I have watched with growing concern now as the Strategic Plan is passed in our General Assembly with an enormous minority voting against it. It really doesn’t matter at this point whether the SP has merit or not. That point can be argued, and I am not necessarily opposed to every aspect of it, like many of my conservative friends are. What really bothers me right now is the rhetoric of unity that was used to push through this plan, when it is plain as a pikestaff that we are anything but unified. Some of these votes were split nearly fifty-fifty! The Presbyteries need to know this as they are deliberating over the course of the next year whether to pass the funding plan or not. Don Clements makes the excellent analogy here to a pastor being voted on by a congregation. The BCO provides that if a sizable minority does not agree with the choice, then the majority should be urged to desist from pursuing their plan. I would think (in agreement with Don Clements) that the majority should not pursue the passing of this plan with such a vocal and large minority opposing it. That is the true path of unity at this point in time. We need something else. We need a very careful analysis of why we are not gaining members (I would suspect it has to do with using methods other than what God has ordained in order to stimulate growth). Jon Payne’s overture already addresses most of these, though without the analysis. We need to refocus our denomination on the means of grace that God has given us.



  1. K H Acton said,

    July 6, 2010 at 8:37 am

    The Presbyteries will not be voting on the Strategic Plan. It passed. The funding plan was separated from the plan, it passed too, but now faces the presbyteries. What the presbyteries need to know about is all the hidden information included in the wording of the plan that came out on the floor of GA. The is in no way voluntary and is cumulative, think back taxes. Both plans were vaguely worded and leave room for expansive powers through interpretation.

  2. greenbaggins said,

    July 6, 2010 at 8:46 am

    Thanks for the correction, Hugh. I have slightly edited the post to reflect your correction.

  3. Steve said,

    July 6, 2010 at 8:47 am

    You make a wonderful point about there being a lack of unity. Also, as you astutely pointed out, the dissenting minoirty was huge. That is something with which the PCA leadership must reckon. The comments of Mr. Don Clements were spot on.

    Best wishes, Steve

  4. Jerry Koerkenmeier said,

    July 6, 2010 at 9:01 am


    How my heart years for a return to the beautiful simplicity of the means of church health and growth given by our Lord. I have no problem with the validity and usefulness of common grace insights. But surely a strategic plan for the guidance of Christ’s church would base itself primarily upon Christ’s Word. We are told the plan presumes the gospel and the means of grace. Yet we know from history what happens when these are presumed. Let’s pray for a return to the simple means God has given as our strategic plan: proclamation of the Word, prayer, administration of the Sacraments, and the exercise of loving discipline. Let’s plant churches and make disciples in all nations based on these simple means with confidence that the Lord will build His church (Acts 2:42-47). Yes, they are foolish in the eyes of the world, but God has chosen the foolish things to shame the wise. Can we bear to be content with knowing nothing among the lost than Jesus Christ and him crucified?

    In the last week at General Assembly, I heard the second sentence in WCF 1.6 quoted many times (in both the AC Committee of Commissioners meeting and from the floor of the Assembly). But we need to remember that the second sentence only qualifies the first. It is a “nevertheless.” We must be careful not to lose the priority of what comes before it: “The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.”

  5. Scott said,

    July 6, 2010 at 11:04 am

    It will be interesting to see what God does with this.

    The process and substance of this Plan seems to have produced fear, uncertainty, and substantial division.

    There are no “winners” when a Strategic Plan has 40%+ opposition on almost every section- not in presbyterianism.

    For that reason alone, the Plan ought have been withdrawn and reconsidered, with broader input.

    It would also seem that compromise language, done at the last moment, does not really fit something that would be strategic, and intended for an entire denomination.

    No Strategy can be successful without broad support, and this Plan does not have that.

    God is saying something to us through this, and we need to stop, repent, and listen.

  6. mary kathryn said,

    July 6, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    Although I’m not presently in the PCA, I have watched this GA and this Plan. I am afraid the PCA might be heading for a split.

