Larry Ball

Overture 15 – The Tipping Point for a Split in the PCA?

The following is the wording of Overture 15 approved by the General Assembly: “Men who describe themselves as homosexual, even those who describe themselves as homosexual and claim to practice celibacy by refraining from homosexual conduct, are disqualified from holding office in the Presbyterian Church in America.”

The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) is divided over whether men who describe themselves as homosexuals (even though they claim to practice celibacy) should be able to hold the offices of elder or deacon in the Church. This division was evident at the 49th General Assembly (GA) in Birmingham, Alabama, where the Majority Report of the Overtures Committee recommended a motion to deny Overture 15 from Westminster Presbytery.
However, a Minority Report of the Overtures Committee that recommended a slightly edited version of Overture 15 was adopted by the Assembly. A motion to make the Minority Report the main motion was adopted by a vote of 1099-1049.  This was only a 50-vote difference. If this procedural vote had failed, the Minority Report (and Overture 15) would have been dead in the water.  This Minority Report has now become a proposed amendment to the Book of Church Order (BCO) which must pass a vote of 2/3 of the presbyteries. Then finally, it must pass by a majority vote at the next General Assembly in Memphis, Tennessee.
Overture 15[1] cuts to the chase and lays the cards on the table. It is short and concise.  It basically says that men who describe themselves as homosexuals, even though they claim to practice celibacy, are disqualified from holding office in the PCA.  It gets to the root of the problem that is causing the division in the PCA.  Because it is so succinct and to the point, the wording itself should not be a major issue of contention.
Its brevity should circumvent typical objections to both language and parliamentary procedure, even though some will object because they don’t like the word “claim,” and others because the amendment could better be placed in another part of the BCO.  I have heard other PCA elders call the language inflammatory and unloving.  However, there is not much wiggle room here.  Basically, a man is either for it or against it.
As Dr. Palmer Robertson alluded to in his speech on the floor of the Assembly, Overture 15 draws the line in the sand. The line has been drawn and the future of the PCA will be greatly impacted by this vote.  I don’t think most people in the PCA realize how serious this is.
I expect that Overture 15 will fail to get the required number of presbytery votes needed in order to be presented to the next GA as a change to the BCO. This effort is viewed by many in the PCA as the last possible attempt to change the direction of our beloved Church. If this proposed change in the BCO fails, then the battle might very well be over. It may be said that the conservatives fought well, but they lost.  The question then becomes what will happen after that. What happens in the PCA if Overture 15 fails?  I see three possibilities.
First, there could be some who will try again.  More overtures next year?  Some may fight on. However, many of the conservatives in the PCA are tired of fighting, and I think the number of new overtures on this issue will drop dramatically, if not disappear altogether. Every option available has been pursued including judicial action, study reports, and changes to the BCO, but all these have failed to stop the direction of the PCA.
Secondly, this could lead to a split in the PCA. However, the problem with this scenario on a national level is that there is no leadership for this type of movement. Without leadership, it just will not happen. Maybe in another 5-10 years, but not now.  The Gospel Reformation Network (GRN) does not appear to be making any plans for this.  No one else of any stature has stepped up to the plate.
I don’t expect any split in the PCA. The tepid overtures this year on this issue, which define sanctification in generic terms, came from some of our most conservative presbyteries. Only Westminster Presbytery (Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia) had the temerity to submit a forthright overture like 15.
Unless there is a confident move on the part of come in the PCA, she will remain intact.  Overture #29 will be adopted.  It will be used as a tool to say that the problem has been resolved. Attendance at the GA by ruling elders will drop, and the PCA will then move more in the direction of the progressive left. History will not look kindly upon my generation.
Thirdly, I think the most likely reaction will be that more individual churches will leave the PCA, and either seek membership in the OPC or the ARP.  Vanguard Presbytery is not an option because within a two-year period, that group has already experienced a division which resulted in a new denomination of only a very miniscule number of churches.
As a charter member of the first General Assembly in Birmingham, Alabama in 1973, this is all heart-breaking for me.  It seems providentially ironic that at the 50th General Assembly celebration of the PCA, the vision of our founding fathers will be the beginning of the end. The dream that these men had just fifty years ago will disappear.
I would plead with all the readers of this article that they contact their teaching and ruling elders and encourage them to vote for the passage of the Proposed Change to the Book of Church Order reflecting the content of Overture 15.  I encourage you to send this article to all of your friends in the PCA.  The PCA was founded by the grassroots, and I believe that only the grassroots can save her.
Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tenn.
[1] The following is the wording of Overture 15 approved by the General Assembly: “Men who describe themselves as homosexual, even those who describe themselves as homosexual and claim to practice celibacy by refraining from homosexual conduct, are disqualified from holding office in the Presbyterian Church in America.”
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Some Early Reactions to the 49th PCA General Assembly

Even though the PCA consists of men who love the Lord and love our standards, it is greatly divided.  The future still looks dim, but light continues to shine in the most unusual places at the most inopportune times. I attribute this to fervent prayer. Never discount the providence of God to change things.  My fear today in the modern evangelical world is that energized holiness is being replaced by quiet piety, and therapeutic theology under the guise of love has replaced the Law of God. 

I was not there, but I watched most of the 49th PCA General Assembly (GA) online. I’m actually elated, if only for a short time.  Let me tell you why.

