The 73rd General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is meeting at the Martin and Janet Ozinga Chapel, Trinity Christian College, Palos Heights, Illinois, June 21-28, 2006. This running daily report is being written by David King and edited by Stephen Pribble and Barry Traver. Refresh your browser to see the latest version. Questions or comments may be addressed to Donald J. Duff, stated clerk. Go to Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Lord's Day, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.
The 2006 General Assembly Report (topical), by this reporter, is available by clicking here.
On this 70th anniversary of the first General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian, the 73rd General Assembly convened in the chapel of Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois, on Wednesday evening, June 21, 2006. The moderator of the 72nd General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the Rev. James Bosgraf, called the Assembly to order at 7:00 p.m., with the commissioners standing to be led in prayer by him, then singing "And Can It Be That I Should Gain." Mr. Bosgraf then read and preached a sermon on Philippians 4:1-9, calling all present to work in harmony, to rejoice in the Lord, to submit to the Lord's will with a heart of thankful prayer, to meditate on all those things that display the goodness of God and the mind of Christ, that we might be made like him to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:5-11). After the Assembly sang "O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing My Great Redeemer's Name," the Assembly began its work.
Beginning the Assembly with a sermon and hymns only, rather than with the full worship service concluding with the Lord's Supper (as every previous Assembly for the last five or more decades has begun) was a departure from tradition (but not from any rule) warranted by the number of weighty reports before the Assembly that may require extensive time for adequate treatment. There will be a communion service on Sunday evening.
The Assembly spent the balance of Wednesday evening doing the tasks necessary to set the Assembly up to do the work it came to do.
The president of Trinity Christian College, Dr. Steve Timmerman, welcomed the commissioners to the campus.
The roll was called with about 130 voting elders and ministers present. Various corresponding members (representing committees of the Assembly) were recognized.
David Haney greeted the Assembly for the Committee on Arrangements, reminding commissioners that to receive travel compensation they must attend every session of the Assembly or secure the special permission of the Assembly to be absent. The Rev. Iain Wright, pastor of nearby Covenant OPC (Orland Park) greeted commissioners and gave a special invitation to Lord's Day worship services in surrounding OP churches.
The stated clerk of the General Assembly, the Rev. Donald Duff, presented the minutes of the 72nd General Assembly (approved at the end of that Assembly).
Nominations for the moderator of the 73rd Assembly were declared open. The Rev. Richard Gerber (associate general secretary of the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension) was the only one nominated, and so was declared to be elected.
The stated clerk presented to the Assembly the various overtures from presbyteries, communications (29, including 11 with regard to the proposed revised Directory for Public Worship), and one judicial appeal (there are no complaints this year) coming before the Assembly.
The Assembly gave its consent to the daily work schedule for the Assembly's work as proposed by the clerk. The Assembly then spent time amending and adopting the agenda for its work. One noteworthy amendment to the agenda: consideration of the report of the Committee on the Doctrine of Justification will be the order of the day at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday (6/24).
The clerk proposed assignments of the reports, overtures, communications, etc., to various Advisory Committees, and also proposed the assignments of commissioners to those Advisory Committeeswhich assignments the Assembly adopted.
All of Thursday has been set aside for the work of the Advisory Committees. This is a great service to the Assembly. The members of each Advisory Committee (who had prior notification of their likely assignments when they received their Agendas several weeks ago) are able to give careful consideration to the reports, communications, recommendations, etc., assigned to them. They can interview spokesmen for the committees whose reports they are looking at, or members of presbyteries sending overtures and communications. Other interested and knowledgeable parties can speak to them. Out of this work they offer the full Assembly recommendations for how it might understand and deal with the business before it. In most cases this enables the Assembly to work more effectively and harmoniously toward righteous actions in accord with God's Word.
On Thursday, the Advisory Committees met to do their work.
At 11:55 a.m. the Assembly came together to be led in devotions by the Rev. Nathan J. Hornfeld, pastor of Grace OPC, San Antonio, Texas. After the Assembly sang "In Sweet Communion, Lord, with Thee" (from Psalm 73), Mr. Hornfeld read and expounded on Ephesians 1:15-19.
By common consent, the Assembly postponed its lunch long enough to hear the fraternal delegate from the Presbyterian Church in Korea (Kosin), the Rev. Chon Soo Lim, bring greetings from his church.
Following lunch the commissioners returned to their committee work.
This reporter and all the commissioners he has heard on the matter agree that the hospitality of Trinity Christian College has been quite wonderfullovely campus, comfortable quarters, delicious meals, and numerous attentive college students helping with technical matters (sound, computers, power-point, and so forth).
The full Assembly convened again at 8:30 a.m., singing from Psalm 9 and being led in prayer.
The stated clerk, the Rev. Donald Duff, presented his report. As part of his report he informed the Assembly that the presbyteries have voted to approve amendments to the Book of Discipline proposed to them by the 72nd General Assembly. The moderator therefore declared those amendments (at BD II.B.2) to be adopted and to go into effect in 2010.
The moderator appointed the Rev. Stuart Jones as parliamentarian for this Assembly.
Elder Richard Barker presented the report of the Trustees of the General Assembly.
The Advisory Committee that reviewed the work of the clerk and the Trustees recommended an adjustment to the proposed GA Budget for 2007 that was referred to Advisory Committee 4 for later report.
The Trustees recommended the adoption of the remuneration package for the stated clerk in 2007. The Assembly approved the package.
Election of Trustees (class of 2009): Samuel Bacon and Richard Barker, as the only nominees, were returned to the Trustees.
The stated clerk appointed the Rev. John Mahaffy to serve the Assembly as its assistant clerk.
Elder Luke Brown, GA statistician, gave his report. In 2005 three congregations withdrew from the OPC to join the Presbyterian Church in America, one of which was a rather large congregation, resulting in a net loss of members for the OPC in 2005. The membership of the OPC has remained at about 28,000 for more than two years, which is a cause of concern. Total offerings in 2005 did increase 5.3%, reflecting an increase in giving per communicant member.
The Assembly elected Mr. Brown to continue as its statistician.
