The Presbyterian Church in America discussed but rejected a statement inspired by last year's failed Southern Baptist Convention resolution urging Christian parents to withdraw their children from public schools.
The PCA, meeting June 14-17 in Chattanooga, Tenn., agreed to consider a personal resolution offered by Steven Warhurst, associate pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Kingsport, Tenn., encouraging removal of children from public schools in order to give them a "thoroughly Christian" education in home or private schools.
Warhurst's resolution said the Bible teaches parents to bring up their children in "the training and admonition of the Lord." The public school system, he said, "does not offer a Christian education, but officially claims to be 'neutral' with regard to Christ, a position that Christ himself said was impossible."
Public schools, he said, "are by law humanistic and secular in their instruction, and as a result the attending children receive an education without positive reference" to God.
"Sending thousands of PCA children as 'missionaries' to their unbelieving teachers and classmates has failed to contribute to increasing holiness in the public schools," he said. "On the contrary, the Nehemiah Institute documents growing evidence that the public schools are successfully converting covenant children to secular humanism."
Prominent Presbyterians signing on to the resolution included D. James Kennedy, pastor of the 10,000-member Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Joel Belz, founder of World Magazine and an elder in the church.
After Warhurst, who home-schools his six children, introduced the resolution, it was accepted and referred to the General Assembly's Committee of Commissioners on Bills and Overtures. After discussion, the group voted 32-10 against recommending the measure's passage, with one abstention.
"While we strongly affirm it is the responsibility of Christian parents to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, it is not appropriate for the General Assembly to make such a recommendation as contained in the personal resolution," said the committee's recommendation.
Decisions about public vs. private schooling are rather "best left to the wisdom of parents" under the guidance of their pastor, the committee said.
Warhurst countered with a minority report asking the entire assembly Thursday afternoon to approve his statement.
"It's an attempt to encourage brothers to faithfully raise their children in the Lord," Warhurst said. "I'd like to see every family in this denomination to give their children a faithful and vigorous Christian education."
The resolution sought to put the 33rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America on record as encouraging all "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."
Organized in 1973 in a split of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (Southern) over issues including inerrancy of the Bible and women's ordination, the PCA is one of America's faster-growing denominations, with 1,248 churches and more than 300,000 members.
Warhurst said he was following the lead of a similar resolution rejected last year by the Southern Baptist Convention. That resolution, which labeled secular, government-run schools as anti-Christian and "officially Godless," was killed in a committee.
Warhurst thanked the General Assembly for "vigorous but cordial" debate on his motion.
Exodus Mandate, a Christian education group, which this year is endorsing another SBC resolution that proposes parents investigate homosexual influences in public schools, expressed pleasure with the way the PCA allowed free and full debate on the issue.
"We are encouraged by the openness of the PCA 33rd General Assembly in allowing this resolution to be debated in a fair and equitable way," E. Ray Moore, Jr., director of Exodus Mandate said. "We hope and pray that other evangelical denominations, especially the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting on June 21-22 in Nashville, will have the same openness concerning the resolution 'To investigate homosexuality in Public Schools,' offered by Drs. Bruce Shortt and Voddie Baucham."
Fifty-two statewide leaders of family groups have signed on to a letter to the SBC Resolutions Committee urging that messengers to next week's convention be given an opportunity to debate and vote on Shortt and Baucham's resolution.
The resolution urges Southern Baptist congregations to investigate whether their local school district promotes homosexuality through sex-education, programs teaching tolerance and diversity or clubs for gay students.
It encourages churches that find themselves to located in such a school district "inform the parents of this fact and encourage them to remove their children from the school district's schools immediately."
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
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