PCA Big Tents and Strict Subscription

PCA Pastor David Cassidy has written on the problem of presbyteries granting exceptions but forbidding them to be taught (something I’ve written about a lot, most recently here). Cassidy says that the PCA is great because it is a “good faith subscriptionist” denomination, not a strict subscriptionist church, and this change in policy makes the PCA de facto strict subscriptionist. He, correctly, notes that presbyteries cannot bind the conscience of ministers in this way, and so the recent move by the PCA is incorrect. But something he fails to consider in his piece is that the alternative to grant-and-forbid is outright denial: if an exception cannot be granted while simultaneously banning its teaching, the presbytery has the right to deny granting that exception. That doesn’t change in any scenario, and I know plenty of presbyteries where exceptions are only granted because they believe they can forbid its teaching. If this option goes away, fewer exceptions will be granted, and the PCA will become far closer to a strict subscriptionist church than it is under the current arrangement. In fact, the PCA will grow more divided culturally as each presbytery varies in what exceptions it allows (goodbye recreation on the Sabbath!), a problem that doesn’t exist in stricter denominations.

Being a big tent denomination means allowing strict subscriptionists to not only belong to the church, but to practice their convictions of strict subscriptionism and being ok with that.