Will the OPC endorse a particular candidate for President of the United States? Have individual OP congregations endorsed particular candidates?
Greetings in Jesus Christ our Lord and only Savior.
You ask two related questions. The answer to the first is, no. The answer to the second is, I don’t think so. Congregations do not generally endorse particular candidates for public office. That’s not to say that one or more have not done so. I do not have any information on which to base an answer to the second question.
Regarding the first question, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church does not endorse candidates for public office and that for at least three reasons. In what follows, nothing is to be construed as in any way limiting the responsibility of Christians—pastors and congregants—to be good citizens, from supporting their choice of candidate, and from voting according to their conscience. The only application is to the Church as a body, speaking representatively through its leadership, session, presbytery, and general assembly.
Note also that this latter statement is not to be construed as limiting the judicatories of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church from responding to political issues, e.g., the OPC has taken a position regarding Abortion and Women in the Military. These issues, however, focus on ethics rather than politics. Speaking out on issues like these may be construed as the Church fulfilling its prophetic purpose.
Therefore, this response is directed narrowly to the specific question: Will the OPC endorse a particular candidate for President of the United States? The following attempts to explain why not.
First, the Church’s purpose suggests that she not be side-tracked into the political arena. Christ calls the church to proclaim the gospel to the entire world (Mark 14:9; Acts 1:8). The gospel proclaims that all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23), which leaves people dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1f). The only way that any person can have the enmity between himself and God removed is through the finished work of Christ on the cross (Ephesians 2:8-10; Romans 5:1f).
The church’s purpose or goal is realized in its practices. These practices are expressed in the liturgy of the church as she gathers together to worship. For example, God’s call to worship instructs the people of God to be hospitable and welcome all who come. This hospitality includes, but is not limited to, time in worship; it extends to individual homes.
The church’s confession instructs the congregation in another allegiance. We are not a nation under God. Rather we are a citizenship of heaven gathered together to glorify and enjoy the Triune God. Our confession of sin calls us to reconciliation and peace by confessing our own sins and seeking forgiveness for our wrongs. God’s kingdom, His politic is what is being gathered together for the practices of that kingdom. The state politic has none of this in mind.
Therefore, to endorse a candidate for president and all that would involve would be to take the church’s attention off of the kingdom of which it is a part and put it on a kingdom that is passing away. If you would like further comment on this thought, you can download five lectures by Bill Dyrness on “Worship” at http://www.theologynetwork.org. He points out in the fifth lecture that purpose or goal determines our practice.
Second, the authority to bind conscience is limited to the revealed Word of God. The Scripture calls all men to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Because God speaks in and through His Word, that Word is authoritative and people are conscience bound to submit to that Word. Granted, not all men do. However the Church, because it declares and proclaims God’s holy Word may command men to repent and believe. The authority is not ours; it is God’s speaking in and through His Word.
The ground on which the Church can rightly speak is on the clear declaration of the Bible. The Bible does not command us to vote for any particular candidate; therefore, the Church can not declare any candidate to be “God's choice” in an election.
However, in any case, the conscience could not be bound by God’s Word, because God’s Word is not about the kingdom of this world but the kingdom of God.
Third, the practice would lead to a disruption of the peace and unity of the church. It is unlikely that any particular church would agree to endorse a candidate for the office of president. To get an entire denomination to endorse a candidate is even further removed. Doing such would divide congregations and lead to church splits. Therefore, the peace and unity of the church would be disrupted, which is contrary to God’s holy Word. For a church to have divisions over that which the Bible teaches is regrettable enough, but at least the issue at stake is truth. However, to have the church divided over that which is not biblical is unconscionable.
I hope that this has helped somewhat. The same question will evoke various responses from other respondents. However, many years ago, the OPC faced the question of involvement in the political process. Some people left our fellowship over this issue, but the Church has always been clear: we have not been called to the political arena of this world; we have, however, been called to the political arena of God’s kingdom.
If I can be of any further assistance, please feel free to contact me.
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