Election of the stated clerk (to start with the 74th G.A.). The Trustees had nominated Donald Duff; no other nominations being made, the moderator declared Mr. Duff to be elected.
The Rev. Alan Pontier led the Assembly in prayer for its clerks, trustees, and statistician and their work.
The report of the Committee on Foreign Missions was presented by the Rev. Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., who introduced elder Mark Bube, general secretary of the CFM, who reported on the work of the Committee and its missionaries and mission fields.
Mr. Bube's report featured pictures of the missionaries and many of those they serve in various countriesoften in spite of opposition and persecution of the churches.
The Rev. Tony Curto, now teaching at Greenville Theological Seminary, reported on the ministry he has been conducting in Ethiopia for two weeks at a time twice a year, and especially on the courage of young men who come from non-Christian areas to Addis Ababa to be taught and others who labor to bring the Gospel to difficult parts of Ethiopia. He pointed to the limitations on his effectiveness, due to the periodic nature of his contact, and stressed that a full time missionary is needed.
The Rev. Heero Hacquebord, a minister of the OPC who labors under Mission to the World (PCA) in Ukraine, reported on his work, the progress of the growing Reformed and Presbyterian churches in Ukraine, the prospects for a closer relationship between the PCA and OPC in the oversight and support of his work, and his hope to take up church planting work in L'viv (western Ukraine).
The Rev. Al Tricarico, missionary in Nakaale, Karamoja, Uganda, reported on the mission in Nakaale and the surrounding district. Mr. Tricarico urged prayer that the Lord would send another missionary to work with the Proctors in Mbale, and prayer for the Karamojong in their need for the Gospel and its fruits and for the Lord's protection for missionaries and the people to whom they seek to minister.
Mr. Bube recounted the events that took missionary to Haiti, Matthew Baugh, from this world, brought the Assembly up to date on Matt's wife Shannon and their five children, and urged prayer for the Lord to call a man to continue the work in Haiti.
Mr. Bube reminded commissioners that great care must be taken with regard to putting information about our missions on the internet.
The one recommendation of the Committee on Foreign Missions (appearing at the end of a "Supplemental report of the Committee on Foreign Missions") was moved and adopted which addressed a matter referred to the CFM by the 72nd G.A. and arising from the creation of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Support of the OPC Japan Mission:
"1) Members of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church may associate together for specific purposes in the exercise of their common calling, bearing in mind, among other things, the several provisions of Form of Government XXX;
2) The 73rd (2006) General Assembly observes that: (i) neither it nor any previous general assembly has acted to give to the 'Ad Hoc Committee for the Support of the OPC Japan Mission' the assembly's approval to represent the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (Form of Government XXX.3), and (ii) the "Ad Hoc Committee for the Support of the OPC Japan Mission" is not subject to the jurisdiction and oversight of the general assembly (Form of Government XXX.3); and
3) The orderly ways in which Orthodox Presbyterian foreign missions are to be conducted are enumerated in Form of Government XXVII.1, that is, either 'by the general assembly on behalf of the whole church, or by individual presbyteries and congregations acting in coordination with one another and with the general assembly.'"
In response to a point of order the moderator ruled that the Supplemental report could not be recorded in the Minutes (due to its last-minute distribution to commissioners and a Standing Rule related thereto). A motion was made to record the report in the Minutes. This motion was opposed by some who argued that the Supplemental report contains errors with regard to the nature and actions of the Ad Hoc Committee.
Shortly before the lunch break, the Rev. Joseph Auksela, pastor of Westminster Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Bartlesville, Oklahoma, led the Assembly in devotions. The Assembly sang "Whate'er My God Ordains Is Right," and Mr. Auksela read and expounded on Romans 4:1-8 and 12:1.
The Assembly then took its lunch break, after which it returned to considering the motion to record the Supplemental report of the CFM in the Minutes.
A motion was made to amend the motion before the Assembly by adding to the Supplemental report the response prepared by the Ad Hoc Committee for the Support of the Japan Mission.
Following a parliamentary tangle, the entire matter was referred to Advisory Committee 1 to examine and report back at a later time.
The Recommendation of Advisory Committee 1 was moved: "That the General Assembly encourage presbyteries without foreign missions committees to form such, as suggested by the CFM in new Section 7.5 of is Manual."
Election to the CFM (class of 2009):
The two ruling elders nominated were declared elected: Arthur Thompson and Bradley Winsted.
Ministers elected were Jack Peterson, Paul Browne and Glenn Jerrell.
The moderator at this point had the clerks take a census of commissioners and corresponding members showing the numbers ordained in decades as follows:
Nineteen commissioners were present for the first time.
Elder James Gidley, president of the Committee on Christian Education, presented their report. He introduced the Rev. Danny Olinger, general secretary of the CCE, who continued to report for the Committee.
The Rev. Rodney King offered explanations of improvements and offerings in the OPC website.
The Rev. Greg Reynolds spoke with regard to the CCE's publication for officers in the OPC, Ordained Servant. The Assembly was told that the CCE has decided to publish Ordained Servant online, rather than mailing it out (and publishing an annual printed edition). Mr. Reynolds declared that "we are committed to being confessional, not trendy"but will evaluate trends in the world around us from the standpoint of the truths we confess in our Confessional Standards. The aim is to equip and strengthen men in all offices (ministers, elders, and deacons).
Mr. Olinger told about plans for new publications, including titles in Spanish.
The Rev. Thomas Patete (PCA), executive director of Great Commission Publications (a joint endeavor of the OPC and the PCA), spoke to the Assembly, calling attention to the "Show Me Jesus" graded Sunday School curriculum (developed on a biblical/covenantal grid), to the ongoing re-configuration from a 3-year cycle to a 2-year cycle, and to the inclusion of personal devotional guides for children. Future plans include revising middle school curriculum, adding to adult class offerings, promoting the translation of GCP curriculum into Greek, Portuguese (both in process now) and Spanish (future).
