Ordained Servant Online
Editorial - Galvanized Iron: A Tribute to G. I. Williamson for His Pioneering Work on Ordained Servant
Gregory Edward Reynolds
My copy of G. I. Williamson's classic study guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith was signed by him in 1985, when he preached at our church in Mount Vernon, New York, as part of a Bible conference being held at Franklin Square OPC. G. I. had recently returned from New Zealand. I had purchased a first edition of this informative book in its academic blue cover (standard fare for the old Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company), now with duct tape on the spine, at Covenant College in 1974, during a time when I was becoming a Presbyterian and was learning the Reformed faith under the ministry of George Miladin and the professorships of Gordon Clark, Lou Voskuil, John Sanderson, Reggie McClelland, and Henry Krabbendam. G. I. was, unwittingly, one of my earliest mentors.
What G. I. Brought to His Editorship
G. I. was born Gerald Irvin Williamson in Des Moines, Iowa, on May 19, 1925. After being graduated from Drake University in 1949 (the year I was born) and Pittsburgh-Xenia Theological Seminary in 1952 with that wonderfully antique degree, the B.D. (bachelor of divinity), he was ordained on June 1, 1952, by the Presbytery of Des Moines in the United Presbyterian Church of North America. He served UPCNA churches in New Bedford, Pennsylvania, and Fall River, Massachusetts. In 1954 he was received into the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, where he served a church in Monticello, Arkansas. In 1955 he was received into the Presbytery of New York and New England of the OPC. His article "What's So Special about the OPC?" tells why he came into the OPC. For the next seven years, G. I. served Grace OPC in Fall River, Massachusetts. From 1963 to 1983, he served two churches in the Reformed Churches of New Zealand, sandwiched around a four-year stint with a Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America congregation in Park City, Kansas.
Finally, in 1983 G. I. returned stateside for good, both his and ours. He served the OP churches in Carson and Lark, North Dakota, until his "retirement" in 1993. Well, it may have been a retirement from the pastorate, but certainly not from serving his Lord's church. From 1993 to 1995, G. I. helped plant a church in Hull, Iowa. In 1995 the congregation joined the newly formed United Reformed Church. It was in 1992 that G. I. began editing a new OP periodical, Ordained Servant (which was made possible by the willing assistance of God's people at Bethel OPC in Carson, N.D.) And now, after publishing his fifty-third issue in his eighty-first year, he has handed over the reins.
G. I.'s extensive experience in various Reformed churches solidified his firm commitment to historic, confessional Presbyterianism. His passion has been to instruct the church in its confession and catechisms, and to inculcate that faith in the worship and life of the church through the ministry of an active, pastorally oriented eldership. These twin passions are evident in the pages of fourteen years of Ordained Servant.
Like his soldier namesake, G. I. stands for "galvanized iron." In every aspect of his ministry, G. I. has proved to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ-stalwart, steadfast, and reliable. The original meaning of galvanize is "to stimulate as if by electric shock." Its figurative meaning is "to arouse to awareness or action." Having come from churches that did not take their historic confessional tradition seriously enough, G. I.'s appreciation for our secondary standards, as a vital part of the faith and life of the church, has moved him to stimulate the church to a renewed consciousness of them. Early in his ministry, G. I. sought to recover "with certainty the rich heritage of the Reformation Faith." In 1964 he published the first edition of The Westminster Confession of Faith for Study Classes. In 1970 he published another study guide, entitled The Shorter Catechism, in two volumes. His publication of a commentary on The Heidelberg Catechism (1993) is a testimony to his Reformed ecumenical instincts. His years of service on the Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations expanded his ecumenical experience. This, too, is evident in the pages of Ordained Servant.
His writings have further displayed the range of his interests as he has sought to teach the implications of confessional orthodoxy for every aspect of the church's life. For G. I., the academy serves the interests of the church. Thus, he has published books on worship (The Singing of the Psalms in the Worship of God, 1967), ethics (Wine in the Bible and the Church, 1976), apologetics (Understanding the Times, 1979), and biblical exposition (The Song of Songs, 1981).
It is one of the great honors of my ministry to follow in the footsteps of G. I. Williamson as editor of Ordained Servant. I hope to continue his fine efforts to cultivate confessional consciousness in the mind of the church through the faithful ministries of its officers, that Scripture may be understood and lived to the glory of God.