  7. dgh said,

    July 7, 2010 at 5:21 am

    GB, couldn’t one possible scenario be that this plan changes nothing in the PCA. You guys had a Strategic Plan in 2006, I believe. And what did that do? Could it be that the PCA is so diverse, so congregational, and so much like the Southern Baptist Convention, that nothing will give it greater institutional coherence?

    On the other hand, if the plan and its financing puts more money into the hands of the folks who produce ByFaith magazine, then the PCA has to worry that its national face will misrepresent its local outlets.

  8. Stephen Welch said,

    July 7, 2010 at 10:28 am

    DGH, there was no strategic plan brought before the GA in 2006 for a vote. This plan that was passed last week (with some changes) was the plan that was introduced in 2006. The CMC has been working on it since 2000. The concern those of us had that voted against the Strategic Plan and even signed the protest introduced by TE Joey Pipa, was it was introduced too quickly and there were things in it that raised “red” flags. I think more people would have voted for it if was more reformed and less sociological. Those of us who voted against it were not opposed to strategic planning or the need for mission work or greater work within the PCA. I do not understand how it took ten years to develop a plan that did not have any action statetments or specific strategies. Many have strong reservations about charging congreagations a tax for the work of the GA. There is no question that we are a connectional church and that we should support our denomination, but some feel that this may lead to a more beurecratic structure like the old PCUS.

  9. Jerry Koerkenmeier said,

    July 7, 2010 at 10:33 am

    Is my earlier post still awaiting moderation?

  10. greenbaggins said,

    July 7, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    Darryl, good points. I’m not sure if we can achieve greater coherence at this point. The continual harping on unity is a fairly plain indication that there is none. By Faith magazine, on the other hand, hardly needs more funding to misrepresent the local outlets of the PCA. It does that fairly well on its own. I’ve never been a fan of the magazine.

  11. greenbaggins said,

    July 7, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    MK, I am afraid you are right. I fear even more the creation of not one, but many more micro-denominations.

  12. greenbaggins said,

    July 7, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    Jerry, sorry for the delay. I was on vacation.

  13. Robert Berman said,

    July 7, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    Lane, who do you think would leave over what issues? If we ordained women pastors, churches would leave. If we proclaimed universal salvation, churches would leave. Who is going to leave the PCA because we want to get input from people groups in which we intend to minister? Who is going to leave the PCA because we want to identify elements in the global church with which we have substantial affinities? In the five hour debate on the Plan, there was little substantive complaint made against the sixteen “means,” just the same failed parliamentary “motion to reconsider” made again and again. Now, I’m sympathetic to the complaint that the Plan should have cited Scripture. This issue has come up before repeatedly, and it’s downright embarassing that it needed to ever come up again. But simply as general ideas of a direction to go, the “means” mostly seemed pretty inoccuous, except for the “vocational certification” one which the Assembly rightly rejected. I’m sincerely puzzled that people would vote against things like, “Let’s get together and discuss things outside of formal voting at Presbytery meetings.” Perhaps someone who voted against that (for instance) can help me see your perspective.

  14. Marshall said,

    July 11, 2010 at 8:08 am

    Personally, I’m more concerned about the “general drift” revealed in the SP than in the specifics. The general drift is toward a larger more powerful central government, supported by “taxes.” We are OK now, but where will this lead in 10 years? We used to talk a lot about being a “grass roots” church. But we seem headed away from that.

  15. Robert Berman said,

    July 11, 2010 at 8:26 am

    Marshall, you raise a very valid concern; we ought to be vigilant against trends of over-centralization. If we do carve out a portion of denominational services which get mandatory support, it will then require extreme vigilance to guard against the “general drift” of which you speak. Otherwise every activity of the denomination will jockey to get included under the “mandatory” umbrella.

    At the same time, it’s valid to ask whether “grass roots” has devolved into “de-connectional islands of congregationalism.” When the founders of the PCA said that support of the central agencies would not be mandatory, they were thinking (rightly) that the churches should not be required to support a denomination which denies central gospel tenets. They did not envision the many trivial reasons which would lead to half of the churches not supporting the denomination at all, while still remaining affiliated. There are no other denominations our size or larger whose version of the Administrative Committee has neither “fee for service” arrangements for its activities nor membership fees leveed on the pastors and/or churches. There’s a reason no other denominations do it our way: Our way doesn’t work, as the AC’s perennial budget shortfall shows.