Mr. Olinger amplified the printed report with comments on the OPC's program for ministerial interns. He noted that they had difficulty this year lining up internships for willing ministerial students. As this seemed due primarily to the cost this program imposes on the mentoring churches, the CCE is considering increasing its financial support to those churches. The need is critical, as the average age of OP ministers is going up and a good many will likely retire within the next ten years.
Mr. Olinger also highlighted the OPC Ministerial Training Institute (this fall offering instruction in Polity, Covenant Nurture, and the Westminster Standards) with the on-site intensive session taking place in Matthews (Charlotte), NC.
The Ministerial Training Subcommittee visits seminary candidates, meets with students, provides conferences for presbytery candidates and credentials committees (next one to be sometime in 2007; date, speakers, goals to be announced).
Advisory Committee 2 reported.
With regard to CCE, AC2 made this recommendation: "that the assembly increase the proposed 2007 budget of the CCE by $12,680" (to allow more funding for internet ministries). The moderator ruled that this constitutes an amendment to the recommendation of the Committee on Coordination, so it will be deferred until the consideration of the Worldwide Outreach budget.
Elections to the CCE (in two parts): (1) to the CCE, Ministerial Training Subcommittee, the Assembly elected elder David Winslow and the Rev. Thomas Tyson; (2) to the CCE in general, the Assembly elected elder Daryl Hart, the Rev. Sid Dyer, and the Rev. Archibald Allison.
The Assembly was led in prayer for the work of the Committee on Christian Education.
The Rev. Charles Brown brought fraternal greetings from the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (the "Covenanters").
Following the mid-afternoon break (and interrupting the CCE report), the Rev. James Kim brought fraternal greetings to the Assembly for the Korean American Presbyterian Church.
The moderator asked Elder Robert Coie to assume the chair during consideration of matters related to the report of the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension.
The report of the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension was presented by the Rev. John Hilbelink, Committee president, and by the general secretary, the Rev. Ross Graham. Home missionaries present as commissioners were introduced and asked to stand, as well as the one regional home missionary present (James Bosgraf).
Mr. Graham reported that already in 2006 the CHMCE has approved the 15th church planter for support (a significant increase from the past), with the prospect for more this summer. He highlighted new works from various locations around the USAincluding a home missionary for the Presbytery of New Jersey in San Juan, Puerto Rico!
In God's providence, David Haney, controller for the Worldwide Outreach ministry committees, was the man available to coordinate the response of the OPC to aid disaster victims following Hurricane Katrina. He showed a DVD presenting the work of the OP relief work teams. After the video he asked those commissioners present who had gone to work with the relief teams to stand; and the Assembly expressed its appreciation with applause. Mr. Haney told us that the needs continue and more teams can be put to work through this summer. And following that commissioners gave to David Haney a standing ovation in appreciation for his leadership of that effort.
Mr. Graham added further remarks with regard to the willingness of the CHMCE to serve the church in administering disaster relief efforts in the future.
Advisory Committee 3 reported. With regard to the report of the CHMCE as a whole they were silent, but they brought a recommendation for the form in which the CHMCE's one recommendation might be adopted.
AC3 also reported on a communication from the Committee on Diaconal Ministries related to its cooperation with the CHMCE in developing structures and procedures for responding expeditiously to major disasters this country.
The CHMCE's recommendation was moved and the moderator obtained common consent to substitute the recommendation of AC3 (as a perfection of the CHMCE's proposal). After being further amended, it was passed by the Assembly in this form:
"that the 73rd General Assembly expresses its sincere appreciation to the many members of the OPC who sacrificially gave their gifts and offerings and those who volunteered their time and energy to go to the hurricane-ravaged parts of the southern United States during the fall of 2005 to provide their help and to represent their Lord and their Church in offering 'that cup of cold water' in Jesus' name and that this appreciation be expressed in the minutes of the Assembly, the New Horizons magazine, the denominational website, and the stated clerk's follow-up letter to the sessions of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church."
Advisory Committee 5 moved its recommendations with regard to future responses to domestic disasters:
"1. That the General Assembly request CHMCE to undertake relief ministries on behalf of the GA in the event of a 'major disaster' in North America [as defined by a CDM report to the 63rd GA]."
After much debate and several attempted amendments, the recommendation carried.
At 8:30 p.m. the Assembly recessed for the night with prayer.
Following the singing of "Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation" and prayer, the moderator announced the election of Sydney Dyer and Archibald Allison to the Committee on Christian Education.
The Assembly turned to the order of the day for Saturday morning: the Report of the Committee to Study the Doctrine of Justification.
The 71st General Assembly erected a six-man committee "to critique the teachings of the 'New Perspective on Paul,' 'Federal Vision,' and other like teachings concerning the doctrine of justification and other related doctrines, as they are related to the Word of God and our subordinate standards, with a view to giving a clear statement to the presbyteries, session and seminaries...." Committee chairman the Rev. David VanDrunen presented to the Assembly the ninety-one page product of their two years of labor.
Following a brief introduction, the report has the following parts:
I. General Introductionwhich devotes 29 pages to carefully expositing the doctrine of justification taught in Scripture and in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms (especially Larger Catechism, Question 70), and interacting point-by-point with those who have espoused differing views.
II. Justification in the Ecumenical Contextbriefly sketching developments in the larger professing Christian world (such as the "Joint Declaration of Justification" signed on Reformation Day 1999 in Augsburg, Germany, by representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation).
III. The New Perspective on Paul22 page examination and critique in view of the biblical and Reformed confessional doctrine set forth in part I.
IV. Federal Vision29 page examination and critique.
V. Summaries of parts III and IV
VI. RecommendationsThe Committee presented to the Assembly three recommendations based on its report:
"1. That the General Assembly recommend that presbyteries include the following topics in the examination of candidates, with a view to ensuring each candidate's fidelity to biblical and confessional teaching on justification and his ability to articulate that teaching: [here they list 14 doctrinal subjects about which candidates should be clear and sound].
"2. That the General Assembly recommend that presbyteries, sessions, and pastors be proactive in addressing teachings of the New Perspective on Paul and of the Federal Vision and other like teachings that compromise the purity of the gospel.
