Back in October I was nominated as the new Coordinator for Reformed University Ministries. Next week the PCA General Assembly votes to confirm or otherwise. The exigencies of a PCA Committee report don’t always lend themselves to full and thorough communication. So let me say something here.
I’ll start with a PCA joke. The corpus of PCA humor is not large. As far as I know it has only one entry. I’ve told this one a hundred times. You’ve probably heard it.
Question: What is a secret in the PCA?
Answer: You tell one person at a time.
Soon after I was nominated as RUM Coordinator a man who is sort of a somebody in the PCA approached a friend of mine and asked, “Is Tom Cannon a team player?” I’m pretty sure he didn’t want that getting back to me but, one person at a time, it did. When it did, I was emphatically not bothered at all he asked it. Nor did I take umbrage he didn’t ask me the question. I don’t know this man very well and he was doing his due diligence to figure out who I am. But it did get me thinking about how I would answer the question. Am I a team player?
That, of course, depends on what team you’re talking about. So let me tell you at least one team I’m on.
I am on the team that believes the PCA’s existence and survival is incidental to the work of the Kingdom.
Mind you, if we go belly-up I will be sad and disappointed but I do not embrace the notion our denomination is essential (or even that important) to the commission Jesus gave his church to make disciples, baptize and teach. Now some may think that an odd attitude. Especially for someone who will, God willing, be entrusted with a leading a PCA agency. If you think that, you’d be wrong. That is exactly the attitude a person leading a PCA agency should have. Investing our denomination with even a modicum of importance is the womb which births a brood of pretentious nonsense. It’s also a lock guarantee to give you leaders who have a vested interest in projecting themselves as guardians of the realm, men who must do what it takes to make sure we take our place as movers, shakers, influencers and leaders. And I’ve been around the PCA long enough to know that leads to nothing good.
Men and institutions are leaders because they say and do things that others want to follow. Not because they simply aspire to leadership and especially not because they announce they are leaders. Let me state clearly that I do not care if the PCA is perceived as a “leader denomination”. By the grace of God I’ve seen things happen in the PCA which have become genuinely influential in the wider church. There have been individuals who do reach a constituency beyond our denomination. But in each case (and I mean every case) this happened quite separate from carefully planned efforts to achieve that.
There is another noxious side effect to the idea that doggone-it-the-PCA-should-matter. We begin to despise those who we think get in the way of that. This is a broad spectrum phenomena. When saddled with “We need to get the job done” we see those we think are holding us back as being a hurdle that needs to be removed. If we see think the PCA should matter as custodians of a Reformed Golden Age (which may or may not have existed) we see the less theologically precise as compromisers and interlopers who are hastening decline.
I think the Middle Ground Fallacy is just that. On disputed matters we all can’t be right and our unity can’t be based on simply agreeing to hold positions somewhere in the middle. I believe with what we have and who we are we pray, work and as best we can minister faithfully as those entrusted with the gospel. When we disagree we should do it with full throat (easy for me) but with integrity, humility and respect (not so easy for me). And then we see what happens. It may end well. It may not. I’m completely OK with that.
I put this on public display for a reason. There may come a time when I completely ignore all of this. In that case I may need to be tied to a chair and have this read to me for a few days. That’s another way of saying what I’m aspiring to should involve scrutiny. Lot’s of it. And if I devolve into a denominational apparatchik that scrutiny should be high, hot and relentless. It should wash over me like a mighty river. As I glibly mix metaphors.
See you in Houston.
June 9, 2014