Well, next week is the PCA General Assembly. I'll be blogging during the Assembly (GA) again; I hope more than last year - it'll keep me from speaking as much. This year's GA is in Virginia Beach - nice. The best deal my assistant could find was a beachfront cabin near the Assembly. [[Turns out, beachfront is not so beachfront. 10 minutes from the beach.] Life is hard.
Here are some initial impressions on the issues for this year:
1) Funding of the Administrative Committee - Last year's debate centered on AC funding and the vision for our denomination. The supporters of the AC were able to push the plan through, very painfully. The rancor left a bad taste in everyone's mouths and it got voted down resoundingly in the Presbyteries. I have no idea why the members of the AC thought is was appropriate for our denominational employees to come up with a plan to force us to give money for their initiatives and salaries and then decide how to punish or "forgive" individual churches. Aren't we supposed to be telling them what to do and not vice versa?
2) Vision for the PCA - The "powers that be," who for good and ill got us where we are today and consist mostly of middle-aged white guys, are going to continue to "lead us" in adopting strategies to reach racial and ethnic minorities, young people and the poor. They will be largely opposed by pastors who work with racial and ethnic minorities, young people and the poor. Since the pastors who matter most are the ones who pastor the largest and wealthiest churches, the wealthy pastors and their friends in the AC and other denominational agencies (which they control), they will likely continue to take the lead in fixing the problems which they have both identified and created. We all hope that this year they actually use data in examining the problems and Scripture in looking for solutions.
3) Heresy in Missions - The "Insider Movement," which is a missiological strategy for reaching Muslims by telling them they do not have to leave Islam, join a church or get baptized, has been a hot topic for discussion in mission circles. One presbytery has submitted an overture condemning an Insider Bible Translation and calling for a study committee.
I have been told by a reliable source that Mission to the World (MTW), our denominational mission board, supports the condemnation of the translation but not the study committee because they have already studied the issue. Don't take my secondhand report as gospel, but if it is true (which will be revealed on the floor, most likely) there are several troubling things to consider. [Update: On May 9, the Committee on MTW passed a resolution making minor editorial changes to the motion on the translation and striking the erection of a study committee. The language is troubling indeed: "Rationale for Omitting the Study Committee MTW has conducted extensive research and has numerous resources and tools available to assist local churches in evaluating insider movements."
First, one of MTW's experts on Insider Movements left MTW in frustration over the issue, dissatisfied over MTW's handling of Insider situations in the field.
Second, I contacted MTW weeks ago for copies of their "studies" on the issue and have never received any response. Do any actual studies exist? Their former expert says "no."
Third, Dr. Paul Kooistra is a godly man and an effective administrator and fund raiser, but he's no theologian or missiologist. With the most important controversy in missions now brewing, we need to bring in the big guns in scholarship and missions. And, since a study committee would examine our denomination's involvement with Insider Movements, it would warn us or clear MTW of any problems. But if MTW is doing all of the examination, the fox is watching the henhouse.
Of course this is a common failing in our denomination, witness the placement of Bryan Chapell (the head of our seminary) on the Standing Judicial Committee. Denominations almost always fall by way of the seminaries, so why would you put the head of the seminary on the commission whose purpose it is to provide judicial oversight over the seminary? In the PCA it doesn't matter, because they're all Good People - until they're not.