The 78th General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is meeting at Sandy Cove conference center, North East, Maryland, June 8-15, 2011. This running daily report is written by Everett Henes and edited by Linda Foh and Stephen Pribble. Questions or comments may be addressed to George Cottenden, stated clerk. Go to Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday.
The 78th General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church convened at 7:00 PM on June 8th with a terminus of no later than 12 noon on Tuesday, June 14th. This year is a particularly special General Assembly as we are celebrating 75 years of the Lord's faithfulness to the OPC. On June 11, 1936 the first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America (later to be named the Orthodox Presbyterian Church) was held in Philadelphia and established what J. Gresham Machen called "a true Presbyterian church at last." There were more visitors present at this year's General Assembly, which corresponds to the additional activities and celebrations planned throughout the week.
While the Assembly was not scheduled to begin until 7:00 PM, commissioners, families and friends were onsite many hours earlier getting settled in to the accommodations at Sandy Cove Retreat Center. Sandy Cove Ministries began in 1946 as a non-denominational ministry, providing camping and retreat services to many churches and families. It is situated above the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay in North East, Maryland and provides ample scenic distractions during morning and evening walks.
As the commissioners and others arrived, the temperature touched 97 degrees with the humidity pushing the "feels like" temperature over 100. This did not keep everyone indoors as some ventured to walk along the beach or go for a jog before the assembly convened.
Those present early were also treated to two presentations sponsored by the OPC's Committee for the Historian. The presentations were given by Mr. John R. Muether (current OPC Historian) and Dr. Darryl G. Hart. Mr. Muether's lecture, "Who Gets to Narrate the OPC: The Church and Its Historians," took up the task of looking at six separate historians and their views of the OPC. Mr. Muether juxtaposed three historians who had been part of the OPC but eventually left with three historians who remained in the OPC. It was clear that their views of the OPC and her history correlated to their relationship to the church. In spite of this, Mr. Muether did not simply reject dissenting voices, but rather encouraged us to listen to all voices, taking into account their peculiar perspectives. Dr. Hart's lecture, "Is the OPC the Church that Calvinists Have Been Waiting for?" examined the first 75 years of several Reformed churches and movements, noting that we have the privilege of celebrating the 75th anniversary this year but that we ought to do so, recognizing that it is God's grace that has allowed us to press on. Dr. Hart also pressed this issue that the Reformation was first and foremost a religious effort and only secondarily did it impact the culture of the day. With this in mind, is the OPC the church that Calvinists have been waiting for? It may be, if they are looking for ecclesiastical reform.
At 7:00 PM sharp the Rev. Alan R. Pontier, moderator of the 77th General Assembly, called the Assembly to order and called upon the Rev. Claude A. Taylor III, pastor of New Hope OPC in Bridgton, New Jersey, to open in prayer. The Assembly began with thanksgiving to God for his faithfulness and goodness to his people as well as offering prayers up for the DeHaan family. Nancy DeHaan had served as the registrar of this year's GA until she entered the presence of her faithful Savior after an automobile accident. Please keep her family in your prayers. Following prayer, the Assembly sang "Arise, My Soul, Arise." In this song we sing of our salvation, recognizing our reconciliation to God and the fact that we can call out to him, "Father, Abba, Father!" All of it is because of the death of Christ.
Rev. Pontier read from Revelation 12:1-12 and preached a sermon entitled "The Conquering Church." In this sermon we were all reminded of the connection between the dragon warring with the woman and her children in Revelation 12 and Genesis 3 and the promise God gave in speaking to the serpent: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." The Serpent has been defeated in the death and resurrection of Christ but he continues to war against the church as a wounded animal, waiting for his final destruction. Until that time comes, we are part of the church militant and we need to remember that we conquer, as John reminds us, through the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony (Rev. 12:11). Following the sermon and prayer, the Assembly sang Luther's great hymn, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God."
Following this the Assembly work began with roll call, the seating of corresponding members (those from the OPC who are not commissioners but may need the "privilege of the floor," which is permission to address the Assembly). There was also a motion to recognize and seat the fraternal delegates from other denominations. The latter motion was made by the Rev. Jack Sawyer, corresponding secretary for the Committee for Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations.
When the moderator opened the floor for nominations for this year's moderator, three names were moved: the Rev. Danny E. Olinger (general secretary of the Committee on Christian Education), the Rev. Calvin R. Malcor (retired minister, serving as moderator of the Presbytery of the Northwest) and Dr. John P. Jambura (ruling elder at Sovereign Redeemer OPC in Boise, Idaho). Speeches were given on behalf of each nominee and when the final votes were tallied, Mr. Danny Olinger was elected to serve as the moderator of the 78th General Assembly of the OPC. The Rev. Ross W. Graham prayed for Mr. Olinger and the proceedings of the Assembly.
Upon receiving the gavel, Mr. Olinger proceeded to remind the Assembly that due to the celebrations planned for this year's Asssembly we have only 24 hours for the work that is normally completed in 38 hours. This means that the commissioners will need to be extra diligent and carefully weigh their words. Following this exhortation, we moved to approve and adopt the docket for the week as well as approve the committees that will take up the work, beginning in the morning.
As already mentioned, this week will not be just a week of work but also of celebration. On Thursday evening there will be a presentation by the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension, on Friday evening there will be a presentation by the Committee on Foreign Missions and on Saturday morning there will be a presentation by the Committee on Christian Education. Beyond these presentations, Saturday afternoon has been set aside as a time for families to spend together, taking advantage of the amenities at Sandy Cove (I plan to go on the zipline!). The 75th Anniversary Dinner is set for 5:00 PM on Saturday. On Sunday there will be two services at Sandy Cove for the commissioners, their families and any others who are able to attend. Further information is available here.
All the business being concluded for the evening, the night was closed in prayer by Mr. David Winslow, ruling elder at Westminster OPC in Westminster, California.
The first full day of deliberations began for the Assembly today at 8:15 a.m. The morning was largely spent in committee, as the Assembly divided itself into ten work groups or "advisory committees" whose purpose is to receive, review, and evaluate the reports of the denomination's permanent or "standing" committees. The standing committees of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church conduct their work year round. They administer some aspect of the church's life, such as its home and foreign missions, Christian education, diaconal ministries, interchurch relations, etc. When the Assembly gathers each year, these standing committees then report on the progress of their ministries. The advisory committees receive the reports, discuss their contents with representatives of the standing committees, and then advise the Assembly on what actions it should accordingly take. They also handle any communications, overtures, appeals and complaints sent to the Assembly.
Three "temporary" committees meet in addition to the advisory committees (AC's) to review presbyterial and standing committee records, as well as arrangements for future meetings of the General Assembly. All committees met in separate rooms during the morning of the first day, and hopefully by that time will have completed their work. Normally they meet through the afternoon as well; however, with the extra activities planned this weekand an abnormally light workload for the Assemblythe moderator determined to call the Assembly back after lunch at 1:15 p.m. When the advisory committees report that they agree with the committee they are advising they do so by stating their silence.
Ladies of the Assembly
One highlight of the morning's activities was the gathering together of the "Ladies of the Assembly" for a meet and greet. This year there are more commissioners wives present than at previous Assemblies. Moreover, since the women of the OPC do not get the opportunity to meet together as often as the men, many of them did not know one another. This meet and greet was a wonderful opportunity for them to introduce themselves and get to know one another. I spoke with several of the women who participated in this time and they were all immensely blessed.
At 1:15 p.m. the moderator called the Assembly together with the singing of the hymn "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation" and Mr. Paul H. Tavares (ruling elder, Covenant OPC, Grove City, Pa.) opened the afternoon session in prayer.
Mr. Sawyer introduced the fraternal delegate from the Free Church of Scotland, the Rev. James Maciver, and he was quickly seated as a corresponding member of the Assembly.
The first report of the day was from the stated clerk, the Rev. George R. Cottenden. Mr. Cottenden updated the Assembly about his first year of service as the stated clerk of the Assembly. Following this report came the report of the trustees of the OPC. This report was given by the Rev. Stephen L. Phillips (chaplain at Quarryville Presbyterian Retirement Community). The only part of the report that was highlighted by him was the reminder that local congregations are not permitted to use the IRS tax number assigned to the OPC; they must apply for their own numbers.
Following these reports elections were held for the trustees class of 2014. Mr. Phillips and Mr. William C. Reddington (ruling elder, Yardley OPC, Yardly, Pa.) were reelected.
The Rev. Glenn D. Jerrell reported for AC 9, noting the committee's "silence" on the two reports and giving thanks to God for the work of Mr. Cottenden and the Trustees.
Mr. Luke E. Brown, the statistician of the OPC, gave his report, noting that the OPC had grown by the end of 2010 by 1.51%, which is in keeping with the past decade. There are now 29,842 total members, including communicant, non-communicant and ministerial members. Mr. Brown gave praise to God for his faithfulness to the OPC over these past 75 years.
The Rev. Donald Duff reported for Advisory Committee 8. They were silent with regard to Mr. Brown's report but gave thanks for Mr. Brown's 26 years of faithful service as the OPC's statistician. When elections were opened, Mr. Brown was reelected to serve another term.
