When viewed in historical perspective (going back to 2013), it remains the case that more than any other denomination, the EPC is the destination of choice for PCA ministers transferring out of the PCA (71 in the years 2012-2022). The same move is much less common for entire congregations, despite certain high-profile examples, going back to the 1990s.
Over the past two years, I have published posts (here, here, and here) which have brought together data to ‘track the stats’ regarding losses from the denomination. My question has been – and continues to be – What can this data tell us about the preferred destination(s) of the ministers and congregations that leave the PCA for other ecclesiastical settings?
The various lists of congregations added, transferred, or dissolved in 2022 are found on pages 239-240 of the Commissioner Handbook to the 50th General Assembly. Similar lists of ministers added to the PCA, dismissed to other denominations, deceased, or otherwise removed from office in 2022 are found on pages 240-246. Once the Minutes of the 50th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America are finalized and published, this post will be updated to direct readers to the appropriate page numbers in the Minutes.
After comparing the statistical reports on pages 239-246 with other information I could find online, here are my summary findings for the changes in the roster of PCA congregations and ministers in 2022:
Congregations Organized in 2022: 24
Gross Total of Congregations Added in 2022: 27
Congregations Dissolved in 2022: 8
Congregations Dismissed to Other Denominations in 2022: 6 (1 ACNA; 1 BPC; 1 CMA; 1 CREC; 2 Independency)
Gross Total of Congregations Lost in 2022: 14
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By Rev. Fred Klett — 6 months ago
Written by Rev. Fred Klett |
Wednesday, May 31, 2023
Through Jesus, Israel has been expanded in a glorious way, not replaced. Fulfillment of the promise to Abraham has come and will go forward until its completion when Messiah returns. Jesus must reign until all his enemies are placed under his feet. He will conquer all nations, including the Jewish nation, with the gospel.
Much fuss has been made in our Jewish evangelism circles regarding “replacement” theology, the idea that the church has “replaced” the Jewish people in the plan of God. Some have even accused all who think New Covenant believers are “Spiritual Israel” as being guilty of this “replacement theology,” that is, of replacing the Jewish people with the church. Charges have been made that this idea of “Spiritual Israel” leads to anti-semitism.
Ironically my first exposure to the idea of all believers being spiritually Israel came about through involvement in “Messianic Judaism”! Way back in 1975 I attended a seminar by Manny Brotman, president of the “Messianic Jewish Movement International” on “How to Share the Messiah.” In the seminar notes I read: “When a Gentile asks the Messiah into his heart and life, he is accepting the Jewish Messiah, the Jewish Bible, and the Jewish blood of atonement and could be considered a proselyte to biblical Judaism and a child of Abraham by faith!” Isn’t this essentially a statement of the “Spiritual Israel” idea?
Getting the Big Picture
We must submit our thinking to the scriptures and derive even our method of interpreting of the Bible from the Bible itself! We must learn how the text interprets itself! Many have not done this. We can’t base our understanding of doctrine on “spiritual” intuition or emotional arguments. We must strive, asking wisdom from the Spirit, to interpret the word of God correctly, and this certainly means we submit to the approach used by the apostles the Messiah appointed to represent Him. And we must understand how the whole Bible fits together and derive our doctrine of Israel within that framework.
God has had one purpose and plan for mankind ever since the Fall: to restore a people for Himself from fallen humanity through Messiah Jesus. Because of the Fall of Adam we have all come under the curse of God, or as the Puritans put it “through Adam’s Fall sinned we all.” The Jewish people, and ultimately the Jewish Messiah, brought to the world the Abrahamic promise of blessing to redeem us from the curse of the Fall. Jesus brought the blessings of Abraham “first to the Jew” and then expanded the blessing “also to the Gentile” (see Galatians 3:14 and Romans 1:16). There are not two sets of Covenant promises and Covenant obligations, one for Jewish believers and one for Gentile believers, there is one New Covenant people and one faith (Eph. 2:16 and 4:5).
God has had but one program from the beginning: salvation through Jesus. God purposed to restore blessing once again to a cursed world. The core of the Abrahamic promise was to bring a restoration of blessing to all peoples through the seed of Abraham. This seed is ultimately the King of Israel, the Messiah. Psalm 72:17 tells us this by applying the very words of the Abrahamic promise to the Son of David: “May his name endure forever…all nations will be blessed through him, and they will call him blessed.”
