Transcript of Women in Ministry Study Committee Debate at 2016 PCA General Assembly (Part 4 of 4)

Presbyterian_Church_in_America_logo.jpegPart 1 here. Part 2 here. Part 3 here.

(picks up at 2:40:15 of “Thursday Afternoon Business” video)

Unknown
I’d like to call the question.

Moderator TE George Robertson
We’ll do this by voice vote. All in favor of calling the question, say aye. Opposed, nay. We will proceed to a vote. We are voting on the substitute. Should the substitute from the committee of commissioners, which is that recommendation #3 be answered in the negative. Microphone number 1…

Unknown
I believe that all recommendations come from the committee of commissioners and that’s not a substitute. The substitute is made by the original committee if they so desire to do so.

I am wrong.

Moderator TE George Robertson
Thank you very much. Yes… Microphone number 2.

RE Bob Mattes
Bob Mattes, Potomac Presbytery, ruling elder. Can we have a counted vote for the call? Because it is supposed to be 2/3rds and I’m not sure.

Moderator TE George Robertson
I’d be glad to do that.

RE Bob Mattes
Thank you, sir.

Moderator TE George Robertson
All in favor of calling the question, press 1. Opposed, press 2. Or Abstain. Polling is closed. The question has been called.

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 9.18.00 AM

So, we are proceeding to the vote on the substitute, which is indeed a substitute. Yes. No, the last… No, we gave the last word of the debate to Mr. Ross. That was assigned to Mr. Ross. In the last five minutes. But on the whole of the matter… no… Mr. Schriver, please come. No, it has to be you. We have to dance with the one who brung us. Full of good news today…

TE Jerry Schriver
Father and brothers, I come before you as the chairman of the Administrative Committee, telling you that we faithfully studied this issue for two years. We did our very best to be able to bring a document before you but we feel that to properly do this it takes much more concentration, deeper skills, and more time to do that. That’s why this is before us today. We know that in the church there is a desperate call in this area. How shall we serve…

Moderator TE George Robertson
Excuse me. Point of order. Microphone number 4.

TE Art Vandeveter
Mr. Moderator, Art Vandeveter, Chesapeake Presbytery. Point of order. I appreciate what you are trying to do, sir, but I believe the person that would speak last in this instance is the chairman of the committee of commissioners. The reason being that the five-minute, or the ten-minute closure of debate over the substitute motion guaranteed that the primary committee speak but now the person that actually brought the motion was the chairman of the committee of commissioners. It is his right to speak, not the opponent.

Moderator TE George Robertson
Do you have the citation for that? It would be helpful to us. I’m serious. We think it may be custom but not a rule. I’m going to split the baby, and I’m going to let you speak and them I’m gonna let Mr. Barnes speak. …Go ahead Mr. Schriver.

TE Jerry Schriver
This is a topic that must be studied. There is a cry from the church, “Give us guidance.” And that is part of the role of the PCA as a denomination, to give faithful, Biblical, guided by the Holy Spirit counsel to those who of us who are members of this denomination. This is one area that we can do that. The other thing is, I…it speaks to my heart…is I have followed in the PCA in the last 25 years many of the studies that have been done. Whether they’ve been creation or other items that have come before this General Assembly, and they have been so helpful. They have been in-depth. They have been crystal clear. They have been accurate. And this is what we are believing we are proposing for you that this would be another one of those studies that would do the job that we need for clarity. So, I would urge you, brothers and fathers, that you would support the subcommittee and approve it.

TE Roland Barnes
Mr. Moderator, I’ll be very brief. Certainly there are many unanswered questions in our churches about the latitude of ministry opportunities that should be available to our wives and our daughters, our sisters in Christ. But this request for a study committee asked us to study the doctrine of ordination, as well as the office of deacon in the context of ordination. Were the study committee asking us to study the former and not the latter, it might be a whole different matter. But since it includes the latter, the doctrine of ordination and related issues, the committee of commissioners is opposed to the erection of this study committee and we ask you to support the substitute motion from the committee of commissioners. Thank you.

