Ray Cortese, pastor of Seven Rivers Presbyterian Church in Lecanto, Florida, preached the opening sermon of the 42nd General Assembly, “A Beautiful Orthodoxy.” Cortese believes a national convention of pastors would help inspire, refresh, and unify the PCA. Such a convention, he says, could come to define who we are.
How would a pastors convention help the PCA?
There are a number of things. For one, it would build cohesion, something that we lack in the PCA. Though we share a common fidelity to the Scriptures and a Reformed understanding of doctrine, there is no energizing national missional vision that binds us together. A national convention could promote that. It could also positively shape the ethos of the PCA. We need a meeting where people could discover not only what the PCA should look like, but also what the PCA should feel like.
It would help us get to know each other. We’re not a family; we don’t know what’s going on in different places in the denomination. It would be wildly encouraging if we did. Such a meeting could refresh us. Pastoring is hard, and many guys in the PCA are not faring well. We need inspiration; that could happen at a national convention.
What would this convention look like?
It ought to happen annually, or biennially at the very least, and last three or four days. It would focus on the beauty of Jesus, the joy of belonging to Him and being in His family, and the privilege of being called to be His ambassadors. It would involve worship, preaching, and inspiration — whatever’s going to fill the tank. It would emphasize vision, with speakers reminding us why we’re slugging it out in our mission field. We’d need big spaces in the schedule for people to connect with one another, too.
How would this meeting compare to our General Assembly?
The General Assembly, where we act on overtures, vote on officers, and carry out other business, is very important and will always need to be well attended. But this convention would be a meeting where we’re not voting, we’re not debating, we’re not arguing. We’re rallying with each other around the mission Jesus has given us. I think that if it is done well it would be seen as the main national meeting of the PCA. It would come to define who we are.
How did you come to see the need for this national convention?
I live in Florida and have watched national ministry organizations come here and have their conferences. They have thousands of people come to those meetings, and they leave so charged up, saying to themselves, “I love being part of this ministry!” They felt cared for and connected to the goals of the national organization. Shouldn’t the PCA do this for our pastors? Shouldn’t it be one of our highest priorities?