Posted by Wes White
ByFaith online published today a response by Dr. Roy Taylor, Stated Clerk of the PCA, to Dr. Dominic Aquila, former Moderator of the General Assembly and President of New Geneva Seminary, who has publicly criticized the proposed amendments to BCO 14:1 and 14:2. I would like to respond to a few of Dr. Taylor’s points, but to begin with I think we need to understand a very important point. The first draft of the amendments was presented confidentially to the Cooperative Ministries Committee (CMC) back in January 2010. A version approved by the AC was sent to the commissioners handbook. However, when the AC permanent committee met the week of the Assembly, they changed the amendment significantly. You can see the revisions here. I talked to several members of the Admin Committee of Commissioners and none of them had any idea that they had approved this altered version of the amendment. The point of this will become apparent in the discussion below. With that in mind, let me suggest several things in response to Dr. Taylor.
1. The Personal Statements about Dr. Aquila are not Helpful. The second and third paragraphs indicate that it was Dr. Aquila’s duty to oppose the amendment before now, if he was going to do it at all. Dr. Taylor says that these things were discussed over a number of years in the CMC. Instead of speaking against them, Dr. Taylor alleges, he chose a different method of dealing with this, Dr. Aquila posted his objections on his web site. Now, let’s assume that Dr. Taylor’s accounting of the fact is correct and that Dr. Aquila raised no objections and that this was discussed “thoroughly” over a number of years. Still, several things can be said. First, Dr. Aquila may have changed his mind or not seen the implications of the matter before it was actually passed by the GA. This wouldn’t be the first time that has happened to someone. Second, the amendment was changed significantly on the day of General Assembly. The new version makes the cumulative nature of the fees much clearer. This alone would cause someone to think more carefully about it, as it did me. Third, this is still a live issue. It is being debated in presbyteries, and it is perfectly legitimate for someone to offer their opinions privately and publicly. I think Dr. Taylor could have made some of the same arguments without implying criticism of Dr. Aquila’s methods.
2. The appeal to authority is overplayed. For example, Dr. Taylor states that “objections now being raised by Dr. Aquila involve issues that were thoroughly discussed over a number of years in the CMC…” Having examined the minutes, I simply cannot see it. Perhaps this was done, but it is not reflected in the minutes. I did not see any discussion of a funding plan until 2010. They may have discussed it in passing, but was it really discussed “thoroughly”? Second, he appeals to the CCB. He says that this is a “group of men elected by the General Assembly because of their knowledge and understanding of our constitution.” Maybe they are. Maybe they aren’t. The General Assembly has never expressed that. This seems to be an overstatement. Third, he calls their evaluation of the constitutional issues a “studied collective opinion.” Now, remember that they looked at the revisions in one afternoon and gave their opinion. Another example is the analysis by the legal firm. They may have done a legal audit, but did the legal firm audit the changes that were made on the Tuesday of General Assembly?
3. The reasoning of the CCB is flawed. I have argued this in several places. You can read my arguments here. The key point is that this “registration fee” is very different from the current registration fee for General Assembly. One is voluntary, non-cumulative, and paying for a specific service. The other is involuntary, non-cumulative, and funding all of a committee’s activities.
In addition, Dr. Taylor appeals to the historical context of BCO 25:8 and 11. Granted that he is correct, this does not prove his point. What better way to ensure that a denomination cannot take the property of the local church against its will than to say as the BCO 25:8 does that all property can only be received by free and voluntary action of the latter? What better way could there be than to exclude the idea of a required payment to the higher courts altogether?
4. There are some good points in the article. For example, the plan says nothing about whether non-paying members could serve on the permanent committees and agencies. I also agree that it does not bring confusion on who can and cannot vote. I think the plan is clear on who can and cannot vote.
Finally, I think that Dr. Taylor’s response is good in many ways. I like the idea that he is seeking to argue the merits of the case. I do not believe that we should just listen to the denominational employees and do what they think is best. I think they should present their arguments. Then, we should evaluate them and decide what we want to do. We as assemblies are the denominational leaders, not elected officials. Thus, the best way for us to approach this is to recognize that none of us has a right for our agenda to be passed. Let as many people make their arguments so that we can decide together, by the grace of God, what is the best course of action.
Posted by Wes White