The 41st General Assembly: Episodes in Presbyterian Confabulation (Debating the Insider Movement)


Here’s my thoughts on the debate over the Minority Report on the Insider Movement at the 2013 PCA General Assembly. This will be the first in a short series on the 41st GA. I watched a decent portion of the streaming video and I’ll give my interested layman’s perspective. Presbyterian polity benefits from transparency, and thankfully the PCA practices some transparency by streaming the proceedings of their broadest assembly. This beats the mere talk of transparency we get from a certain Nobel Prize-winning chief executive in the civil realm.

I’d call for not overplaying the emotion displayed. There are times when disagreements over the direction of the church will heat up. The men speaking in opposition to the Minority Report, whether or not they misconstrued the passages about Allah and the true God, truly believed serious issues were at stake. One seminary president stated in so many words that this was the last straw. Others, visibly infuriated, declared that they cannot abide the notion that Allah and the Holy Trinity can be equated in any way. Yes, some of them showed strong emotion but the substance of most of their comments reflected a pointed and considered challenge to what they believe is error. Indeed, much of the heat of the debate had to do with the fact that the substitute motion making the Minority Report part of what the GA would commend to the churches took many commissioners by surprise. Once that point had been reached, the opponents of the Minority Report saw the GA as one vote away from a colossal blunder. Hopefully more of the video of the GA will be posted so that we can review the substantive arguments of the “angry” opposition. Sometimes we need to have the discipline look past emotion and listen to what people are saying, not how they’re saying it.

In fact, the valid points of the opposition were largely ignored by the side favoring the Minority Report. I don’t recall much effort to engage the substance, just comments that “the dear brother means well” or “there’s practical (vs. dry and arid) stuff in the minority report” or “I have missionary experience and I don’t see anything wrong here so why should you?” (For a substantive presentation of both sides, go here). The supporters of the Minority Report can search their souls as surely as the men who spoke in opposition. Were some of them too quick to fill their hearts with indignation at the anger they perceived on the other side? Were they so quick to defend a brother’s honor that they overlooked the fact that those opposing the Minority Report weren’t angry at TE Nabeel Jabbour, but at erroneous things they believed his report contained? It’s worth considering these possibilities.

All of which brings me to reactions in poor taste to the Insider Movement Debate 2013. First, one commissioner decided to settle the score once debate had concluded and the Assembly had recommitted the reports to the Ad-Interim Committee, covering his revenge with an abuse of parliamentary procedure (by the indulgence of a perpetually flummoxed Moderator). The commissioner was recognized before he stated his reason and proceeded to bash the opponents of the Minority Report as insensitive to Rev. Jabbour’s testimony. Talk about focusing on personalities rather than issues!

Second, the blogosphere has predictably provided a forum for fanning a fiery debate into an epic conflagration. I have seen a couple sanctimonious expressions of dismay (in comment boxes) befitting dignified Victorian ladies having their tea time interrupted by a nearby street brawl. It appears that Roman Catholic internet zealots can’t resist the opportunity to gloat over any perceived dysfunction in Presbyterian polity. We’re supposed to swim the Tiber for safety, ‘cause there’s a land of pure delight in communion with the Pope of Rome, right? Yawn…

[Go here for an overview of the 41st GA of the PCA]


One Response to “The 41st General Assembly: Episodes in Presbyterian Confabulation (Debating the Insider Movement)”

  1. aimee0329 Says:

    Swim the Tweed.

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