Orthodox Presbyterian Church 2014 General Assembly Report 5

The 81st General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is meeting at Kuyper College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, from June 4–10, 2014

An overture was brought to the assembly by the Presbytery of the Northwest (PNW) asking the assembly to establish a study committee to examine and give its advice as to whether and in which particular sense the concept of the Mosaic Covenant as a republication of the Adamic Covenant is consistent with the doctrinal system taught in the confessional standards of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. After much debate the overture was granted by a vote of 83–53.

 

Fraternal Address

The Rev. Casey Freswick, minister in the United Reformed Churches (URC) addressed the assembly and reported on several items that transpired during their Synod. Two things are of particular interest: 1.) The Synod appointed a missions coordinator, Richard Blout; and 2.) The Synod approved the Psalter section of the Psalter Hymnal, a combined effort with the OPC. The approval of the Psalter section of the Psalter Hymnal by this Assembly will come before it after the consideration of the overture from the PNW.

Overture from the Presbytery of the Northwest

An overture was brought to the assembly by the Presbytery of the Northwest (PNW) asking the assembly to establish a study committee to examine and give its advice as to whether and in which particular sense the concept of the Mosaic Covenant as a republication of the Adamic Covenant is consistent with the doctrinal system taught in the confessional standards of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

One of the representatives for the PNW, the Rev. Randy Bergquist, was granted 30 minutes to present the reasons for the overture, in which he outlined the history and context that lead them to bring the overture.

After the presentation by the representatives of the PNW, the advisory committee recommended that the overture be denied. A substitute motion was then made, namely, that the General Assembly grant the overture from the PNW. The assembly took quite a bit of time debating whether to substitute before running up against the order of the day, the morning break, at 10:15 a.m.

Fraternal Address

The Rev. Dr. Ligon Duncan, a minister in the PCA, addressed the assembly, expressing his appreciation for the OPC’s faithfulness regarding the inerrancy of Scripture and commitment to the Reformed faith. Dr. Duncan went on to report several issues that will be facing the PCA next week, including questions about the insider movement, as well as a number of overtures regarding child sexual abuse in evangelical churches.

Continuation of the Consideration of the Overture from the PNW

There was discussion regarding parliamentary procedure and it was determined that the question on the floor was, “Shall we grant the overture from the PNW?”

A substitute motion was then made to request the assembly’s Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations (CEIR) to recommend to the 40th (2014) meeting of the National Association of Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC) that NAPARC call a conference on the confessional implications of republication, to which member churches are invited to send speakers, and authorize the CEIR to accept, on behalf of the OPC, the designation as the member church responsible to convene such conference.

After lengthy debate, a motion was made to postpone definitely the consideration of the substitute until the question of a visitation committee to the PNW was decided. This motion was passed by the assembly.

The advisory committee then brought a recommendation to the assembly that the assembly erect a committee of three presbyters, to be appointed by the moderator, to meet as soon as possible with the PNW and concerned parties within it to assist the presbytery in dealing with matters that divide it and to promote reconciliation.

Continued Consideration of the Overture from the PNW

The assembly took up the recommendation of the advisory committee to form a visitation committee. A substitute motion was then made to better reflect the urgency of the request and also require that the visit from committee wait until the PNW has officially asked for help. This motion was amended to reflect a different composition of the committee (three ministers and/or ruling elders). It passed. The substitute motion was then passed by the assembly. It then became the main motion before the assembly. This motion was then amended to reflect that the visitation committee should be tasked to assist the already existing republication committee in the presbytery. This amendment was defeated.

Following these various substitutions and amendments, the assembly approved the formation of a visitation committee.

With this question decided the assembly took up the consideration of the referral of the substitute motion regarding a NAPARC committee to the Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations. The motion to refer failed.

The assembly then took up the debate regarding the substitute motion, which was to request CEIR to recommend to the 40th (2014) meeting of NAPARC that NAPARC call a conference on the confessional implications of republication.

There was a motion to table this substitute. The motion to table the substitute passed.

Since the motion to table passed, the assembly took up the consideration of the overture of the PNW to form a study committee on republication.

A motion was then made that the overture be referred to the newly formed visitation committee and that this visitation committee report back to the 82nd General Assembly.

After considerable debate, the motion to refer the overture of the PNW to the visitation committee failed.

