $5 million.
In regard to the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) it was proposed that the assembly authorize its representatives to the National Association of Presbyterian and Reformed Churches (NAPARC) to propose expulsion of the CRC from that body if it failed to rescind its position of allowing ordination of women as pastors and elders. It was reported to the assembly that the CRC synod had met, and had declined to reverse this pOSition, and so the assembly voted overwhelmingly to authorize pursuit of expulsion from NAPARC.
The Creation Study Committee submitted its report regarding the length of the days of creation. The historicity of Genesis 1 and 2, plus a thorough detailed affirmation of all the details of the creation account had been almost unanimously affirmed by the General Assembly of 1999 (see The Outlook, July/August, 1999). The study committee was commended repeatedly for the thoroughness and accuracy of its representation of the viewpoints on the length of the days of creation held by members of the Reformed community at large, both now and in the past. These viewpoints include those who advocate six 24-hour days, longer periods of God’s creative activity (day-age interpretation), the “framework interpretation,” and the “analogical days interpretation.”
The committee recommended there be no further action on report for two years, that the report be disseminated to the churches and presbyteries for careful consideration. Frank Barker, retired of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama, offered a motion which was approved included the words: “That since historically in Reformed theology there has been a diversity of views of the creation days among respected theologians, and since the PCA has from its inception allowed a diversity, that the assembly affirm that such diversity as covered in this report is acceptable as long as the full historicity of the creation account is accepted.”
Several hundred commissioners (delegates) registered their negative votes for various reasons: a desire to send the report to the churches as the committee had proposed; a desire to have the assembly acknowledge that the “Westminster Divines” (framers of the Confession) had understood the “days” of creation as “calendar days” and any candidate seeking to enter the PCA should declare an “exception” upon examination; a desire to simply accept the report as it stands. The matter will most certainly be brought back to a future general assembly, maybe as early as next year. Perhaps the most nagging question to members both within and without the PCA (because almost all Reformed denominations tolerate some diversity on this matter) is this: Should an affirmation of 24-hour days be a “litmus test” orthodoxy, for membership or denial of membership in a denomination?
Anyone desiring a copy of the Creation Study Committee Report communicate with The Outlook editors.