Presbyterian Church in America Cuts Ties to National Association of Evangelicals

Giovanni Del Piero on June 23, 2022

Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) commissioners have voted to withdraw from the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) at the June 22 meeting of the governing General Assembly in Birmingham, Alabama.

ByFaith, the official online publication of the PCA, released the actions of the Assembly affirming Overture 3, titled “Withdraw from the National Association of Evangelicals”, that took place during the report of the Inter-church Relations Committee. The final vote was 1030-699.

Nearly 40 U.S.-based Protestant denominations affiliate with the NAE, alongside additional Christian organizations and academic groups. The organization was established in 1942 as an ecumenical alternative to the liberal Federal Council of Churches (later the National Council of Churches) and counts the Assemblies of God, the Church of the Nazarene, the Wesleyan Church and the Salvation Army among its membership.

While the PCA is not the largest denomination affiliated with the NAE, the 383,338-member church has been among the most prominent: President Walter Kim, appointed by the ecumenical organization’s board of directors in 2019, pastors Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, Virginia (Kim holds credentials with the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference). Presbyterian Church in America Stated Clerk Roy Taylor, the denomination’s former top executive, served across 13 years as Chair of the NAE Board of Directors.

The Overture 3 document itself gives reasons for PCA withdrawing from the NAE. Overture authors cite chapter 31 of the Westminster Confession of Faith showing how the church’s primary responsibility is ecclesiastical in nature only, with interventions in civil affairs limited to extraordinary circumstances.

The overture notes that the NAE chose“not only to advocate for biblical values and ethics in general, but that ‘“we must advocate for political policies:’” The document argues that the NAE went beyond its responsibilities and violated teachings of both the Westminster Confession of Faith and Scripture itself. It states that the NAE has frequently inter-meddled in civil affairs, by publicly pushing for action on the environment, immigration, and has “changed its original stance on the death penalty”, as well as passed a motion called “Fairness for All”, a proposed compromise between LGBT supporters and advocates of religious freedom. The overture  said the proposal went beyond what was prescribed by the Westminster Confession of Faith and was believed to be subversive by conservative biblical scholars.

Overture 3 also notes how a PCA sister denomination, Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA), left the NAE in 2009 over concerns that NAE ecumenical gestures towards Roman Catholics, Muslims and liberal Protestants was beginning to hinder its commitment to a biblical exposition of the Christian faith. In particular was a document cited in Overture 3, Loving God and Neighbor Together, signed by a plethora of prominent Christians that is charged by the PCA for affirming the idea that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, albeit differently.

How this decision will impact the future of the PCA and the NAE remains unclear. Though this move by the General Assembly will likely be one of the main highlights, other problems the PCA faces will be put in the spotlight.

Allegations of mishandled sexual abuse continue to plague the PCA, with Hope Presbyterian Church Pastor Dan Herron of Bloomington, Indiana accused of sexual harassment and responding by suing the women for defamation. The resulting conflict has prompted several presbyteries to ask the PCA to intervene. On June 22, the General Assembly reconvened to hear the report from the Ad Interim Committee on Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault. The committee offered a series of general guidelines and advice for various PCA bodies and agencies to take when handling matters of abuse, sexual assault, and allegations. How these two events will affect the future proceedings and activities of the PCA is unknown, though its break from the NAE will have ripple effects throughout the Reformed and evangelical world. The question remains as to whether the effects of withdrawal from NAE will be immediate, or will have consequences later.

Other denominations within the Reformed tradition that affiliate with NAE include the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Christian Reformed Church, and ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians.

  1. Comment by Loren J Golden on June 23, 2022 at 11:31 pm

    Today, the General Assembly voted 1167-978 to approve an amendment that read, “Men who describe themselves as homosexual, even those who describe themselves as homosexual and claim to practice celibacy by refraining from homosexual conduct, are disqualified from holding office in the Presbyterian Church in America.”
     
    This is clearly aimed at controversial St. Louis pastor Dr. Greg Johnson, who has self-identified as same-sex attracted but celibate, and whose church hosted the first of the controversial Revoice Conferences.  In order to be added to the Book of Church Order, however, it needs to be ratified by two-thirds of the presbyteries and approved and enacted by a majority of teaching and ruling elders present at a subsequent General Assembly.  Given that it was approved by only 54.4% of the elders at this year’s Assembly, it does not seem likely to receive the advice and consent of two-thirds of the presbyteries.

  2. Comment by Tom on June 24, 2022 at 5:30 pm

    Well, pray for us! I was a commissioner to the General Assembly and voted for Overture 15 (which Loren quotes above.) He correctly notes that now 2/3 of our presbyteries must approve it, which from a human perspective seems unlikely. BUT with God all things are possible. Pray for us in the PCA that we will not embrace sin nor compromise with it but will abhor it and turn away from it whenever and wherever we can. Pray for the Presbyteries to ratify it. See what God does!

