The 82nd General Assembly is meeting at Dordt College, Sioux Center, Iowa, from June 3–9, 2015. This running daily report is written by Joseph Keller and edited by Linda Foh and Stephen Pribble. Questions or comments may be addressed to Ross Graham, stated clerk. Go to Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Monday, Tuesday.
The 82nd General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church convened in the Campus Center of Dordt College at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 3, 2015. The moderator of the 81st General Assembly, the Rev. A. Craig Troxel, led the commissioners and guests in worship. His text was John 13:1–20 and his message was entitled “Washed by Jesus.” The sermon set forth the humility of Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, who humbled himself by washing the feet of the disciples, which was a foreshadowing of his even greater humiliation, which he suffered on the cross to bring a people to salvation. Christ’s humiliation reminds us that we cannot cleanse ourselves from our spiritual uncleanness, but he washed us clean through his humble suffering by his death for our sins.
The Rev. James T. Hoekstra, church planter in Andover, Minnesota, served the Lord’s Supper, which included the responsive reading of a catechism adopted by John Calvin. An offering of $1,788 was taken up for the Obadiah Fund, which was established by the Committee on Diaconal Ministries for the needs of retired OPC ministers and their surviving spouses. Then the commissioners moved to the B. J. Haan Auditorium for the start of the meetings.
Moderator Troxel called the meeting to order at 8:15 p.m. and led in prayer to the Father of Truth, asking for God to give us a zeal for his righteousness, hearts to serve each other in humility, a desire for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that he would be well pleased with our work this week, and that all glory would go to him.
The Rev. Ross Graham, the stated clerk of the General Assembly, called the roll of commissioners, presbytery by presbytery. The representatives for the committees of the General Assembly were seated as corresponding members for the purpose of presenting their reports.
The Rev. Jack Sawyer, administrator and representative for the Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations, introduced fraternal delegates Kent M. Moorlach from the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, Kevin M. Backus from the Bible Presbyterian Church, Davi Charles Gomes and F. Solano Portela from the Presbyterian Church of Brazil, Mike McGee from the Reformed Church in the U.S., Bradd Nymeyer from the United Reformed Churches of North America, Peter Bakker and Kim Batteau from the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands Liberated, Kurt Vetterli from the Evangelical Reformed Church Westminster Confession, and Kyle M. Borg from the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America.
Representatives of Dordt College brought warm greetings from the college and invited commissioners to ask anyone wearing a Dordt shirt for assistance.
The many people who served on the Committee on Arrangements, laboring diligently to make it possible to hold this Assembly, were acknowledged and thanked.
The stated clerk presented the minutes of the 81st General Assembly.
The Rev. Archibald Allison was nominated and elected as the moderator of the 82nd General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The Rev. Danny Olinger, who had nominated Mr. Allison, prayed for Mr. Allison’s service as moderator, that the body would be guided by the Lord as it goes forward through the week, and that we would prefer one another in love. Mr. Allison commented that his father had named him after the Rev. Archibald Alexander, the moderator of the 19th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the USA, held in Philadelphia 208 years ago (and also the first professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, and the man referred to as Princeton Seminary’s Elijah), so that he would always know what he should believe and teach.
The clerk presented the overtures, communications, complaints and appeals, and the Assembly set times for convening, recessing and reconvening. The docket for the conducting of the business of the church was adopted, with times established for special orders of business during the assembly.
The clerk and previous moderator proposed the assignment of the matters of business to various advisory committees and temporary committees. The Assembly adopted the proposed assignments for each committee. The Assembly also elected the advisory and temporary committees with the members of the Assembly that had been proposed by the stated clerk, with about nine ministers and/or ruling elders being assigned to each of the ten advisory committees, a committee on arrangements, and two temporary committees.
The Assembly then recessed for the committees to meet bright and early on Thursday at 8:30 a.m. to begin the work of reviewing the many matters before the body in order to bring recommendations to the body.
The Rev. Stephen Phillips closed the meeting at 9 p.m. with prayer for a good night’s rest and for God’s blessing on the work of the days ahead.
Thursday morning the commissioners gathered in their advisory committees to hear reports from the denominational committees and special committees, and to discuss the recommendations of the committees.
At 11:40 a.m. the commissioners gathered together again in the B. J. Haan Auditorium to sing “Come we that love the Lord, and let our joys be known … We’re marching through Immanuel’s ground to fairer worlds on high” and to hear the Rev. Dale Van Dyke (Harvest OPC, Wyoming, Mich.) bring a message on Luke 9:10–17, the Feeding of the 5000. Jesus did not give up on his disciples who were easily distracted from seeing opportunities for Jesus to do supernatural work in the lives of people, to only seeing problems, and then reducing their focus to little things that they could handle. But Jesus fed the 5000 by supernaturally creating matter and thereby taught them that Gospel ministry is not about the little things you are humanly capable of doing for people, but about throwing yourself on Jesus and looking to him for a supernatural work in the hearts of people.
Elder Mac Laurie led in prayer for the noon recess and meal.
After lunch the commissioners returned to their advisory committees for the afternoon to continue their labors.
The moderator called the commissioners into assembly again at 6:45 p.m. and praise was given to our glorious God with the hymn “Not unto us, O Lord of heav’n, but unto you be glory giv’n; in love and truth you do fulfill the counsels of your sovereign will; though nations fail your pow’r to own, yet you do reign, and you alone.”
Prayer was offered up by the moderator to open the session and to pray for healing for a brother in serious physical need, and for encouragement for his family.
Mr. Sawyer, administrator of the Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations, introduced the Rev. Todd De Rooy from the United Reformed Churches of North America, and the Rev. Patrick Morgan from the Presbyterian Church in America. The men were enrolled as corresponding members.
The Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations promotes fellowship between the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and churches of like faith and practice. Through this work the body of Christ is drawn together in fellowship, strengthened and at times challenged to re-examine current beliefs and practices, and drawn together in cooperation in carrying out the work of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Mr. Sawyer introduced the Rev. Kent Moorlach from the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. Mr. Moorlach brought greetings from the ARP and gave thanks for the influence of Dr. J. Gresham Machen’s book Christianity and Liberalism in his own personal life. The ARP will be holding a concurrent assembly next week with the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America. The ARP is currently working on rewriting its Book of Discipline. Erskine College trains young people in the church. And an ARP church in Arizona has gone all the way to the Supreme Court on an issue of free speech, to defend the freedom of a church to put out a temporary sign on Sunday. Mr. Sawyer led in prayer for the ARP, giving thanks for their proclamation of the Gospel, giving thanks for their faithfulness to the orthodox truth of the Gospel, and praying for developing closer fraternal relations between our churches.
The office of the stated clerk prepares the minutes of the General Assembly and maintains the information with regard to the officers and local congregations of the denomination. The work of the clerks is important for the smooth operation of the church.
Mr. Graham gave his report. He gave thanks to the former clerk, the Rev. George Cottenden, for passing on a very well organized system for carrying out the work of the clerk, to the trustees for providing him with a staff that is excellent, and to the Committee on Arrangements for so excellently carrying out the work of organizing the General Assembly meetings.
Starting next year the minutes will be distributed digitally, but sensitive matters will be kept out of the digital minutes. He has created the informal position of clerk observer to invite young people to sit with the clerks, observe the work that is being done, and participate as part of a team to help carry out the work of the clerk.
The Assembly adopted an amendment to the Standing Rules to spell out the handling of business by the committees, asked the clerk to request a voluntary contribution for the reception of a hard copy of the minutes, and adopted amendments to the Standing Rules proposed by the 81st General Assembly.
The Rev. Jeremiah Montgomery led in prayer for the work of the stated clerk and assistant clerk.
The Rev. Stephen Phillips spoke of his need to make amends for not giving a tribute to last year’s moderator. And then he sang a song of levity in tribute to former moderator Troxel.
Mr. Phillips went on to present the report of the trustees of the General Assembly and presented the proposed budget for 2015.
The work of the trustees of the church is important in maintaining and handling the legal and financial matters of the church.
The Rev. Samuel Bacon and ruling elder David Haney were elected to the class of 2018 for the trustees. The Rev. Richard Ellis was elected to the class of 2016 for the trustees. Elder Stephen Chung was elected to the class of 2017 for the trustees.
Mr. Luke Brown presented the report of the statistician for the year 2014. There has been an increase in the number of OPC churches as the result of eight new mission works that were organized as particular churches. Six new mission works were started. There are now 273 local churches and 50 mission works. Total membership is 31,122. Total offerings were over $54 million. There are 534 ministers, 1095 ruling elders, and 866 deacons. There were nearly 600 professions of faith (half by non-communicants), and nearly 1000 reaffirmations of faith in 2014.
Mr. Brown has been faithfully serving as the statistician since 1985. The Assembly thanked Mr. Brown for 30 years of faithful service to the church as statistician. Mr. Brown was re-elected to serve as statistician. The Rev. Brian De Jong led in prayer for the work of the statistician.
The Rev. John Van Meerbeke (vice president), Ruling elder Mark Bube (general secretary), and the Rev. Douglas Clawson (associate general secretary) presented the report of the Committee on Foreign Missions. Mr. Bube has served for 24 years as general secretary, and Mr. Clawson has served for 13 years as associate general secretary.
Great praise was given to the Lord for the advance of the Reformed church in Asia, for the safe arrival of the Call family in Uruguay in October, and for such generous giving through the Worldwide Outreach Thank Offering that the Committee is able to send the Jackson family to Uganda in the summer of 2015.
Mr. Bube shared concerning the many missionary works of the OPC around the world. The Rev. Charles Jackson spoke of the excitement of himself and his wife concerning moving to Uganda and working with the Rev. Eric Tuininga in teaching at Knox Theological College, leading evangelistic Bible Studies in the villages, and working with Christian schools.
Mr. Clawson prayed for the missionaries who are going out to serve, and for the teaching of Rev. Jackson to be used by the Holy Spirit to reach the people with the Gospel in the cities, villages, and countryside of Uganda.
The Rev. Anthony Curto reported on his labors to train ministers in Ethiopia. Evangelists are needed desperately to plant Reformed churches. He reported how 2000 people had shown up to hear the preaching of the Gospel. The church is growing rapidly there. He also visited churches in Austria and found a small band of Reformed men with a heart for German-speaking Europe.
Ruling elder Michael Chapa prayed for the work of the Committee on Foreign Missions, and the Assembly recessed at 9:10 p.m.
The Assembly began its session on Friday with the singing of “Bow down thine ear, O Lord, and hear, for I am poor and great my need … There is no God but thee alone, nor works like thine, O Lord Most High; all nations shall surround thy throne and their Creator glorify. In all thy deeds how great thou art! Thou one true God, thy way make clear; teach me with undivided heart to trust thy truth, thy name to fear.”
The Rev. Glenn Ferrell offered prayer of thanks for the sweet fellowship that the commissioners were experiencing, the many blessings that we were sharing, and for God to bless the work we are called to do at General Assembly as servants of the church of Jesus Christ.
Mr. Sawyer introduced the Rev. Dr. Davi Charles Gomes (chancellor of Mackenzie Presbyterian University, Sao Paulo, Brazil) from the Presbyterian Church of Brazil. Rev. Gomes brought greetings from the brothers and sisters in the Presbyterian Church of Brazil. He read from Acts 15 and shared his desire that the OPC would have part together with them in their ministry in Brazil. Christ’s church must be a church that seeks to display the biblical truth and Christian love for one another that the church will have in heaven. Rev. Gomes closed in prayer.
The Rev. Tony Curto prayed for the work of the Presbyterian Church of Brazil. He prayed that God would bless the church and be pleased to wonderfully continue to use the Presbyterian Church of Brazil to greatly spread the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Mr. Bube answered questions about the work of the Committee.
The Rev. Messrs. Paul Browne, Glenn Jerrell, M. Scott Johnson and ruling elders Miguel Flower and Benjamin Stahl were elected to the class of 2018 for the Committee on Foreign Missions.
