Certification of non-ordained men and women in the PCA...

(David) A Marxist political science professor in my college taught a course on licensing in which he argued that licensure and certification processes always stem from the desire of elites to monopolize and control.

Perhaps the rank and file of the PCA could learn a thing or two about the link between depravity and the processes of power from a radical Marxist...

As the PCA considers a Strategic Plan which includes the goal of "Establish(ing) standards for voluntary certification of men and women for specific non-ordained vocational ministries" in order to "Endorse the importance of lay men’s and lay women’s gifts in non-ordained church ministry" within the PCA, let's consider the forms of ministry this will actually lead to, where power will accumulate under the plan and who will lose if the proposal is enacted.

Under the Strategic Plan's playbook the following steps are necessary for the achievement of this goal:

1. CEP, RUM, Covenant College, & Covenant Seminary jointly test theological & practical preparation

2. Presbyteries & regional CEP Women’s Ministries experientially examine & certify

It's immediately apparent that big winners under this plan are Covenant College (CC) and Covenant Theological Seminary (CTS) which are granted the key role of designing (and perhaps applying--the plan is vague at this point) the testing for such non-ordained certification.

In essence, by granting PCA schools the right to establish and apply these standards, the PCA gives its educational institutions a new ministry career track to focus majors and degrees around. No doubt other colleges and seminaries will eventually provide equivalent programs, but this is an iPhone-and-ATT-style sweetheart deal for CTS and CC initially. And though Christians have historically been loath to acknowledge troubling evidence pouring out the doors of their denominational institutions of higher learning, it should be worrisome to all to consider the inherent conflict of interest in permitting institutions which will teach the certification coursework to design the certification's testing. Imagine allowing Stanley Kaplan to write the SAT and ACT tests. Well, that's what the PCA will be doing in giving testing and teaching responsibilities to CT\S and CC.

Second, what exactly does a form of non-ordained ministry conducted by laymen which requires theological and practical preparation along with testing for certification look like? How does such testing, certification and the ministry it leads to differ from ordination to pastoral ministry for men? Do we want men leading our churches who take theological coursework and undergo testing for ministry certification, but who lack the authority--who reject the calling, in effect--of an ordained shepherd of the Church of Christ? And applied to women, as Shakespeare said, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose, By any other name would smell as sweet." Certification, schmertification, ordination.... You don't need much of a nose to smell the rose in this proposal.

Third, consider for a moment the potential standards which might be applied to women granted certification by such a program...

Those who argue for an ordained female diaconate are no doubt aware that Calvin's support for such an institution stems from his view of what Paul means in 1 Timothy 5 when he writes of placing widows on a "list." And the standards for assuming this position of leadership among the women of the Church? Well, hear the Word of God:

1 Timothy 5:9–14

A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work. But refuse to put younger widows on the list, for when they feel sensual desires in disregard of Christ, they want to get married, thus incurring condemnation, because they have set aside their previous pledge. At the same time they also learn to be idle, as they go around from house to house; and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention. Therefore, I want younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house, and give the enemy no occasion for reproach...

Really, how likely is it that this teaching, testing and certification process for women will bear any resemblance to the Biblical requirements for holy living for women? Does anyone think there's the slightest chance that a process designed by CC, CTS and CEP will contain even a hint of teaching or questioning concerning traits as essential to godly womanhood as submission to a husband?

Finally, the losers in such a plan? Well, it seems obvious enough. Losers are those men and women who believe their church should live by passages such as 1 Timothy 5:9-14, 1 Corinthians 14:34-37, Ephesians 5:22-33, etc. Of course, such losses are temporal. The Church of Christ will prevail against all her foes, but the PCA is looking more and more provincial and less and less like the Church of Christ catholic, universal and triumphant these days...


Pr. David,

Your analysis reveals a theological/ecclesiastical form of an enterprise very far adavanced in American academia, viz. the requirement that teachers major in "education" rather than the subject which they are supposed to teach.

No better expose of the silliness of this enterprise has ever been offered than one finds in Richard Mitchell's The Graves of Academe,

http://www.sourcetext.com/grammarian/graves-of-academe/01.htm ,

from which I offer the following snippet:


The academic world is like any other group of related enterprises in which everybody can provide something but nobody can provide everything. For the building of houses, for instance, we need many different things, and they are not easily interchangeable. When we need copper tubing, we need copper tubing, and we can't make do with wallboard instead. If houses are built, therefore, many people making many different things will be able to produce what is both useful and profitable. And, while the makers of copper tubing won't have to worry about competition from the makers of wallboard, they will have to be mindful of other makers of copper tubing and also of the makers of plastic tubing. That will be good for the whole enterprise.

Suppose, though, that the copper-tubing people should, through quirk or cunning, secure for themselves some special legal privilege. First they persuade the state, which already has the power to license the building of houses, to prohibit the use of plastic tubing. That's good, but so long as the state is willing to go that far, the copper-tubing makers seek and achieve a regulation requiring some absolute minimum quantity of copper tubing in every new house. Now you must suppose that the copper-tubing lobby has grown so rich and powerful that the law now requires that fifty percent of the mass of every new house must be made up of copper tubing.