Moderator TE George Robertson
Thank you. We are ready to vote. Remember we are voting on the substitute which is that recommendation 3 be answered in the negative, that is, that the request for a study committee be answered in the negative. All in favor of that substitute… yes, sir… microphone number 2.

RE Bob Mattes
Just for the sake of clarity, we are actually voting for it to become the main motion. Is that correct? …

Moderator TE George Robertson
Yes. Should this recommendation become the main motion? Thank you for that clarification.  All in favor of this becoming the main motion, vote with number 1. All opposed, vote number 2. Abstain, 3. For this to become the main motion, number 1. If you are against that becoming the main motion, press number 2. Polling is closed. Results…

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 9.25.30 AM

This has been defeated. We are now to…this has been defeated… Microphone number 4…

TE Joseph Pipa
The question was only put on the previous debate, not on the matter as a whole. Is that correct?

Moderator TE George Robertson
That is correct.

TE Joseph Pipa
Then I would like to…whenever you are ready to debate, I’d like to…

Moderator TE George Robertson
Proceed. So now, the…main motion is that a study committee be appointed. Point of order… Microphone number 1. Mr. Wert…

RE Jim Wert
Jim Wert, Metro Atlanta Presbytery, Intown Community Church, ruling elder. Seems like there were a lot of men up here at microphones ready to debate and if we are going to continue it, it seems like we should start in the same order that we left off.

Moderator TE George Robertson
Yes, this is a different motion, so you are free to return to the microphones but we are not going to go with…we are going to start a new order. And I have recognized microphone number 4…and ask… Microphone number 4…and, um, Mr. Speaker, are you…are you speaking for or against…which is now are you for the formation of a study committee or against the formation of the study committee.

TE Joseph Pipa
Against.

Moderator TE George Robertson
Please proceed.

TE Joseh Pipa
Thank you, Mr. Moderator. Joseph Pipa, Calvary Presbytery. I would draw the court’s attention to the document that is before us in the motion that is now before us for this study committee. I believe, in the first place, that the study committee, in the motion, does violate Scripture. If you consider lines 5 and 6, “the study committee should be made up of competent men and women representing the diversity of opinions within the PCA.” Scripture speaks to this, Mr. Moderator. The passage has been quoted, that women are not to exercise authority in the church. They are not to be teaching men. To take part on a study committee, I believe violates the Scriptures.

The second problem with that is, “representing a diversity of opinions within the PCA.” We’ve heard, in debate, that in our denomination we have people that favor all kinds of things with respect to ordination, women laying hands on…when I heard that list, given as a speech in favor of this motion, I was appalled. I was wondering why presbyteries were not exercising a proper discipline over congregations. This is not…the way this is framed, as much as we have heard from…the chairman, that this could come with even a more conservative conclusion than some would fear…after having told us what the diversity of opinion was in the denomination, I think the court needs to be aware that this is an open-ended authorization to study the ordination of women, not just for the office of deacon but for the office of elder as well. We’ve heard somewhat…people saying it doesn’t matter what the church has said for 2,000 years…but it was brought to my attention, the writer of Hebrews says is that the laying on of hands is a very elementary principle that does not need to be revisited.

And then we’ve heard arguments with respect to the role of women. Well, I would say shame on you men if the women in your church are not being used in the full and proper, God-ordained manner for their fulfillment of office. A study committee is not going to help that. It is not going to change pastors and elders not taking advantage of the gifted women and every person in the church having gifts, plus, the list of Biblical responsibilities, for example, in Titus 2 that God gives to women in the church.

And then, I would draw your attention that although we are being told that this is merely a study committee, notice that part of the recommendation is a pastoral letter to be proposed by the ad interim study committee. Yes, approved by the General Assembly but that’s taking this study group beyond what the chairman told us it was going to do. I agree with the chairman of the committee of commissioners. If we were simply talking about let’s qualify how we can use properly women as deaconesses, serving under deacons, how we can qualify what women do, but…you know, to say that, yes, we have women serving the sacraments, that’s wrong. That is Scripturally wrong. The Scriptures are clear. We don’t need to restudy this. And so I really believe that this is so flawed that it would be a great error at this point to authorize such a committee. Thank you, Mr. Moderator.