National and ethnic Israel can only find true meaning within the larger context of the renewal of all things through the Messiah. God’s purposes are one. God created the Jewish people to bring Messiah to the world. You cannot divorce any of the promises to Israel from the “big picture” of redemption from the Fall through Messiah.
God has not withdrawn His promises to the Jewish people. Rather, Paul clearly tells us, “no matter how many promises God has made, they are “yes” in Messiah” (2 Cor. 1:20). The New Covenant promise of eternal life through faith in Jesus is greater than any other blessing of God ever given. Indeed this is the fulfillment of the blessing promised to Abraham. The curse of death and separation from God is overturned through Messiah. Paul clearly says “He redeemed us in order that THE BLESSING PROMISED TO ABRAHAM MIGHT COME TO THE GENTILES through Messiah Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit” (Galatians 3:14). Only through Jesus can people truly come to the blessings of Abraham, life in the Spirit.
Whether we are Jews by birth or Gentiles, we who trust Messiah Jesus have one common faith. As Paul put it “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all.” (Eph. 4:4-6)
Some Jews who are for Jesus call their movement “Messianic Judaism.” A few of these Jewish believers distinguish “Messianic Judaism” from “Christianity.” I believe it would be better theology to distinguish between a culturally Jewish expression of New Covenant Judaism and a culturally Gentile expression of New Covenant Judaism. Our New Covenant faith is the true, Biblical Judaism.
Gentiles who come to believe in the Jewish Messiah convert to Biblical Judaism! Our New Covenant faith is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant faith. Christianity is New Covenant Judaism, the true religion of the Jewish people—even if most Jewish people don’t know it yet! The concept of “Spiritual Israel” is a Biblical doctrine. It doesn’t mean “replacement.”..it means EXPANSION! God has joined Gentiles to the true faith of Israel—He has expanded the nation spiritually!
Kingdom Blessings Depend Upon Following the King
To be a member of a kingdom means to swear allegiance to its king. Jesus is the King of Israel and those who follow him are members of his kingdom. Consider the implications of these passages:
John the Baptizer, said: “For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham” (Luke 3:8).
The Scriptures teach that all those who believe are Jesus’ brothers (Romans 8:29 and Hebrews 2:10-11). Jesus said “whoever who does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:35). Jesus said he had other sheep, not of that flock (10:16). All believers are Jesus’ family and the sheep of His flock.
Paul says Gentile believers are grafted in to the tree of Israel, become Abraham’s children by faith, become heirs to the blessing of Abraham and are citizens of Israel (Romans 4:16-18; 11:17-21; Galatians 3:14; and Ephesians 2:19).
So, we see that every believer is a brother of Jesus, a child of Abraham, part of the flock of the Shepherd of Israel, grafted into the tree of Israel, an heir to the promise given to Abraham, and a citizen of the commonwealth of Israel! How wonderful to have become, spiritually, part of Israel!
The New Covenant
We are all covenant breakers before God. God made a covenant with Adam and we have all followed in the footsteps of our first father. What was said of Israel is also true of us “They like Adam have transgressed the covenant.” (1) We can only be saved from the curse of the first covenant of Works made with Adam if God provides a Covenant of Grace for us. This is what is in focus in the covenant made with Abraham.(2) The blessings promised to the nations refers to the reversal of the curse we came under through Adam. The New Covenant(3) brings to fruition the promise of blessing for the nations made to Abraham.(4) Without the New Covenant all are in Adam and under the curse. Yet, the New Covenant is made with the house of Israel and the House of Judah!(5) Gentiles must join themselves to the Holy Nation in order to be a part of this covenant. Yet amazingly I have been told by an opponent of the “Spiritual Israel” doctrine that Gentile believers do not have the New Covenant! He told me that since the covenant was made with Israel only Jewish people have it! Oy Vey! Do you see where the denial of the doctrine of “Spiritual Israel” logically leads?