The enrollment was the largest ever with 2380 commissioners registered. I don’t have the demographics, but this indicates to me that many ruling elders from our most conservative churches, especially in the southern states, turned out in large numbers. People in the pew are angry with the direction of the PCA.  I know of a number of churches who sent commissioners telling them “to fight for the truth.” These churches had not sent commissioners to the GA for many years.
If the National Partnership (a progressive caucus of well-known leaders in the PCA) was active, its influence was not detected. No doubt they lost on a number of key issues. It is encouraging to think that the National Partnership (NP) cannot overrule the actions of the commissioners at the General Assembly. The NP has endured bad PR over the last year, and they have not recovered.  What we saw in the Assembly was a “popular revolt.” The candidate of the conservative Gospel Reformation Network (GRN) was not elected as Moderator, but unlike the Southern Baptist Convention who elects a President with numerous powers, the PCA elects a moderator of the assembly whose influence stops after the Assembly.  Highly capable and virtuous men are usually elected as Moderator, and such was the case again this year with the election of RE John Bise.
The first major victory for the conservatives was the vote to withdraw from the National Association of Evangelical (NAE). The NAE has become part of the woke movement, and their political statements do not reflect the sentiments of most members in the PCA. This proposal has been before the Assembly on a number of occasions in the past, but was always defeated, usually after a speech by Dr. Roy Taylor, the former Stated Clerk.  Respect for him has always been so high that he would usually tip the vote in the direction of staying in the NAE.  Not this year!  The vote to leave was approved by a 60-40 ratio.  Taylor filed a protest, but that was all he could do.  The Assembly had spoken.
The major event again this year was the issue of homosexual officers. The proposed amendments to change the Book of Church Order last year failed, but this did not stop the grass roots from coming back again. Two new overture numbers you now need to remember are 15 and 29.
Overture 29 cleaned up the language of the proposed changes to the BCO that failed last year, and was easily adopted. It will be sent back to the presbyteries for a 2/3 vote, and I suspect that it will pass not only at the presbytery level, but also at the GA meeting next year in Memphis. I call it the generic overture. It reflects the position of the Ad-Interim Committee Report on Human Sexuality which has been widely praised by the PCA as a whole.  TE Greg Johnson rose to say that he could accept the wording of this proposed change to the Book of Church Order (BCO), but he also said that it was not kind and loving enough to the gay community. This confirms my point in a previous article in The Aquila Report that the language of this Overture can be so tweaked that it will change nothing “Targeting Homosexual Officers in the PCA Again: Are We Being too Nice?”
The “Jack in the Box” of the whole Assembly was Overture 15 which came out of Westminster Presbytery.[1] This Overture to amend the BCO was submitted last year but was rejected by a simple reference to the actions of the Assembly on other related overtures.  Last year it disappeared into the darkness.  The original wording stated, “Any man who identifies himself as a homosexual (even if his practices celibacy in that self-identification) shall be disqualified from holding office in the PCA.”  It was edited slightly before passage.  One of the weakest arguments against this overture was that it proposed a change to the wrong place in the BCO.  A common strategy in assembly meetings is death by procedural maneuvers.  It did not work this time.  Many members of the Assembly were “hungry” for a statement like this.  Concise and to the point!  Early in the debate, one commissioner rose and stated his disappointment with Overture 29 since it did not speak specifically to the issue of homosexual identity.  What was he going to tell his congregation at home?  He knew he needed some good news, and Overture 29 did not give that to him. He was told to wait until the consideration of Overture 15.
The highlight of the Assembly was the appearance of Dr. O. Palmer Robertson who has been absent it seems for decades. I sat under Dr. Robertson as Professor of Old Testament at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia (1969-1972).  Robertson has been serving in Uganda as a missionary for 25 years and it appeared to me that he has not been keeping up with all the dialogue about homosexual officers. However, he was like a man resurrected from the past who spoke a different language than what is heard today in seminaries and progressive churches.  He spoke with intellectual passion and read Romans 1:26-28.  He pointed to the word “perversion” and how words like “sodomy” and “sodomite” were not used any more.  I believe his speech tipped the Assembly to approve Overture 15.  If nothing else comes from this Assembly, then at least modern seminary-trained teaching elders now are able to see how much seminary training has changed over the last 50 years. To listen to Dr. Robertson’s speech go here.
Overture 15 passed by an initial vote of 1094 to 1044, just a 50-vote margin. Yes, I understand what most people are saying about this.  It will never pass the high threshold of 2/3 of the presbyteries.  I will say two things about that. First, I never thought it would even make it to the floor of the General Assembly for a vote, but I was wrong. I don’t think it will pass the presbytery vote either, but I could be wrong again.  A year is a long time, and sometimes providential events change the course of history. Second, even if it does not pass the high bar set by the BCO, it was a moment of jubilance anyway.  It was needed to encourage the souls of those who have been losing most battles in years past.  I’ll take the joy and wallow in it for a while. If all the conservatives who have left the PCA would have stayed and fought with us, the victories would have been larger and sweeter.
Other items to note include the fact that 25% of the Assembly voted not re-elect the current Stated Clerk. This was highly unusual.  However, the missing link in the Assembly was the absence of any discussion about the $13.5 million taken by the PCA Boards and Agencies from the federal government (via the Small Business Administration) during the covid crisis.  See the Aquila Report “PCA Committees and Agencies Received At Least $13.5 Million From the Small Business Payroll Protection Program in 2020.” Under what was called the Payroll Protection Program (PPP), these entities received money from the federal government in the form of loans.  If those loans were properly used as restricted by the federal government, then they were forgiven.  They never have to be paid back. The PCA is proud of her heritage of not getting involved in political matters (except by way of humble petition), but when it comes to taking free money from the State (taxpayers of whom many who are not Christians), there appears to be no conscientious objection. Nothing was done illegally, but it’s amazing how the modern church can take taxpayer money for free from the State and use it for building of the Kingdom of God. The same civil government that legalizes homosexual marriage and is pushing ungodly transgenderism is the same entity that we go to when we need money. The same State that is targeting the church as an enemy has become our trusted philanthropist in a time of need.  What every happened to the separation of church and state?
Even though the PCA consists of men who love the Lord and love our standards, it is greatly divided.  The future still looks dim, but light continues to shine in the most unusual places at the most inopportune times. I attribute this to fervent prayer. Never discount the providence of God to change things.  My fear today in the modern evangelical world is that energized holiness is being replaced by quiet piety, and therapeutic theology under the guise of love has replaced the Law of God.  But brethren, I am hopeful!  Take heart, we who love the PCA are in this for the long run.

Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tenn.
[1] The following is the wording approved by the General Assembly: “Men who describe themselves as homosexual, even those who describe themselves as homosexual and claim to practice celibacy by refraining from homosexual conduct, are disqualified from holding office in the Presbyterian Church in America.”

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Missouri Presbytery Admits PR Mistakes But Nothing Has Changed

My intent here is…simply to remind the PCA generally and the GA commissioners specifically, that the Bible plainly teaches that an officer in the church must be above reproach and have a good reputation with those outside of the church.  Men who publicly proclaim their status as homosexuals (even though they practice celibacy) should not hold office in the PCA. That is the issue before the GA, and not the views of Missouri Presbytery with regard to her own failures.

Just a few days before the 49th General Assembly (GA) of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), all Presbyteries and their members (which would include all commissioners to the 49th GA) received in their personal email inbox a communication from Missouri Presbytery (MOP).  This was sent from the Stated Clerk of MOP to the PCA Stated Clerk who then forwarded it to each individual Presbytery Clerk. Each Presbytery Clerk then decided whether to send it on to the members of the Presbytery.  The email was a response of MOP to the judicial decision of the PCA Standing Judicial Commission (SJC) in SJC 2020-05 (TE Ryan Speck v. Missouri Presbytery), to make amends to their errors in dealing with Revoice 18 in order to protect the peace and purity of the PCA.  This was to be done in part by interacting with the Ad-Interim Report on Human Sexuality.
After reading the report I came to one conclusion.  It is good Public Relations (PR), but nothing changed with regard to the ordination of men in the PCA who publicly identify as being a homosexual. It does not alter the need for a change in the Book of Church Order.  It should not negate the numerous overtures sent to the GA by various presbyteries to deal with this issue.
It does not deal with the main issue of whether Greg Johnson (and now others) in the PCA should continue as ordained officers, even though they have publicly proclaimed that they are homosexuals, and that this orientation is fixed.
My intent here is not to get into the substance of the report of MOP sent to the clerks via the GA Stated Clerk, but simply to remind the PCA generally and the GA commissioners specifically, that the Bible plainly teaches that an officer in the church must be above reproach and have a good reputation with those outside of the church.  Men who publicly proclaim their status as homosexuals (even though they practice celibacy) should not hold office in the PCA. That is the issue before the GA, and not the views of Missouri Presbytery with regard to her own failures.
I’m not sure that I have ever received a communication from another Presbytery via the Stated Clerk of my own Presbytery. I can understand this being placed into the minutes of the General Assembly, but I am concerned that a document that could so easily sway the Assembly should be sent out in such a fashion, so close to the meeting of the Assembly itself.  It is my opinion that only a Presbytery itself (voting as a court in session) has the right to choose what documents should be received and distributed among its members.
My fear is that as a result of the timing, the means of distribution, and the content of this communication, it may only further divide the PCA.
Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tenn.
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Targeting Homosexual Officers in the PCA Again: Are We Being Too Nice?

Love is speaking truth in order to prevent sin.  As Side B homosexuality ordination has been active now for several years, it is becoming normalized.  Unless we take drastic action quickly, it will become the accepted theological view for the next generation. 

Those who personally know me think that I’m one of the nicest guys in the world. Maybe it’s just that I am shy and backward, and they take that for being nice! To get the truth about me you will probably have to talk to my wife and my children. The dictionary defines the word nice in terms of being pleasant and agreeable. Nice people tend to avoid conflict and any direct confrontation. They move through the back entrance to get to where they are going.  Being nice is not always a bad thing.  To survive in the pastoral ministry today, you probably need to be nice.
As I was reading the proposed overtures to the 49th Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) General Assembly (GA) on the issue of homosexual officers, the first thought that came to my mind was the word ‘nice.’
After a few years, the definition of Side B homosexuality has finally become clearer.  It is now rather apparent that Side B is considered a state of being wherein there is basically no hope of change.  Orientation is fixed. Thus, in the minds of most conservative elders in the PCA, Side B homosexual officers are now unacceptable. Each one of the overtures seek to restrict Side B homosexuals from serving as officers in the PCA.  With the exception of one Overture 15, I would classify them all as being rather indirect and nice.
These overtures can basically be boiled down to four separate overtures.  1) Overture 12 from Hills and Plains Presbytery denigrates “juxtapose[d] identities,” but begins the Overture by using language that officers “are well served (italics mine) when they can be honest about their present fallen realities and their hope for sanctification.”  2) Overture 20 and Overture 23 from North Georgia Presbytery and Southeast Alabama Presbytery are almost identical to each other.  The proposed change would disqualify “those who identify or describe themselves according to their specific sins.”  They also speak about those men who need to “demonstrate maturity (italics mine) of faith and growing conformity to Jesus Christ.”  3) Overture 29 from Pittsburgh Presbytery does call for a change to the BCO that would disqualify men who “deny the sinfulness of fallen desires, or who deny the reality and hope of progressive sanctification, or who fail to pursue Spirit-empowered victory over their sinful temptations, inclinations, and actions.”  However, they go on to say in Overture 31 that “the officers of the church must exercise great care (italics mine) to not normalize those sins in the eyes of the congregation.”  Here, they are being really nice.
4) Overture 15 is not considered to be so nice.  It plainly seeks to add to BCO 7-4 the following words. “Men who identify as homosexual, even those who identify as homosexual and claim to practice celibacy in that self-identification, are disqualified from holding office in the Presbyterian Church in America.”  It’s very candid and to the point.  This proposed change is not considered nice because it is deemed by some as being too direct by using the word “homosexual.”  I have been told that homosexuals should not alone be targeted because there are many other sinful conditions that need to be addressed.  They tell me that it’s unfair to corner homosexuals.
Overture 15 is a duplicate of a one sent by Westminster Presbytery to the 48th General Assembly.  It disappeared in the parliamentary process last year. I suspect it will do the same again this year.
I believe the time for being nice is over.  We are in an emergency, and in crisis periods, it is time to be direct and to the point. Consider the following:

Love is speaking truth in order to prevent sin. As Side B homosexuality ordination has been active now for several years, it is becoming normalized.  Unless we take drastic action quickly, it will become the accepted theological view for the next generation.
Being loving and direct is what most people in the pews are expecting out of their leaders. Rather than dissecting words that are Jeopardy clues or insinuations, why not just be direct and get to the point.
In addition, it should be noted that Overture 15 is not dealing with church members, but only with church officers who must be above reproach in their public recognition as clergymen.
Conservatives in the PCA don’t want to be viewed as being political. Politics is a dirty word in their circles. There is no such group working behind closed doors to move the Church in their direction.  This disassociation with politics may be considered a kind of badge of honor.  Their attitude is that ‘if we have the numbers, we will win.  If we don’t, it’s God’s providence and we are called to acknowledge God’s providence.’
Some say that the BCO is not the place to speak to this issue. I would tend to agree, but we live in extraordinary times and in such times, we must do extraordinary things. Changing the Westminster Confession of Faith is nearly impossible and would be almost sacrilegious to most Presbyterians.  It appears to me that changing the BCO is our only option.
Conservatives have lost their case in the Standing Judicial Commission (SJC). The Ad-Interim Committee Report on Human Sexuality did not help their cause at all.  The two overtures this year asking the General Assembly to assume original jurisdiction will just be sent to the SJC.
Some say that such bold language as used in Overture 15 will not be well-received in the presbyteries. The PCA as a whole seems to be saturated with the characteristic of niceness.  They say that it is better to be cautious and come through the backdoor – and have something – rather than being direct about it and have nothing.  This may be true.
Sometimes, it’s good to hit hard and fast. Rather than being nice over time, it is best to be loving and direct in the present.  It’s better to remove the imminent danger today than to wait and let and let it fester into something ugly later. A controlled explosion that detonates a ticking time-bomb is better than a delayed explosion by the bomb itself that will do much more damage.

I suspect some version of what I call the four nice overtures will be adopted this year by the General Assembly.  Ruling elders will be out in force again at the Assembly.  A new proposed change to the BCO will go back to the presbyteries for another vote.  This time it may get the needed vote by presbyteries.  It may pass the final test next year at the 50th General Assembly.  Conservatives will consider this a victory.  However, in my opinion these overtures are so nice that they fall short of the wisdom of being transparent and direct. Those who are homosexual officers will tweak their language to pass the new standards. The new BCO words (and new language created by homosexual officers) will be debated and debated. More SJC cases may follow.
In conclusion, maybe being nice and indirect is better than just saying plainly that homosexuals are not eligible to hold office in the PCA.  In God’s providence, we shall see.
Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tenn.
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Jesus’ Response to Massacres – Why?

In our battle to protect the doctrine of justification by faith alone, the Law of God disappeared from the church, and then it disappeared from America as a country.  Christendom was first killed by the church and then by the civil magistrate.  We need to consider looking at these events as a result of corporate sin, and providentially a warning sign from God.  Mental health experts cannot save us.  Education cannot save us. Politicians cannot save us. Sadly, even the modern church today cannot save us. Revival and Reformation are the only things that can save us as a nation. 