During the report for the Committee on Christian Education, Mr. Duff took the chair, since this year's moderator is also the General Secretary of Christian Education.
Dr. James Gidley, ruling elder at Grace OPC in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, and president of the Committee on Christian Education, began the report for the Committee. Given the fact that Saturday will feature an extensive presentation on the work of Christian Education, only two areas will be covered in this report: the work of the online journal Ordained Servant and the work of the Psalter-Hymnal Special Committee.
The Rev. Dr. Gregory Reynolds, pastor of Amoskeag OPC, Manchester, New Hampshire, the editor of Ordained Servant, spoke about the work and noted that this is the 20th year of its publication, which began in 1992 under the direction of the Rev. G. I. Williamson. Dr. Reynolds has taken suggestions for issues of OS and appreciates hearing from readerseven if they disagreebecause that means that they're reading the publication! Dr. Reynolds highlighted three areas of emphasis for OS: looking at the changing culture and how to minister amidst these changes, protecting the confessional nature of the OPC while at the same time recognizing the diversity of views that are held. This has fostered fruitful discussion. The third area of emphasis has been to care for and stress the important doctrine of the office of the elder in the church.
The Rev. Alan Strange, chairman of the Psalter-Hymnal Special Committee, reported on the work of that committee. The PHSC continues to make progress toward the completion of the Psalter-Hymnal. During his report Mr. Strange reminded the Assembly that Jesus' prayer in the garden of Gethsemane was for the unity of his disciples. The 78th General Assembly is faced with a unique opportunity to see that prayer answered, in part, through working with the United Reformed Churches of North America in producing a joint Psalter-Hymnal. Mr. Strange relayed the way in which the Lord has opened this door to work together with the URCNA to the Assembly. By God's providence, the OPC Committee has nearly completed the entire Psalter (currently finished up to Psalm 130) while the URCNA Songbook Committee has focused mostly on hymns, which means that working together will not slow down the work at all.
The Rev. Larry G. Mininger, pastor of Lake Sherwood OPC, Lake Sherwood, Florida, reported for AC 2, giving thanks for the labors of the CCE as they oversee a great deal of work (opc.org and everything associated with the website, New Horizons, the Timothy Conference, the Summer Institute, MTIOPC, the Candidates and Credentials Conference, the OPC Internship program and many other areas). Regarding the recommendations of the committee, Mr. Mininger reported AC 2's silence.
Therefore, at the recommendation of the committee, the General Assembly voted to approve the Psalter-Hymnal Special Committee working together with the URCNA Songbook Committee with a view to producing a joint OPC/URC Psalter-Hymnal. The Assembly also approved extending an official invitation. The Assembly rejoiced that Psalm 133 could be seen in such a visible way with our brothers and sisters in the URCNA: "Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!" (Ps. 133:1).
Elections followed with ministers Mr. Reynolds, the Rev. Dr. A. Craig Troxel, (pastor of Bethel OPC, Wheaton, Ill.) and the Rev. Dr. David M. VanDrunen (professor at Westminster Seminary California) were elected to the class 2014. Two ruling elders were also elected to the class of 2014: Mr. Timothy K. Jackson and Mr. Paul S. MacDonald.
Ludgero Bonilha Morais and Solano Portela of the Presbyterian Church of Brazil
Throughout the course of the Assembly, at the moderator's discretion, fraternal delegates are invited to address the Assembly. At this time Mr. Sawyer introduced the brothers from the Presbyterian Church of Brazil, Pastor Ludgero Bonilha Morais and Elder Solano Portela. They brought greetings from the PCB, a conservative Presbyterian church of over 1,000,000 members with over 6,000 churches, 4,000 satellite churches, six seminaries and 278 presbyteries. They spend 60% of their annual budget on home and foreign missions. The PCB was the result of Presbyterian missionaries going all the way back 152 years. In the 1950s they ended their relationship with the Northern Presbyterian Church and, in 1982, when the Northern and Southern US churches merged, they broke off relations with North American Presbyterians altogether, until they learned about the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. As Mr. Morais reported, they understood that they had found a Presbyterian church with which they could have a relationship.
Next came the report of the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension. The Rev. John Hilbelink, president of the Committee and pastor of Providence OPC, Rockford, Ill., began the report by reading 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3, "We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." The need to pray for the work of home missions is great. The challenges facing church planters and the new works are many, and it will only be through God's grace that a church plant can move from being a plant to a particularized church. He also recognized the home missionary pastors, the regional home missionaries and the members of the committee present at the Assembly. There are ten church planters serving as commissioners this year. The Rev. Ross Graham, general secretary of the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension, followed up with a brief report of the work of Home Missions for 2010, introducing the new brochure for home missions as well as reporting the encouraging fact that more OP Churches are being planted this year. In 2010 only four new churches were started, and this was a low in over a decade. For 2011 already ten new works have begun with at least four more in the works. God is at work!
Following this report, the Rev. Arthur J. Fox, pastor of Calvary OPC, Middletown, Pa., reported for AC 3, noting the committee's thankfulness for the work of the committee and the general and associate general secretaries.
During the elections for the class of 2014, ministers John S. Shaw, Jeffery A. Landis and Larry G. Mininger as well as ruling elders Keith A. LeMahiue and James W. Van Dam were elected.
Being so close to the order of the day, the moderator had common consent to allow a break for the Assembly from 3:05-3:35, and upon reconvening, the Assembly sang the hymn "Christ is Made the Sure Foundation" followed by prayer offered by Mr. Archibald M. Laurie, ruling elder at El Camino OPC, Goleta, California.
Mr. Sawyer introduced the Rev. Robert E. Grossman, fraternal delegate from the Reformed Church in the United States. Mr. Grossman brought greetings from that denomination. Beginning in 1725, the RCUS survived the same bout with liberalism that brought about the OPC, having recently completed their 266th General Assembly. In fact, due to a lack of a denominational seminary, the RCUS regularly sent their men to Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia for training. Our two denominations have worked together in foreign missions over the years, particularly in South Korea.
Next came the report for the committee on Foreign Missions. Due to the sensitive nature of the materials presented, no missionary names and/or countries will be mentioned in this report. The committee report began with an opening statement by the Rev. Dr. Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., the president of the committee and professor emeritus at Westminster Theological Seminary, Glenside, Pennsylvania. Dr. Gaffin reminded the Assembly that the OPC was founded in the debates surrounding foreign missions. The work of foreign missions has been an important part of the OPC's ministry from the beginning.
The report was continued by Mr. Mark Bube, general secretary of the Committee on Foreign Missions and ruling elder at Calvary OPC, Glenside, Pennsylvania. He opened with a reading from 1 Thessalonians 2:7-13:
But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.
Praise God that the word of God is at work among the believers around the world through the work of OPC Foreign Missions. The people to whom God is sending us are receiving the Word of God from our missionaries.
In 2010, the Lord graciously protected our missionaries in dangerous places as well as opened the doors to send two missionaries to a new field. Mr. Bube continued to highlight a number of the works, encouraging the commissioners to remember them in prayer. A great way to do this is through use of the prayer cards available at your church.
The Rev. Douglas Clawson, associate general secretary for the Committee on Foreign Missions, spoke about the opportunities available and the needs for our mission fields as well as the men who are going to serve on a short-term basis in the field. Please pray that the Lord would raise up more evangelists for the active and exploratory fields as well as a missionary deacon.
Mr. Bube also introduced to the Assembly the new short-term missions coordinator, Mr. David Nakhla. Mr. Nakhla will be addressing the Assembly at a later time, so nothing further was added.
When it came time for elections, ministers Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., Th.D., David J. O'Leary, D.Min., Lendall H. Smith and ruling elders David J. Gregg and Jon W. Stevenson were all reelected to the class of 2014. There was also a vacancy in the class 2013 due to one member of the committee taking up labors as a missionary. Elected to fill that vacancy was ruling elder Mr. John S. Emmett.
The Rev. Eric B. Watkins, pastor of Covenant OPC, St. Augustine, Florida, reported for AC 1, noting silence on the report and giving thanks to the Lord for his answers to our prayers as well as thanksgiving for the work of the committee. Mr. Watkins prayed, at the close of the report, for the work of the committee and the missionaries.
Mr. Sawyer introduced the fraternal delegates from the Reformed Church Quebec, the Rev. Dr. Jason Zuidema, and the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, the Rev. John Edgar, pastor of Elkins Park RPCNA near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Dr. Zuidema began his remarks, bringing warm greetings from the Église réformée du Québec and noting that their synod voted unanimously in March 2011 to receive the OPC into ecclesiastical fellowship. This is the greatest of three levels of ecumenical relations with the OPC (the other two being "corresponding relationship" and "ecumenical contact"). Dr. Zuidema gave an encouraging report of the work of the ERQ in Quebec. Next, the Rev. John Edgar, brought greetings from the RPCNA. Mr. Edgar pointed out a number of parallels between the RPCNA and OPC in home missions and foreign missions, as well as requesting our church's prayers for the RPCNA.
