ARP Synod Nearly Dissolves a Presbytery – By Daniel Wells

Of the many controversial items before the 2012 ARP General Synod, one which was certainly controversial and would be a rarity in the ARP’s history was the recommendation by the Executive Board of the Synod to dissolve Pacific Presbytery.

The reasons behind this recommendation go back several years. The Synod has been frustrated with Pacific Presbytery’s lack of involvement with the ARP in not sending representatives to Synod, giving little financial support to the work of the ARP, failing to submit annual reports, etc. In addition, many churches in Pacific Presbytery, which are within the geographic boundaries of Northeast Presbytery, have not followed Synod’s directive to transfer from Pacific Presbytery to Northeast Presbytery. When these churches were urged to transfer to Northeast Presbytery, Pacific Presbytery threatened litigation.

As a result, in the New York City area there are ARP churches from more than one presbytery, and this has caused confusion as to who are “the real ARPs” in the area. When Pacific Presbytery was formed by the Synod fifteen years ago, it was told to make appropriate presbytery transfers within two years. Thus, the Synod has seen fifteen years of disobedience by several churches in a presbytery to handle.

In October 2011, the Eccleesiastical Commission met with Pacific Presbytery’s Moderator Daniel Lim and Clerk Suk Ho Jin. The purpose was to address two issues. First, as addressed by the 2011 Synod, the existence of the American Theological Seminary in New York City that was being advertised as a seminary of the ARP Church. Mr. Lim and Mr.s Jin were asked if ATS was independent of Pacific Presbytery or if it was affiliated with Pacific Presbytery’s own American Theological Seminary. Their response was that ATS in NYC was independent and not affiliated with Pacific Presbytery.

The second issue discussed was the presbytery ordaining men for ministry who already work within the bounds of other presbyteries, who may not meet the credentials and standards of the ARP Church’s Form of Government, and receiving churches into their presbytery within the geographical bounds of other presbyteries. This has greatly affected the Northeast Presbytery.

The response of Mr. Lim and Mr. Jin were very positive and it seemed that healing and unity were on the horizon. Recommendations were received at the October meeting to remind Pacific Presbytery that they are not to receive churches that exist within the boundaries of another ARP presbytery, they are not ordain ministers who are in the boundaries of any other ARP presbytery, they are only to ordain ministers in their own geographical boundaries, and they are to require these ministers to meet the same theological and educational requirements of other ARP ministers as stated in the Form of Government.

Mr. Lim and Mr. Jin were instructed that Pacific Presbytery should have begun this process by March 2012 or risk the dissolution of their presbytery.

A letter of response was sent to the Ecclesiastical Commission in January 2012, signed by certain members of Pacific Presbytery as a petition against the Synod’s position. Neither Mr. Lim nor Mr. Jin provided their signature to this petition. (It came out during debate on the 2012 Synod floor that these signatures “may have been forged,” but the present writer cannot confirm such an allegation.)

When the matter came before the Synod, the Moderator’s Committee of the Executive Board recommended that Pacific Presbytery be dissolved, with the allowance that churches desiring to remain in the ARP could join the nearest presbytery.  A member of Northeast Presbytery spoke against the recommendation to dissolve Pacific Presbytery. The debate ensued in a slow manner with the presence of a translator to accommodate Korean brothers and sisters in the court. Rev. Howard Wheeler made a motion to table this recommendation until the Synod considers the Efficiency Committee’s Report. Vice-Moderator Rev. Ken McMullen pleaded with the court not to table this matter since many of the Koreans present at Synod have airplane flights after lunch. Rev. Wheeler withdrew his motion as Rev. Kyle Sims made a motion to refer this matter back to the Executive Board.

Rev. Rhett Carson asked how many churches in Pacific Presbytery have sessions, since he thought only one church had a session, and since the Form of Government requires five churches to have sessions in order to form a presbytery. No one in the court, including any members present from Pacific Presbytery, could answer the question.

At the conclusion of debate, the matter was referred to the Executive Board for reconsideration. However, many in the Synod questioned whether the Executive Board would have a different perspective than what had already been presented to the Synod.