The Rev. John Fesko gave thanks in prayer for the privilege our Lord has given to the church to be the herald of the Gospel to the nations, and that God has gifted the church with missionaries to declare the Gospel to the nations, and prayed that God would equip our missionaries to carry out that task, and that he would be pleased to bless those labor by bringing many sheep into the fold of Jesus Christ. He gave thanks for the staff of the Committee, prayed for their work to advance the spread of the Gospel, prayed for wisdom in working with churches worldwide, for the Tricaricos as they come home from the field, for the Jacksons as they move to the field, and that the knowledge of God would spread across the globe as the waters cover the earth.
Ruling elder Dr. James Gidley and the Rev. Danny Olinger, general secretary of the Committee on Christian Education, presented the work of the Committee on Christian Education. Mr. Olinger spoke of the many men who have benefitted from the internship program. The Rev. Travis Yonkman spoke of the great difficulty and discouragement that many men and their families have experienced as they have gone through the long and difficult process of seminary education, incurring of debt, and seeking a call to ministry in a church, but never making it into the ministry. The internship program provides the vital practical training, shepherding and guidance that a young man needs in order to be able to move into the position and role of a pastor.
The Ministerial Training Institute of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church provides classes in important theological, historical, and pastoral subjects for the benefit of ministers young and old and ruling elders. The MTI has completed classes again this spring. Two summer classes will be held in Philadelphia. Ruling elder John Muether will teach a class on Presbyterian history, and ruling elder Dr. David Noe will teach a Greek refresher course.
The Revs. Marvin Padgett (executive director of GCP) and Mark Lowery (associate executive director of GCP) of the PCA spoke of the work of Great Commission Publications. GCP is a joint venture of the OPC and PCA, created 40 years ago. GCP publishes sound Reformed, biblical Sunday School materials for all ages, Vacation Bible School materials, Bible Studies materials, Catechism materials, communicant membership materials, and the new Pilgrim’s Progress book study materials.
The Rev. Dr. A. Craig Troxel spoke on the issue of sexual brokenness and the legal issues facing our churches in light of the cultural shift on issues such as transgender and same sex marriage. The Committee has created an exploratory subcommittee to study these issues. Possible plans may include creating a website, some pamphlets, holding a conference, and working with other churches on these issues.
The Rev. Dr. Alan Strange spoke on the joint work of the OPC with the United Reformed Church of North America to together produce a Psalter-Hymnal, which includes a full Psalter and about 400 hymns. The intent is to complete the work by next year.
At 10 a.m. the Assembly took another brief break for refreshments and fellowship. The fellowship of the commissioners with one another and with their family members has been perhaps the sweetest and most wonderful aspect of the meeting, as each have gotten to know one another better, and have been drawn closer in the bonds of fellowship in the family of God.
The Assembly returned to its work with the singing of “O Lord, Be Thou My Helper True.”
The Rev. James Bosgraf led in prayer, giving thanks for the work of CE, GCP, the work on the Psalter-Hymnal, and for God’s blessings on these labors.
Rev. Hilbelink (president) introduced the church planters and regional home missionaries that were present. Rev. Shaw (general secretary of the Committee on Home Missons and Church Extension) spoke of the encouraging news of the seven new church plants last year, some of the new church plants already begun this year, and the two or three expected new regional home missionaries.
The Rev. Chris Hartshorn spoke on the church plant in Anaheim Hills, California. They are seeing unbelievers come to faith, families attending membership classes, and individuals stepping up to serve in the church, which is very important in a church plant.
The Rev. Stephen Doe spoke of his work as regional home missionary in the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic. He spoke on the critical work of reaching those who are unsaved and do not go to church. He spoke of many communities where Christianity is declining, and of communities where it is the immigrants that are coming to the churches and seeking the Lord.
The Rev. Bradley Peppo spoke of his work in planting Living Water OPC in Springfield, Ohio.
Pray for the Rev. Richard Gerber and his wife. He retired as Associate General Secretary, and Rita is dealing with some health issues. The Committee also requests your prayers for the finding of a new associate general secretary, which is muchly needed.
The Assembly sang “Sing choirs of new Jerusalem … For Judah’s Lion burst his chains and crushed the serpent’s head … Christ cries aloud through death’s domains to wake the im’prisoned dead.”
The Rev. Stephen Doe spoke on Luke 10:17–24. He mentioned that it is a joyful experience to be at General Assembly with the saints of God. The text says that Jesus rejoiced. His joy burst open or spilled out over what God the Father was doing. The Father was revealing—not to the wise or powerful, but to the broken and poor in spirit—that Satan has fallen from power, that the Kingdom of God has come, and that the King of the world (Jesus Christ) has come. Satan’s host had to flee before this great coming of the kingdom of God, with the result that even the demons submitted to the name of Jesus Christ. Yes, we have many terrible things happening in our society today, but the kingdom of Jesus cannot fail. Jesus has broken the power of Satan, and Jesus rules over all in this world. We need to remember that we cannot expect anyone in this world to turn to Jesus Christ without the sovereign working of Jesus Christ in their heart. And that is what Jesus does. He opens minds and hearts to the glorious Gospel and precious rest that he has for us. And those who have their spiritual eyes opened by Jesus and enter the kingdom of Christ are blessed even beyond the blessing that was given to the prophets, who saw the kingdom of God from afar. Thus our worship and service to God ought to be filled with exuberant joy, for what Christ has done and is doing in his ruling the world for the glory of God.
The moderator closed the session with prayer.
The Assembly opened with the singing of “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing … Let goods and kindreds go, this mortal life also; the body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still; his kingdom is forever.”
Elder Michael Shields led in prayer.
Mr. Sawyer introduced the Rev. Kim Batteau from the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands Liberated. He brought greetings from the brothers and sisters in the RCNL. He asked for the prayers of the OPC for their church in its struggles to maintain biblical doctrine and resist the great pressures in society and even in the church that are calling for an acceptance of ordaining women as ministers and an acceptance of the world’s attitudes on homosexuality.
Elder Mark Williams prayed for God’s strength and encouragement to enable the saints of the RCNL to stand true to the Word of God and proclaim it faithfully.