Moderator TE George Robertson
Thank you. Microphone number 1. For or against?

RE Joel Belz
I am against the substitute, sir.

Moderator TE George Robertson
Ah, we are…now the substitute is the main… Are you for or against the study committee?

RE Joel Belz
I am for the study committee.

Moderator TE George Robertson
Please proceed.

RE Joel Belz
Thank you. I want to speak for the study committee because of the fact that I believe otherwise, otherwise we drop a heavy blanket of silence over the whole discussion that is unhealthy for the church. We dare not respond to the church with silence.

For me, the issue started some 47 years ago when the Lord providentially blessed our family with the birth of the first of five daughters. Now Carol and I also have eight grandsons and eight granddaughters. So, you can believe that conversations at family reunions, especially conversations about the church, are very lively indeed. It was natural then, I suppose, that when our girls headed off for Covenant College they and their fellow students rarely missed an opportunity to ask me the pointed question. So, dad, if every serious question in life is to find its answer in Scripture, not tradition, not the culture, but in Scripture, where does the Bible say women should not serve on the board of a denominational college. As a member of the Covenant College board for the last 38 years, I’ve wrestled with that challenge dozens and dozens of times. Frankly, I’m tired of making the Bible say something it never suggests. So over the last three years, the Covenant College board, at my request, took unanimous action to ask the PCA General Assembly, in proper order, to take some tentative steps to remove what we consider to be an inappropriately extra-Biblical restriction. And we invited the boards of other agencies and committees to join us. In fact, I wrote personal notes to the heads of all the other committees and agencies and the chairmen of their committees or boards to tell them what we had done at the college board level and ask them for their responses. There was great unanimity in their response backing what I proposed.

Our main question has occasionally been this: If the Bible is our guide, let’s…I should say our main question has consistently been this…If the Bible is our guide, let’s root our answers in the Bible. Otherwise, we’ll be thought of as hypocrites who shape their behavior more by tradition than by the precepts of the Scripture. My brothers have boldly claimed in their email blogs that the PCA’s constitution is already clear. They say those words were there…that…the documents of the church are already clear on what the PCA believes is the Scripture’s teaching on these issues. Sadly, brothers, that is simply not the case. Literally dozens of practical issues beg to be Biblically resolved. Should women read Scripture? Or lead music in public worship? Should women teach men through articles published in the PCA’s denominational magazine? Should women missionaries teach men in foreign countries? Should Rosaria Butterfield use books to teach our whole denomination about how to evangelize the homosexual community? What about books from Diane Langberg? From Kathleen Nielson? From Nancy Guthrie? These are instructional books. To say that Scripture’s teaching on these and so many other related issues is already clear is to tell a whole generation of young women simply to go away…the issue is settled. So my appeal to you today is that you resist the temptation to tell any serious inquirer simply to go away. If the idea of a study committee is too broad, trim down… (skip in video) …the loyal voices of thousands who are asking for that which the PCA has always strived to answer: a straightforward Biblical warrant and not tradition for everything we claim is important in our word and practice. Ruling Elder Joel Belz from Western Carolina Presbytery. I apologize for my Parkinson’s shakiness.

Moderator TE George Robertson
Thank you, Mr. Belz. Microphone number 2, for or against?

RE Bob Mattes
I am against.

Moderator TE George Robertson
Please proceed.

RE Bob Mattes
Bob Mattes, Potomac Presbytery, ruling elder. Fathers and brothers, this is deja-vu all over again for me, and I knew if I kept coming to GA, sooner or later, I would be able to say this…I was there when we debated this in Overtures Committee and created what is now at the end of 9-7, BCO 9-7. That was hours and hours of debate that seemed stalemated. Everybody came to that meeting, all the big names—I won’t name any because I don’t want to be a name dropper—but there were lots of names there on both sides…going at it. It was studied thoroughly before they got there. Everybody was thoroughly prepared. And what we have in 9-7 was the compromise position at that time. That’s the farthest we could go in either direction in that assembly. And, of course, there were several ones after that that tried to go further…which went nowhere. So, I was actually there. I’m telling you, it was a well-studied issue at the time and we came to the compromise that we could come to at the time. This strikes me a little bit as you don’t like what mom tells you go ask dad.

So, we’ve not been silent on this. I think the chairman of the committee of commissioners went through the whole litany of times this has been considered. So we’ve not been silent on this over the years. Far from it. We’ve been extremely vocal about it over the years.

I want to make… The other thing that I guess I have to say is when we talk about the Scriptures, we are not Biblicists, it’s not just the Scripture—the Scripture and good and necessary consequences that arise therefrom. And I think that is where we get the board positions from as well. The second point that I want to make, and I’ll make it brief, because Dr. Coffin made the argument very eloquently. But I think this is mission-creep for the CMC. I think the CMC was designed to coordinate between the committees. If you read through 7, the whole thing, it’s all it was supposed to do. And now we are saying that…looking at…(skip in video)…study committees. We’re saying that’s part of strategic planning? Really? I don’t think that fits that definition very well…at least, not in my experience in dealing with strategic plans for 40 years. So, I think we need to vote this down. And, we’ve been there, done that…we’re going to plunk another 15 grand down to do the same thing we’ve done over and over again and gotten the same result. And if anybody remembers Einstein…he’s famously quoted, probably incorrectly, but it’s famous anyway…that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. So I’d recommend that we vote this down.

Moderator TE George Robertson
Microphone number 3. For or against?

TE David Richter 
Mr. Moderator, Teaching Elder David Richter, Southern New England Presbytery. I rise to call the question.

Moderator TE George Robertson
The question has been called. We will vote with our devices. Stay at your places in the microphones. If you wish to call the question, that’s number 1. If you are opposed to calling the question, number 2. Polls are open… Polls are closed… Results…

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 9.39.36 AM

The question has been called. I will proceed to the vote. Yes, sir… Ah, Mr. Schriver, please…and you can appoint. Dr. Mays is recognized.

TE Rod Mays
Well, God created male and female. And our church has an amazing opportunity to clarify what this subcommittee—and I had the privilege of being on the subcommittee on this issue—we have a great opportunity to clarify for women in our church and for ourselves what women can do, how they can help care for the souls of other women. The ladies that served on our subcommittee were humble. There was never a hint about ordination. They want to know… (skip in video)…the Great Commission. They were helpful, because they told us what they were thinking, what they were feeling, and what they were hearing. And they were hearing from us a lot of fear, which we’ve heard this afternoon. Isolation. And you know that women—whose thinking is sometimes much more abstract than our thinking—can sit on a couch with another woman and cry with her, and encourage her. Women have this unique ability. And what are we saying to them in the church? I’ve watched women in our church up close. I watched, for a number of years, RUF interns, women interns, and I’ve watched them care for our addicted daughters, our depressed daughters, our wayward covenant children. I’ve watched them have those great gospel-conversations and have led our children back on the right path. Because they’ve experienced that kind of care, they’ve often thought, “How can I do this more?” Not ordination. Not serving as an elder or a deacon…but how can I minister to women in the church? What am I going to do with my seminary degree? Will the church be open? Am I going to overstep my bounds? Those are the fears. What is our place? These women on our committee were very humble, very helpful.

And let me say this, they were hopeful because they trust the church. And they believe that we would be able to form a committee that would bring a lot of clarification as other study committees have done. They were hopeful because they believe the Bible and they believed that a study committee in a denomination that is so committed to the Scripture would continue to bring clarification. Some of these matters have just been cloudy and questionable. And why are we afraid? This is a church that is so committed to the Scripture. We love the Bible. And we want to study the Bible, and there is no slippery slope because there are toeholds in our church. You have the toehold of Scripture. You have the toehold of our confession. You have the toehold of our presbyteries, our sessions…and this General Assembly.