"3. That the General Assembly:
a. Distribute this report to the presbyteries, particularly to their candidates and credentials committees, and to all sessions of the OPC, commending the report to them for study.
b. Request the Committee on Christian Education: (1) to distribute this report to seminaries with which it has contact; (2) to post this report on our denominational web site for easy access by interested parties; and (3) to consider publishing it separately for distribution.
c. Request the stated clerk to mail copies of this report to those churches with whom the OPC has fraternal relations."
Advisory Committee 7 reported that it was silent with regard to the report as a whole, but would recommend that its Recommendation 3 be considered in its parts seriatim.
The moderator opened the floor for questions concerning the report. The time for asking questions was extended twice.
The Committee moved its first Recommendation (see above).
An amendment to the first recommendation was moved, by which it would read: "that the General Assembly recommend that presbyteries, in seeking to ensure a candidate's fidelity to Biblical and confessional teaching on justification, and his ability to articulate that teaching, consider including the following topics in his examination:..."
Following the singing of a hymn, Moderator Richard Gerber led the commissioners in devotions, expounding on Proverbs 25:28 and 1 Corinthians 9:19-27 to urge on us the necessity of self-control and a Gospel-controlled purpose-driven life. After prayer, the Assembly recessed for lunch.
Upon return from the lunch recess the Assembly corrected and approved the Minutes of its proceedings as far as the clerks had printed and distributed them.
The Assembly then returned to considering the first recommendation of the report of the Committee on Justification. The amendment failed, and the original recommendation of the Committee carried by a decisive vote.
The Committee moved its second Recommendation (see above), which was carried by a decisive vote.
The Committee moved its third Recommendation.
The Assembly adopted the recommendation of AC7 to consider the parts of this recommendation seriatim.
Part A was amended by the addition of the word "ministers" to the list of those receiving the report, and was adopted overwhelmingly.
Rec. 3b was placed before the Assembly.
An amendment was offered to Rec. 3b, to add "and (4) to include the following statement with any distribution of the report outside the OPC: The General Assembly recognizes that this report is intended to criticize the Federal Vision and New Perspective on Paul as movements, and not primarily to criticize individuals. The General Assembly also recognizes that the report does critique published statements of various individuals, some of whom may believe that they have been misunderstood, and may wish to clarify or modify their statements. The General Assembly also notes that its Standing Rules V.3. state that 'If a report or paper contains only a statement of fact or opinion for the information of the Assembly, there is no necessity for action upon it. But if the Assembly desires to endorse the statement and thus make itself assume responsibility for it, the proper motion is to adopt it.' The Assembly has commended the report for study, but has not adopted the report."
This was debated and an amendment to the amendment was offered. At this point the Assembly determined to refer Rec.3b, all amendments proposed, and Rec.3c to Advisory Committee 7 to study and report back to the Assembly.
It was then moved that "the Assembly adopt the report."
It was moved to indefinitely postpone consideration of this motion.
It was moved to refer these motions to Advisory Committee 7.
The motion to refer carried (at 3:20 p.m., meaning that somewhere around five hours of Assembly time had been devoted to carefully considering the Report on Justification).
Election to the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension. Only two ruling elders were nominated, Richard Barker and Garret Hoogerhyde, so the moderator declared them elected.
Ministers elected: Dale Van Dyke, John Hilbelink, Mark Brown
The Rev. Jack Peterson, for the Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations, introduced the Rev. Todd Joling, who brought greetings to the Assembly from the United Reformed Churches of North America. Mr. Joling expressed his hope that the OPC and the URCNA might soon enter into full ecclesiastical fellowship and perhaps someday a full union.
The report of the Committee on Coordination was presented by the Rev. James Bosgraf, Committee Chairman, who made some introductory remarks and then deferred to Elder David Haney (Director of Finance and Planned Giving) to continue presenting the report.
2005 was the first in eight years in which the OPC fully supported the Worldwide Outreach budget in its giving.
Those who have been members of the OPC for a number of years probably understand that as a denomination we support the ministries of foreign missions, home missions, and Christian education at the General Assembly level through a unified annual budget, but those who are new to the church may not be aware of this. It does distinguish the OPC from most (if not all) other denominations. One distinctive is that individual missionaries are not required to raise their support; the Committee on Foreign Missions takes that task upon itself. And at a broader level, the Committee on Foreign Missions, the Committee on Home Missions, and the Committee on Christian Education work together, through the coordinating work of the Committee on Coordination, to develop a single, unified budget which the General Assembly can agree to (or possibly amend) and urge the churches of the OPC to support as a whole. The whole work of Worldwide Outreach is then promoted throughout the OPC by various means, especially through the magazine New Horizons in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church which is direct-mailed to the home of every communicant member.
The 2007 Worldwide Outreach budget proposed before the Assembly, comes with the unanimous support of the members of the Committee on Coordination and the general secretaries of the three program committees.
Proposed Worldwide Outreach budget:
Christian Education Committee $ 299,320
Comm. on Foreign Missions 1,083,438
Com. on Home Missions and Church Ext. 950,000
New Horizons 250,000
Committee on Coordination 297,000
Total Worldwide Outreach $2,879,758
The COC presented four recommendations:
1. to adopt the proposed budget for 2007.
2. and 3. proposing changes in the Standing Rules of the GA affecting elections to the voting membership of the Committee.
4. proposing an amendment to Instrument E of the Instruments of the GA (which would allow the indefinite continuation of "special relationship" support for a missionary).
Advisory Committee 4 was silent with regard to the report, but recommends that the COC's 4th recommendation be dealt with after the report of the Special Committee on Financial Review.
The moderator opened the floor for 30 questions on the report.
The assembly recessed for the day at 5:00 p.m.
On the Lord's Day, the commissioners rested from the labors of the Assembly and worshiped in churches near and far. In the evening there was a worship service of the Assembly at Trinity College, to which area OP congregations had been invited. About 400 took part. The Rev. William Shishko preached on 1 Timothy 3:15-16 on "Biblical High Churchmanship"; and the service concluded with the Lord's Supper. As previously announced, the offering received during the service was to go to the family of missionary Matthew Baugh.
