90th General Assembly Report (2024)

The 90th General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is meeting from June 19–25, 2024, at Seattle Pacific University, Seattle, Washington. This running daily report will be written by ruling elder Josh Downs and edited by Linda Foh. Questions or comments may be addressed to Hank Belfield, stated clerk. Click one the following links to go directly to the report for Thursday; Friday; Saturday; Sunday; Monday; Tuesday.

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

According to custom, and after a day traveling to the site of the Assembly, the commissioners gather in the evening and GA begins with worship. This service is normally led by the Moderator of the previous Assembly. Rev. John Shaw (Grace OPC, Columbus, OH) convened the Assembly in the Upper Gwinn Conference Center, preaching from Psalm 56 a sermon entitled “When I Am Afraid.” He focused especially on v. 3, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” The object of our trust, the Lord Jesus, grounds our faith when the fears of life surround us. Rev. Brett McNeill (Reformation OPC, Olympia, WA) and the session of Emmanuel, OPC, Kent, WA, assisted in the administration of the Lord’s Supper. The offering was designated for the “Seed and Sower Fund,” a special reserve fund which aids mother-daughter church planting, administered by the GA’s Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension.

The meeting having been called to order, commissioners then took up the business of the Assembly at 8:30 p.m. Mr. Shaw prayed and the stated clerk, Rev. Hank Belfield (Providence OPC, Chilhowie, VA), called roll and declared that a quorum had been reached. Each presbytery is allotted a certain number of commissioners (ministers and ruling elders) according to size, and then the presbyteries elect men to attend as voting members of GA each year. The total number of commissioners is capped at 155. The duty falls to these commissioners to exercise the gift of rule in matters ranging from discipline cases and complaints that have been appealed to the GA, funding the various ministries of the whole church, hearing overtures from the presbyteries, responding to special circumstances in the church, maintaining relationships with sister churches around the world, and other matters which may come before the Assembly each year.

On behalf of the Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations, Elder Mark Bube (Glenside, PA) introduced the fraternal delegates.

Members of the Assembly’s committees who are not commissioners, as well as fraternal delegates from other churches, were seated as corresponding members. Corresponding members are granted privileges of the floor, which means they can speak on matters under discussion, but they are not allowed to make motions or vote.

Elder David Mahaffy (Oak Harbor, WA) gave a preliminary report for the Committee on Arrangements, noting key information regarding the campus of Seattle Pacific University. At this point the Assembly tested their voting devices with three statistical questions. “Did you grow up in the OPC?” 12 did. “Is this your first General Assembly?” There are 28 first-timers. “What was your decade of ordination?” 18 in the 2020s; 40 in the 2010s; 33 in the 2000s; 18 in the 1990s; 18 in the 1980s; 6 in the 1970s; and 1 in the1960s – the Rev. George Cottenden, who was asked to stand to applause from the body

The stated clerk presented the minutes of the 89th General Assembly. He noted that the hard copies of the minutes were mailed to ministers and presbyteries of the OPC, as well as a list of select denominations and seminaries.

The next item of business for the evening was to elect a new moderator for this year’s Assembly. Elder David Winslow (Westminster, CA) nominated Rev. John Fesko (RTS, Jackson, MS) and Rev. David Graves nominated Elder Bruce Stahl (Wentzville, MO). After speeches from the nominators, noting especially the nominees’ experience at GA in difficult situations, Mr. Fesko was elected moderator and escorted to the chair by Mr. Winslow, who then prayed for his work at this Assembly.

Next the overtures, communications, and appeals were presented by the clerk. There are two overtures, nine communications, nine complaints on appeal, and one judicial appeal. 

Times for business and breaks were set, including morning devotions. Each day the commissioners and corresponding members receive breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the dining commons. There are two twenty-minute breaks with coffee and refreshments each day, at 10:00 a.m. and 3:15 p.m. The Assembly pauses its work each morning at 11:40 for a daily devotional with the exception of the Lord’s Day, when there is no business and commissioners have the opportunity to worship at nearby OPC congregations.

The docket was presented and adopted by voice vote. The stated clerk presented his recommendations regarding assigning the work to the thirteen advisory committees, which was also adopted by the Assembly. 

What exactly is an advisory committee? All members of the Assembly, except the moderator, clerks, and commissioners who give presentations in advisory committees, are assigned to an advisory committee, which typically meet for a half day. Advisory committees help the Assembly with its work. They are tasked with meeting with representatives of the various committees of the General Assembly (such as the Committee on Christian Education, Committee on Foreign Missions, Committee on Diaconal Ministries, etc.) to review those committees’ reports and recommendations. They also meet with knowledgable parties respecting other business before the Assembly such as appeals, complaints, overtures, etc. This allows members of the Assembly more intensive time overseeing the committees than would be practical on the floor with the whole body. When an advisory committee reports that it is “silent” regarding the work of a committee under its review, this silence is understood to convey approval of the committee’s work and concurrence with its report and/or recommendations. However, an advisory committee may bring recommendations to the Assembly that might differ from a committee’s report or recommendations under its review. But they may not do so without conferring with at least one member of that committee present at the assembly. This structure allows for a greater “plurality” of sorts, with one group of ordained men (an advisory committee brought together just during the Assembly) reviewing the work of another group of ordained men (a standing or other committee of the GA) in order to advise the whole body as to how it should act when the Assembly gathers throughout the week.

Moderator Fesko prayed and declared the meeting to be in recess until 8:30 a.m. tomorrow when the commissioners will meet in advisory committees.

Thursday, June 20, 2024

After breakfast, Thursday morning began with commissioners breaking off to work in the advisory committees.

Each year some of the commissioners and fraternal delegates are able to bring their wives and families to General Assembly. While the commissioners are in their advisory committees, the women meet. This morning the Committee on Ministerial Care invited the commissioners’ and fraternal delegates’ wives, local OPC ministers’ wives and other women who serve the OPC to a time of fellowship, refreshment, and prayer hosted by Anneke Fesko, CMC’s Care Coordinator for Ministers’ Wives. The 32 women in attendance enjoyed this sweet time of fellowship and the encouragement they were to each other. The women were especially blessed by the time of prayer for each other, the assembly, and ministers’ wives and widows not in attendance.

At 11:40 a.m., commissioners gathered once again in the Upper Gwinn Conference Center for morning devotions. Retired minister Rev. Jonathan Falk read from 2 Corinthians 1:23 - 2:4 exhorting the commissioners regarding discouragements in ministry and the way we are to lead in the church. Christian leaders are not lords. This means we must deal patiently with the sheep, seeking counsel from older shepherds. We must not micromanage or coerce. Second, Christian leaders work for joy. Finally, Christian leaders seek to help God’s people stand firm in their faith. The Assembly then sang #486 in the Trinity Psalter Hymnal, “Rejoice, Believer, in the Lord.”

Following organizational announcements regarding seminary-hosted meals, Rev. Everett Henes (Hillsdale OPC, Hillsdale, MI) closed this portion of the meeting with prayer and the Assembly recessed for lunch.

Thursday Afternoon

The Assembly reconvened at 3:35 p.m. singing #429 in the Trinity Psalter Hymnal, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”

Mr. Bube introduced fraternal delegate Rev. Karlo Janssen from the Canadian and American Reformed Churches. Mr. Janssen celebrated 23 years of fraternal relations between the OPC and the CanRC, their shared work in defending the interpretation of Scripture and the qualifications for special office in the church, as well as a deep commitment to foreign missions. He recounted recent developments in Canada and the Netherlands regarding growing and diminishing sister church relationships. Finally Mr. Janssen described the changing culture in the CanRC as they lose their “Dutchness,” with all the questions this poses regarding church identity.

