PCA Consensus Revisited


The denomination in which I serve, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), is approaching the 50th anniversary of its founding. Through these years God has blessed this expression of His Church, and it has been a privilege for me to have been part of it. The sailing has not always been smooth. There have been some storms that have their genesis from both inside and outside of the church. We are not without our faults, our failures, or our sins. But through it all, I believe, the PCA has been well-tethered to the motto:

Faithful to the Scriptures, True to the Reformed Faith, and Obedient to the Great Commission

From its inception, the PCA has been somewhat of a “Big Tent” denomination, at least relatively speaking. Though not an especially large denomination, the tent is big enough in that it encompasses an array of churches holding to both the authority of Scripture and to the Reformed understanding of the Christian Faith. (The Great Commission part sometimes seems like it is generally and widely true, but the actuality, or the level of engagement, may be measured more on a church to church basis. That said, some may also reasonably suggest the same about the fidelity to the Reformed Tradition.) As with any Big Tent denomination – and perhaps especially so with any theologically “conservative” Big Tent – the PCA has had – and still has – its share of “camps” and conflicts. Through the years some from fringes of the church have departed for other denominations, or into independency; and they have done so because they respectively believe: 1) The PCA is too “liberal” and permissive, or 2) The PCA is too “conservative” and uptight. But the vast majority, like me, have found a home and felt at home, and the PCA continues to grow even as most other denominations are experiencing decline.

For a variety of reasons, the PCA has been engaged in some prolonged intense debates for the past few years – some sounding like new verses of old songs; others sounding like entirely new tunes. Some, with differing visions, are even aiming to chart a new course for the PCA. And while I listen to the discussions and the proposed directions, trying to both figure out where I fit in and where I believe our denomination should go, in my mind I am wondering if maybe our best future may be found by resurrecting discussions from our past.

In 1994 a group of church leaders, collectively known as the PCA Consensus Group, hosted an informal gathering at Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. (PERSONAL NOTE: At the time I was in the first year of my pastoral ministry, serving a church outside of Chattanooga. Cedar Springs had been my home church, beginning my Sophomore year of college; it is the church where my wife had grown up; and it was the church that sent us out into pastoral ministry.) This informal gathering was widely attended by church leaders from throughout the PCA, with several hundred, if not even a thousand, in attendance. The purpose of this gathering would be for the PCA Consensus group to present and discuss, what I consider, a well-thought out statement of affirmations and denials, published in a document titled A Statement of Identity for the Presbyterian Church in America.

What I have posted below is the substance of that Statement, or rather the revised version, subsequently re-published in 1998. I post this because I believe many of these propositions are worthy of reconsideration at this time, in the PCA’s present discussions and debates.

~ W. Dennis Griffith

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