Houses could still be built. Walls, floors, and ceilings could be made of coils and bundles of copper tubing smeared over with plaster or stucco. Copper tubing could be cleverly welded and twisted into everything from doorknobs to windowsills and produced in large sizes for heating ducts and chimneys. The houses would be dreadful, of course, and, should you ask why, you will discover that craftsmen in the building trades are more direct and outspoken than college professors. They'll just tell you straight out that these are lousy houses because of all that damn copper tubing. If the professor of mathematics were equally frank, he'd tell you that our schools are full of supposed teachers of mathematics who have studied "education" when they should have studied mathematics.

This is, I admit, not an exact analogy. The manufacture of copper tubing actually does have some relationship to the building of houses, while the study of "education" has no relationship at all to the making of educated people. The analogy would perhaps have been better had I chosen, instead of the manufacturers of copper tubing, the manufacturers of gelatin desserts. To grasp the true nature of the place of educationism in the academic world, you have to imagine that houses are to be made mostly of Jell-O--each flavor equally represented--and that the builders must eat a bowl an hour.

(Well, that analogy fails, too. Jell-O is at least a colorful and entertaining treat with no known harmful side effects. The same cannot be said of the study of "education.")


Now the liberals need only to capture two academic instituions(and this is what they do best)to inherit the PCA. Like I told you a couple of weeks ago David; when it comes to strategy, those folks are always way ahead of us.


I'm an outsider (I pastor in the OPC), but I don't even understand the felt need that the proposed certification process is supposed to fill.

If our Session believes that we would benefit from having someone in our congregation identified as a coordinator of some initiative such as a weekend retreat - we simply appoint the person as a coordinator and then provide oversight (are Sessions in the PCA not allowed to do this?). If that person needs more training - well, we train him or her.

What am I missing?


Wait til you get the proposal for "certified lay pastors." Have you any doubt that it's coming?

It's worth noting that if you change "copper tubing" to "iron pipe," you have the approximate situation in Chicago, where plastic plumbing is banned and....

....due to the expense of building sound new housing, much of the housing stock is abyssmal....three course brick walls with an R value of 5 or less (the new Bayly home is probably 20-25) and little chance of adding a new bathroom or modifying the kitchen.

But to the subject, somehow it does seem that when a certain level of politics becomes involved in life, the truth gets thrown out. Not that congregational polity is beyond reproach--it certainly is not--but there seems to be a certain level of church government where things really start to go awry.

As David Booth alluded to, this issue can be (and is) ably handled at the session level. For example, in the (PCA) church where I was on session, we had a small group policy with a few necessary qualifications for a man who wanted to be a small group leader.

No need to standardize this across all churches and presbyteries when it is happening now, which makes the motive oh so obvious: a not so thinly veiled attempt to give official ministry "titles" to women serving in the church.

David - certainly this spirit driving such a proposal is the same that drives various D.Min programs that prop-up seminaries financially (cf. David Wells' No Place for Truth and the "D.Min-ization of Theological Education..): a desire for titles and acknowledging of gifts beyond what the Bible (or our tradition, broadly speaking) has ever done.

What is the point of having a "voluntary" certification anyway, other than to regulate who is approved and who is not. Not to mention, how does this voluntary certification "Endorse the importance of lay men’s and lay women’s gifts in non-ordained church ministry"?

Why not just disseminate training materials for church members and have pastors, ruling elders and deacons "equip the saints for works of service so that the body of Christ might be built up in love and not cast about on every wind of false doctrine" (TDHOTCPV)? Oh wait, we're already doing that.

I guess that leaves us three answers: 1) Someone has an actual nefarious plan to liberalize our denomination. Unlikely I think, but always possible if you read recent church history. 2) The PCA functionaries are consciously or unconsciously trying to increase their power for the sake of power or simply out of an unconscious impulse. This is very likely given TE John Robertson's explanations on the Assembly floor. 3) They don't know what they are doing. I don't deny that they think very sincerely that they know what they are doing, but after the motion on "non-traditional credentialing" I know that this is not true.

When did the bureaucratic servants become the leaders and why did we let them? [Answer: we are spiritually lazy and worldly - God help us] Somehow this reminds of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and the fate of the hairdressers, managers and telephone cleaners.

note: TDHOTCPV = Travis David Hutchinson's Off-The-Cuff Paraphrastic Version of the Holy Bible

"Someone has an actual nefarious plan to liberalize our denomination. Unlikely I think, but always possible if you read recent church history."

I have a diagnostic suggestion regarding the problems troubling the PCA as well as why so many "churches" past and present have fallen or are fallen, "a little leaven...". In a drive to appear most tolerant or "nonjudgmental" or "warm vs. critical" etc. etc. "a little leaven...".

"Someone has an actual nefarious plan to liberalize our denomination. Unlikely I think, but always possible if you read recent church history."

Why would the PCA be uniquely exempt from assaults by those promoting the prevailing heresy of our age? As one of the last bastions of sexual orthodoxy I would imagine that we are an especially appealing target. From my vantage point it appears that the advocates of sexual egalitarianism within the PCA are on the verge of acquiring the requisite institutional instruments to realize their vision.

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