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Question and Answer

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.

About Q&A

"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.

The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.

At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those people who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)

The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.

While we will respond to every serious questioner, we are not bound to give a substantive answer to every question, should we deem the question to be beyond the scope of our purpose or our own ability to answer.

You will receive an answer by e-mail. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two (2) weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.

Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been edited—all personal references are removed, Scripture references or from some source may be added, and sometimes portions are expanded—to make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.

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