Good News from General Assembly

As the world around us continues to race headlong into the darkness of immorality and confusion, it is important for the Church to stand firm and speak clearly the truth of God’s Word.  Last week, during its annual General Assembly, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) voted to do just that by declaring the Nashville Statement as a “biblically faithful declaration.”  By this action, the PCA joins several other evangelical institutions in appropriating the Nashville Statement to  articulate its convictions on sexuality and gender.

The Nashville Statement articulates the teaching of Scripture regarding gender, sexuality, and marriage, but, more importantly, aims to bring glory to God by proclaiming the truth of God’s Word and calling all people to repent and seek salvation in Jesus Christ alone.  The statement was produced by the Counsel on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and has 14 articles of affirmation and denial.  The Biblical references are listed at the end of the statement.  For more information on the statement, to see who has signed it, please visit the CBMW website.

Article 1

WE AFFIRM that God has designed marriage to be a covenantal, sexual, procreative, lifelong union of one man and one woman, as husband and wife, and is meant to signify the covenant love between Christ and his bride the church.

WE DENY that God has designed marriage to be a homosexual, polygamous, or polyamorous relationship. We also deny that marriage is a mere human contract rather than a covenant made before God.

Article 2

WE AFFIRM that God’s revealed will for all people is chastity outside of marriage and fidelity within marriage.

WE DENY that any affections, desires, or commitments ever justify sexual intercourse before or outside marriage; nor do they justify any form of sexual immorality.

Article 3

WE AFFIRM that God created Adam and Eve, the first human beings, in his own image, equal before God as persons, and distinct as male and female.

WE DENY that the divinely ordained differences between male and female render them unequal in dignity or worth.

Article 4

WE AFFIRM that divinely ordained differences between male and female reflect God’s original creation design and are meant for human good and human flourishing.

WE DENY that such differences are a result of the Fall or are a tragedy to be overcome.

Article 5

WE AFFIRM that the differences between male and female reproductive structures are integral to God’s design for self-conception as male or female.

WE DENY that physical anomalies or psychological conditions nullify the God-appointed link between biological sex and self-conception as male or female.

Article 6

WE AFFIRM that those born with a physical disorder of sex development are created in the image of God and have dignity and worth equal to all other image-bearers. They are acknowledged by our Lord Jesus in his words about “eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb.” With all others they are welcome as faithful followers of Jesus Christ and should embrace their biological sex insofar as it may be known.

WE DENY that ambiguities related to a person’s biological sex render one incapable of living a fruitful life in joyful obedience to Christ.

Article 7

WE AFFIRM that self-conception as male or female should be defined by God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption as revealed in Scripture.

WE DENY that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.

Article 8

WE AFFIRM that people who experience sexual attraction for the same sex may live a rich and fruitful life pleasing to God through faith in Jesus Christ, as they, like all Christians, walk in purity of life.

WE DENY that sexual attraction for the same sex is part of the natural goodness of God’s original creation, or that it puts a person outside the hope of the gospel.

Article 9

WE AFFIRM that sin distorts sexual desires by directing them away from the marriage covenant and toward sexual immorality— a distortion that includes both heterosexual and homosexual immorality.

WE DENY that an enduring pattern of desire for sexual immorality justifies sexually immoral behavior.

Article 10

WE AFFIRM that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism and that such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness.

WE DENY that the approval of homosexual immorality or transgenderism is a matter of moral indifference about which otherwise faithful Christians should agree to disagree.

Article 11

WE AFFIRM our duty to speak the truth in love at all times, including when we speak to or about one another as male or female.

WE DENY any obligation to speak in such ways that dishonor God’s design of his imagebearers as male and female.

Article 12

WE AFFIRM that the grace of God in Christ gives both merciful pardon and transforming power, and that this pardon and power enable a follower of Jesus to put to death sinful desires and to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.

WE DENY that the grace of God in Christ is insufficient to forgive all sexual sins and to give power for holiness to every believer who feels drawn into sexual sin.

Article 13

WE AFFIRM that the grace of God in Christ enables sinners to forsake transgender selfconceptions and by divine forbearance to accept the God-ordained link between one’s biological sex and one’s self-conception as male or female.

WE DENY that the grace of God in Christ sanctions self-conceptions that are at odds with God’s revealed will.

Article 14

WE AFFIRM that Christ Jesus has come into the world to save sinners and that through Christ’s death and resurrection forgiveness of sins and eternal life are available to every person who repents of sin and trusts in Christ alone as Savior, Lord, and supreme treasure.

WE DENY that the Lord’s arm is too short to save or that any sinner is beyond his reach.


