Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America Synod Meeting: Report 3

The Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America Synod is meeting June 23-27, 2014 in Marion, Ind.

A recommendation to work toward a global alliance of Reformed Presbyterian Churches was also approved. This effort would seek to bring all of the RP bodies from around the world into greater fellowship and deliberation as we attempt to stand for the kingship of Christ in the midst of a rebellious world.

 

Wednesday morning opened with the preaching of the Word from Rev. Gordon Keddie (Southside Indianapolis, IN). Rev. Keddie spoke on Ezra 9, focusing on verse 8, “And now for a little space grace hath been showed from the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage.”

Rev. Keddie spoke of five aspects of Ezra’s prayer in this chapter. Ezra stated the problem. He accepted the consequences of the sins of the church. He acknowledged God’s mercy. He confronted particular sins. And he led the people in repentance, renewing their submission to God.

Synod was called to consider this “nail”—this secure hold on grace—and how even the smallest aspect of God’s presence is great and a cause for humility. “We have to warn ourselves and be concerned with our own pride—Christ humbled himself under the hand of God and in that humility is glory and exaltation.

Synod heard from many boards of the church and were blessed to hear of great doings of the Lord in our midst, but also called to be prayerful about a few difficulties in the life of the church.

We heard of the work of Crown and Covenant and give thanks for the wide influence of the book Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Dr. Rosaria Butterfield. The book has been translated into a number of languages including Korean and Portuguese. There is also a French translation in the making. Crown and Covenant’s sales of the Book of Psalms for Worship has increased and is selling widely as a renewed interest in Psalm singing has come upon many branches of the visible church.

A study committee on presbytery realignment was dismissed without much action other than the transferring of the Walton, NY congregation to another presbytery.

A study committee recommending a denomination-wide diaconal ministry was discussed. The report provided guidance about how to respond to crises that could affect the life of the denomination. A number of presbyters commended the idea and recalled times when the denomination had gathered around mercy needs, noting that it do so in the future as providence brings the need. However, it was the will of the court that another level of bureaucracy was not needed. Congregations were encouraged to extend mercy in their areas, but the report itself was “tabled” with thanks for the work of the committee.

A study committee on ruling elders at synod reported. It was noted that it is difficult to get ruling elders to attend synod and this committee studied the reasons behind this. A few mentioned that some ruling elders thought that the courts of the church were inefficient and others mentioned vacation time needed to attend. There was a plea for more ruling elders to attend. Rev. Bruce Backensto reminded the court that ruling elders are under vows to participate in the higher courts of the church. The committee will continue to study the issue and seek to get ruling elders to come to synod.

Dr. Ken Smith, President of Geneva College addressed the court concerning the work of Geneva College. He noted that as with many Christian schools in the United States there are a number of financial difficulties at Geneva. Dr. Smith also spoke of Geneva’s lawsuit against “Obama Care” and said that this summer the Supreme Court will be giving its ruling in that case.

Dr. Smith also spoke of the Geneva Chaplain, Rut Etheridge, and how he has been a great blessing to the college in his first year of service. He was given a mandate to “simplify chapel and preach the gospel” and he has done just that. The spiritual climate of Geneva has flourished under Chaplain Etheridge’s ministry.

Please be in prayer for Geneva College as it attempts to present a Christ-centered education that is committed to the confessional heritage of the Westminster Standards.

The most wonderful committee report of the day was the Judicial Committee: “We have no report, Mr. Moderator.” Please continue to pray for peace in the RPCNA, that the brothers will be faithful to our confessional heritage and committed to the reformed faith and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Pension Board Committee report asked for two years to investigate whether the RPCNA ought to continue with our current pension program. The IRS has redefined marriage to include homosexual marriage and the committee is studying whether synod is violating its commitment to biblical marriage by remaining in the current program. We live in a strange new world and one where the church is going to need to make hard decisions as faithful branches of the church remain faithful to Jesus Christ.

The evening meetings were filled with reports from fraternal delegates from the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Australia, the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Scotland, The Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the Presbyterian Church in America, and the United Reformed Churches. Each delegate spoke warmly of the relationship that they maintain with the RPCNA, with one delegate even saying that “the regulative principle has seen a revival” in his particular denomination.

A recommendation to work toward a global alliance of Reformed Presbyterian Churches was also approved. This effort would seek to bring all of the RP bodies from around the world into greater fellowship and deliberation as we attempt to stand for the kingship of Christ in the midst of a rebellious world. It is a great time to be Reformed Presbyterian. May the Lord bless our labors and give us opportunity to exhibit humility and present the gospel of our great king and head.

Nathan Eshelman is a minister in the Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America (RPCNA), and serves as pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles, Calif., and as clerk of the Pacific Coast Presbytery.