The Gender Identity Study Committee presented a written report to the delegates, The Historical Positions of the Bible Presbyterian Church General Synod on Gender Identity and moved to amend the final sentence of Form of Government 1:7 to read, “The Bible Presbyterian Church believes that marriage is limited to a covenant relationship between one biological man and one biological woman, that gender is biologically determined, and that there are only two human genders: male and female. We deny that gender is a fluid self-expression.” This amendment passed unanimously, and was referred to the presbyteries for approval.
In the midst of pleasant mid-summer weather in the Great Lakes region, delegates to the 85th General Synod of the Bible Presbyterian Church (BPC) convened in Grand Island, New York, on August 4-8, 2022, on the campus of the BPC of Grand Island, pastored by Dr. Kevin Backus. Taking a cue from Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever,” the Synod docket reflected messages and fellowship that encouraged a thoughtful look at the past, present, and future of the denomination’s identity and mission. Characteristically enthusiastic worship marked the various services that were interspersed throughout the Synod’s business sessions. As is typical of Bible Presbyterian Synods and presbytery meetings, many of the delegates’ families were also in attendance, adding to the retreat feel the body often enjoys at its gatherings.
The delegates unanimously elected Rev. Jason Hutchinson, pastor of Grace BPC in Sharonville, Ohio, to the office of Moderator. Pastor Hutchinson ably led the Synod through its usual items of business with a warm, dignified approach that kept the docket moving forward on schedule. We were pleased to welcome Mr. Mark Bube from the OPC, who addressed us warmly and made the most of the fellowship during the time that he was present. Of note among the committee reports this year were those of three special study committees that had been appointed by 84th General Synod, namely, the Book of Discipline Study Committee, the Declaratory Statement Study Committee, and the Gender Identity Study Committee.
The Book of Discipline Study Committee’s object is to examine the Book of Discipline and possibly recommend changes related to simplifying procedures and potential deficiencies where the BoD is silent or minimal in some areas of process. The committee reported that the initial work of identifying areas to work on was completed, and assignments had been delegated to various committee members. A report will be given at next year’s Synod, D.V., regarding the progress of this extremely important work.
The Declaratory Statement Study Committee was formed in response to an overture at last year’s Synod to consider removing or editing the Declaratory Statement which has been included in the BPC’s constitutional documents for many years. The committee found that the Declaratory Statement, while it is of historical significance to understand the context and views of the men God used to establish the Bible Presbyterian Church, is not a part of the Westminster Confession of Faith, nor of the other parts which they adopted as the Constitution. The historic circumstances in which it was written and which it was intended to address have changed significantly. The committee recommended, therefore, for the sake of clarity, that the Declaratory Statement not be printed in future publications of the Constitution of Bible Presbyterian Church, be it in print or any other media, including the denominational website. The Synod adopted the recommendation. Provision was made in a subsequent vote to archive it among resolutions of the first General Synod.
Finally, the Gender Identity Study Committee presented a written report to the delegates, The Historical Positions of the Bible Presbyterian Church General Synod on Gender Identity and moved to amend the final sentence of Form of Government 1:7 to read, “The Bible Presbyterian Church believes that marriage is limited to a covenant relationship between one biological man and one biological woman, that gender is biologically determined, and that there are only two human genders: male and female. We deny that gender is a fluid self-expression.” This amendment passed unanimously, and was referred to the presbyteries for approval.
Resolutions are features of BP Synods that are somewhat unique in the Reformed world. These statements reflect the position of each individual Synod and are not binding on subsequent Synods, yet they serve a good purpose in providing a vehicle for addressing issues of the day. Among the resolutions passed this year were two of particular note. The first expresses praise and gratitude for the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and an encouragement to the states to continue the movement toward ridding our country of the scourge of abortion. A second, related, resolution gives pastoral counsel and encouragement to those in the Church who have had abortions in the past, affirming the forgiveness of Christ for them as they come in repentance and a warm welcome to them among the larger Body of Christ.
We rejoice in the joyful fellowship and oneness of mind that was evident throughout this Synod, and pray for the magnifying of the work accomplished among our churches and beyond. The General Synod will reconvene, God willing, in Greeneville, Tennessee, at Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church, pastored by Rev. Carel Van Der Merwe, on August 3-7, 2023. More information regarding the Bible Presbyterian Church can be found at www.bpc.org. All glory be to God.
Leonard W. Pine is Pastor of Providence Bible Presbyterian Church in Bonners Ferry, Idaho