Can it really be doubted that all believers are spiritually Israel? The scriptures tell us that Gentile believers are spiritual members of the Jewish family of faith along with the remnant of Jewish believers, even if most of the natural family members have temporarily left the household of faith by rejecting the New Covenant. By adoption Gentiles come into a relationship with the Jewish people and so should have a concern for the estranged members of their own faith family, just as they should be concerned for the spiritual return of children of Christian parents who have departed from the faith.
How can anyone reasonably deny that through the great salvation provided through the Jewish Messiah, Gentile believers have become spiritually Israel? This is the truth Jesus taught and this is the doctrine Paul taught—pretty good theological company to find oneself in!
A Key Passage: Romans 11
Though all believers are spiritually Israel, if we truly understand Romans 11 there should be no question about the fact that God still has a claim on the Jewish people. The natural children of Abraham are still in some way chosen because of the patriarchs, even in unbelief. He will restore the Jewish people to faith one day. Romans 11:28 clearly tells us “As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account, but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs.” Consider these comments by leading Covenantal theologians:
“I extend the word Israel to all the people of God, according to this meaning, -When the Gentiles shall come in, the Jews also shall return from their defection to the obedience of faith; and thus shall be completed the salvation of the whole Israel of God, which must be gathered from both; and yet in such a way that the Jews shall obtain the first place, being as it were the first born in God’s family.
…as Jews are the firstborn, what the Prophet declares must be fulfilled, especially in them: for that scripture calls all the people of God Israelites, it is to be ascribed to the pre-eminence of that nation, who God had preferred to all other nations…God distinctly claims for himself a certain seed, so that his redemption may be effectual in his elect and peculiar nation…God was not unmindful of the covenant which he had made with their fathers, and by which he testified that according to his eternal purpose he loved that nation: and this he confirms by this remarkable declaration, -that the grace of the divine calling cannot be made void. (6)”
“The second great event, which, according to the common faith of the Church, is to precede the second advent of Christ, is the national conversion of the Jews….that there is to be such a national conversion may be argued…from the original call and destination of that people. God called Abraham and promised that through him, and in his seed, all the nations of the earth should be blessed…A presumptive argument is drawn from the strange preservation of the Jews through so many centuries as a distinct people.
By Ryan Biese — 1 year ago
We must not think recent news out of Saint Louis is cause to slacken or pause. News from Saint Louis should stir us to remain vigilant against any who would erode the freedom of the gospel: freedom from the penalty of sin, freedom from the power of sin, and one day freedom from the presence of sin.
The PCA has been at a crossroads for some time as we debate what sort of denomination the PCA will be.
Will the Presbyterian Church in America be a denomination that is “Faithful to the Scriptures, True to the Reformed Faith, and Obedient to the Great Commission,” where officers and church courts uphold the Constitutional Standards of the PCA with integrity and sincerity? Or will the PCA be a denomination characterized by latitude and leniency with regard to the Standards?
Up until recently, the General Assembly of the PCA tended to issue actions and deliverances that favored that latter course: one of latitude and leniency. As I’ve written elsewhere, the presbycrats were largely allowed to run things.
But lately, attendance at the General Assembly has seen marked increase, especially since 2018 when it was so difficult for the General Assembly to grant constitutional authority to the chapter on marriage in the Book of Church Order. And a year later attendance skyrocketed after many in the PCA were scandalized by a speech in which TE Greg Johnson, PhD reflected on his unnatural lust on the floor of the Assembly.
I. Hoping for Repentance
Many throughout the PCA were shocked that a minister of the gospel would attempt to wax eloquent about his vile affections in hopes of swinging a vote against an overture. Further grief flowed seemingly every time that minister spoke publicly. During one now infamous podcast, he even seemed to go so far as to assert that unnatural affections are not within the scope of repentance:
What I hear is that you are judging brothers for not repenting of something that cannot be repented of.
From many corners of the PCA, individual elders and church courts wrote both to TE Johnson and to his presbytery urging him to repent of his views, actions, and statements. The Standing Judicial Commission (SJC) even took the unprecedented step of re-opening a case before it to provide additional opportunity for clarification and corrections by TE Johnson on what he meant.
