When it comes to membership, all that is required is that you know Christ and want to follow him with us. This means that we have members who are mature believers and members who are brand new believers, everyone with different degrees of understanding what scripture teaches (the word for that is doctrine) and different opinions on everything from baptism and Bible translations to schooling preferences and stances on media. The door to membership in the PCA, when it comes to doctrine, is fairly broad. However, the door to leadership is quite narrow when it comes to doctrine and we think it is important for those considering membership to know what the leadership believes Scripture teaches.
All officers in the PCA, that’s both elders and deacons, are required to affirm and take vows to uphold the teaching of Scripture summarized in what’s called the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Westminster Catechisms. Where they disagree with those documents, they are asked to make known what their disagreement is and then the session (or the presbytery in the case of pastors) determines whether that is something that strikes at the vitals of what Scripture teaches or is not as crucial and therefore ‘ok’ to disagree with.
The Westminster Confession and Faith and Catechisms, often abbreviated as the Westminster Standards, or simply ‘the Standards,’ were created in the 1640s, and were the end result of a group of ministers and pastor-scholars who had been tasked with summarizing what Scripture teaches. With some minor revisions to adjust for things like a different political system, the document has proved to be such an excellent and, we think, accurate summary of what Scripture teaches that some 370 years later it is still the basis for the theological examination of elders and deacons in the PCA.
You may not hear us use the term Westminster Confession of Faith, but in addition to our officers, we require all of our Sunday school teachers and small group leaders to have read it and we would encourage you to do the same for a number of reasons: 1)the documents are incredibly edifying and encouraging, 2) it will stretch you to consider or re-consider topics like God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility, the problem of evil, the person and work of Christ, and nature of Christian growth 3) it will inform you about why we do what we do in corporate worship 4) it will surprise you to see just how relevant and helpful a 370 year old document is when it comes to topics like marriage, civil government, discipline, prayer 5) it will reveal areas in which you may want to explore more with one of our pastors and we would be delighted to do so.
So what if you read the Westminster Standards, or find yourself at our church for a while hearing more and more about what we believe the Bible teaches, and find yourself in extreme disagreement over what you find and hear? If every time, for example, we talk about Scripture being totally true, or baptize a child, or call sin what the Bible calls sin, or mention God’s sovereignty, and you get angry, you probably should not join at this time. However, if you’re concerned, curious, and simply willing to learn more and sit down with an open Bible to see why we believe and teach what we believe and teach, then you absolutely should join. You never have to agree with us on every doctrinal issue, all that we ask is that our members to be willing to listen and learn and grow with us.
*Click here for a 30 Day Westminster Standards Reading Plan