  16. July 14, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    RE: 13


    I put myself probably at the far right of the PCA (somewhere on that side). I have been in some conversations with men who are questioning what to do now. Sure, leaving the denomination came up but it was quickly set aside to deal with more pressing matters at this time. Most believe we can still fight for our denomination because we still love the PCA. But I will tell you that if the funding plan passes in the BCO and RAO, there will be some pastors who will leave. Even more, I’m afraid some churches, especially smaller ones will leave. This is a matter of conscience: to be required to give rather than it being voluntary. Who is Lord of the conscience? After GA, I think I told you this, I went to candidate at a small church in SW Virginia. Since I was just at GA, I told them what was coming before THEM. Not so much the SP, but the funding plan for it would immediately affect them. I told them what it would do and what would be ‘required’ of them. Not one person liked the idea and told me that they may need to leave the denomination. In saying this, it doesn’t mean they don’t already give to the denomination. I didn’t sway them any, I just told them what happened at GA and that this was coming before the Presbyteries to be voted on. That was their response. So if anyone thinks the funding plan (forget about the SP) is uniting the denomination, they are crazy.

    Also, I voted against every single theme and mean, not because I don’t agree with some of them and think they are important. I did so because the church is not here to make strategic plans. The Holy Spirit does such things and it is revealed for us in the Word. Besides, what is the point of passing all the themes and means when we do almost everything that is on the list already? As well I might say that the research done to come to the point of the SP was seriously lacking as we see proved on other blogs.

    Hope this helps and/or brings clarity to the situation, as well as the seriousness of the situation.

  17. Phil Derksen said,

    July 14, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Rev. Barnes,

    I can also testify that in the case of my own small church dissent from the new funding scheme has already been expressed by some of our officers (although, just to be clear, not to the extent of entertaining thoughts about leaving the denomination over it) – this despite the fact that under it we would probably be obligated to contribute less to the various agencies and activities of the PCA than we already do. Rather, the opposition seems to be arising out of the principled belief that the new scheme is fundamentally, and anti-constitutionally coercive in its approach.

  18. Phil Derksen said,

    July 14, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    Also, for those who may have missed it, TE Andy Webb shared this news regarding the funding scheme over on the AR:

    (It may be necessary to scroll to the right on the website in order to view it)

  19. Robert Berman said,

    July 14, 2010 at 2:42 pm


    I love you and your commitment to doctrine. Whenever a “far right” candidate comes before presbytery for ordination or licensure, I always enjoy reading their views statements, because they always outline Biblical truth in a careful and detailed manner that leaves me with no hesitation at welcoming them into our number. May your tribe increase!

    I would feel sad about pastors who feel that these RAO and BCO changes constitute adequate reason for schism. I have myself been in the position where a vote went against me and I entertained the notion of taking my ball and going home in protest. Then when I come back to the issue later, I usually decide that my initial reaction was really more petulance than anything. I say this without imputing any particular motive to those on the “far right,” who I trust are operating out of sincere conviction.

    As far as your interaction with the church at which you candidated, I hope you’re not surprised that, hearing of the plan from you, they had a negative response. It would be interesting to know what response they might have given if they had heard of it from me or someone else who thinks it’s a good idea. The framing of an issue often plays a large role in determining its outcome. Not that you would present it in a deceitful manner; you’re simply going to present it as it seems from your perspective. That’s why any issue should be presented by various counselors those on all sides of it (Proverbs 11:14; 15:22; 24:6; and especially 18:17).

