Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America Synod Meeting – Day 1

Rev. Bruce Backensto of Beaver Falls, Penn., was elected moderator of the 183rd RPCNA Synod

Some of the work that the Synod has before us this week includes: (1) Majority and minority reports on multi-pastor churches as the Synod debates the role of terms such as “senior pastor” and “associate pastor.” (2) A proposal to realign the Presbyteries of the Midwest and Pacific requesting transfer of the congregations in Colorado and Wyoming into the Pacific Coast Presbytery (and then rename it). (3) A paper that came through the Presbytery of the Alleghenies on whether the taking of a collection during worship is an “act of worship” and a “means of grace.”

The 183rd Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA) is meeting at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion Indiana, June 24-27, 2013. Here is a report from Day 1.

What is the purpose of a retiring moderator’s sermon? Is it to bring critique of some aspect of the theology or practice of one’s denomination? Is it to criticize the “heart and holiness” of one’s denomination? These were some of the questions that Rev. David Long (Lafayette, IN), retiring moderator of the RPCNA Synod asked as he opened the Word of God at the beginning of the 183rd Synod of the RPCNA.

Retiring Moderator Long said that the retiring moderator’s sermon should include counsel and encouragement that effects everyone who is involved in ministry. Suffering was the theme he preached on and a theme that will open each of meetings throughout the week of this Synod.

Rev. Keith Magill (Elkhart, IN) was asked to read the Scriptures from Romans 8:18-39 and Rev. Long preached on the purpose of suffering in the life of the ministry.  The question, “Why does God allow suffering?” through the sermon.

Eight aspects of the purpose of suffering were brought forth:

  1. To draw people to saving faith in Jesus Christ.
  2. To draw believers closer to Christ.
  3. To judge and punish the wicked.
  4. To discipline believers in their wandering.
  5. To prepare us for trials that are to come.
  6. To sensitize us to the needs of others.
  7. To build a testimony to the world concerning believer’s handling of suffering.
  8. To prepare us for heaven: suffering causes longing to be with Christ.

Psalm 42 was sung from the Book of Psalms for Worship as the elders and pastors prepared for the work of Synod. The retiring moderator then constituted the court in the name of Jesus Christ, Zion’s only King and Head.

This was followed by a time of stumbling through the taking of the roll as some sessions brought forward their certification to the clerk. The clerk used this time to underscore the importance of having all of the elders and pastors certified before Synod as it is “the law and order of the church.”

A quorum was established and then first time delegates were introduced. This year there are fourteen first time delegates from various churches across the US and Canada. Some pastors, some elders – all committed to the work of building Christ’s Kingdom.

Three pages were introduced by President Dr. Jerry O’Neill of Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary (RPTS). The pages are Mark Brown (Pittsburgh, PA); Sam McCracken (State College, PA); and Joe Allyn (Shawnee, KS). Each of these men are “middlers” at RPTS and, Lord willing, will soon be eligible to receive calls to the pastoral ministry.

Fraternal delegates from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church were then introduced. Dr. Peter Wallace of the OPC and ARP Moderator, Rev. Jeff Kingswood will be serving alongside the RP brethren this week.

Following this lengthy time of introductions, election of officers for this Synod included the election of Rev. Bruce Backensto (Beaver Falls, PA) as the moderator of the 183rd Synod. Longstanding Clerk and Assistant Clerk, Revs. Bruce Martin (Ridgefield Park, NJ) and Raymond Morton (Hetherton, MI formerly Sparta, IL) were again elected to their respective posts.

This followed with three “memorials” for pastors who have gone to be with the Lord since the last Synod: Revs. Paul McCracken, Clark Copeland, and David Patterson.

The clerk then spent time describing the order of business for the week which will include reports on what God is doing through our agencies and institutions, deliberations over the matters at hand, and the administration of said work.

Some of the work that the Synod has before us this week includes:

  1. Majority and minority reports on multi-pastor churches as the Synod debates the role of terms such as “senior pastor” and “associate pastor.”
  2. A proposal to realign the Presbyteries of the Midwest and Pacific requesting transfer of the congregations in Colorado and Wyoming into the Pacific Coast Presbytery (and then rename it).
  3. A paper that came through the Presbytery of the Alleghenies on whether the taking of a collection during worship is an “act of worship” and a “means of grace.”

These three discussions/debates will take much wisdom to work through as the Synod also hears reports from each of the presbyteries, agencies, and institutions of the RPCNA.

It looks as though we have a full week of work ahead of us. We covet your prayers as we seek to be faithful to the Word of God and our confessional heritage as we sit in the courts of Christ’s Church. Brethren pray for us!

Nathan Eshelman is Pastor of the Los Angeles Reformed Presbyterian Church, clerk of the Pacific Coast Presbytery, Vice-President of the Board of Home Missions, member of the Board of Education and Publication, and a doctoral student at Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary. He is also a blogger at www.GentleReformation.com. He is married to Lydia and they have five children: Anna, Owen, Watson, Calvin, and Ruth.

To read another article on the RPCNA Synod, go here and here.



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