Women deacons in the PCA's Metro NY Presbytery: liberal deform is predictable...

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Here are a few details gleaned from the roll of two recent meetings of Metropolitan New York Presbytery (PCA). Both presbytery meetings were held in the offices of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Manhattan, where Tim Keller serves.

First, the roll of Metro NY Presbytery's November 7, 2008 meeting records:

  • Metro NY Presbytery has 82 pastors (TEs) and 24 churches
  • Of those 82 pastors (TEs), 15 labor out of ecclesiastical bounds, 2 are honorably retired, 7 are without call, 1 is a church planter, 2 presbytery evangelists, 2 missionaries, and 10 organizing pastors (these men serve non-particularized churches with no local session or elders)
  • Of the 82 pastors (TEs), 39 are not serving as pastors of a PCA church led by its own ruling elders (REs); thus 39 TEs do not work in yoke with ruling elders leading their own congregation
  • Only 43 out of 82 pastors are serving a PCA church led by its own pastor and ruling elders
  • Of these 43 pastors, 18 are Assistant Pastors while only 3 are Associate Pastors; the key distinction between Assistant and Associate Pastors--the distinction whose significance is not lost on any Senior, Associate, or Assistant Pastor in the PCA--is that Assistant Pastors are only called by, and serve at the will of, the Senior Pastor/Head of Staff and the Session he moderates, while Associate Pastors are called by, and serve at the will of, the congregation; in other words, Assistant Pastors come and go whereas Associate Pastors stay for a while (both pastors I serve with at CGS are Associate Pastors and I'd have a hard time convincing the congregation to let them go.)
  • Of these 43 pastors, 7 serve Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan
  • Of the 7 pastors serving Redeemer in Manhattan, Tim Keller is the only one with a call from the congregation; the other 6 pastors are all Assistant Pastors

To continue:

  • Of these 43 pastors, 14 are (Solo) Pastors, 9 Senior Pastors, 3 Associate Pastors, and 18 Assistant Pastors
  • Since Assistant Pastors wouldn't last long if they stood in opposition to their Senior Pastor, we may expect the Pastors, Senior Pastors, and Associate Pastors of Metro NY Presbytery lead the presbytery, making the arguments and casting the votes that really count. (Yes, I'm sure some will quibble over this, but long experience in one PC(USA) and three PCA presbyteries leads me to think this a simple truism. There are exceptions to the rule, of course; but they are exceptions.)
  • When Metro NY Presbytery acts on women deacons, then, a valid argument can be made that 26 of the presbytery's votes are made by men called by a congregation to serve alongside, on parity with that congregation's Ruling Elders (14 Pastors, 9 Senior Pastors, and 3 Associate Pastors)
  • Since a foundational principle of PCA polity is parity between Teaching Elders (pastors) and Ruling Elders, we would desire those 26 pastors who work with their congregation and its Ruling Elders to be assisted by 26 Ruling Elders from their congregations who take an equal part in Metro NY Presbtery's deliberations and votes
  • Looking at it another way, since Metro NY Presbytery has 24 particular churches, we would desire at least 24 Ruling Elders to assist in the deliberations and votes at presbytyery
  • At the November 7, 2008 Metro NY Presbytery meeting, though, there were ony 5 Ruling Elders present
  • Of the 5 Ruling elders present, 2 of them were from Redeemer in Manhattan
  • Of Metro NY Presbytery's 24 churches, 20 had no Ruling Elder representation (allowances should be made for unique difficulties faced by some of Metro NY Presbytery's ethnic congregations in getting a Ruling Elder to serve as a commissioner to presbytery)
  • Debate was carried out and votes taken with 42 professional clergy, but only 5 elders

Second, the roll of Metro NY Presbytery's September 12, 2008 meeting records:

  • At this meeting, also, there were only 5 Ruling elders present
  • Of Metro NY Presbytery's 24 churches, 19 had no Ruling Elder representation
  • There were 42 professional clergy, but only 5 elders voting

During my years in the mainline Presbyterian Church (USA), I kept close track of all the statistical results released by the General Assembly's Research Services. Regularly, surveys were collected from the Presbyterian Panel and the surveys' results showed again and again that liberalism is quite predictable:

  • It concentrates in metro areas--particularly San Francisco and New York City. This is why we worked to get our denominational headquarters out of New York City. It was a great victory when all the denominational leaders left New York City for Louisville, Kentucky, where the PC(USA)'s headquarters still are based. It's also why our presbytery, John Knox, moved our offices and new Executive Presbyter out of Madison, Wisconsin, into Richland Center. Geography matters.
  • It concentrates in particular offices. Pastors (TEs) are more liberal than elders (REs).
  • Within the same office, the specific nature of the call does matter. Pastors not serving in a local church as Moderator of a Session are more liberal than pastors who do serve in that capacity, and within a local church.

Since bringing my congregation into the PCA back in 1992, I've seen much corroboration of these lessons learned in my prior denomination.

The stats listed above taken from the roll of two consecutive Metro NY Presbytery meetings lead me to conclude that, like in the PC(USA), so in the PCA:

  • Places like New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and San Francisco will push for a liberalizing of the laws and practice of the PCA related to sexual matters, as we now see from 3 of those 4 metro areas in the documents related to woman deacons they've adopted in the past month.
  • The purportedly conscientious objection to our Constitution on sexual matters--specifically woman deacons--will be led by Teaching Elders, not Ruling Elders (although some Ruling Elders will join in the effort).
  • The purportedly conscientious objection to our Constitution on sexual matters--specifically woman deacons--will be led more by Teaching Elders serving in positions other than local parish ministry than those in a local congregation who moderate a Session.


Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!