Like most other people, I’ve spent a lot of time the last few days watching TV about the murder of 19 children and 2 teachers in Uvalde, Texas.  Everyone has an opinion.  Generally, the solution among the political and media elite ranges from a call for more gun-control, more mental-health expenditures, better security at schools, improved training for the police, and better police equipment for dealing with these calamitous and horrendous events.  I have not heard much about more education.  I think the modern generation has given up on education as a cure for all the evils in the world, except maybe for fighting against what they call racism.
The only person I heard who seemed to be asking the right question was Greg Gutfeld, not particularly one of my favorite TV personalities. He asked the question as to why these massacres were a such a common occurrence today and were not so just fifty to seventy years ago.  What has changed in America?  Well, he was at least getting close to asking the right question. It was a good question.  But, like most other commentators I’ve heard, he really does not have a clue as to the right answer.
Jesus was once asked about tragedy and massacres. In Luke 13: 1-5 he was asked about a tragedy in Galilee which occurred without any apparent reason. It just seemed senseless.  There was nothing evil done by the victims that would call for such carnage.  It appears that the people were just worshiping God, and suddenly their “blood was mixed with their sacrifices” (v. 10).   A bloodbath, of all places, in the house of worship.  He went on to speak about not only that tragedy but also about another dreadful event that killed 18 people at the tower of Siloam.
His answer today would seem rather abrupt and terse. He made sure first that they understood that such human disasters are not always correlated with some particular sin on the part of the victims. There was no sin on the part of these Galileans that was any greater than other Galileans.
But, what does he say?  I tell you “unless you repent, you shall all likewise perish.”  He speaks to them not only as individuals, but also as a corporate people.  He goes on in the following verses (6-9) to give a parable about the barren fig tree, and how it will be cut down unless it starts to produce fruit. The caretaker of the tree asks for more time before the tree is cut down, and the owner appears to be compassionate and grants more time.  However, the owner reminds the caretaker that the tree’s day of being cut down will indeed come unless it produces fruit. That tree was cut down in AD 70 with the complete destruction and devastation of Jerusalem.
The reason for such providential injections of heart-rendering calamities into society is very often a result of the awful religious condition of that society. In other words, our culture has rotted, and senseless tragedies can be viewed as a warning sign.  Israel had rejected the Savior and they would face judgment unless they repented.  Such events as the Galilean catastrophe and the Siloam disaster cannot be tied to the condition of the victims in particular, but to the condition of religion in the nation as a whole.
America was once a part of Christendom.  Even though not everyone was Christian, the values of the Christian faith permeated not only the church, but also civil society as well. Her culture had a Christian base.  Our eighteen-year-old boys used to go off to war to fight for their country, but now some of them take up arms and murder our own people, especially our own children who are the most vulnerable of all.
Jesus’ answer can only be understood in terms of religion.  In a secular world, religious answers are not relevant, because religion is not relevant.  But as Christians, we know that the religious condition of the people is the most relevant issue of all.  We know why America has changed in the last 50-70 years.  America has cast off the Christian Faith as a nation, and we are suffering the consequences of that rejection.  Rampant divorce, broken homes, abortion, pornography, homosexuality, adultery, and mass-shootings are the result of a change in religion.  Unless we repent and turn back to the Triune God as a nation, things will only get worse.
Who then is to blame?  I blame the church.  The church has ceased to be the salt of the earth.  Liberalism captured the church in America in the early 20th century.  Rapturism captured the church in America in the mid-20th century.  Radical Two Kingdom Separation (R2K) has captured the church in America in the early 21st century.  We have now been told that the two kingdoms refer only to the battle between God and Satan, and how dare we cross over the holy line of telling the civil magistrate that he is accountable to the God of the Bible.  I believe that the Law was never meant to convert nations, but it can be a restraint on 18-year-old boys full of hate and anger.
In our battle to protect the doctrine of justification by faith alone, the Law of God disappeared from the church, and then it disappeared from America as a country.  Christendom was first killed by the church and then by the civil magistrate.  We need to consider looking at these events as a result of corporate sin, and providentially a warning sign from God.  Mental health experts cannot save us.  Education cannot save us. Politicians cannot save us. Sadly, even the modern church today cannot save us. Revival and Reformation are the only things that can save us as a nation.  And even if we see Revival and Reformation, it will take decades to see the resultant fruit that may be the only hope to recover our nation.  Get ready for a long hard ride!
Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tenn.
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Deuteronomy and Transgenderism

The intent of this text is to forbid men from identifying as women and women from identifying as men. It is a reaffirmation of the creation ordinance that God created both male and female. Creation of mankind is binary, and this text adds the additional tenet that our sex-identification at birth is permanent.  

“A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God (Deut. 22:5).”
The transgender movement has created another victim class in America.  Bruce Jenner (who dresses like a woman and goes by the name Caitlin) recently became a regular contributor on the politically conservative Fox News Channel.  Richard Levine (who dresses like a woman and goes by the name Rachel) is the Assistant Secretary of the United States Department of Health. He, with his closet of dresses and cosmetics, publicly represents my country and sets policy for me and my health. He was recently declared a “woman of the year” by USA Today magazine. Will Thomas (now known as Lia Thomas) is a man who competes with collegiate female swimmers and wins every race.
The consequence of transgenderism is far-reaching.  First, in our day, any discomfort of Christians with transgenderism is considered prejudice, if not sinful.  Secondly, the study of modern history teaches us that within a generation, a victimization class will quickly evolve into the mainstream ethnos of a culture.  Nationally-known individuals become role models of acceptable behavior, especially with the imprimatur of the media and civil government. The abnormal becomes normal. Thirdly, it is also generational. Young people are being challenged today on social media (and in some public schools) to examine themselves to see if they also need to transition from one gender to another. Mere exposure leads to curiosity which leads to experimentation, and this often results in a type of addiction. Without the rudder of biblical ethics, our youth are the most vulnerable targets of this crusade.
As expected, this movement is bleeding into the church.  As if Christian parents do not already have enough to worry about!  Now they must fret that Johnny may come home one day and tell them that God made him the wrong sex. He may say that he feels like a girl trapped in a boy’s body. The road to gender change is fearful. It may begin with only a name change, but it can move to other stages such as 1) wearing dresses, 2) hormone therapy or, even more radical, 3) gender transition surgery.  For most evangelical parents, this would be like a Richter ten-point mega-earthquake hitting the house.
The Book of Deuteronomy speaks very clearly to the issue of transgenderism. “A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God (22:5).”
Prior to verse 5 in this chapter, Moses tells us how to love our neighbor.  He gives several practical examples.  If our neighbor loses anything, and we become aware of it, then we are to help him to recover his loss.  This may require safe-keeping if we do not know to which neighbor it belongs, or if our neighbor is away from home. Negligence here is considered sinful (Deut. 22:1-4).
Mother birds who are nesting must be protected from death so that we may prolong not just the life of the mother-bird, but also our own — “so that you should prolong your days” (v.7). Compare this promise of long life with Paul’s words regarding the 5th commandment promising long life: “Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise) that it may be well with you and that you may live long upon the earth” (Eph. 6:2-3).
Fences do in many cases actually make good neighbors, especially when there is potential danger on our property (v.8).  We don’t grow corn, cotton, and soybean in the same field (v.9).  It’s impossible to pull a load with a donkey and an ox hitched together (v. 10).  Mixing wool and linen together only makes sense when both are pre-shrunk (v. 11).  Tassels on clothes were to remind the Israelites of the commandments of God (v. 11; Lev. 15:39); although, since we have the written word of God today, we do not need such reminders.
In the midst of all this wisdom and exemplary acts of kindness, there is verse 5.  Our approach to it should be the expectation that it too instructs us as to what constitutes both wisdom and kindness.
First, it should be noted that the text is not simply about the style of clothing.  It says nothing about what is fit for a man or a woman to wear. It’s not about women wearing pants or men wearing pink shirts.  It’s not about humorous school skits where boys dress up as girls. The style of clothing will change from culture to culture over time (even though I still cannot in good conscience wear a pink shirt). A Scottish kilt is not clothing designed for women.  It is the apparel of a man which signifies patriotism as well as giving advantage in movement skills, especially during war. The concept of the freedom of conscience allows both men and women considerable latitude in clothing style in a variety of particular social venues.  The most important characteristic of dress for women is modesty (1 Tim. 2:9).
The intent of this text is to forbid men from identifying as women and women from identifying as men. It is a reaffirmation of the creation ordinance that God created both male and female. Creation of mankind is binary, and this text adds the additional tenet that our sex-identification at birth is permanent.
What is prohibited here is dressing daily as the opposite sex (within the boundaries of a particular culture that has adopted a certain dress code) so as to nullify the biological sex that God gave you.  This text forbids one sex from seeking to transition into the other – or identifying as the other after God has made you what you are.
It is an abomination to God. It is something that disgusts God because it is contrary to his character and his creation ordinance. Because it is disgusting to God, it should be disgusting to us.  This is wisdom, and actually it is kindness too.  It is a call to repentance and faith in Christ. To uphold this truth is love.  It may be tough-love, but it is love nonetheless.
The evangelical church tends to be far behind the curve in dealing with moral issues as they arise in society. We tend to appoint study committees which take years to come to a conclusion.  We tend to write reports in language that only few people can understand, and with too many words like “therefore” and “nevertheless.”  We need to be bold and clear in dealing with this matter because the Bible is bold and clear. The future of our children depends upon it.
Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tenn.

