I would recommend you look at my friend Wes White’s blog (here and here) for the recent discussion about this initiative. This seems to me to be an attempt to redefine our history. The PCA’s origin is not broadly Reformed, but rather confessionally Reformed, as is proven by the documents Wes White cites, which, interestingly enough, has Kooistra’s signature on it (and I do not note that to somehow denigrate Kooistra: it’s just that he signed a document claiming to want a thoroughly Reformed denomination, and now, almost 40 years later, he wants a document that advocates a “broadly” Reformed ethos. I think he has changed over 40 years).
I have been banging this drum for a while now, but I guess it needs to be banged again: stretching the boundaries of the PCA does not result in more unity! Instead, it results in more chaos and disunity. You cannot be united unless it is a union around the truth! We are imbibing our culture’s distaste for boundaries when we use pejorative descriptions like “a narrow sectarianism that could consume our energies building a theological fortress.” Quite frankly, right now the PCA could use some theological fortress-building. Otherwise, our confessional heritage will go the way of the dodo bird.
As an illustration, take music composition. One of the single best insights into the nature of musical composition (or any art endeavor, for that matter) came to me from one of my composition teachers at St. Olaf College. She told the class that boundaries spark creativity. If I sit at the computer, where my composition program is located, and say to myself, “I am going to write a piece of music,” that is actually quite stultifying. If I take that approach at all, I immediately have to start asking limiting questions. I am setting up boundaries, in other words. What is the instrumentation? Long or short? Bombastic or meditative? If a song, then what lyrics? Which voice part? As a matter of fact, it is much more freeing and energizing to creativity to have very small and tight boundaries. The fastest piece I ever wrote was a piece I wrote for organ pedal solo. Talk about limitations! Just the feet! That piece flew from my pen, even though it wound up being at least ten pages long. In theology, the most creative theologians are always the most confessional, because they are exploring the depth of the same old truths, and they are not trying to shift sideways into supposed newer truths, which are usually old falsehoods. We need to dig deeper, not shift sideways.
If our denomination is headed for shipwreck (and it might very well do that!), whose fault is it going to be? Supposed narrow-minded sectarians? As a person who is usually attacked by this appellation, I would have to demur: the confessional folks haven’t moved anywhere! We’re still here, advocating a confessional, thoroughly Reformed orthodoxy. There is only so much boundary shifting that confessional folk can take. Wouldn’t the sectarians instead be those who are constantly trying to push the boundary in the name of creativity and unity (which ethos, given the above, seems more than a bit ironic to me)?