What's the difference between the PC(USA) and the PCA...

It can't be said often enough that the PCA is not the PC(USA). The PCA is the small but growing conservative denomination with its headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, whereas the PC(USA) is the large but shrinking liberal denomination with its headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky.

The principal debate within the PCA is whether Anglican Bishop N. T. Wright is correct in his claim that Martin Luther misunderstood the message of Galatians, and whether the time has come for Protestants to recover their roots and move back toward sacramentalism, a more formal liturgy, the infusion of Christ's righteousness, and a higher ecclesiology--in short, towards Rome. Within the PC(USA), though, the principal debate is over the nature and meaning of sexuality.

Both denominations hold their national meetings (called "general assemblies") near the beginning of the summer with the PCA meeting each year and the PC(USA) every other year. This was the year for the PC(USA) to meet and the news is about what you'd expect from a denomination whose policy paper on abortion calls the killing of some unborn children "an act of faithfulness before God."

By a solid majority, the assembly's commissioners gave presbyteries the freedom to call and ordain practicing sodomites as elders and pastors, and they also commended to their congregations a paper on the Trinity that promotes renaming Father, Son, and Holy Spirit "Mother, womb, and child."

On the other hand, the PCA--also by a sizable majority--voted to form a study committee called the Ad Interim Committee on Federal Vision, New Perspectives on Paul, Etc. The denomination's Stated Clerk, L. Roy Taylor, described the assembly's action as follows...

In an affirmative response to overtures from the Presbytery of the Blue Ridge and Rocky Mountain Presbytery, the assembly approved the formation of an Ad Interim Committee on Federal Vision, New Perspectives on Paul, Etc. Some of the issues involved are the nature of justification, the roles of faith and works, and baptismal efficacy. The Moderator is to appoint the seven-man committee to be funded by designated contributions to the AC. The Standing Judicial Commission announced that it has accepted a memorial from Central Carolina Presbytery concerning Louisiana Presbytery's investigation of one of its ministers on those theological issues. An SJC hearing on the memorial will be held October 19 at the Old Peachtree PCA in Duluth, Georgia (Greater Atlanta).

Anyhow, try to keep these two denominations straight. Again, the PCA is the small but growing conservative denomination with its headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, whereas the PC(USA) is the large but shrinking liberal denomination with its headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky.



I just hope the difference isn't "X years."

Your point is sound. However, one semi-related quibble: Calvin and Knox used a much more formal liturgy than is used in most Reformed churches today.

The stuff being done today in many Reformed churches is what is out of step. Is the answer to have an order of worship resembling the Vineyard?

It's too bad that we're seeing "formal liturgy" being lumped in with sacramentalism and the infusion of righteousness. It seems like a baby/bathwater deal to me.


So who in the PCA is advocating "the infusion of Christ's righteousness"? That's a new one on me. Can you cite any examples of this? I presume you mean that someone is teaching justification on the basis of the infusion of Christ's righteousness. That would be outrageous, if it were true. Who's teaching such things in the PCA?

I'll leave the vague charges of "sacramentalism," "a more formal liturgy," and "a higher ecclesiology" for another time.


As important as the discussion over the FV is, I see another equally troubling sign on the horizon, and that is the battle to which you have devoted so much of your life: complementarianism.

Mark my words, egalitarianism is coming on the PCA like a flood in the next few years. Many people will not have the grace to do what Fred Harrell did (as wrong as he is in his position, at least he didn't stay to fight the battle in the PCA).

This is doubly distressing because this was the issue over which I left the church of my heritage (RCA) --not so much the issue itself, as what it says about Biblical authority.

So, what's the difference between the PCUSA and the PCA, currently? Biblical authority. What is their shared problem? Acculturation.

I pray that I am wrong.

The order was "Mother, child, womb," not "Mother, womb, child," wasn't it? Whichever order you put it in, it's grossly heretical, but turning "Son" into "Womb" instead of "Child" would also be deeply weird.

I've said it before, I'll say it again. If you don't want confusion, drop the Presbyterian name.

I know, simple idea from a simple mind, doesn't quite fit in with all the intellectual discussions that take place here.

But, a good idea none the less.

To paraphrase a wonderful quotation from the movie _Office Space_,

"Why should the PCA change its name? The PCUSA is the one that sucks!"

...and more to the point, the PCUSA is the one that isn't Presbyterian. If a bunch of white people took over the NAACP, and the black people had to split off and re-found their organization as the North American Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAAACP), how much sense would it make to criticize them for insisting on keeping the word "colored"? "If they confuse you with those white folks, it's just your own fault."