The Assembly conducted a survey of what decade each commissioner who was attending General Assembly as either a minister or ruling elder was ordained. It was noted that 20 men were ordained between 2010 and the present, 26 men from 2000–2009, 29 men in the 1990s, 25 men in the 1980s, 16 men in 1970s, 6 men in the 1960s, and 1 man, Elder Mac Laurie, in the 1950s. There was a standing ovation for the men ordained in the 1960s and earlier.
One of the functions of the General Assembly of the Church is to act as the highest court of appeal for cases that have originated in the lower courts of the church (presbyteries and local church sessions). A case that is appealed to the General Assembly may be a complaint against an action that was taken by a presbytery or a local church, and that is contrary to the Word of God, the Westminster Confession of Faith, or another Standard of the church. Or a case that is appealed to the General Assembly may be an appeal of a charge(s) that was brought against an individual for teaching/preaching contrary to the Word of God, or for sinful/immoral conduct.
The Committee on Appeals and Complaints is charged with helping the Assembly to understand the appeals that come before the body. The Rev. Alan Strange presented the Report of the Committee on Appeals and Complaints with reference to Appeal 1 and the Rev. George Cottenden presented the recommendations of Advisory Committee #10 regarding the Appeal.
On motion the appeal was found in order.
After the Afternoon break the Assembly sang, “We have not known thee as we ought, nor learned thy wisdom, grace, and pow’r; the things of earth have filled our thought, and trifles of the passing hour … Lord, may we day by day prepare to see thy face, and serve thee there.”
Elder Don Jamieson led in prayer
Mr. Sawyer introduced the Rev. Kyle Borg of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America. Mr. Borg shared that the RPCNA has 96 churches in North America and Japan, as well as some congregations in persecuted lands. On Monday the RPCNA and the ARP will be holding concurrent assemblies to help them to draw closer. Their church committee is working on a proposed global Presbyterian alliance that would be a consulting body to strengthen ties. Geneva College is currently looking for a new president. The college is also awaiting a Supreme Court decision on the HHS mandate. Many liberal arts Christian colleges will not be given any freedom on civil mandates, because they are not under a church. Please be in prayer for all Christian colleges and for their freedom to be faithful and true to God.
Mr. Sawyer prayed for the labors of the RPCNA.
Mr. J. Montgomery prayed for the Rev. Steven Miller, a former minister of the OPC and currently an RPCNA minister, that God would be pleased to encourage him during his struggle with a serious disease, and that he would be able to carry his ministry through to completion.
Two members spoke on behalf of the Presbytery.
A time of questions to the appellant and presbytery from the commissioners was followed by final remarks from the presbytery and the appellant.
The moderator announced that Elder David Winslow and the Rev. Daniel Patterson were elected to the Committee on Christian Education’s Subcommittee on Ministerial Training.
The Rev. Michael McCabe closed in prayer before the supper recess.
After the supper recess the Assembly sang, “To you O Lord I fly and on your help depend.”
The moderator opened in prayer.
Mr. Sawyer introduced the Rev. Wim Wullschleger of the Christian Reformed Churches in the Netherlands, and he was seated as a corresponding member for privileges of addressing the Assembly.
Mr. Sawyer welcomed the Rev. Patrick Morgan of the Presbyterian Church in America. Mr. Morgan commented that next week the PCA is having an Assembly-wide seminar on increasing ethnic outreach in the USA. The PCA is thankful for its partnership in the Gospel with the OPC.
The Rev. Warren Bennett prayed for the labors of Chaplain Morgan, and for the work of the PCA in spreading the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Mr. Sawyer presented the Report of the Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations. On motion the OPC Assembly voted to enter into a Sister Church relationship (Ecclesiastical Fellowship) with the Presbyterian Church of Brazil.
Mr. Curto prayed that our churches may labor in the kingdom together for the extension of the kingdom of heaven, for their safe return to Brazil, and for God’s blessing on their labors.
The Assembly continued to discuss and debate the appeal.
Ruling elder Todd Smith closed the evening session with prayer.
On Saturday Morning the assembly opened by singing “O God, we praise thee and confess that thou the only Lord and everlasting Father art, by all the earth adored.”
Mr. Fox opened the Assembly in prayer.
Mr. Sawyer introduced the Rev. Todd De Rooy of the United Reformed Churches of North America. Mr. De Rooy shared how the OPC has been such a help to the URCNA, and how the work of the churches together on the Psalter-Hymnal has been such a blessing.
Ruling elder Keith LeMahieu led in prayer for the work of the URCNA, that our denominations may be able to help shepherd each other.
The body continued to discuss and debate appeal #1.
The Assembly took a break at 9:30 a.m. to have a picture taken, followed by refreshments and fellowship.
At 10:20 a.m. we came together again with the singing of “O God, most holy are your ways, and who like you deserves my praise?”
Mr. Jackson opened in prayer.
Mr. Sawyer introduced Elder Robert Groeneweg from Heritage Reformed Churches, and he was seated a corresponding member.
Mr. Sawyer introduced the Rev. Dr. Kevin Backus. Mr. Backus shared that many BPs who have found themselves in areas where there is no BP church have happily found homes in the OPC. They are thankful for the help that the OPC has been to the BPC, especially the help with church planting. The independent agencies of the BPC function as agencies of the church, with officers of the church functioning as the officers of the agencies. They have mission works in Myanmar and Cambodia. Their General Synod has asked that the OPC would formalize working with the BPC in disaster relief. They remember the OPC in prayer and are thankful for the OPC’s partnership with them in the Gospel.
Mr. Sawyer led in prayer for the BPC, giving thanks for the deepening relationship between the OPC and the BPC.
Mr. Kim Batteau of the RCNL shared the church’s affection for the OPC and presented the moderator with a gift of salt and pepper shakers with windmills on them.
Debate continued during the morning session on Appeal #1.
At 11:40 a.m. the Assembly sang “How vast the benefits divine which we in Christ possess! We are redeemed form guilt and shame and called to holiness. But not for works which we have done, or shall hereafter do, hath God decreed on sinful men salvation to bestow.”
