What We Believe

January 06, 2003 Q & A

Presbyterian Church in America


What distinguishes the OPC from the PCA? More specifically, are there differences in ordination requirements?


The OPC and PCA have fraternal relations. The OPC separated from the northern Presbyterian church in 1936 because of theological liberalism. The PCA separated from the southern Presbyterian church in 1973 because of theological liberalism.

The OPC and PCA share the same doctrinal standards (the Westminster Confession of Faith and Larger and Shorter Catechisms). The OPC tends to be more conservative than the PCA, holding to a more "strict subscriptionist" position relative to the Confession and Catechisms. It also tends to be more conservative in its worship.

Ordination requirements in both the OPC and PCA are very similar. OPC ministers have no difficulty transferring into the PCA, and PCA ministers have no difficulty transferring into the OPC.

As stated earlier, doctrinally we have the same secondary standards - the Confession of Faith and Larger and Shorter Catechisms produced by the Westminster Assembly (1643+). The Bible is our primary (first) standard. This is a confession of the Reformed faith, the faith that grew out of the Protestant Reformation. We both also have tertiary (third-level) standards—a form of government, a book of discipline, and a directory for worship.

There is some difference in how this works out in the life of the church. The OPC is predominantly unified in the way in which the Reformed faith is living in the church. There are differences of emphasis, of worship style, of programs. For example, the OPC cherishes full discussion of problems that arise in the judicatories in order to promote unity, which is why we limit our General Assembly to 150 commissioners so that there can be full and open debate.

Both churches seem to be strict in some areas and not so much so in others; the OPC is strict in things like tendencies toward Arminianism and charismatic gifts but not on the "young earth" idea (though the OPC does not allow for atheistic evolution). Also, the OPC seems to place more emphasis on unity, the PCA on diversity (gracious Southerners!). The major focus of the OPC, even in its evangelism, is the worship of the Lord and the preaching of his Word.

In foreign missions there seems to be a difference in that the OPC is committed to working with the indigenous Reformed churches in the fields in which we are involved, rather than working with parachurch groups. Our goal is to establish and strengthen Reformed churches.

The OPC has always been committed to the unity of Christ's church and its interdependence. This commitment has brought us into membership in the International Conference of Reformed Churches, a fellowship of 21 Reformed churches from around the world. It is a fellowship that recognizes not only interdependency but also interresponsibility for the health and faithfulness of one another, considerably different from the World Fellowship of Reformed Churches which the PCA had a large hand in starting. You will find more details on our ecumenical principles on our Web site, especially in our document, "Biblical Principles of the Unity of the Church." I should commend that to you as a biblical statement.



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