Mr. Belfield presented the report of the stated clerk. This Assembly marks his fourth year as clerk. He works 24 hours per week on average throughout the year under the oversight of the Trustees of the OPC, as well as pastoring full-time in Chilhowie, VA. He expressed gratitude for the help from the clerk’s staff: Mrs. Charlene Tipton, Mrs. Linda Foh, and Mrs. Judith Dinsmore. He also thanked Rev. John Mahaffy (Trinity OPC, Newberg, OR) for serving as the GA assistant clerk for 25 consecutive years. The minutes of the Assembly are mostly the work of Mr. Mahaffy. Assisting him is Elder Mike Shields (Mt Airy, NC) acting as clerk observer. Mr. Belfield reported preparations of the 2025 edition of the Book of Church Order (BCO), set to be printed at the beginning of the new year. The clerk serves ex officio and without vote on the Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations and with vote on the Committee on Arrangements. One amendment to the BCO was approved by a majority of the presbyteries since the last Assembly, and will be in effect in 2025: a change in Book of Discipline III, 2, so that the words “unavoidable impediments” will be replaced with the word “circumstances.”

The body passed amendments to the Standing Rules of the General Assembly including clarifying the language related to who may serve as the statistician of the OPC. The current statistician plans to retire next year after 39 years of service in this role. The Assembly forwarded the following refined definition to the 91st GA: “The Statistician of The Orthodox Presbyterian Church, who is a servant of the denomination and particularly of the General Assembly, shall be elected to his office by the General Assembly for a one-year term. Due to his status as an officer of the General Assembly, the Statistician ordinarily shall hold an ordained governing office in the Church. In collecting and compiling statistical data for his annual report to the General Assembly, the Statistician may utilize the administrative assistance of any communicant member of the Church in good standing.”

The Trustees of the OPC, represented by Elder John Hearn (Orlando, FL), presented its report. The Assembly approved the recommended budget for the General Assembly Operation Fund for 2025.

The report of the statistician was received, and Mr. Luke Brown was reelected to that office of the General Assembly. The total membership of 33,520 persons at the end of 2023 consisted of 599 ministers, 24,645 communicant members, and 8,276 baptized children (non-communicants). This represents an increase of 897 persons (2.75 percent) from 2022's adjusted total of 32,623 members. The communicant membership net increase of 623 included 744 professions of faith and 1,163 reaffirmations of faith; offset by losses from deaths (185), net transfers (152), and discipline & erasures (947). The net increase of 259 non-communicant members (baptized children) came as the result of additions by 769 baptisms and 568 children received with parents, and of reductions by professions of faith (359), death (5), children dismissed with parents (441), and erasures (273). Morning worship in-person attendance of 25,746 in November 2023 exceeded the 2019 pre-COVID level. Sunday school attendance of 11,677 in November recovered to 94 percent of the 2019 level.

The Assembly recessed for dinner at 5:15 p.m.

Thursday Evening

The Moderator called the commissioners together after dinner, singing #100B, "All People That on Earth Do Dwell" in the Trinity Psalter Hymnal.

Mr. Bube introduced fraternal delegate Elder James Wanliss bringing greetings from the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing). Mr. Wanliss reflected on the common history and commitments, as well as the common responsibility, shared by the FCC and the OPC.

Rev. A. Craig Troxel (Harvest OPC, San Marcos, CA), president of the Committee on Christian Education, introduced the work of the committee as it relates to the Great Commission and the central role it plays in our churches. Rev. Danny Olinger (general secretary of the Committee on Christian Education), PCA Elder John Dunahoo (Great Commission Publications), and Mr. Winslow discussed resources available to the church. The joint venture between the PCA and OPC in forming GCP is nearing its 50th anniversary.

Rev. Archibald Allison (Emmaus OPC, Fort Collins, CO) discussed the progress of a subcommittee of the CCE tasked with proposing linguistic changes to the Westminster Standards for a potential modern English study version.

Mr. Troxel presented the committee’s proposed changes to the Recommended Curriculum for Ministerial Preparation in the OPC, a non-constitutional section of the BCO. The Assembly approved the advisory committee’s motion that the proposed revisions be returned to the CCE so that it can seek input from the presbyteries and their candidates and credentials committees, which was agreeable to the CCE.

The Assembly next heard the report of the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension. Rev. Jeremiah Montgomery (general secretary of the committee) noted that CHMCE is the oldest committee still standing in the OPC, born at the first General Assembly on June 12, 1936. Almost one in ten congregations meeting each Lord’s Day is a mission work. The committee has set aside funding to support up to thirty-eight new and continuing mission works, fourteen RHMs, four church planting interns, and four special evangelistic projects. The committee plans to launch a major initiative, its revitalization program, on August 1, 2024, which will pair up congregations with experienced OPC mentors.

The Assembly recessed for the evening at 8:30 p.m.

Friday, June 21, 2024

After breakfast on Friday morning, the Assembly gathered at 8:30 a.m.. The Moderator read from Psalm 133 and the brothers sang heartily #46C, "God Is Our Refuge and Strength" from the Trinity Psalter Hymnal

Mr. Bube introduced fraternal delegate Rev. Maynard Koerner from the Reformed Church in the United States who brought greetings to the Assembly from that historically German denomination. Our two bodies have shared warm fellowship over the years, taking opportunity to offer correction at times as well. The RCUS has experienced growth by every metric over the recent past. It is nearing its 300th anniversary, which will be commemorated at Mount Rushmore in June of 2025. OPC members are invited to join them at that celebration of God’s faithfulness.

Rev. C. Steve McDaniel, Jr. (Calvary OPC, Glenside, PA) completed the report for the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension by outlining the new revitalization program. It will focus on the goal of spiritual and ministry health through the use of the ordinary means of grace (word, sacraments, and prayer), not on specific measurements of attendance or financial numbers, though those may follow from increased health. There was discussion from the floor of the Assembly encouraging the committee to explore greater involvement supporting youth group and prison ministry in the churches.

Next the Committee on Foreign Missions presented its report. Rev. John Van Meerbeke (Living Hope OPC, Gettysburg, PA), president of the CFM, introduced the work of the committee. General secretary Rev. Douglas Clawson exhorted the Assembly regarding the vital, life-and-death, nature of our evangelistic work in the world. He passionately encouraged the members of the Assembly to answer the call of foreign missions as many fields are understaffed. There has not been a new evangelist sent to the field in the past year.

A missionary to Asia addressed the body, explaining his work training and examining candidates for ministry, teaching in a seminary, creating and translating online resources, and church planting. The church in Asia has seen a huge increase in church officers and licentiates.

Rev. Mark Richline (missionary to Uruguay) presented on his work with the Paysons in Montevideo, Mercedes, Maldonado, Ciudad de La Costa, Las Piedras, and the new Salvos Por Gracia mission. In the many ministries of the churches, he noted that ruling elder leadership has increased reflecting growth in the congregations. There is a need for more Uruguayan pastors. Mr. Richline and his wife have decided to leave the mission field and return to the U.S. to be closer to assist with family needs.

After the break, the Assembly gathered at 10:20 a.m. singing #380, “Crown Him with Many Crowns.” Rev. D. Jason Wallace (Christ Presbyterian Church, Salt Lake City, UT) prayed for the continued peaceful function of the Assembly.

The Moderator introduced fraternal delegate Rev. Brian Panichelle of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America. He noted the warm fellowship they share with the OPC. He also pointed out the increase of judicial matters in their highest court, the Synod, reflecting a trend in line with the spirit of the age. Major issues under discussion in the RPCNA include the question of women in the diaconate and the place of the mediatorial dominion of Christ. Rev. Ian Wright (Covenant OPC, Orland Park, IL) prayed for the RPCNA.

Rev. Charles Jackson (missionary to Uganda) reported on his work in Mbale as the only OPC minister on the field in that mission. He trains men at Knox School of Theology and helps to run the Reformation Book Room. Ninety percent of pastors in Africa have no formal theological training. Knox is settling into its new facilities, including a new library and dorm, as well as its new accreditation status. The presence of highly qualified African faculty members at Knox is a great encouragement to the students. Roughly 20 students attend each semester.

Mr. Clawson read the following resolution:

The Committee on Foreign Missions of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church hereby makes known to the Rev. Dr. L. Anthony Curto our deep thankfulness to the Lord for you, your late wife, Kathleen, and now Simone. His servants, and for your more than thirty years of faithful and sacrificial service in the missionary outreach of the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ in Uganda, Ethiopia, Austria, and Switzerland. Beginning with two summers of survey work (1993–1994) in Uganda in response to a request for assistance from the Presbyterian Church in Uganda (PCU), and pursuant to the Committee’s call, you pioneered the work of proclaiming the gospel to the lost and building up Christ’s church there for the next decade (1995–2004), first in Mbale and its surrounding villages, and later in South Karamoja.

Wherever the Lord in His providence took you, you boldly preached repentance and forgiveness of sins in our Savior’s name, helping to plant more than a dozen congregations around Mbale and to establish a theological college and a Christian primary school. As the work in the Mbale district grew, you again pioneered the expansion of the work into South Karamoja. There you found drunkenness, polygamy, witchcraft, wife-beating, lying, stealing, and superstition to be endemic. You began preaching each Lord’s Day under the “big tree” in 2001 and, as you sowed the seed of the gospel, the Spirit began to move in the hearts Christ’s elect.

In 2000, after our full-time missionaries were expelled, the Committee appointed you as a missionary evangelist to Eritrea (in addition to Uganda) to supplement the labors of another missionary evangelist, who was also ministering there (in addition to Ethiopia), and you were an encouragement to the saints. In 2003 the Committee appointed you also as a missionary evangelist to Ethiopia, asking you to visit that field at least two times per year, if possible. In 2014 the Committee determined to explore possible ways for you to increase the amount of time you might be able to minister to the ERKWB brothers, and you have spent every summer since then doing so. Your labors on behalf of the Committee expanded into nearby Hungary to the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Central and Eastern Europe (RPCCEE), and you attended their very first general assembly in 2019. In addition to all the above, for the past twenty or so years, you have assisted the work of the Committee and of the OPC as part of delegations to visit churches/mission works in Belgium, Brazil, Germany, Haiti, India, Hungary, Kenya, Netherlands, South Africa, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Vietnam to encourage the saints, to discuss current issues, and/or to explore opportunities for future missionary labors.

We would be remiss if we did not take special note of the life and labors of our dear sister and your late wife, Kathleen, who went home to her Lord in April 2022. In addition to persevering with her husband through the many difficulties of your life on the mission field, she also ministered to the women in Uganda and Ethiopia, served as the first principal of the Christian primary school in Mbale, and in later years, taught annual conferences for women in Switzerland and Austria. Blessed with superb organizational skills, a hospitable heart, and a genuine humility, she gave lovingly of herself to her husband, her children, and her church—and in so doing, set a godly example for all those around her.

Brother, you were glad to spend and be spent for the souls to which you ministered Christ. Be assured that your toil has not been in vain. You have both planted and watered, and God is giving the increase in His time. The Word which you have proclaimed will not return without accomplishing all that He desires. May you and your bride, Simone, who is one with you in your labors going forward, continue to run the race that is set before you, fixing your eyes on Jesus, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things. To God be the glory!

The commissioners and guests responded in standing ovation.

A question to the committee from the floor related to whether it had any opinion related to potential reasons underlying the dearth of foreign missionaries. Mr. Clawson remarked that it may be due to cultural changes in the U.S. related to fear, possibly stemming from 9/11. But the causes are unclear. Brazil and China are not experiencing this problem.

Elder Keith LeMahieu (Oostburg, WI) presented the report of the Committee on Coordination. Its work focuses on recommending to the General Assembly a combined budget for the three Worldwide Outreach Committees of Christian Education, Foreign Missions, and Home Missions and Church Extension for the succeeding year, as well as providing accounting services and support for the following: Committee on Diaconal Ministries, Committee on Ministerial Care, General Assembly, OPC Loan Fund, and Joint Venture Board for the Trinity Psalter Hymnal. The WWO budget, which was agreed upon in great unity among the three committees, passed by the Assembly, included a 1.24% increase from the previous year.

At 11:40 a.m. Rev. Zachary Simmons (Resurrection OPC, State College, PA) led the Assembly in the morning devotional from Nehemiah 6. He focused on our need to look to the Lord when we face affliction, deceit, and threat. Jesus faced such things as he went to the cross, and yet submitted himself to his accusers, even seeking for his disciples to go free upon his arrest. We must likewise imitate his focus and fearlessness as we stand at our posts.

The Assembly sang #27A, “The Lord’s My Light” followed by prayer by the Moderator, and recessed for the lunch break at 12:05 p.m.

Friday Afternoon

Following lunch, the Assembly reconvened at 1:15 p.m. singing #408, “For All the Saints.” Rev. Geoff Downey (Lake Sherwood OPC, Orlando, FL) prayed for the work of the Assembly.

The time of recess was set for 8:15 p.m. tonight at which point the commissioners will gather for a photograph.

Mr. Bube introduced fraternal delegate Rev. Falko Drijfhout of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of England and Wales. The EPCEW has churches in the UK as well as in Sweden, Germany, and Switzerland. Mr. Drijfhout reflected on our shared commitments to the solas of the Reformation and his gratitude for the OPC. The EPCEW is busy with church planting efforts in what has become a barren land in England and Wales. Four churches have left the EPCEW in recent times without constitutional warrant, seemingly spurred on by some matters being handled by erasure, an administrative act rather than judicial process, of some eleven members. This has posed a challenge to the presbytery overseeing the churches. At the Moderator’s permission Mr. Drijfhout briefly exhorted the body from Josh. 21:43-45 and 1 Peter 2:9. Mr. Curto prayed for the brothers in the EPCEW.

Mr. LeMahieu presented on the Barnabas Foundation which assists in financial advice and planned giving. Christians often lack the financial literacy needed with respect to non-monetary gifts and estate planning. OPC members are invited to contact the Committee on Coordination through the “planned giving” link on OPC.ORG as we prepare for a “seven years of plenty” transfer of wealth in the next 20 years.

The report of the Committee on Diaconal Ministries was introduced by committee president, Elder Seth Long (Neon Reformed Presbyterian Church, Neon, KY). Elder David Nakhla (Calvary OPC, Glenside, PA,), who serves as the Administrator of the CDM, characterized the committee as a “band of brothers.” The CDM views its work in several categories: ministering to those in need within the OPC, to those in need internationally, to those affected by disasters, to and through local deacons, to and through missionary deacons, to refugees, and through the short-term missions coordinator, Mr. Nakhla. As reported in recent years, 2021 saw a 17% increase in giving to the CDM’s General Fund over the previous year. 2022 saw another 10% increase in giving over 2021. And 2023 saw yet another 7% increase in giving, bringing total contributions to the CDM’s general fund to $461,614 in 2023.

In striving to follow a presbyterian structure the CDM requires that appeals for individual aid first be presented at the local level to a board of deacons. If the need cannot be met locally, it may be presented at the regional level to the Presbytery Diaconal Committee (PDC). (Some needs that are regional in nature might originate at the regional level.) If the presbytery finds that it cannot meet the need, it may present it at the denominational level to the CDM. This process ensures that, by the time the need reaches the CDM, the local and regional bodies have had ample opportunity to examine the need, participate in the need as able, and choose to appeal to the CDM for the balance remaining. It also makes them better prepared to provide local oversight of the situation if aid is granted by the CDM.

OPC mission fields in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Haiti, Uganda (two mission stations and clinic operations), and Uruguay received international mercy ministry through the CDM. The committee, at the suggestion of the Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch relations, sent a special gift to the Reformed Churches in South Africa to help care for its retired ministers. The CDM, partnering with Word and Deed ministries, also sent special aid to the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Northeast India as 40,000 people have been displaced across nearly 200 villages due to persecution. 359 churches have been destroyed.

Rev. Jerome “Jerry” Farnik (missionary to the Czech Republic from the Presbytery of Southern California) presented on short-term missions in Prague. “Team Praha” assists with Bible teaching and camp during July and August each year, an English camp attended by many unbelievers, a marriage conference, a youth mountain trip, “ready, set, go” VBS, and other meetings and conferences. Due in part to the history of Soviet communism, the Czech Republic is the most atheistic country in Europe. Mr. Farnik invited commissioners and their congregations to the land of John Hus to assist this work.