The Rev. Brian De Jong read Hebrews 8:1–6. He spoke of how the Levitical priesthood could not take away sin. But our High Priest, Jesus Christ, serves in the heavenly tabernacle, and his sacrifice of himself for his people did take away sin. Moses’ mediation was ineffective, but Jesus’ mediatorship is entirely effective in reconciling God and man. And we have a New Covenant with promises that are clearer, fuller, more obvious, and very plain. Our covenant is far surpassingly superior to the Old Covenant. Let us celebrate what we have and join in what we have in it. So take some time on the Lord’s Day to reflect on the great privileges that we have in Christ. Mr. De Jong closed in prayer that we might take some time to mediate on and rejoice in Christ’s benefits to us.
Elder Kerry Rice led in prayer for the noon recess and meal.
The afternoon session opened with the singing of “We praise you, O God, our Redeemer, Creator; in grateful devotion our tribute we bring.”
Elder Donald King opened in prayer.
Mr. Sawyer introduced the Rev. Kurt Vetterli of the Evangelical Reformed Church Westminster Confession (ERKWB). He shared that church work is all about relationships, and he thanked the OPC for the relationship that we have with them. They are a slowly growing church in Austria and Switzerland.
Mr. Curto prayed, giving thanks for these churches that have been established in Europe, for God’s blessing on their work, and for all glory to go to God.
Mr. Sawyer introduce the Rev. Mike McGee of the Reformed Church in the United States, and he was enrolled as a corresponding member and granted the privilege of speaking.
The Assembly returned to the consideration of Appeal #1. The Assembly adopted Advisory Committee #10’s recommendations to sustain (uphold) the appeal, reversing the verdict of the trial.
The Rev. George Cottenden led in prayer for the parties of this case, lifting up the appellant and the presbytery as they go forward, for the rebuilding of the bond of the Holy Spirit between the parties, and that the oneness that we have in Christ may be seen by all the world.
The Assembly elected the Revs. Archibald Allison and Sydney Dyer to the 2018 class of the Committee on Christian Education.
The Assembly also elected Elder Daryl Hart to the 2018 class of the Committee on Christian Education.
The Rev. John Johnson led in prayer for the new members of the committee and for the labors of the committee.
The Assembly elected the Rev. Messrs. Dale Van Dyke, Eric Watkins, and John Hilbelink to the 2018 class of the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension.
The Assembly elected elders Jerold Barnett and John Mauldin to the 2018 class of the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension.
The Assembly adopted a resolution for the Rev. Mark Brown for his many years of service on the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension:
Whereas Pastor Mark R. Brown has served faithfully on the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension for twenty-five years (1989–2014),
Therefore, be it resolved, that the 82nd General Assembly offer our thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God for the gifts of Pastor Mark R. Brown, who with faith, wisdom, and gentleness offered dedicated service to the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension and to the entire Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and to Jesus Christ, the only King and Head of the Church, who in his sovereign goodness has employed his servant for the growth of his kingdom.
Elder Jerold Barnett prayed for the work of the CHMCE, for the officers as they seek to fulfill their responsibilities, for the numerous church plants, for the regional home missionaries, for a continued increase in the funding of the committee, and for the salvation of many through the preaching of the Gospel.
The Rev. Lendall Smith read from 1 Timothy 3:1–16 and spoke of the work of the committee: holding diaconal training conferences, carrying on the work of short-term missions, doing the work of disaster response, raising funds for retired ministers and widows, assisting the presbytery diaconal committees, and providing for other diaconal needs.
Elder David Nakhla spoke of the establishment of a subcommittee to process requests for assistance.
The Assembly took a break for Blue Bunny Ice Cream (which was quite tasty), supplied by Mid-America Reformed Seminary.
The Assembly returned from the break, singing “God is our refuge and our strength, our ever present aid … The Lord of Hosts is on our side, our safety to secure; the God of Jacob is for us a refuge strong and sure.”
Elder Daniel Powell gave thanks in prayer that God is on our side, that he is building the church called the OPC, and that God would be please to advance the work of the Gospel and guide our deliberations.
Mr. Sawyer introduced the Rev. Maynard Koerner from the Reformed Church in the United States. Mr. Koerner thanked the OPC for prodding and helping the RPCUS into the work of missions. And he added that when they give counsel to the OPC, know that it is as brothers.
The Moderator prayed for the work of the RCUS.
Mr. Nakhla continued to report on the work of the Committee on Diaconal Ministries. The Obadiah Fund has enabled the CDM to provide support to retired ministers and widows in need. In 2014 almost 150 short-term missionaries went out to serve on various mission fields.
The Assembly adopted the committee’s recommendation: That for the year 2015 the General Assembly requests the churches of the OPC support the work of this Committee at the suggested rate of $25.00 per communicant member.
The Rev. Lendall Smith was elected to the 2018 class of the Committee on Diaconal Ministries.
Elders Robert Wright and Ron de Rue were elected to the 2018 class of the Committee on Diaconal Ministries.
The Rev. Bruce Hollister prayed for the many facets of the ministry of the CDM, and that the compassion of Jesus Christ would be seen and known.
Elder Roger Huibregtse presented the report of the Committee on Pensions. The committee provides retirement plans for ministers, life insurance plans, and pension supplemental funds for retired ministers and their surviving spouses.
The Rev. John McGowan and elders Roger Huibregtse and David Vander Ploeg were elected to the 2018 class of the Committee on Pensions.
The Rev. Jonathan Hutchison was elected to the 2016 class of the Committee on Pensions.
Mr. Hollister prayed for the work of the Committee on Pensions, for the new members, for the management of the funds, and for our worship to bring glory to God and joy to our hearts as we gather to worship with the brothers and sisters of Reformed churches in the area on the Lord’s day.
Having concluded its business for the day, the Assembly recessed until Monday morning.
The Assembly began its session on Monday with the singing of “Hallelujah! Raise, O raise to our God the song of praise; all his servants join to sing God our Savior and our King … Yet to view the heav’ns he bends; yea, to earth he condescends; passing by the rich and great, for the low and desolate.”
