2017 General Assembly Report

Martin and Janet Ozinga ChapelThe 84th General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church met May 31–June 5, 2017 at Trinity Christian College, Palos Heights, Illinois. This running daily report is written by Christopher H. Wisdom and edited by Linda Foh and Stephen Pribble. Questions or comments may be addressed to Ross Graham, stated clerk. Go to Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday. To view the 2017 group photo click here.

Wednesday May 31, 2017

A bright and breezy day in the Chicago suburbs found the ministers and ruling elders arriving from our 17 presbyteries at the campus of Trinity Christian College, Palos Heights, Illinois, for the gathering of the 84th General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The assembly was convened in Trinity’s Ozinga Chapel at 7:00 p.m., as light from the setting sun brightened the tall picture windows at the front of the chapel.

Moderator Paul Tavares called the assembly to order with prayer and the singing of “Tell Out, My Soul, the Greatness of the Lord.”

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord;
Unnumbered blessings give my spirit voice!

Those gathered told out the greatness of the Lord in song with great joy and rejoicing in a most encouraging and edifying manner. The Rev. Jeremiah Montgomery, pastor of Resurrection OPC, State College, Pennsylvania, preached a sermon before the assembly from I Peter 1, entitled “Our Living Hope.” Mr. Montgomery exhorted the assembly to embrace our living hope with true faith in the resurrected Christ for the eternal life. He expounded from the text that living hope as one that is potent, permanent and persistent, over against the false and fading hopes of this world. The Rev. Iain Wright, pastor of Covenant OPC in Orland Park, Illinois, led the assembly in the a solemn and joyful observance of Lord’s Supper with the assistance of elders from that church. Mr. Wright exhorted all present to examine themselves, to commune with Christ by faith, and to live penitent, godly lives until Christ returns.

Following the service, the Assembly recessed and was reconvened at 8:15 PM in Mitchell Gymnasium, where the assembly will complete the balance of its corporate work. The stated clerk of the General Assembly, the Rev. Ross Graham, took the roll of the commissioners, with each one indicating his presence by calling out “here” or “present.” When men stood to be recognized, it helped newer commissioners to put faces to the names in the roll. The moderator also sought and received common consent that committee representatives who were not commissioners be seated as corresponding members.

The Rev. Jack Sawyer, pastor of Pineville Presbyterian Church in Pineville, Louisiana, and administrator of the Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations, introduced the following fraternal delegates to the General Assembly: the Rev. Richard D. Bout from the United Reformed Churches of North America (URCNA); the Rev. Iver Martin of The Free Church of Scotland; J. Alejandro Parada of Presbyterian Church of the Reformation of Colombia; the Rev. Messrs. F. Solano Portela and Adonias Silveira from the Presbyterian Church of Brazil; the Rev. Martin Padgett from the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA); the Rev. Kurt Vetterli from the Evangelical Reformed Church (Westminster Confession) in Switzerland (ERCWC); the Rev. Steven Rhoda of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America (RPCNA); and the Rev. William L. Barron from the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARPC). Upon motion, the assembly received and seated these fraternal delegates as corresponding members.

Ruling Elder Mr. Ed Tress, Chairman of the Committee on Arrangements, introduced Dr. Kurt Dykstra, the President of the Trinity Christian College. Dr. Dykstra welcomed the assembly warmly. Dr. Dykstra expressed delight to have the General Assembly meeting on the Trinity campus, and identified members of the college faculty and staff by name who had a common background or other connection with the OPC.

Mr. Tress continued his report, offering hearty thanks to staff at Trinity Christian College for their flexibility and perseverance in supporting the considerable administrative and logistical requirements of the assembly. He introduced the members of Committee on Arrangements who were present, and provided a brief summary of campus rules, and requirements for entry of travel expenses into the registration system.

Mr. Tress conducted a test with the commissioners using their handheld digital voting devices. The first question asked of commissioners present at the assembly was, “In what decade were you ordained?” A survey of commissioners yielded the following information as to their dates of ordination:

Dates of ordination and number of presbyters responding:

Since Jan. 1, 2010 – 35
Jan. 1, 2000 through Dec. 31, 2009 – 34
Jan. 1, 1990 through Dec. 31, 1999 – 19
Jan. 1, 1980 through Dec. 31, 1989 – 20
Jan. 1, 1970 through Dec. 31, 1979 – 14
Jan. 1, 1960 through Dec. 31, 1969 –   5
Those attending the General Assembly for the first time – 33

The Moderator asked those five men ordained in the 1960s to stand up. As they did so, the assembly gave them a hearty round of applause.

Mr. Graham presented the minutes from the 83rd General Assembly. He announced that the printed and electronic publication of the 2016 minutes had been distributed in September 2016 and noted that no corrections had been received.

Mr. Tavares opened the floor for nominations to the position of Moderator of the 84th General Assembly. The Rev. Donald J. Duff nominated the Rev. Larry J. Westerveld, ministerial member of the Presbytery of Philadelphia. There being no other nominations, Mr. Westerveld was elected moderator of the GA by acclamation. Mr. Tavares invited him to ascend to the podium. He did so and received the gavel. In response, Mr. Westerveld thanked the assembly for this honor, recognizing that a high trust had been granted to him.

Mr. Graham announced that the agenda contained two overtures, nine communications and five appeals to the assembly. Overtures are official correspondence from the presbyteries to the General Assembly requesting action on an item of business that concerns the good of the whole church. The clerk also exhorted the commissioners to read and heed the times scheduled for assembly business, breaks, meals, and other scheduled orders of the day.

Upon motion the assembly approved the adoption of the docket as presented.

The assembly then approved the erection of temporary and advisory committees and the assignment of the business of the Assembly to those temporary and advisory committees in accordance with the Agenda. Mr. Graham announced that the committees would begin their work at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow, keeping the approved recesses for breaks, devotionals, meals, and any other orders of the day. The Moderator noted that the assembly might be reconvened earlier than 3:35 p.m. if advisory and temporary committees were prepared to report sooner.

Having completed its work for the evening, the assembly recessed for the evening at the order of the day with prayer by Mr. Duff.

Thursday June 1, 2017

On this cool, sunlit Illinois morning, commissioners went swiftly to their advisory committee work. All members of the assembly, except the moderator, clerks, and commissioners who give presentations in advisory committees, are assigned to an advisory committee.

Advisory committees and temporary committees help the assembly with its work. They are tasked with meeting with representatives of the various committees of the General Assembly to review those committee’s reports and recommendations. When an advisory committee reports that it is “silent” with regard to the work of a committee under its review, this silence is understood to convey approval of the committee’s work and concurrence with its recommendations. However, an advisory committee may bring recommendations to the assembly that might differ from a committee’s report or recommendations under its review. But they may not do so without conferring with at least one member of that committee present at the assembly.

While a good portion of the day was spent in advisory committee work, the assembly did take a break shortly before lunch for devotions. Moderator Westerveld spoke from Romans 8:31–34, encouraging the assembly regarding the bodily ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ 40 days after his resurrection, and his ministry of perfect and perpetual intercession for us. We should be continually encouraged by the fact that our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, as our merciful, sympathetic, and faithful high priest, is perpetually praying for us to God the Father, who willingly receives Christ’s intercession for us out of his love for us, as the one who did not spare his own Son.

The moderator called the Assembly back to order at 3:35 p.m. and the Rev. Joshua L. McKamy, Covenant OPC, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, offered prayer for the work of the Assembly.

At the request of the Committee on Ecumenicity, the Assembly next approved the enrollment of the Rev. Lee Johnson of the RCUS and the Rev. Andrew Compton of the URCNA. The Rev. William L. Barron of the ARPC addressed the assembly from Isaiah 40:28–31, “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (KJV). He reported that their Synod will meet next week to do a first reading to approve a new Book of Discipline after five years of work, in order to fill a much needed update to this mark of the church.

Rev. Anthony Curto prayed for the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.

The minutes are the official written record of the actions taken by the assembly sitting as a court of Christ’s church. The work of getting the minutes correct requires the help of the entire assembly. The Rev. John Mahaffy, the assistant clerk, made an announcement requesting help with the correction of draft minutes that he would post.

Report of the stated clerk

Mr. Graham presented his report to the assembly. The stated clerk, among many other duties, facilitates the flow of important information to the denominational committees, presbyteries, and churches concerning the important decisions of the assembly. He also oversees publication of the OPC Directory, Minutes of the General Assembly, and the Ministerial Register. He has very ably served the denomination in this capacity for the last 3 years.

Mr. Graham presented a discussion of the electronic distribution of the GA minutes. He announced that the 2016 edition of the minutes of GA and the Yearbook were made available in September of 2016. So this same system will be incorporated into a regular plan of distribution going forward. The plan is that every minister should continue to receive a printed copy. Sessions, and ruling elder delegates, however, will receive only an invitation to download the electronic copy. They may, however, request a printed copy as well.

In addition, Mr. Graham announced a plan to post under the General Assembly tab on OPC.ORG a link to view and search a digital document of all the minutes of the General Assemblies of the OPC from 1936 to the present with some modifications made to it to protect privacy. Mr. Graham concluded by remarking what a privilege it is for him to serve the GA as its stated clerk.

The Rev. Joel C. Robbins, pastor of Covenant OPC in Marina, California, and chairman of the advisory committee, reported on their meeting with the stated clerk. Mr. Graham discussed the work of the assistant clerk, and the clerk observer. The Committee thanked Mr. Graham for his copious and tireless labors on behalf of the church.

The assembly adopted Mr. Graham’s recommendations to the assembly, which included a recommendation to consider a voluntary contribution to defray the printing costs of the minutes. There were also recommendations from the 83rd GA to change the Standing Rules which govern how the assembly goes about its business. The assembly adopted amendments to change the membership of the Standing Committee on Appeals and Complaints and to define the responsibilities of those who attend the assembly as fraternal delegates.

The clerk announced with thanks that Mr. Mahaffy had agreed to continue to serve for another year as assistant clerk, in addition to his 19 years already served, and that the Rev. Christian M. McShaffrey, Grace Reformed Church, Reedsburg, Wisconsin, would serve as clerk observer.