The difference between the PCUSA and The PCA - some of the feminists in the PCA wear dresses.

Hey "H," I'm roaring. I'd add that all the feminists in the PC(USA) wear Birkies.

And by the way, if you tell a good joke, it's particularly obnoxious that you don't properly identify yourself. How can we know whom to choose to accompany us on a desert island if the most delightful among us remain anonymous?

Bill K. Said:
I've said it before, I'll say it again. If you don't want confusion, drop the Presbyterian name.

I would have to agree with Bill. I have gone into communities to visit, or moved to a new city looking for a church and simply steered clear of anything presbytary simply because I couldn't remember which was which. I don't understand the clinging to any name but Jesus.

Yes, it's far better to go to a church with wrong doctrine than to research which Presbyterian is which. ??? It's really not that hard.

What name could be suggested that doesn't have liberal baggage, and still expresses the PCA's historic Calvinism? I can't think of one; the name Reformed is equally defiled. Frankly, I wish we had taken the name Evangelical Presbyterian Church, but, alas, we had our chance, and someone else has already snatched it up!

Ken, How about a little fire with those darts next time?

I'm not sure how you knew, with such clarity, that I preferred wrong doctrine to presbyterianism. Kudos on your intuition.

Actually, God brought me to and converted me in an Evangelical Presbyterian Church: Wonderful body of believers; rich meaty teaching. I celebrated Reformation Day for the first time in my life. I disagreed with them on certain things, of course (ie: calling the pastor "Reverend" and infant baptism).

I will not defend my next move, but when this church got so big, that you could attend without anyone knowing it, I began to search for a smaller church. I visited many churches, many churches. Many lacked the ring of truth that I had in the EPC. I finally came upon a Reformed Baptist Church. This was like coming home. The Pastor preached not topically, but through books, verse by verse.

So, no, I'm not saying that I prefer wrong doctrine over researching the Presbyterian Church "USA" or of "America." I prefer Christ, and remain unconvinced that any other name is worth struggling over. If a denomination determines that it will desert and disgrace Christ, then I would not cling to its name or mourn its death.

In His service and subject to His Word,
Rachel Pierson

A friend who is an assistant pastor at a confessing PCUSA church sent me a press release from the PCUSA. The AP misstated that the PCUSA was renaming the trinity. All they were doing was talking about God's attributes (and they quote Calvin). The trinity will still be known as Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

Actually, Mr. Cooper, the PC(USA) has renamed the Trinity--it's just that for now they're allowing (maybe even requiring) the old names to be used in certain formal settings where the scandal among their membership would be too great to be cost-effective. Slouching toward Gomorrah and all that.

Back when I was a member of John Knox Presbytery of the PC(USA) fourteen years ago, now, almost never did any worship leader at a presbytery or general assembly level use the word 'father' or the pronoun 'he' to refer to any member of the Trinity. So God Almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, has been renamed for decades already in the mainline denominations, and the only thing that's still in process is how bold the godless are becoming in their heresies.

Miss Pierson,

I assure you the comments were not only directed at you.

Yet,I think the idea of dumping denominational tags has long been tried, and has led to a perfect babel of confusion.

When you come to a town, and see, for instance, "Community Church," with no further designation, what does that tell you? Nothing. The church could be unitarian or pentecostal. There is no way to tell. Yet, when I go to a city and see PCA, I know at least a modicum of facts about that congregation and its commitments.

As you probably know, there was a movement about the middle half of the nineteenth century that began in Presbyterianism to be known as "simple Christians," free from dogma, etc. It goes without saying that their dogma was hyper-Arminian, and in some cases, worse. Most of that movement either became cultic (like many of the churches of Christ) or liberal. The truth is, a church cannot be devoid of some sort of dogma. And, like it or not, that dogma is often named, and often named by its adversaries (Lutheran, Methodist, etc).

The church with which you are affiliated designates itself Reformed and Baptist. That tells us things about its commitments. Yet, the name Reformed can lead to confusion (after all, Robert Schuller is Reformed!), and so can Baptist (there are a lot of liberal Baptists out there). Should your church change its name? No. It knows very well what it means by its name.

I agree with you: names are not worth dying over. But, I would also say that we ought not surrender them without a fight.

Mr. Pierce,

Well put.

Mrs. Pierson

I find it amusing that the PCUSA still keeps the "John Knox" name for so many things, including its publishing company, given the great reformer's fierce subscription to Scripture and lack of political correctness (e.g. the The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women).

Add new comment