Scripture References*

Gen. 1:26-28; 2:15-25; 3:1-24; Ex. 20:14; 20:17; Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Dt. 5:18, 21; 22:5; Jdg. 19:22; 2 Sam. 11:1-12:15; Job 31:1; Ps. 51:1-19; Prov. 5:1-23; 6:20-35; 7:1-27; Isa. 59:1; Mal. 2:14; Matt. 5:27–30; 19:4-6, 8-9, 12; Acts 15:20, 29; Rom. 1:26–27; 1:32; 1 Cor. 6:9–11, 18-20; 7:1-7; 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 5:24; Eph. 4:15, 20–24; 5:31–32; Col. 3:5; 1 Thess. 4:3-8; 1 Tim. 1:9–10, 15; 2 Tim. 2:22; Titus 2:11-12; Heb. 13:4; Jas. 1:14–15; 1 Pet. 2:11; Jude 7

* Scripture texts are not a part of the original document but have been added subsequently for reference

Update from General Assembly

As I logged into my blog to write this update, I realized my last post was from back in April.  My apologies! I know I have had several new subscribers to the blog and no new content.  All I can say is I hope to do better, but life has been a whirlwind as of late.

The 45th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America is officially concluded, and early at that, so as I have an entire day in the airport waiting for my flight home, I thought I’d give you an update on the events of GA.  In a nutshell I’ll say this: This General Assembly is why I joined the PCA!  The worship was God-centered, the preaching Biblical, informative, Spirit-filled, and convicting, the deliberation passionate yet collegial, and the results were encouraging.  My first two experiences at General Assembly left me frustrated and dismayed, but this year there seemed to be a different attitude among the commissioners, and I believe God was glorified in the work of His church.

The greatest concern of this Assembly was the very low turn out of Ruling Elders.  In a congregation that was established with the understanding of a plurality of elders, a shared authority of Ruling and Teaching Elders, there is not a staggering disparity in the Assembly.  There were 1,400 commissioners this year, but only 300 were Ruling Elders.  We need to pray and work for a way to include more Ruling Elder in the Assembly in coming years.

The biggest and most profound outcome of the Assembly is the decision to give a portion of the Directory of Worship’s instruction on Marriage full constitutional status.  In case you are unfamiliar with the government of the PCA, our Book of Church Order includes a Directory of Worship, that is given as an “approved guide” but without the force of law (except for the chapters on Baptism and the Lord’s Supper).  Leading up to the Assembly, there were several overtures to give the chapter on marriage full constitutional authority. Their reasoning was, among other items, 1) in a culture that is currently redefining marriage, the church needs a clear, constitutional definition of marriage, and 2) giving constitutional status to the chapter on marriage would provide clarity and protection for our military chaplains.

As is our procedure with all overtures, these overtures were sent to the Overtures Committee who for review and recommendations to the Assembly.  Surprisingly, the committee recommended that the Assembly answer in the negative, essentially denying the changes.  Now please understand, this would not have meant that the PCA was changing it’s position on marriage, only that the chapter on marriage would not be given full constitutional authority.  Again, there were a variety of reasons why they recommended answering in the negative, most having to do with the finer details in procedures and records of marriage in the chapter, none having to do with the actual definition of marriage.

When the Committee presented their report and recommendation to the Assembly, there was also a minority report, that sought to refine the original overtures. What came out on the floor, then, was the reality that there was a third way.  The Assembly recommitted the overture to the committee, who then met and came back with the following recommended overture:

“Marriage is only to be between one man and one woman (Gen 2:24, 25; Matt 19:4-6; 1 Cor 7:2), in accordance with the Word of God. Therefore ministers in the Presbyterian Church in America who solemnize marriages shall only solemnize marriages between one man and one woman.”

This paragraph was approved by the Assembly and given full constitutional status.  The vote was an overwhelming 764-12.  The next step will be for all of the Presbyteries to vote on this overture, and if it passes a supermajority of Presbyteries, it will be voted upon again at the next Assembly.  This is really good news!

In other business, there were several overtures that sought to give organizations in the PCA, such as RidgeHaven, Covenant College and Covenant Theological Seminary and others, the ability to open a minority of seats on their boards of directors to unordained men and women.  Currently, those boards are comprised of Teaching and Ruling Elders or Deacons of the Church, and are seen as extensions of the Church in ministry.  These overtures were an avenue to allowing women to serve in official capacities on the Boards.  While it was made clear that there are many ways that women give advice and counsel to these boards, the church maintains that these ministries are extensions of the Church, and as such, under the leadership of ordained officers of the Church.  The committee recommended the overtures be answer in the negative, and the Assembly agreed.

The other major discussion on the floor of the Assembly had to do with the review of Presbytery records, particularly one Presbytery that had examined a minister, heard his differences with the Westminster Standards, ruled that his differences did not “strike to the heart of the religion,” but then ruled that, while he could hold his views, he was not allowed to teach them.  While I cannot say that I understand the full ramifications of the action or discussion, I did find it concerning that the Assembly would seek to make a judicial ruling on an action of a Presbytery without any process. In the end, the Committee of Review received their minutes with an exception on this matter, which requires the Presbytery to give a response explaining their decision.

Overall, it was a very encouraging week in Atlanta.  New friendships were formed, and old ones renewed.  I was particularly moved by the worship service on Thursday evening and the preaching of Joe Novenson, I’ll be ordering a copy for those who are interested in checking out and listening to it. I thank you for your prayers, especially those of my congregation who have graciously provided me the opportunity to attend and be a part of such a great experience in the Church.

Pray for a safe flight home!

Grace and Peace