The Rev. Larry J. Westerveld, pastor of Trinity OPC in Hatboro, Pennsylvania, prayed for our brothers and sisters in the ERQ and the RPCNA.
With nine minutes until the order of the day, the moderator took the annual survey of when each commissioner was ordained. This is not merely a matter of trivia but, rather, it shows the Lord's faithfulness in working through men at the Assembly from a wide age range. The older commissioners often set the tone and exemplify good churchmanship, while the younger men add a bit of energy to the Assembly. The results from the poll:
Also part of this custom is the survey of how many first time commissioners are serving the Assembly. This year's number of first timers: 29!
The Rev. Lendall H. Smith, retired minister from the Presbytery of the Midwest, closed the session in prayer and asked for God's blessing upon our meal together. The work for the day is completed. If you are familiar with GA proceedings you will recognize that we have covered a great deal of territory by this time, compared to other years. There are a few reasons for this. The length of the committee reports have been shortened due to the evening presentations by the three main committees (Home Missions, Foreign Missions and Christian Education). Also, at the encouragement of the moderator, the Assembly has not been sidetracked easily.
With the day's work over all present gathered at 7:00 p.m. for the first of three major presentations by the standing committees. Tonight's presentation was given by the Committee for Home Missions and Church Extension. Since these are not part of the Assembly's regular work, the room was filled with many visitors.
The evening opened with the singing of "Praise my Soul, the King of Heaven." One of the blessings of each General Assembly is singing God's praises together. The room normally is filled with tenor, baritone and bass voices. However, with this year's additional visitors, the alto and soprano parts were clearly heard. It is a joy to stand in the midst of God's people as we sing praises to the One who has redeemed us from our sin and misery.
The Rev. Richard R. Gerber, associate secretary for the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension (CHMCE), opened the evening with prayer and introduced a new 37 minute video highlighting the past 75 years of the OPC's church planting efforts. If you're doing the math, that's roughly 30 seconds per year! Because of this, many things were not mentioned, but what came across to this church planter was a reminder that the OPC has been faithfully and sacrificially supporting the work of church planting from her beginning.
Following the video, we sang the hymn "The Church's One Foundation" and together proclaimed that it is the Lord who is doing the work of establishing churches as he calls the elect from every nation. Following this came brief presentations from two active church planters. The first church planter to share was the Rev. Joseph L. Troutman, organizing pastor at Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church in Bedford, Texas. Mr. Troutman has been serving that congregation for three years. The second presentation was from the Rev. Christopher J. Chelpka, organizing pastor of Covenant OPC, Tucson, Arizona. Mr. Chelpka was ordained this past March and spoke of the ministry there to the many families in need. Pray for our church planters and for the works they are organizing.
Following these presentations, Mr. Mininger spoke about God's goodness and grace as the church in Lake Sherwood, Florida took part in planting the church in Oviedo, Fla. What came across clearly was the fact that it is not just the plants themselves, and their pastors, that are blessed in these efforts but the planting churches also are encouraged, even though it is difficult to say goodbye to the families that participate in the new plant.
Throughout the course of the week it is normal for us to have times for devotions brought by members appointed by different presbyteries. This year, however, these devotions are being worked into the special committee presentations. Tonight, the Rev. Ross W. Graham, General Secretary for CHMCE, brought a devotional from Matthew 9:35-38,
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."
He had two points for those gathered. The first was Jesus' pointed compassion for those who were without a shepherd. We, too, need Jesus' compassion for those who do not have a shepherd, a pastor to care for them, not some vague notion of concern but a real concern. Second was Jesus' pointed command to pray that God would send out laborers into the harvest. This is something that is always before us, until our Lord returns, and therefore something for which we can always pray.
The evening closed with the singing of the hymn "How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place." This song can easily serve as a prayer for God's work through church planting. The final verse was particularly fitting:
We long to see your churches full,
that all the chosen race
may, with one voice and heart and soul,
sing your redeeming grace.
The Assembly convened this morning at 8:30 a.m. with the singing of "Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken" and prayer by the Rev. Daniel F. Patterson, pastor of Second Parish OPC in Portland, Maine.
Mr. Sawyer introduced the Rev. Messrs. Riemer Faber and Doug Vandeburgt, the fraternal delegates from the Canadian and American Reformed Churches, who were promptly seated as corresponding members.
The work of the day began quickly as we heard the report from the Committee on Coordination. At this time, because the current moderator serves on this committee, Mr. Pontier was called upon to assume the chair.
The chairman of the Committee on Coordination, Mr. Paul H. Tavares, presented the report. Mr. Tavares began with an explanation of the committee's work, as a point of instruction for the newer commissioners. The Committee on Coordination exists to recommend the combined budget for the three program committees of the OPC (Christian Education, Foreign Missions and Home Missions and Church Extension). The committee further seeks to promote the work of these three committees in the presbyteries through the Ambassadors Program, which exists in each individual presbytery.
Mr. Haney gave highlights of the report, looking at the giving this year as well as the proposed budgets. Everything was on target with only a 3.5% increase in needs projected.
Mr. Louis C. LaBriola, ruling elder at Providence OPC in Denver, Colorado, reported for AC # 4, giving thanks to the Lord for his faithfulness and to the committee for its diligent labors. With regard to the recommendations of the committee (budget), AC 4 reported silence.
The recommendation was put before the Assembly for a vote and was unanimously adopted.
Elections for the class of 2014 were opened. The class needs one ruling elder and one minister. Mr. Tavares and the Rev. Larry D. Conard (retired minister from the Presbytery of the Northwest) were nominated and, there being no further nominations, the two men were declared elected to the class of 2014.
Mr. LaBriola prayed for the work of the Committee on Coordination.
Clerks' helpers taking a break
The assistant stated clerk, Mr. Mahaffy, distributed and went over the minutes of the Assembly to date. This is an important part of the Assembly's work, with the minutes being corrected sometimes multiple times throughout the day. This makes the work of producing the Assembly's minutes each year significantly smoother.
Next on the docket was the report for the Committee on Diaconal Ministries (CDM). Given the number of diaconal needs over the past 18 months, this was one of the more anticipated reports of the Assembly. Mr. Smith reported for the committee, going over the main functions of the committee as well as the new projects that they are currently working on. Among those new projects are: the committee is looking to produce a handbook that will explain the policies and procedures of the committee. They are also working on shortening their response time to the needs of the local churches. The committee is in the process of developing a separate page on the OPC.org website for the diaconal ministry of the OPC. This page will include reports, policy statements, and information on giving, as well as forms for requesting assistance.
Care for retired pastors and their widows continued through 2010. This was made possible through the special Obadiah Fund. This fund allows special gifts to be sent to these oft-forgotten servants of his church. The Obadiah Fund was started four years ago as an effort to help retired ministers who had exhausted their meager pensions. An unnamed donor stepped up and offered $150,000 to start the fund (and continued giving in subsequent years). Accordingly, a check of $1,000 was sent to each of the ministers in need or their surviving spouses. These funds are a welcome blessing to them.
The CDM is expanding, having taken back (from CHMCE) the responsibility of responding to major disasters. The CDM is also actively seeking and recruiting missionary deacons for some of the fields where diaconal ministry will greatly enhance the ministry of our evangelists in those fields. Please be in prayer that the Lord would raise up the men for these areas.
In 2010 the CDM hosted the first Diaconal Summit, which aimed at helping deacons from local churches meet with one another and network in order to enhance the local diaconate. This summit was wildly successful, and a second Diaconal Summit is planned for June 7-8, 2012. The emphasis at this summit is going to be training for deacons through providing numerous workshops. Registration will be available online, beginning October 1, 2011.
Mr. Smith introduced Mr. Nakhla, who spoke of his work as the first Short-Term Missions Coordinator for the OPC. His vision is to seek out short-term opportunities for the church in the areas of diaconal ministries as well as foreign and home missions. After relocating his family from Southern California to Willow Grove, Mr. Nakhla has spent time this past year visiting churches to tell them about the opportunities available, as well as visiting several of our foreign mission fields. Mr. Nakhla has already been able to lead a team for disaster relief to Japan in order to help those in need there. Teams have been sent to other locations both in this country and abroad. Mr. Nakhla encouraged the pastors and elders to consider joining their youth and other adults on these trips as a way of ministering to their local congregations.
While it was part of the 2011 work of the CDM, the devastation in Japan has captured our attention for a large part of this year. Mr. Nakhla explained what the team was able to do during their visit, as well as the recommendations for how to minister to the people of Japan in coordination with our missionary efforts in that country. By God's grace, the churches of the OPC have together contributed over $375,000 this year toward the relief efforts in Japan.
Mr. Bruce Stahl (ruling elder at Gateway OPC in Valley Park, Missouri) spoke for AC 5 and reported silence regarding the committee's recommendations. They did give their own recommendations to the committee. The first was that the committee review the OPC Form of Government in order to further define what is meant in the pastor's call to be "free from worldly care." Second, they encouraged the CDM to gather information from the presbyteries regarding areas of deficiency in pastoral support within their respective presbyteries that may become major diaconal liabilities in the future.