Despite the clarifications when the SJC re-opened the case, members of the Standing Judicial Commission nonetheless issued a blistering concurring opinion expressing concern regarding his “lack of clarity” and “tone-deafness” on matters of homosexual lust and other issues.
Further corrections and clarifications followed. But in addition to corrections and clarifications, TE Johnson engaged in additional speaking and writing on the subject of vile affections, which further troubled the Church.
For example, Ascension Presbytery reported on Johnson’s 2021 book Still Time to Care and noted not only grave concerns with the way TE Johnson “misuse[d] identity in Christ” but also and his “aberrant views on sexual orientation, his disregard of the confessional teaching on the heinousness and various aggravations of different sins, and his lack of interaction with the confessional understanding of the gift of continence.”
Further attempts were made to bring TE Johnson to repentance; letters were sent to his presbytery, dialogues on various media platforms, reviews of the book were written highlighting troubling aspects in Johnson’s views and ministry paradigm.
Johnson’s teaching, speaking, and writing on the issue of unnatural lust has deeply troubled the PCA. For example, two Covenant College faculty members noted a troubling lack of focus on the need for sanctification in his book:
[W]e’ve registered two substantial reservations, raising a worry about Johnson’s treatment of sanctification with respect to concupiscence and questions about the notion of sexual orientation as a fixed propensity that’s taken for granted in this book and by most participants in the broader debate. Since these themes are central to the book’s overall argument, they end up weakening his case for a paradigm of care. In our opinion, the paradigm of care is inadequate without a complementary devotion to sanctification.
The defects in his theology and practice have been noted across the spectrum of the denomination from GRN Council Members such as Jonathan Master, the aforementioned Covenant College professors, and even the Stated Clerk called the way he speaks about his unnatural desires, “highly imprudent.”
Despite all this, TE Johnson and the Session with whom he serves have refused to give heed to the concerns of the wider church on this matter. Memorial Presbyterian Church (MPC) continues to welcome transvestites to perform in its chapel as the church supports these folks earning a living from their “arts.”
By Kim Riddlebarger — 2 years ago
John gives a glorious image of heaven, where God dwells among His people until the resurrection of our bodies at the end of the age. This is what heaven is—the redeemed dwelling in the presence of the Holy God, ascribing all praise and glory to our Creator and Redeemer. While the scene is wonderful, and in many ways beyond our comprehension, it is worth noting that the saints in heaven are crying out, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Rev. 6:10).
We’ve all thought about it. What happens the moment we take our last breath, our heart stops beating, and our soul departs from our now dead body? Truth be told, most of us fear dying, even if we do not fear death. Dying is often a painful struggle. Dying often occurs in a sterile, clinical environment and is usually an ugly process. However, by trusting in the promise that death means entrance into eternal life in the presence of the Lord, as well as trusting in the power of Christ to raise the dead, Christians need not fear the outcome of death even if we experience trepidation regarding the process of dying.
Stories and legends about death and dying abound. This is the case, in part, because the Scriptures do not describe the process of dying, although they do speak of several individuals who died but were raised back to life by Jesus. Lazarus comes to mind (John 11) among others (e.g., the widow of Nain’s son in Luke 7:11–17). But we do not possess any firsthand account (including from Lazarus) of what these people experienced when they died. We can only but wonder what Lazarus was thinking when he died a second time, this time to enter eternal life. Now, we do know what our resurrection bodies will be like, since Paul gives us a remarkable description of the complete transformation that takes place when Christ returns and we are raised imperishable (1 Cor. 15:35–49). But there is not much biblical data on the intermediate state—that period of time when the souls of the believing dead await the resurrection of their bodies and the final and complete overturning of the curse (death).
It is also the case that the very nature of the question (What happens to our soul when we die?) lends itself to speculation. I recall my saintly grandmother (a pastor’s daughter) recounting bedside vigils with dying church members. She described how before breathing their last, a dying person would often open their eyes, look heavenward, express some sort of joy and expectation, then surrender to the inevitable. She believed these saints were given a brief glimpse of what (or who) awaited them. That may be, but it is just as likely that the biochemical reactions within the brain to a body shutting down produces all kinds of sensory activity. Such accounts, however sincere, are anecdotal and provide no basis on which to build doctrine.