The answer to that questions depends of a few things. We might start by asking: is the PCA getting more diverse? Well, the answer depends of the type of diversity you are asking about. In terms of theological diversity—no. Today the PCA is more theologically precise than it was at its founding. Sometimes people forget that many of the founders of the PCA received theological educations from seminaries that were far less committed to teaching from a Biblically Reformed perspective. Over time, as better seminaries were established and used this began to change. Dr. Roy Taylor suggests that this change has made the PCA more “Consciously and consistently Reformed today” than it was at its founding.
While the PCA could not be seen as more theologically diverse today, we can clearly see that the PCA has begun to diversify along cultural and stylistic lines. In some sections of the Church this is a problem because it removes the cultural consistency that churches in the PCA once shared. Some might say ‘how can we recommend a church that uses different songs, or liturgical patterns, or one which uses different instrumentation?’ The hazzard with this kind of thinking is that it assumes that people are only in our churches because of a certain style, and that they are too weak to transition into another style of worship. This concern seems to place teaching and fellowship as secondary issue.
As we think about this topic we need to keep a few things in mind:
National presbyterianism is an experiment.
Presbyterianism isn’t a static thing, remember it wasn’t that long ago that Ruling Elders were not participants in meetings beyond their local church. No one can say that we have worked out the bugs that show up in our form of church government. The PCA stretches from Hawaii to coasts of Maine; even 100 years ago, a General Assembly that crossed such a distance would have been impossible. Like it or not, we are learning as we go.
With the advent of technology we are experiencing another challenge to the PCA. Today, anyone can peek into the window of any church. With a few clicks you can see photos of meetings, you can hear and sometimes even see sermons and other teaching times. You can even read a church’s internal newsletter. All of this can sometimes give the illusion that by doing the above, you know a church. We have information about other churches without the relationship with actual people. The internet has also allowed us to make accusations and assumptions about a church without ever talking to anyone from that church. If this becomes the pattern, I fear that our experiment will eventually buckle under the pressure and fall into biting and devouring each other.
Trust and submission are the critical issues.
As we wrestle with some of the growing pains connected to crossing certain uncomfortable cultural lines, we need to hold fast to two important characteristics: trust and submission.
We need to trust that other presbyteries are made up of Godly men. While other churches might sound or look different—while they might have different service lengths or use different patterns for Christian education—we need to trust that they are all seeking to faithfully respond to the work of Christ. We also need to submit to those around us. Being Presbyterian means that we submit to each other out of love. That means accepting a decision even when you disagree. It means committing to the process of accountability, and it also means not skirting that process with the use of new technology like blogs and forums. We have systems to deal with charges and false teaching, and blog posts aren’t one of them.
As we set out to write on V73, we are very aware of the benefits and the dangers that a blog like this can bring. If this site becomes a divisive venue we aren’t above shutting it down, for the sake of unity in the PCA.
Cultural & stylistic diversity in the church is a good thing.
Some people might bemoan the stylistic differences in the PCA, I say that we need to press even further to embrace different cultural contexts. If Christianity is not a white and middle class movement, then why are we content with the seeing the PCA in that light? We are called to be in unity but not to be uniform.