The overture was once again before the assembly. In review, the overture requests that the GA establish a study committee to examine and give its advice as to whether and in which particular senses the concept of the Mosaic Covenant as a republication of the Adamic Covenant is consistent with the doctrinal system taught in the confessional standards of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. After much debate, and a call for division, the overture was granted by a vote of 83–53.

Continued Report on the Committee for Chrisitan Education

General secretary Danny Olinger made introductory remarks about the work of the Psalter-Hymnal Committee. Quoting from the minutes,

The Seventy-third (2006) General Assembly authorized CCE to seek to develop a Psalter-Hymnal, which includes musical settings of all 150 Psalms, in their entirety.

Rev. Alan Strange, chairman of the Psalter-Hymnal Special Committee, reviewed various aspects of the work of the committee that lead them to recommend the body of Psalter selections, covering the entirety of the Psalms, that are being presented to the assembly.

After a period of questions, the committee’s recommendation, “that the 81st General Assembly approve the metrical psalms, psalm paraphrases, and psalm partials for the proposed psalter-hymnal as a package,” was approved by the assembly.

A first round of elections was held and the following men were elected to the subcommittee on ministerial training (and therefore CCE). The Revs. Craig Troxel and David VanDrunen.

A second round of elections was held and the following men were elected: the Rev. Greg Reynolds, and elders Wallace King and Timothy Jackson.

Introduction of JoAnn Vandenberg

Mr. Olinger introduced Mrs. JoAnn Vandenberg with the following words:

We have with us this evening a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church from its beginning in 1936. A covenant child at Lark Orthodox Presbyterian Church, she attended with her parents the last sermon delivered by the Rev. Dr. J. Gresham Machen at Leith Orthodox Presbyterian Church on the Lord’s Day of December 27, 1936. As an adult member of Lark Church, and then as a member of Bethel Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Carson, North Dakota, she opened her home to presbyters of the Presbytery of the Dakotas for decades, the men welcomed to sleep on one of the eight extra beds for them in the basement. Now here in Grand Rapids and a member of Harvest Orthodox Presbyterian Church, her service to the church continues.

The assembly showed its love and appreciation for the faithfulness of Mrs. Vandenberg with a standing ovation.

The Rev. Donald Duff then prayed and thanked the Lord for the women in the OPC who have served in such important ways, particularly noting the ways in Mrs. Vandenberg has served the church over the years.

Elections for the Committee on Appeals and Complaints

The assembly took up the consideration of men to serve on the Committee on Appeals and Complaints (CAC). The Rev. Scott Willet, pastor of Redeemer OPC in Atlanta, GA, was elected to the class of 2017.

An alternate is also chosen, yearly, to serve on the CAC. A number of men were nominated. Rev. Stuart Jones, ministerial member of the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic, was elected.

Report of the Temporary Committee to Examine Presbytery Records

Every year a committee is chosen to review the records of the presbyteries in the OPC. The committee examines presbytery records in accordance with the assembly’s Rules for Examining Presbyterial Minutes. This committee made a number of recommendations, all which were approved by the assembly.

Report of the Temporary Committee to Examine Standing Committee Records

Every year, this committee conducts an examination of the minutes of each standing committee (whose reports have been brought in this journal) in accordance with the assembly’s Rules for Examining Standing Committee Records.

The committee made a number of recommendations, all of which were approved by the assembly.

Election of the Study Committee for the Issue of Republication

The study committee will consist of five men. Sixteen men were nominated. The following men were elected: the Revs. Craig Troxel, Chad Van Dixhoorn, Bryan Estelle, Benjamin Swinburnson and Lane Tipton.

The Report of the Committee on Chaplains and Military Personnel

The Rev. Robert Needham, chairman of the committee, introduced the work of the committee by reading from Acts 10:1–16, noting that Peter was sent first to a Roman military officer to spread the gospel.

The Committee on Chaplains and Military Personnel (CCMP) represents the GA on the Presbyterian and Reformed Commission on Chaplains and Military Personnel (PRCC), informs the GA on policies, decisions and actions of the PRCC, informs the GA on other OPC chaplain ministries such as hospitals and prisons, and where appropriate, brings recommendations. The CCMP also informs OPC chaplains on decisions which affect them, and maintains a current roster of OPC active duty, reserve, retired and other chaplains.