Why Did Overtures 23 and 37 Fail to Pass the PCA Presbyteries?

I believe a majority of those in most PCA presbyteries are opposed to Revoice and all that it represents.  The failure of Overtures 23 and 37 was not a vote for Revoice Theology. Those who denigrate the PCA with this line of thinking are ignorant of the PCA and her presbyterian procedures. I believe that anyone identifying as a celibate homosexual (SSA) would be rejected for ordination in most PCA presbyteries today.

As someone who voted against the Proposed Changes to the Book of Church Order (contrary to my Presbytery which voted heavily in favor of the changes), I would venture to suggest some reasons why the proposed changes failed to gain the necessary votes by presbyteries.
First, I believe a majority of those in most PCA presbyteries are opposed to Revoice and all that it represents.  The failure of Overtures 23 and 37 was not a vote for Revoice Theology. Those who denigrate the PCA with this line of thinking are ignorant of the PCA and her presbyterian procedures. I believe that anyone identifying as a celibate homosexual (SSA) would be rejected for ordination in most PCA presbyteries today.
Secondly, I believe that the battle is not over, but just beginning.  Numerous new overtures will come before the 49th General Assembly this year in Birmingham, Alabama.  Expect in the next few years a new look in regard to the membership of permanent committees and agencies.  Also, expect at least one overture to change the structure of the Standing Judicial Committee (SJC). The losing side has been knocked down, but this will only arouse their enthusiasm to recapture the PCA. They now know how the opposition (NP) works, and they are much wiser in regard to how to fight.
So why did the proposed changes fail?  Unlike presidential elections in the United States, we do not have access to “exit polls” that give us a clue as to why men voted as they did.  However, by following discussions on the Internet, and by looking at maps, three reasons can be identified.
First, the language of the proposed amendments was confusing.  The proposed amendments were in essence a distilled version of the PCA Study Committee on Human Sexuality.  The authors of the proposed changes tried to capture the nuances in this Study in short statements, but that is nearly an impossible task.  Many presbyters simply voted against the changes because the language was too confusing. The baffling meaning of the placement of commas and the impact of parenthetical statements became a stumbling-block for many voters.
Secondly, if the changes had passed, it would have made no difference.  Even with new language in the BCO, the ultimate decision resides in the courts themselves meeting on any particular day.  Men in the courts will interpret the BCO in accord with their own theological presuppositions.  Greg Johnson is already a teaching elder in the PCA and he will remain as one regardless of any changes in the BCO.
Thirdly, we’ve all seen those maps of recent national presidential elections.  The east coast (from North Carolina northward) and the west coast are blue.  Also, the large cities in the United States are generally blue.  Fly-over America (rural America) is red.   Here is a surprising fact.  If you were to create a map of the PCA presbytery votes, and place it as a template over a similar map of the United States presidential popular vote, then there would be almost a perfect match.
Indeed, the voting demographics of PCA presbyteries tended to follow the voting demographics in the recent elections for the president of the United States.  The connection is uncanny.  Progressive Presbyterian elders on the coastlines and in the big cities tended to vote like progressive politicians, and conservative Presbyterian leaders in fly-over America tended to vote like conservative politicians.
Theology and geography tend to be common bed-fellows. It’s similar to the old North-South geographical division of the Civil War.  The number of new presbyteries is growing, and these new presbyteries are being created in larger cities and outside of the southeast.  Most seminaries that feed the PCA are now much more progressive.  The younger seminary graduates, as the whole, are much more progressive than the older generation, and they tend to gravitate to the coastlines and to the larger cities. This is a third reason for the failure of the BCO changes.  Just look at politics in America, and you will understand what is happening in the PCA.
Conservatives in the PCA should not be discouraged. The battle is not over. They had only weak weapons with which to fight in this round.  They underestimated the power of their opposition. Actually, we still have the numbers to win.  They should remain in the battle long-term for the sake of the PCA and for the sake of our children’s children.  Hopefully they have learned a great deal, and will be ready to fight more wisely at the next General Assembly.
Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tenn.

