St. Louis, Missouri (June 30, 1998)-Close to 1300 commissioners gathered for the 26th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). The annual meeting began Tuesday afternoon with the customary communion service.

Sam Duncan, an attorney from Hattiesburg, MS, gave the Retiring Moderator's sermon. Using Ephesians 2:8-10 and James 2:14-17, he focused "on the interplay between faith and obedience" in three areas: denominational; presbytery and local church; and "our own lives."

Mr. Duncan made reference to the retiring moderator's sermon by his predecessor (Dr. Charles McGowan), in warning the church against "embracing the gods of our culture." He averred that "we are only one generation away from apostasy"; adding, with reference to the 2nd Commandment, that "The unfaithfulness of fathers always leads to the unfaithfulness of the children." In order to avoid "the seeds of apostasy [which] are all around us," Mr. Duncan stated that the PCA must remain faithful to her founding standards: chiefly the Bible, then the doctrinal standards.

Referring to the current debate on Creation and the meaning of the word "day" in Genesis 1, the Mississippi lawyer commended the advice of Dr. Bryan Chapell, President of Covenant Theological Seminary, that we "not go beyond Scripture." But Mr. Duncan also stated that "while implementing his wise counsel, we must always be wary of going into liberalism as Princeton [Theological Seminary] or the old PCUS." Further, Genesis 1 must "never be viewed as poetic in any way."

With regard to presbyteries and local churches, the ruling elder exhorted the commissioners to "make sure that officers are well trained" and that "they put their faith into practice." Speaking of his experience at First Presbyterian of Hattiesburg, he said that too often the view of the church with respect to discipline has been "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil." Mr. Duncan urged a return to Biblical discipline-an emphasis which he has been heartened to see in various congregations. He encouraged the men to "stand firm to have qualified and dedicated men serving in office"; adding: "Don't lower your standards, just to get men into office."

With regard to one's personal life, the Retiring Moderator appealed to I Timothy 5:8 and taking care of one's loved ones. Referring to his own support of his mother and grandmother in their need, he told how the Lord had blessed him for the care he had displayed.

The forty year old barrister believes that the PCA has "passed through its adolescent years and is maturing." He expressed gratitude to the founders of the PCA, and said: "And I just hope that my generation will be as faithful as that generation."

Admitting that "the PCA is not without its share of serious issues," he stated: "I'm encouraged by the presence of these issues," since it forces him to re-consider what the Bible says about them. "I'm grateful to the men who bring these concerns," said Mr. Duncan.

In concluding remarks, he opined that "the PCA will rise or fall with the ruling elders." He urged that Sessions "not act solely as boards of directors."


St. Louis, Missouri (June 30, 1998)-In its silver anniversary year, the Presbyterian Church in America elected one of its founding fathers as Moderator. The Rev. Dr. Kennedy Smartt, well-known throughout the denomination for his wit and his evangelistic enthusiasm, was elected without opposition.

It was a poignant moment for Mr. Smartt, who accepted the nomination only because his long-time friend, Dr. Don Patterson, who would have been nominated, was unable to be at the Assembly. Dr. Patterson, Chairman of the 25th Anniversary Celebration Committee, is in an extremely weakened condition from chemotherapy. Upon the suggestion of Moderator Smartt, and upon motion by Dr. Morton H. Smith, the PCA's initial Stated Clerk, the General Assembly stood in support of a motion to name Dr. Patterson as Honorary Moderator. Later in the day, it was reported that Don Patterson had been taken from his home to the hospital. While very weak, he was conscious, and expressed his gratitude at the honor bestowed on him by the Assembly. [MORE]

Shortly after his election, Dr. Smartt remarked that this was first time that an assistant pastor had been elected moderator: "So, assistant pastors, unite!" Besides his current position of Assistant Pastor at Chestnut Mountain (GA) Presbyterian Church, he has served as Pastor at two churches in Georgia and, for fifteen years, at West End Presbyterian Church, Hopewell, VA. He has also worked for the denominational Mission to the World and Mission to North America Committees.

A graduate of Davidson College and Columbia Theological Seminary (Decatur, GA), Dr. Smartt was awarded an honorary D.D. by the Atlanta School of Biblical Studies in 1993. He is the author of I Am Reminded, an anecdotal history of the PCA.


St. Louis, Missouri (June 30, 1998)-The Twenty-fifth Anniversary Celebration Committee of the Presbyterian Church in America chose three speakers to preach on each of the three themes of the denomination's original motto: "True to the Scriptures, the Reformed faith, and obedient to the Great Commission." Tonight, Dr. James M. Boice, Pastor of Philadelphia's Tenth Presbyterian Church, exhorted the commissioners to remain faithful to the Word of God.

Long noted for his leadership on the matter of fidelity to Scripture, Dr. Boice stated that faithfulness to the Bible means not only adherence to the doctrine of inerrancy but also to Scripture's sufficiency. He specifically addressed several areas, including evangelism, sanctification, guidance, and social reform, in urging that the Bible is sufficient in all of them.

With regard to the first category, the veteran pastor expressed his dismay at the increasing loss of traditional practices of worship in the evangelical world and even in the PCA. He particularly decried the fact that significant readings of Scripture and pastoral prayers are often being omitted in public worship; and that sermons today often do not entail the exegesis of a passage of Scripture.

In terms of sanctification, he urged that the answer is knowledge of Christian doctrine-something of which there is decreasing knowledge today.

In contrast to those who would seek extra-Scriptural revelation, Dr. Boice emphasized a return to the Reformed doctrine of sola Scriptura.

And with regard to social reform, the European-educated minister pointed out that Geneva was radically transformed by John Calvin-not by social programs per se, but by faithful preaching of the Bible.


St. Louis, Missouri (June 30, 1998)-One of the founders of the Presbyterian Church in America, Paul Settle recounted the history which led to the founding of the denomination. His remarks came as part of the denominational celebration of its twenty-fifth anniversary.

At one time an employee of Presbyterian Churchmen United, one of the four organizations which in 1971 called for the formation of a new church, Mr. Settle told of the struggles and tears which accompanied the efforts to reform the Southern Presbyterian Church. After many years of attempting, unsuccessfully, to call the old denomination back to the Scriptures and the Reformed faith, separation became, in the founders' eyes, the only option. Utilizing the insights of Francis Schaeffer, those who formed the PCA viewed their ecclesiastical separation as an act of "discipline in reverse" [i.e., because the minority did not have the strength or votes to remove heretics, the minority needed to separate from the erring majority as an act of discipline-Ed.]


Among the items on the docket for Wednesday, July 1st, are these:

*Interchurch Relations Committee: Controversy on the floor of the Assembly may have been averted, as a unanimous Committee of Commissioners recommendation deals with Overture 11 (from Northeast Presbytery) and a near unanimous recommendation with Overture 22 (from Ascension Presbytery).

*Bills and Overtures: Will the Assembly erect a special committee to study Creation?

*Deadlines for personal resolutions (9:30 AM) and nominees for committees and agencies (11:00 AM).