The Rev. B. J. Gorrell prayed, giving thanks to the Lord for his goodness and mercy to us through Jesus Christ, and the wonderful refreshment of the Lord’s Day, and praying for God’s blessing on all our families while we are away from them, for all the people of our congregations as they begin the work of this week, and for God’s blessing on our labors at General Assembly for the good of God’s church.
Mr. Sawyer introduced the Rev. Wim Wullschleger of the Christian Reformed Churches in the Netherlands. He spoke of the Devil’s attacks on the church and on the lost, prowling around like a roaring lion, attacking the church by persecution and attractions of the world, and by false doctrine. He told of their churches reaching out to the many near eastern immigrants that have moved to the Netherlands, and of sending missionaries to other countries in Europe and around the world. Let us labor together diligently, because the need for the Gospel is great.
Mr. Sawyer prayed for the Christian Reformed Churches in the Netherlands, thanking the Lord for our bond with a church that has been so instrumental in our own formation, thanking the Lord that our bond with them is being rekindled and deepened, that we would find hope and encouragement from our brothers and sisters in Christ, for the faithfulness of the church, for the outreach to the many in Europe and coming to Europe who do not know the Savior, and that God’s Spirit would be poured out in a wonderful way, resulting in the church reaping a wonderful harvest of souls for the church of Jesus Christ.
The Revs. Robert Van Kooten and John Mahaffy presented Overture #1, a request to the General Assembly to ask the Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations (along with the Committee on Foreign Missions and the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension) to study these issues related to expanding the presence of the OPC in Canada, and to report on the results of its study to both the Presbytery of the Northwest and to the 83rd (2016) General Assembly.
Discussion followed. Elders Mark Bube and David Haney were given privilege of the floor for this matter.
The Assembly took a break for refreshments and fellowship, and began again with the singing of “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation! O my soul, praise him, for he is thy health and salvation! All ye who hear, now to his temple draw near, join me in glad adoration.”
Mr. Sawyer introduced Elder Robert Groeneweg of the Heritage Reformed Churches. He shared that they have nine churches in the U.S. and Canada. Ministers are trained by Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, and they have 3 ordained missionaries in Africa. He spoke of his appreciation of the OPC’s ministry of Christ to people. And asked that we would hold up each other in prayer that we may be faithful to our creed and to Christ.
The Rev. Stephen Igo gave thanks in prayer for Christ’s wonderful work in softening hard hearts and creating a harvest 30, 60, and 100 fold, and for their sharing of the Gospel with the nations of the world, and prayed that our relationship may continue to grow, and that the Gospel may cover the world as the waters cover the sea.
The Rev. Mssrs. Anthony Curto and Jack Sawyer and Charles Muether presented the report of the Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations. The committee facilitates relationships so that we can work together with other denominations to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the world. A new subcommittee is the video subcommittee that creates videos to inform those in the church of the work of the committee and about the many churches with which we have relations. Ecclesiastical Fellowship, Corresponding Relationship, and Ecumenical Contact are our three levels of relationships.
The Rev. Douglas Clawson was given privileges of the floor for the consideration of the committee recommendations.
The Assembly accepted the invitation of the Iglesia Presbiteriana de la Reforma de Colombia (Presbyterian Church of the Reformation in Colombia—PCRC) to enter into Corresponding Relations.
Mr. Bube read the fraternal greeting from the Reformed Church in Japan.
The Assembly adopted the wording of the letter that we plead with the Reformed Church in Japan to repent of their action, which opened the special offices of minister and ruling elder (by amending their Polity by changing the word “men” to “ones”), and to rescind it, and to reaffirm the scriptural teaching which restricts the special offices of minister and ruling elder to qualified men (cf. 1 Tim. 2:12–14); and in the event the above amendments to the RCJ Polity go into effect, that the General Assembly of the OPC suspend the relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the Reformed Church in Japan.
The Assembly sang “Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! … All the saints adore thee, casting down their crowns around the glassy sea, cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee … though the eye of sinful man thy glory may not see, only thou art holy; there is none beside thee perfect in pow’r, in love, and purity.”
The Rev. Travis Yonkman read Isaiah 53:2, “He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him,” and spoke on the beauty of Jesus Christ. Would you destroy the last rose in the world? Why do we care about what is beautiful? From where do we get our sense of beauty? The reason we have a sense of beauty is because we were made in the image of God, who is beauty, and who makes objects of beauty. If God has created us with a sense of beauty, why would God send his Son in a form that is ugly? God sent his Son into this world for his people, not to be praised for his physical beauty, but to have his deep spiritual beauty seen by his people. The thief on the cross saw a beaten and mangled man on the cross, but was able to look beyond that to see the Son of God and the beauty of the Son. He spoke the most wonderful words he ever said in his life: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And Jesus replied: “… today you will be with me in Paradise.” Brothers and sisters, let us purse Jesus for his true beauty and proclaim it. Let us not be distracted by lesser beauties, but proclaim his beauty, so that others with us may look upon the beauty of Jesus Christ and may enjoy his beauty for all eternity.
The Assembly recessed for lunch, after prayer by Elder Greg Moeck.
The Assembly opened by singing “The tender love a father has for all his children dear, such love the Lord bestows on them who worship him in fear …”
Elder Jon Stevenson prayed for a child needing physical healing, and gave thanks to God for watching over and caring for us.
Elders Mark Bube, Mark Williams, and the Rev. Iain Wright were elected to the Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations.
The Assembly established a Special Committee of five appointed by the Moderator to study issues related to expansion of the OPC in Canada, including economic, financial, and strategic issues, with a budget of $3000, to report to the 83rd General Assembly.
The purposes of the Committee are to recommend to the General Assembly a combined budget for the three program committees (Christian Education, Foreign Missions, and Home Missions and Church Extension) for the succeeding year so as to help the Church maximize the use of its resources for the fulfillment of its tasks, to support the ministry of the pastors and sessions in their responsibility to teach and encourage the practice of biblical stewardship in the Church and to help coordinate the promotion of the work of the three program committees in the development of support for their work.
Elders John Mazunik and David Haney reported for the committee. Mr. Haney commented on how Jesus was able to feed 5000 on the spot, and how he has blessed us with a Thank Offering that exceeded $1 million dollars this year, and through great growth in some new missions works. The committee continues to provide promotional materials to the local congregations to promote the Worldwide Outreach Thank Offering. The committee also does Stewardship Education through seminars on budget management and estate planning. God’s faithfulness has been great.
The Assembly approved a Worldwide Outreach program for 2016 of $4,080,000, and an allocation of undesignated contributions as 15% for Christian Education, 42% for Foreign Missions, and 43% for Home Missions.
The Assembly approved that, after CCE and CHMCE have been fully funded for the year 2015, any excess WWO funds received be allocated 100 percent to the CFM.
The Rev. Anthony Monaghan and Elder William Muether were elected to the 2018 class of the Committee on Coordination.
The Rev. Ken Montgomery prayed, giving thanks for the generosity of the people of the OPC in giving to the work of Worldwide Outreach, and for the work of the Committee on Coordination, and prayed for God to prosper the work of the church in spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Elder David Haney reported for the committee. The committee sent out a survey and about 2/3rds of the ministers replied, with a good representation from each age group, giving a good picture of the financial needs of the ministers of the church. The committee is looking into ways that help can be provided at the local church, presbytery, and general assembly levels.
The Assembly voted to continue the Temporary Committee to Study the Care for the Ministers of the Church, asking the committee to report back with its further findings along with any recommendations to a future assembly, and granting it a budget of $4,000.
The Assembly honored elder Robert Meeker with a standing ovation for his 50 years of service as a ruling elder in the church.
The Assembly recessed for refreshments and fellowship and returned to the singing of “From out the depths I cry, O Lord, to thee; Lord, hear my call. I love thee, Lord, for thou dost heed my plea, forgiving all. If thou dost mark our sins, who then shall stand? But grace and mercy dwell at thy right hand.”
The Rev. David Booth opened in prayer, praying that the love of God would be reflected in our love for one another.
Elder John Muether reported as the Historian.
Mr. Muether was elected to the class of 2018 as the Historian. The Rev. Chad Bond was elected to the 2018 class, and the Rev. Brian De Jong was elected to the 2016 class for the Committee for the Historian.
The Rev. Brian De Jong prayed for the work of the Historian and for the work of the Committee for the Historian.
The Rev. Scott Willet presented the complaint of a minister against a presbytery for calling a special meeting to deal with a notice of the intention of a church to withdraw from the presbytery, instead of handling the matter at the next stated meeting.
The complainant and the presbytery made their presentations.
The Rev. Randall Bergquist closed in prayer before the supper break.
The Assembly opened with the singing of “I greet thee, who my sure Redeemer art, my only trust and Savior of my heart, who pain didst undergo for my poor sake; I pray thee from our hearts all cares to take … O comfort us in death’s approaching hour, strong-hearted then to face it by thy pow’r. Thou has the true and perfect gentleness, no harshness hast thou and no bitterness: make us to taste the sweet grace found in thee and ever stay in thy sweet unity.”
The Rev. Philip Strong gave thanks in prayer for God’s lovingkindness, faithfulness, and pure word, and prayed that the reverent fear of God would be in every heart, that we might do his will for Christ’s glory and kingdom.
The Rev. Mark Marquis presented the report. The minutes of the presbyteries were approved with various notations and exceptions.
Mr. Marquis prayed for the clerks of the presbyteries, that they may be able to do their work accurately to the praise of God.
Elder Cris Dickason reported for the committee. The Assembly approved the minutes of the Standing Committees of the Church with various notations and exceptions.
Mr. Dickason prayed for the work of the standing Committees.
The complaint against the presbytery was not sustained.
The Rev. George Cottenden prayed for the Lord to give unity and harmony to the presbytery.
The Rev. Alan Strange was elected to the 2018 class of the committee.
Elder Thomas Crumplar was elected as alternate of the committee for one year.
Mr. Cottenden prayed, giving thanks for the labors of the men who have served on the committee, that there would not be many matters come before the committee, but that those matters that do come before the committee would be handled well.
The Rev. Robert Coie reported for the committee. As of January 1, 2015, the PRCCMP endorses twelve Orthodox Presbyterian military chaplains, seven serving on active duty, eight serving in the Reserves (seven Active Reserves or National Guard, one Individual Ready Reserve [IRR]), four serving as civilian chaplains, two volunteers and three unendorsed civilian chaplains along with one military chaplain candidate.
The Assembly ratified the changes in the PRCCMP Constitution, Article 6.
Mr. Bube closed the day in prayer, thanking God for the delight it is to come into his presence, knowing that God gives good gifts to us, knowing that we have a Savior who has gone before us to prepare a place for us in heaven that we might see his glory, knowing that we struggle with the things that are seen, knowing that they are passing away, praying that we might learn from the examples of our brothers and sisters in Christ who have gone before us, praying that God might grant us rest and bring us back to finish our business tomorrow, and that God may grant safe travel home for all.
The Assembly opened with the singing of “My heart does overflow, a goodly theme is mine … Now gird you with your sword, O strong and mighty One, in splendid majesty arrayed, more glorious than the sun. Triumphantly you ride forth for meekness, truth, and right; your arm shall gain the victory in wondrous deeds of might.”
The moderator read Psalm 48, then led in prayer to the gracious, sovereign, almighty God, our God forever and ever, giving thanks that he is the same forever and ever and does not change, and his Word does not change, and he has revealed himself to us and given to us the Son, and through him reconciled us to himself; and giving thanks that we are part of his church, and praying for his blessing on this the work of his church, that we may be granted understanding, wisdom, and a desire for his glory, and praying for his blessing on the decisions of the assembly and that he would use them for the good of the church throughout the land, and praying that he may grant safety as we return home, that we will have new strength for the work, joy in his perfect holy plan, and thankfulness for his abundant mercies and grace, and praying that he would grant to us the forgiveness of our sins, including all that was not right in this assembly, and praying for those who are even now persecuted for their faith, that God would preserve and protect them and keep them in the palm of his hand, and cause his church to prosper even under the hand of oppression, deliver them from those who persecute them, and that God would be glorified in our thoughts and words.
