Position Papers: 1973 - 1998
1st General Assembly, 1973, 1-58, p. 39.
Report on Defining the Nature of Relations with Other Churches
REPORT ON DEFINING THE NATURE OF RELATIONS WITH OTHER CHURCHES.
The purpose of this report is to define the levels and manner of the relationships the Presbyterian Church in America has or should have with other Church bodies.
It is important to the interests of the Presbyterian Church in America that we have a clear understanding of the types of relationships that the PCA enjoys with other Church bodies, and how those relationships are conducted.
We see three basic needs which must be addressed. First, there are those churches with whom we share a mutual commitment to the Reformed faith and Presbyterian polity who are located along with us in North America. The churches which compose the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC) are of course primarily in view here, although there may be any number of churches beyond NAPARC who share our basic commitments, while differing in details of application in faith or practice, with whom we may wish to establish formal relations.
Second, the PCA is part of the world church and we possess a deep concern for the welfare of fellow believers wherever they may be found. Many of these churches share the same beliefs and standards as do the NAPARC churches. Distance limits the amount of contact we can have as church bodies. Nevertheless we ought to cherish a closer fellowship whenever that is possible. That will necessarily be something less than formal relations, church to church.
Third, we are but one part of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ within the United States. Many of the other churches hold to the essentials of the Biblical faith and exhibit a warm evangelical spirit. They may not however, be specifically reformed in doctrine or practice. We nevertheless share many mutual concerns, enjoy fellowship at various points, and can edify each other through the ministry of encouragement.
Therefore, the Interchurch Relations Committee proposes three levels of relationships with other church bodies to be carried out consistently with the needs stated above.
1. Churches in Ecclesiastical Fellowship.
These relationships are established with Reformed churches in North America by an act of the General Assembly. With these churches the PCA will exchange Fraternal Delegates. The PCA can receive as Fraternal Delegates from these churches men who subscribe to the classic Reformed confessions and whose office in their communion is on a parity with the offices of Ruling and Teaching Elder in the PCA. This means:
a. Exchange of fraternal delegates at major assemblies;
b. Occasional pulpit fellowship;
c. Intercommunion (i.e., fellowship at the Table of the Lord);
d. Joint action in areas of common responsibility;
e. Communication on major issues of joint concern;
f. Exercise of mutual concern and admonition with a view to promoting the fundamentals of Christian unity.
2. Churches in Fraternal Correspondence.
The PCA will establish relationship with churches across the world who, through their national Associations, are members of the World Evangelical Fellowship. (The PCA is a member of the WEF by its membership in the National Association of Evangelicals and an Associate Member of the WEF through Mission to the World.)
The relationship with these bodies will be conducted by:
a. Exchanges of correspondence.
b. Fellowship meeting in conjunction with the General Assembly of the WEF held every six years, and
c. Exchange of delegates at church courts if agreeable to those courts.
A PCA delegate would be authorized by the Interchurch Relations Committee if he happended to be in the area when another church's court was meeting. He would attend at no expense to the PCA or its agencies.
Similar delegates to the PCA General Assembly would present written greetings of [not more than] three hundred words to be distributed to the assembly and would be introduced by the Interchurch Relations Committee Chairman.
3. Churches in Ecclesiastical Correspondence.
The Interchurch Relations Committee will be authorized to exchange greetings and letters of encouragement with other evangelical churches in North America with whom we have not entered into Fraternal Relations, for the purpose of wishing them well in the Lord.
1991, 19-91, III, 2; p. 65
That the paper entitled "Report on Defining the Nature of Relations With Other Churches," including recommendations 1, 2, and 3, of that paper, be adopted as amended. See below.