By: Thomas F. Booher
NOTE: I posted what's below to Facebook on this day, December 6, 2016. I wanted to post this here for record keeping and so that it can have a more visible and permanent viewership for those concerned or wishing to be more informed about the PCA.
I would like to explain my love for and grave concerns within the PCA (Presbyterian Church in America), the denomination in which I am currently a member and have served as a ruling elder.
The state of the PCA is, in my estimation, not a consistently conservative, orthodox, and confessional one. I believe it is in the midst of much compromise, and I do not think that the average lay person is aware of it. It grieves me to say these things. I wish they were not true. I grew up in the PCA, and until several years ago I was still under the delusion that all was well in this denomination, that it was, by and large, holding fast to the Word of God.
I still believe that there are many churches within the PCA that are faithful to Christ and His Word. I am a member at a very good PCA church that I would recommend to anyone. At the same time, in my own personal experience and in communication with various pastors and from my own personal research, I think that many presbyteries in the PCA are compromised and/or are compromising, and that this becomes quite evident at the GA level where the tide seems to clearly be heading in a dangerous direction.
To reiterate, there are good churches in the PCA. If you are in one, praise God for it and serve faithfully there! But for any men considering the pastoral ministry and believing they may be called to such a great undertaking, I would have a word of caution. There is a great war that needs to be fought, a battle for the soul of the PCA. But it is questionable whether it is possible to even make such a stand, because there are presbyteries, and I have experienced this first hand when I tried to come under care (a couple years ago in a different presbytery than the one I am in now), that are essentially filtering those who they do and do not accept to come under care. The pastoral candidate must fit their own progressive, sub-confessional agenda (of course they don't put it in these words, but views on homosexuality and preaching against particular sins or even the way we understand sin, repentance, and forgiveness indicate as much). In my situation, my approval to come under care was revoked, and then the "offer" was given that I could be "unofficially" taken in by this presbytery and a committee would straighten me out essentially, and then after six months or so I could actually officially come under care, assuming I was now in agreement with their views and agenda on certain issues and points of doctrine. Doing things off the grid like that does not seem to be the best way to handle things.
A simple search of many PCA church websites reveals that some PCA churches border on a "seeker-sensitive" approach to church, where they are doing things to cater to unbelievers rather than structuring the worship service for actual worshipers of God (that is, Christians). The Bible makes clear in Romans 3 and elsewhere that nobody is seeking God, but that God is seeking His sheep, and further, that "church" is the assembly of the brethren, fellow believers, for the express purpose of worshiping God. When PCA churches fail to understand the purpose of church, they are clearly compromised. It is my opinion that some PCA churches (i.e., more than just a few here and there) have compromised in this area greatly.
Now I am saying all this to point out that the battle for the PCA is at best an uphill one, if not an impossible one. The progressives in the denomination, from what I have observed and have been told, by and large have either control of or great sway in a great many of the presbyteries. I don't think at all that my experience in trying to come under care is unique. So I am saying all this to hopefully inform others who love and care for the PCA and its soul just as I do. I do not wish to be ordained in the PCA, I think it is a compromising denomination (again, not every church, but that is the direction the denomination as a whole is sadly heading in my estimation) that is on the brink (in the next five years or so, again, in my opinion) of compromising at a multi-presbytery level on the issue of homosexuality (a previous presbytery I was in has already done so, contemplating accepting practicing, unrepentant homosexuals into membership and not even necessarily under church discipline) and perhaps at a denomination-wide level on the issue of women being ordained to the office of Deacon.
This is not a call for a mass exodus from the PCA by the lay person. It is hopefully a plea and wake up call for some who may have no clue as to some of the things happening in the PCA (as I myself was totally in the dark just several years ago despite growing up my whole life in a PCA church) and encourage them to become more informed, to mourn the situation of the PCA (and our nation as a whole), and then to prayerfully decide what the best course of action is to take, for the good of the individual, the local PCA church, the PCA as a whole, and of course above all, for the sake of the Kingdom of God, for Christ and His church.
It does indeed grieve me that the PCA church, which was formed less than 50 years ago to combat doctrinal deviation, has committed some of the same doctrinal drifting and compromise that the PCUSA and other once faithful denominations has long ago caved into. It grieves me that i cannot look to the PCA as a suitable denomination to seek ordination. But the church of God is also bigger than the PCA or any one denomination. My encouragement is to remain faithful in whatever church you are in, and to be thankful for the faithful churches in the PCA.
And for the leadership in those faithful PCA churches, my encouragement is to be beacons of light within the denomination, aggressively and passionately fighting for the soul of the PCA because you are convinced biblically that it is a worthwhile battle. Or, if the leaders have counted the cost of such an endeavor (Luke 14:28-29) and come to the determination that it is not the most beneficial and righteous course of action, and for the sake of the kingdom of God and the flock of Christ, I pray they would have the courage and love for their flock, and indeed for the PCA itself, to find a more faithful denomination to serve in. I think godly men and different churches will come to different conclusions on this matter, and given the particular local presbyteries and even individual churches, it is understandable and righteous that differences on the best course of action could occur, and the church that leaves for the sake of the peace and purity of the church, and the church that stays for the peace and purity of the church could both be said to be acting righteously for Christ and His Kingdom.
But it should be stated loudly and clearly that when an individual in leadership, whole churches, or whole presbyteries fail to affirm key tenets in their own denomination's confession, they have compromised both the purity and the peace of the church. There should not be peaceful acceptance of doctrinal compromise, but when conservatives and those who are confessional in the PCA wish to hold others to the very standards that they have affirmed to adhere to and uphold and are required to affirm and uphold, the accusation is often that the confessionalist is disrupting the peace of the church by simply making the matter an issue at all. But my point is that the peace is disrupted when the purity of a denomination is compromised, because our peace is based upon unity in the truth, and our confession of faith is our agreed upon expression of peaceful, truthful, righteous and loving unity.
Given this, I do not think we can be silent. I am in the PCA. As a member of the PCA and one who has served as a ruling elder, so long as I am in the PCA, I wish to fight for the soul of the PCA. But I think that is exactly what the stakes are. The denomination hangs in the balance, and I fear the scales have irrecoverably been tipped toward the progressives and those who are sub-confessional already. This is why, if the Lord wills for me to be ordained and pastor a church someday, I cannot presently see that occurring in the PCA for myself. I am trying to count the cost, and I do not think it is a fight that can be won, and the effort to do so would result in more frustration and be a distraction from the flock God had entrusted me with.
At the same time, I would be thrilled to see the PCA church turn towards greater faithfulness, and the number of faithful churches in the PCA take a stand and multiply. If that happens, I would be overjoyed to remain in the PCA for the rest of my life, and even to seek ordination in the PCA. But my estimation is that the pulse of the PCA is moving in the opposite direction, and for that I am both saddened and frustrated.
Thomas F. Booher