A time of questions and answers gave opportunity for Mr. Nakhla to give further reports on the witness to the people of Japan that the diaconal response has provided. Christians in Japan make up only one half of one percent of the population but they are being given a significant presence through this disaster, and the relief provided, to proclaim the gospel of Christ.
The Assembly approved the recommendation of the Committee on Diaconal Ministries to remind presbyteries not to approve a call containing the phrase "free from worldly care" if they consider the call under consideration to be inadequate to provide for the minister's livelihood, to make certain that the call includes a provision for adequate retirement and payment for hospitalization, surgical, and major medical insurance, and to inquire as to whether the minister has adequate life insurance. The Assembly approved the recommendation to request the presbyteries to investigate whether all their ministers have adequate medical and life insurance coverage and retirement provision including looking into the sufficiency of co-pay and other alternatives.
The Assembly went into recess for the order of the day at 10 a.m. and reconvened at 10:20 a.m. with the singing of the words of Psalm 23, "The Lord's My Shepherd, I'll Not Want." The Rev. Zachary Keele, pastor of Escondido OPC in California, led in prayer.
Mr. Sawyer introduced the Rev. Gareth Burke of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Ireland. They normally send a letter of greetings but due to the significance of our 75th Anniversary, they desired to send a representative to bring greetings in person. While they currently have only nine congregations, Mr. Burke noted the several parallels between the OPC and the EPCI. The EPCI seceded from the Presbyterian Church in Ireland because of rampant modernism within the theological college in the early 20th century. Dr. J. Gresham Machen came to Northern Ireland to support them in their fight against modernism. Mr. Burke encouraged the OPC to remain steadfast in the Lord.
The Rev. Stephen J. Tracey (pastor of Lakeview OPC in Rockport, Maine and one who ministered previously in the EPCI) prayed for Mr. Burke and the ministry of the EPCI.
At the end of this fraternal address, the Assembly returned to the CDM report. The Assembly further approved a request of the churches of the OPC to support the work of the committee at the suggested rate of $25.00 per communicant member.
The need for the class of 2014 is one minister, one ruling elder and one deacon. Nominated were ministers Nathan L. Trice (Matthews OPC in North Carolina) and Joseph L. Troutman (Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church in Bedford, Texas), Mr. David E. Haney (ruling elder of the Presbytery of New Jersey), and Mr. Kenley K. Leslie (deacon of the Presbytery Ohio). The moderator declared Messrs. Haney and Leslie as elected. The names of the two ministers were put before the Assembly and Mr. Trice was elected.
Mr. Stahl led the Assembly in prayer for the work of the diaconal committee.
Mr. Sawyer introduced the Rev. Dr. Kevin Backus of the Bible Presbyterian Church, General Synod, who brought fraternal greetings from that body. The BPC, founded in 1938, is made up of 21 churches and 29 ministers. We rejoice with the BPC as this is an increase in their total number from previous years. Their relationship to the OPC has grown over the past 17 years and the Assembly was encouraged to learn about their commitment to plant churches in a way that will not conflict with OPC works.
Mr. Pontier (originally ordained in the BPC) prayed for Dr. Backus and the ministry of the Bible Presbyterian Church.
The Rev. Douglas L. Watson, organizing pastor of Redeemer OPC in Pearl City, Hawaii, reported for the Committee on Pensions in the form of a PowerPoint presentation. Mr. Watson opened with a reading from Galatians 6, reminding the church of its responsibility to those who have faithfully served the household of faith. This committee works to provide a retirement plan, life insurance, and supplemental pension payments for OPC ministers. Its retirement funds are distributed between two independent investment managers. Investments in stock are limited to 75% of the funds. At the end of 2010, 5.30% were invested in money market funds, 12.48% in corporate bonds, 8.55% in certificates of deposit, 3.94% in US government securities and 69.73% in common stocks. The net assets have increased from $4,726.00 in 1960 to $20,463,202.00 by the end of 2010. Our fund gained 9.83% of its value during the year. Mr. Watson pointed out that the fund had gained back all that had been lost in the previous years and was performing well in the market.
Mr. Stahl reported silence for AC 5, after which followed a period of questions for this committee.
After elections, the moderator declared Messrs. Douglas L. Watson (minister), Garret A. Hoogerhyde (ruling elder) and Stephen R. Leavitt (ruling elder) elected to the class of 2014.
The Assembly acknowledged, with thankfulness, Mr. Hoogerhyde's 50+ years of service to the committee. The moderator also pointed out another Hoogerhyde celebration: the birthday of Marlene Hoogerhyde. We all sang "Happy Birthday" to her, and later in the Assembly, Mr. Graham presented her with a bouquet of roses.
Mr. Stahl prayed for the work of the Committee on Pensions.
Next came the report for the Committee on Ecumenicity and Inter-Church Relations (CEIR). The Rev. Dr. Anthony Curto opened with a reading from Ephesians 4. Verses 1-3 read, "I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." The CEIR is tasked with developing and maintaining official relationships with churches of like faith and practice.
Dr. Curto noted the uncharacteristic absence of the Rev. Dr. George W. Knight III, the committee's chairman, because of cancer treatment. Please keep Dr. Knight in your prayers.
Dr. Curto turned the report over to Mr. Sawyer, who reported on the work of the committee over the past year. The committee handles a large amount of correspondence as they seek to maintain relationships with other churches. They schedule to send fraternal delegates to other churches' meetings, assemblies, synods and presbyteries as well as prepare to receive other members to our Assembly.
The greatest level of ecumenical relations that we have is termed "Ecclesiastical Fellowship" and the OPC has this relationship, at present, with 15 churches. They are:
The next level is called "Corresponding Relationship" and at present we have this relationship with eleven churches:
The final level is called "Ecumenical Contact" and we have this relationship with ten churches:
The order of the day came at 12:05 p.m. The Assembly was dismissed for lunch, with prayer, by the Rev. Steven Doe, pastor of Bethel Reformed OPC in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
At 1:15 p.m. the Assembly reconvened with the singing of "Blessing and Honor and Glory and Power." The Rev. Kenneth B. Montgomery, associate pastor at Redeemer OPC in Beavercreek, Ohio, opened the afternoon session in prayer.
Mr. Sawyer introduced the fraternal delegate from the Canadian and American Reformed Churches. Mr. Vandeburgt brought fraternal greetings from our brothers and sisters of that denomination. He noted our relationship geographically as our respective denominations, at times, minister in the same areas. Some OP Congregations in Florida have the opportunity to minister to some of the CanRef members during the winter months. They currently have 54 churches and are seeking to plant more and were encouraged by the Home Missions presentation of last night. Mr. Vandeburgt highlighted some of the mission works in Canada and invited the Assembly to visit their website (www.canrc.org) to learn more about the decisions of their recent Synod.
The Rev. Archibald A. Allison, pastor of Emmaus OPC in Fort Collins, Colorado, prayed for the Canadian and American Reformed Churches.
The CEIR continued their report with an update on the happenings with the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Churches. Their new website (www.naparc.org) is up and running and allows for inquirers to find out about the participating denominations. This author uses the website to keep the NAPARC member churches on a rotating prayer list before the congregation on a weekly basis.
Mr. Sawyer brought a recommendation from the Trustees of the OPC. The Rev. S. Scott Willet, pastor of Redeemer OPC in Atlanta, Ga.) brought the report from AC 6, which was silent regarding the report and the recommendation of the committee. What followed was a discussion regarding the recommendation brought by the committee. The recommendation, in substance, proposed that the 78th General Assembly propose to the 79th General Assembly that the Standing Rules be amended such that the stated clerk of the Assembly, unless he is elected as a member of the committee already, shall be an ex officio member of the Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations without vote. The moderator put this recommendation, after many modifications, before the Assembly, which approved it.
Mr. Willet further recommended the Assembly give thanks for the Rev. Jack Peterson (retired minister in the Presbytery of the Southwest) who served on the committee for 40 years, as well as serving as its first administrator for many years.
For the class of 2014, the nominations were Messrs. Charles R. Muether, pastor of Hope Reformed Presbyterian Church in Pella, Iowa, Iain Wright (pastor of Covenant OPC in Orland Park, Ill.), Thomas E. Tyson (retired minister in the Presbytery of Central Penna.) and Jack W. Sawyer. The moderator declared elected to the committee Messrs. Sawyer, Tyson and Muether.
Mr. Willet prayed for the work of CEIR and for the unity of Christ's church.
Next was the report for the Committee on Appeals and Complaints. In previous years this committee has taken quite a bit of the Assembly's time. The Rev. John W. Mallin (from the Presbytery of Connecticut and Southern New York) reported for the committee. With no lengthy report, Mr. Mallin gave some information on the committee, which was established in 1978.
The Rev. Stephen Oharek reported for AC 10, which was silent regarding the report.
Nominated to the class of 2014 were the Rev. Messrs. Stuart R. Jones and S. Scott Willet. After the election, Mr. Jones was declared reelected to the committee. This committee also has an alternate, and nominated as the class of 2014 alternate were Messrs. Thomas A. Foh and S. Scott Willet. After the election, Mr. Foh was declared reelected to the committee.