The report of the Committee on Ministerial Care was presented by Rev. Douglas L. Watson (Redeemer OPC, Waipahu, HI) and Rev. John Fikkert (director of the committee). Mr. Fikkert encouraged ministers to be sure to designate beneficiaries in their wills and retirement plans. He reminded the Assembly that the CMC stands ready to assist ministers in protecting against burn-out through the Retreat Grant and Sabbatical Grant programs. While not wishing to compete with medical insurance “share” plans, the CMC has arranged Blue Cross and Met Life plans available for interested ministers. The CMC now administers the Obadiah Fund which exists to care for retired ministers and their widows. “Love gifts” are sent each year drawn from interest from a fund set up in 2007.

The commissioners reconvened at 3:35 p.m. following the afternoon break, complete with ice cream provided by Mid-America Reformed Seminary. Rev. Patrick Ramsay (Nashua OPC, Edinburg, PA) opened in prayer after the singing of #448, “Union With Thee.”

Mr. Bube introduced fraternal delegate Rev. Jeff Ballantine of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Northern Ireland. Mr. Ballantine shared about the commonalities between the OPC and the EPCNI. Mr. Bube and the late OPC minister Rev. Jack Sawyer, delegates from the OPC’s CEIR, visited years ago and were shown an EPCNI member’s family guestbook. It had been signed by J. Gresham Machen. Around the time of the birth of the OPC, W. J. Grier and his students at the theological college in Belfast were unhappy with the liberalizing direction of the teaching. They sought redress with the General Assembly, but the teaching was vindicated. Mr. Grier, who had spent time at Princeton with Machen, led a group to form a more faithful body. Ministry in more recent times there has been shaped by the Troubles as violence, bombing, and arson has affected people’s readiness to attend church. They currently face a serious shortage of men entering ministry. He exhorted the commissioners on the importance of plodding, to hold what we have and press on. Rev. Matthew Holst (Shiloh OPC, Raleigh, NC) prayed for the EPCNI.

Earlier in the day, following the report of the CFM and discussions surrounding the lack of applicants as foreign evangelists, Mr. Henes had introduced a motion regarding a day of prayer and fasting, which was then referred for perfections to the advisory committee reviewing the CFM report. It reads: “The 90th General Assembly determines to call for a day of prayer and fasting on Saturday, August 17, 2024, that the whole church may pray as one people, and call upon the Lord with one voice, that we might lament our distress and unworthiness before the Lord, confess our sin, and commit ourselves anew to the work of the Great Commission in the faithful service of the Lord our God; that we would humble ourselves, seeking the Lord’s guidance and provision for the spreading of His kingdom to the ends of the earth; that we humbly implore God to raise up missionary evangelists for our foreign fields.” Having posted the motion before the afternoon break to allow time for commissioners to consider it, the motion was passed without audible dissent.

Mr. Curto introduced the report of the Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations by reading from 1 Corinthians 12:12-13. Mr. Bube communicated the purpose of the committee: we seek to enter into and to promote closer fellowship with other churches, where it is consistent with biblical unity and truth, as a visible demonstration of the unity we already have in Christ, all to the glory of God. The written report reviews the committee’s current understanding of all those bodies with which we have contact, the closest circle of which (Ecclesiastical Fellowship) includes: In North America: 1. The Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARPC), 2. The Bible Presbyterian Church (BPC), 3. The Canadian and American Reformed Churches (CanRC), 4. The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), 5. The Reformed Church of Quebec (l’Église Réformée du Québec) (RCQ/ERQ), 6. The Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS), 7. The Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA), and 8. The United Reformed Churches in North America (URCNA). Overseas: 1. The Christian Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (CRCN), 2. The Evangelical Presbyterian Church in England and Wales (EPCEW), 3. The Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Ireland (EPCI), 4. Evangelical Reformed Church Westminster Confession (ERKWB), 5. The Free Church of Scotland (FCS), 6. The Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) (FCC), 7. The Independent Reformed Church of Korea (ICRK), 8. The Presbyterian Church in Korea (Kosin) (PCKK), 9. The Presbyterian Church of Brazil (IPB), 10. The Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia (PCEA), 11. The Reformed Churches of New Zealand (RCNZ), and 12. The Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland (RPCIre). There are 28 other bodies with which we share exploratory, though perhaps less close, relationships seeking greater unity.

The committee seeks to maintain these relationships in various ways, making special use of membership in ecumenical organizations, specifically the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC) and the International Conference of Reformed Churches (ICRC).

The committee, with sadness, has terminated the relationship with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (RCN) because they are no longer a church of like faith and practice due to changes in that body to the qualifications for office in the church.

Mr. Bube encouraged the commissioners to practice ecumenical contact within the presbyteries with other church bodies locally.

The committee recommended that the 90th (2024) General Assembly invite the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Central and Eastern Europe (RPCCEE) into a relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship, which was passed by the Assembly.

Rev. Camden Bucey (historian of the OPC) reported on the Committee for the Historian. An in memoriam slide presentation played showing the OP ministers who joined the church triumphant this year. Mr. Bucey exhorted the body to remember the enthusiastic commitment to Scripture which the OPC has enjoyed historically and to let that shared principle guide us through areas of disagreement. Mr. Bucey also reported on plans with respect to future publications, including a second edition of Charles Dennison’s History for a Pilgrim People.

A suggestion from the floor prompted the committee to consider creating Sunday School-style materials, perhaps even a new video, covering OP history. Mr. Olinger, president of the committee, responded enthusiastically noting as well the ongoing discussions related to updating Fighting the Good Fight for republication.

Mr. Henes prayed for the committee and for the meal. Moderator Fesko declared the body to be in recess for dinner at 5:15 p.m.

Friday Evening

Following the dinner hour, the commissioners gathered again at 6:45 p.m. singing #124, “Now Israel May Say, and That In Truth.” Rev. Robert Tarullo (Westminster OPC, Countryside, IL) prayed for the work of the Assembly.

Mr. Bube introduced Rev. Martin Hedman, fraternal delegate from the Presbyterian Church in America. Mr. Hedman celebrated the faithfulness of the Lord toward the OPC, keeping it faithful. He recounted the story of First Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) in Seattle, WA, which was the largest presbyterian church in the world when its pastor, Rev. Mark Matthews, friend of Machen but not willing to exit the church with him, died in 1939. It does not exist today. The PCA has faced challenges in recent years, including debates related to same-sex attraction, the qualifications for ordained ministry, and abuse in the church. This year the PCA General Assembly was relatively quiet. The PCA ecumenicity committee is well-disposed toward accepting the OPC’s invitation to apply to the ICRC for membership, but constitutionally it must attend a meeting in person before it can move forward. He pronounced a blessing of peace on the Assembly. Mr. Nakhla prayed for the PCA.

Rev. John Mallin (chairman) introduced the report of the Committee on Appeals and Complaints. There is one judicial appeal and nine complaints on appeal presented to this Assembly.

The Assembly first took up the one judicial appeal. In summary form: this involves an appeal of the judicial decisions of a session related to holding a trial in absentia and finding a member guilty of rebellion against the civil government and violence against government personnel, which verdict was upheld on appeal to the presbytery.

Moderator Fesko dismissed the commissioners at 8:10 p.m. for the Assembly photo to be taken, after which the body would be in recess. Rev. John Mahaffy (Trinity OPC, Newberg, OR) offered prayer.

Saturday, June 22, 2024

After breakfast together on Saturday, the Assembly gathered at 8:30 a.m. The Moderator read from Psalm 66 and the Assembly sang #515 from the Trinity Psalter Hymnal, “More Than Conquerors.” Rev. Daniel Dillard (Grace Reformed, Bend, OR) prayed.

Mr. Bube introduced fraternal delegate Rev. Billy Barron from the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. He reported the turn away from Neo-orthodoxy by the ARPC over recent decades. From the CEIR report: “The denomination is centered in the American Southeast but has begun to spread to other parts of the continent. The ARPC is a remarkable case in North American Reformed history where a denomination has been reclaimed from deformation. Over the past forty-plus years, there has been, by the grace of God, a steady reformation that is a genuine encouragement to us.” One recent challenge is the dissolution by Synod of a presbytery. The ARPC views itself as “family” denomination, and as a result it can move slowly in areas of change. Recently the ARPC received Synod papers related to secret societies (freemasonry) and women in the diaconate. He exhorted the Assembly to stay faithful, to pursue peace—but not at the expense of truth—and to preach the gospel, the whole counsel of God. Mr. Holst prayed for the ARPC.

