This morning I’m working on some PCA history. Interesting. I see some interesting parallels with much of what has gone one with the “Confessing Church” and “New Wine” movements in the PC (USA) over the last decade. Prior to the formation of the PCA, the “Continuing Church” movement was supported by The Presbyterian Journal, The Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, The Presbyterian Churchmen United and Concerned Presbyterians Inc. These were both ministerial and lay-led groups that sought to reform the Southern Presbyterian Church. These groups eventually provided the necessary foundation for the structure of the PCA. They found that working through the church courts failed, since they were a minority. They found that severing themselves from a corrupted body was the only option.
With that, we move to church censures & councils.
Chapter XXX: Of Church Censures
245. What is the nature and extent of Church power? The keys of the kingdom include the power to retain and remit sin, to excommunicate the impenitent, admit the repentant thru the ministry of the gospel.
246. What is Church censure (discipline)? It is formally addressing the sin of another to promote repentance, and utilizing certain consequences to warn the impenitent.
247. Is Church discipline necessary? Why? It is necessary to restore sinners, defend the honor of Christ, and protect the church from unholy influences. Our propensity to sin makes it necessary.
248. What are the steps of Church discipline? Demonstrate from scripture. Mt. 18- admonish privately, if not repentant admonish with 2-3 witnesses, if not repentant inform the Session who will take appropriate action (rebuke, suspension or excommunication).
249. Are you personally committed to Church discipline? Yes, though it can be difficult without the support of the Session.
Chapter XXXI: Of Synods and Councils
250. Upon what grounds does the believer in Christ owe obedience to the church courts? They are duly appointed authorities to which we owe our submission unless to do so is to sin (Heb. 13).
251. May church councils err? Give an example where this has occurred. Yes, they can. First they used “like substances” instead of “same substance” to describe the Trinity with respect to the Son.
252. Explain how you understand subscription to the second ordination vow. I understand it to be subscription to the system of doctrine contained in the Westminster Standards. Some matters are of greater import than others, “striking to the vitals.” Exceptions to the vitals of the Westminster Standards should not be permitted. In lesser matters, exceptions may be permitted according to the wisdom of the court.
Let me say that while technically I argue for “loose” subscriptionism I am personally a strict subscriptionist. Theological legalism can be as great a danger as theological libertarianism (once again, witness the Marrow Controversy). My sole exception on the Westminster Confession is regarding recreation on the Sabbath. I take a Continental Position, argued for by John Calvin. The current use of loose subscriptionism is not like that of earlier generations which was used to gut the faith of its essentials. A key difference to keep in mind.