Mr. Coie continued the report. The Assembly referred the question of the OPC applying to become an associate member of the International Conference of Evangelical Chaplain Endorsers (ICECE) back to the Committee on Chaplains in consultation with the Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations.
The Assembly accepted the resignation of Chaplain Captain Bryan J. Weaver, CHC, USN with regrets, which he has submitted due to life-threatening health issues and on the recommendation of his doctors. The Assembly adopted a letter of appreciation for Mr. Weaver.
The Assembly adopted a letter of appreciation for Chaplain Commander Robert Needham’s many years of service to the Committee.
The Rev. Cornelius Johnson and Elder Mike Cloy were elected to the 2018 class, and the Rev. Rick Dickinson to the 2016 class, of the Committee on Pensions.
The Rev. Douglas Withington led in prayer for the Committee on Chaplains, giving thanks for the service of Chaplains Robert Needham and Bryan Weaver, and for God to be near the Weaver family at this time, and that Mr. Weaver may know that God will never leave or forsake him, and that God would be pleased to heal him and strengthen and brighten Mr. Weaver’s hope, and for the work of the committee and the new committee members, and for all the chaplains and members of the military services, for protection as they go into harm’s way, and for the grace of God to save and guide them.
The Assembly broke for refreshments and fellowship.
The Assembly came together with the singing of “Father, I know that all my life is portioned out for me; the changes that are sure to come, I do not fear to see; I ask thee for a present mind, intent on pleasing thee.”
The Rev. Dan Dillard prayed for God’s blessing on the completion of all that remains to be done. Mr. Dillard went on to share God’s grace in healing him from the terrible accident that he went through and returning him to health and service to God.
The Rev. Stephen Phillips reported for the Temporary Committee for Levity, and sang a comical song in honor of the moderator.
The Jack-in-the-Box Award was almost not awarded this year, due to the restraint of the commissioners. The winner held off a late but powerful surge by the Rev. Jim Stevenson, who gave 14 speeches. The winner of this year’s award was Elder Bruce Stahl, who gave 16 speeches.
The Rev. Craig Troxel reported on the work of the committee. The committee met four times in the last year and has worked very hard at producing a report that will be helpful to the church and glorifying to the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Assembly took action that the Committee to Study Republication continue its labors and report to the 83rd (2016) General Assembly.
Mr. De Jong prayed for the work of the committee, asking that God would use this committee and the report it is preparing to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ, to promote peace, unity and understanding, for the good of the church and the glory of God’s name.
The Rev. Messrs. Dale Van Dyke and Stephen Oharek reported for the committee. The committee met with the presbytery in November, February, and April, and has also done a great deal of reading on the issues of Republication and Church Conflict Resolution. The situation remains fragile.
The Assembly adopted the continuation of the Special Committee to Visit the Presbytery of the Northwest.
The Assembly also adopted the following: “The Assembly is thankful for the work of the Special Committee and urges the Presbytery of the Northwest to continue to receive its wisdom and counsel and make every effort to be reconciled.”
The Rev. Bruce Hollister led the assembly in prayer for the work of the committee and for the presbytery, confessing our utter weakness and inability to create unity and peace, praying for the work of the Holy Spirit to create a wonderful unity and peace, that God would look upon all with pity, and would do that work in hearts that must be done if there is to be peace and unity, praying for that wisdom which is from above that is peaceable, pure, and easy to be entreated, that God would give wisdom and grace to the committee and awareness that they can do nothing by themselves, that God would make them useful in his hand and would work powerfully by his Word and Spirit.
The Assembly adopted a resolution of thanks to the Rev. Thomas Tyson for his services as the general secretary and as a committee member of the Committee on Christian Education.
Elder Edward Tress and the Rev. Robert Tarullo reported for the committee.
The Assembly approved travel compensation. The Assembly granted excused partial absences to some commissioners to the assembly.
The Assembly approved the holding of the 83rd General Assembly at Sandy Cove Conference Center, beginning on Wednesday, June 8, 2016, at 7:00 p.m., with a terminus no later than 12:00 Noon, Tuesday, June 14, 2016.
The Assembly expressed deep gratitude for the ministry of Elders David Haney and Robert Meeker for their many years of faithful service on the Committee on Arrangements.
Elder Alan Montgomery was elected to the 2018 class of the Committee on Arrangements.
Elder John Muether was elected for one year as the alternate to the Committee on Arrangements.
Rev. J. Montgomery offered prayer for the work of the Committee on Arrangements.
The Assembly adopted a budget of $257,711 for the 2016 GA Operating Fund.
Concerning Communication 6, the Assembly stated that it had no objection to the presbytery granting an educational exception for the ordination of Mr. Thibault.
Concerning Communication 7, the Assembly stated that it had no objection to the presbytery granting an educational exception for Mr. Smith.
The Assembly received Communications 1–5 and 8 as information.
Concerning Communication 9, the Assembly granted forgiveness to the presbytery.
The Assembly adopted a resolution of thanks to the Committee on Arrangements and Dordt College for their exemplary labors of service.
The Assembly adopted corrections to the minutes of the Assembly.
The Moderator dissolved the Assembly at 11:59 a.m. with prayer, giving thanks to God for bringing us to the conclusion of our business, for the work of each committee, for their attention and diligence to the business, for God’s blessings on them and their families who also sacrificed that they might serve here, for a safe return of each to their homes, that God may cause the work of the church to proclaim the riches and glory of the Savior through faithful witnesses, that God may cast down every stronghold, drive away the darkness of sin, pour out his Sprit on the church, revive the church, enable us to look to our Savior and trust in him who is bringing about his eternal decrees, and all for the good of his people and the glory of the Father and the Spirit and the Son, Jesus Christ, who is the commander of God’s armies, to the glory of God.
The Assembly closed with the singing of the Doxology, and the moderator pronounced the benediction of the blessing of the Lord.
This report was written by the Rev. Joseph A. Keller, pastor, Christ Covenant Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Dallas, Texas.
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