David Strain: ‘I’m Thankful to Be Turning 50 with the PCA’
By David Strain
PCA 50th anniversary

The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) is one year older than I am. At 49, I have to confess the prospect of turning 50 doesn’t fill me with enthusiasm. Nevertheless, despite the declining capacities my older friends gleefully tell me to expect as I cross that dreaded threshold, the PCA at 50 shows every sign of continued vigor and spiritual vitality.

As the PCA ages, there are definite threats to the unity, worship, and witness of the denomination, and faithful churchmen will not allow the excellencies that adorn the PCA to blind them to those dangers. But at a time when our society is polarized and fractured, and cynicism and negativity dominate much of our public discourse, we need to carve out space for gratitude (and even qualified optimism) as we reflect on five decades of faithfulness to the gospel in the PCA.

Let me highlight four things I see in the PCA for which I give thanks.

1. Unwavering Faithfulness

I’m grateful to God for the PCA’s continued faithfulness to its confessional foundations. Yes, there’s some diversity of opinion among elders and deacons in the PCA, but it’s typically on a relatively small number of doctrinal issues.

Sessions (the Presbyterian name for elder boards, serving in local congregations) and presbyteries (representing the PCA congregations in a given region) are required to weigh carefully whether an elder or deacon candidate’s stated differences with the Westminster Standardsrepresent a departure from those doctrinal standards of sufficient gravity to bar him from office. While some leeway is permissible, the PCA continues to affirm the Standards without exception or qualification as the confession of its faith and the sense in which it understands the Bible.

Other presbyterian denominations have felt the need to amend the Standards to reflect the changing times and their changing convictions, but the PCA continues to find remarkable utility in our Confession and Catechisms. The Westminster Standards’ resilience as an expression of the PCA’s theological conscience can be seen clearly in the study committee reports produced on a host of pressing subjects over the years.

While these are typically the fruit of considerable debate within the PCA, their findings represent solid biblical and confessional conclusions that have steered the PCA in continued paths of faithfulness. Whether it’s the Federal Vision controversy, the Insider Movement, the role of women in ministry, or the urgent questions facing the church surrounding human sexuality, when doctrinal debates call for a denominational response, the PCA, again and again, finds in its confessional standards a source of biblically faithful and remarkably prescient wisdom.

If we seek an explanation of the PCA’s continued growth, church planting efforts, pastoral formation, missionary labor, and service to the wider evangelical movement in America and around the world, we must look first to our stable confessional moorings.

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