Posts Tagged “Presbyterian Church in America”

[Continuing “Why I Joined the PCA”]

With my decision to join the PCA made, it was time to actually make the change. On Sunday, January 12th, the elders of my church here in St. Louis upgraded my membership from associate to full, and also voted to recommend to the presbytery that I be taken under care and be enrolled as a presbytery intern. (The presbytery internship isn’t so much an internship in the sense of a job as it is the 12 month minimum time period during which one completes a checklist of requirements in order to be eligible to be examined for ordination. Got that?) On Tuesday of this past week, I went before the Missouri presbytery of the PCA so that they could take action on the aforementioned recommendation.

Now, because the recommendation of the elders wasn’t made 30 days prior to the presbytery, and thus missed the deadline to be placed on the docket, a motion had to be made to amend the docket so that my coming under care would added to the official business of that particular meeting. Dr. Jack Collins—seminary professor, my mentor in all things related to the intersection of science and faith, and chair of the education and credentials committee—made the motion to add me as well as someone else who had missed the deadline. Upon mention of my name, however, there was a bit of a stir. As I have been informed on numerous occasions by seminary personnel, there is another Steve Jamieson in St. Louis. Actually, he’s Steve Jamison (note the difference in spelling), he’s the pastor of one of the PCA churches in the Missouri presbytery, and he was at the presbytery meeting. Thus, there was a brief moment of confusion as he and his colleagues tried to figure out why he had to go under care. It was soon revealed that Dr. Collins was not in error, but that there were two Steve Jami(e)sons in attendance. Someone remarked that the presbytery must be doubly blessed to have two of us, and I was thereafter humorously designated Steve Jamieson the second.

After this brief amusement and some business it came time to deal with the men coming under care that day. The seven or eight of us coming under care, including my Hebrew professor Dr. Jay Sklar surprisingly, presented our testimonies of faith, our sense of call to ministry, and reasons for seeking ordination in the PCA. Then the vote was taken, and we were all unanimously accepted under care.

Then it was time to deal with business related to the presbytery interns. My recommendation to be enrolled as an intern somehow got lost, so my pastor, George, had to come to the rescue and make a motion that I be considered. One quick unanimous vote, and a reading of a charge by the moderator later, I was a presbytery intern.

I left shortly after that because the meeting was scheduled to go well into the evening, and I had a paper to write. Thus, ends my first experience at presbytery.

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I grew up in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Now, however, I have joined the Presbyterian Church in America. The difference? To some, perhaps not much. To me, a lot.

The PC(USA) is the mainstream presbyterian church in the United States, and the most theologically liberal of the many presbyterian denominations. It still has quite a few conservative member churches—I grew up in one of them—but the denomination as a whole has been leaning left for quite some time. The PCA was formed in 1973 by a group of conservative pastors whose churches had decided to pull out of the then Presbyterian Church in the United States in response to the increasing degree of liberalization in the denomination. (The PCUS was the southern mainstream presbyterian denomination, and during the PCA split-off, was in the process of merging with its northern counterpart.)

Late last spring, I went through an interview to go under care of the Donegal presbytery of the PC(USA). (A presbytery is a local level governing body of a presbyterian denomination.) The interview with the appropriate presbytery committee was quite interesting because it was my first personal exposure to the liberal element of the denomination, and they had a lot of questions for me about why I was going to the PCA’s seminary rather than one of theirs. I fielded their questions as best I could, and in the end, they took me under care. However, there were two stipulations. First, I had to start attending a PC(USA) church instead of the PCA church I had been attending (and still am, btw). Second, I had to either transfer to a PC(USA) seminary for my last year of school, or take an additional year of classes at a PC(USA) seminary after graduating from Covenant.

That’s how things have stood for the past several months. However, when I got back to St. Louis after Christmas break this month, I decided to leave the PC(USA), and to join the PCA. My specific reasons are given below.

I. For the past year I have been going through, on a personal level, a very similar struggle to that which the founders of the PCA went through in departing from the PCUS in accordance with Francis Schaeffer’s principle of discipline in reverse.

II. Since college I have had a growing appreciation for the historic reformed faith. The PCA shares this appreciation in a way that the PC(USA) does not.

III. I no longer wish to abide by the stipulations of my acceptance as an inquirer in the Donegal presbytery.

III.A. I have made a PCA church my church home in St. Louis, and through that church I am active in ministry and accomplishing the M.Div. field education requirement. To transfer to any other church at this time, PC(USA) or not, would be a hinderance to my timely graduation.

III.B. In accordance with point II, I desire to stay at Covenant in order to learn more about reformed theology. Attending an additional year of classes at a PC(USA) seminary after graduation from Covenant would be, in my estimation, both impractical and unnecessary in many ways.

III.B.1. Attending an additional year of classes at a PC(USA) seminary would be impractical since I could avoid the cost of an extra year of tuition, and the associated moving costs by joining the PCA instead.

III.B.2. Attending an additional year of classes at a PC(USA) seminary would be unnecessary because many of the courses that I would be required to take would overlap with the courses that I have already had at Covenant, or else would only be meant to supposedly “broaden” my theology in directions that I do not wish to pursue.

This has been a very hard decision for me. I certainly do not leave the PC(USA) celebrating, or thinking that by doing so I’ll really “show those liberals”. Rather, I leave weeping on account of the grave state of affairs that has made this decision necessary.

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Answering this question earned me a free copy of last year’s PCA Book of Church Order (without binder) from the PCA Historical Center. Let’s see how you do.

Name at least three of the four groups instrumental in the founding of the PCA (Presbyterian Church in America, for those who don’t know). [Hint: Read chapter 4 of I Am Reminded by Kennedy Smart.]
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