A reader of these on-line reports suggested it might help other readers to explain what is meant when we say that an advisory committee is silent with regard to a matter before it. The GA Instrument governing the work of its advisory committees says, "Silence by an advisory committee with respect to the work or recommendations of a committee under review shall be construed as general approval of the work and concurrence in the recommendations."
The moderator called the Assembly to order at 8:30 a.m. We sang "Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven," and were led in prayer.
The moderator called for consideration of the Overtures before the Assembly.
Overture 1 came from the Presbytery of Southern California requesting advice from the Assembly (supported by Overture 4 and Communication 6). Advisory Committee 3 made the following recommendation (perfected by two amendments):
That the General Assembly respond to Overture 1 by electing a committee of three and one alternate member to study the issue regarding the propriety of the reception of illegal aliens into membership in the OPC and to propose to the 74th General Assembly advice for presbyteries and sessions, and that the Assembly approve a budget of $1,000 for the work of the committee.
The recommendation, as amended, was adopted; and the Assembly proceeded to elect the members of the Committee.
Elected: the Rev. Todd Wagenmaker, Elder David Winslow and the Rev. John Fesko, with the Rev. Charles Telfer as alternate and Mr. Wagenmaker named as convener.
Overture 3 came from the Presbytery of Ohio (supported by Overture 4). Advisory Committee 2 recommended that the Assembly respond as follows:
"that the assembly instruct its Committee on Christian Education to explore, together with Great Commission Publications, the need for and requirements of a new Psalter Hymnal and report back to the General Assembly, no later than 2008."
The Advisory Committee sited the grounds for the Overture as the grounds for its recommendation:
A motion was made to substitute for the recommendation of AC2 the overture itself, in the following form (as later amended):
"That the 73rd General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church authorize its Committee on Christian Education to seek to develop a Psalter-Hymnal by 2011 (our 75th anniversary)which includes musical settings of all 150 Psalms, in their entirety, with as much accuracy and as little archaic language and confusing syntax as possiblefor use in our congregations; that it authorize the Committee on Christian Education to appoint a special Psalter-Hymnal committee; and that it grant this special committee a budget of up to $5,000" [per year for committee expenses].
Following the morning break, the Rev. David Schutter, pastor of Naperville PCA in Naperville, IL, brought fraternal greetings from the Presbyterian Church in America.
The Assembly continued its consideration of Overture 3.
The Assembly adopted the amended substitute as the main motion, and adopted it as its response to Overtures 3 and 4.
The Assembly returned to consideration of the report of the Committee on Coordination, and in particular to its recommendations (see Saturday's report).
Recommendation 1 (proposed Wordlwide Outreach Budget for 2007) was moved.
Advisory Committee 2 moved to amend by increasing the WWO 2007 budget by $12,680 to be allocated for the Committee on Christian Education ("for the continued development of its internet ministries").
The amendment carried, and the WWO 2007 budget, as amended, carried. The adopted budget for Christian Education, then, is $312,000, and the total WWO budget is $2,892,438.
The Assembly does not request a per-communicant member amount to support the Worldwide Outreach budget. But for those who are interested in knowing: with the total number of communicant members and ministers at 20,417 (12-31-05, Statistician's report), the per-communicant member share of the WWO budget comes to $141.67.
Recommendations 2 and 3 carried.
Consideration of Recommendation 4 was postponed until after the consideration of the Special Committee on Financial Review.
Election to the Committee on Coordination: the Rev. James Bosgraf was returned to the COC.
The Rev. Robert Boline presented the report of the Special Committee on Financial Review. Consideration of this report occupied the commissioners (with a few interruptions) for the rest of the day. Despite extending the time for evening recess to 9:00pm, the task was not completed this day.
The 71st GA created this committee with the following action:
"That, in light of the financial needs laid out by the Committee on Foreign Missions, Home Missions and Christian Education in their reports to the 71st General Assembly, the General Assembly elect a committee of five members, none of whom is a member or an employee of the Committee on Coordination or the three program committees, to study the present means of providing funds for the work of the program committees of the Church, to consult with representatives of the Committee on Coordination and the three program committees, and to present recommendations to the 72nd General Assembly for possible structural changes to the present system of funding" (reporter's italics).
The need for this review arose from problems that have repeatedly been alleged to exist in the implementation of "the unified budget" process (those problems often referred to in terms of "Instrument E" [the GA document that regulates the unified budget] or "the cap"). The possibilities: (1) the unified budget approach is wrong, and we should return to the pre-1970s approach; (2) the unified budget approach is right, but major or fundamental revisions are needed in our current method; (3) the current structure and method are basically sound, but just need some improvement; (4) or no changes are needed. The Committee's recommendations seem to express the third of these alternatives (though some might think their proposal to remove "the cap" a major revision).
The Committee report gave the history and philosophical/theological rationale of the current practice of the unified budget for supporting Worldwide Outreach, offered a careful analysis of its view of problems with the current method, and proposed remedies in the form of amendments to the governing document (Instrument E). The chairman supplemented the report with a very helpful graphic slide presentation, showing how it all works.
The committee presented 17 recommendations.
Advisory Committee 4 reported.
The Assembly was led in devotions by the Rev. Archibald Allison. After the singing of "Bow Down Thine Ear, O Lord, and Hear" (Psalm 86:1-11), Mr. Allison read and expounded upon Ephesians 5 pointing to Christ our model, for marriage, for the Christian life, for life together and ministering in the Christian church.
Following announcements and prayer, the Assembly recessed for lunch.
Time was given for asking questions of the committee.
Recommendations 2-15 from the Special Committee were moved as a block (rather than seriatim) in the form proposed by AC4, all of them modifying Instrument E at various places.
The changes as a whole were intended to (1) require greater attention to promotion and solicitation (including better exchange of information between sessions and the COC) in support of the Worldwide Outreach ministries, (2) eliminate the "cap," and (3) end the limit on how long missionaries may be supported under "special relationships" (outside the cap).
Procedural motions were made and carried to separate these issues from each other for debate and vote.
