Q&A: Ordination Disparity

Ordination Disparity

Question

For personal reasons, as well as biblical and theological ones, I find the disparity between the ordination standards in presbyteries in the PCA quite discouraging, and I was wondering what you think about this inconsistency.

Answer

Yes, this is a discouraging business. Central Florida Presbytery is a delight-- best one I've ever been in. We spend the mornings in worship, teaching, and prayer. Business in the afternoon is short. Examinees are well-prepared by the committee, so almost nobody ever fails. There is a unity here of doctrine and purpose, an agreement on priorities, that I love.

But I know there are many other presbyteries in the PCA that are very different, that focus on controversy. Each has its own distictive theological nits it wants to pick. I was asked recently to write a paper on the history of conservative American Presbyterian theology in the twentieth century. The only way I could organize the paper was to make it an account of 21 controversies that have divided churches during that period. (Premillenialism, Christian liberty, Van Til/Clark, Theonomy, Shepherd, etc.) In my judgment, we've expended too much energy on those battles. But our movement was founded in the battle over modernism, and for many of us the essence of Presbyterianism is fighting doctrinal battles.

That leads to inconsistency in presbytery exams: between presbyteries that are fighting battles and those that aren't; between some that are fighting one battle and others that are fighting a different one.

I don't have in mind any good solutions. I don't see any signs that anyone is changing his opinion! But it is a matter for prayer.


Answer by Dr. John M. Frame

Dr. John M. Frame is Professor of Systematic Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL.