Ministers on Trial Debates and the 43rd General Assembly of the PCA

One of the overtures brought up at this last denominational meeting (June 2015) of the PCA was seeking to change the Book of Church order to force an officer in the PCA to testify in cases involving doctrinal issues. Put simply, “Can you force a minister to affirm, deny or state plainly what he believes?”

Some were concerned that if this change was passed and a minister was forced to state what doctrines he affirms that it would/could result in witch hunts. I think this portrayal was unfortunate because it began to paint a picture where ministers were forced to stand in the dock stating and affirming their convictions in traditional marriage, the sin of homosexuality, etc. The picture painted, in my opinion, was ridiculous. The idea or image of a minister cowering to a prosecutor, in a church court not a civil court, is not realistic. It would mean that the PCA itself had left its confessional convictions and was now holding to some other confessional standard.  

I voted for the change and the reason was simple. A minister should state what he believes plainly and clearly. If you don’t know then simply state you don’t know and study it.

Those who were against the change cited Jesus’ silence before Pilate. Jesus’ remaining silent before Pilate and his accusers was a demonstration of his power, love, and sovereignty. I would argue that a minister, in the spirit of Paul who stood before King Agrippa, say “I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews,”. (Acts 26:2 ESV)

Currently, if a minister is brought up on charges, evidence has to be gathered from all of his works to produce evidence demonstrating that the minister in question holds doctrine contrary to the Scripture as understood by the Westminster Standards. A minister should be able to simply state his doctrinal convictions and if they are out of bounds of the PCA, he should move denominations. No one is going to put him on the rack, drown him, etc.

Here is a helpful overview of the PCAs 43 GA

3 thoughts on “Ministers on Trial Debates and the 43rd General Assembly of the PCA

  1. If a minister fails to say what he believes, why is he in a position of being a minister? Seems like it is a qualification of the office. Didn’t he give testimony at ordination? Why not in defense of himself? Plus if he is wrong, he should be teachable and if he is right, then like you say, he goes somewhere else like Machen did.

    1. I agree.

      I know with the FV movement and the recent trials of some of the accused, it would have been easier to simply ask them their views and where they differ with the standards. Instead the prosecutor had to build a case from their works and then go through all the procedures carefully checking each box.

      It can be a tricky situation and if a minister is not willing to defend/state their views clearly it can make things very messy.

  2. I agree that a minister should at least be called to the carpet on his convictions. He should be capable of expressing his agreement and differences clearly. And he should be willing to face the consequences of his lack, deviation or outright transgression before his peers.

    The kings of this world revel in double-speak and hidden grammars. Concepts like “throwing someone under the bus” or “self-incrimination” are hardly representative of a Christian ethic, especially when it comes to theology and doubly especially when it comes to a shepherd’s teachings.

    Our society seems to hate clear, open inquiry and standards. This problem must not infect our church government.

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