Zachary Groff

The Biblical Genius of PCA GA 49’s Overture 15

To frame the issue as a question, does God’s Word warrant the inclusion of a paragraph in our BCO that disqualifies from ministry (as Deacons or Elders) “men who describe themselves as homosexual?” Having wrestled with this question, I believe that the answer is yes. Indeed, I am more and more convinced of the biblical genius of Overture 15. To understand how I reached this conclusion, we would do well to walk through a few preliminary matters.

This year, twelve proposed changes to the Presbyterian Church in America’s (PCA) Book of Church Order (BCO) will come before the denomination’s eighty-eight presbyteries for consideration.[1] Three of the twelve proposals address aspects of ministerial qualifications and examination.
Perhaps the most talked-about item is that which resulted from Overture 15 before the 49th Stated Meeting of the General Assembly. Upon the proposal’s successful passage by two-thirds of the presbyteries and ratification by the 50th General Assembly, a new paragraph will augment Chapter 7 of the BCO (on Church Officers in general) as follows:
7-4. 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.
It is undeniable that the substance and phrasing of this proposed addition to the BCO has attracted special attention before,[2] during,[3] and after the 49th General Assembly. Already, the post-Assembly discussion on this proposal has been unsurprisingly vigorous on both sides of the issue.[4]
It is not my purpose in this brief post to respond to any of the missives that are already circulating the Internet. Instead, I intend to explore the biblical propriety of what this proposed addition to the BCO will do upon ratification: specifically banning (and thus, singling out) homosexual self-description by those who hold spiritual office in our Church.
To frame the issue as a question, does God’s Word warrant the inclusion of a paragraph in our BCO that disqualifies from ministry (as Deacons or Elders) “men who describe themselves as homosexual?” Having wrestled with this question, I believe that the answer is yes. Indeed, I am more and more convinced of the biblical genius of Overture 15. To understand how I reached this conclusion, we would do well to walk through a few preliminary matters.
Christ the King over His Kingdom
The preface to the BCO opens with a glorious description of Jesus Christ as “The King and Head of the Church.” The third and fourth paragraphs set out the place reserved for Christ to rule and govern the Church as His Kingdom.
It belongs to His Majesty from His throne of glory to rule and teach the Church through His Word and Spirit by the ministry of men; thus mediately exercising His own authority and enforcing His own laws, unto the edification and establishment of His Kingdom.
Christ, as King, has given to His Church officers, oracles and ordinances; and especially has He ordained therein His system of doctrine, government, discipline and worship, all of which are either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary inference may be deduced therefrom; and to which things He commands that nothing be added, and that from them naught be taken away.
In this exalted language drawn from Scripture and our doctrinal Standards, we read of Christ reserving to Himself both decisive authority over His church and the means of communicating that authority. In the publication, preservation, and propagation of His Word, He has established and continues to build up the Kingdom of Heaven in and as the visible church.
The Westminster Confession of Faith defines the visible church as “the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ” (WCF 25.2).  Geerhardus Vos likewise argued in favor of understanding “the visible church as a veritable embodiment of [Christ’s] kingdom.”[5] Vos made the point that though the Kingdom of Heaven is fundamentally spiritual and ultimately more expansive than the church, it nonetheless finds visible expression in the visible church as one manifestation among many.
If Christ the King rules over the church as His Kingdom,[6] then we must evaluate every proposal affecting the government of His Kingdom – including the qualifications of that Kingdom’s officers – against the record of the King’s righteous administration of His Kingdom in times past. What has Jesus done in the past to inform our deliberations in the present as He continues to rule over us by His Word and Spirit?[7]
Christ the King in His Kingdom
When “Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to Himself a true body, and a reasonable soul” (WSC 22), He descended from heaven to earth to inaugurate His heavenly Kingdom. Thus, His preaching ministry was one of glad tidings of the Kingdom of heaven (Matthew 4:23ff), proclaiming the gospel of release, recovery, and redemption (Luke 4:16-21; Isaiah 61:1, 2).
While it is entirely proper and necessary to speak of Christ doing something new in His earthly ministry, His mighty deeds of deliverance in the first century A.D. cannot be divorced from His mighty deeds of deliverance recorded in the Scriptures of the Old Testament. Indeed, the Old Testament background of Christ’s kingship is crucial for understanding rightly what He intends for His Kingdom today.[8] Christ came not to destroy the essence of the Kingdom of old, but to fulfill all its purposes in Himself (Matthew 5:17). His ministry is one of reformation and fulfillment, not of abrogation and invention.
How did Christ righteously administer His Kingdom when its visible expression was that ancient nation of Israelites dwelling in the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Two passages of Christ’s royal charter come to mind as especially relevant to our consideration of the proposal to disqualify any man from ordained office who would describe himself as homosexual.
In the first place, we consider the record of righteous King Asa’s 41-year reign over Judah in 1 Kings 15:10-24. We are told that “Asa did what was right in the sight of the LORD, like David his father” (v. 11). Indeed, “the heart of Asa was wholly devoted to the LORD all his days” (v. 14). Interestingly, the very first example of Asa’s David-like righteousness before God is that he “put away the male cult prostitutes (KJV: sodomites) from the land and removed all the idols which his fathers had made” (v. 12). Exegetically, the parallel construction of these two clauses (“put away… and removed”) suggests that both of Asa’s commendable acts of reformation concerned the religious worship of the Kingdom (i.e., the visible church of Asa’s day). The evidence of Asa’s true and lively devotion to the Lord consisted in his expulsive ban of “the male cult prostitutes,” or “sodomites” from the religious worship of the people of God.
Read More

