For the second straight year I attended the Presbyterian Church in America’s General Assembly. This year it was in Atlanta, GA while last year it was in Greensboro, NC. While it is a national denomination, its history is largely Southern and the center of mass still resides in this region. Because of that, the GA is more often than not held somewhere in the South. Next year, I believe it is in Dallas.
My reason for attending the conference was not that I am a member of the denomination (for I am an ordained minister in the Reformed Presbyterian Church – Hanover denomination) but to again help my brother-in-law run his booth for his church website design business, Five More Talents. Because I was usually helping at the booth, I only sat in on a few hours of the proceedings at the assembly.
As for the votes of the assembly, surely someone more in the know could explain the results. On two of the more important of the overtures I do know that the request to lower the fees for Ruling Elder participation was voted down, and the overture on solemnization of marriage was approved after the minority report was sent back to the committee and reworked. The almost unanimous vote in its favor was encouraging, though it might not end similar discussions in the future.
The best part of the assembly for me is getting to talk with the people. I met up with old friends (Larry Wilkes, Tony Felich, Wayne Sparkman, Aaron Gould, Paddy Cook, Daniel Jarstfer, and Dominic Aquila) and talked with pastors and elders (including Tim McQuitty, Mike Graham, Michael Colvard, Mark Eberhard). But my favorite thing entirely is to meet up with authors.
Here are some authors I got to talk with and some notes about our discussions:
Chad van Dixhoorn – professor at Reformed Theological seminary and editor of the five-volume The Minutes and Papers of the Westminster Assembly: 1643-1652. I gave Dr. Van Dixhoorn copies of both of my published books, The Presbyterian Philosopher and Clark and His Correspondents. He told me that he had planned on buying them from me and that I was out $50 for gifting them to him.
Scott Oliphint – professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary and author of a number of books including “Covenantal Apologetics.” Dr. Oliphint seemed to have recognized either myself or my name (from my name tag) as I came over to shake his hand and give him a copy of Clark and His Correspondents. He mentioned that he had read my The Presbyterian Philosopher three months ago. I told him I was a bit embarrassed as I had not read his books, but I certainly know of his work nevertheless. Well-knowing the history of animosity between those influenced by Cornelius Van Til (like Dr. Oliphint) and those influenced by Gordon Clark (as I am), I sought to have as civil of a conversation as possible. I think we mostly succeeded on that though it did seem that theological arguments were always on the cusp of the conversation. I told Dr. Oliphint that I am working on an evaluation of the Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God. He recommended some good materials including an unpublished dissertation, and joked that I might just become a Van Tillian.
Dewey Roberts – PCA pastor in Florida and author of the brand-new Samuel Davies, Apostle to Virginia along with Historic Christianity and the Federal Vision. We swapped copies of his books for copies of my books.
Sean Michael Lucas – PCA pastor in Mississippi and author of a number of books including For a Continuing Church: The Roots of the Presbyterian Church in America. I gave Dr. Lucas only a copy of my Clark and His Correspondents, since I had given him The Presbyterian Philosopher at last year’s GA. I was glad to learn that Dr. Lucas is working on a biography of an African-American 19th century presbyterian pastor in Washington D. C.
All told, from free books that were given out, plus trades with authors, plus some purchases at the PCA bookstore, I came home with 14 new books and only spent about $50.