Dear Church Family,
We have returned from our extended family vacation which included many twists and turns and putting about 4,000 additional miles on our van. Our trip began with attending the 50th General Assembly of our denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America, in Memphis, TN (I’ll provide some information about that below). After General Assembly, we visited my parents, my sister, and my brother and his family in Raymondville, MO. From there, we went on to visit Stacie’s sister and her family near Charlotte, NC and then Stacie’s parents in the Chapel Hill, NC area.
At this point, we took a little break from visiting family and did some tent camping in the Smoky Mountains National Park (on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina). After packing up all of our gear in the rain – to be dried out at a later date – we drove to Grove City, PA where we visited our son, Timothy. We also took this opportunity for Titus to have a campus visit at Grove City College (by the way, when we left Grove City, the high temperature was 73 degrees – it was wonderful!). From Pennsylvania, we drove to Ruston, LA for a brief visit with Stacie’s aunt, uncle, and cousin, and then finally, we made the six-hour drive home to Killeen.
Worshiping on the Road
One of the things that I enjoy while on vacation is visiting and worshiping with other believers in other churches – something that I don’t often get to do – and we visited a variety of churches while away. On our first Sunday away, with my parents, we worshipped at their Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS) congregation in Houston, MO. On our second Sunday, with some friends, we attended an Associate Reformed Presbyterian (ARP) church in Greensboro, NC. On our third Sunday, while camping, we visited a sister congregation in our denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) in Waynesville, NC. And, on our fourth and final Sunday away, we worshipped with our son, Timothy, at his church home, a congregation of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Grove City, PA.
I am happy to report that in each congregation, we sat under good expository preaching and the gospel was clearly proclaimed. It was a reminder of Christ’s faithfulness in His promise to build His church. And, it was encouraging to know that in each place we were welcomed and shown hospitality in the bonds of Christian fellowship. It is good to be home, and it was great to be back worshiping with our church family this past Sunday!
The PCA 50th General Assembly
Speaking of worship, one of the highlights of this year’s General Assembly – at least for me – was the three corporate worship services in the evenings of the Assembly (you may view video recordings of the three worship services, as well as the business portions of this year’s General Assembly, here: https://vimeo.com/pcaga). This year marked the 50th jubilee General Assembly since our denomination broke away from the Southern Presbyterian Church, the PCUS. So, there were several opportunities for reflecting on God’s faithfulness and for the growth of our denomination. I haven’t been able to attend our denomination’s General Assembly for several years; the times of worship and visiting with old friends were refreshing.
In addition to the worship, the deliberations and decisions of the largest court in our church were encouraging, as well. In my estimation, our denomination as a whole seems to be recovering a greater adherence to our Westminster Standards, as well as a recovery of the principles of Presbyterianism and holding our churches and presbyteries to those Standards.
For instance, a church in our denomination allowed a woman Episcopal pastor to preach in a Sunday morning worship service which is a clear violation of Scripture and our denomination’s constitutional documents; that church’s presbytery subsequently investigated the matter and found nothing wrong with what the church had allowed. This past June, the General Assembly referred this matter to our denominations Standing Judicial Commission who will take up the matter as an ecclesiastical judicial case. It would be better not to have to address issues like this in our denomination, but it’s encouraging to see that the processes in our Presbyterian model of church government are being employed and are working as they should.
Our denomination has also been dealing with the encroachment of what has come to be known as the “Side B, Gay Christian Movement.” In our study of the Westminster Larger Catechism Q21-25, I wrote about this self-professing “gay but celibate” movement (see the “Conclusion & Application” at the end of this blog post: https://hillcountrypca.org/westminster-larger-catechism-q-21-25/). At this past General Assembly, we officially revised our denomination’s Book of Church Order to clarify and tighten up both the qualifications and examination procedures for church office in these matters which address one’s fitness for office and views of sanctification. It was an encouraging step to deal with an increasingly pervasive contemporary issue and more steps are forthcoming.
Speaking of pervasive contemporary issues, I’ll just mention one other decision of note of the General Assembly. We voted to empower the moderator of the General Assembly to appoint a commission that would draft a statement “condemning the practice of surgical and medical gender reassignment, especially of minors.” This statement will then be sent as a humble petition to the three branches of the Federal Government, and then sent down to the clerks of each presbytery, encouraging them to submit the statement to the three branches of government in each State in the U.S.
If you’d like to read more about this year’s 50th General Assembly, here are a couple of resources:
(1) The official summary and reflections of the General Assembly by the State Clerk, Dr. Bryan Chapell: https://pcaga.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/Stated-Clerks-Summary-and-Reflections-on-50th-GA.pdf
(2) A helpful summary of 20 key events and highlights from another pastor and ruling elder: https://irreverentreverend.org/2023/06/17/pca-ga-50-summary-of-20-key-events-highlights/
I am grateful for those in the congregation who helped facilitate the set up and clean up each Sunday for worship while we were away, for those who ministered to our congregation in preaching the Word (TE Way Rutherford, TE Collin Coats, and RE James Poteet II), and for TE (Retired) Lou Best who administered the Lord’s supper. It is good to be home and, as I mentioned, it was good to see everyone in worship on Sunday. I look forward to seeing all those who are traveling when you return in the coming weeks.
The Lord be with you!
– Pastor Peter M. Dietsch