The Assembly again took up the judicial appeal from Friday evening. The advisory committee assisted the Assembly by breaking up the appeal into four distinct specifications of error alleged against the session. Two specifications of error were denied and one was sustained. The body went into recess for the morning break at that time.

After the morning break, the Assembly joined in song, #425, “How Sweet and Awesome is the Place.” Rev. Mark Green (Evangelist, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic) prayed for the gathering.

Mr. Bube introduced Rev. Imre Szöke from the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Central and Eastern Europe, which ministers the gospel in Hungary, Romania, and southwest Ukraine. Mr. Szöke asked for prayer for more officers, for the expansion of the gospel, and for the protection of the purity of the small denomination. He shared a story that the first book the church worked to translate was J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism since it so acutely addressed the major issues facing the church in that land today. Mr. Curto prayed for the RPCCEE.

The body returned to consider the fourth specification of error from the judicial appeal. It was denied. Given that one specification of error against the session was sustained early this morning, the Assembly referred the matter back to the advisory committee for its advice regarding what action to take with regard to the appeal as a whole.

Next the Assembly took up Complaint 1. This is an appeal of a complaint by a session against the action of its presbytery in receiving and debating a report from its visitation committee and then using that report as grounds to appoint a committee seeking outside professional help to investigate allegations of misconduct by a session.

The time for morning devotions came at 11:40 a.m. Mr. Mallin exhorted the commissioners from 1 Tim 1:12-16. When Paul calls himself the “chief of sinners,” we want to argue with him, or wonder if he is morbidly introspective. But Paul sees God’s super-abounding grace against the background of his sinfulness. He speaks to those who feel their need and count themselves unworthy of the Lord’s favor. Our malady is not akin to rough edges in need of rounding off; instead, it is like fungus blooming secretly in our moral fiber. If we see ourselves only as sinners, we sink into despair, and yet if we do not see ourselves as sinners, then the cure remains unknown to us. We remain unable to apprehend the remedy. And so Paul calls us to imitate him in imitating Christ, made sin for us, and leading us out of death.

The body sang #440, “Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Wretched.” Mr. Allison prayed. The Moderator declared the body in recess for the lunch break at 12:00 p.m.

Saturday Afternoon

The body reconvened at 1:15 p.m. singing #369, “Worship Christ, the Risen King!” Rev. Nathan Paschall (Providence Church, Madison, WI) prayed with thanks to God and for the Assembly.

Mr. Bube introduced fraternal delegate Rev. HaeShin Yoo of the Presbyterian Church in Korea, Kosin. Mr. Yoo recalled hearing OPC missionary Rev. Bruce Hunt preach in fluent Korean when he was a child. Mr. Hunt’s ministry from 1946 - 1976 was foundational for the PCKK, which now has over 2,000 churches in South Korea. But they face a challenge today of a decrease in attendance and missionaries sent to foreign fields. Mr. Bube prayed for the PCKK.

The Assembly then returned to Complaint 1. Having heard from the complainant (through a representative from another presbytery) and the presbytery, commissioners asked questions of the representatives and heard speeches from the floor on both sides of the issue. Next, the advisory committee brought its recommendation: “That the General Assembly deny Complaint 1 brought on appeal. Ground: 1. In receiving, debating and acting on its committee’s report the presbytery was properly exercising its power to ‘visit particular churches for the purpose of inquiring into their state and of taking proper measures to insure that the evils which may have arisen in them shall be redressed.’ (FG XIV.5)”

The Assembly denied the complaint.

Next the Assembly took up Complaint 2 involving the same parties as Complaint 1. In brief, Complaint 2 is an appeal of a complaint of the session against the action of its presbytery in adopting a recommendation to appoint a committee seeking help from a professional, non-ecclesiastical, third party—thus surrendering its jurisdictional power of inquiry—in order to properly investigate allegations of misconduct by the session.

The Assembly heard presentations from the complainant and from the presbytery.

The Assembly went into recess at 3:20 p.m. at the call of Moderator Fesko.

Following the afternoon break, the Assembly reconvened at 3:45 p.m., singing #230, “Holy, Holy, Holy!” Rev. Brad Peppo (Wilmington Reformed Church, Dayton, OH) prayed for the work of the body.

Mr. Bube introduced fraternal delegate Rev. Patrick Jok Ding Wic who brought greetings from the Sudanese Reformed Churches. Mr. Jok reflected on the uniqueness of his hometown, Juba, South Sudan, as the only world city with no stoplights. Though this marks 10 years of fraternal relations, this is the first visit to an OPC General Assembly from the SRC. Corruption, crime, warlords, polygamy, and famine afflict the society in which the SRC ministers. Mr. Jok asked the Moderator to prompt the congregations of the OPC to pray for the SRC. Mr. Clawson prayed for our brothers.

Returning to the consideration of Complaint 2, commissioners raised questions to those representing the complainant and the presbytery. The advisory committee then brought its recommendation: “That General Assembly deny Complaint 2 on appeal. Grounds: 1. A presbytery is free to seek the wisdom and counsel of others, particularly in areas where it recognizes its need. 2. The complaint confuses and conflates non-ecclesiastical entities with civil authorities/magistrates. Presbytery did not seek enforcement or protection by the civil authorities, but assistance in its own inquiry. 3. Seeking the wisdom and counsel of others, even extensively, did not constitute a surrender of the power of inquiry properly belonging to the presbytery and which they explicitly retained.” There was a minority report of the advisory committee recommending that the Assembly sustain the complaint.

The Assembly recessed at 5:35 p.m. and will return to business Monday morning after a day of worship, fellowship, and rest on the Lord’s Day. Rev. Jonathan Cruse (Community Presbyterian Church, Kalamazoo, MI) offered a prayer of thanksgiving.

Sunday, June 23, 2024

On the Lord’s Day, commissioners enjoyed rest from the business of the Assembly by worshipping with nearby congregations of the OPC, followed by fellowship lunches. At 6:30 p.m. members of the Assembly gathered again on the campus of Seattle Pacific University for an evening worship service led by members of the Presbytery of the Northwest Rev. Daniel Dillard (Grace Reformed, Bend, OR) and Rev. Robert Van Kooten (Sovereign Grace OPC, Oak Harbor, WA) who preached from 2 Kings 13:10-25, “A Dead Prophet and a Living Word.”

Monday, June 24, 2024

The Moderator called the Assembly to order at 8:30 a.m. and read from Romans 11:33-36. The Assembly sang #121A, “I Lift My Eyes Up to the Hills” from the Trinity Psalter Hymnal and Mr. Peppo prayed.

Mr. Bube introduced Rev. Kevin Backus, the fraternal delegate from the Bible Presbyterian Church, who has attended many OPC General Assemblies. He is accompanied this year by BPC pastor, Rev. Tito Lyro. Notable goings on in the BPC include the removal of the non-binding 1903 Declaratory Statement, amending the Book of Discipline to distinguish between private and public offenses, as well as the adoption of a resolution on Gender Dysphoria and Transgenderism. Mr. Backus asked for prayer for their church plants in Myanmar. The BPC is thankful for its Western Reformed Seminary just down the road from this meeting of the Assembly. Though the BPC and OPC separated in the early days after the church’s formation in 1936, our reunion through fraternal relations some 30 years ago brings great joy to the BPC. The OPC remains its closest sister church. He encouraged the OPC to keep going, studying issues for itself, in the face of the worldly patterns around us. Mr. Nakhla prayed for the BPC.

The Moderator then presented proposals to streamline our deliberations to help the Assembly finish its business by the close of the meeting on Tuesday night. They were moved and adopted.

The order of the day to take up remaining overtures came before the Assembly.

Overture 1 is a request for the General Assembly to amend the name of the Presbytery of New Jersey to the Presbytery of New Jersey and Puerto Rico effective September 28, 2024. There are now three churches in Puerto Rico, and the character of the presbytery has significantly been shaped by those relationships. This change would help solidify those connections and the witness of the presbytery. The advisory committee was silent. The overture was approved by the Assembly without audible dissent and to applause by the body.

