2016 General Assembly: Nothing out of the Ordinary
by D. G. Hart
Roman Catholics may have extraordinary synods like the last two called by Pope Francis to consider marriage and the family, but Presbyterians have ordinary assemblies. And for good reason. During the fifteenth-century crisis of the papacy, when rival popes in Avignon and Rome vied for supremacy, bishops and theologians called for church reform by council. Instead of locating church authority in one bishop (the pope), conciliarists advocated gatherings of bishops to oversee the work and ministry of the church.
Not until the sixteenth century did that call for church government by committee blossom with John Calvin’s Ecclesiastical Ordinances, the original proposal for Presbyterian polity. Ever since 1541, Reformed Protestants have made committee meetings an ordinary part of church life, from the monthly assembly of sessions to the seasonal meetings of presbyteries and the annual gatherings for general assemblies. Read more
Marriage, Sexuality, and Faithful Witness
by Patricia E. Clawson
In light of the changing attitudes and laws in America regarding marriage and sexuality, the Committee on Christian Education sponsored a conference before the start of the OPC’s Eighty-third General Assembly to address these developments. About 140 pastors, elders, and members attended the conference, held on June 8 at Glasgow Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Bear, Delaware.
During the four-hour forum, three speakers discussed the cultural, legal, and ministerial issues, joined by a fourth participant for a panel discussion. “The conference’s main purpose was to educate the church—and especially office-bearers—for understanding the current cultural climate with respect to sex and marriage and to help equip them for ministering faithfully in this context,” said David VanDrunen, chairman of the CCE’s Special Committee on Marriage and Sexuality. The Special Committee was set up in 2015 to help the church uphold the biblical teaching on marriage and sexuality in view of increasing antagonism from society. Read more
Together with One Voice
by Stephen J. Tracey
This year the OPC General Assembly and the United Reformed Churches in North America Synod met in two separate locations, chronologically back to back. The OPC finished its business on Monday, June 13, while the URCNA began its business on that same day, with four delegates from the OPC present: Stephen Tracey, Alan Strange, David Winslow, Jr., and Danny Olinger. Lord willing, the next time the URCNA Synod meets, it will do so concurrently with the OPC General Assembly at Wheaton College in June 2018.
Each body will have its own business to conduct. However, the commissioners will have the privilege, in a small way, of fulfilling the apostolic prayer that we may “live in such harmony with one another … that together [we] may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:5–6). Read more