This debate has been good. It’s been enlightening. It’s been helpful. And fathers and brothers, I encourage you to vote for this study committee because your wives are gonna love you. Women in your church are going to love you, because you have affirmed and helping to affirm their gifts and how they can minister with the love of Jesus. So, please, vote for a study committee. Is it somewhat ironic, we are saying, let’s vote to study the Bible. Let’s vote to clarify. Let’s vote to help and encourage our wives, our daughters, our sisters. And together we join to fulfill the great commission. Thanks.

Moderator TE George Robertson
We are ready to vote on the… Microphone number 6.

TE Dennis Hermerding
Mr. Moderator, I think in light of having a lot of very fruitful but I think a lot of…excuse me, TE Dennis Hermerding, Houston Metro Presbytery…a lot of different opinions, I thought it might be good for us to pray before we vote, if that would be in order.

Moderator TE George Robertson
I’m hearing a lot of reverb. Are you asking us to pray?

TE Dennis Hermerding
I am.

Moderator TE George Robertson
That’s a good idea. Why don’t you pray for us right now.

TE Dennis Hermerding
Gracious Heavenly Father, we thank You that You love us. That You have given us Your Word. That You have given us Your Son Jesus, Who is the Living Word. And You have cared for us, You have carried this denomination along…and You have given us the privilege, Lord, to be here and to gather in this place that we might seek Your face, that we might grow together in our understanding of You, that You might be glorified, that Your name might be furthered in our denomination and around the world. Lord, we ask that You would give us wisdom as we vote on this and many other matters before us through the rest of this evening and into tomorrow. We ask, Lord, that You would allow Your Spirit to permeate this place, that unity and peace would prevail even in the midst of our discussions and deliberations. We pray this in Christ’s Name. Amen.

Moderator TE George Robertson
Thank you very much, brother. We will now vote. A vote… A yes vote is for the formation of the study committee. A no vote is against that. Press 1 if you are in favor. 2 for no. And 3 for abstain. Polls are closed. Results…

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 9.48.59 AM

It passes. Mr. Chairman…please, no demonstration…Mr. Chairman, would you, does this conclude your report?

TE Roland Barnes
Yes, sir, Mr. Moderator. On Tuesday, you encouraged us to think of each other as a deposit of dung in which there was buried a nugget of gold. I was the first deposit delivered on Tuesday, but there have been many more to follow. And I heard it said on one occasion that ministers were like dung that if you pile them all up and leave them alone they begin to stink but if you spread them out they do a lot of good. Mr. Moderator, could I close our…

Moderator TE George Robertson
You need to pray, Mr. Chairman.

TE Roland Barnes
Fathers and brothers, let us pray. Heavenly Father we thank You for Your goodness to us. You gave us Your only begotten Son that we might believe on Him for eternal life, that we would not perish. We thank You that You created us male and female. We thank You, Father, for our wives, our daughters, our sisters in Christ in our churches. And as this motion has now passed, Heavenly Father, for a study committee to be established, we pray for our moderator as he appoints those who will serve this assembly. We pray, O God, grant them great wisdom and clarity of thought as they search Your Word. Help them, Father, that they might be truly a help to Your church. We thank You for the presence and power of Your Holy Spirit in this place as we called upon You. We thank You and ask You, Father, continue to direct us by Your Word and Spirit. We ask it in Jesus’s Name. Amen.

Moderator TE George Robertson
Amen. Thank you.

2 thoughts on “Transcript of Women in Ministry Study Committee Debate at 2016 PCA General Assembly (Part 4 of 4)

  1. Thanks for putting these up, Andrew. I didn’t read all of it, but I did read portions of each.

    In this one, Joel Belz’s speech in support of the committee was particularly saddening.

    Love,

    • Joseph, I too was saddened by Mr. Belz’s speech. He’s using his significant influence in the PCA to push in the wrong direction.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *