On June 10, two minority reports replaced the recommendations made by the Review of Presbytery Records Committee (RPR) and were approved by the 43rd General Assembly. Both reports involved paedocommunion.
RPR recommended by a vote of 29-22 that the Assembly cite Susquehanna Valley Presbytery with an exception of substance for sustaining a Book of Church Order 13-6 transfer exam of a PCA minister. According to BCO 13-6, “Ministers seeking admission to a Presbytery from other Presbyteries … shall be examined on Christian experience, and also touching their views in theology, the Sacraments, and church government.” The minister in question had expressed a difference with Larger Catechism 177 on admitting covenant children to the Lord’s Supper. He had also agreed not to teach or practice anything contrary to the denomination’s standards.
Ruling Elder Howie Donahoe, speaking for the minority, pointed out that RPR provided no rationale for its citation, despite the requirements of the Rules of Assembly Operation 16.7.c.3: “RPR shall provide the committee’s rationale for finding and exception of substance.”
Moreover, Donahoe said, “this is a confessional difference that, historically, has been allowed by a number of Presbyteries.” In fact, during a 23-year span from the Knoxville General Assembly to the Virginia Beach Assembly, no Assembly had cited a presbytery with an exception of substance for allowing a difference with the final clause of LC 177.”
Recent RPR recommendations, Donahoe argued, appear to be an attempt to reverse precedent, “and to do so through RPR instead of through the channels provided by the BCO. …RPR wants to reverse what has been a presbytery freedom for at least the last 27 years.”
The Assembly voted 535-245-37 in support of the Minority Report, electing not to cite Susquehanna Valley Presbytery.
In the second decision RPR, by a vote of 26-22, recommended that the Assembly deem Eastern Pennsylvania Presbytery’s 2014-updated response to an exception of substance citation as unsatisfactory. An exception of substance deals with “actions which in substance appear not to conform to the Standards” of the denomination. The citation was related to an exam from November 2011where the presbytery sustained an ordination exam in which the candidate stated a difference with Larger Catechism 177 on the admissibility of covenant children to the Lord’s Supper. That portion of the Catechism states that the Lord’s Supper is to be administered “only to such as are of years and ability to examine themselves.”
The minority report recommended that the General Assembly find Eastern Pennsylvania’s updated response satisfactory. Twenty men joined the minority, and the Assembly voted 438-315-35 in support of the new recommendation.
(An earlier version of this story reported the vote totals incorrectly. Please forgive the error.)