Overture 2 is a request from a presbytery for the General Assembly’s advice regarding when and if those with serious sin and/or criminal history might be considered to serve in ordained office in the church. This includes such grievous sins as murder, sexual assault, and offenses requiring a man to register as a sex offender. The advisory committee made two recommendations. The first was: “That the General Assembly adopt the following statement: ‘In light of the transformative and renewing power of the gospel (e.g., 1 Corinthians 6:9–11, Ephesians 2:1–10, Titus 3:3–7), and in consideration of the biblical examples of Moses, David, and the Apostle Paul, we affirm that those with a criminal past can serve faithfully in ordained office in Christ’s church. However, there are some crimes and some contexts in which ordination should not be pursued, due to the scandalous nature of some sins, and the necessity for ordained officers to be exemplary in character, above reproach, and well thought of even by unbelievers. This decision must ultimately be left to the wisdom of local sessions and/or presbyteries, who ought to ask the Lord of the harvest to provide men fitting to rule His church.’”

The advisory committee made a second recommendation, amended by the body, and in summary form: To elect a study committee of three ministers and two ruling elders appointed by the Moderator to study the matter, to offer recommendations to the presbytery, and to report back to the 91st General Assembly. It was approved. Rev. Todd Smith (Faith Bible Church OPC, Brick, NJ) prayed for the matters contained in the overtures.

The Assembly returned to consider Complaint 2. The Assembly denied the complaint.

Complaint 3 came before the Assembly. It involves the same parties as Complaints 1 and 2. In brief it is an appeal of a complaint by a session against the action of its presbytery for entering into a specific contract with a specific outside organization through its committee acting effectively as a commission. The complainant alleges that the presbytery thereby abused its discretion with regard to timing; contradicted what the committee/commission was authorized to do; and failed to respect the liberties (Form of Government XIV.5) and preserve the rights (Book of Discipline I.2) of the session.

Rev. Andrew Miller (member of the Committee on Appeals and Complaints) presented for the committee guiding the Assembly through the standing and orderliness of the matters being presented to the body.

The Moderator declared the body in recess at 10:00 a.m.

At 10:20 a.m. the body reconvened, singing #446, "Be Thou My Vision." Rev. Francis VanDelden (New Hope OPC, Frederick, MD) sought God’s help in prayer for the Assembly’s work.

Mr. Bube introduced fraternal delegate Rev. Kurt Vetterli from the Evangelical Reformed Church Westminster Confession. This is his ninth visit to an OPC General Assembly. The church ministers in Austria, Switzerland, and Germany. The ERKWB, abbreviated according to its German name, enjoys warm relations with the OPC and has received our delegates in recent memory. A new church in Munich brings great encouragement. Mr. Vetterli is especially heartened by the presence of Mr. Curto, now residing in Europe, assisting in Rankweil, Austria; St. Galen and Basel, Switzerland. Mr. Vetterli spoke words of blessing and encouragement to the body to keep giving our special witness in the U.S. Mr. Curto prayed for the brothers.

The Assembly returned to Complaint 3. Representatives of the complainant and the presbytery made their presentations and answered questions from the floor. The advisory committee recommended that the complaint of a session against its presbytery not be sustained. The Assembly debated the matter.

Complaint 3 was sustained.

The Assembly next turned to the morning devotional at 11:40 a.m. The commissioners sang #67B, “O God, Show Mercy to Us,” after which Mr. Allison preached from 2 Corinthians 10:1-6. He directed the commissioners to consider that final battle and deliverance leading to our heavenly joy. This comes about by God’s means. But now around us we see carnal weapons used even to preach the gospel: the prosperity gospel, philosophical/expert arguments, eloquent falsehoods, entertainment in the church, and a trance-like appeal of the preacher’s personality. But what are God’s weapons?: The clear preaching of the word of God, telling it like it is; believing, earnest prayer; genuine compassion; a love for souls and a longing to see them as the Lord’s; the serious study of God’s work, expounded for the church; a godly example. These are insufficient in the analysis of Mr. Worldly Wiseman. But the Lord uses them for the advancement of his kingdom. They are mighty for pulling down strongholds such as: ignorance of the Bible; prejudice against God’s creative power in favor of atheistic theories; philosophical captivity; and modernist biblical interpretation. But as Spurgeon said, the Bible is like a lion. It needs only to be let out of its cage against such strongholds and attacks. We need God’s converting power to take us from rebels to surrendered captives to King Jesus, reconciled to God.

The Moderator declared the body in recess for lunch.

Monday Afternoon

Following lunch, the Assembly reconvened at 1:15 p.m. singing #417, “Jesus Shall Reign Where’er the Sun.” Mr. Van Kooten prayed.

Mr. Bube introduced Rev. Malan van Rhyn fraternal delegate from the Reformed Churches in South Africa to tell the Assembly what the Lord is doing in its midst. He read Revelation 1:7 and affirmed that the Lord reigns over his church in South Africa: “We expect the Lord.” The RCSA (also known as the GKSA) has had just one seminary, the Theological School Potchefstroom. A recent decision allows faculty appointed by a university, and so opens the instruction of the church’s theological students to those who are not Reformed professors. This posed a problem for the church, and the RCSA Synod has taken steps to set up a new school, the Reformed Theological Academy. Mr. van Rhyn thanked the OPC for its love gift to the RCSA for the support of its retired pastors. Rev. Brian Wingard (Presbytery of Wisconsin and Minnesota) prayed for the RCSA.

Since Complaint 3 was sustained, the Assembly has next to consider the amends sought by the complainant. The advisory committee recommended the following amends: “That the presbytery take all appropriate steps to restore the good names of the church and its officers.” The Assembly referred the amends back to its advisory committee to confer with all parties to see if they are agreeable.

The Assembly next considered Complaint 6 as it involves the same parties as Complaints 1-3. In Complaint 6 the session charges its presbytery with error in failing to dismiss charges against the session’s pastor which were filed more than two years after commission of the alleged offense, despite wholly inadequate evidence of “unavoidable impediments” to earlier filing of said charges (Book of Discipline III, 2). In other words, at the heart of this complaint is the two-year limit on filing charges.

The Assembly heard presentations from the complainant and the presbytery, followed by questions from the floor.

The advisory committee recommended that the Assembly deny Complaint 6. Its grounds were: 1. The complaint demands more of the presbytery in its evaluation of the evidence than Book of Discipline III, 2 requires. The complaint insists on, “an affirmative finding”; BD III, 2 provides, “unless it appears that unavoidable impediments have prevented” earlier filing. 2. The advisory committee received and reviewed the report of the presbytery’s preliminary investigation committee that described in considerable detail the circumstances that prevented an earlier filing of the charges. The advisory committee also reviewed the minutes of the presbytery meeting at which, after a lengthy debate, the presbytery determined that there were unavoidable impediments that prevented the earlier filing of charges. The advisory committee therefore believes the claim of the complaint that there was “no evidence beyond mere undocumented assertions by the accusers” to be unjustified.

The Assembly debated the matter.

The Moderator declared the Assembly in recess for the afternoon break at 3:15 p.m.

The Assembly reconvened at 3:35 p.m. singing #341, “Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed.” Rev. Phil Proctor (Sterling OPC, Sterling, VA) prayed for clarity and for God’s grace that we might do what is right.

Mr. Bube introduced the final fraternal delegate, Rev. Jack Schoeman from the Free Reformed Churches of North America. He extended warm greetings from the FRCNA which stretch across Canada, mostly in Ontario, as well as in the U.S. They are the sister churches of the Christian Reformed Churches of the Netherlands—or the CGK—as well as the Heritage Reformed Church, whose seminary the federation uses. The FRCNA are withdrawing from a mission work in Guatemala and directing efforts instead toward Thailand. Mr. Tarullo prayed for the FRCNA.

The Assembly denied Complaint 6 in the following language: “That the General Assembly deny Complaint 6 on appeal without prejudice as to whether the two-year limit (BD III, 2) may be raised upon future judicial appeal.”

The Assembly next considered amends related to the one specification of error that was sustained by the Assembly in the judicial complaint. The advisory committee recommended that the Assembly remit the case to the session with the instruction that it vacate its judgment against the member and hold a new trial after a verdict is reached in the civil case concerning his actions on a specified date. The Assembly approved the amends. Mr. Winslow prayed for the matters related to the judicial appeal.

