5 Presbyterian Predictions for 2022

A guest post from a PCA Ruling Elder

Please forgive the fact that all of these very personal and very fallible prognostications concern the Presbyterian Church in America, which is, for better or worse, the 800-pound primate in the conservative Reformed room. Sturm und drang cloud the horizon as the personal becomes ecclesial and political, cultural warfare causes collateral damage in the church, and issues of identity (both human and denominational) perplex us. The following predictions are not pretty: 

1. Thrown Into Confusion

PCA Overture 37 will fail to receive the requisite two-thirds vote of the presbyteries to bring it before the 2022 PCA General Assembly for final approval. And Overture 23 (which, like 37, concerns same-sex-attracted church officers) will pass or fail by a narrow margin of 1-5 presbyteries. This will confuse outsiders and PCA members, and it will confuse PCA sessions who are on the fence about their churches’ future in the PCA. Adding further confusion will be a raft of replacement overtures if both 23 and 37 fail. The outcome of the overtures votes and the prospect of prolonged conflict will prompt…

2. Reaffiliations and Rumors of Reaffiliations

There will be a few prominent and influential churches that will reaffiliate or begin the process of reaffiliation in 2022. However, it will likely be unclear until at least 2023 whether these leavers are lone (or local) dominoes, or are the sort that will lead to a larger and more consequential chain reaction—an exodus. The same forces that are driving churches from the Southern Baptist Convention and are causing splits in the Reformed Church in America and United Methodist Church can also be assumed to act on the PCA, though probably in slower and subtler ways. Those who might leave the PCA sooner rather than later over Revoice-related issues should reconsider because…

3. The End (of the Revoice/Missouri Presbytery Controversy) Is Not Yet

There remains a case connected to Revoice in the PCA’s judicial system, and it will likely be decided soon. The case involves Missouri Presbytery’s handling of a complaint against the Memorial PCA session regarding the church’s hosting of the first Revoice conference in 2018. It seems likely that a minority report on that decision will reach the floor of the 2022 General Assembly for final disposition, unlike another case involving pastor Greg Johnson which did not have enough dissenting votes to trigger a GA vote. This, along with a cartload of contentious overtures, will lead to…

4. Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth

Tensions will run high at the Birmingham GA. And (bonus prediction) more than 2300 commissioners will attend. The size of the assembly, the full docket, certain outcomes at the 2021 GA, and the divisive issues still at stake will lead to emotional outbursts, protests, and hard feelings. The side that keeps its wits about it may well prevail, though this may be hard to do amid cries of…

5. A Conspiracy! A Conspiracy!

Actually, make that conspiracies. The 2021 revelation (PresbyLeaks) of nine years of ecclesial community organizing by the National Partnership can only increase suspicion and distrust. The progressive-missional camp will countercharge that organizations such as the Gospel Reformation Network (GRN) and MORE in the PCA are basically doing the same thing. These allegations seem provably false, but they will still be made. The confirmed existence of a highly-organized, live electronic network operating year-round (at least until mid-2021), but especially at General Assembly can only affect the meeting’s atmosphere in less-than-beautiful ways. The effect will be even more pronounced if overtures are offered which address the thorny issues of secret organizations and real-time vote whipping.

So what will be the end of the matter, if end there be? Maybe cries of “Make presbyterianism boring again!” will reverberate in the cavernous GA hall as presbyters long for the day when some of these controversies are behind them. Patience will be dearly needed, but one fears that this precious resource will be like so many others in this era of supply chain crises—scarce, slow to arrive, and in insufficient quantity for the task at hand. 

What will all of this do to the PCA’s stock? Well, that’s a prediction for 2023.

Brad Isbell is a ruling elder at Covenant Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Oak Ridge, TN, co-host of the Presbycast podcast, and board member of MORE in the PCA

Related Links

Podcast: "Overtures 23 and 27, and the Book of Church Order"

"Brothers, We Are Presbyterian" by Sarah Morris

"Grief, Confession, and Prayer for Peace" by Todd Pruitt

"Splinter, Split, or Stay in the Fight?" by Brad Isbell

Vital Churches: Elder Responsibility for Their Pastors and Congregational Planning by Wendell Faris McBurney

Presbytopia: What it means to be Presbyterian by Ken Golden