Following the afternoon break, the order of the day was to consider the report of the Committee on Chaplains and Military Personnel. The Rev. Robert Needham presented the report.
The OPC, PCA, and Korean-American Presbyterian Churches cooperate together in forming the Presbyterian and Reformed Joint Commission on Chaplains and Military Personnel (PRJC), which serves as an endorsing agent for chaplains from their communions (which enables both ecclesiastical discipline of our chaplains and also intercession on their behalf). The PRJC is currently endeavoring to bring about needed changes in the "Revised Interim Guidelines Concerning the Free Exercise of Religion in the Air Force", particularly to defend the right of military personnel as well as chaplains to pray in the name of Jesus on any and every occasion for which prayer is requested. Mr. Needham requested prayer for the success of this endeavor.
The Committee updates and publishes a monthly prayer list for all OPC members (and relatives) in military service.
The Committee presented one recommendation (printed here as later amended and adopted): " ... that the 73rd GA respectfully encourage the presbyteries to
The Advisory Committee was silent with regard to the report and its Recommendations.
The Committee's recommendation was adopted (with no dissent audible to this reporter).
Election to the Committee on Chaplains: Mr. Richard Dickerson was returned to the Committee.
The Rev. Morris MacDonald addressed the Assembly on behalf of the Bible Presbyterian Church. The Assembly returned to consideration of the recommendations of the Special Committee on Financial Review.
The Assembly was still considering those recommendations when the time came for the supper recess.
Returning from the supper break, the Assembly sang, "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name," and was led in prayer.
The Rev. Roelf Christiaan (Karlo) Janssen brought fraternal greetings from the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (GKN, liberated). Mr. Janssen specifically addressed concerns the OPC Committee on Ecumenicity had expressed concern the understanding of the sufficiency of Scripture in the GKN as expressed in a paper submitted to their Synod, affirming that his church has taken actions which should lay the OPC concerns to rest. He also referred us to their web site at which their documents are now presented in English translations. Mr. Janssen expressed the hope that our two churches might soon embrace one another in fraternal relationship (which we are in the process of working on).
The Assembly returned to considering the recommendations of the Special Committee on Financial Review.
When the time came to recess for the night (8:30 p.m.), a motion was made and carried to extend the time for recess until 9:00 p.m.
The vote was taken on whether or not to eliminate the "cap" from Instrument E. The proposal carried by a vote of 69 to 64.
The Assembly was led in prayer and recessed at 9:05 p.m.
The moderator called the Assembly to order at 8:30 a.m., with the Assembly singing "God, My King, Thy Might Confessing" (based on Psalm 145), and prayer by a commissioner.
The moderator read Proverbs 17:27, 28 (hoping thereby to encourage commissioners to exercise self-discipline over the desire to make unnecessary speeches).
The Assembly having previously determined to make it the order of the day for this time, the report of the Committee on Presbyterial Records was presented by the Rev. Douglas L. Watson. The work of this committee each year is one important way that the Assembly exercises its oversight of the presbyteries.
With almost no discussion and no debate, the Assembly quickly adopted the 25 recommendations of the Committee. None of the exceptions brought to the attention of the Assembly were of a weighty nature.
When it was called to the attention of the Assembly that Elder Richard Barker (present as a commissioner and a former stated clerk of the General Assembly) has just completed 47 years as clerk of the Presbytery of New Jersey, the Assembly responded with spontaneous standing applause. At a later point in the Assembly the Advisory Committee read a statement of commendation to Mr. Barker.
The Rev. Douglas Snyder presented the report of the Committee for Examining Standing Committee Records. This committee reviews the Minutes of the standing committees of the Assembly (Foreign Missions, Home Missions, Christian Ed., Coordination, Pensions, Trustees, Diaconal, Chaplains, Historian, Ecumenicity), as part of the way the Assembly oversees the work of its own committees.
The 5 recommendations of the committee were adopted with no debate. None of the exceptions noted were of a weighty nature.
The Rev. Daniel Knox read a protest to an action of the Assembly (upholding a ruling of the moderator) with regard to a proposed amendment to Instrument E offered during the course of the debate on Monday (which had been ruled out of order).
Consideration of the remaining recommendations of the Special Committee on Financial Review was resumed.
A procedural motion was made to refer the remaining recommendations (except 16,17, and including the remaining recommendations of the Advisory Committee) to the Committee on Coordination for report back to the 74th G.A.
The motion to refer lost, committing the Assembly to continued discussion and debate. (The Assembly spent about 30 minutes deciding whether or not to refer).
The Assembly voted to approve recommendations 2-13 of the Special Committee (except for the parts eliminating the "cap" which were approved the evening before).
The general effect of these adopted amendments to Instrument E is to require more attention and effort be given to promotion of the Worldwide outreach ministries.
The Assembly adopted a motion to proceed to vote immediately on all remaining recommendations of the Special Committee (one of the very few times this reporter remembers a motion to end debate being passed).
Recommendations 14, 15 carried. This action amends part of Instrument E that has to do with the financial support of new missionaries through "special relationships" (e.g., Hub-Spokes arrangements), and directs the CFM and Committee on Coordination to bring all of the special relationships into conformity with the amended provision within two years.
Recommendation 16 was moved, and then the Advisory Committee's substitute for it was moved and then adopted by the Assembly. This act of the Assembly directs the Committee on Coordination to "explore means by which the program committees themselves may reach new sources of funding within and without the OPC and methods of reaching them for advancing the Reformed cause represented by the OPC and to suggest means of implementation; consider how the WWO program may be greatly simplified; and report their findings to the 74th GA."
A motion to dissolve the Special Committee with thanks was adopted.
Following the morning break, the Assembly turned to the report of the Committee on Pensions which was presented by Elder Roger Huibregtse, who reported on the performance of the OPC Pension Fund and the state of the hospitalization insurance plan.
The Assembly adopted the recommendation of the Pensions Committee that the Assembly "request the congregations to contribute $10 per communicant member to the Hospitalization Reserve Fund in 2007."
