June 22, 2017

(Click here to view the PDF of the June 22 Newsletter)

From the Pen of the Pastor Emeritus…

Those near my age or older remember when only whites could use certain public facilities. One such example was the deli counter of the Woolworths in Greensboro, NC. At that counter, in February of 1960, four black students staged a sit-in, refusing to move until served. They stayed peacefully seated and unserved until the store closed.  The next day they were joined by some 300 more black students from a local college.  This peaceful sit-in protest helped further cause of civil-rights.

Last week the General Assembly (GA) of the PCA met in Greensboro. On Tuesday evening the GA elected Alexander Jun (PhD) moderator. Dr. Jun, a Korean-American, became the first member of a minority to serve our denomination as Moderator. He was one of the founders of New Life PC in Fullerton, CA, where he serves as a Ruling Elder. In keeping with his Korean culture, he also became, to the delight of the commissioners, the first Moderator to have a man-bun.

RE Tony DeMarco and I served as your commissioners to the Assembly. Tony sat between me and my son, Philip, pastor of Trinity PC in Cleveland. He was privileged to listen as Philip and I discussed and debated particular motions pending before the GA. If I’m not mistaken, I think Tony tended to listen more to Philip than to me.

While there are always lots of house-keeping details, the most important issue before the Assembly was a lengthy paper present by the committee appointed last year to study the role of woman in the ministry of the church. The paper is available on-line at the PCA Administrative Committee website.

The paper did not suggest any new changes in the present practices of many local churches throughout our denomination. Interestingly, it does encourage Sessions to consider the possibility of commissioning women to serve the church in various roles, such as assisting the Diaconate in its works of mercy. Commissioning is not the same as ordaining. For example, we recently commissioned several of our members, male and female, to serve as our representatives in Belarus. By commissioning individuals to serve in a particular activity they are recognized before the congregation and the Lord is asked to bless their service on His behalf and for the temporal and eternal welfare of those they serve.

The paper provoked a long and lengthy debate spreading over two days. Despite the fact that the paper makes it clear that only men may be ordained as Elders and Deacons, there was a minority of commissioners who feared that acceptance of this paper placed us on a slippery slope toward the day when we would ordain women to church offices.

I found that argument unpersuasive.  The paper encourages nothing that isn’t already the practice of various congregations throughout our denomination. Furthermore, no one has ever thought such practices to so threaten our biblical understanding of ordination that they’ve brought judicial charges against these churches. As a congregation, we are not obligated to do all that this paper encourages. Like all such papers presented to the GA, its conclusions are not binding. They serve us as pious advice that we should prayerfully consider.

I would judge this year’s GA to be historic. The election of a Korean-American moderator and the GA addressing the issue of the role of women in the ministry of the church were both significant mile markers.

Again, if you want to read the paper for yourself, go the PCA website, highlight the Administrative Committee, and click on Women Serving in the Ministry of the Church. 

~Pastor Caines