  3. Comment by George on June 24, 2022 at 9:50 pm

    If homosexual attraction alone, without homosexual activity, is a disqualification shouldn’t also the desire to overeat (gluttony), or the mere temptation to ANY sin without committing it? Jesus himself was tempted yet without sin. I think this provides yet another example of “churchianity” shooting itself in the foot. So, who decided temptation is sin -and- who decided WHICH temptations would thus qualify, I wonder. I’d say someone needs to read Hebrews 4:15 more carefully and perhaps quit furnishing the unbelieving world with legitimate objections to our message of Love and If homosexual attraction alone, without homosexual activity is a disqualification shouldn’t also the desire to overeat (gluttony), or the mere temptation to ANY sin? Jesus himself was tempted yet without sin. I think this provides yet another example of “churchianity” shooting itself in the foot. So, who decided temptation is sin -and- who decided WHICH temptations would thus qualify, I wonder.! And how can we expect to succeed with a message of reconciliation when WE are not reconciled?

  4. Comment by Walt P on June 25, 2022 at 4:22 pm

    For most of the history of mankind, homosexuality was viewed as a perversion of sex. Even up into 1970, all doctors viewed homosexuality as a disease.
    Only after America, legalized homosexuality did this position change, This was a political decision against the moral truth.
    The fact that the homosexual community is full of sexual diseases proves that God was right, and is right, and always will be right!

  5. Comment by David on June 25, 2022 at 9:25 pm

    I’m sorry to see this move by the PCA. It should be possible to have ecumenical relations with a variety of church bodies without compromising one’s own witness to the faith. The late Cardinal Avery Dulles once wrote that ecumenism at its best should lead, not to the least common denominator, but to each party offering the best of its own tradition to the larger body of Christ. Why can’t the PCA do this with the NAE?

  6. Comment by senecagriggs on June 25, 2022 at 10:04 pm

    NAE increasingly a political organization; time for conservative Evangelical Churches to leave.

  7. Comment by Loren J Golden on June 26, 2022 at 10:07 am

    “Ecumenism at its best should lead, not to the least common denominator, but to each party offering the best of its own tradition to the larger body of Christ.  Why can’t the PCA do this with the NAE?”
     
    David,
     
    I surmise by your question that you have not read the text of Overture 3, to which young Mr. Del Piero linked in his post.
     
    The Overture observed, “The NAE has stated that it intends not only to advocate for biblical values and ethics in general, but that ‘we must advocate for political policies,’” and again, “The NAE claims to speak for the entirety of its membership and to be their voice in Washington (DC).”  Further, “Members of the PCA may have legitimate differences of opinion on the most effective political policies to address these matters.”
     
    What the authors of the Overture (and those who approved it) found troubling was, “The NAE, in 2018, passed a motion entitled ‘Fairness for All,’ which, in advocating for a political compromise regarding sexual orientation, gender identity, and religious freedom, goes beyond Chapter 31 of the Westminster Confession of Faith. … Many prominent conservative and evangelical thinkers and leaders have denounced this compromise as not leading to ‘fairness’ for all who uphold biblical teaching on sexuality and marriage, but rather attempts to guarantee religious freedom for some organizations and institutions while potentially undermining the pre-political religious freedoms of all Americans codified in the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”
     
    This “political compromise” in “Fairness for All,” to which Mr. Del Piero also helpfully linked, is “explicit support for basic human rights for members of the LGBT community” in exchange for stronger bipartisan support for the First Amendment Defense Act.  The NAE qualifies its “explicit support” by stating, “These rights include basic legal and human rights related to housing, credit, jury duty, and employment—and do not imply affirmation for particular lifestyle or moral choices.”  The problem is, that “the LGBT community” insists on having the sexually immoral causes for which it advocates recognized as “basic legal and human rights.”  “Housing, credit, jury duty, and employment” for homosexuals and individuals who identify as the opposite gender (or as something in between) is not controverted by anyone, is not a meaningful concession, and does not constitute the “discrimination” against which “the LGBT community” vociferously argues today—it is the “affirmation for particular lifestyle or moral choices.”  When put to the test, would the NAE capitulate on this point, in order to secure bipartisan support for the legislation in which it which it is putting its hopes?  And remember: “The NAE claims to speak for the entirety of its membership (including the PCA) and to be their voice in Washington.”
     
    The Bible is not kind toward kings who sought peace and protection from their enemies by placing their trust in political compromise rather than in the sovereign power of God alone.  For instance, when the kings of Israel and Syria conspired together and besieged Jerusalem, the Lord through the Prophet Isaiah told King Ahaz of Judah to put his trust in Him, rather than an alliance with Assyria, as he was planning to do, he disregarded His counsel and accepted the terms of King Tiglath-pileser of Assyria, which included setting aside the altar of the Lord in the Temple and replacing it with an altar of Assyrian design, with the intent that Judah should worship Assyria’s gods.  And Ahaz himself “walked in the way of the kings of Israel.  He even burned his son as an offering, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel.  And he sacrificed and made offerings on the high places and on the hills and under every green tree.” (I Kg. 16, Is. 7)
     
    The NAE would be wise to learn from their example.

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