Quick Reflections on Some Controversial Overtures at GA 2021

July 3, 2021 2:30 am

The PCA General Assembly has just wrapped up, having dealt with several consequential overtures. I was a member of the Overtures Committee and together with many others I respect, worked long hours to debate the matters before us for presentation to the GA.

There were missed opportunities. The overture sent by our Korean Presbyteries was nearly ignored altogether and their style of prayer derisively dismissed before a few members offered a substitute that at least offered an acknowledgment of pain & promised solidarity. But so much more was called for and needed in response to the violence & fear they’ve endured. That means 20% of my PCA friends encountered very little tangible love from their fellow members. I am glad for what was said but pray in the future we will do so much better.

Overtures 23 & 37 dealt with the always challenging matters of ordination and human sexuality. It was another missed opportunity. This is especially so given the reception of the Report our Study Committee offered this year in a joint presentation by Tim Keller & Kevin DeYoung (read the full report here – https://pcaga.org/aicreport )

There is deeply problematic language that lacked needed clarity in the original versions of both Overtures 23 and 37. An “after-hours” working group of concerned leaders met to compose new language for 23 that would be more in keeping with the AIC Report & potentially unify the GA. But when that new language was brought to the Overtures Committee it was amended in a variety of ways to make it mildly “not as bad” as the first version but certainly incapable of creating unity. Amending is perfectly in order, but again, this was a lost opportunity for a wider unity on a very important topic. By this, I don’t mean the unity of the Assembly – the Assembly was for this by a significant margin. No, I mean unity in various ministries, agencies, and constituencies, as well as in our Presbyteries (again, two-thirds must approve these this year and the next GA must approve them again for the Overtures to gain Constitutional status).

Overture 37 retained its opaque language and was the subject of a brilliantly composed and delivered Minority Report from my colleague Trevor Laurence. The main motion prevailed & carries with it the baggage of imprecision & categories of speech & thought that is out of step with the BCO & the Report. Some good could’ve been accomplished but as the speech began, an announcement was made for commissioners to go to the back of the hall for bottles of water. Many did, either ignoring the importance of the issue or because they had no interest in even considering an alternate view – not a wise approach to vital Overtures!

Both 23 & 37 will be vigorously debated in our Presbyteries in the coming year, as they should be. I believe they are both worthy of defeat in their current form and I will work to seek that outcome. I know many others will do so as well. I also know many would see them as helpful and just fine as they are. To those who believe that I say, “I still hold that we can and must do better than this. And we can be unified on this matter too. Let’s do that.”

I hope that when new opportunities for unity in the Faith & our practice emerge in the future, we won’t miss them. I am thankful for some of the brothers in the Gospel Reformation Network & others in different spheres of service across the spectrum of the PCA leadership who did their best to unify the Assembly

Finally, I want to say a BIG thank you to Scott Barber who moderated the Overtures Committee. It’s always a tough job and more so this year. He did a fine job leading us through many hours of work.

Personally, I think we are really close on O23 but the distance on O37 is a chasm. I hope my PCA friends will keep working on these Overtures.

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