The Rev. George W. Hall (minister in the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic) prayed for Mr. Jones (absent from the Assembly due to ill health) as well as the work of the committee.
Next came the report for the Committee on Chaplains. Mr. Robert M. Coie, ruling elder at Westminster OPC, Westminster, Cal.) opened with a reading from 1 Peter 1:17-21, "And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake, who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God." Mr. Coie began his report by reminding the Assembly that our chaplains preach the spotless Gospel in areas where pastors cannot go.
Due to the legislation repealing the military's policy of "Don't AskDon't Tell," the committee has been very busy, dealing with its implications for our chaplains who serve. The endorsing agency for our chaplains, the Presbyterian and Reformed Joint Commission on Chaplains and Military Personnel (PRJCCMP) has added a revision to section VI of the PRJCCMP Policy and Guidance Handbook on "Religious Ministry and Homosexuality." This makes clear, to the military officers charged with overseeing the chaplains, the standing of the PRJCCMP chaplains on the question of homosexuality. The revision is not adopted by the General Assembly but, rather, is included as information of that which has been adopted by the PRJCCMP.
Mr. Shishko reported for AC 7.
The order of the day came and the Assembly recessed at 3:15 p.m. and reconvened at 3:35 p.m. with the singing of the hymn, "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing." Dr. John S. Deliyannides, ruling elder, Grace Reformed Church in Walkerton, Indiana, and also serving on the session of Hillsdale OPC in Michigan, led in prayer.
Mr. Sawyer introduced the Rev. James Maciver, fraternal delegate of the Free Church of Scotland, who was invited to bring greetings to the Assembly. Mr. Maciver greeted us in the Scottish Gaelic language (which this writer was hearing for the first time). Mr. Maciver went on to speak (in English) of the close relationship between the OPC and the FCS. Mr. Maciver sought the prayers of the Assembly as their church seeks to minister in an ever-growing secular world. He told of the work of the church to reach out to Europe and the challenges associated with such an attempt. Mr Maciver expressed the complete confidence that God's people have in his sovereign will as they reach out.
Dr. Gidley prayed for Mr. Maciver and the Free Church of Scotland.
Following the fraternal address and prayer, the Assembly returned to the report for the Committee on Chaplains and opened it up to questions from the Assembly. Following this period of questions, the committee put forward the recommendation of Article II of the PRJCCMP policy book, which explains the purposes of the commission as an endorsing agency, using language that is acceptable to the way the OPC General Assembly operates. The recommendation was adopted unanimously.
The floor was opened for nominations to the committee and the Rev. Robert B. Needham (pastor of New Hope OPC in Hanford, Cal. and a former committee member) and Mr. Coie were nominated and declared elected to the class of 2014.
Following this election, Mr. Coie took a moment of personal privilege to express his thankfulness to Mr. Gordon E. Kauffman (who was not seeking renomination) for his commitment and work on the OPC's Committee on Chaplains over the years.
Mr. Shishko prayed for the work of the committee, the ministry of our chaplains, and for those from our denomination who serve in the military.
Mr. Sawyer introduced the Rev. Casey Freswick, fraternal delegate from the United Reformed Churches in North America, who was promptly seated as a corresponding member of the Assembly.
Given the speed at which the Assembly is completing its work, the moderator sought common consent to recess at the conclusion of the CEIR report and to reconvene at 9:30 a.m. Saturday morning for some brief business (including the Assembly's photo) and taking up the rest of the business on Monday morning, June 13th. The assembly recessed at 4:22 p.m., led in prayer by the moderator.
Given the "extra time," the commissioners took the opportunity to enjoy some additional rest and fellowship before dinner and the special presentation by the Committee on Foreign Missions. Once more, due to the sensitive nature of our mission works, very few names and locations will be used in the following report.
At 7:00 p.m. everyone gathered in a reconfigured main hall for the presentation. Two screens, on either side of the room, showed the OPC Foreign Missions logo.
Reminding us that foreign missions was one of the catalysts for the beginning of the OPC, general secretary Mark Bube narrated a PowerPoint presentation on the history of foreign missions. Established by the third General Assembly, the Committee for Foreign Missions was tasked with promoting the work of missions within the church. We currently have nine active fields and one affiliated work though there have been many others throughout our history. The ministry of the OPC has been one of faith in many countries through struggle and danger. Familiar names from the history of OPC missions that came up in the presentation are Bruce F. Hunt, Richard B. Gaffin, Sr., and Harvie M. Conn. Over the years, many families have been sent around the world to proclaim the rich mercies of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Our first missionary presenter, the Rev. Benjamin K. Hopp, on furlough from a first term, reminded us that the work of foreign missions is a spiritual battle. Raising money and finding men to go are only the initial challenges, as the enemy of our souls continues to rail against Christ's church. Our only hope is that these labors are not ours but the Lord's. Because of this truth, prayer is one of the greatest ways that we support our missionaries. Pray for the safety of our missionaries, the churches where they labor, the raising up of indigenous pastors and elders, evangelistic efforts, and the salvation of many souls through their labors.
Our second missionary presentation came from the Rev. Calvin and Edie Cummings, who have served the church in Japan since the early 1970s. Mr. Cummings expressed the thankfulness of the Japanese Christians for our prayers during their recent trials as well as the generosity poured out through the diaconal ministries. Mr. Cummings went on to speak of the way that the Lord has taken these tragedies and used them for good as the people of Japan are more willing to hear the message of the Gospel. Pray for our missionaries and the church in Japan as they seek to offer a "cup of cold water" in the name of Christ to those who are in need. Pray that they would see their true need for the forgiveness of their sins.
Our third missionary presentation was given by a missionary who has served in three fields in the past twelve years. He spoke of the support they have enjoyed from the church in the form of support and prayers as well as the sovereignty of God at work in drawing sinners to himself. He and his wife spent a brief period of time in prison with the indigenous believers who continue to live in an area where Christians are actively persecuted. Pray for those who live daily under such conditions. "Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body" (Heb. 13:3). Pray that God would cultivate this sort of remembrance among the churches of the OPC.
Mr. Clawson spoke about the opportunities and needs for our foreign missions. Pray that God would raise up several evangelists for our active fields; pray that God would raise up short-term laborers to go and assist our missionaries. Mr. Clawson spoke of the missionary associate program which provides non-ordained men and women the opportunity to serve approximately one year on a missionary field. They focus on assisting the missionaries in many areas: teaching English, helping their families and even serving in areas of specialty (nurses, doctors, construction, etc).
Next we were treated to a video interview with retired missionary doctor Grietje Rietkerk. Dr. Rietkerk served for many years in several fields, often ending each term with being forced out of a country, only to return a few years later to pick up the labor once more. Dr. Rietkerk was present when two of our missionary nurses were kidnapped from the field with one of those taken (Miss Anna) being martyred by her kidnappers. The video interview lasted nearly 17 minutes (the original footage was around 90 minutes) and Dr. Reitkerk highlighted more than once the importance of prayer for those in persecution as well as the necessity to be sure to bring the Word of God along with other forms of outreach, but the focus must be upon the Word, for God blesses the ministry of his Word.
Past and present Foreign Missions secretaries Clawson, Galbraith, Buchanan and Bube
A special treat for the evening was the presence of the Rev. John P. Galbraith. Mr. Galbraith served as general secretary for Foreign Missions for over 30 years. All those gathered expressed their appreciation and Mr. Galbraith could be heard saying, after the standing ovation ended, "All praise goes to the Lord!"
The devotion for the evening began with Dr. Curto reading Isaiah 6:1-8 and opening in prayer. The question for the devotional was: what makes some of God's people say, "Here am I, Lord, send me"? Dr. Curto suggested at least three things from Isaiah. The first was that God gave Isaiah a vision of his glory, "I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple." Likewise those who answer the call of God must see the glory of the Lord and be filled with a conviction of his holiness. The second was that God gave Isaiah a taste of the glory of his work, "I said: 'Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!'" Those who answer the call of God must recognize not only their own sinfulness but also the forgiveness of God that has delivered them. They must be so captivated by God's grace that they can't not bring that message of good news to those whom God has called them to minister. The third was that God gave Isaiah a zeal for the glory of his message, "I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?' Then I said, 'Here am I! Send me.'" May God grant that many in the OPC will answer that call, for the glory of God!s (To listen to Dr. Curto's devotional, click here.)
The special presentation was closed by the singing of the hymn "O God, to Us Show Mercy" and prayer by Mr. Bube.
This fourth day began a little later than other days. We were not required to convene until 9:30 a.m., which gave more time for sleep, fellowship and breakfast.
Mr. Olinger opened with the reading of Acts 20:17-27,
Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. And when they came to him, he said to them: "You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.
This was the passage read on June 11, 1936 at the gathering of the First General Assembly. Following this we sang "Our God, Our Help in Ages Past," which was also sung on that historic day. Dr. Gaffin led the Assembly in prayer.
Mr. Sawyer introduced the Rev. Rob Patrick, fraternal delegate from the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, who was promptly seated as a corresponding member.