    When speaking to an uninformed audience, I suspect you would often be successful bringing them to your view of, “Did you know that the Administrative Committee wants to impose a mandatory tax on all the churches in the PCA, in violation of our grass roots ethos?” I suspect I might have good success with the exact same audience with an appeal of, “Did you know that in violation of our connectional ethos, many churches have gone to General Assembly for decades and voted for money to be spent by the Adminstrative Committee but then refused to give a nickel to help fund those mandates?” A wise church will seek out both sides of the debate before making up its mind.

  20. Robert Berman said,

    July 14, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    Also Andrew,

    As far as the votes on the means, did you attend the informational session by Chappell and Taylor about the AC report? The purpose of voting on the sixteen means was not to change the direction of the PCA. It was to take a straw poll as to which elements in the plan were supported by the churches, and which were not. The means included things we were already doing so that people could vote against them if they wanted us to stop doing them.

    So if you voted against things we were already doing, you were voting that the PCA should stop doing those things. If you were tring to convey the message, “It is not appropriate that you ask my opinion on such things,” then abstaining from voting would have been best. If you voted against things that you thought should be done, you actually worked against yourself.

  21. Phil Derksen said,

    July 14, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Mr. (Rev.?) Berman,

    I would sincerely be interested in knowing how you might respond to some of the specific (and often scriptural) objections to the funding issue that Rev. Webb and his session have noted in their resolution (see link above).


  22. July 14, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    RE: 21,

    Phil, Mr. Berman is a RE. :)

    RE: 19,


    I think they may think it a good reason to schism because it forces them to break liberty of conscience. But I am not saying anyone will leave, I am just saying that I could see that as being a reason some might leave. If you see Rev. Webb’s Session’s Resolution, you might see what I am referring to. I did not attend the informational meeting because I heard them speak on the SP at the Twin Lakes Fellowship, so I had already heard what they were saying. Like I said, I disagreed with the SP as a whole, so I felt I couldn’t support any of it.

  23. D. T. King said,

    July 14, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    Dear Andrew, perhaps you missed your own words, Previously you said in # 16…

    But I will tell you that if the funding plan passes in the BCO and RAO, there will be some pastors who will leave…

    And in # 22, you said…

    But I am not saying anyone will leave, I am just saying that I could see that as being a reason some might leave.

    Could you please clarify for us these comments. Thanks.

  24. July 14, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    AH, thanks D.T. I believe I am going to stick to the first one. :) However, the first one is my opinion. The statement in the second is myself just declaring something because I don’t know what will actually happen. I guess the second one is more of a hesitation to say something like #1, but #1 is my opinion. :)

    Sorry for the confusion of 16 and 22, and of 24. :)

  25. D. T. King said,

    July 14, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Thanks Andrew

  26. greenbaggins said,

    July 14, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Robert, petulance would not be an acceptable option, I agree. However, the real question here is whether or not the SP will actually lead to other more dangerous things. I believe some think that it is not of real consequence. Others believe that it has far more consequences than are readily foreseeable. My concern is that this will be used as a method for pushing the progressive agenda in the PCA, as facilitating the powers that control the denomination at the moment, which are certainly NOT the conservative, confessional branch of the PCA.

  27. Robert Berman said,

    July 14, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    Lane, would it be fair to characterize your view as, “The denomination is controlled by those with whom I differ at certain points, so if they want something, I must oppose it”? The SP certainly could lead to “more dangerous things.” But not doing the SP could also lead to “more dangerous things.” We’re talking about tools and means which are only as good as the hands that wield them.

  28. Robert Berman said,

    July 14, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    “All an Englishman’s preferences are a matter of principle.” (Old saying cited by Tim Bayly in his blog entry of 5/17/07)

    Andrew and Phil,

    I did read Rev. Reed’s resolution. It strikes me as a functional schism, announcing (1) His church will never provide financial support for the administrative committee under the proposed funding mechanism, and (2) His church surrenders its voice in the highest court of the PCA. I find it problematic that his Session feels conscience-bound not to fulfill their obligation to represent their congregation in the church at large. The rights of the governed to be represented are very close to the heart of Presbyterian government, and the abdication of that responsibility strikes me as a deliquency not justified by this funding proposal. But (and I say this as a born-and-bred Tennessean) the PCA remains a very Southern denomination, with a much lower threshhold for secession on grounds of, “My conscience declares that nobody can tell me what to do,” than you’ll find in other more connectional limbs of the body of Christ.

