Warning signs that calls for withdrawal may be disguising the leadership’s true purpose…
On today’s Spiritual Fitness Show, Pastor Mic Knox answered an important question submitted by viewers: How can my church withdraw from the PCA?
He started by surveying some recent history and pointed out that several churches have left the PCA and joined the new Vanguard Presbytery. The PCA itself started as an offshoot of churches leaving the PCUSA because it went liberal.
Who plants the seed?
Usually, said Knox, it is the senior pastor or associate pastors who plant the idea of leaving the denomination inside the session, which germinates into a larger discussion among the session, which then spreads out into the congregation at large.
He stated that a church should only withdraw on Biblical grounds. Pastor Knox warned about bad reasons to leave a denomination, quoting Colossians 2:8: See to it that there is no one who takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception in accordance with human tradition, in accordance with the elementary principles of the world, rather than in accordance with Christ.
Knox surveyed some developments in the PCA which could have people concerned for the denomination’s future. He mentioned the Revoice conference in 2018 in Missouri, which initiated the latest skirmish in the debate on homosexuality. Pastor Knox highlighted also those who try to push the “Social Gospel,” which promotes government welfare and forced income redistribution in the name of Jesus. Knox mentioned the National Partnership, which is a supposedly secret organization started inside the PCA that acts as the lobbying arm for the progressive wing of the PCA; they support Revoice, women deacons, and so-called social justice causes.
The Formal Process for Withdrawing
He then takes us to BCO 25 on Congregational Meetings. To leave the PCA, a church needs to hold a congregational meeting and vote to withdraw.
BCO 25-9 then establishes the property rights of each congregation. The PCA wrote into its constitution the ownership of church property by each congregation, which was a reaction to the PCUSA’s seizure of church property when churches wanted to withdraw.
He walked us through BCO 25-11, which states churches may withdraw for any reason, as long as 30 days’ notice is given before the meeting.
He then reiterated three important points:
- The reason to depart should be for a Biblical reason, given by the senior pastor to the congregation.
- There should be no less than 30 days’ notice given to the congregation ahead of the vote.
- Most importantly, however, Pastor Knox stated that the senior pastor and session should spend months or even years working up to the actual vote, if that’s where the church decides to go. He emphasized that that there should be a long time spent on the part of the pastors and the session teaching its congregation about the issues so that everyone can come to the decision together.
Beware if the call to withdraw comes out of nowhere
This is likely a serious red flag. Knox said:
“If all of the sudden it just comes up out of nowhere, like, ‘Hey, this denomination is going crazy liberal; we need to get out now!’ then you probably should hit the brakes, because there is probably some sin or selfishness behind the reason why you want to hit the parachute button and get out of the denomination ASAP. Never should it be done for sinful reasons on the side of the leadership.”
He reiterated that the church has to make the decision and work together.
At around the 20-minute mark, he again emphasized that you cannot be too careful if a senior pastor calls for an immediate withdrawal from the denomination:
“If you’re a part of a congregation and all of the sudden the senior pastor says ‘Oh, the liberals are taking over! We gotta get out. We gotta do it right now!‘ Okay, that seems a bit extreme because the local congregation is not being called to sin, or accept sin just yet. It’s something that’s in the works.
So what should take place is this pastor should begin to pull out the major problems and issues, the different things they’re trying to amend, the BCO, kind of soften things a little bit…
His point is that any withdrawal should be biblical, done in a very orderly and calm fashion (1 Cor. 14:40), with the congregation and its leadership working together. The leadership should be teaching the congregation about the issues at the heart of the divide which form the biblical basis for leaving, and this should be done over a long period of time and “not overnight.”
“Also it is not good for a person to be without knowledge, And one who hurries his footsteps errs,” we are told in Proverbs 19:2.
This should be normal, as any Presbyterian knows how long it takes a pastor to preach through one book of the Bible. One chapter usually takes several weeks to preach through; the same thoughtful approach should be used when initiating the discussion to withdraw from the denomination.
Why does the Session want to withdraw?
Knox ends with a warning: compare actions to stated beliefs and see if they match up. Be wise as serpents. Sudden calls for withdrawal, despite the words spoken by the leadership otherwise, are probably motivated by something other than biblical grounds:
“Has there been any funny business taking place at this church that would give you cause to say ‘Hmm, I don’t think we’re leaving because of liberalism. I think we’re leaving because of something else. There may be some other issues going on.'”At 24:40
He explained that some churches have left the PCA and joined the Vanguard presbytery.
But he also said that some have dissolved. They were supposed to be evangelical churches, but because of their disobedience to the Great Commission, their light was put out. Pastor Knox said not to be surprised when Jesus takes away a church’s lamp stand because it hasn’t been sharing the Great Commission locally. Foreign missions, no matter the magnitude, is not a substitute for local missions.
Churches that don’t share the Gospel locally are failing in their objective to fulfill the Great Commission.
He ends by reminding us that, if we really preach Jesus, then there will be division among the people over him (John 7:43).
This will also likely cause division within the church.
Is the Midway Session, under the Senior Pastor’s leadership, planning a hasty withdrawal from the PCA?
Watch the full episode below: