Presbyterian Polity 201

Presbyterian polity 101 is rule by elders.

201 is living in submission to the rule of elders within a communion’s assemblies unless a member or officer appeals the rules.

So imagine if Tim Keller were as particular about the rules of the PCA and NAPARC as Craig Barnes, president of Princeton Seminary, is about the PCUSA:

On the question of who can receive the award: anybody can. Again, this is a family argument within the Reformed communions between the PCUSA and the PCA. And as a Presbyterian seminary, it’s in our bylaws, we have to uphold the polity and the procedures of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). So once the award became a matter of affirming a man who doesn’t believe women can be ordained, you know, that’s a problem for us. And that’s what the entire controversy became about. Not [about] what I wanted, which was just to have Tim Keller on campus to speak, because we have all kinds of people speaking.

We’ve had other people receive this award in the past who aren’t particularly Reformed, even. If you look at the list of previous recipients, it isn’t that we have criteria like that for the award. It’s just that this particular issue for Presbyterians against other kinds of Presbyterians — the award just became impossible to maintain, because we were, through the award, affirming Keller’s position on women’s ordination.

What do the rules of the PCA polity say about cooperating with Baptists and Pentecostals in the ministry of word and sacrament? Think The Gospel Coalition and City-to-City (partners for C2C churches are Acts 29 and Christian Reformed Church).

Not to be missed is that the Kuyper award has not exactly gone to people who battled modernism the way Kuyper did. Notice too that if you can’t tell the difference between Presbyterians and Methodists, you may have trouble with discerning modernism.

24 thoughts on “Presbyterian Polity 201

  1. “What do the rules of the PCA polity say about cooperating with Baptists and Pentecostals”

    Matthew 12:48 But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49 And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”

    Mark 3: 33 Answering them, He said, “Who are My mother and My brothers?” 34 Looking about at those who were sitting around Him, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.”

    Luke 8: 20 And it was reported to Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, wishing to see You.” 21 But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.”


  2. So how do we feel about a NAPARC church member/staff member addressing a youth conference of the UCC (Jeremiah Wright and Marilynne Robinson’s denom) and making the following statements — obviously for effect. But is it wise (and orderly) to speak this way before members of one of the most liberal denominations in the USA?

    “Some of you know the shirt ‘I met God, she’s black’ — does anybody have that shirt? I have got to get me one. We heard last night that Jesus is going to say in the end days ‘I was sick. I was hungry. I was in prison and you visited me or you didn’t visit me’. Think about what the Lord is saying. He’s saying ‘Y’all met God’. Y’all met God. Have you met God? Do you know him? She’s black. Y’all met God. Have you met God? Do you know Jesus? Jesus is a trans person of color…”


  3. “What do the rules of the PCA polity say about cooperating with Baptists and Pentecostals?”

    Here you go, from the PCA BCO:

    The Visible Church Defined
    2-1. The Visible Church before the law, under the law, and now under the
    Gospel, is one and the same and consists of all those who make profession of
    their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, together with their children.
    2-2. This visible unity of the body of Christ, though obscured, is not
    destroyed by its division into different denominations of professing
    Christians; but all of these which maintain the Word and Sacraments in their
    fundamental integrity are to be recognized as true branches of the Church of
    Jesus Christ.
    2-3. It is according to scriptural example that the Church should be
    divided into many individual churches.


  4. Vae Vic, so where do you propose to hold the mass re-baptism for PCA members when they unite with the SBC?

    And who will interpret for PCA members when they receive a second helping of the Holy Spirit to establish ties to the Assemblies of God?

    Or can the PCA GA do that corporately, like confessing sins?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. So once the award became a matter of affirming a man who doesn’t believe women can be ordained, you know, that’s a problem for us.

    Wasn’t one of the recent awardees Jewish? So opposing the ordination of women is a problem, but denying the divinity of Christ isn’t? Curious….


