By now many of you will have heard of overtures made to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America and the Southern Baptist Convention regarding Christians in public schools.
Baptist activists Bruce N. Shortt and T.C. Pinckney, calls on the millions of members of the denomination to take their kids out of public schools and either homeschool them or send them to Christian schools.
While this was voted down, it appears that it may be coming back again this year, as Russell Moore notes in a June 17th entry on the Mere Comments blog. This year it is coming back with the endorsement of Al Mohler, who is calling for the development of an exit strategy.
In my own denomination, the PCA, a personal resolution, somewhat modeled on the Baptist one from last year was offered by the Rev. Steve Warhurst, pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Kingsport, Tenn. Although Rev. Warhurst may be unknown to you, his resolution had the backing of some powerful folks in the denomination, and the evangelical world at large. It was backed by D. James Kennedy of Evangelism Explosion and Coral Ridge Presbyterian and Joel Belz, founder of World Magazine.
Like the Southern Baptist resolution, Mr. Warhurst's resolution to the PCA was voted down, and from where I sat, it looked like it was voted down by a fairly large margin. I was one of those who voted against the resolution and I thought I would take some time here to explain why. I'll do this through several posts instead of making this the horribly long, unreadable post. Today, I'll voice some commendations and agreements with the resolution and in future posts I'll talk about why I voted against it.
I share many of the underlying concerns of Messrs. Shortt, Pinckney, Warhurst, Mohler, Kennedy and Belz. This is why my wife and I have always had our kids in either private Christian schools or our own homeschool. The concerns they raise are very real and similar concerns have played at least a partial role in our schooling decisions.
I also want to point out what it was that Rev. Warhurst was saying to the General Assembly of the PCA, lest I misrepresent him, or he be misunderstood. The language of his resolution was the language of encouragement, not binding law. In other words, his intention was to offer what amounts to pastoral advice, not a law. This was not presented as something that was to be binding on the conscience of the member of the PCA. I did not speak to him personally at the Assembly, but from listening to his humble and thoughtful presentation of his views I understood his intentions to be those of warning parents about the dangers of public schools and asking the denomination to encourage, not order, parents to pull their kids out of public schools. I can't envision Rev. Warhurst or his compatriots attempting to bring church discipline on those who failed to heed his/their encouragement.
On the other hand, there are those who fault Mr. Warhurst for his methods. Instead of asking the PCA to form some kind of study committee or to discuss this matter, they think he used political tactics to circumvent discussion and have the denomination endorse his position apart from substantive study.
I don't see anything nefarious in his motive in this regard. For one thing, his resolution definitely brought the matter up for debate and discussion. Also, I've been in the PCA for ten years now and I am still not sure of the procedural hoops one should go through to bring a matter to the attention of the denomination. I'm guessing he just did what he felt was the right thing to do. And, though this motion was defeated (rightly so in my mind) I think it will come back in the future.
I bring these things up for the sake of those who might unfairly vilify the proponents of such resolutions as legalistic and reactionary would-be demagogues, because they aren't. So, I'll end here for now. If you want to read some extended debate from friends and foes of the resolution you can find it in the comments section of this post on the PCAGA blog.
Whereas, The Bible commands fathers to bring up their children in the training and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4), and all parents who have had a child baptized in the Presbyterian Church in America have taken a vow to strive by all the means of God’s appointment to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (BCO 56-5), and
Whereas, A truly Christian education begins with the fear of the Lord (Pr.9:10), and teaches children to think biblically about all of life (2Cor.10:5; Rom.12:2; Dt.6:6-9), and
Whereas, The public school system does not offer a Christian education, but officially claims to be “neutral” with regard to Christ, a position that Christ Himself said was impossible (Lk.11:23), and
Whereas, The public schools are by law humanistic and secular in their instruction, and as a result the attending children receive an education without positive reference to the Triune God, and
Whereas, Some courageous teachers in our congregations disregard this law. Obeying God rather than men, they try to give their students a truly Christian education (Acts 4:18-20). This resolution should not be construed to discourage these adult believers who faithfully labor as missionaries to unbelieving colleagues and students. However, these rare exceptions should not lead anyone to believe the public schools are regularly giving children a truly Christian education.
Whereas, Sending thousands of PCA children as “missionaries” to their unbelieving teachers and classmates has failed to contribute to increasing holiness in the public schools. On the contrary, the Nehemiah Institute documents growing evidence that the public schools are successfully converting covenant children to secular humanism, and
Whereas, We are squandering a great opportunity to instruct these children in the truth of God’s word and its application to all of life;
Therefore, be it resolved that the 33rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America encourages all her officers and members to remove their children from the public schools and see to it that they receive a thoroughly Christian education, for the glory of God and the good of Christ’s church.
TE Steven Warhurst, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Kingsport, Tennessee
TE Dr. D. James Kennedy, President, Coral Ridge Ministries Media, Inc.
RE Joel Belz
TE Dr. Ronald Gleason, Grace Presbyterian Church, Yorba Linda California
TE Jim Schirmer, Heritage Presbyterian Church, West Columbia, South Carolina
TE C. Michael Chastain, Christ Presbyterian Church, Elkton, Maryland
RE Greg Beaupied, Coral Ridge PCA, Florida