How I Intend to Build on G. I.'s Work
On October 5, 2005, the Committee on Christian Education (CCE) approved the recommendation of the Subcommittee on Resources for the Churches that the CCE cease publication of Ordained Servant in its present form, and publish it in electronic form on opc.org throughout the year, and annually as a print journal on a trial basis from 2007 to 2009. The new editor will, in consultation with the general secretary, solicit new articles to appear on the OPC website, beginning in 2007.
This year I will be redesigning both the content and the look of Ordained Servant. I would like to hear comments from you, the church officers of the OPC. If we are to make a good thing better, we must hear from those whom we are seeking to serve. While I do not intend to lead by consensus, I wish to do everything within my power to make future issues of Ordained Servant a blessing to you. I want to grow into this position so that we can each grow together in fulfilling our offices in the church as servants of the great Servant of the Lord.
During this new year of 2006, we will be posting a sampling of the best of past issues from our archives. As part of our tribute to G. I. Williamson, we begin with one of his editorials that, more than anything I have read, sums up his principled love for the Orthodox Presbyterian expression of our Lord's church.
The general secretary and the CCE have given me considerable latitude in redesigning Ordained Servant. This will be my main concern in 2006. One aspect of my work will be identifying and recruiting writers for new articles to be published, beginning in 2007. I may also add some articles and reviews during this calendar year. I hope to use editorial space to continue the work of encouraging, informing, and equipping church officers. At the end of 2007, we will begin publishing all of the new articles in a single annual volume.
Along with continuing to print articles and reviews that cover the range of the past fourteen years of Ordained Servant, I intend to expand the scope of the magazine's focus. Exploring the implications of ministering in a digital world is an example of this expansion. The combination of digital and print publication represents a frontier for Ordained Servant, its new editor, and I suspect the library and periodical publishing worlds. This month I will be attending a lecture and discussion by David Seaman entitled "Electronic Books, Digital Readers, and the Future of America's Libraries," at the Boston Athen...um. I hope to add material on the effect of electronic communication on the ministries of church officers. The challenge is to balance the efficiency and accessibility of the Web with the more enduring and thoughtful quality of a printed journal. There are benefits and liabilities to each medium. This topic has been of intense interest to me since I bought my first computer, an Apple IIC, and began a doctor of ministry project (both in 1990) on preaching in the electronic age.
It is also my conviction that officers need to understand more deeply the battlefield on which we find ourselves engaged in a fierce conflict. So I hope to include thoughtful analyses of different aspects of our culture, so as to better minister within it and to it.
I intend to seek high quality writing in the form of articles and book reviews in order to stimulate clear thinking and the consistent practice of historic, confessional Presbyterianism. I will seek to bring new books to your attention through a combination of brief and article-length reviews. I am working on developing submission standards and a style sheet. The look will fit the content, as I will seek to develop a layout and typography that communicate the seriousness of our endeavor.
I will continue building on G. I.'s pastoral and confessional themes, as these form the core of our focus. As a church planter, I have grown to appreciate the importance of sound doctrine, worship with reverence and awe, passionate expository preaching, and the training of gifted elders who fulfill their pastoral callings. The latter is the key to implementing everything else. For anyone interested, I have written several articles in each of these areas.
Finally, I would like to propose our own J. Gresham Machen as a model of piety, doctrinal integrity, and intellectual cultivation. Many men in the OPC, both living and dead, have followed in Machen's footsteps. Our own "Galvanized Iron" Williamson is a fine example of such a Christian soldier. I hope to explore those riches that are right under our noses. Machen is particularly useful because he lived in the same world we inhabit. He excelled in understanding the modern world and engaging it from a distinctly confessional perspective.
There are two things in particular about Machen's Christianity that I hope to see mirrored in Ordained Servant. First, he was able to communicate profound ideas with cogency and clarity. Such clear thinking and its excellence of expression in print is what we will aim at. Second, his strong convictions were always held as a true Christian gentleman. He was not afraid to disagree passionately, but he always did so compassionately. I wish to continue promoting this tone in Ordained Servant, and thus "avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife." "A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient ..." (2 Timothy 2:23-24 nkjv). Let's grow together in imitating Machen, Paul, and our Lord Jesus in these and all things.
Brothers, I earnestly solicit your prayers and suggestions as I take up this new, and in my eyes formidable, challenge.
Ordained Servant, January 2006.