At 9:54 a.m. the Assembly went into recess until Monday morning at 8:30 a.m. This did not mean, though, that nothing more needed to be done. We were told that there were plans for taking five different pictures, outdoors by the water, in order to commemorate this General Assembly. What followed was, at times, humorous as corralling the number of people present proved to be a challenge. But, in the end, we had the picture taken, and we all headed back inside due to the humidity, and also to prepare for the special presentation of the Committee on Christian Education.
While we all waited for everyone to gather, we held an impromptu hymn sing, joining our voices to sing various requested hymns.
When everyone had arrived, including the special guests, the General Secretary of Christian Education, Danny E. Olinger, addressed the assembly:
At 2:35 p.m. on Thursday, June 11, 1936, a small band of believers gathered at the New Century Club on South 12th Street in downtown Philadelphia. The meeting started with prayer and the reading of a doctrinal statement. Then those present who wished to affiliate themselves as founding members of the Presbyterian Church of America were asked to stand, and the church was declared constituted. Then those ministers and elders who had stood as founding members were asked to stand again to constitute the First General Assembly. The Assembly then moved to elect a moderator, and only one name was put forwardJ. Gresham Machenand nominations were closed. As Machen took the gavel amid great applause, undoubtedly the events through the years that had led to this point would have flashed through his mind ...
That event included 129 individuals with 50 of them being ministers and ruling elders. The CCE established at that first GA with their first report being given five months later at the 2nd GA. That report stressed the fact that the Great Commission cannot be separated from the task of Christian education. Given the fact that funding was small at that time; Dr. Cornelius Van Til and Professor John Murray helped to raise funds through various speaking events.
The paper, "Why the OPC?" was written in 1940 by a newly-ordained minister who had borrowed his father's car in order to attend the meeting of Presbytery where Machen was found guilty of undermining the boards of the Presbyterian Church (USA). The young man was the Rev. John P. Galbraith, who would go on to serve as general secretary of the Committee on Foreign Missions, among other positions.
Mr. Olinger asked Mr. Galbraith to address the Assembly.
Reminiscences by one who was there
At 98 years old, Mr. Galbraith's body might move slower than it once did, but his voice was strong and clear as he opened with the words of the apostle Paul from Romans 7:15, "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate." What followed was a presentation that was part history, part proclamation and part exhortation. For history, Mr. Galbraith fondly recalled the early days of Christian Education in the OPC. The OPC has held fast to the faith delivered once for all to the saints. "Whatever we have done has been by the grace of the Spirit of the Living God," Mr. Galbraith stressed. He went on to say that adherence to and proclamation of the Word of God is central to the task of the church.
The CCE teaches all of God's people, from the youngest of children to the oldest of adults and including the important need to help train ministers. Mr. Galbraith spoke of the difficulties faced by the committee today with so many seminaries available to young men, training for the ministry and he exhorted us to watch for 'hidden heresies' that can be held unbeknownst to the man himself. He warned of a creeping inclusivism and pointed out that it was inclusivism that destroyed the mainline denomination as it grew to the point that everything was acceptable except orthodox Christianity.
Following Mr. Galbraith's comments, we all sang together "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name!"
Dr. Gidley addressed us and recognized all present who had served on the committee through the years.
Resources for the local churches
Next to address us was ruling elder Paul S. MacDonald, who has served the CCE for 39 consecutive years. He spoke of how the focus of the committee has transitioned, concentrating at first on the development of a Sunday school curriculum. Once Great Commission Publications was established in 1975 as a joint venture with the PCA, the committee began to focus on two main areas: resources for the local churches and ministerial training. Out of the former emphasis came the establishment of the New Horizons magazine and, eventually, the development of OPC.org (our award-winning website).
Mr. Strange next introduced the Rev. Tom Patete, executive director of Great Commission Publications. Mr. Patete spoke about the work of GCP and shared about the impact that the work has had on both children and adults. For the children, they learn about the basics of the faith, the stories of the Bible and the catechism. The adults oftentimes have the opportunity to learn as they teach the children. Mr. Patete also talked about the new Senior High curriculum, "So What?" which will focus on putting faith into practice.
Next the Rev. Roger Schmurr spoke of his time as general secretary through the 1980s, highlighting the work of New Horizons in helping to carry on the discussions surrounding the Joining and Receiving talks with the Presbyterian Church in America. This was a difficult decade in our history filled with many struggles. Our 75th Anniversary is a testimony to God's faithfulness even through those struggles.
Dr. Gidley introduced the Rev. Thomas E. Tyson, who served as general secretary from 1989-2000. Mr. Tyson highlighted that these years saw an new embracing of what it means to be an Orthodox Presbyterian. At this time, the magazine Ordained Servant began under the direction of the Rev. G. I. Williamson, which provided a way to foster and continue pastoral education.
Mr. Olinger brought a devotional entitled "The Church of the Broken Heart" from Matthew 5:3, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
The OPC began, Mr. Olinger explained, at a time when doctrine was not prized. It was a time when many did not want to see themselves as sinners at all. Jesus had become one among many, nothing more than an example for good living. The Sermon on the Mount, then, became the battleground text, as some used it to say that Christianity was nothing more than an ethic, not a doctrine. It focused on living life, not returning to a bloody cross. They did not think that man's sin was absent from the equation, just that it did not cause as much damage as some thought. Geerhardus Vos pointed out that this way of thinking was folly. Everything about the Sermon that Jesus preached pointed out that the disciples were sinners, as they were unable to perform what Jesus said.
Christianity is a life, no doubt, but that is not the question. The real question is: how is that life produced?
The OPC began during the Great Depression, and this was seen and known clearly by those who sacrificed. They knew they were poor and knew that they needed to rely upon God. The Christian life is one that begins by seeing your povertynot financial, but spiritual. We must rely upon the grace of God alone.
The "poor in spirit," then, are those who come to the end of themselves. We were reminded of the gospel, that we would be the church of the broken hearted, of the poor in spirit who put their trust in the living God alone.
Focusing upon and remembering God's grace is important for our church and for our children who will grow up in our midst. May our prayers be for them and for one another that we would see that we are poor in spirit and that our only hope is Christ and him crucified. Amen.
This special presentation closed with the singing of Dr. Machen's favorite hymn, "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" and prayer led by Mr. Olinger.
Most of those present took the opportunity of the free time in the afternoon to swim, play golf or volleyball. There were some, however, who continued to do a bit more work. The Committee on Ecumenicity met with fraternal delegates from seven other churches. This was a time of open dialogue among the churches represented, and the discussions were fruitful. Those delegates present were from the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, the Canadian and American Reformed Churches, the Free Church of Scotland, the Bible Presbyterian Church, General Synod, the Presbyterian Church of Brazil, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Ireland and the United Reformed Churches in North America.
At 5:00 p.m. on Saturday evening they opened the doors to let us sit down for the 75th anniversary banquet. This was a delightful evening made most memorable by the fellowship, reminiscences and the address. Our emcee for the evening was the Rev. Alan D. Strange. After greeting everyone, Mr. Strange read from 2 Kings 6:8ff with a focus on verse 16, "Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them." The Orthodox Presbyterian Church is certainly not the largest of churches but her strength is found, not in her size, but in her God.
The evening included the singing of two hymns, "Our God, Our Help in Ages Past" and "Jesus with Thy Church Abide" as well as reminiscences from Mrs. Jean Young Gaffin, Mrs. Millie Quinette, and sisters Peggy Graham Duff and Virginia (Ginger) Graham Dennison. These women made us laugh and not a few of us cry. It was delightful to hear about the earlier decades of the OPC through their memories. We also had a roll call during the evening with each decade being called out and those who became members of the OPC during that time standing.
The evening's address was brought by the Rev. Donald M. Poundstone and was entitled "The OPC at Seventy-Five: A Witness to the Truth and the Heavenly Kingdom (Reflections on John 18:36-37)." Those verses read, "Jesus answered, 'My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.' Then Pilate said to him, 'So you are a king?' Jesus answered, 'You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the worldto bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.' " Mr. Poundstone focused on these twin truths of the ministry of the church: the proclamation of the truth, the only truth that can save, and the spiritual nature of Christ's kingdom. The evening ended with prayer and the singing of the Doxology. All praise goes to God, for it is through his goodness and mercy that a church made up of imperfect people can make it through 75 years, remaining faithful to the proclamation of the Gospel. May God see fit to grant us many, many more years of faithful service to his kingdom.
Singing God's praise
Usually commissioners scatter to local OPC congregations to worship on Sunday morning and then we have a joint service in the evening, inviting the nearby churches. This year both services were held at Sandy Cove. The morning service was conducted by Columbia Presbyterian Church. This church is located in Columbia, Maryland, which is approximately 70 miles away on the other side of the city of Baltimore. They provided us with a string quartet, a pianist and three ministers. The Rev. Timothy Flora, Worship & Families Pastor at Columbia, opened the worship service and led in much of the singing. The Rev. Peter Lee (assistant professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, Washington, D.C. and minister in the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic) led in much of the service's prayer and the Rev. Allen Harris, recently retired senior pastor at Columbia, preached the sermon. Pastor Harris' text was Exodus 6:6-8 and the title was "The Gospel in Three Words."
