Friday, June 22, 2012

The 40th General Assembly Ends Early

Somewhat shockingly, the PCA General Assembly ended shortly before eleven at night on Thursday. The Assembly seemed destined to run until midnite and then all Friday morning, but it picked up speed, largely through the Overtures Committee recommending that the pile of discipline amendments be sent back to Pacific Northwest Presbytery for more work. The idea is that the overtures, while possibly helpful, were imperfect (aren't they all!) and the Assembly didn't have time to perfect them (certainly true). The moderator often calls late night sessions on Thursday if the business is running very long. Nashville two years ago was a late night bloodbath that you probably can still watch online. Sometimes he calls Thursday night sessions if there's a chance we can finish and avoid Friday morning. He did. We did. Score!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

H.P. Lovecraft Gets a Shout Out

Ruling Elder Robert Mattes made PCA history tonight with his reference to H.P. Lovecraft, the father of modern horror-fantasy. Robert was speaking against a proposal to change the PCA Book of Church Order to forbid intinction (taking communion by dipping the bread into the wine).[Correction: He was actually speaking in favor of forbidding intinction, see his comment below.] The motion carried and will be sent down to the presbyteries for ratification and a second vote at the next General Assembly in Charlotte. The floor debate was long, and somewhat heated, and in the end the motion carried by a mere FOURTEEN votes out of around a thousand commissioners on the floor. The problem with the motion, in my view, is that it singles out one non-biblical practice which is very ancient and ignores other more egregious violations of apostolic practice such as swapping grape juice for wine or using tiny plastic shot glasses instead of a common cup.

Assembly Approves Report Condemning Muslim Bible Translations

Note: This post was written immediately after the events and needed some corrections, which I added later in the evening. The Ad-Interim Committee on Insider Movements submitted an eighty-page report on Bible translation which included five recommendations for the Assembly. The report was submitted to us by the unanimous action of the Committee. The first four recommendations passed almost unanimously after brief opposition from the floor. The fifth recommendation concerned funding and will come later in the business. The Assembly received the report, which grants it a great deal of weight in the PCA. Some scholars are calling the document "historic" as it defines biblically, theologically and linguistically why the common biological terms must be retained in the translation of "huios" (son) and "pater" (father) in reference to Jesus and God the Father. Muslim Idiom Translations have translated these terms with such substitutes as "representative" and "guardian."

This action will give guidance to churches supporting translation work, a resource to our mission agency, and place pressure on translation agencies to hold to biblical standards for translation.
Neither our mission agency or the pastor who questioned some of the language of the report in a pre-Assembly packet spoke against the report. I think we're all on the same page with this. Praise God.

Please pray the the Assembly will authorize funding the AICoIM to continue for another year.

The Assembly Votes to Approve a Report Condemning Muslim Bible Translations

The PCA takes a historic vote.

The Deaconess Issue Rises

This post was made after midnite, so the "tomorrow" is Thursday, June 21. It turns out my statement about the absence of conflict about deaconesses was premature. Today we received the report from the Review of Presbytery Records (RPR) and RPR took exception to several sets of presbytery minutes which dealt with the issue.

To try to make this simple without the 60 page report in front of me and a dying cell battery the big issue is churches which are "commissioning" deaconesses as members of the diaconate with the deacons, which RPR holds is a "distinction without a difference." The Assembly will have to debate and vote on the report. This one of the avenues the Assembly can hold presbyteries accountable. The two others are by offering overtures from presbyteries or individuals addressing an issue in principle or by petitioning GA to "assume original jurisdiction" if a presbytery has been grossly negligent. The third option is almost impossible so the first two are the normal paths. We'll see tomorrow when we take up the report.

Sent with an Old World flourish from my iPhone

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

National Association of Evangelicals

The PCA voted to remain in the National Association of Evangelicals.

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Assembly Reduces Power of Permanent Committees

A problem that became increasingly apparent at previous General Assemblies was that when Presbyteries sent overtures to GA the Stated Clerk would direct the overtures to the Permanent Committee to which the overture was addressed. That meant that if a presbytery was trying to address a perceived problem in the permanent committee, then the permanent committee could revise the overture before it went to the floor of the GA. This created the problem last year with Overture 9, which MTW changed before sending it on. With the new rules, all overtures must go to the Overtures Committee, which is more a disinterested third party. This is a very good change indeed.
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Insider Movements and Translations

Last year, after a vigorous floor battle, the PCA erected a study committee to deal with the subject of Insider Movements (IM) and Muslim Idiom Translations (MIT). Insider Movements are a type of missions strategy which encourages Muslims to believe in Jesus but remain Muslims attending the Mosque and following Muhammed as Prophet. Muslim Idiom Translations use non-biological terms for "pater" and "huios" ("father" and "son" in ESV), replacing them with terms such as "guardian" and "blessed one."

Potomac Presbytery submitted Overture 9 last year asking the General Assembly to condemn MITs and erect a study committee to investigate missionary Bible translation and study Insider Movements. Mission to the World (MTW) objected to the study committee but agreed with the condemnation of MITs. The Committee of Comissioners on MTW disagreed and the GA went with the CoC and erected the Ad-Interim Committee on Insider Movements.

This year the AICOIM completed the report on MITs and is asking for another year to complete work on a report on IMs. The GA has to vote to receive the report on translation and then vote to authorize the AICOIM for another year. One PCA Teaching Elder (TE) is suggesting wordimg changes to the report which some say completely gut the safeguards against MITs and others may argue for ending the AICOIM.

Currently the PCA, with the Assemblies of God, is on the cutting edge of this issue, standing for the Gospel. I pray that we stay there.

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Assembly Overview

> This year's Assembly has several groups of issues before it. It isn't apparent yet how contentious these things will be. Somewhat shockingly, we don't have female deacons/deaconesses on the docket, perhaps because we've achieved an equilibrium. The conservatives aren't going to lay charges against the progressives and the progressives aren't going to ordain women as deacons. For the time being we'll continue with non ordained female deacons and deaconesses.
> The Pacific Northwest Presbytery submitted a pile of overtures meant to try to clean up our rules of church discipline. There's a couple of overtures to change rules of Assembly operations. Three theological overtures are in the docket: one dealing with intinction (dipping bread in wine during communion), another requiring church members affirm the Apostle's Creed and a third condemning any evolutionary view of Adam. The Ad-Interim Committee on Insider Movements is presenting a partial report dealing with translation and asking for another year to finish its work. Finally, the Administrative Committee has a new set of proposals for funding the administration of the PCA and the General Assembly.
> I'll try to post some thoughts on these later.
> Sent with an Old World flourish from my iPhone