The Wizard of Oz is Fake

The church in America has taken a major hit.  In the PCA, homosexuals stand in some pulpits every Sunday as teaching elders.  The church’s response to Covid-19 was pathetic.  After the original panic period, most churches in America continued to close their doors and prevented the people of God from worshiping together as a congregation.

Christianity was once the dominant religion in America, and Christian morals had a major impact on all of our cultural institutions.  Americans had faith in the integrity of these systems.  That time has ended.  As Christians slept, most of these institutions were secularized over a period of years.  However, many Christians appear to be clinging to these institutions and have made idols out of them.  But the idols are falling down one by one.  The Wizard of Oz is fake. Consider the following.

Democracy – The idea of America as a Constitutional Republic has inherent in it an element of democracy (rule by the people). The people still elect representatives. We were told that democracy makes life safe for the people and guarantees freedom.  This became the American gospel.  However, this idol is quickly falling down.

First, we can no longer trust in the voting system that puts people into office, no more than we can trust in people to vote for godly men to serve in these offices.  The federal government is mostly ruled by bureaucrats who are not elected.  Wokism has taken over the White House and old white men like me are declared to be racists – enemies of the State. The Supreme Court has no law higher than itself, and it finds in the Constitution the legitimacy of both abortion and homosexual marriage. The Wizard of Oz is fake.

Public Schools – I was raised in the public schools in the 50s and 60s of the last century. As a covenant child, my parents could send me off to school with confidence that their Christian world-and-life-view would not be contradicted by my teachers.  The principal of my high school was an elder in my local church. Today, Critical Race Theory has become the underlying curriculum of the public schools.  Teachers are under the dominion of hegemonic unions such as the National Education Association (NEA).  Parents who protest before school boards are now put on a potential domestic terrorist list by the FBI at the direction of the Department of Justice. The Wizard of Oz is fake.
Military – A calling to serve this country in the Armed Forces has always been considered an honor. After the debacle in Viet Nam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, the legitimacy of that honor went on trial.  Now the military is on a witch-hunt to purge its ranks by expelling anyone who voted for Donald Trump.  We must never forget that when the people become the enemy of tyrants, that the military becomes the most powerful weapon of tyrants against the people. The Wizard of Oz is fake.
Media – The days of Walter Cronkite are gone, even though probably behind the scenes, all was not well in those days either. The media has become a ministry of the State. Disinformation must be censored. Fake News is real.

Even Fox News is disappointing.  Recently, I watched political conservative Tammy Bruce, who is a self-declared lesbian, critique the plight of NCAA sports where men who identify as women are taking over women’s sports.  She herself identifies as a man in the boudoir, but it’s wrong for a male to identify as a female in a college swim meet.  Incongruity has become significant even on the political right.  The Wizard of Oz is fake.

Corporations – Intersectionality has taken over the universities in America. Free speech is dead.  Label a man who identifies as a woman by the pronoun “him,” and you will be fired rather quickly.  Most corporate boards are filled with graduates from these universities.  Americans used to respect the success of corporations who were founded by men who risked so much.  Neo-Marxist equality is now the religion that rules Big Corp. Free-enterprise America is now taken up the mantle of this new righteousness. The Wizard of Oz is not real.
Church – Finally, the church in America has taken a major hit. In the PCA, homosexuals stand in some pulpits every Sunday as teaching elders.  The church’s response to Covid-19 was pathetic.  After the original panic period, most churches in America continued to close their doors and prevented the people of God from worshiping together as a congregation. Attendance in most churches is down at least 20% from pre-covid days.  This appears to be permanent.  In conservative denominations, wokism is gaining ground every day.  I know people who have quit the church and who will never go back. They believe that The Wizard of Oz is fake.

I’m sure much more could be said.  I guess that most readers would expect me to say that all we can do is trust in Christ, for he is not an idol, and he will never leave us nor forsake us.  Well, this is true!  However, Christians are in for the fight of their lives, and what we need to do is begin preaching the Lordship of Christ over all things.  We must be ruled by Christ alone and not by Caesar.  We must believe that God’s kingdom will come, and we must have confidence that we will see his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  As long as the Holy Spirit is on this earth, cultural transformation is possible.  As the American idols fall, a Christ who rules over all must be our message to those who have put their hope in false gods. The Wizard of Oz is fake, but the Kingdom of God is real.
Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tenn.

My Minority Opinion on the Dissenting Opinion of the SJC Missouri Decision

The most salient reason for the Dissent was that basically the SJC created a new Record of the Case (ROC).  Generally, the ROC consists only of the documents generated by the both parties in a case during the time of the original investigation and proceedings.  In this case, an additional investigation was commenced by the SJC long after the original case was documented.  This appeared to be for the purpose of identifying any changes in Mr. Johnson’s present views as compared to his previous views. This may be a laudable goal, but it is irrelevant to this case.