"Say therefore to the people of Israel, 'I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD.'"
These verses speak of God's covenantal name, Yahweh. Pastor Harris pointed out that it is a name that is explained by the three verses. In verse 6 we learn that God redeems his people. Verse 7 tells us that we have been redeemed for an intimate relationship with him and verse 8 tells us that he has promised to bless his people with riches "beyond your wildest imagination." Each of these three points finds their fulfillment in Christ. For the Israelites it was through the shadow of the blood on the lintel and doorposts, fulfilled in the blood of Christ being shed upon the cross to redeem a people for his Heavenly Father. Like Israel, we have been saved for a relationship with our God. As Pastor Harris pointed out, God does not love us because he saved us but, instead, he saved us because he loves us (Eph 1:4-8). Lastly, the Promised Land was really a picture of the heavenly kingdom that is fulfilled in Christ's second coming (Heb. 11:9-10, 16; Rev. 21:1-4).
Having focused upon these three R's of the Gospel, the congregation celebrated the Lord's Supper. In this Supper we are reminded of our redemption and relationship as well as pointed forward to that kingdom that is to come where we will eat with our Savior for all eternity. All praise be to God!
After lunch, many used the afternoon for rest. There was, however, a special presentation given by Luke Brown on the disaster relief efforts in Japan. Mr. Brown was part of the diaconal team that recently returned from a visit to that country. Those who attended were informed further on both the extent of the devastation on a personal level for the Christians there as well as the steps that the OPC is taking to help them at this time.
The second service of the day was scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m. but by 4:00 people were finding their seats and listening to the chorale practice. This service had a choral prelude, which began at 4:15 p.m. with the singing of Psalms 96, 42 and 89 as well as Ephesians 2 and Revelation 22. Following this prelude we were greeted by the Rev. Michael J. Matossian, pastor of Emmanuel OPC in Wilmington, Delaware, the sponsoring congregation for the service. Pastor Matossian also introduced the Rev. Rollin P. Keller, retired minister who served as pastor at Emmanuel OPC from 1967-74. Pastor Keller led the congregation in prayer with a special note to the children to pay attention during the pastoral prayer because, after it was over, we were to pray together the Lord's Prayer.
Pastor Matossian read Isaiah 19:18-25 and Acts 2:1-16 with the latter serving as the sermon text. The sermon was entitled "We Each Hear in Our Own Language." From this text he brought out three points. In order to understand the mercy of God at Pentecost, we must first understand the judgments that are pictured there. The first was about the judgment associated with languages. This took us back to the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11) where God confused the languages and dispersed the people. What we find in Acts 2 is a reversal of Babel. It is not a dispersal of people but, rather, "there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven." Moreover, when the tongues of fire came upon God's people, they spoke in a language that was not their own. Instead, "each one was hearing them speak in his own language." The reversal made possible the message of salvation to go to all those present. The second point was found in understanding the judgment associated with fire. John the Baptist had declared in Luke 3:16-17, "I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." The "Day of the Lord" was, in the Old Testament, associated with judgment, often portrayed by fire. But when the fire fell on the disciples at Pentecost, it was tamed. The judgment of God had been extinguished on someone else, on Christ, and so it did not harm the disciples. Understanding the pictures of judgment behind Pentecost, the third point was to examine the mercy of God at Pentecost. On the day of Pentecost the promise that God made in Isaiah 19:18-25 is fulfilled. That passage speaks of God's enemies finding grace. The good news is that all of us, who were once objects of God's wrath, can come to God through Christ and find the forgiveness of our sins. The service closed with the singing of "Lift High the Cross," which has been a consistent message throughout this week of celebration. The Orthodox Presbyterian Church exists to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ crucified, dead, buried and resurrected for the sins of his people.
The Assembly convened this morning at 8:30 a.m. with the moderator reading from Hebrews 12:18-29. The Rev. Matthew W. C. Barker (associate pastor at Emmanuel OPC in Kent, Washington) opened in prayer and we then sang "Thy Lovingkindness, Lord, Is Good and Free."
Following the opening, the Assembly came immediately to the order of the day, which requires the consideration of all overtures not already acted upon. There is only one overture before this Assembly from the Presbytery of Northern California and Nevada.
Since there was no recommendations from the AC10 regarding procedure, the moderator put forth the following: first the advisory committee presentation followed by the presbytery presentation. Following this there is to be a time for questions not regarding the recommendation followed by questions regarding the recommendation.
Mr. Stephen J. Oharek, reported for AC10. The overture before the Assembly is summed up as follows:
Regarding the OPC Creation Report from 2004, the Presbytery of Northern California and Nevada overtures the General Assembly to send a special committee to help our presbytery work through a serious division, which is affecting our functioning as a Church of Christ.
The Rev. Messrs. Wayne K. Forkner (pastor of Covenant OPC, Berkeley, Cal.) and Robert B. Needham (pastor of New Hope OPC in Hanford, California) brought the report of the Presbytery, seeking the Assembly's help in the matter.
Following the time for questions, the moderator put the recommendation before the Assembly and the following was adopted: that the Assembly erect a special committee to visit with the Presbytery of Northern California and Nevada, made up of three presbyters, with an alternate (all to be appointed by the moderator).
Mr. Oharek prayed for the work of the special committee, the moderator as he chooses the men for the committee and for the PNC&Nev.
Next came the report of the Historian and the Report of the Committee for the Historian. Dr. Gaffin took the chair as the moderator is part of the Committee for the Historian. Following previous years, the two reports were considered together.
Mr. John Muether, the OPC Historian, presented his report first.
Mr. Muether noted two books that have been published in time for the celebration of our 75th anniversary. The first, co-edited by Messrs. Muether and Olinger, Confident of Better Things: Essays Commemorating Seventy-Five Years of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is a collection of essays by a number of OP and some non-OP authors, reflecting upon the ministry of the OPC over these 75 years. The second book, written by Dr. Darryl G. Hart, ruling elder at Calvary OPC, Glenside, has written Between the Times: The Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Transition, 1945-1990. Both books are available at OPC.org.
There were two further items of note. The first concerns the new historical archives of the OPC, which have for the past 25 years been housed in the Montgomery Library at Westminster Theological Seminary. The archives are now housed at the denominational offices. The following is an excerpt from the Historian's report:
Grace Mullen, the archivist at Westminster Theological Seminary, volunteered her time to see to it that these materials were well organized, in anticipation of the accessibility now afforded in the new location. As scores of researchers have come to appreciate, Grace Mullen's knowledge of the OPC is wedded to her deep devotion to the Reformed faith. Her faithful stewardship of our tradition that is manifested now in the careful arrangement of the rich resources in the church archives is surely one of the greatest gives that God has given to the OPC. It was fitting, then, to dedicate the room in her honor. Visitors to the administrative building in Willow Grove are invited to tour the Grace Mullen Archives Room.
The second note regarded the newly published OPC Ministerial Register. This register contains information on all the ministers who have been part of the OPC for the past 75 years.
Mr. Olinger reported for the Committee for the Historian.
Mr. Duff reported silence for AC8 and brought its own recommendation that the Assembly express its heartfelt thanks to the historian, the committee for the historian and their many volunteers for bringing everything together to make the 75th Anniversary a joyous celebration. This recommendation was passed unanimously.
When nominations were opened for elections two names were given: Mr. Olinger and Dr. David C. Noe, ruling elder at Ada, Michigan, and with no other nominations given, the moderator declared them elected to the class of 2014.
Mr. Duff led the Assembly in prayer for the work of the Historian, the Committee for the Historian and Miss Grace Mullen.
Mr. Olinger resumed the chair.
Mr. Sawyer read a letter of greeting from the Reformed Church in Japan. The letter expressed joy for the OPC's anniversary as well as thankfulness for the ministry of the OPC to their churches in the aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami and radiation concerns of the past months. Following this, Mr. Sawyer prayed for our brothers and sisters in the RCJ.
The Assembly recessed at 9:54 a.m. to reconvene at 10:20 a.m.
The Assembly reconvened with the singing of "Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah" and led in prayer by Mr. Olinger.
Mr. Sawyer introduced the Rev. Douw Breed, fraternal delegate from the Reformed Church of South Africa. Mr. Breed pastors a church in Pretoria, South Africa and serves as Chairman of the Board of Curators for Potchefstroom Theological Seminary and also serves on the RCSA ecumenicity board. Mr. Breed pictured perseverance as his flight to come to the USA was canceled once and delayed three times! He only had a brief time to address the Assembly before leaving to catch his flight home. He spoke highly of the OPC and rejoices with us in God's faithfulness these past 75 years.
Dr. Curto prayed for the Reformed Church of South Africa and for Mr. Breed's travels.
Mr. Sawyer introduced the Rev. Rob Patrick, fraternal delegate from the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. Mr. Patrick brought warm greetings from the ARP, which just completed its 207th general synod. Our two denominations share in our standards, in membership in NAPARC as well as seminary training. The ARP began in 1782 with a merger of Associate Presbyterians and Reformed Presbyterians who had immigrated from Scotland and Ireland. Since that time the denomination has continued to grow and now stretches as far north as Canada and as far west as California. They are active in foreign missions as well as church planting in the U.S. and around the world with around 150,000 ARP members in Pakistan alone.
