Back from the PCA GA

Ligon Duncan

Don't want to be too PCA-centric, but Sean, Rick, Phil, Derek, Jeremy and I spent some time in Dallas at the PCA General Assembly this last week (June 10-13), and the week was quite encouraging in a number of ways. Derek has already commented on Phil's outstanding sermon.

The Assembly was called upon to debate a controversial matter, the overtures of a number of presbyteries asking for the creation of a Study Committee to consider women's roles in the church, or the possibility of female deacons in the PCA. Eventually, the Overtures committee recommended against a Study Committee, and a Minority Report advocated the establishment of a Study Committee with narrowly defined parameters (e.g. a focus on women in diaconal service). In the wake of this discussion (which mainly took place yesterday, Thursday, June 12, 2008), these thoughts are still running through my mind.

1. The spirit of the General Assembly was excellent. Dr. Paul Kooistra, the moderator, urged the Assembly to act like family, and we did (for the most part). Dr. Kooistra did a marvelous job as moderator. I don't remember a better tone prevailing on the floor of GA when tough topics confronted us.

2. The new rules for the Overtures Committee and floor debate received their shakedown cruise. And they worked, superbly. The debate in the Overtures Committee gave the PCA all the advantages of a delegated assembly without having one, and the floor debate focused on the issues (not arcane procedural motions). This is impressive, because the PCA GA is one of the largest, deliberative, parliamentary assemblies in the world.

3. Bryan Chapell delivered the most eloquent and gracious presentation of a Minority Report in the history of the Presbyterian Church in America (and maybe modern American Presbyterianism). How the Assembly managed to resist the persuasiveness, substance and tone of his argument, I still don't know.

4. Fred Greco, the Chairman of the Overtures Committee was masterful (to the point of hyper-competence), fair, firm and kind. How he got words out of his mouth after Bryan's speech, I don't know. I couldn't speak or think for ten minutes after Bryan was done. Fred had to, on the fly. Fred, you are a better man than me!

5. Dear Joe Novenson made, for the second GA in a row, a beautiful, powerful and moving appeal to take a principled course that would promote greater unity in the PCA. His words, no doubt, resonated in many hearts and won over many, but in the end failed to persuade a sufficient number to get the minority report passed. Aside: I love Joe Novenson.

6. I predict the PCA will figure out how to begin to talk this issue through in a mutually satisfying and principial way in the next calendar year.

7. Full disclosure: the Minority Report recommended a Study Committee that would include Phil Ryken, Tim Keller, Jimmy Agan (NT Prof at Covenant Seminary) and yours truly. In one of the more humorous points in this debate, Dr. Chapell suggested that, though there were differences of views between us, three of the four of us were friends! Which prompted me to wonder which of us was on the outside! Jimmy Agan said to me afterwards: "Lig, I didn't know that we weren't friends." On the record: I count each of these men as dear friends and colleagues. I only wish that our lives and ministries permitted more time than the fleeting moments of fellowship that we now enjoy.