  6. DGH – the question wasn’t about UNITING with the SBC, but COOPERATING with them. Clearly PCA polity allows for this, at least implicitly.

    CW – it all depends on how you define “fundamental.” The PCUSA fully accepts the Westminster Confession of Faith, and the UCC accepts the Heidelberg Catechism. Both of those indicate “fundamental integrity” of Word and Sacrament. On the other hand, their ordination practices (among other things) are obviously not in alignment with traditional Reformed teaching.


  7. cw – no real argument here, which makes defining “fundamental integrity” so difficult. There are PCUSA congregations that are indistinguishable from OPC or PCA congregations, and others that bear no resemblance whatsoever. Again, all depends on what you define as fundamental.


  8. Vae Vic, cooperating in word and sacrament? Building roads, sure. But what do churches do except word and sacrament?

    Oh, that’s right. They change the world — I mean the city.


  9. “The PCUSA fully accepts the Westminster Confession of Faith”
    Is that true? My understanding is that their denominational committee putting together their hymnal cut the Getty song, “In Christ Alone” because the Getty’s would not allow them to tweak the bit about substitutionary atonement (“The wrath of God was satisfied”). Now I can think of a lot of reasons not to include songs by the Gettys in one’s hymnal, but it is hard for me to see how that line could be problematic for a group that fully accepts the WCF (particularly 8.5 and 11.1).


  10. DGH – well, let’s take the two examples you mentioned in the post. The Gospel Coalition is a network of churches that seeks to “champion the gospel of Jesus Christ.” In other words, to more effectively and accurately teach the Word. Indeed, this seems to be the entire purpose of the Gospel Coalition. City to City is a church planting network. What could be more Word and Sacrament than that?

    cw – considering the number of churches that have left the PCUSA in recent years for the PCA, there must be plenty of PCUSA churches that are literally indistinguishable from the PCA. And since your average OPC congregation is indistinguishable from your average PCA congregation…


  11. Sorry, VV — you are one of three things:
    1) Clueless and making stuff up
    2) Troll making stuff up
    3) Clueless troll making stuff up

    And there are reasons that they don’t do baptisms or celebrate the supper at TGC…yet.


  12. cw – instead of the ad hominem, why don’t you prove me wrong? I mean, if I’m that “clueless” it should be easy for you. Let’s go toe to toe instead of pointing and laughing from across the ring.


  13. vae vic, but Gospel Coalition speaks with forked tongue on baptism. And City to City is planting CRC churches. Imagine the headache Keller could have avoided had he told Princeton that he is okay with women’s ordination.

    Lump some more. It will only add lumps to your body.


  14. DGH – what’s the problem with the CRC? That they ordain women? I disagree with the practice, but that in itself is hardly grounds for not cooperating in church planting. You’re starting to sound an awful lot like Tim Bayly.

    And the Raiders shouldn’t go to Vegas? Now you’re just being silly. The Raiders will be a huge success because they are the Raiders. I’ll grant that the Chargers or Rams wouldn’t work in Vegas, but the Raiders will be a big hit. They will do better in Vegas than the Rams or Chargers will in LA.


  15. Vae Vic, you dig deeper your powers of discernment. You’ve spent too long in Vegas.

    Say what you will about the CRC, but the PCA voted along with the rest to kick the CRC out of NAPARC. Doesn’t the policy of Keller’s denomination matter to TKNY?

    I get it. He’s bigger than that.


  16. Good post Dr. Hart. It does seem that the makeup of the PCA is upside down pertaining to reformed doctrine/being confessional – maybe 60/40, 70/30, it would seem – ‘unstable evangelicalism’ in the numerator. John Piper is still one of the golden children of the PCA, which would explain opening the church’s windows to let in the charismatic/pentecostal breeze……….


  17. Though Baptist (re: John Piper) – my oops! didn’t make that clear….I knew that he was Baptist….just like I knew that the capital of South Dakota is…….a French person’s name


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