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Reporting the Truth.
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Presbyterian Church in America Votes to Leave National Association of Evangelicals

By Emily Miller
pca presbyterian church in america nae
People attend the Presbyterian Church in America General Assembly, June 23, 2022, in Birmingham, Alabama. (Video screen grab)

Commissioners for the Presbyterian Church in America approved a motion to leave the National Association of Evangelicals on Wednesday at the PCA’s General Assembly in Birmingham, Alabama.

It’s the third time in the past decade the theologically conservative Presbyterian denomination has considered a measure to leave the association, an umbrella organization of 40 evangelical Christian denominations.

The decision comes at a time when the head of the NAE serves a PCA congregation. Walter Kim, who took charge of the association in 2020, is a teacher-in-residence at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Before transitioning to a full-time role with the NAE, Kim was ordained by the PCA and served as pastor for leadership at the church, according to the organization. He maintains his ministerial credentials with the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference.

The National Association of Evangelicals does not comment on denominational decisions, a spokesperson stated to media.

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At issue, according to the overture submitted by the Pee Dee Presbytery in South Carolina and approved by a 1,059 to 681 majority, is the NAE’s advocacy work.

The NAE has “frequently intermeddled in civil affairs,” according to the overture. It points to a 2011 statement by the association meant to spark discussion on how climate change impacts vulnerable populations, the organization’s past efforts supporting immigration reform and its 2015 change of heart on the death penalty, which it had previously supported.

National Association of Evangelicals logo. (Courtesy image)

The overture specifically names the Fairness for All Act drafted by the National Association of Evangelicals and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. The act calls for federally recognized protections for sexual orientation and gender identity alongside strong religious exemptions.

“Advocating for a political compromise regarding sexual orientation, gender identity, and religious freedom” oversteps the Westminster Confession of Faith, according to the overture. The confession, which was written in the 1600s for the Church of England and later adopted by the Presbyterian Church in America, says “synods and councils are to handle, or conclude nothing, but that which is ecclesiastical; and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth.”

The overture also argues, “Many prominent conservative and evangelical thinkers and leaders have denounced this compromise as not leading to ‘fairness’ for all who uphold biblical teaching on sexuality and marriage, but rather attempts to guarantee religious freedom for some organizations and institutions while potentially undermining the pre-political religious freedoms of all Americans codified in the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”

PCA logo
Presbyterian Church in America logo. (Courtesy image)

Commissioners speaking in support of leaving the National Association of Evangelicals said they were not sure what benefit the denomination received from its membership in the organization. They argued the denomination did not need the association to speak for its members when the General Assembly is the voice of the denomination.

Roy Taylor, former stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church in America, told the General Assembly he planned to file a protest over its decision to leave the NAE.

Taylor argued for the denomination to remain part of the association, urging commissioners to show the same unity as George Whitefield and John Wesley, two prominent ministers in the Church of England during the Great Awakening. While the two held different beliefs on some theological matters, he said, Whitefield regarded Wesley “as a brother in Christ” and stipulated in his will that Wesley preach at his funeral.

“I am a George Whitefield Calvinist. I hope that you are, too,” Taylor said.

Emily McFarland MillerEmily McFarlan Miller is a national reporter for Religion News Service. 



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10 Responses

  1. Good to know there is at least one real Christian denomination left. The NEA has been apostate for quite some time now, Now–cue the usual suspects doing their usual pearl-clutching, sky-is-falling grandstanding.

  2. Not surprising at all. Leith Anderson and I had a brief email exchange back around 2012 about getting involved in climate change and other such leftist cultural issues. The NAE began their drift into secular issues king ago, and gradually. PCA has some amazing preachers like Derek Thomas from SC and others. They’re gonna be just fine.

  3. I am not a fan of denominationalism. I think that has been an even bigger problem to Christianity than “mega churches”.

    1. One of the benefits of denominations over nondenominational churches is oversight and an avenue for appeals. Linked above is an update on a PCA pastor who was clearly unfit in the way he behaved and treated younger women. He was tried by local elders in the area and exonerated but that decision was appealed and now he will face a trial at a higher level.

      In a typical nondenominational or locally autonomous (Baptist like) church he would likely have dominated the local elder board and forced out those he wronged or simply moved on to pastor somewhere else without closure. Likewise if he is found innocent (based on his provable actions versus his, I think, clearly narcissistic tendencies), then at least it was investigated openlyn.

      We’ve been discussing Rick Warren a lot lately here. I don’t know that there’s anything that he’s done that warrants discipline but if there were, who is going to hold him accountable? There may technically be a board but defacto he’s the final word. It’s easy for us to overlook such realities when we trust the leader but the truth is none of us should have such unmitigated power, especially in a spiritual context. It’s not healthy for either the church or the individual.

      1. Mark Gunderson,

        I don’t think anyone has actually argued that Pastor Rock (Star) Warren has committed some grave ethical violation. I certainly haven’t. The problem here is presenting a slick, watered-down, P.C. version of the Gospel to pack in those seats for his stadium-church so that the tithing keeps rolling in. (Although–his autocratic means of appointing his successor, and apparent coziness with proven megachurch bully/crook Mark Driscoll may qualify.)

      2. Hi Mark –

        I understand the benefits of oversight provided by a denomination. I just don’t think a denomination is needed to provide this.
        My concern is how denominations have divided the body of Christ into factions that point fingers at one another. We are reduced to arguments like “we the “real” Christians” and “I’m so glad we aren’t like THEM…”
        Can someone show me in scripture where we are told to divide into Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, etc?
        I believe denominations to be man made factions that turn us against each other, distracting us from our mission is making disciples.

  4. How many people are in the P.C.A…. 400K at best ?

    The P.C.A. leaving the N.E.A. will barely be noticed…..

    Presbyterianism has pretty much collapsed over the past 60 years in the U.S….

  5. As reported here, there does appear to be carefully articulated intellectual clarity in the position-taking involved in debate and disagreement. That should be recognised and commended. Too often these complex religious/secular debates get to points where careful articulation of why there is disagreement just disappears, being displaced by polarisation grounded in little more than visceral distaste for those with whom one is disagreeing. There is always a crucial aspect of choice or faith in how one is to be and live, in these religious disagreements, and it is edifying when that ground to debate is preserved as carefully as possible. Further useful debate then remaining possible. Debate about the ecclesia/environment relation, for example, would seem something that should always be ongoing. I like Taylor’s reference to “brothers in Christ”, albeit I would prefer a gender-neutral formulation.

  6. I think we ought to be good stewards of earth etc… etc… however that being said I believe Peter told us in one of his letters that the earth will be destroyed by fire.
    Fire = hot = climate change . Just sayin.

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