Earlier this year, TE Sam DeSocio posted a thought provoking blog on the Vintage73 site entitled “Could a Split Be Good for the PCA?” We call it “thought provoking” because it has drawn over 60 comments to date on that site, and ranked #1  on the list of “Top Ten New Articles” on the January 15 Aquila Report Weekly Update.

If you’ve had the opportunity to read our opening Commentary post, it will not surprise you that our answer to the question TE DeSocio’s poses is, “No.” In our opening Commentary we gave what we believe are important reasons for maintaining the unity of the PCA  – our Lord’s command, our historic shared commitments, our ability through our united efforts to marshal resources for greater kingdom ministry

One of the reasons TE DeSocio presents for “intentionally partitioning” the PCA is what he describes as a lack of  national identity and he suggests that that the two competing solutions that have been offered to this problem, stronger central leadership or a forced uniform church culture, would be a betrayal of our history and our unique take on Presbyterian polity.

But what if there were another alternative? What if we understood our denomination to be a body bound together by some basic commitments – to the authority of Scripture, to the fundamentals of Reformed theology, to the commission to minister the gospel to a lost world – while celebrating the multitude of diverse expressions of those commitments among us?

All the elements for this sort of PCA are already in place. Since my wife and I moved back to the Ohio Valley from Iowa, we have been searching for a new church home. To date we have visited no less than 13 PCA congregations in southern Ohio and northern Kentucky.  No two services were alike! I can’t recall offhand how many times we’ve celebrated the Lord’s Supper, but all have been different in some way. Don’t misunderstand – in all of those services Scripture was expounded, the fingerprints of Reformed theology were all over them, and in each communion service the Words of institution were presented and the Table fenced in some way – but all were different. We have been personally enriched by that diversity, and I believe it enriches our denomination. I also believe it’s exactly the kind of denomination that responsible freedom (see the earlier post) will produce, and that such a denomination is far healthier than one where all agree on every detail.

What does it take to maintain such a denomination? In Ephesians 4, just before he exhorts  the Ephesians to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” he urges them to walk worthy of their calling by “bearing with one another in love” (Eph. 4:2). John Stott has written that the phrase suggest a “mutual tolerance without which no group of human beings can live together in peace.”[1] It seems to me this suggests that, rather than trying to eliminate all our differences, we discuss them with each other, reason with each other about them, try to persuade each other about them, and at the end of the day, love each other in spite of our differences on matters  that are less than fundamental to our theology. If we practice this tolerance, I believe it would eliminate the “tension and fear” that TE DeSocio indicates many have felt in our Assemblies.

Of course this response does not address every point TE DeSocio made in his post – it was not our intention to do so. We do hope that these thoughts will be helpful in addressing some of the important issues he raises, even as we disagree with his proposed solution.


[1] John R.W. Stott, God’s New Society: The Message of Ephesians (Downers Grove, IL: Inter Varsity Press, 1979),  149.

3 Responses to Should the PCA Stay Together? Some Thoughts for Sam DeSocio

  1. Sam DeSocio says:

    Larry,

    Great thoughts. I wrote my first article out of a gut response to some of my own feelings as well as the feelings of others. More than anything I’m grieved by the sentiment I sometimes hear which assumes that there are people who are part of the true PCA and that everyone else can simply leave.

    My other rational was that maybe such a divide and conquer move might reunite many of the split P’s.

  2. Jim Midberry says:

    I was at the joining and receiving when our denomination, the RPCES “joined” the PCA. I grew up in the RPCES. I still remember to this day watching one of my adjunct Professors from Covenant Seminary “weep” as he stood before our Synod on the day we voted….urging us NOT to follow the example of what he termed to be a “grave mistake” on the part of he and his fellow Elders when they left the Bible Presbyterian Church. We did vote to join the PCA, Dr. Francis Schaeffer’s words of advice, I believe carried the day. Would that he and men w/like minds, experience, and wisdom were still w/us. The world around us, not watching as carefully as when Schaeffer was w/us…..will still take notice…and what will be their reaction?