Reflections on GA: Dialogue with David Wallover, part 1...
(David) I received the following email message from my good friend and fellow PCA pastor, David Wallover, after posting my initial reflections on the Presbyterian Church in America's 2010 General Assembly (GA). I've asked David Wallover if I could present both his thoughts and my subsequent response on this forum and he has graciously agreed. David Wallover pastors Harvest Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Medina, Ohio.
Hi, David (Bayly)-I originally wrote the note below to be a posted reply to your blog today, but on reflection, thought I'd send it to you personally. You can decide if you want to use it on your blog or not. It's not a contrary opinion, per se, but it is a perspective from a different angle. Let me know your thoughts.
My dear brother, David (Bayly)--
What's at stake here? You, your brother, and I came up through the "bloodbath" of the UPCUSA/PCUSA. Did you imagine when we each found our way into the PCA, that it or any other manmade denominational institution, could possibly remain focused? What I said to my wife upon entering the PCA is, "Well, now we trade heresies on the left for heresies on the right"--my point being that fidelity to the truth, which is itself a fixed target, remains elusive because we are constantly shifting around the target. And even if the PCA falls prey to the old heresies on the left (which would be ironic in light of the whole "Federal" controvesy, which is a "heresy" on the right...), it still will be a result of OUR inability to stay fixed on the truth, veering as we do either to the left or the right.
In any case, I departed the PCUSA because my call is not to maintain or control a denomination but to proclaim the gospel as faithfully as I know how--and to do so in the company of as-nearly-like-minded brothers as possible. The PCA still retains that characteristic. Beyond that, what's the point of a denomination?
I'm asking the question in light of our doctrine of sin: Sin is pervasive and the resulting corruption is total--and will only be eliminated in glory. Until then, we seek--seek!--to be faithful. We trust--trust!--that God is well ahead of us in the patterns and currents of each generation. We call one another to faith and faithfulness--and leave the providence to God.
To be sure, I am convinced that one day, change will be necessary; one day, the PCA will become, as have all its antecedents, apostate (either that or functionally dead, though perhaps orthodox in form)--and when it is, it will be time to pack up the tents and move again. We crossed the Rubicon once; and having done so, it will be that much easier to do so again. In that day, a new witness will be raised up and we'll join it.
And undoubtedly, men and women then will make the same mistake many made in 1973, i.e., viewing the new manifestation of faithfulness as the final, victorious manifestation of faithfulness. Won't happen--can't happen, until Christ returns.
Until then, we labor with the wisdom that we have, seeking more in the process. And as a word of caution/charity, I would remind you that not all of the missional, artsy-fartsy agenda is evil. It isn't focused where your preferences lie, but are all your emphases or mine equally valid, equally strong? It would be sheer hubris to imagine that they are. The desire to proclaim Christ to a post-Christian, post-modern generation is not merely a pragmatic concern; it is rooted in biblical doctrine and practice. For instance, Jer. 29 lays an important foundation for being missional and culturally attuned. I agree that there are mines in the field, and we must be vigilant to avoid them; but not to move forward because of potential explosions would be just as unfaithful, IMHO. You know, the whole "burying the talents" issue.
In the end, we can only do what we can do. I love you, brother! You make presbytery fun and challenging. I love that we share the same institution; but more important is the fact that we share the same passion to proclaim Christ. Let's keep the focus clear: He's the only reason we have to be in any denominational structure. In that setting there will be unavoidable tug and pull as various points-of-view come to light. Some of those tugs will pull us in directions we like; others will pull us in directions we don't.
Withal, however, the visible church, the church militant (aka "denominations") is a necessary though flawed expression of the invisible church which will one day be exclusively the church purified and triumphant.Until then, let's not flinch or grow cynical in our efforts. (And brother--sometimes, I fear you are given to cynicism. It's unseemly and ultimately counterproductive. You have a better voice. I would love to hear more of it. What's your "yes?")
So, in summary: The denomination is dead. Long live the denomination! Christ is Lord--and we are His. Growing by His grace into our adoptive Name--That's what matters. And the PCA is still a place where such growth not only can but does happen with vitality.
Your loving and at times combative brother in Christ, David (Wallover)
PS--I am sorry that I missed GA this year. Would love to have been there with you. Was in Pittsburgh with a youth mission trip, but tried to stay abreast of the issues. I appreciate your summary and perspective. Just felt a need to add my own....