    At the same time, I recognize that BCO 14-1-2 and Acts 5:29 allow that members participate in the GA only “as they be led in their conscience held captive to the Word of God.” As far as the specific points guiding Rev. Webb’s conscience:

    BCO 25-8 affirms that the denomination may not seize the property of the churches, as happened when churches tried to leave the PCUS. There’s no “seizing” involved in the funding plan, which simply says that churches who wish to participate democratically in the denomination must also participate financially in the denomination, as the Lord provides the means. Quid pro quo is not coercion, and if one perceives that it is, there’s probably a deeper undercurrent of mistrust which needs to be addressed.

    BCO 25-11 concerns the right of churches to withdraw from the PCA, which the funding proposal does not change.

    2 Cor 9:17 speaks of the motive of the giver. “Give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” means that it’s a sin not to give. Paul is not addressing the recipients of the gift at all.

    As to Rev. Webb’s comments on “involuntary giving” equalling taxation by the state, participation in General Assembly has always been linked to non-optional giving, except that we currently call it a “registration fee.” But since he brought up the State, wasn’t the Presbyterian Church originally a tax-supported organization, and was that wrong? The PCA represents a 40 year experiment to see what happens if a Presbyterian church emphasizes the “optional” aspect of denominational giving. The answer is that it doesn’t work well. But after two generations of pastors lived under the current system, it starts to feel like the only solution which conscience will allow, as Rev. Webb and others here show. They think they’re supporting the conservative viewpoint, but really they’re supporting a mid-20th century innovation which is not standing the test of time.

    Rev. Webb suggests that the “temple tax” which Jesus paid was a part of the ceremonial law which has passed away and should not serve as an example today. Does he have the same view of the tithe, which went to support the staff of that very temple?

  29. Paige Britton said,

    July 14, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    Robert #28 –
    you did mean Rev. Webb, right, not Reed? :)

  30. David said,

    July 14, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    I would note that if you accept Don Clements rationale then you will also need to argue that TE Jeff Hutchinson should not serve on the SJC since there was an even larger minority voting against his nomination than any other item during GA!

  31. Robert Berman said,

    July 14, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    Paige, that is correct. Thank you for correcting me. I must have Reed DePace on the brain!

    For the record, I am glad to see Jeff Hutchinson on the SJC, and I am glad to be able to discuss these matters with brothers who hold Scripture in high esteem.

  32. July 14, 2010 at 11:09 pm


    Yes, the analogy between not prosecuting a call with a large minority opposed and polity matters which pass with a large minority is probably a faulty one. Someone has to win and someone has to lose on these things. But the point is that it is a shame that we are NOT more united around a common vision for the PCA. Better (i.e. any) Scriptural argumentation could have done that, I am convinced. PCA men tend to respond to sound exegesis which is THEN followed by impassioned pleas to act. We tend NOT to unite in large numbers around “common grace insights.”

    BTW, Robert, I am not sure the experiment failed altogether. After all, we are only talking about $2 million AC budget of a total $122 million PCA budget overall, all the committees considered. What if the AC kept asking, as they do now, and then a small portion of that other $120 million was given to them to supplement what didn’t come in from askings? There may have been other, less coercive-seeming ways to skin this cat.

    FWIW. Peace, guys.

  33. Paige Britton said,

    July 15, 2010 at 6:27 am

    #31 Yay for Jeff. I am glad, too. And I wonder: what do those closely split GA votes really tell us? That people are voting their consciences on an issue, or that they are voting their consciences re. procedure , or that they are maybe a little confused about the whole deal? It’s probably a mix, no? (And how many commissioners who voted against Jeff’s nomination were personally objecting to Jeff because they know him, and how many voted “no” because they simply didn’t know him?) (Not to mention Chris!)

    The split votes are fascinating to me; it would seem that they must reflect something. But it seems too easy to interpret them definitively one way or another without a whole lot of exit interviews.

