A decent night’s sleep is a wonderful thing. I was tired through part of the day, and not as quick on my feet as I’d like but I was not exhausted like the previous few days. This was good because the business of the Assembly would continue until nearly 11 pm.
I woke up earlier than I’d hoped when some stranger knocked on my door. I decided to pass on the morning seminar and relaxed in the breakfast area of the hotel. Eddie popped by and we enjoyed some time together before heading over to the Convention Center. This is the day that most of the real work gets done as we handled Minutes of Presbytery and Overtures. In the ARP, the review of minutes, Session and Presbytery, focuses on form and not substance. In the PCA attention is paid to substance, particularly the granting of exceptions. There was a biggie regarding the practice of paedocommunion, or infant communion.
Paedocommunion is not permitted in the PCA. Elders are permitted to believe in the practice, but not to teach or practice it. There is a tension over it. I am in the group that prefers the status quo in this matter. Some people want it ruled as permissible to practice. Another group wants it completely gone, and no longer permissible as an exception. Frankly, the way at which it was expressed in the report confused me. I’m still getting oriented to how things are done. But, the discussion overlooked the fact that he was permitted to teach and practice it. If this had been clearly stated, the discussion would have been much shorter. So it was was referred back to the committee.
One thing that became clear at this point is that we get these Commissioners’ Reports AFTER arriving since they meet the first day or 2 of General Assembly. As a result, they get skimmed at best. We don’t have the time to really study them. As a result, key things can get overlooked. Yes, it makes us look stupid. Much worse is that we often do stupid. We should have addressed the fact that the Presbytery should not have permitted him to preach and practice it.
Doug and I grabbed an early lunch at Potbelly’s. Good and affordable sandwiches. I broke the trend! Our ultimate goal was to go to the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory. We should have gone Wednesday afternoon. But we had a good time talking baseball, theology and politics. While we were there they were working on bats for Josh Hamilton and a rush order for Dustin Pedroia. It was very interesting and didn’t take up too much of the afternoon. I’m glad we went.
The overtures included one about theistic evolution. The question was whether to make a statement in addition to our confessional statements. It is strange that we can be in essential agreement on a position, but not in how to address it.
This should humble us. We should not assume to know why someone votes the way they vote. People can vote the same way for very different reasons. Voting against a motion to put out a new statement doesn’t mean that you support theistic evolution. I was torn. We have more time to ponder overtures, but I still wasn’t sure because there was a minority report to consider that we received the day before. It is hard to keep up at times. The Assembly decided that our confessional statements were sufficiently clear on the issue.
The last big issue was instinction. This is the practice of dipping the bread into the wine during communion. The discussion went on for over an hour. The issue was whether or not to change the Book of Church Order to explicitly prohibit it. Many who voted against that proposal believe the BCO is clear enough. I found it strange that we were arguing over this. Though it deals with a sacrament, it seems like the issue of mode of baptism- not something to spill ecclesiastical blood over. Why stress this element of communion while we neglect other elements (like how our Confession and BCO say we use wine). It just seems strangely selective to me. I think it would be better if we had a larger discussion about communion. It was a close vote to amend the BCO. Now the Presbyteries get to discuss the matter. I am hoping that ecclesiastical sanity returns.
Some people just plain struggle with differing viewpoints. Intinction is not an unraveling of the gospel. It is a peripheral issue. There should be more charity displayed. It does not put us on a slippery slope toward anything. But one prominent pastor used this as an opportunity to address what he sees as liturgical chaos. He argued for more uniformity in our worship. I left Rome, and have no intention of going back. I suppose it gets back to very different interpretations of the Regulative Principle. Some see it as quite limiting, and to people like me it feels like a straitjacket. It provides direction for us, and the elements of worship are essential. But how we put them in the service should be more the provenance of the Session than the General Assembly. Not all communities of faith are alike. The more uniform you make it, the less it reflects the people who are actually worshiping.