The Dissenting Opinion on the Case that was before the PCA Standing Judicial Commission (SJC) regarding the Missouri Presbytery and Greg Johnson has been published (The Aquila Report, 12/13/21).  I want to publicly thank this group of men for making known the reasons for their Dissent.  Actually, even though many of us consider the decision of the SJC to be a loss, yet this public statement representing the minority vote is an encouragement for countless numbers in the PCA.  I personally appreciate the position these men took in opposition to the majority of the Commission.  A few remarks may be in order.
First, I hold a minority position in the PCA.  I believe that anyone who identifies himself publicly as a homosexual is automatically disqualified from holding office in the PCA.  I therefore have my qualms about part of the process in the Case.
The Dissent asserts that there is good reason to believe that Mr. Johnson’s self-identity as a homosexual “compromises and dishonors” his identity in Christ.  This demonstrates my problem with the proposed changes to the Book of Church Order.  Rather than having a clear line of demarcation regarding the ordination of homosexuals, it creates a purity of thought test where no one can score 100, but no one can define what a passing score is. The Dissent argues that Mr. Johnson’s score is not high enough to pass.  The majority of the SJC concluded that he did pass.  This is highly subjective.  It will be highly subjective if the BOCO changes are adopted.
Secondly, the most salient reason for the Dissent was that basically the SJC created a new Record of the Case (ROC).  Generally, the ROC consists only of the documents generated by the both parties in a case during the time of the original investigation and proceedings.  In this case, an additional investigation was commenced by the SJC long after the original case was documented.  This appeared to be for the purpose of identifying any changes in Mr. Johnson’s present views as compared to his previous views. This may be a laudable goal, but it is irrelevant to this case.  If there have been changes in his views, then there are other ways to handle it.  According to the Dissent, “The SJC supplemental work produced 67% of the citations used by it in support of Presbytery’s conclusions…”  The SJC in essence created a new ROC, and thus, in a real sense, became the court of original jurisdiction.
By creating a new ROC, the SJC allowed Mr. Johnson to nuance his previous statements which happen to reflect the PCA Study Committee on Human Sexuality.  This was unfair to the Complainant.  He was not challenging the discovery statements that resulted from the later investigation of the SJC; he was challenging the original decision of Missouri Presbytery based on the statements made by Mr. Johnson nearly two years ago. (The Complainant’s framing of the original Statement of the Issue: “Did Missouri Presbytery err when it failed to find a strong presumption of guilt and institute process against TE Johnson regarding his stated views on human sexuality that appear to be significantly out of accord with and not in conformity with the Scriptures and the Westminster Standards?”)
Thirdly, the final vote on the SJC shows how important it is to know in more detail about the nominees for the Standing Judicial Commission at each General Assembly.  A difference in one single vote would have changed the outcome of this decision.
The PCA has a Standing Theological Examinations Committee which approves the orthodoxy of the nominees for positions at the General Assembly level, and declares them eligible to hold office.  The election of men to hold this important office has become rather perfunctory.  No doubt, the National Partnership (NP) has had a major influence on who gets elected.
Maybe it’s time to make public for the GA Commissioners a more thorough examination of these men, as is done with candidates for the United States Supreme Court. In some way we need to know the particular theological camp they represent in the PCA.  Judgment of the law is not always neutral.  Commissioners at the General Assembly need to be better informed about nominees.
Lastly, if the proposed BCO changes do not pass, then this will make two proximate losses for the conservative confessionalists in the PCA.  We might expect that some leaders in the PCA will begin to contemplate an exit plan in order to create a new denomination.
Some will plead for a continual fight, pointing out the victories at the previous General Assembly, and believing that they have the grassroots numbers to eventually gain back control of the PCA.  Others will not be so optimistic.  It is sad that it has all come down to this.
Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tenn.

The PCA and Homosexuality: Let’s Make It Real Plain

There is a position that when a man makes it public that he has homosexual desires to have sexual relations with other men, and he practices celibacy because he believes that change is possible (although unlikely), and because he mortifies this sin every day, and because he is of good character in every other way, then he is qualified to hold office in the PCA.

I recently contributed an article about the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) Standing Judicial Commission (SJC) decision on the complaint against Missouri Presbytery (The Recent SJC Decision and Side B2 Homosexuality).  I believe I muddied the waters somewhat by stating the positions of others when some readers thought that those were actually my views. I apologize for that.
It’s time to be perfectly clear.  There are three positions on the status of those men who have made it public that are same-sex attracted (SSA),  that is, have homosexual desires to have sex with other men, but practice celibacy. Should they be allowed to hold an office in the PCA?
First, there is the position that when a man makes it public that he has homosexual desires to have sexual relations with other men, this automatically disqualifies him from holding office in the PCA.  Even though he practices celibacy, he is not qualified for the office of either elder or deacon. This sin is both an abomination to God and contrary to nature; therefore, he is not above reproach either with those inside the church or those outside the church.  Many of those who take this position regarding the ineligibility of such men to hold office in the PCA have already left the PCA, except for me and maybe a few other people.
Secondly, there is a position that when a man makes it public that he has homosexual desires to have sexual relations with other men, and yet he practices celibacy, this may disqualify him from holding office in the PCA.  If he remains celibate, but he believes that he was born this way and that there is no hope of change, then he is not qualified to hold office in the PCA.  These men most often believe their sin is no different than any other sin; for example, that of the lust that men have for women not their wives, a dry alcoholic, or the temptation to gamble. They may even believe that their condition is just like a person with a genetic disease.  A person with Down’s Syndrome cannot change his genetic inheritance, and neither can he.
Thirdly, there is a position that when a man makes it public that he has homosexual desires to have sexual relations with other men, and he practices celibacy because he believes that change is possible (although unlikely), and because he mortifies this sin every day, and because he is of good character in every other way, then he is qualified to hold office in the PCA (this is contrary to my view, but it is the position of most PCA elders).  Some of these men already hold office in the PCA, and they will continue to do so.  They are in good standing with either their own session or their own presbytery. Others like them will soon find a home in the PCA.  I call this man the third man.
The proposed changes to the BCO would allow for the third man to hold office in the PCA, after careful examination by his session or presbytery.  The PCA Study Committee on Human Sexuality states that there is nothing to prevent the third man from being eligible to hold office in the PCA. The recent Standing Judicial Commission decision made it legal for the third man to hold office in Missouri Presbytery.
There you have it. Pretty straight, I hope.  I would add one more thought.  The PCA is a little like the South during the Civil War which believed in states’ rights.  All local presbyteries and sessions have the right to determine their own membership. Regardless of the result of the proposed changes to the BCO, the conclusion of the PCA Study Committee, and the SJC decision, individual sessions and presbyteries will continue to apply the teaching of the Word of God and Westminster Standards to these issues, as they see fit!
Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tenn.

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