As of January 1, 2014, the PRCC endorsed twelve Orthodox Presbyterian chaplains serving on active duty, six serving in the Reserves or National Guard, three serving as full-time paid civilian chaplains, and seven unendorsed civilian chaplains along with two military chaplain candidates.

Mr. Needham commented on the challenge to praying in Jesus’ name, and noted that it has waned. The most significant challenge more recently has centered around the issue of same-sex marriage as it relates to the service of our chaplains. The PRCC is providing guidance and counsel to these chaplains as to how to best handle such situations.

The Rev. Gordon Cook, chaplain of the Mid-Coast Hospital in Brunswick, Maine and pastor of Merrymeeting Bay OPC, addressed the assembly about his work at Mid-Coast. He spoke of the ministry of hospital chaplains and the limits of their ministry.

The Rev. Ralph Rebandt, pastor of Oakland Hills Community Church (OPC) in Farmington Hills, Michigan, addressed the assembly and talked about chaplaincy in law enforcement and fire. Mr. Rebandt recounted about the various opportunities he has had to show the love of Christ in law enforcement both through his work as chaplain and through his local church.

The assembly voted to implement the proposal of the 80th GA to Standing Rule X.2.j., which states, “The Committee on Chaplains and Military personnel shall consist of six members, arranged in three classes of two members each.”

Finally, given the media attention surrounding the return of Sgt. Bowe Berkdahl, and in particular his relationship to the OPC, the following statement was placed in the minutes:

In the wise providence of our Sovereign Lord, we acknowledge thankfully, the 31 May release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl USA from Taliban captivity; and that he is in the custody of the United States Army.

Consequently, for those who ask how to pray, we suggest the following, or similar, petitions:

  • For grace to resist the temptation to rush to judgment, in the absence of sufficient information
  • Thanks to God for the release of Bowe
  • For Bowe’s recovery from any and all ill effects arising from his captivity, with healing as well for his family members
  • That truth will triumph and justice will be done
  • That, in the months to come, it might please our Lord Jesus to use the events of the past five years to draw Bowe and his family increasingly closer to Himself and give them His peace

Elections were held for the committee. The following men were elected: The Rev. Robert Needham (class of 2015); elder Robert Coie (class of 2016); elders Mark Rogers and Michael Jennings (class of 2017).

Resolution of Appreciation For Paul S. MacDonald

The following resolution of appreciation was entered into the minutes for Mr. Paul S. MacDonald, long-time member of the Committee on Christian Education:

Whereas Mr. Paul S. MacDonald has served faithfully on the Committee on Christian Education for forty-two years (1972–2014), and

Whereas Mr. MacDonald has served faithfully on the Board of Trustees for Great Commission Publications for thirty-three years (1980–2014), the longest continuous service in the history of the joint venture,

Resolved, that this Eighty-first General Assembly go on record as offering our thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God for the gift of Mr. Paul S. MacDonald, who with humble dedication and extraordinary service to the Committee on Christian Education and Great Commission Publications and to the entire Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and to Jesus Christ, the only Head of the Church, who in his sovereignty has employed his servant for the good of his kingdom.

Final Report for the Committee on Arrangement

The Commitee on Arrangements recommended several items regarding reimbursement of travel expenses and excused absence for the assembly. The assembly approved all of them.

The committee on Arrangement then moved that the 82nd GA be held at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, from June 3–9, 2015.

The assembly also passed a motion to hold an assembly concurrent with the URC Synod at the earliest convenient date for both bodies.

The following men were elected to the Committee on Arrangements: elders Edward Tress and David Mahaffy, with elder Alan Montgomery as an alternate.

Communication to Miss Grace Mullen

Remembering the untiring work of Miss Grace Mullen and her ongoing battle with cancer, the assembly approved the following communication to Miss Mullen:

The 81st GA takes this opportunity to greet you, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and to assure you of our love and prayers. We thank God for your life and the many ways your gentle, quiet, and faithful service has enriched the life of our denomination. Your service in the Montgomery Library at Westminster Seminary has led to the establishment of a denominational archives, in a facility named, to the glory of God, in your honor. Your loving, cheerful, and loyal friendship and service have prompted many in the OPC to esteem you highly in Christian love.

In the light of your declining health, we pray that you will find comfort in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ who gives eternal hope to the living and eternal life to the dying.

This report was written by the Rev. Daniel F. Patterson, pastor, Second Parish Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Portland, Maine.

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