Complaint 4 next came before the Assembly. This is an appeal of a complaint by a member against his session regarding its position paper entitled “Can a Woman Teach a Mixed Sunday School Class?” that was sent to the congregation. This study paper set forth the session’s view on women, as part of the general office of believer, being biblically permitted to teach a mixed class of adult men and women in settings outside of divine worship (like Sunday School and other Christian educational opportunities). The paper sees prohibitions in 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Timothy 2 relating to authoritative office.

The complainant and representatives of the session presented their positions and entertained questions from the floor. The complainant drew distinctions between peer teaching in a one-on-one context as opposed to authoritative teacher-group teaching.

The order of the day arrived, and Rev. Andrew Canavan (Corona OPC, Corona, CA) prayed for the Lord’s blessing over the meal and time of fellowship. The Moderator declared the Assembly in recess for dinner at 5:15 p.m.

Monday Evening

At 6:45 p.m., following dinner, the Assembly was once again called to order singing #452, “Rock of Ages, Cleft For Me.” Mr. Simmons prayed for the deliberations of the Assembly.

The order of the day arose to hear the reports of the Temporary Committee to Examine Presbyterial Records and the Temporary Committee to Examine Standing Committee Records. Their recommendations were adopted, including: “That the General Assembly send the following communication to the clerks of the presbyteries and recommend that they send the same to the clerks of session within their bounds: every minister and a commissioned ruling elder from every session of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church has the duty and obligation to attend all stated meetings of their presbytery. This duty is implied in Form of Government XIV, 3, ‘Meetings of the presbytery shall be composed, insofar as possible, of all the ministers on the roll and one ruling elder from each congregation commissioned by the respective sessions.’ When officers are unable to fulfill this obligation, it is proper respect out of duty and Christian courtesy to request the presbytery to provide an excuse for their absence.” Elder John Terpstra (Austin, TX) prayed, asking for God’s blessing on the continued integrity and accuracy of our record-keeping so that the wondrous works of the Lord would be preserved for future generations.

The Assembly returned to the matter of Complaint 4. The advisory committee did not recommend that the General Assembly sustain the complaint on the following grounds: “The complaint did not convince a majority of the committee that [the session] is not entitled to hold its exegetical conclusions on this matter.”

The Assembly sustained Complaint 4.

The following amends were approved: “1. That the session retract this position paper. 2. That the session commit to allowing only men to teach mixed adult Bible studies or Sunday School classes that involve teaching Scripture. 3. That the session notify the congregation of the above actions.”

Rev. Craig Troxel (Harvest OPC, San Marcos, CA) prayed for the matter and the parties involved.

After a 10-minute break the Moderator called the meeting to back order at 8:15 p.m., and the commissioners sang the Doxology. Rev. Jonathan Hutchison (Reformation OPC, Morgantown, WV) prayed for the Assembly.

The Assembly returned to the matter of deciding on amends for Complaint 3, one specification of which was sustained. The advisory committee made its recommendations. The Assembly adopted the following amends, in summary: That the presbytery acknowledge and record in its minutes its error in contracting with the outside organization to investigate and communicate this action to the session filing the complaint. That the presbytery refrain from using in any way the executive summary and recommendations generated by the outside organization (in fulfillment of the presbytery's contract) in relation to the allegations concerning the members of the session and take all appropriate steps to restore the good name of the members of the session. Rev. Michael Myers (Heritage OPC, Royton, GA) prayed for the parties involved in this series of complaints.

Complaint 5 next came before the body. In sum, this is an appeal of a complaint by a member against the actions of his session relating to the initiation of disciplinary proceedings against him. The member charges the session with error “for improperly initiating judicial proceedings against [him], carrying out the proceedings in a misleading manner, violating decorum due in judicial proceedings, and ... failing to follow the rules of the Book of Church Order,” as well as “piercing his headship as a husband,” and breaching his confidentiality.

The Committee on Appeals and Complaints presented its report noting that the session had understood the member to have come as his own accuser, but then halted formal proceedings and rescinded its judicial actions when the member raised objections. There is therefore a question regarding the extent to which the complaint is moot. The complaint focuses on alleged errors during the time the session initiated discipline.

Representatives of the complainant and the presbytery gave presentations and answered questions from the floor. The advisory committee recommended denying the complaint. The Assembly then debated the complaint.

Complaint 5 was denied by the Assembly.

Mr. Winslow prayed for the parties involved. At 9:42 p.m. Moderator Fesko declared the Assembly in recess until 8:30 a.m. tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

The commissioners of the Ninetieth General Assembly gathered on Tuesday, the final day of the Assembly, at 8:30 a.m. and sang #145D, “God, My King, Thy Might Confessing.” Rev. Charles Oliveira (Westchester OPC, Rochelle, NY) prayed for God’s blessing.

Elder Mark Stumpf (Mifflinburg, PA) presented information on the OPC Loan Fund.

Next the Assembly considered Complaint 7. In brief it is an appeal of a complaint by two members against the action of their session in adopting the position that it “should not admit into membership any who are unwilling to give the sign of covenant baptism to their children.” The complaint focuses on the categorical refusal to admit such rather than the right, in specific cases and for compound reasons, to refuse membership to those unwilling to present their children for baptism, which the complainants affirm. The complaint alleges that the session’s position is unbiblical, unconstitutional, and unwise.

The Committee on Appeals and Complaints noted: “A version of this question came before the Thirty-second General Assembly: Does the Constitution of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church permit church sessions to receive into communicant membership those who refuse to present their children for baptism? The Thirty-third General Assembly declared that the admission to membership of those who cannot in good conscience present their children for baptism is a matter for judgment by sessions. All things else being equal, a session may determine to receive or refuse into membership those who cannot in good conscience present their children for baptism. The position of the Thirty-third General Assembly has become something of a precedent in the OPC, though it should be noted that the Ninetieth General Assembly, as the highest judicatory of the OPC, is not bound by that precedent.”

One of the complainants as well as representatives of the session and presbytery—complaints against a session which appear on appeal before General Assembly have already been heard at the presbytery level—gave presentations and answered questions from the floor. The session acknowledged that its position is not absolutely rigid. The advisory committee recommended that the Assembly deny the complaint.

The Assembly debated the matter and denied Complaint 7.

The Moderator declared the body in recess at 10:00 a.m. for the morning break.

Upon reconvening at 10:20 a.m. the commissioners sang #433, “Amazing Grace!” and Mr. Long prayed.

Mr. Winslow offered prayer for the matters pertaining to Complaint 7.

The Assembly next considered Complaint 9. This complaint by a former OPC minister, now a member, charges his presbytery with error in its decision to consider divesting him of office without censure. The complaint does not concern the presbytery’s decision to divest but its decision to contemplate divestiture. The motion to consider divestiture came as a recommendation of the presbytery’s shepherding committee, on the grounds that the minister appeared to lack certain gifts requisite of a minister of the gospel. The committee had received a letter a month earlier signed by five members of the presbytery raising concerns regarding the gifts requisite of the man as a minister and requesting consideration of divestiture (Form of Government XXVI, 3.a). The heart of the complaint alleged that judicial matters, including settled formal discipline, as well as the administrative act of divestiture were mingled inappropriately.

The complainant and representatives of the presbytery made presentations and answered questions from the floor. The advisory committee unanimously recommended that the Assembly deny the complaint.

The Assembly debated the matter and denied Complaint 9.

Mr. Wright asked if the Moderator might impress upon the complainant to hear the counsel and judgment of his presbytery and, now, the General Assembly. Moderator Fesko did so, encouraging the complainant against bitterness, to see the hand of the sovereign Lord in hard providences, and to know that it is God’s love to him to conform him to his Savior.

Mr. Winslow prayed for the parties connected to Complaint 9.

The body next considered Complaint 8. This is an appeal of a complaint, originally filed by an elder on sabbatical, against the action of his session in approving to ask a ruling elder emeritus to resume voting in light of Form of Government XXVI, 7, which complaint was upheld on appeal to the presbytery. The session now complains against the presbytery for sustaining the complaint.

The body stood in recess for lunch at 12:00 p.m. Rev. Robert Arendale (Redeemer OPC, Beavercreek, OH) prayed for the commissioners’ fellowship over the break.