  34. David Gilleran said,

    July 15, 2010 at 8:41 am

    RE #28
    1. The Session said that they would not support the AC.They said that they would not support the AC using this method of funding. They could send a gift to support the AC.

    2. There is no requirement for any church to send either a TE or RE to GA. The PCA plan was brought about in response to the delegated assembly of the PCUS. It was and is up to the local church on whether or not they wish to be represented at GA.

    3. I do not believe at any point in the history of America, that any branch of the Presbyterian was supported by a mandatory tax collected by the State for the payment of clergy or the upkeep of the church property. In Scotland, yes; in America, no.

    4. The problem is the collection of the fees by the AC is not only for the support of the GA meeting but other programs which fall under the AC, that right now a TE, a local church or a presbytery can choose not to support. These would be the Historical Center, By Faith and By Faith online. I have no interest in funding any of these projects. I would be more inclined to vote for the funding plan if the money only went to the support of the GA meeting and nothing else.

    5. This funding plan, if approved, ends up being a three fold tax upon the local church. The TE who has an reimbursement plan for professional expenses with his church will submit his claim for the $100. Then the church herself must pay according to the fee chart. Then the church gives money to Presbytery which will help pay Presbtery’s fee.

    The real answer to cut costs is to go to a delegated assembly. Right now we have 72 presbyteries. Elect two TE and two RE per year to represent the presbytery. Hold the Assembly at Covenant College or another Christian College. Eat at the college dining facility. This way you are not paying for a convention center. You are not paying for hotel space. You are not paying for over priced food. Also, end the exhibitor booths. This will end one temptation to wander off the floor of the assembly. The assembly should be for deliberation not vacation.Go and get the work done and come home to report to your presbytery on what you did there.

  35. Robert Berman said,

    July 15, 2010 at 9:05 am

    Good thoughts, David. As to your specific observations:

    1. Duly noted.

    2. One of the problems with our current funding system is that “not mandatory” has become confused with “not important.” I see GA attendance, like support of the AC, as optional but very important, such that it should take a very good reason not to do it. It’s not unlike Sunday worship in that respect. It’s the opportunity to express the corporate value we profess to hold.

    3. That was my point. “This is unPresbyterian and unBiblical” just doesn’t seem true in a universal sense. Presbyterians have funded the work of the church in many ways throughout history. “This is not the way we’ve been doing it,” is true. But that’s not a reason to keep doing it that way, if it’s not working.

    4. I agree. I don’t think byFaith magazine articles should fall under the privileged “auto-fund” category, for instance. But I would like to see the PCA website get auto-funded (and updated, which it badly needs) since it’s a tool of denominational communication for finding churches, reviewing our denominational documents, etc.

    5. That is true, but it doesn’t strike me as a problem. Ultimately all the money comes from the congregants, and the suggested system seems reasonably equitable, especially when linked to a hardship clause.

    6. I agree that it would help costs if we held GA at a facility we already own. There are numerous churches which could hold 1300 delegates in their sanctuaries. The problem is the desire to hold an evening worship service with up to twice that many participants. That was more viable when the PCA was much smaller than it is now. As things stand now, it’s an obstacle to making far cheaper, which means that it’s an obstacle to more people coming. (Though I suppose if it was cheap enough, then lots more people would come, and then we’d be back at a space problem for delegates.) I agree with the ending of the exhibit hall as well.

    The problem with a delegated assembly (not an insurmountable one, but one I view as more challenging than the funding problem) is that the delegation process becomes a power chokehold, precisely what the PCA was designed to avoid.

  36. David Gilleran said,

    July 15, 2010 at 9:29 am


    1. GA attendance is not the same as attendance for Lord’s Day worship. One is commanded by Scripture, the other is not. This is not saying it is not important only that you cannot compel attendance to GA.

    2. Churches, no matter how they get their funding, still have to pay the fees three times. For small churches this is a hardship.