The Rev. James J. Cassidy, pastor of Calvary OPC in Ringoes, New Jersey, prayed for the ARP.
The moderator introduced to the Assembly the Rev. Robert W. Eckhardt, who was thirteen years old at the first General Assembly of the OPC. He served the denomination as pastor of five congregations.
The moderator then called upon the Rev. Arthur J. Fox (pastor of Calvary OPC in Middletown, Pa.) to pray for a number of health concerns that have come to the attention of the Assembly. This writer has been present for three General Assemblies and is always impressed by the amount of time and the care that is taken to pray when needs are brought to the Assembly's attention.
Next was the report for the Special Committee to visit the Presbytery of New Jersey. The 77th General Assembly voted to form a temporary visitation committee, composed of three members drawn from the presbyteries near the Presbytery of New Jersey to meet with the parties concerned in the regional church and the particular congregation involved. At this time Mr. Pontier took the chair.
The Rev. Larry J. Westerveld (pastor of Trinity OPC in Hatboro, Pa.), read from Ephesians 4 and reported for the committee that the work is progressing with everyone working together and all parties receptive to the meetings. The committee will continue for another year.
Mr. Oharek reported silence for AC10 and prayed for the special committee and those involved in the PNJ.
Mr. Sawyer introduced the Rev. Casey Freswick, fraternal delegate from the United Reformed Churches in North America. Mr. Freswick addressed the Assembly and brought fraternal greetings from the URCNA, which began as a federation of churches in 1997 and now has 112 congregations and nearly 25,000 members. The federation recently completed a study committee "to examine by the Word of God and the Confessions the teachings of the so-called Federal Vision and other like teachings on the doctrine of justification." From this they issued 15 Affirmations on Justification. Mr. Freswick encouraged the Assembly to hold firm to that which has been given to usto continue proclaiming the good news of Christ.
Mr. Strange prayed for our brothers and sisters of the URCNA.
Following a time for reviewing minutes, the Assembly had a time of scripture reading and prayer. Mr. Olinger read Isaiah 65 and Revelation 21:1-14 and Revs. Messrs. Robert E. Tarullo (pastor of Community OPC in Newtown Connecticut) and Chad E. Bond (pastor of Faith OPC in Garland, Texas) led the Assembly in a time of prayer. Following the singing of the hymn, "Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken" we were dismissed for lunch by prayer, led by David K. Thompson (ruling elder, Immanuel OPC, Moon Twp., Penn.). The Assembly will reconvene at 1:15 p.m.
As the Assembly reconvened we opened with singing "O God, Your Judgments Give the King" and were led in prayer by the Rev. William F. Snodgrass (pastor of Grace OPC in Philadelphia, Penn.).
Mr. Sawyer introduced the Rev. Tom Patete, the fraternal delegate from the Presbyterian Church in America, who was seated as a corresponding member of the Assembly. Mr. Patete addressed the Assembly, bringing greetings from our close sister denomination. The PCA was formed in 1973 and has, since that time, maintained close relationship to the OPC. Mr. Patete expressed his gratitude for the OPC influence in his own life as well as the example the OPC has set for other Presbyterian and Reformed denominations. The PCA and OPC continue to share in many important ministries such as chaplains and publishing and Mr. Patete asked for our continued prayer for our "little sister" and cited Paul's words to the Philippian church, "I thank my God in all my remembrance of you."
Mr. Poundstone prayed for the PCA.
Next the Assembly heard from the Committee to Examine Presbyterial Records and the Committee to Examine Standing Committee Records. These committees labor throughout the duration of the Assembly, reading all of the minutes from all the meetings of the respective bodies. The minutes are read for both technical accuracy as well as content. The work of these advisory committees is tedious but important since it serves both to ensure that things are done decently and in order but, further, it makes for an accurate history of the OPC.
First, regarding Presbyterial Records, the Rev. Rodney T. King (pastor of Grace Reformed OPC in Des Moines, Iowa) reported for AC12. After the report was adopted by the Assembly, Mr. King prayed for the presbyteries. Second, the Rev. Mark J. Sallade (pastor of Calvary OPC in Glenside, Penn.) reported for AC13, which examines standing committee minutes. For the second year in a row there were no exceptions to the standing committee minutes.
Mr. Haney brought the report for the Committee on Arrangements. There are several recommendations brought before the assembly. The first dealt with next year's Assembly, the 2012 (79th) General Assembly, being held at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, begins on Wednesday, June 6, 2012 at 7 p.m. to have a terminus no later than noon on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Another recommendation dealt with possible future Assembly locations (2013 at Saint Mary's College in Moraga, California; 2014 at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania; and 2015 at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa). There was also an amendment proposed to the makeup of the Committee on General Assembly Arrangements to consist of four members (rather than three) with the stated clerk serving as a fifth member, ex officio. Upon completion of this report, Mr. Haney and Mr. Edward K. Tress (ruling elder at Calvary OPC, Glenside, Penn.), were nominated and declared elected to the class of 2014 Committee on General Assembly Arrangements.
Mr. Sallade prayed for the work of this committee and other needs made known to the Assembly.
The Rev. G. Mark Sumpter (pastor of Faith OPC in Grants Pass, Oregon) brought forth a Resolution of Thanks, which highlighted as many as possible who took part in this week's Assembly. Our hosts, Sandy Cove Ministries, were kind, hospitable and helpful. Our moderator was thanked for his leadership as well as the historical information about the OPC that brought to the Assembly. There were so many that helped to make this Assembly successful as well as making the 75th Anniversary celebrations a joy. Most of all, we all thank our GodFather, Son and Holy Spiritwho has "saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life."
As a point of personal privilege, Mr. Sawyer informed the Assembly of earthquakes that have recently struck Christchurch, New Zealand and led the Assembly in prayer for them.
Following the reading and approval of Minutes, the Assembly sang the hymn "Sing, Choirs of New Jerusalem." Following this, it was moved and seconded to dissolve the Assembly. The motion was adopted and we were dismissed at 3:12 p.m. with prayer and the pronouncement of God's blessing by Mr. Olinger. Upon singing the Doxology, the Assembly dispersed.
One of the parts of the Assembly that is difficult to bring out in these reports is the fellowship, brotherly love and humor that one finds at a gathering such as this. Many of these men have known one another for years and this breeds a certain amount of familiarity. The humor came in small bursts from the "Committee on Levity" in the form of morphed pictures of "Calvin and Hobbes" (think of the comic characters with the theologian's and philosopher's faces superimposed upon the bodies) or the occasional joke to fill time. There are, however, more sophisticated attempts at humor such as Mr. Phillips's rendition of "O Danny Boy," sung to our mfoderator. Another moment of humor that took a good deal of effort came in the form of a "protest" brought by Mr. Gidley toward the end of the Assembly. It is reproduced below:
We the undersigned (note that there is only ONE person undersigned) protest the inaction of the General Assembly in that the Assembly has taken no action remotely worthy of being protested.
The quiescent lassitude of this Assembly is a scandal and an outrage, completely out of keeping with the rich heritage of our forefathers. One is ready to conclude that if Machen had warrior children, he is now dubiously blessed with wimpy grandchildren.
We are reversing the very history that we have celebrated:
- Instead of the division of 37, we have the Elysium of twenty-eleven.
- Previous Assemblies debated the incomprehensibility of God; this Assembly has the insensibility of sod.
- Formerly we had the Peniel controversy; this Assembly is the denial of controversy.
- Other Assemblies pondered Joining and Receiving; we consider dining and repeating.
There has been so little business at this Assembly that our breaks might as well be furloughs. No Strange points of order disturb this excessively decent and orderly Assembly. Where are the motions to divide the question, to amend the substitute motion, to recommit the motion and all seventeen pending amendments to the advisory committee? Where are those happy pastimes of inserting clauses, deleting phrases, italicizing modifiers, and moving commas that have brightened many a dreary hour in years gone by? The moderator might as well have appointed a somnambulist as a parliamentarianindeed, one might say he did do so. Might I slip past him a motion to reconsider the entire docket?
We celebrate contending, defending, fightingyet, like ecclesiastical Lloyd-Georges, we have peace in our time. Our affirmations of bellicosity are no more believable than the threats of Achmed the dead terroristI keel you!
Where are the eloquent debates of yesteryear? Where are the effusions of otiose, sesquipedalian circumlocution when we Needham?
What is the GA? A General Assembly? Is it not rather a General Acquiescence, a Gregarious Affability, a Genial Apathy?
No we are not the Only Perfect Church. It appears that we have become the Oddly Peaceful Church.
Mr. Moderator, order the Advisory Committees back to work until they can return with at least one recommendation that stimulates a Ruff debate that goes on for an Eternity!
Otherwise I fear that this Assembly of Machen's flower children will crown its achievements by breaking out into a spontaneous chorus of Kum-ba-Yah.
This report was written by the Rev. Everett A. Henes, pastor of Hillsdale Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Hillsdale, Michigan.
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