Election to the Committee on Pensions: The Rev. Robert Broline, and Elders Bruce Stahl and Roger Huibregtse were returned to the Committee for another term.
The Rev. Herman Van Stedum brought fraternal greetings from the Reformed Church in the United States.
An unresolved issue arising from the report of the Committee on Foreign Missions had been referred back to Advisory Committee 1 last week. The moderator now called for AC1 to report on that matter.
Recommendation 1 from AC1 that the supplemental report of the Committee on Foreign Missions be recorded in the Minutes of the Assembly was moved.
The moderator announced that the offering received in the Sunday evening worship service for the Baugh family came to $35,029.08.
The Rev. Robert Van Manen led the Assembly in devotions, reading from and expounding upon 2 Chronicles 27, led in prayer and led us all in singing of "Be Thou My Vision." Returning from the noon break, the Assembly sang a hymn and was led in prayer.
The Assembly corrected Minutes presented by the clerks.
The Assembly resumed consideration of the recommendation of AC1, and the recommendation lost. The supplemental report of the CFM will not be recorded in the Minutes of the Assembly.
The moderator ruled that the second recommendation on this matter from AC1 was rendered moot by the previous motion.
The moderator called for Advisory Committee 7 to report on the motions referred back to it with regard to the report of the Committee on Justification.
AC7 brought 3 recommendations to the Assembly, all of which were adopted.
The report of the Committee on Diaconal Ministries was presented by its President, the Rev. Ronald Pearce, and its Secretary-Treasurer, the Rev. Leonard Coppes.
Advisory Committee 5 reported, with one recommendation (below).
The first 3 recommendations of the CDM were moved and passed (recorded as amended):
The Assembly adopted AC5's recommendation:
That the General Assembly instruct the Committee on Diaconal Ministries to provide in their future reports to GA a detailed explanation of all Foreign Ministry Disbursements with due regard for the safety and confidentiality of the recipients.
Election to the Committee on Diaconal Ministries: Jack Swann and Bob Wright, deacons, were nominated and declared elected. The Rev. Lendall Smith was elected. A motion was adopted expressing the Assembly's gratitude to Dr. Leonard Coppes and his wife Diana for their 33 years of service for the Committee on Diaconal Ministries.
After the afternoon break, the Assembly turned its attention to the report of the Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations, which was presented by the Rev. Messers. Thomas E. Tyson and Jack J. Peterson.
The CEIR brought 3 recommendations, the first quite lengthy. Their recommendations were adopted by the Assembly in separate actions:
1. Their 1st recommendation sought to amend "the policy of the OPC on its relationship with other Reformed churches" (as adopted and amended by previous General Assemblies), by
(1) determining to focus the development of fraternal ecumenical relationships with churches "seeking ecclesiastical relationship with the OPC" which are "either geographically proximate to the OPC" or have "some other form of substantial contact or history with the OPC" (other churches being encouraged to seek membership in the ICRC);
(2) drop the current section on "Limited Contact" and replace it with a new section on "Ecumenical Contact" (thereby re-formulating the three levels of ecumenical relationship entered into by the OPC: ecclesiastical fellowship (closest), corresponding relations, and [if the amendment is adopted] ecumenical contact [instead of "limited contact"]; and
(3) create a list of churches in ecumenical contact. [The Assembly adopted a one-word amendment from AC7.]
Their 2nd recommendation was to approve the membership of the Free Reformed Churches in North America in NAPARC.
3. Their third recommendation proposed a response to NAPARC's request that the OPC (and other member churches) ratify "a new formulation regarding women in combat," declining to grant their request (suggesting instead that NAPARC refer member churches to each other's statements on the subject).
Election to the CEIR. Elder Mark Bube and the Rev. George Knight were re-elected to the committee, and the Rev. John Hilbelink was elected to fill the place left open by G. I. Williamson's declining to be returned to the committee.
A resolution commending and thanking G. I. Williamson for his years of fruitful service on the CEIR was adopted.
The Rev. R. Sherman Isbell brought fraternal greetings from the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing), expressing in particular appreciation for the efforts of our fraternal delegates to their General Assembly laboring to encourage them to be reconciled with the Free Church of Scotland.
Advisory Committee 2 reported to propose GA responses to requests from two different presbyteries regarding men who have been approved in those presbyteries for ordination and licensure but have not met all of the educational requirements specified in the Form of Government. On their recommendation the Assembly expressed no objection to the Presbytery of the Southwest to the ordination of Mr. Phil Hodson, and expressed no objection to the Presbytery of Philadelphia to the licensure of Mr. James La Belle.
Following announcements and prayer, the Assembly recessed for supper.
After singing a hymn and being led in prayer, the Assembly resumed its work, taking up the report of the Committee on Appeals and Complaints, presented by the Rev. John Mallin.
There is only one such matter before the assembly, an appeal by a member of a church against his conviction and censure. He appealed first to his presbytery, which upheld his conviction and censure.
The Committee on Appeals and Complaints led the Assembly through the chronology of the case, summarized the charge against the appellant and summarized and made observations regarding the contents of his appeal. The Committee made one recommendation: "that the appeal be found in order and properly before the Assembly." The Committee also made procedural recommendations.
The Rev. Larry Westerveld presented the report of Advisory Committee 10, alerting the Assembly to the existence of a minority report.
The Assembly found the appeal in order and properly before the Assembly, and the Assembly agreed to hear and consider the appeal in the manner proposed by the Appeals and Complaints Committee, but in a slightly different order than proposed.
The appellant's third specification of error was taken up first (as to its admissibility), alleging that his presbytery "erred in not sustaining the appeal regarding the proposed censure of excommunication." AC10 recommended that this specification be found in order (properly before the Assembly). The Assembly agreed that Specification 3 was properly before the Assembly.
The appellant presented a number specifications of error alleged against the presbytery in hearing of his first appeal.
A procedural motion was passed delaying the time for recess until the resolution of the Appeal.
The first specification of error considered by the Assembly was his allegation that the presbytery erred in not finding that the trial judicatory erred in denying him his right under the Book of Discipline to call witnesses of his choosing. The Assembly voted to sustain that allegation of error.
