The court discussed an invitation from the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARP) to hold joint Synods at Bonclarken in 2015. The ARP said that for the sake of conscience, all worship services and singing would be acapella psalmody for the sake of the RPCNA. The court accepted this invitation and looks forward to deepening the relationship with the brothers in the ARP.
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 3.
“Comfort ye. Comfort ye my people.” Rev. Donald Piper (Seattle, WA) opened the meeting with a message from Isaiah 40:1. The focus of the sermon was to encourage the younger pastors in their comfort and counseling to those that are suffering in the church. Some of the applications included wise words concerning Job’s friends and their counsel. Rev. Piper noted that Job’s friends were good counselors for the seven days and seven nights in which they sat quietly with Job. The poor counsel began when they began to speak. Piper encouraged the court to “be with those who suffer.”
Few words. Words of Christ’s sovereignty and glory. Words from the Scripture should be enough in “being with” many who suffer. As a younger pastor, this writer took a lot to heart that Rev. Piper brought to the court. We need to take seriously the suffering of Christ’s people- young and old. Many of Rev. Piper’s illustrations from his own forty years of pastoral experience were valuable scenarios unto which we should meditate.
The court then took up a matter concerning the realigning of the presbyteries. This was a paper from a study committee that was formed last year at the request of the Home Mission Board asking the question whether the current presbytery boundaries are most strategic for church planting in the RPCNA.
The study committee brought a recommendation that the Pacific Coast Presbytery and the Wyoming and Colorado churches be merged into a new presbytery at the close of the Synod meeting. The will of the court was that this was too soon and the paper was sent back to the study committee for further discussion and deliberation. The general sense of the court was that this is a good idea, in theory, but there are real issues that need to be worked out between the two affected presbyteries before the move could be made. The committee is to report again in 2014. During the day there were meetings of the committee as well as a dinner “date” between the Midwest and Pacific Coast Presbyteries to air concerns as well as to get a sense of the way ahead.
The next report was from another study committee on the current structure of “multi-pastor churches.” There was a majority report and a minority report. The minority report rejected the term “senior pastor” due to language that may be interpreted as hierarchical. After much deliberation, the majority report was tabled and the minority report was sent back to the committee for more work. They will report back on Thursday concerning the reworked paper.
The evening did not see anything sent back to the committees from which they came. The Inter-Church Committee gave its report and then ministers from denominations in fraternal relationship with the RPCNA were given opportunity to speak of Christ’s work in their branches of the church. The court heard from delegates from the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland, Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland, the Heritage Reformed Congregations, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), the United Reformed Church, and the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARP).
Hearing from other denominations is a highlight of the Synod as relationships with other brethren is important to the RPCNA. The court discussed an invitation from the ARP to hold joint Synods at Bonclarken in 2015. The ARP said that for the sake of conscience, all worship services and singing would be acapella psalmody for the sake of the RPCNA. The court accepted this invitation and looks forward to deepening the relationship with the brothers in the ARP. We look forward to southern hospitality.
Rev. Phil Pockras (Belle Center, OH) noted that since the Associate Reformed Church merged with the RPCNA in 1969, that there are really two versions of the Associate Reformed Church. Rev. Paul Brace (Hazleton, PA) affirmed this before the court multiple times in the past couple of days. Lord willing, this will strengthen the relationship of these two bodies which parted ways over 200 years ago.
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.