As part of my duties as president of our denominational seminary, over the last month I attended the national meetings of several NAPARC churches. I participated in my own denomination's synod meetings (RPCNA) in Indiana, spent two days in St. Louis, Missouri at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), and just came back this weekend from a quick trip to Iowa to visit brothers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC). Having fellowship with not only brothers and sisters of these churches, but folks from many other denominations who also had representatives in attendance at these meetings, was a true highlight of the time, a taste of the greater kingdom of God.
Of course, there are some marked differences in these meetings. The PCA is much larger than the OPC and especially the RPCNA, with nearly 2000 churches and 400,000 members. The PCA General Assembly had thousands in attendance, and used the Convention Center in downtown St. Louis for its meetings. I told some of my OPC brothers I felt a bit more at home with them. For both our assemblies met on Christian college campuses in the middle of cornfields where, if the wind blows just right, you can smell the cows.
Each of these assemblies, meeting once again after a two-year hiatus due to the Covid virus, faced difficult matters. Yet none was as prominent and concerning as the chief issue before the PCA this year. For several communications were before this assembly to address a progressive movement in the church that is seeking to allow ministers and members to identify themselves as gay Christians, in what is often deemed Side B Christianity (see our "Side C Christianity" podcast on 3GT for a verbal report). What I desire to draw your attention to and address in this post is the excellent analysis by Carl Trueman at First Things entitled "At the PCA General Assembly, the Little Guys Stood Up."
Dr. Trueman highlights how the PCA GA took a strong stand against Side B Christianity that surprised many. He points out how the number of commissioners present at the PCA GA swelled (around 40% greater than typical years) because ruling elders and small church pastors made the effort to attend.
Encouragingly, it is now clear that rumors of the PCA’s proximity to the PCUSA on the key issues of our day have been greatly exaggerated. Less encouragingly, it is equally clear that the PCA elites are out of touch with the denomination's grass roots...
In the last few days, I have spoken to a number of GA commissioners. They seem to agree that at the GA, “the little guys stood up” (to quote one commissioner verbatim). Ruling elders—commissioners who are not professional clergy and who live in the real world—turned out in force. Small churches scrimped and saved to send their pastors. The big urban churches, even with the social media savvy and the careful organization of the National Partnership (that most un-Presbyterian of things—a lobby group that operates outside the courts of the church), were beaten by the votes of culturally anonymous and culturally inconsequential congregations. And, to quote said commissioner again, the PCA voted to uphold the Christian sexual morality of the last two millennia, rather than that of merely the last two decades. The world will not thank them for it. But those of us in smaller sister denominations do.
Indeed, we whose smaller congregations and denominations often meet in places surrounded by cows and cornfields certainly do thank our brothers.
Another matter related to this action that Carl raised caught my eye.
(A)s the church reaffirms its position on the issues at hand, those institutions that depend upon PCA students for a significant part of their income need to declare themselves.
Students who are paying large fees for ministerial training should be aware of whether what they hear in the classroom might cause problems at ordination exams. And churches—progressive and conservative—that fund students deserve to know where their money is going so that they can adjust their giving strategies accordingly. Such seminaries should therefore state their positions relative to what the GA decided this year.
As the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary (RPTS) is blessed in having a good number of PCA alumni and current students, I wanted to accept the "Trueman Challenge" and publicly state our position. However, before I do so, I first want to clearly say the following.
Please know that I make this statement not to grandstand in any way. I just believe it is important at this time to "stand with the little guys." At a time when Biblically faithful colleges and seminaries are under incredible pressure to conform to this world just to survive, it is vital that we do not compromise the truth and morality of the Christian faith. I humbly call on my fellow NAPARC and evangelical college and seminary presidents to also accept this challenge and stand with our PCA brethren at this time.
Thankfully, due to our close relationship with Geneva College and the influence of my friend Dr. Calvin Troup, the RPTS Board took action along these lines this past spring. As we see the growing pressures caused by the gay pride and transgender movements, the Board adopted the "RPTS Statement on Human Identity and Christian Behavior" below that is modeled on a similar statement that Geneva adopted. RPTS is printing this statement in all our handbooks for the board, faculty, staff, and students. Each individual then yearly signs our Community Standards (found here on page 20 our catalog) where we promise to accept and abide by these standards, which includes this warning: "The Seminary may deny admission, admonish, warn, place on probation, suspend, expel, withhold a degree, deny employment, terminate employment, or take other action in response to beliefs or personal conduct outside of these Standards."
As the storm clouds and lightning of evil movements press against us "little guys," may our trust be as the psalmist. "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God" (Ps. 20:7).
RPTS STATEMENT ON HUMAN IDENTITY AND CHRISTIAN BEHAVIOR
Statement on the Sanctity of Human Life
We believe that all human life is sacred and created by God in His image. Human life is of inestimable worth in all its dimensions, including pre-born babies, the aged, the physically or mentally challenged, and every other stage or condition from conception through natural death. We are therefore called to defend, protect, and value all human life (Psalm 139).
Statement on Gender
We believe that God wonderfully and immutably creates each person as male or female. These two distinct, complementary sexes together reflect God's image and nature (Genesis 1:26-27). We acknowledge that in this fallen world, on rare occasions, a person is born with anatomical ambiguity. We affirm the dignity and image of God fully shared by such persons and support their efforts to determine with competent medical counsel their anatomical sex and coordinate gender calling (2017 Minutes of Synod, page 122). Nevertheless, the vast majority of persons are born with clear anatomical sex distinction. God has called each person to live within the gender indicated by his or her anatomy (2017 Minutes of Synod, page 120). We believe it is sinful behavior to reject one's sex given by God at conception or attempting to alter one's sex given by God at conception, including dressing in such a way as to willfully reject one's sex given by God at conception.
Statement on Marriage
We believe the term "marriage" has only one meaning: the uniting of one man and one woman in a single, exclusive union, as delineated in Scripture (Genesis 2:18-25). We believe that marriage between one man and one woman, for life, uniquely reflects Christ's relationship with His Church (Ephesians 5:21-22). We believe that God intends sexual intimacy to occur only between a man and a woman who are married to each other (1 Corinthians 6:18; 7:2-5; Hebrews 13:4). We believe that God has commanded that no intimate sexual activity be engaged in outside of a marriage between a man and a woman.
Statement on Sexuality
We believe that any form of sexual immorality (including adultery, cohabitation, fornication, homosexual behavior, bisexual conduct, attempts to alter one's sex, bestiality, incest, or use of pornography) is sinful and offensive to God (Matthew 15:18- 20; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10).