Leadership in the PCA: protecting power structures while tossing a bone to younger men...

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The third key issue (first here and second here) identified by the Cooperative Ministries Committee of the PCA at this year's General Assembly was "The rising generation of leaders in the PCA:

The rising generation of leaders in the PCA – particularly, seeking to find new avenues of including younger people in denominational leadership.

Are the fathers of the PCA really ready to grant younger men access to the reins of power? Here's a case study based on the Board of Trustees of the denomination's Covenant Theological Seminary...

At last year's 41st General Assembly in Greenville, SC, I was the nominee for a vacancy on Covenant Theological Seminary's Board of Trustees. Votes by Calvary Presbytery and the PCA's Nominating Committee led to me being an uncontested candidate for the position. My credentials: I was a 39 year-old (in the PCA that's young), I had served as the dean of a pastor's college for several years, I held a doctorate from Indiana University, I had gone on to earn my M.Div. (cum laude) at Covenant Theological Seminary; and most significantly, since completing my work at Covenant I have been serving as a pastor (teaching elder).

The opening on Covenant's Board of Trustees could be filled by either a teaching or ruling elder and, just prior to the vote, a second candidate was nominated from the floor who went on to win the election. Who was he?

The new member of Covenant's Board of Trustees was a ruling elder who, at the time, was already serving as Chairman of Covenant's Board Advancement (Fundraising) Committee. He also sat on Covenant's Advisory Board and, outside the church and her agencies, he works as the Executive Vice-President of a management group. In other words this floor nominee was well-heeled and well-connected in the PCA.

Do I object to a man with such stellar qualifications being elected?

No. He's the perfect choice to further the advancement of this institution. No question about it.

At the same time, this is an example of how the denomination operates. The PCA's institutional men had an opportunity to address the dearth of rising young leadership. Instead, they went to extraordinary lengths to avoid it, putting forward well-connected money and administrative management instead.

Was this move profitable for them?

I suppose so, although I'm not privy to the details.

There's a little more to the story. I'm guessing the floor nomination came from someone associated with CTS who was nervous about my serving as a trustee. During my years there, from 2001 through 2004, I had spoken of my disappointment with the weakness of CTS's teaching on sexuality. Having just finished a Ph.D. at Indiana University, home to the notorious Kinsey Institute and one the most intense GLBT environments in the country, I had been anticipating studying under men who would teach the Biblical doctrine of sexuality with faithfulness and wisdom. After all, they were being paid to profess the Christian faith at a school that existed to train pastors whose development money came from Christian men. Surely these men fund Covenant because of their desire to raise up pastors who are unashamed to proclaim that God made sexuality and declared it "good," right? Even at this late date, is this not a reasonable expectation for our denominational seminary?

Sadly, I found Covenant's confession of Biblical sexuality and God's Creation Order so very bad that I set up several meetings with faculty members to express my concerns. Maybe they would allow me to help them address their blind spots?

For example, in Covenant's Marriage and Family Counseling Class, I was scandalized that Ephesians 5 was never mentioned, nor its wisdom on marriage and family life ever taught. Then there was Covenant's resident feminist professor, Jerram Barrs: he taught us that the complementarian tome, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, was "demeaning to women." And there was the issue of feminist Bibles: although the PCA's General Assembly had warned her churches against gender-neutral versions of Scripture, CTS's Greek professor commended the gender-neutral TNIV. I'm reasonably certain the cumulative effect of these meetings was for me to become a fly in CTS's ointment. Jump forward a few years and it's understandable that, when an opportunity came for me to go beyond office-hours conversations with professors, CTS acted to shut me down.

So now, back to the Cooperative Ministries Committee's key issue of "finding new avenues of including younger leaders in denominational leadership." The problem with younger men is that they see their father's sins. They believe the church should be reformed, and always reforming. And in the case of Covenant Theological Seminary, this means younger men have faith to live and breathe and preach Scripture's glorious truths concerning God creating Adam first, then Eve.

No one can accuse me of being cynical when I make the blindingly obvious observation that denominational agencies are going to protect themselves from discipline. They're going to pad their boards with yes-men, and thus this goal of the Cooperative Ministries Committee will remain a goal, never becoming a reality. Discipline is what the PCA's denominational seminary needs and it's right for the fathers of the PCA to seek younger men to put into leadership because younger men have the faith to correct their beloved fathers' sins. God has ordained that the faith and leadership of sons are the corrective to the sins of their fathers.

And yet, if our fathers refuse to hear our calls for reform, there are other young men chomping at the bit to take over the leadership of the PCA and lead her into waters of compromise and surrender, rather than reform. Jerram Barrs and Tim Keller have trained them well and they are ready to put Baby Boomers out to pasture, bringing in deform rather than reform.

Hopefully, though, such younger men are becoming less interested in working within the PCA. In Stated Clerk Roy Taylor's stats for 2013, we find this:

  • Candidates for ministry – 366, a decrease of 202

That's about a 36% decrease, meaning the PCA is old and getting older.

What accounts for this? Acts 29? The rise of the EPC (kinder and gentler on women's ordination)?

I'm not sure. Fewer young men in the denomination coupled with the refusal of denominational boards to open up their institutions to their sons doesn't bode well for this Cooperative Ministries Committee goal. Likely all that will happen is the Cooperative Ministries Committee will suggest the PCA include thirty-something pastors in those exhausting, self-important, navel-gazing seminars about The Identity of the PCA—Past, Present, and Future.

They'll throw a bone to the younger men while resisting the delegation of real authority, and they'll do so to the bitter end.

Andrew Dionne is the pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Spartanburg, SC. He and his wife Sarah have six children. Read more from Andrew here.