Related to this, the Assembly considered the recommendation of its Advisory Committee that this error not be deemed sufficient to overturn the judgment against the appellant.
A substitute motion was made that the Assembly find that the specification of error is sufficiently weighty not to sustain the judgment of the presbytery so as to warrant remitting the case to the trial judicatory for a new trial.
The substitute was made the main motion.
At 10:33 p.m. the Assembly voted to recess. Following announcements and prayer the Assembly did recess.
Following a hymn and prayer, the Assembly returned to its work at 8:00 a.m.
An expression of gratitude was read to the Assembly honoring the Rev. Ken Campbell and his wife Heather in view of Ken's imminent retirement after 25 years of service in Grace OPC, Fair Lawn NJ, and their soon return to their native New Zealand.
The Assembly returned to the judicial matter before it, carried over from Tuesday evening.
By amendments the following was added to the motion on the floor:
"Furthermore the Assembly requests and strongly urges the session of Grace Covenant OPC to provide Mr. V. with competent trial counsel; and the Assembly further requests and strongly urges Mr. V. to receive such counsel (BD IV.A.3.a). Furthermore the Assembly encourages the presbytery of Michigan and Ontario to offer its assistance to Grace Covenant OPC to augment the session for the purpose of conducting this trial (FG 13.10)."
The motion carried, vacating the judgment against Mr. V. and returning the case to his session for a new trial.
The Assembly agreed to advise the trial judicatory that "informal suspension" is not provided for in the Book of Discipline.
The moderator ruled that the Assembly, although having remitted the case to the trial judicatory, must now continue to consider the rest of the appeal and the report of the Advisory Committee.
The moderator's ruling was challenged. The Assembly did not uphold his ruling (rather overwhelmingly).
Election to the Committee on Appeals and Complaints: The Rev. Alan Strange was elected to the Committee; and the Rev. Thomas Foh as alternate.
The historian reported. At the historian's urging the Assembly acknowledged the 50 years of service of elder Newman DeHaas (Silver Spring, Maryland) with standing applause. Advisory Committee 9 was silent.
The Committee for the Historian reported. Advisory Committee 9 notes the need for space for the archives.
Chad Bond was elected to the Committee for the Historian.
The moderator called for Advisory Committee 5 to report on the diaconal motion earlier referred to them (Recommendation 2 from the CDM). AC5 moved that recommendation in the following form:
"That the General Assembly remind the Presbyteries not to approve a call containing 'free from worldly care' if they consider the call under consideration to be inadequate to provide for the minister's livelihood, and to make certain that the call includes a provision for adequate retirement and for payment of hospitalization, surgical, and major medical insurance, and inquire as to whether the candidate has adequate life insurance."
Elder David Mahaffy read a protest against the action of the Assembly not to record the supplemental report of the Foreign Missions Committee in the Minutes.
The Assembly corrected Minutes presented by the clerks.
Following the morning break, the Assembly adopted a Resolution of Thanks to Trinity Christian College (board, president, et. al.), the Session and pastor of Covenant Orthodox Presbyterian Church, David Heise (with family members and friends), the Committee on Arrangements, and to the moderator, clerks, and David Haney.
The Committee on Arrangements reported with recommendations for allowing excuses for some absences (with compensation), travel and housing reimbursement, expense reimbursement to Covenant OPC, $10 per communicant member request for support of Travel Fund, arrangements for the 74th, 75th, and 76th General Assembliesall adopted.
Dates and Places for the next three General Assemblies:
Elected to the Committee on Arrangements: Elder Robert Meeker, class of 2009; Elder John Muether, alternate.
A protest was read against the action of the Assembly which returned the judicial case appealed to the Assembly back to the trial judicatory.
The report of the Committee on Revisions for the Directory for Worship was presented by its chairman, the Rev. George Cottenden.
Due to the flood of responses from presbyteries suggesting amendments to the Amended Proposed Revised Version of the DPW, the committee did not recommend adoption of the proposed revision this year. Their recommendations instead asked for another year, with a view to presenting a finished product to the 74th GA.
The Assembly was given half an hour to ask questions of the committee.
Acting on recommendations from the Committee (and Advisory Committee for #7 below):
1) the Assembly agreed to postpone consideration of the APRV to the 74th GA carried.
2) the Assembly referred all overtures and communications to this GA regarding the APRV to the Committee on Revisions for orderly presentation to the 74th GA carried.
3) the Assembly requested the Committee to complete its work by Dec. 31, 2006, and post it to the OP web site.
4) the Assembly instructed the stated clerk to include in the docket for the 74th GA a full day to allow for consideration of the APRV and contingent changes to the Book of Discipline and Form of Government.
5) the Assembly instructed the stated clerk to include in the printed minutes of the 73rd GA the report of the Committee but not the APRV itself or the contingent proposed amendments to the FG and BD.
6) the Assembly recommitted the Suggested Forms for the Book of Discipline to the Committee.
7) the Assembly agreed to elect an alternate member of the Committee and request him to attend the meetings of the Committee as an observer.
Election of an alternate to the Committee on Revisions: the Rev. Danny Olinger was elected.
A protest was read against the action of the Assembly to disseminate the report of the Committee on Justification outside the OPC due to its criticism of individuals named within the report.
On motion, the Assembly appointed Messers. Fesko, VanDrunen, and Strange to answer the protest. Just before adjournment they read a proposed answer to the protest which the Assembly adopted.
The Rev. Alan Pontier reported for Advisory Committee 9 regarding the proposed 2007 General Assembly operating budget.
The recommended 2007 G.A. operating budget (totaling $229,981) and a $14 per communicant request to support the Fund was adopted by the Assembly.
The Assembly corrected and approved its Minutes.
At noon the Assembly sang "Jesus with Thy Church Abide" as its closing prayer, received the benediction from the moderator, who declared the Assembly dissolved and called for the 74th GA to meet as decided.
Click here for a picture of the General Assembly Commissioners.
The Rev. David W. King is pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church (OPC), Janesville, Wisconsin.