By George Sayour | January 20, 2023
Note: The second half of this article is a line-by-line look at how Overture 29 lines up with the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).
I have many friends who are in support of Overture 29. In addition, I am on the Gospel Reformation Network (GRN) General Council and the GRN has officially advocated for its passage. Sadly, I am less encouraged than my friends on what Overture 29 will accomplish as it relates to the Side B Problem in the PCA. Of course, I agree wholeheartedly with the language of Overture 29. As I show below, it is simply a restatement of what is already in the Constitution of the PCA. In fact, there is nothing in it that is not already in our Book of Church Order (BCO) or the Westminster Standards. But something is still missing. That is of course not a reason to vote against it. I’m just asking:
How can Overture 29 deal with the Side B problem in the PCA, if our Confession and BCO have not?
Further to the point, Overture 29 is being hailed as “addressing the substance of the problem” and the “final word on the matter” by men who believe that former PCA Pastor Greg Johnson’s only violation was that “he could have spoken more clearly” and who believe it is ok to partner with, speak at, and host the annually occurring Revoice Conference. That leads to the question:
How can Overture 29 on its own deal with the substance of the problem if these same men are supporting it and they have not changed their view?
Therefore, what is missing from our Confession is not something in Overture 29, but something that neither the Westminster Divines nor the founders of the PCA could have conceived of, namely Christians enthusiastically adopting a homosexual self-conception. We would do well to remember that former PCA Pastor Greg Johnson objected to Article 7 of the Nashville Statement on this point, yet he said he agreed with the language of Overture 29 at the 49th General Assembly of the PCA.
Therefore, what is needed to deal with the issue of the Side B anthropological and ontological conception of man is not Overture 29 on its own. Something more is needed. That is where Overture 15 serves to complement and to complete Overture 29. Here are some articles in support of Overture 15:
- Why the PCA Needs Overture 15 by Zach Garris
- Don’t Believe the Narrative Around Overture 15 by George Sayour
- Three Reasons to Adopt Overture 15 by James Norris
What follows is a line-by-line look at Overture 29 and how it corresponds to the PCA Constitution.
Overture 29 proposes to add to Chapter 16 of the BCO the following:
Officers in the Presbyterian Church in America must be above reproach in their walk and Christlike in their character. While office bearers will see spiritual perfection only in glory, they will continue in this life to confess and to mortify remaining sins in light of God’s work of progressive sanctification. Therefore, to be qualified for office, they must affirm the sinfulness of fallen desires, the reality and hope of progressive sanctification, and be committed to the pursuit of Spirit empowered victory over their sinful temptations, inclinations, and actions.
Officers in the Presbyterian Church in America
must be above reproach in their walk and Christlike in their character.
- 1 Timothy 3:2 – Therefore an overseer must be above reproach… (cf. Titus 1:6)
- BCO 21-4c – Trials for ordination shall consist of: (1) A careful examination as to: (a) his acquaintance with experiential religion, especially his personal character and family management (based on the qualifications set out in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, and Titus 1:6-9)
- BCO 24-1 & 24 -1 a. apply the same language to Ruling Elders and Deacons
While office bearers will see spiritual perfection only in glory
- WCF 13.2 – This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; (1 Thess. 5:23) yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part; (1 John 1:10, 7:18, 23, Phil. 3:12) whence ariseth a continual and (irreconcilable war), the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. (Gal. 5:17, 1 Pet. 2:11)
they will continue in this life to confess and to mortify remaining sins in light of God’s work of progressive sanctification.
- WCF 15.5 Men ought not to content themselves with a general repentance, but it is every man’s duty to endeavour to repent of his particular sins, particularly. (also WCF 11.5)
- WCF 13.1- ….by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them, (John 17:17, 5:26, 2 Thess. 2:13) (the dominion of the whole body of sin) is destroyed, (Rom. 6:6,14) and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified; (Gal. 5:24, Rom. 8:13) and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, (Col. 1:11, Eph. 3:16–19) to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. (2 Cor. 7:1, Heb. 12:14)
- WLC 75 & 76 further elaborate
Therefore, to be qualified for office, they must affirm
- BCO 21-5 VOW 2 already does this: Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures; and do you further promise that if at any time you find yourself out of accord with any of the fundamentals of this system of doctrine, you will on your own initiative, make known to your Presbytery the change which has taken place in your views since the assumption of this ordination vow?
the sinfulness of fallen desires
- WCF 6.5 This corruption of nature, during this life, doth remain in those that are regenerated; (1 John 1:8, 10, 7:14, 17–18, 23, James 3:2, Prov. 20:9, Eccl. 7:20) and although it be, through Christ, pardoned, and mortified; yet both itself, and all the motions thereof, are truly and properly sin. (Rom. 7:5–8, 25, Gal. 5:17)
- WCF 6.6 Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto, (1 John 3:4) doth in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, ( 2:15, Rom. 3:9, 19) …
- Also WLC 25 & WSC 18
the reality and hope of progressive sanctification,
- WCF 13.3 …through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part doth (overcome); and so, the saints grow in grace..
- Also WCF 13 & WLC 75 & 76
and be committed to the pursuit of Spirit empowered victory over their sinful temptations, inclinations, and actions.
- WLC 76 …upon the apprehension of God’ s mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, (Joel 2:12–13) he so grieves for ( 31:18–19) and hates his sins, (2 Cor. 7:11) as that he turns from them all to God, (Acts 26:18, Ezek. 14:6, 1 Kings 8:47–48) purposing and endeavouring constantly to walk with him in all the ways of new obedience. (Ps. 119:6,59,128, Luke 1:6, 2 Kings 23:25)
- WLC 75 …having the seeds of repentance unto life, and all other saving graces, put into their hearts, (Acts 11:18, 1 John 3:9) and those graces so stirred up, increased, and strengthened, (Jude 20, 6:11–12, Eph. 3:16–19, Col. 1:10–11) as that they more and more die unto sin, and rise unto newness of life. (Rom. 6:4,6,14, Gal. 5:24)
- See answers above regarding WCF 16.1,2,3
George Sayour is a PCA Teaching Elder serving as Pastor of Meadowview Reformed Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Lexington, NC.
Additional Resources on PCAGA49’s Overture 15
- Minority Report Speech in Favor of Overture 15 by RE Matt Fender
- Opening Floor Speech in Favor of Overture 15 by TE Richard D. Phillips
- Floor Speech in Favor of Overture 15 by TE O. Palmer Robertson (transcription from The Aquila Report)
- Exploring Overture 15 from the PCA General Assembly by Joe Gibbons
- The Biblical Genius of PCAGA49’s Overture 15 by TE Zachary Groff