The Advisory Committee expressed thanks on behalf of the assembly to Mr. Graham for his service. Mr. Robbins led in prayer for the work of the stated clerk, the assistant clerk, and the clerk observer.

Report of the Trustees

The Rev. Stephen Phillips presented an abbreviated report of the Trustees of the OPC. He gave thanks that the OPC’s EIN of the IRS has been not used improperly by anyone this past year.

The Trustees are compiling a list of attorneys who can be of help to our churches, thanks to the recommendation and work of Trustee Elder Steven Chang. The Trustees are doing this because of the changes in laws regarding churches that may require assistance in these two categories. Hopefully by next year they will have an amendment to the Standing Rules.

The Trustees thanked Mr. Edward Tress for his stalwart service to the Trustees and to the Assembly on the occasion of his resignation after many years of service.

The Advisory Committee was silent and offered heartfelt thanks for the trustees’ faithful labors.

The assembly elected Mr. Phillips and Mr. Chang to the class of 2020. Elder John Hearn was elected to replace the retiring elder. Mr. Robbins led in prayer for the work of the Trustees.

Action was deferred to a later time in the meeting the Trustees’ proposal to the General Assembly of a budget for the 2018 General Assembly Operation Fund.

Report of the Statistician

Mr. Luke Brown presented the membership, stewardship, and officer statistics of the OPC, using colorful graphs and charts in a clear and cogent manner. Using a ten year bar chart, he reported that there was a high degree of activity across a number of measures, and yet a consistency and stability in OPC statistics, with very little variation from year to year. The ten year average for the OPC was 2,150 members added and 1,900 removed per year. Some highlighted details from Mr. Brown’s report follow below:

  1. Total membership of the OPC at the end of 2016 was 30,918 members, which consisted of 540 ministers, 22,745 communicant members and 7,633 baptized children.
  2. Total giving in 2016 grew by 1.33 percent over the previous year to $57,611.543. These contributions supported all aspects of the ministry of the OPC. The giving per communicant member grew by 2.1% over the past year.
  3. Organized local churches at the end of 2016 numbered 278, with no net change.

Overall, Mr. Brown reported that the OPC experienced a slight decline this year in total members due to the departure of three churches from the denomination. Mr. Brown noted in the conclusion of his report, “Nearly a quarter of those over the age of 12 on the roll of non-communicant members made profession of faith in 2016. There is no indication that we are losing large numbers of covenant children.” The grand total membership growth rate from 1936–2016 has averaged 2.3% per year, with 6.9% growth in benevolent giving as a proportion of total giving.

The Advisory Committee was silent and gave thanks for the report and work of the Statistician. Mr. Brown was elected by acclamation for a 32nd consecutive year as the statistician of the OPC. Advisory Committee chairman Rev. Benjamin Swinburnson, Lynnwood, Washington, prayed for the work of the statistician.

The Committee on Christian Education

The Committee on Christian Education (CCE) was formed to assist the Church in its teaching ministry to the glory of God and the upbuilding of Christ’s church. Dr. James S. Gidley, president of the Committee, opened the Committee’s report by giving thanks for the privilege of serving the OPC. General Secretary Danny Olinger addressed the assembly, likewise giving thanks to God that we are a church that loves the Word of God, that loves to learn about Jesus and teach about Jesus.

Regarding the Trinity Psalter Hymnal, Mr. Olinger stated that the Committee is hopeful that the volume will appear between November 2017 and March 2018. Once everything is in place, they will offer pre-publication discounts of $3 per volume in case lots of 20. There will be forthcoming advertisements to this effect in denominational publications.

An annual Timothy Conference is held to interest young men of high school age to consider future pursuit of the gospel ministry. Thirteen young men attended this year. Since 2008, the OPC has realized its first ordination of a Timothy Conference attendee in the ordination of Caleb Smith as a minister of the OPC.

The Ministerial Training Institute of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (MTIOPC) was completed for this semester at Grace OPC, Vienna, Virginia. In this regard, Mr. Olinger introduced the Rev. Dr. Matthew Patton, the new instructor in Hebrew Refresher course, who spoke regarding the value of refreshing the ministry of the Word with a review of basic Hebrew. Elder David C. Noe, Hillsdale OPC, Hillsdale, Michigan, instructor of the Greek Refresher course, explained the plan to read through the Greek text of 1 and 2 Timothy and portions of the Gospel of Luke. Mr. John Muether, church history instructor, spoke on the history, character and distinguishing characteristics of the OPC.

Mr. Olinger noted with thanks that we are entering the 42nd year of our association with the PCA in a cooperative agreement with Great Commission Publications. He introduced the Rev. Messrs. Marvin Padgett, executive director, and Mark Lowery, director of publications. Mr. Padgett outlined the purpose of GCP to be unashamedly Reformed, noting that it is the most consistently Reformed curriculum in existence today. He discussed the importance of catechesis in churches in a time of serious decline in church catechesis across America. Mr. Lowry then outlined the curriculum resources including “Show Me Jesus,” G2R (Genesis to Revelation), and ten “So What” Bible studies for youth that GCP provides for our covenant children and youth.

Mr. Olinger continued his report until the order of the day arrived at 5:15 p.m. The Rev. Clarence Velde, Westminster OPC, Bartlesville, Oklahoma, prayed and gave thanks for the meal. The members and guests then partook once more of great food and satisfying fellowship together.

Fraternal address

The assembly reconvened at 6:45 p.m. Throughout the week, the assembly has the opportunity to hear from brothers in Christ from other denominations with which we have fraternal relations. After returning from the dinner break, Mr. Sawyer introduced the Rev. Messrs. F. Solano Portela and Adonias Silveira from the Presbyterian Church of Brazil. Mr. Portela addressed the assembly, speaking of the hope proclaimed at this assembly from I Peter 1 and also seen in God’s working with his Word in Brazil in its mission there and in 30 countries. He characterized his word of greeting as a word of encouragement: “The Lord reigns, and we should press forward in the mission and advance of the church.”

Mr. Bube prayed for the Rev. Messrs. Portela and Silveira and the Presbyterian Church of Brazil.

Committee on Christian Education (continued)

The advisory committee was silent with respect to the recommendation of the Committee on Christian Education with no procedural motions planned.

Dr. Alan Strange presented the recommendation for the committee with the three grounds, to update in narrow and modest ways, the language identified as archaic in the Westminster Standards, with no doctrinal changes. After an hour of debate, the assembly recommitted to the CCE an amended version of the Committee’s recommendation with a request that it report to the 85th General Assembly.

The assembly re-elected ministers A. Craig Troxel, David VanDrunen, Gregory Reynolds and Elders Wallace King and Timothy Jackson to the class of 2020.

Mr. VanDixhoorn prayed for the CCE and its work, remembering a special prayer offered for Katie Clawson, daughter of the Rev. and Mrs. Doug Clawson.

The Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension

The Rev. John Hilbelink, president of the Committee, and OPC pastor in Rockford, Illinois, read a quote of Martin Luther, written on his study wall, from Psalm 118:17: “I shall not die, but live, and proclaim the works of the Lord.” Mr. Hilbelink said, “As ministers of the Gospel who preach in the name of the exalted Christ, who put death to death and in whom we now live, we have a purpose in life: to ‘proclaim the works of the Lord.’ ” He introduced home missionaries that were present at the assembly: the Rev. Lowell Ivey, Joshua McKamy, John H. Ro of the Presbytery of the Midwest, and two Regional Home Missionaries, the Rev. Stephen Doe and the Rev. William Shishko. He requested prayer for the health of Garrett Hoogerhyde, a member of the Committee.

CHMCE General Secretary John Shaw then presented the report for the Committee, reminding the assembly that the committee exists to help presbyteries and congregations to start new Presbyterian and Reformed congregations throughout the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean. Mr. Shaw reported that the total number of new mission works was shrinking. He reminded the assembly that healthy churches plant healthy churches, and he exhorted commissioners to seek church revitalization, and to pray and plan sacrificially for new church plants.

The assembly also heard brief reports from RHM Shishko, the Rev. Brad Peppo, and the Rev. Brett Mahlen. (Mr. Mahlen was seated as a corresponding member to give a home missions report.) Mr. Shishko reported that the region of his presbytery has 8% of America’s population. He told of some good fruit from the first six months of the new radio ministry, “A Visit to the Pastor’s Study,” and of the work of Reformation OPC in Queens under his son, Pastor Jonathan Shishko.

Mr. Peppo spoke about how Covenant OPC had put their vision to the test to oversee a mission work in the Springfield, Ohio area. Covenant OPC called Mr. Peppo as an organizing pastor of Living Water OPC in Springfield, Ohio. To the six families sent out, seven families had been added, including previously churched and unchurched. Covenant OPC has seen growth that “replaced” the six families and replenished the funds expended. They are now seeking new families for yet another new core group west of Dayton. Mr. Peppo expressed thanks on behalf of the churches for the deep interest shown in the work in prayers and emails.

Mr. Mahlen spoke about his ministry to Stateville Maximum Security Prison (see the June 2017 OPC Home Missions newsletter). He is pastoring male church members in the prison who have been through membership classes, leading a worship service on the third and fifth Saturday of the month, with prospective candidates for baptism being taught about a more biblical mode of baptism. He is also teaching two sections of seminary classes, with students memorizing catechism questions and answers, and going cell to cell.

Mr. Shaw introduced the Rev. Al Tricarico, Associate General Secretary of the CHMCE, who began by thanking the assembly for the support of the churches when they were missionaries in Africa.

Advisory committee chairman Rev. Daniel J. Dillard, Grace Reformed, Bend, Oregon, commended them for their work of church planting and church revitalization. The committee was silent with regard to the report.

Questions were asked about increases in the budget for promotion. The answer was to produce and provide videos for church planters.

Elections to the Class of 2020 included ministers Chris Hartshorn, Mark Sallade and Carl S. “Steve” McDaniel Jr. and elders Keith Mahieu and James Van Dam. The Rev. Jeffrey Landis was elected to fill the 2019 unexpired term of the Rev. John Curry.

Before finishing the work for the night, special prayer was asked for Laura Gatlin and Rebecca Floyd, members of the OPC. Elder Michael F. Montemarano (OPC in Franklin Square, NY) prayed for our evening rest.

Friday June 2, 2017

Mr. Sawyer introduced the fraternal delegate from the Presbyterian Church in America, the Rev. Marvin Padgett. Mr. Padgett cited some of the latest encouraging church, mission, ministry, and institutional statistics from the PCA. Mr. Padgett also explained that the PCA has a deep history of discussing deeply controversial issues at their general assemblies. Each one of them has resulted in a more conservative turn. He asked that the OPC continue to face a hostile world with the PCA, arm in arm.

Rev. Geoff Downey prayed for the PCA.

Report of the Committee on Foreign Missions (CFM)

Dr. Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., president of the CFM, addressed the Assembly from Hebrews 8:2, noting the ministry of perennial, active intercession of the Lord Jesus Christ on our behalf as our heavenly high priest, as we seek to do the work of his church.

The committee distributed the 2017 CFM pastor’s prayer list and foreign missions brochure to commissioners. These documents remind the churches to be in prayer for the work of our missionaries around the world and are available upon request from the committee.

Mr. Mark Bube, general secretary of CFM, reminded the assembly, quoting John Piper, that the goal of missions is worship. “Missions exist because worship does not.” In 2017 the Lord provided much opportunity to share the gospel. He gave brief reports on the works in Uganda, Eritrea, Haiti, Quebec, and Uruguay, identifying the missionaries and national church leaders, and describing the work in each field.

Mr. Bube invited “Rev. M.” to speak about the work he is taking up for the OPC. He shared his background and God’s call and quoted John Flavel, saying, “God’s providence is best read backwards, like Hebrew.” He related how a series of providences resulted in their call to foreign missions. “This,” he said, “was not in the interest of our comfort, but in the interest of God’s global kingdom.” Their long-term goal is to “pastor the pastors, and serve the emerging Presbyterian Church there.” He introduced his wife and children and concluded, “Please pray for the transition for our family, our church family, and our extended family. We are learning that pain is part of the joy in serving the Lord. Pray that we would be daily relying on Jesus.”

Mr. Bube introduced OP pastor “Rev. A.” who related how much the church in his native country, as a persecuted church meeting in houses, depends upon the prayers of the OPC. Key leaders and church members have been imprisoned, are feeble and stricken with sickness, bringing some of them to an early death. He asked for a time of prayer as he ended his report, and Mr. Bube led the assembly in prayer for those churches.

Mr. Bube introduced the Rev. Geoff Downey, Lake Sherwood OPC, Orlando, Florida, who has made several trips to Colombia. Mr. Downey first made trips to Uruguay and then had opportunities to teach classes in Colombia. He described the situation as unique, and the people as a dedicated, diligent people who, when they become Christians, bring that dedication and diligence along. He described them as “hungry for the Word, packing 100 people into a space that fits 40. He has taught the doctrines and the confessional standards we hold dear, and they have put together and organized conferences where leading seminary professors and visiting teachers can teach. Mr. Downey pled for the assembly’s prayers “for the burgeoning work in Columbia.”

Mr. Bube introduced the Rev. Dr. Anthony Curto who has labored with the Ethiopian Reformed Presbyterian Church and with the work in Austria and Switzerland. Mr. Curto read from Isaiah 49, “I will make you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” He thanked the Assembly for the privilege of serving the Lord in this way. Mr. Curto first went to Ethiopia in 1999 on short-term visits. There are now 10–11 congregations in the southern part of Ethiopia with a seminary there as well and a theological college in Addis Ababa.

The Presbyterian Church in Ethiopia and the Ethiopian Reformed Baptist Seminary have invited him to teach. With all these opportunities, Mr. Curto said the OPC needs six men to work full-time as missionaries in Ethiopia.

Concerning the work of the Evangelical Reformed Church, Westminster Confession (ERKWB), Mr. Curto was contacted by an Austrian woman seeking a church in Austria in Gonkton, in the region of Appenzell. The ERWKB pastor, the Rev. Kurt Vetterli, invited him to come to preach in his church near Zurich. The areas they are working now are along the Rhine River valley. Mr. Curto told the story of seeing a great mural in the town of Stein Am Rhein, showing Zwingli boldly preaching the Gospel. He asked the assembly to “Pray that God will give us courage to preach the Gospel in German-speaking Austria, Switzerland and southern Germany.”

Mr. Bube spoke about the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Northeastern India (RPCNEI) which invited CFM members to hold a two-day minister’s conference. Mr. Bube played an audio-visual recording of young people reciting Leviticus 19:1–15 and singing in a choir competition.

The Assembly approved a recommendation that the OPC enter into fraternal relations with the Evangelical Reformed Church, Westminster Confession (ERWKB).

Mr. Bube thanked the assembly for their partnership in Worldwide Outreach, and introduced the members of the CFM staff. Laughter broke out among the commissioners when Mr. Bube remarked that he could not believe that he had finished his report on time. The Moderator’s good-natured and immediate reply was “Neither can I.”

The Advisory Committee was silent for the report and recommendations

Elected to the class of 2020 were ministers Richard B. Gaffin Jr., Mark A. Green, and John Mahaffy and elders David Gregg and Jon Stevenson.

Mr. McDaniel prayed for the CFM, for its work, and for those missionaries and members who do that work, even amidst persecution and imprisonment. He asked grace for them and their families to stand firm, even in trial.

The Committee on Coordination (CoC)

Mr. Paul Tavares, CoC chairman, presented the work of the committee, noting that “This work is your work. Your work needs to be communicated intently in the pews of your churches. You are ambassadors in this collective work. Really take to heart that we are working together as one. Through his power, through his blessing, we can do much, and I encourage you to do so.”

The purpose of the CoC is 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 to help the church maximize the use of its resources for the fulfillment of its task, 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.

Elder David Haney, director of finance and planned giving, gave thanks for the great privilege of serving in his position. The year 2016 was a good year for Worldwide Outreach (WWO). The Thank Offering has increased for the last five years, and this year was almost $1.5 million. Giving has averaged 99.6% of the budget in the last ten years.

Historical Moment

Mr. Olinger noted that today is the 80th anniversary of the formation of the Committee on Foreign Missions of the OPC:

On June 2, 1937, the Third General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America (renamed Orthodox Presbyterian Church in 1939) formed a fifteen-member Committee on Foreign Missions, composed of nine ministers and six ruling elders serving in three classes. In conjunction with the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension, the Committee elected the Rev. Charles J. Woodbridge to serve as general secretary. Later that summer, Mr. Woodbridge resigned as general secretary to accept the pastorate of First Presbyterian Church, Salisbury, North Carolina.
The Committee, however, continued its work appointing a new general secretary, the Rev. Cary M. Weisiger III, and on September 16, 1937 appointed its first missionaries. The Rev. Messrs. Egbert Andrews and R. Heber McIlwaine were appointed to serve in Manchukuo, and the Rev. Richard B. and Pauline Gaffin in China. The Committee later appointed the Rev. Malcolm C. and June Frehn in Japan, the Rev. Henry W. and Elizabeth Coray in China, and the Rev. Bruce F. and Katharine Hunt in Manchuria.

Fraternal Greeting: Presbyterian Church of the Reformation in Colombia

The assembly reconvened after the morning break and Mr. Sawyer introduced Dr. Alejandro Parada, a ruling elder in the Church of the Reformation in Colombia, who greeted the assembly and shared that he was sent to say “thank you” by his church’s general assembly. “You have supported us. Now we can teach other ones. You have comforted us. Now we can comfort other ones.” He went on to affirm that “Koinonia joins us to the universal church. We are not an island, and we don’t want to be one. Seven years ago, our relationship with the OPC started. We have grown in spirit and in number. Right now we are two local churches and three missions in five cities. So when you invited us to come, we came to say “thank you” face to face. Now we invite you to come, for ‘Mi casa es su casa.’ ” The assembly responded with laughter and applause.

The Rev. Bryan Estelle prayed for the Church of the Reformation in Colombia.

Report on the Committee on Coordination (continued)

Part of the work of the CoC includes promoting a program of stewardship education and planned giving. Their efforts include the Communications Director, the Ambassador Program, Stewardship Education and the annual OPC Thank Offering. As part of planned giving, over $600,000 in estate gifts has come in from those who have included the OPC in their will. The church has greatly benefited from the instruction in the practice of biblical stewardship and estate planning offered by Mr. Haney.

The committee then presented the names of the staff and the projects recently completed. These include Staff Office Manual completion, Pension Contribution Management, uploading ACH Transactions, and ongoing database development. Projects in the pipeline include online giving, an OPC web application (app), local church financial resources, and 403(b) Plan Administrative Assistance.

The advisory committee made several suggestions and requests to the CoC and recommended Mr. Paul H. Tavares be commended for his years of service to the CoC as he prepares to step down this year.

The CoC’s recommended program spending increase of 3.5% for Worldwide Outreach in 2018 was approved

Elected to the Class of 2020 were the Rev. Stephen Oharek and Elder David Veldkamp.

Mr. Cottenden prayed for the committee.

The Committee on Diaconal Ministries (CDM)

The Rev. Lendall Smith, president of the CDM reported. CDM is charged with promoting the diaconal ministries of the congregations of the OPC in those areas that are beyond the resources of local diaconates. The CDM ministers to those in need within the OPC, internationally, and those affected by disasters. It uses local deacons, missionary deacons, ministry to retired ministers and their widows, and Short-Term Missions. Mr. David Nakhla, Short-term Missions Coordinator, Disaster Response Coordinator, and CDM Administrator, laid out in more detail how diaconal needs are addressed in the OPC.

The committee provided the assembly with a printed copy of links to the new OPC Deacons Facebook Closed Group where our deacons can discuss common needs and recommended responses; to the short-term mission opportunities and teams site at www.OPCSTM.org, and Resources for OPC Deacons at www.opc.org/committee_dm.html. Disaster Response ministry in 2016 included aid to those affected by flooding in Louisiana and Hurricane Matthew in Haiti. Ministry training conducted by the Diaconal Training Subcommittee has included two annual Diaconal Summits. The ministry to ministers and their widows, enabled by the Obadiah Fund, is carried out through Presbytery Diaconal Committees.

Mr. Nakhla reflected on the helpfulness of the short-term mission teams from the OPC.

Refugee crisis relief has become an emerging need to which the CDM has responded. The CDM has worked with:

The CDM answered a question whether gospel preaching always accompanied the administration of aid through other churches and agencies. The answer was “yes”; for example, in the Evangelical Church in Greece, in Clarkston, Georgia, and through MTW as reported.

The assembly passed a recommendation that in 2018 the churches of the OPC support the CDM at the rate of $25 per communicant member.

Elected the Class of 2020 were the Rev. Nathan Trice, Elder Seth Long, and Deacon Christopher A. Sudlow.

Mr. Poundstone, chairman of the advisory Committee, prayed for God’s richest blessing on the deacons of the entire church in their works of mercy. He prayed for grace for Mr. Smith and Mr. Nakhla to discern where and how needs might be met. Prayer was made especially for the many refugees in need, both in our country and around the world.

The Report of the Committee on Pensions (COP)

Mr. Roger Huibregtse, president COP, reported on behalf of the committee, using an audio-visual presentation. When a church calls a pastor it promises to provide him a compensation package so that he can be “free from worldly care and employment.” One of the COP’s primary responsibilities is to help the church free pastors from worldly care, even in the years of retirement. The committee does this by providing a pension plan for OP ministers and full-time employees. The committee also provides a group life insurance plan for the ministers, officers, and full-time employees of the Church and their families. Finally, the committee makes supplemental payments to certain ministers with inadequate pensions.

The order of the day then arrived for morning devotional time.

Devotional Break

At 11:40 the assembly took a break from its work to hear a devotional from Philippians 1:19–26 by the Rev. William Welzien, Keys OPC, Key West, Florida. He told of his receiving Christ after hearing the testimony of Christians sharing with him John 14:6. He resisted the repeated use of this text with him, and then repented and asked Christ to reveal himself as the way, the truth, and the. He recounted how his prayer was answered, and how he went on to learn Philippians 1:20–21, which became his “life verse.” In that text, Paul’s eager expectation and hope was that he would never be ashamed of the Lord Jesus Christ and his gospel. Mr. Welzien pled with the commissioners to embrace that same hope, that with true boldness, Christ might be honored in their bodies, whether by life or by death. “We are most alive,” he declared, “when Jesus Christ is being magnified by us.” In closing, Mr. Welzien made this theme his prayer for himself and for the assembly.

The assembly recessed at 12:00 p.m. for lunch to meet at 1:15 p.m. for the General Assembly group photo. The Moderator offered thanks for the lunch meal and for God’s faithfulness in the work accomplished this morning.

Friday afternoon, June 2, 2017

Fraternal Delegate Enrolled

The Assembly reconvened with prayer and the singing of “Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah.” Mr. Sawyer introduced the Rev. Pierre Legault, a minister of l'Église réformée du Québec (ERQ).

Fraternal Address

Mr. Sawyer introduced the Rev. Iver Martin, the fraternal delegate from the Free Church of Scotland, principal of The Free Church College. Mr. Martin recounted with joy his 6-month spiritual home in his earlier life as an engineer, worshipping at Covenant OPC in San José, California. Mr. Martin related how the longstanding church relationship of the OPC and the FCS goes back even further than that. He declared, “We stand together with you upon the infallibility and inerrancy of Holy Scripture.” Mr. Martin lamented the spiritual decline and the rise of secularism in Scotland. Notwithstanding, there have been new congregations brought into the Free Church of Scotland, as in 2010, the FCS made allowance for a form of worship not exclusively using Psalms. In the last three years, the Free Church has also been engaging in church planting in several major cities that are in need, including Glasgow and Dundee. The FCS has also rejoiced to contribute copyrighted Psalm settings to the OPC–URC Trinity Psalter Hymnal.

The Free Church have gone through a difficult season with the death of a minister, under circumstances which had to be investigated, and have entered into the public record for the sake of the FCS’s testimony. This prompted them to study in closed session the various personal challenges that ministers especially face. One thing they noted was that their ministry of accountability to one another was sadly lacking, and, that ministers need to be more open to one another so that such circumstances as these may never have to be faced again. Mr. Martin thanked the assembly for their fellowship in such times as these.

Mr. Charles Muether offered prayer for the Free Church of Scotland and especially for its work amid its recent advances and great challenges.

Mr. Mahaffy presented the reviewed draft minutes with requests for questions and corrections for pages 1–5. By common consent the assembly approved those minutes as corrected.

Committee on Pensions (Continued)

Mr. Huibregste reported on the changes to the pension fund from a trustee-administered pension plan to a participant-administered pension plan (IRS 403[b]). He further reported how all investment managers must adhere to the Committee on Pension’s socially responsible investment guidelines with regard to alcohol (NTE 15%), tobacco (NTE 15%), gaming (NTE 20%) and abortifacients (zero tolerance). He also explained how educational programs were conducted with pension fund participants regarding the pension fund changes, including pension fees and legal fees. Future improvements being worked for the plan included the improvement of the current life insurance benefits, among others.

In response to a question, Rev. Douglas L. Watson informally recommended that churches include in their pastoral calls the putting of up to 10% of the combined salary and housing allowance in the pension fund.

On the Recommendation on p. 106, VI, the advisory committee was silent.

The Moderator directed the assembly to item 29 in the docket, The Report of the Committee on The Care of Ministers, and ruled that the assembly would deal with the Amendment to the Standing Rules on page 252.

Report of the Committee on the Care of Ministers

Mr. Haney, chairman of the committee, noted that four of the five committee members are present. This committee came into existence out of a recommendation of the CDM, and began doing a survey three years ago. The report came to the 83rd GA, with a proposed change to the Standing Rules.

Regarding the committee recommendation, the advisory committee was silent.

The assembly adopted amendments found on Item 3, agenda pages 252–253 as proposed by the 83rd GA.

The assembly adopted without dissent the advisory committee’s procedural motion on Recommendation B that the GA suspend 10.2 of the SR having to do with initial elections to elect the men recommended in Recommendation B.

Mr. Haney explained that this unusual action was recommended for continuity of investment guidelines, and done in consultation with the COP and CDM. The committee’s intent is to bring them on, on a one-time basis, to provide continuity of leadership through the coming transition year.

The assembly adopted Recommendation B without audible dissent.

The assembly elected the following men to the initial membership of the Committee on Ministerial Care in the following classes: Class of 2018: Rev. Lendall Smith (CDM Representative); Elder Bruce Stahl (COP Representative); Rev. Darren Thole; Class of 2019: Elder David Nakhla (CDM Representative); Elder David Vander Ploeg (COP Representative); Rev. Clark Brooking; Class of 2020: Rev. Douglas L. Watson (COP Representative); Elders David Haney and Greg DeJong.

Grounds: Due to the 83rd GA’s instruction to the study committee to recommend representation from the CDM and COP on the initial membership of the CMC, and due to the unusual nature of the formation of a new standing committee that has immediate ongoing responsibilities of pension oversight and diaconal care, the study committee believed it to be prudent to populate the initial membership of the CMC with men with recognized gifts and experience in the various areas of the CMC’s responsibility according to its mandate.

Mr. Haney presented Committee Recommendation C: That the 84th General Assembly revise the 2017 GAOF budget to include $25,000 for the Committee on Ministerial Care, to give lift-off to the new committee without causing an undue burden to the churches. The Assembly adopted the recommendation.

Mr. Haney presented Committee Recommendation D: That the 84th General Assembly include in the 2018 GAOF $25,000 for the budget of the Committee on Ministerial Care. The Assembly adopted the recommendation.

Mr. Haney presented Committee Recommendation E: That the 84th General Assembly dissolve the Special Committee to Study the Care of Ministers of the OPC, with the amended addition by common consent, “with the thanks of the assembly.”

The advisory committee recommended that the assembly record its praise and thanksgiving to God for the tireless expert work Garret Hoogerhyde and Roger Huibregste.

Mr. Poundstone then offered praise and thanks for the work of the Committee on Pensions, for blessing upon Roger Huibregste and Garret Hoogerhyde, especially in his current need, and prayed for the members of the new committee, for a smooth continuation, for guidance as they undertake all the transitional matters, praying that Christ be exalted in the midst of his church.

Report of the Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations (CEIR)

Mr. Curto, chairman of the committee, read from Ephesians 4:1–8, and spoke about the important work of ecumenicity in the church of Jesus Christ. Mr. Sawyer, committee administrator, presented the report, building the case for the work of ecumenicity on previous remarks by referring to John 17:23 and Ephesians 2:11–22.

The Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations (CEIR) is charged with making recommendations to the General Assembly on all matters relevant to the relationship of the OPC to other churches and to ecumenical bodies, both in the United States and abroad, including the establishment of official relationships in accordance with the assembly’s policy on church and ecclesiastical fellowship. The committee is also tasked with nurturing these relationships, putting into practice the assembly’s Biblical Principles of the Unity of the Church, appointing fraternal delegates to the assemblies with which the OPC has an official relationship, appointing representatives to the annual meeting of the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC), and reporting to each assembly on its work and on the churches with which the OPC has an official relationship. The document that defines the position of the OPC in its ecumenical service is Biblical Principles of the Unity of the Church.

Mr. Sawyer briefly highlighted a number of ecclesiastical relationships being nurtured by the committee. The Canadian Reformed Churches’ aid, by virtue of its facility in the Dutch language, has been indispensable in understanding the concerning developments of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Liberated), and with the Christian Reformed Churches in the Netherlands, who have sent a fraternal delegate to the last two assemblies. Mr. Sawyer publicly thanked the Committee on Foreign Missions, for underwriting financially and supporting with their work, the ministry of the CEIR. Mr. Sawyer also discussed The ERC, and the forthcoming recommendation that we offer full ecclesiastical fellowship with the Bible Presbyterian Church.

The advisory committee was silent on the Committee’s report.

Mr. Sawyer presented the following recommendations, both of which were adopted by the assembly.

  1. That the General Assembly invite the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) [FCC] into Ecclesiastical Fellowship (EF).
  2. That the 84th (2017) General Assembly invite the Bible Presbyterian Church into a relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship (EF).

Following the afternoon break, the assembly was reconvened with the singing of “Praise, My Soul, The King of Heaven,” with prayer by the Rev. Robert Y. Eckhardt.

Fraternal Greetings: RCUS

Mr. Sawyer introduced the Rev. Lee Johnson, minister in the Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS), who brought fraternal greetings and asked for the prayers of the OPC. Mr. Johnson recounted the OPC’s fellowship with the RCUS in its history, and remarked that the Lord has used the OPC mightily in the life of the RCUS.

Mr. Cole prayed for the RCUS, thanking God for our brothers in the RCUS, grieving with them for the closing of two churches and the loss of three ministers, and praying that the two denominations would continue to bear one another’s burdens, in the name of our faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.

The assembly approved the committee recommendations as amended below.

  1. That the 84th (2017) General Assembly express its thanksgiving to the Lord for the gracious invitation received from the 26th (2016) Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, North East India, to invite the OPC into a Sister Church Relationship, and towards the end of pursuing full Ecclesiastical Fellowship with our RPCNEI brothers and sisters, the Assembly, acting on the principle “omne majus continent in se minus” (the greater contains the lesser), accept that invitation by entering into Corresponding Relations with the RPCNEI.
  2. That the 84th (2017) General Assembly accept the invitation extended to the OPC by the 2016 General Synod of the Evangelical Reformed Church Westminster Confession (ERKWB) to enter a Sister Church relationship (i.e., Ecclesiastical Fellowship).
  3. That the 84th (2017) General Assembly apologize to the Christian Reformed Churches in Australia (CRCA) for neglecting to clarify and pursue more diligently our Ecclesiastical Relationship with the CRCA, and move to regularize that Relationship by inviting the CRCA into Corresponding Relations.
(Mr. Sawyer explained that this motion was recommended because we had failed to maintain contact with the CRCA and had failed to responded to or act upon the requests embodied in their correspondence with the OPC).
  1. That the 84th (2017) General Assembly amend the Rules for Ecclesiastical Fellowship (as adopted by the 45th [1978] General Assembly, Minutes of the 45th [1978] General Assembly, pages 116–117, 123; and as subsequently amended, Minutes of the 64th [1997] General Assembly, Articles 130 and 178, pages 29–31, 53; Minutes of the 67th [2000] General Assembly, Articles 149 and 151, pages 36–38; Minutes of the 73rd [2006] General Assembly, Articles 159–161, pages 41–43; and Minutes of the 79th [2012] General Assembly, Articles 64 and 66, pages 15–18) to read as follows—
to insert following the first paragraph in Section B: With regard to those churches that are not geographically proximate to the OPC with which the OPC has a bilateral relationship, the Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations (CEIR) shall periodically review those relationships to ascertain whether the desired substantial contact is being (or given the limited resources, is able to be) maintained. When the CEIR finds that, in God’s providence, there has not been the desired significant contact for five or more years, it may propose to the upcoming General Assembly (and consult with its counterpart in the other church prior to doing so) that such Assembly inform the other church that, at the succeeding General Assembly, a proposal to adjust, without prejudice, such bilateral relationship to a relationship of Ecumenical Contact will be docketed for consideration as part of the regular annual report of the CEIR.
Strike from B.1 the words “and there might be considerable need for mutual concern and admonition.
—and that the amended Rules for Ecclesiastical Relationships be sent to the member churches of the ICRC and NAPARC for their information, comments, or advice.

Mr. Sawyer spoke briefly regarding Recommendation 6, explaining that sometimes relationships that began hopefully can drift apart, not for theological or ecclesiastical cause of error, but because of an apparent inability to cooperate and coordinate relationships, perhaps because of geographical disparity. This is an administrative tool intended to help us adjust ecclesiastical relationships when such circumstances as described above prevail.

Recommendation 7 had to do with how the CEIR recommends that the assembly respond in the event of the Reformed Church in the Netherlands’ synodical actions regarding the admission of biblically unqualified candidates to the teaching and ruling offices of the church.

This motion was passed to constitute the four OPC delegates to the next ICRC to act as a commission, to act on behalf of and with the full power of the General Assembly until the next (85th) general Assembly.

Under Standing rule X.2.g. this assembly was instructed that it should elect three ministers or ruling elders. The Moderator then ruled, on the basis of these names alone being entered into nomination by the assembly, that nominees Messrs. Charles Muether, Sawyer, and Van Dixhoorn were elected to the class of 2020:

After elections were held, the work of the committee ended with prayer by Mr. Sallade, thanking God for the work of the committee in their contact with our sister communions. He prayed for God’s blessing upon the committee and these communions for the glory of Christ.

The Report of the Committee on Appeals and Complaints (CAC)

The work of CAC is vital in assisting the assembly in determining how best to adjudicate the appeals and complaints cases that come before it. The work of the committee, according to the Standing Rules of the General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, is to “act in advance of or during a General Assembly to receive appeals and complaints, to advise whether appeals and complaints are in order and properly before the assembly, to gather, summarize and/or index the relevant documents and data, and to recommend the whole order of the proceedings, but the not the disposition of the appeals or complaints.”

The assembly spent the remainder of day addressing two cases.

On Appeal #1 the advisory committee was silent with regard to the report and recommendations of the CAC. The advisory committee read procedural recommendation 1.B.

Mr. Pontier presented recommendation 1, that the appeal not be sustained.

At order of the day, Mr. Van Doodewaard prayed and thanked God for the work done thus far today, and asked for God’s blessing upon our food and fellowship. The Moderator then recessed the assembly for dinner.

Fraternal Address: BPC

The Rev. Dr. Kevin Backus of the Bible Presbyterian Church brought greetings. Mr. Backus expressed thanks for the Assembly’s welcome, and thanked God for the work of God in the BPC. He talked about their church boards: The Independent Board for Foreign Missions, and all the other boards, which are composed of leaders only from the BPC. He also spoke of his Inter-Church Relations Committee’s visit as official visitors to NAPARC. He described the most unique relationship they sustain as the one with the OPC. Mr. Backus started working on this project of full Ecclesiastical Fellowship 31 years ago. During the years that have ensued, the OPC has helped the BPC in many ways, including but not limited to revitalizing home missions work.

Mr. Pontier prayed for the BPC, and thanked God that when the time was right, he brought brothers back together to dwell together in unity. He prayed that God would grant that this place be a stone of remembrance, from which we might go forward together to God’s praise in Jesus Name.

The assembly resumed the work on Appeal #1, with debate. The motion to sustain Appeal #1 failed on voice vote.

The Moderator asked for Mr. Doe to pray for the presbytery and the appellant. He thanked God for His sovereignty and wisdom in teaching us through all our weaknesses that Christ will lead and keep his church. He prayed that the members of the presbytery might be guarded from the temptations of the devil and his desire to divide. He asked for grace also to be given to the appellant, and to all, for the sake of God’s everlasting love, thanking him for working through all our deliberations for Christ’s glory.

In Appeals #2–4, charges did not eventuate in a trial and complaints are brought against that failure to take that action. The appellants had been invited at the 83rd GA to bring the appeals back to this assembly. The Chronology follows in the report.

The Recommendations moved by the CAC were that the appeals be found in order and properly before the assembly. The motion carried.

Appeals 3–4: The advisory committee made a presentation supporting its Recommendation B. The Moderator requested and received consent from the Assembly to set aside this Appeal for now and pick up this case in the morning and to receive a fraternal address.

Fraternal address: Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA)

The Rev. Steven Rhoda brought greetings on behalf of the RPCNA. He spoke with joy of being privileged to greet the assembly, based in part on the fact that from 2010–2015 he had been a ministerial member of the OPC Presbytery of the Midwest. He declared, “We are brothers in the Lord.”

The 2017 RPCNA Annual Synod has 2 judicial cases being presented, and a number of study committees reporting, including of the subjects vocalized prayer, and the mediatorial kingship of Christ, how best to encourage ruling elder attendance at Synod, and a response to the very current issue of transgenderism. Mr. Rhoda has been impressed by our common commitment to church planting, and seeing churches planted in both denominations. He requested prayer for church planters and pastors for the RPCNA. He closed by asking for and encouraging practical expressions of unity between us. He closed by reading Psalm 133: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity.” Mr. Rhoda put an emphasis on the word “dwell,” encouraging both denominations to “dwell” together, to reach out to geographically collocated congregations, looking for that unity and blessedness that Christ has bestowed upon us.

Rev. F. Allan Story prayed for the RPCNA, thanking God for the church of Jesus Christ, and for denominations with which we have had a long affiliation, for the bold stand they are taking against abortion, and for their love for us. He prayed that God would bless them in their upcoming synod, for their judicial decisions to be made, and for the study committee efforts, in their church planting, and for the vacant pulpits that are an issue for them. He thanked God for them and prayed for God’s blessing.

The assembly was reminded of the OPC missionaries, ministers and their wives or widows residing at Quarryville.

The Rev. Lloyd J. Sterrett closed the assembly in prayer and the assembly was declared to be in recess until the order of the day tomorrow morning.

Saturday June 3, 2017

The Assembly reconvened at 8:30 a.m. Mr. Sawyer introduced the Rev. Reinier Noppers of the Christian Reformed Churches of Australia (CRCA), who addressed the assembly. Using the words of the hymn “The Church’s One Foundation,” Mr. Noppers expressed thanks to God that the verse, “Elect from every nation, yet one o’er all the earth” describes the relationship between the OPC and the CRCA. Mr. Noppers informed the assembly that the CRA has 58 established congregations and 9 church plants, with an active diaconal ministry. The CRCA’s confessional standards are the Three Forms of Unity plus the Westminster Confession of Faith as a fourth confessional standard. The CRCA have fraternal relations with the RCNZ, the PCEA, and are particularly grateful for their fraternal relations with the OPC. It is because of their strong desire to rebuild this relationship, stemming back to the 1960’s, Mr. Noppers reported that the CRCA gladly received the OPC’s letter of apology for neglecting to respond to the CRCA’s invitation. Mr. Noppers also acknowledged the CRCA’s “equal portion of blame” for neglect in fraternal correspondence and communication.

Mr. Noppers concluded by acknowledging that opportunities for Gospel ministry abound in the Australasian region. Paraphrasing I Corinthians 2, Mr. Noppers challenged the assembly with the rhetorical question, “May I exhort you to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified … so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power?”

Committee on Appeals and Complaints (continued)

With regard to Appeals #2-4, questions for the appellants and the presbytery were asked and answered for thirty minutes. The order of the day arrived. Mr. Van Meerbeke offered prayer and the assembly was in recess.

The assembly reconvened with the singing of “How Vast the benefits Divine.”

Fraternal Greetings: l'Église réformée du Québec (ERQ)

Mr. Sawyer introduced the Rev. Pierre Legault of l'Église réformée du Québec (ERQ). Their church is in the northeastern portion of the North American continent with five churches and 390 souls. Mr. Legault shared news and the prayer needs. The church in Montreal is helping a Syrian Christian family to gain residence in Canada. A tragic event occurred in Quebec last year when six people were killed at the Grand Mosque of Quebec, right near where the congregation of St. Marc’s Church (ERQ) meets (where the Rev. Ben Westerveld is the pastor). He also asked prayer for the two churches that are without pastors. One of their ministers has applied to the chaplaincy of the Canadian Defense Forces, and one serves as the Dean of the Institut Guillaume Farel (seminary).

The ERQ Synod adopted vows to be used for the ordination of a minister. The Quebec Reformed Translation Ministry will publish books on covenant theology and infant baptism for their pastors’ use in the Francophone world. There will be another season of “English For Kids” Bible Camp this summer, where kids learn English by learning Bible verses. OPC, PCA, and KAPC volunteers come for 4 camps of 50 campers each, most of which come from non-Christian homes. The commissioners were asked to pray that God would cause the seed of the Gospel to fall on good soil, prepared by the Holy Spirit.

Mr. Legault concluded, “Finally, as you undertake the work of the Lord for the OPC, may the Lord will fill you with wisdom, so that you may faithfully and joyfully serve our Savior. As Paul writes in Ephesians 4, may you ‘make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’ ” (Eph. 4).

Committee on Appeals and Complaints (continued)

The assembly voted not to sustain Appeal #3 nor Appeal #4.

The order of the day arrived, the Rev. Dr. Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. offered prayer to God with thanks given for the work of the assembly completed today, and with prayer that God would be glorified in the church gathering work of our Lord Jesus Christ, as the Holy Spirit works with his Word so that the commissioners and congregations would be edified by our worship and given rest on the Lord’s Day.

The assembly was then declared to be in recess by the moderator until the next order of the day, on Monday morning, June 5.

Sunday June 4, 2017

Remarkably beautiful sunny weather continued on Sunday as a welcome rest came to the assembly. Commissioners and their families boarded vans and cars to worship at local OP churches including: Bethel OPC, Wheaton; Covenant OPC, Orland Park; Covenant of Grace OPC, Sugar Grove; Gospel Life OPC, Chicago; Grace OPC, Hanover Park; New Covenant Community OPC, Joliet; Providence OPC, Rockford; and Westminster OPC, Indian Head Park.

Commissioners and congregants worshipped our great triune God, singing the psalms and the hymns of the church, and listening to sermons from Holy Scripture. They enjoyed the communion of the saints, giving thanks to God for being given the opportunity to keep the whole day as a holy rest from all their labors. Congregations provided a delicious lunch to their guests afterward.

At 6:00 p.m. the Covenant OPC Orland Park congregation hosted a joint worship service on Trinity College campus in Ozinga Chapel for area OPCs, commissioners, and guests at the college. About 500 worshipers were in attendance. The Rev. Iain Wright led the service with readings from 2 Chronicles 9:1–12 and Hebrews 12:1–17. Those gathered sang heartily to God accompanied by the great chapel organ from great hymns like “O God Beyond All Praising”:

“O God, beyond all praising, we worship you today,
And sing the love amazing that songs cannot repay.”

Rev. Wright preached from Psalm 43, verse 5, on dealing with our discouragements by bringing them all, with our questions, to our King Jesus, the one greater than Solomon. As has been the assembly’s custom, an offering was also received for OPC Worldwide Outreach.

Monday June 5, 2017

The Moderator convened the assembly with the singing of “Come Thou Almighty King” and with prayer by Mr. David Winslow, of Westminster OPC, Westminster, California. Special prayer was offered at that time for Teddy Hake, Laura Gatlin, the Rev. Arthur Fox, and OPC Elders Dennis Silva and Mr. Nedza.

Fraternal Greetings: EPCEW

Mr. Sawyer read Communication 10 to the General Assembly, a letter of fraternal greetings from the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in in England and in Wales (EPCEW). The EPCEW reported that they now have 19 congregations, including church plants. They reported 596 communicants and 794 baptized children, one congregation in Sweden and one congregation in Germany.

The Moderator asked the Assembly to amend the docket so that the event to honor the retirement of the Rev. Brian Wingard and his wife would be held at 2:45 today instead of 8:30 p.m. today.

The Moderator called for consideration of Overture #1 from the Presbytery of the Dakotas. The Stated clerk read Overture #1:

“The Presbytery of the Dakotas respectfully overtures the Eighty-fourth (2017) General Assembly to consider adding average weekly attendance at a second worship service in the months of May and November to the annual statistical report to the General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.”

Mr. Swinburnson, chairman of the advisory committee for this overture, reported that they had met with the Statistician on the overture and proposed amendments that had been made by the advisory committee. He reported further on the Advisory Committee’s amendments to the grounds of the overture.

The assembly debated overture 1. The Moderator put the question, “Shall Overture 1 be granted?” The overture was not granted.

A Humorous Moment

At one point during the debate, the moderator asked the name of a commissioner who was seeking the floor to give a speech concerning the motion before the assembly. The commissioner identified himself as “Mr. Jensen.” The Moderator remarked, “That was going to be my first guess.” A gentle swell of laughter rolled across the assembly when Mr. Jensen replied, “I am glad I have that kind of face.”

The Moderator then called for Overture #2. The Rev. John Fesko, Professor at Westminster Theological Seminary, Escondido, California, and representative from the Presbytery of Southern California (PSC), presented Overture #2 on behalf of the PSC as follows:

The Presbytery of Southern California respectfully overtures the 84th General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church to establish a study committee that would clarify the nature and role of the accusers in the 2nd meeting of an ecclesiastical trial with the purpose of amending the BD [Book of Discipline].

Mr. Fesko cited excerpts from the OPC Book of Discipline (BD) to the effect that there are perceived ambiguities and gaps on the rights of the accuser in the current BD that necessitate this overture.

Mr. Joel C. Robbins, chairman of Advisory Committee #9, reported. The AC proposed an amendment to the overture to be considered after questions from the assembly upon the original overture.

Before the Moderator opened the floor for debate on the overture, he requested a perfection of the motion to the overture that proposed a committee of five members and a budget of $5000, to report back to the 85th General Assembly. The main motion then read:

The Presbytery of Southern California respectfully overtures the 84th General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church to establish a study committee of 5 that would clarify the nature and role of the accusers in the 2nd meeting of an ecclesiastical trial with a budget of $5000, to report back to the 85th General Assembly.

Debate continued. A substitute became the main motion, and was approved as follows:

AC 9 proposes that the petition of Overture #2 be referred to the Committee on Appeals and Complaints with a recommendation that consideration be given to the perceived ambiguity without prejudice as to whether the BD requires amendment.

Mr. Robbins prayed for the Committee on Appeals and Complaints, for the Presbytery of the Dakotas and the Presbytery of Southern California, and for the persons who brought Overtures 1 and 2, respectively.

The Moderator then brought the Assembly back to Appeal 5 and debate and questions ensued for and against sustaining specification of error #3. The order of the day arrived, and the assembly turned to a time of devotions.

The Rev. Joel M. Ellis, Jr., pastor of Reformation OPC, Apache Junction, Arizona, led the assembly in the hymn “God be merciful to me” and prayer. Mr. Ellis brought the morning devotional from Hosea 14. He asserted from the text that repentance is the duty of every Christian believer and is central to the Christian life. He outlined from the text the requirements of repentance as involving contrition, commitment, confession, and confidence. He asserted, “Confession is about owning our action, without any justification or any excuses … and without defensiveness.” A wise man sees his need of repentance and accedes to its demands. He concluded from Luke 24, that the theme of all Scripture is Christ, and that the preaching of Christ necessarily and universally involves repentance. Mr. Ellis closed the devotional time in prayer.

The Moderator led in offering thanks for the lunch meal, reminded the assembly to reconvene at 1:15 p.m., and declared the meeting to be in recess until that time.

Monday Afternoon

The assembly reconvened with the hymn, “Thy Works, not Mine, O Christ.” Mr. Jesse Montgomery, member of the GA Committee on Arrangements, led the assembly in prayer.

Mr. John Mahaffy, assistant stated clerk, led the assembly in requesting corrections to the draft assembly minutes printed and distributed to date.

The assembly continued consideration of Appeal 5 and voted to sustain specification of error #3.

The assembly voted not to sustain specification of error #4.

The assembly voted not to sustain specification of error #5.

The assembly voted not to sustain specification of error #6.

The moderator called up specification of error #7.

The assembly recessed for the order of the day, to honor the Rev. and Mrs. Brian Wingard, missionaries of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, on the occasion of their retirement. The assembly sang “O, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing.”

Mr. Mark Bube, general secretary for the Committee on Foreign Missions (CFM), read the resolution approved in the committee’s February 2017 meeting:

The Committee on Foreign Missions of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church hereby makes known to the Rev. Dr. Brian T. Wingard and his wife, Dorothy, our deep thankfulness to the Lord for you, his servants, and for your twenty-three years of dedicated service to the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Answering the Lord’s call through His church to missionary service, you were ordained to the gospel ministry on December 10, 1993, and the very next day you were married—and the next month you were off to Kenya to teach at the Reformed Theological College of East Africa in Eldoret (1994–1997), living in a simple house and carrying water in buckets from a nearby creek. In answer to your and our prayers, some of the men you taught have gone on in the following decades to positions of leadership in their respective churches, a testimony to our Lord’s grace working through you.
In 1998 you relocated to Uganda, to teach at the Westminster Theological College in Mbale (1998–2001), becoming only the second missionary family on that field. Again we saw the Lord’s grace and mercy in sparing your lives when you were attacked in your home in the middle of the night in October 2001 and left tied up for hours.
When it pleased the Lord to allow us to return to Eritrea in 2002 (having been expelled from that country in 1997), you served both as the director of the Mehrete Yesus Evangelical Presbyterian Theological College in Asmara and as an evangelist working with the three congregations of MYEPC (2002–2006). The Lord continued to bless your labors richly, and today your graduates are serving Christ’s church among the Eritrean diaspora, applying what they learned sitting under your patient instruction in the places to which the Lord has brought them.
When we were again expelled from Eritrea in 2007, you were again redeployed to Mbale, Uganda, where you taught at the Knox Theological College (2007–2011), and when an opportunity opened, you relocated a fourth time to South Africa to teach at the Mukhanyo Theological College in Kwamhlanga (2011–2016), where you labored until you retired from active missionary service. In all of these labors, you brought a zeal for God’s glory, a servant’s heart, and a steadfast commitment to the Scriptures as the only infallible rule of faith and practice, and to our confessional standards as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Scriptures. And wherever you were stationed, Dorothy served in various supporting capacities in the theological colleges where her husband labored, taught women’s Bible studies and in the Sunday schools, and was ever ready to provide hospitality to students and visitors, providing a godly example of the excellent wife (Prov. 31). Your toil has not been in vain in the Lord. You have both planted and watered, and God will give the increase in His time. The Word which you have proclaimed will not return without accomplishing what He desires. May you continue to run the race that is set before you, fixing your eyes on Jesus, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things. To God be the glory!

At the end of Mr. Bube’s presentation to the Wingards, the Assembly responded spontaneously with ringing applause in a standing ovation.

Mr. Wingard responded with remarks, citing Luke 17:10, characterizing himself humbly as “an unprofitable servant,” and saying in each of the four languages of the countries where they had served, “Thank you very much.”

Mr. Bube closed in prayer, giving thanks for Christ’s church, for the gifts God has given to his servants, and especially for Brian and Dorothy Wingard, asking that in the years to come the Wingards might be a continuing encouragement to God and to his Church.

The Moderator then recessed the assembly to a special reception held in honor of the Wingards.

The assembly was reconvened at 3:35 p.m. Mr. Watson relayed a report on the health of Mr. Garret Hoogerhyde, perennial member of the Committee on Pensions, with requests for prayer for his improvement. Mr. Watson prayed for the assembly’s work and for Mr. Hoogerhyde.

The assembly continued consideration of Appeal 5 and voted not to sustain specification of error #7.

The assembly voted to sustain specification of error #8.

The assembly voted to sustain specification of error #9.

As agreed to previously by a vote of the assembly, the Moderator next put the question, “Is the error of such importance as to require a reversal or modification of the judgment”? (BD, VII.6). The intent of this previously approved motion was to consider each of the sustained specifications of error, seriatim (i.e., separately and in numerical order).

A substitute motion prevailed to consider all the specifications of error together. It became the main motion, which read, “Are the sustained errors 2, 3, 8 and 9 of such importance as to require a reversal or modification of the judgment?”

Another substitute motion was moved, seconded, amended and debated by the assembly: “That the Assembly determine that the sustained errors (2, 3, 8 and 9) are of such importance as to [amend by addition: require reversing the judgment of the presbytery] [amend by deletion: warrant remitting the case to the trial judicatory for a new trial.”

The order of the day for the evening meal arrived. Mr. Fesko gave thanks for the evening meal and the assembly was declared in recess.

Monday evening, June 5, 2017

The Moderator reconvened the assembly with the singing of “Crown Him with Many Crowns” and with prayer by Mr. Jonathan Shaw, General Secretary for the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension. Based upon a report from Mr. Strange, Mr. Shaw prayed for improved health for Elder Nezda so he could sustain further procedures. He also prayed for Bernard Ryan and his family. Mr. Ryan has a critical health need, and his family who recently sustained the loss of their father in his death.

In accordance with Book of Discipline, Chapter IV.A.1, on “The Trial of Judicial Cases, The Rules for Those Involved”, at the beginning of debate again on this judicial appeal, the moderator once more announced to the assembly:

This body is about to sit in a judicial capacity and I exhort you, the members, to bear in mind your solemn duty faithfully to minister and declare the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice, and to subordinate all human judgments to that infallible rule.

To review the most recent previous actions by the assembly in the Monday afternoon session, a main motion in the case of Appeal 5 had been presented and seconded as follows: “Are the sustained errors (2, 3, 8,and 9) of such importance as to require a reversal or modification of the judgment? (B.D. VII.6)”

Following debate, the assembly approved a substitute motion to be the main motion as follows:

That the Assembly determine that the sustained errors (2, 3, 8 and 9) are of such importance as to require reversing the judgment of the presbytery.

The Moderator put the question and the motion prevailed, and the judgment of the presbytery in this case was reversed. This brought the Assembly to the end of Appeal 5.

Mr. Keele prayed for the assembly, giving thanks to God for the ministry of reconciliation. He prayer for all parties concerned in this case, for the church, and above all, for the glory of God.

The moderator commended Advisory Committee 10 for their work.

The moderator brought up the report of Temporary Committee (TC) 12, The Committee on Presbyterial Records, with the previous suspension of Standing Rule 6c.

The moderator requested and received general consent of the assembly not to read aloud the four recommendations of TC 12. The assembly approved all four recommendations.

The moderator brought up the report of Temporary Committee (TC) 13, the Committee on Standing Committee Records. The moderator requested and received general consent of the assembly not to read aloud the three recommendations of TC 13. The assembly approved all three recommendations.

The moderator asked Mr. Picknally to pray for the committees TC 12 and TC 13, and for our presbyteries and standing committees. Mr. Picknally gave thanks for the good work done by the presbyteries and the committees of GA, and for their concern and care in keeping good and orderly records of the actions they had taken in the previous year.

Elections to the Committee on Appeals and Complaints

All those to be elected needed to be from different presbyteries. The assembly needed to elect four men from three different presbyteries. Required were two ministers or ruling elders to be elected to the class of 2020, one for the class of 2019, and for one alternate. Nominations were made for two ministers or ruling elders to the class of 2020. There was one conflict on two being from the same presbyteries. The moderator ruled that the one receiving fewer votes of the two would be dropped.

For the committee, Mr. Willet’s current term is expiring. The alternate is elected yearly. For the class of 2020, the moderator declared Mr. Willet elected on the first ballot.

On a third ballot, Mr. Pontier was declared elected to the class of 2020. For the class of 2019, Mr. Hutchison was declared elected. For alternate, Elder Thomas Crumplar was declared elected.

The Rev. Chad E. Bond, pastor of Faith OPC in Dallas, Texas, prayed for the newly constituted CAC, giving thanks for the work of the standing committee this past year, and for the work of Advisory Committee 10.

Report of the Committee on Chaplains and Military Personnel (CCMP)

The Rev. Richard M. Dickinson, pastor of Pilgrim OPC in Bangor, Maine, and chair of the CCMP, reported for the committee. Mr. Dickinson asked the assembly especially to keep our chaplains and military personnel in prayer. He identified changes to the report. The Advisory Committee reported silence on the CCMP’s report and recommendations.

Elections: The terms of Mr. Mark W. Rogers and Mr. Michael R. Jennings are expiring. Since there were no other nominations, the moderator declared the incumbents elected by acclamation to the Class of 2020.

Mr. Peppo prayed for the work of the CCMP, especially in the difficult matters besetting the United States military and their chaplaincies, giving thanks for their work, and praying for God’s blessing upon U.S. military personnel who are serving, that the light of Christ might shine forth, and that Christ’s sheep might be gathered into his fold.

The Reports of the Historian and the Committee for the Historian

The moderator requested and received general consent to receive both of these reports together. Mr. Muether, the historian, noted that the Committee has been contributing modestly to the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation with a series of articles in New Horizons since October 2016. When the series ends, the historian hopes to compile them into a book suitable for use in adult Sunday school classes.

The historian related how Dr. George Marsden in a recent book review had strongly commended the book Choosing the Good Portion, published by the OPC. The book tells the stories of distinguished women of the OPC and their service to God and to his church. The historian also reported that a biography of E. J. Young written by his son, Dr. Davis Young, to be published by the committee, is due out this fall.

The historian also offered the OPC web page Today in OPC History to the commissioners and guests for their submissions of new stories and photos.

Mr. Swinburnson reported for the Advisory Committee that the AC is silent. Mr. Swinburnson also prayed for the Historian and the Committee for the Historian, thanking the Lord for the written history we have to remind us of those who made much of Christ and little of themselves in our history, and praying that it might always be so among us.

Elections to The Committee: Required positions for the class of 2020 were one minister and one ruling elder. The terms of Mr. Olinger and Mr. Noe were expiring. Each was nominated to the class of 2020. The moderator declared them elected by acclamation, by virtue of the absence of any other nominees.

Unfinished Advisory Committee Business

Mr. Pontier reported for Advisory Committee 10, and moved the following:

That with respect to the matters of Appeals 2-4 the Eighty-fourth General Assembly erect a special Committee appointed by the Moderator consisting of three ministers or ruling elders; that the committee, in order to pursue Biblical reconciliation, shall work with the Presbytery of Ohio, the session members of Grace OPC, Sewickley, Pennsylvania, and Immanuel OPC, Coraopolis, Pennsylvania; that the special committee report on its work and any appropriate recommendations to the Eight-fifth (2018) General Assembly; and that the special committee have a budget of $3000.

After procedural motions to refer this matter failed, the moderator put the question, and it was carried.

Mr. Cottenden prayed for the special committee, that as they set about their work with the presbytery they might find a good reception, and that all involved would praise God’s glorious name, as they see him at work among them.

Special Committee to visit the Presbytery of the Northwest

Mr. Van Dyke reported for the Special Committee to visit the Presbytery of the Northwest, and recommended that the special committee be dissolved.

The AC 9 reported silence on the report and its recommendations.

The motion to dissolve the committee with thanks was approved by the assembly.

Mr. Joel C. Robbins prayed with thanks for the work of the committee, praising God that he has made us one church, and asking that the work of the committee would bear fruit in mutual Christian love, for the glory of Jesus.

After the prayer, the Stated clerk read Communication 41, dated March 13, 2017, from the Presbytery of the Northwest, thanking the General Assembly for the work of the Special committee.

The Special Committee on Canadian Matters

The Mr. Douglas L. Bylsma reported for the committee. The Moderator brought up their recommendations as follows:

The assembly passed committee recommendation A: “That the Assembly establish a Joint Ministry Agreement consisting of eight members who shall be appointed by the Ontario Committee of the Presbytery of Michigan and Ontario (PMO). The eight members shall be ministers of the Word, ruling elders or deacons from within the OPC. The makeup of the Joint Ministry Agreement shall be agreeable to Canadian Revenue Agency rules for charities. The goal for this Agreement is to enable the Canadian OPCs to participate in international gospel ministry.”

The assembly passed committee recommendation B, which recommended a budget of $3,000 for setting up the necessary structure for the Canadian OPC Joint Ministry Agreement.

The assembly passed committee recommendation C, which “encourages the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension (CHMCE) to consult with the Canadian Churches, the PMO, and the other Presbyteries to develop a way forward in a broader evangelization of Canada leading to the establishment of more churches and potentially OPC Canada.”

The assembly passed committee recommendation D, that “The Assembly request Redeemer OPC (Airdrie, Alberta), and its Presbytery (Presbytery of the Northwest (PNW)) to consider the wisdom and benefits of Redeemer OPC requesting transfer of the Agenda 84th (2017) GA 1703 congregation to the Presbytery of Michigan and Ontario (PMO), and also, request the PMO to consider the acceptability of this transfer, and for the respective parties to communicate their rationales and preferred direction to each other, and if agreeable to all parties, encourage them to initiate and generate the appropriate overture and concurrence for consideration at the 85th GA (2018).”

The assembly passed committee recommendation E, “That the Assembly dissolve the Special Committee on Canadian Matters with thanks.”

Mr. Cottenden prayed, giving thanks to God for the work of the Special Committee on Canadian Matters, and prayed for the strengthening of the bonds that unite OPC congregations on both sides of the border, and that the time might come soon when that land there will be filled with new churches, as God is pleased pours out his Spirit upon the people there.

Report regarding Communications 4 and 6 for Advisory Committee 2

Concerning Communication 4 from the Presbytery of New Jersey, seeking advice regarding Mr. Roberto Quinones, the assembly approved a motion stating that it has no objection to having the presbytery proceed with steps leading to the ordination of Mr. Quinones.

Concerning Communication 6 from the Presbytery of Michigan and Ontario, seeking advice regarding Dr. David Noe. The assembly approved a motion stating that it has no objection to having the presbytery proceed with steps leading to the licensure of Dr. David Noe.

Letter of Fraternal Greetings from the Independent Reformed Churches in Korea: Dr. Curto read the letter of fraternal greetings from the Independent Reformed Churches in Korea (IRCK). The IRCK gave thanks for the opportunities to meet with OPC fraternal delegates at various meetings in recent past years, but sent regrets for not being able to send a fraternal delegate to this GA. The IRCK gave thanks for students sent from our mission to the IRC Theological Academy, and for the lectures delivered in person by Dr. Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. and Dr. Chad Van Dixhoorn in recent times. The IRCK also requested our prayers for some recent challenges they have faced. Dr. Curto prayed for the IRCK along the lines they had requested.

Report on the Committee on Arrangements

Mr. Tress reported for the Committee on Arrangements and introduced its members and staff.

The Committee had contacted the following sites for future general assemblies. The Committee is working on a contract with Wheaton College in 2018, June 11–15. For 2019, from June 5–11, University of Texas at Dallas has agreed to give the OPC an answer by October of 2018.

Mr. Tress reported further that in October 2016, the chairman, vice-chairman of the committee on arrangements and the stated clerk had met with representatives of the URCNA planning committee for the 2018 URCNA synod which will be held concurrently with the OPC General Assembly in 2018. The purpose of this meeting was to begin the process of sharing plans and developing ways where we could meet and fellowship together during our concurrent meetings. A result of this meeting was a second meeting held on March 30, 2017 where representatives from the various committees and offices of the OPC and URCNA met to define more detailed recommendations for meeting and fellowshipping together.

Advisory Committee reported silence, except for thanks for the work of the Committee.

The Moderator opened the floor for questions, and minor perfections were made to one of the committee’s recommendations.

The Moderator then requested general consent to take all nine recommendations together. Upon motion the assembly approved all nine recommendations.

The stated clerk served notice that, per recommendation 7 and the plans for a reduced agenda for the general assembly in order to spend more time in fellowship with the URCNA, the stated clerk, for example, might have to tell an appellant or presbytery that their appeal would have to come to the 2019 General Assembly, so that a very unique kind of assembly might be held next year.

Elections to the Class of 2020 were Mr. David T. Mahaffy and Mr. Edward K. Tress by acclamation. Mr. Jesse Montgomery was elected as alternate by acclamation, according to the declarations of the moderator in the absence of other nominations.

Advisory Committee Chair Mr. Robbins reported silence on the Committee’s report and recommendations, and then prayed for the Committee on Arrangements, thanking God for sending his Son in the form of a servant, and that we should be servants made in his image as well. Mr. Robbins also thanked God for the faithful work of the Committee.

Report of the 2018 General Assembly Operating Fund Budget

Mr. Ed Tress presented the budget, with the permission of the assembly, for a total of $268,900. Upon motion, the Assembly adopted the budget of the 2018 General Assembly Operating Fund, with a requested per capita amount of $20 per communicant member.

Mr. Robbins, the AC chair, reported silence. He prayed with blessing and thanks to God for making his people willing to be generous in the time given by the trustees, and in the gifts given by the members of the OPC.

Resolution of Thanks

Mr. Estelle reported with the assembly’s proposed resolution of thanks.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, given thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:16-18, ESV).
We, the commissioners of the eighty-fourth General Assembly of the OPC, give thanks to the following individuals and groups for their service and care rendered during the General Assembly, and some even previous to our arrival.
We give thanks and acknowledge the service of the following people on the arrangements committee, since without their labors the yield from the work of this particular General Assembly would not exist:
Ross Graham
Linda Jones (registrar)
David Mahaffy
Alan Montgomery
Jesse Montgomery
Robert Tarullo
Edward Tress
We are also grateful for the following members of Trinity Christian College community for the accommodations to meet our physical and other needs:
Brooke Simkins, Brady Ott and the rest of the events and management staff
Mary Tambrini and the Creative Dining Staff
Doug VanWyngarden, Dave Jousna, Justin VanderWall, and their AV student workers
We are also thankful for those who served us by helping us with our transport, including the following:
Hal Hamstra
Doreen Voss
Pete Murany
John and Joann Stub
Ken Evenhouse
David Jouf
For the Pages, who had the tedious task of distributing papers to us throughout the duration of our Assembly, we give thanks to the following persons for discharging this duty:
Emma, Maddie and Tina Nakhla
Nadia Picknally
Elizabeth and Mary Lois Wallace
We are also grateful for the Golf cart drivers who conveyed commissioners around campus:
Justin Crick
Eleanor Moleterno
For the photographers, Kathryn Yen and Sara Grace Baugh, we also appreciate your service and look forward to viewing the fruit of your labors.
For not only feeding us on the Lord’s Day, but more especially for nourishing us with the means of Grace on the Lord’s Day, we give thanks to the following congregations and their ministers:
Gospel Life OPC, Chicago
Grace OPC, Hanover Park
Westminster OPC, Indian Head Park
New Covenant Community OPC, Joliet
Covenant OPC, Orland Park
Covenant OPC, Sugar Grove
Bethel OPC, Wheaton
We give thanks for the following musicians:
Alan Montgomery, John Shaw, and Jean Phillips for our daily sessions,
Jill Beezhold for our opening service,
Justin Rich for Sunday evening worship
Finally, we thank our tie-less moderator, Larry J. Westerveld, for peppering his comments with occasional notes of humor, which assisted us by keeping our work more enjoyable than it might have been otherwise. Most of all, we give thanks for our moderator’s courteous, orderly, and firm leadership throughout our proceedings.

Upon motion the assembly approved the resolution of thanks.

The Committee on Arrangements reported on the next day’s arrangements for checking out of lodging, for the remaining meals, and for transportation to the local airports.

Reading of the Minutes

The assistant clerk requested and received corrections to the minutes that he had distributed. The Moderator then received and requested general consent to approve the this assembly’s minutes

Dissolution of the General Assembly, Closing Benediction, and Doxology

Moderator Westerveld received and requested general consent to dissolve the assembly. He officially dissolved the 84th General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and called for a new assembly to convene on June 11–15, 2018 on Monday at 4:00 PM at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois.

The moderator raised his hands as he called the assembly to “Lift up your hearts,” and then closed the assembly with this benediction:

The Lord bless you and keep you,
The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you,
The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

The assembly responded by singing the Doxology:

Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise him, all creatures here below,
Praise him above, ye heavenly hosts,
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen”

Indeed, our God is worthy of all praise as the one from whom all blessings have flowed to us at this 84th General Assembly. May he answer the prayers we have offered and use these efforts for the furthering of the kingdom of his beloved Son.

Postscript

It was encouraging to hear how one of the GA volunteers experienced the 2017 General Assembly. Justin Crick was one of the golf cart drivers for those in special need of a ride. He shared with this reporter that he had come out to the GA to volunteer and to meet fellow laborers in the Lord in the OPC. He expressed his appreciation for his time at the General Assembly as follows: “General Assembly has been an invaluable experience; from fellowshipping with ministers and elders from all around the country, to sitting in on the assembly floor, learning from the Fathers and Brothers of the OPC has been an incredible and exhilarating time for me. I told Ed Tress this was one of the best experiences in my life. He said, “Oh, you must be young then!” (Justin is a member of Covenant OPC in San Jose, California, a Masters degree student in civil engineering, and president of the Reformed University Fellowship at San Jose State University. He told us that he plans to come next year too!).

 

This report was written by the Rev. Christopher H. Wisdom, an OPC minister who is a member of the Committee on Chaplains and Military Personnel.

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