    3. Again what is the purpose of General Assembly? Is it to be a deliberative body or simply a time of worship, fellowship and learning with the deliberative work simply an add-on? Let me say I am not opposed to worship or fellowship or learning which happens at the GA. However, it should be the by product not the reason of being for the Assembly.

    4. If you establish a delegated assembly, you set the roll for TE in each presbytery by alphabetical order and the same with the roll of churches. This way everyone and every church knows when they are to go. When new members and churches are added to the rolls of presbytery, they are placed at the bottom of the list.

  37. Robert Berman said,

    July 15, 2010 at 9:55 am


    1. The parallel to Sunday worship is not exact. I’m not arguing that GA attendance can or should be compelled. I’m arguing that, when it comes to connectional things like attending GA and funding AC, many churches appear to attach much less importance than our founders envisioned. Have you seen the statistics on RE representation at the first several GA, for instance?

    2. Small churches may appeal under the hardship clause as they see fit. As to whether you consider it “paying their fees three times” or simply dividing a single fee in three ways, that seems like a “glass half empty/full” sort of thing. My church of 80 members, mostly retirees, has never had any problem funding the denominational askings. God provides the means for us to do what He wants done.

    3. I see GA, like the Sunday gathering of the church, as having several purposes. The primary purpose of GA is deliberation on the work of the church. But it’s not simply a board meeting of a corporation like Exxon. It’s also an excellent opportunity for fellowship, worship, and cross-pollination.

    4. That’s one way it could be done. What do you see as the pros and cons of that approach?

  38. David Gilleran said,

    July 15, 2010 at 10:26 am

    1. Yes I have. There are several factors why RE attendance was higher early on in the PCA. One is the newness of the PCA. Two, it was less expensive to attend than today. Three, we have changed the Assembly to make it more attractive for REs to attend (limiting debate) but they are not coming. The emphasis in the PCA has always been on the local church and this is reflected in not only declining GA attendance but also at Presbytery as well.

    2. Yes they can appeal for the fee. It is the add on cost of $1,500 to $ 2,000 per commissioner which is the drawback in many cases. If you have a delegated assembly small churches can save the amount to send a commissioner.

    3. We will have to disagree here. My view is get there, get the work done and go home.

    4. People will scream that “the best and brightest” will be shut out. If we truly believe in the parity of the eldership that should not be a problem. Also,one of the largest voting block at GA are those TE who work for one of the PCA’s permanent committees or agencies or institutions. (who by the way will not have pay a fee for their employees to attend GA unlike the local church if the funding plan passes) A delegated assembly would break this up.

  39. Dean B said,

    July 15, 2010 at 10:39 am

    Robert Berman


    I did read Rev. Reed’s [Rev Webb] resolution. It strikes me as a functional schism, announcing (1) His church will never provide financial support for the administrative committee under the proposed funding mechanism, and (2) His church surrenders its voice in the highest court of the PCA. I find it problematic that his Session feels conscience-bound not to fulfill their obligation to represent their congregation in the church at large. EOQ

    When the elders collectively usurp their authority and become magisterial rather than ministerial does it really follow that those who oppose are being schismatic?

    If your Pastor decided that his car should be washed by the congregation every Saturday evening and each member of the congregation was going to assigned an evening is it schismatic or a violation of the 5th commandment to publicly refuse? What if the Pastor mandated that each husband was required to take his wife out for supper at least one evening a week without the children to improve marriages is everyone required to comply?

    Isn’t the distinction between magisterial and ministerial already settled in Presbyterianism? How is this ruling by GA ministerial?

    Thank you in advance for your response.

  40. Robert Berman said,

    July 15, 2010 at 3:33 pm


    1. You’re right that the PCA’s emphasis is on the local church. I’d say it’s been at the expense of the larger church. This de-emphasis on the value of corporate activities seems like part of a broader cultural trend that would include decreased Sunday School participation, decreased attendance at political and patriotic events, etc. I’d like to see more involvement beyond the local church, because communication fosters relationships and trust and accountability.