[1] You can read a helpful primer of the twelve items here (thanks to Larry Hoop and byFaith). You can track the progress of the proposals here as the presbyteries vote upon them (thanks to Scott Edburg and Joshua Torrey).
[2] See Scott Edburg, “New Overtures for a Pressing Concern.”
[3] For example, see “Great Speeches of PCAGA49,” which includes links to the floor debate surrounding Overture 15. Watch the speeches by RE Matt Fender, TE Richard D. Phillips, and TE O. Palmer Robertson for the best examples of the argument presented at the 49th General Assembly in favor of Overture 15. Consult as well The Aquila Report’s helpful transcription of Dr. O. Palmer Robertson’s speech.
[4] See the following opinion pieces on The Aquila Report: Joe Gibbons, “Exploring Overture 15 from the PCA General Assembly;” Larry Ball, “Overture 15 – The Tipping Point for a Split in the PCA?;” Luke Kallberg, “A Response to “Exploring Overture 15 from the PCA General Assembly” – Revised;” as well as Jared Nelson’s fine piece on this site, “Stepping Up to Overture 29.”
[5] Geerhardus Vos, The Teaching of Jesus Concerning the Kingdom of God and the Church (New York: American Tract Society, 1903), 161. Readers can find a .pdf version of this excellent little book for free online here.
[6] For a classic biblical theological presentation of Christ Jesus as the incarnate Shepherd King promised and anticipated in the Old Testament, see F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Development of Old Testament Themes (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1969), 100-114.
[7] If ever you find yourself wondering “what would Jesus do?” the better questions to bring to Scripture are “what did Jesus do?” and “what is Jesus doing?”
[8] For a helpful presentation of the relationship between the Kingdom of God in the Old Testament and in Christ’s teaching, see Vos, The Teaching of Jesus, 11-25.
Related Posts:

Where Are They Now?

We should not be surprised to see more men and congregations leave the PCA for the EPC, ECO, RCA, and other American Presbyterian and/or Reformed denominations out of NAPARC. The pipeline in the direction of churches that are philosophically committed to more peaceful “bigger tent” expressions of Reformed faith and practice is certainly fuller than the pipeline leading to more theologically narrow NAPARC-affiliated denominations.

At each year’s meeting of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), the Stated Clerk gives an annual report at the beginning of business. In his report, the Clerk takes an opportunity to reflect on significant developments in the life of the Church. His words stir up excitement among the brethren as the Lord continues to build His church around the world, and especially as the PCA continues to grow.
However, the Clerk’s report routinely includes lamentable news of church closures and transfers out of the PCA. As part of his first Clerk’s address before the Assembly, TE Bryan Chapell addressed news of several recent departures from the denomination. Since the 41st General Assembly in 2013, the Clerk’s printed statistical report has included details about the addition of individual ministers to the Church as well as the loss of ministers from the denomination.
Recent blog posts by TE David P. Cassidy (here and here), TE Travis Scott, TE Jon D. Payne (here and here), TE Ryan Biese (in a multi-part series found here) and others have publicly suggested (from a variety of perspectives) that perhaps now is the time for churches and ministers who are out of step with either the culture or the published doctrine of the PCA to leave the denomination. If now is indeed the time for some brothers to leave, then I suspect that we would see individual ministers and congregations doing just that.
As we review the Minutes of the 48th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America, what information can we glean about recent losses from the denomination? As the title of this blog post suggests, we can research the Minutes for information about recent departures by asking, “where are they now?”
The various lists of congregations added, transferred, or dissolved is found on pages 134-136 of the Minutes as part of the statistical portion of the Stated Clerk’s report. Similar lists of individual ministers added to the PCA, dismissed to other denominations, or otherwise removed from office are found on pages 136-142.
After comparing the statistical reports on pages 134-136 with other information I could find online (and with a few quick phone calls to several church offices), here are my summary findings (by no means infallible) for the changes in the roster of PCA congregations through 2019 and 2020:
Read More

