By Jack Williamson. It is proper that we pause to remember the great things God has done in the Presbyterian Church in America since we took our place among the family of churches of the Lord Jesus Christ on December 4, 1973 – fifteen years ago.
In our opening worship on that occasion, I made this statement:
The origin of this church is in God, its form of manifestation is from God; and from beginning to end, its purpose is and shall be to magnify God’s glory.
As we reflect on these fifteen years, we must acknowledge that God has worked many miracles before our very eyes. In God’s providence the PCA did not begin with many great or mighty men. No giants of the faith were among us to dominate and guide. We were a group of novices who had to rely totally on God for direction. Many mistakes were made, but God’s hand has surely been upon us. We should rejoice in praise and adoration of God – to Him be the glory, great things He has done.
We need to constantly recall the three cardinal principles the PCA set forth in that 1973 Message to all Churches of Jesus Christ throughout the World. They are:
- The Bible is the very Word of God, so inspired in the whole and all its parts, as in the original autographs, to be the inerrant Word of God. It is the basis of authority for the PCA.
- The system of doctrine found in God’s Word is the system known as the Reformed Faith.
- The PCA would give top priority to fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission.
Today it seems to me that there are at least four groups in the PCA:
1.There are those who experienced the trauma of separation primarily from the PCUS and some from the UPCUS.
2.There are those who joined us from the RPCES and who are one generation away from their experience of separation.
3.There are those who have been called to the ministry since 1973.
4.There are those who have joined the PCA from many former associations, particularly in our newly organized churches.
I happen to be in that first group. For twenty years, I saw developing errors which I fought in the PCUS which drove us to separation for the honor of Jesus Christ. I believe it is a truism that those who do not learn from history will have to relive it. I see certain tendencies in the PCA which alarm me because they were among those things denomination and eventually led to separation.
I would suggest three such tendencies for our prayerful consideration:
- There seems to be a growing lack of zeal on the part of ruling elders to attend those Courts of the Church above the local level. This will result in a clerically dominated system. The PCA needs the balance of teaching and ruling elders in our courts. I hope that ministers will make a special effort to train and encourage ruling elders to participate and that ruling elders will consider the privilege of being called by God to sacrificially serve.
- There appears to be a tendency toward a more hierarchical control of the lower courts by the higher courts. This tendency erodes the fundamen