    2. I don’t understand what you’re referring to as “the add-on cost of $1500-2000 per commissioner.”

    3. See 1. above for my reasons for including relationships in “the work.” Your mileage may vary.

    4. I’m curious how many TEs work for the permanent committees. We’d need such people at GA every year due to their jobs of reporting to GA, and it might exacerbate the centralization of power if you have one group of TEs that’s always at GA and another that is only there every fourth year (or so).

  41. Robert Berman said,

    July 15, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    Dean B,

    Whoever splits is being schismatic, in the sense that they are the ones separating. I don’t mean the term in an automatically pejorative fashion. There can be good reasons to schism, as your post illustrates. The American Revolution was schismatic. The Protestant Reformation was schismatic. If I left my local church because of incurable sin in its leadership, I would be schismatic. I’d rather not get wrapped up in the terminology, though. If there’s another term you’d prefer to use, I’m happy to use it.

  42. David Gilleran said,

    July 15, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    The add on cost is transportation which can range from plane ticket to fuel for car, lodging and food. Depending on the site of the assembly, it might be a two day drive which increeases the expense.

    When the minutes come out, count how many TE from CTS, CC, RUF, MTW, MNA, CE&P, IBR, Ridge Haven, Admin come to GA.

    You can have one person to report for each committee/board/agency. If they are the delgate from their presbytery they have the right to vote. If not, they can only speak on matters which effect their committee.

  43. Dean B said,

    July 15, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    Robert Berman

    Thank you very much for responding.

    I seriously doubt Rev Webb is planning to separate over this issue. The letter provides no indication to me that he plans to separate.

    BOQ The PCA represents a 40 year experiment to see what happens if a Presbyterian church emphasizes the “optional” aspect of denominational giving. The answer is that it doesn’t work well. But after two generations of pastors lived under the current system, it starts to feel like the only solution which conscience will allow, as Rev. Webb and others here show. They think they’re supporting the conservative viewpoint, but really they’re supporting a mid-20th century innovation which is not standing the test of time. EOQ

    If the elders of a local church elders decided to impose a “registration fee” in order for members to vote a congregation meeting in order to pay for the administrative costs of the building which totaled $500 and it was retroactive and enforceable for each successive year I believe I would let the elders know immediately I had no intention to pay it.

    If I am compelled by the church to pay a “registration fee” then how could my giving not be under compulsion? I seriously doubt anyone believe a tithe is part of the ceremonial law and if they did then wouldn’t churches be inspecting everyone’s tax returns to ensure they gave 10% and excommunicate them if they refused to comply? What line would you propose we tithe off? Adjusted gross income could not be used since that God wants our first fruits. Under that logic even gross income could be used since all employers pay 7.5% FICA and most of them pay some sort of medical benefit which would all be considered first fruit. Are you paying a tenth of your first fruits?

    I certainly believe in giving, but I do not believe in a tithe.

    Our current model of giving has served the local church very well for the past 2000 years. What biblical (ministerial) support is there for a broader assembly to use a different method?

  44. July 15, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    Just to note that the OPC has a delegated assembly. It is not 2 TE’s and 2 RE’s that go but the number depends on the size of the presbytery.

    So instead of thinking like the Senate (2 from each state) think of the House of Representatives…

  45. Robert Berman said,

    July 15, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    David and Andrew, I think a delegated assembly is worth considering. There are good practical reasons that few deliberative bodies in the world allow a thousand delegates.

    Dean, I was considering “I will never come to GA again” to be a kind of separation. Not complete separation, granted. Concerning the tithe, that’s a debated matter. Your opinion differs from the one expressed in BCO 54-1 (which of course is a non-binding chapter), and I was curious where Andrew Webb came down on the issue.

    We wouldn’t be having this conversation if the churches would simply do what we seem to agree Scripture demands they do: give. The Scriptures teach that the workman is worthy of his wages, and the current system undermines that principle by allowing large numbers churches to benefit from the efforts of the AC without contributing financially, even when they are in a position to do so.

  46. David Gray said,

    July 15, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    >The Scriptures teach that the workman is worthy of his wages

    The workman is worthy. By Faith is another matter…

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