Dr. George W. Knight, III, Called Home to Glory

From 1970 to 1989, Dr. Knight served as Professor of New Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, then the denominational seminary of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES). The 38th General Assembly of the OPC elected Dr. Knight to serve as Moderator in 1971. In 1976, Dr. Knight transferred his ministerial credentials into the RPCES, and he later came into the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) as part of the “Joining and Receiving” action taken in 1982. From 1989 to 1994, Dr. Knight served as Dean of the Faculty at Knox Theological Seminary in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Dr. George William Knight, III, passed into glory on Monday, October 11, 2021 at his home in Lake Wylie, South Carolina. He was 89 years old, having been born on December 16, 1931 in Sanford, Florida. He is survived by his wife of 69 years, Mrs. Virginia Knight (Sergeant), their children George W. Knight, IV (Mags), Margaret A. Clifford (Ron), Jennie K. Rotherham (Simon), and Hugh Knight (Trish), and numerous grand and great-grandchildren. He is preceded in death by his son Vann Marshall Knight (1955-2013).
A graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary and the Free University of Amsterdam, Dr. Knight was ordained as a Teacher of the Word by the Presbytery of Philadelphia of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) in 1961. Later that year, he accepted a call as Pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church (OPC) in West Collingswood, New Jersey, a position which he held until 1965. From 1965 to 1970, Dr. Knight served as stated supply of Covenant Presbyterian Church (RPCES) in Naples, Florida. From 1970 to 1989, Dr. Knight served as Professor of New Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, then the denominational seminary of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPCES). The 38th General Assembly of the OPC elected Dr. Knight to serve as Moderator in 1971. In 1976, Dr. Knight transferred his ministerial credentials into the RPCES, and he later came into the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) as part of the “Joining and Receiving” action taken in 1982. From 1989 to 1994, Dr. Knight served as Dean of the Faculty at Knox Theological Seminary in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
In 1994, the Knights moved to Matthews, North Carolina, and Dr. Knight accepted an invitation to teach as Adjunct Professor of New Testament at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary (GPTS) in Greenville, South Carolina. At the same time, Dr. Knight transferred his ministerial credentials back to the OPC, and he took up a stated supply position at Matthews Presbyterian Church (OPC). He later accepted a call from the congregation as Teacher of the Word when the congregation called Pastor Nathan Trice in 1996. From 1993 to 1995, Dr. Knight served as President of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), and he was a frequent contributor to the organization’s publications over the years. In 1995, Dr. Knight served as President of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS). In 2004, he moved from Matthews Presbyterian Church (now Resurrection Presbyterian Church) to serve as Teacher of the Word at a daughter congregation, Redeemer Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Charlotte, North Carolina. From 2005 to 2012, Dr. Knight served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees at GPTS.
Dr. Knight authored many books and articles (for a variety of academic and church publications). Some of his most notable books include The New Testament Teaching on the Role Relationship of Men and Women, Baker Book House 1977 (revised and republished as The Role Relationship of Men and Women: New Testament Teaching, Moody Press 1985); The Faithful Sayings in the Pastoral Epistles, Baker Book House 1979; Prophecy in the New Testament, Presbyterian Heritage Publications 1988; and Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles (NIGTC), Eerdmans 1992. Among his many essays and articles for both academic and church publications is an important work on church government, “Two Offices and Two Orders of Elders,” published in Pressing Toward the Mark: Essays Commemorating Fifty Years of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, OPC 1986. He has also authored a number of pamphlets treating topics of New Testament theology, church government, and the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.
Dr. Knight is much beloved by the Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary community. We grieve, but not as those without hope. Rather, we grieve and rejoice in the gospel for which Dr. Knight earnestly and faithfully contended over many years. While statements of appreciation and admiration could be multiplied to fill many volumes in honor of Dr. Knight, the following three remembrances from his closest colleagues among the Faculty and Board of Trustees are included here.
I have great respect for Dr. Knight. After I had served as Chairman of the Board at Greenville Seminary for a number of years, Dr. Knight joined us. His great experience as Professor of New Testament at Covenant Seminary and Dean of the Faculty at Knox Seminary made it clear that he was the man to be our Chairman, so he and I switched places. He stayed in our home on numerous occasions, and since he was a graduate of Davidson College, he and my wife also had similar memories of that institution.  He was a most gracious, godly man whom I was honored to be able to call my friend.Mr. John Van Voorhis, Esq.Trustee Emeritus
It was a privilege beyond measure to have known and worked with Dr. Knight on the Board of Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Having known him as a world class scholar was intimidating. However as I came to know him better, I came to know a man possessed of gifts and graces belonging to another world. Dr. Knight was full of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and his character magnified the work of Christ in him. Holding his convictions strongly, he lived out those convictions with a gracious lovingkindness that endeared him to all who had the pleasure of working with him. Pastor Jeff KingswoodTrustee
Dr. Knight was the finest example of a godly, Christian gentleman I have ever known.  He combined a firm commitment to the truth of the Reformed faith with a wonderful gentleness and patience. He was a brilliant scholar with a pastor’s heart. His contribution to the nature and development of Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary was inestimable. As Chairman of the Board, he exercised a profound influence corporately and more importantly as a wise counselor and friend.Joseph A. Pipa, Jr., PhD, DDPresident EmeritusProfessor of Systematic & Applied Theology
Source

Scroll to top
Refcast

FREE
VIEW