Tuesday Afternoon

Following the lunch break, the commissioners reconvened at 1:15 p.m. and sang #228, “Hast Thou Not Known, Hast Thou Not Heard.” Elder Luke Denny (Cincinnati, OH) prayed.

Rev. John Shaw (Grace OPC, Columbus, OH) presented a protest, to be filed with the stated clerk, against the actions of the General Assembly with respect to the approval of amends number two after Complaint 4 was sustained.

The Assembly returned to consider Complaint 8. Representatives of the session and the presbytery made their presentations and answered questions from the floor.

It is the original complaint filed against the session that is before this Assembly. Thus voting to sustain would be to affirm the sustaining vote of the presbytery, and voting to deny would be to overrule the judgment of the presbytery.

The advisory committee recommended that the complaint be sustained on the following grounds: “‘Performing, on occasion, the functions of that office’” Form of Government XXVI, 7 does not have in view a retired elder being returned to service on the session, by the session, as a voting member, unless by way of congregational vote (FG XXV, 2) and installation (FG XXV, 7). There were no ‘extraordinary circumstances’ (FG XXV, 1) that would have prevented the congregation from re-electing their emeritized elder and the session properly installing him. The advisory committee notes with thanksgiving that the [session] peaceably complied with the [presbytery’s] decision to sustain [the member’s] complaint, and the amends granted, even while filing this appeal.”

The Assembly debated and then sustained Complaint 8.

Mr. Winslow prayed for the parties involved in Complaint 8. The business from the Committee on Appeals and Complaints having concluded, Rev. Larry Westerveld (Trinity OPC, Hatboro, PA) prayed for the health of the church.

Next the Assembly heard the report of the Committee on Chaplains and Military Personnel. Elder Michael Cloy (Marion, NC) presented. This committee of the GA labors especially in credentialing chaplains for the OPC and several other Reformed churches. Those chaplains are sent out by the presbyteries as evangelists. The committee encourages the presbyteries not to let these men slip through the cracks of our life together. Mr. Arendale prayed for the committee.

The Special Committee to Help Equip Officers to Protect the Flock next presented its report to the Assembly. The committee assembled two handbooks in its mandate—“Protecting the Flock against Sexual Predation” and “Strategies for the Protection of the Flock against Domestic Violence”—as well as a sample child protection policy, a short guide to preparing to bring a charge in the OPC, a recommended safety checklist for sessions, as well as a table of citations from the Westminster Standards relevant to this subject.

The Moderator declared the Assembly in recess at 3:15 p.m. for the afternoon break.

The Moderator called the Assembly to order at 3:35 p.m. The commissioners and guests sang #447, “Christ, of All My Hopes the Ground” and Mr. Falk prayed.

Representatives of the Special Committee to Help Equip Officers to Protect the Flock answered questions from the floor.

With respect to the committee’s report, including the resources it produced, the Assembly approved the committee’s recommendation to communicate the report to the churches for study and edification. The committee was dissolved with thanks.

Mr. Arendale offered a prayer of thanksgiving for the work of the committee.

Rev. Stewart Lauer (Presbytery of Ohio) presented a response to the protest filed by Mr. Shaw regarding the second amends to the sustained Complaint 4.

Elder David Mahaffy (Oak Harbor, WA) presented the report of the Committee on Arrangements. At the suggestion of the advisory committee, the Assembly applauded in thanksgiving for the work of the Committee on Arrangements in serving the Assembly so well in Seattle, WA. The Assembly approved the recommendation: “That the 2025 (91st) General Assembly be held at Trinity Christian College, Palos Heights, Illinois, starting at 7:00 p.m. on June 4 and ending no later than noon on June 10.”

The field of nominees having been set by the Committee on Levity, Rev. Everett Henes (Hillsdale OPC, Hillsdale, MI) and Rev. Steve Igo (Cedar Presbyterian Church, Jenison, MI) topped the field for the coveted Jack-in-the-Box award, this year awarded by commissioner vote.

The Trustees’ proposed budget and askings were approved. Mr. Belfield prayed for the Trustees.

Rev. Christopher Malamisuro (Good Shepherd OPC, Cincinnati, OH) offered the resolution of thanks, which was approved by the body:

First Thessalonians 5:18 instructs believers to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (ESV). God willed good and pleasant circumstances for the participants of the 90th General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Beginning with sunny skies and mild temperatures, the commissioners, fraternal delegates, and all support staff settled in Seattle for seven days to do the will of God for the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The great amount of work that the commissioners accomplished would have been impossible were it not for the help and support from the following folks.

We’re grateful for the Committee on Arrangements without whom we would not have the orderliness that allowed our business. We’re thankful for them to find and secure Seattle Pacific University. They include Mssrs. David Mahaffy, Bob Tarullo, Alan Montgomery, John Muether, Jesse Montgomery, Joe Troutman, and Hank Bellfield (ex officio). We also give thanks for the Registrar, Linda Jones and those who assisted her.

Thank you for those who greeted us and shuttled us to the university from the airport: Lynn Hunter, Larry Sabine, Russ Parr, Kevin Donovan, Dwight Stein, Ying-Ju Chen, Arnold Fokkema, Dave McCormick, JoJo Cheng, Joe Ogden, Mike and Raisa Taverne, and Ron deRu. A thanks is in order to Seattle Pacific University for hosting us and serving us in many ways. We’re grateful for the food service, especially Titus Tapua who welcomed us regularly for our meals. We also thank the conference services provided. Especially we’d like to acknowledge and thank Chase Wilkerson and Katrina Hupp.

We thank the Lord for those who assisted the Committee on Arrangements by checking us into our rooms, driving us around, and were otherwise available to do what needed to be done, like changing the batteries in our microphones so that we could be heard. They include Noel Davis, Jennifer Troutman, Elizabeth Wallace, John Fesko, Mary Robbins, Andrew Davis, and Tyler Freire. Praise the Lord for our pages who were patient with a temperamental copier and who diligently passed out the latest information to keep us updated and informed. We thank Robert Fesko, Elizabeth Troutman, Sarah Wallace, Gloria Allison, and Anna Troutman.

We’re thankful for Emmanuel OPC who led our opening worship service as well as for Trinity (Bothell), Lynnwood, and Sovereign Grace (Oak Harbor), and Hope PCA who invited us to worship on the Lord’s Day providing us with beautiful hospitality, including a hearty meal.

Several have noted and we all agree that we love to sing together. Thank you for those who assisted us at the piano: Jeffrey Dronenburg, Alan Montgomery, Zach Simmons, John Shaw, and Jonathan Cruse. Also, we’re thankful for those who broke the Word of God for us regularly in devotion to nourish our souls and remind us of the One we serve, Mssrs. Jonathan Falk, Zach Simmons, Archie Allison, and John Mallin.

A special thanks goes to our Moderator John Fesko, for mathing when it wouldn’t always math, who kept us on track, exhorting us to the point, and moving us along through an extraordinary amount of complaints and appeals. Thank you for your able leadership through our business. A hearty thanks to our parliamentarian Archie Allison for getting us through our parliamentary procedures and quagmires.

Lastly, but mostly, the General Assembly wants to thank the Lord Jesus Christ, who is our great King and Savior. He is the Good Shepherd who leads his flock not only to still waters and green pastures but through the valley of the shadow of death. May He have mercy upon us and may our intentions be His. May our labors, in spite of our failings, be used to His glory and the advancement of His Church. “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! (1 Chronicles 16:34, ESV).

Regarding the matter of naming the newly created committee stemming from Overture 2, the Assembly approved the name, “The Special Committee on Criminal History and Officer Qualifications.”

At the close of the Assembly twenty other commissioners had joined Mr. Shaw’s protest.

The Assembly approved the final reading of the minutes by the assistant clerk.

The Assembly rose and was closed in prayer by the Moderator. The Assembly joined in singing the Doxology. Moderator Fesko declared the body dissolved at 5:25 p.m. to be convened at 7:00 p.m. on June 4, 2025 at Trinity Christian College, Palos Heights, Illinois.

This report was written by ruling elder Josh Downs, Redemption Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Gainesville, FL.


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