Orthodox Presbyterian Church 2014 General Assembly Report 3

The 81st General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is meeting at Kuyper College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, from June 4–10, 2014

The OPC is in its 39th year of partnership with the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) through Great Commission Publications (GCP). Recently, GCP appointed Mr. Marvin Padgett its executive director. Mr. Padgett addressed the assembly and outlined some of the changes happening at GCP, particularly its website redesign and a new curriculum based on John Bunyan’s work Pilgrim’s Progress. He laid out the nature of the curriculum at GCP, noting that it is the most consistently Reformed curriculum in existence today.


The Committee on Christian Education

The Committee on Christian Education (CCE) has been formed to assist the Church in its teaching ministry to the glory of God and the edification of the saints.

CCE presented a partial report. Dr. James S. Gidley, president of the committee, opened the committee’s report with the reading of Hebrews 13:7–9. Mr. Gidley reminded the assembly that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.

General secretary Danny Olinger then addressed the assembly, and introduced the Revs. Marvin Padgett and Mark Lowery, representatives of Great Commission Publications (GCP). The OPC is in its 39th year of partnership with the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) through GCP. Recently, GCP appointed Mr. Padgett its executive director.

Mr. Padgett addressed the assembly and outlined some of the changes happening at GCP, particularly its website redesign and a new curriculum based on John Bunyan’s work Pilgrim’s Progress.

Mr. Padgett laid out the nature of the curriculum at GCP, noting that it is the most consistently Reformed curriculum in existence today.

Mark Lowry, director of publications, then outlined the resources that GCP provides for our covenant children, particularly the “Show Me Jesus” curriculum, spanning from 2 years old through 6th grade; the upcoming G2R (Genesis to Revelation), the “So What?” curriculum; and catechetical curriculum in “Kids Quest Catechism Club” for elementary students and “Bible Doctrine” for preteen and teens.

After the representatives of GCP finished their presentation, Mr. Olinger continued to outline the various ministries supported by CCE, particularly noting that www.opc.org has recently been redesigned. [Editor’s note: the original URL (link) referenced is no longer valid, so the link has been removed.]

The Committee on Coordination

Mr. Paul Tavares, chairman of the committee, opened the work of the committee by readings portions of John 17:13ff. and 1 Corinthians 12:14ff., noting that the church, laboring together, displays the unity of the church and its co-laboring in the gospel.

The purpose of the Committee on Coordination (CoC) is to recommend to the general assembly a combined budget for the three program committees (Christian Education, Foreign Missions, and Home Missions and Church Extension) for the succeeding year to help the church maximize the use of its resources for the fulfillment of its task, to support the ministry of the pastors and sessions in their responsibility to teach and encourage the practice of biblical stewardship in the Church, and to help coordinate the promotion of the work of the three program committees in the development of support for their work.

Elder David Haney, director of finance and planned giving, noted that 2013 was a wonderful year for World Wide Outreach (WWO), exceeding last year’s giving by 13.6 percent. The Thank Offering itself was in excess of 1 million dollars.

Mr. Haney noted that the Rev. Douglas A. Watson, the committee staff accountant for the past 12 years, will be retiring in just a few short weeks and he will be greatly missed. Mr. Haney read a statement of thanks for Mr. Watson.

Part of the work of the CoC includes promoting a program of stewardship education and planned giving. The church has greatly benefited from the instruction in stewardship and estate planning offered by Mr. Haney. With the retirement of Mr. Watson as staff accountant, Mr. Haney will be putting a greater focus on this part of his work in the upcoming year.

The committee has begun the work of combining the accounting and data management systems of the church. The committee is currently benefiting from the consolidation of older stand-alone databases.

Fraternal Greeting

Dr. Kevin Backus, minister in the Bible Presbyterian Church (BPC) addressed the assembly. He outlined the various ministries of the BPC and expressed his appreciation for the way in which the OPC and the BPC continue to labor together for the furthering of Christ’s kingdom. Mr. Backus particularly emphasized a conference Mr. Graham (then associate general secretary of Home Missions) conducted for them on church planting and how helpful it was to their church.

Report on the Committee on Coordination Continued

The committee presented its recommended program spending for 2015 and the program was approved.

Rev. Zach Keele, pastor in Escondido, California, prayed for the committee.

The Committee on Diaconal Ministries

The Rev. Ronald E. Pearce, president of the Committee on Diaconal Ministries, (CDM) read from Matthew 5:40.

As a committee of the assembly, CDM is entrusted with the responsibility of promoting the diaconal ministries of the congregations of the OPC in those areas that are beyond the ability of local diaconates.

The ministries of the CDM include ministry to those in need within the OPC, those in need internationally, those affected by disasters, ministry through local deacons, ministry to and through missionary deacons, ministry to retired ministers and their widows, and ministry through the Short-Term Missions Coordinator.

Mr. David Nakhla, Short-term Missions Coordinator, Disaster Response Coordinator, and CDM Administrator, presented his report to the assembly and laid out in more detail how the CDM has been able to carry out its work.

Mr. Nakhla gave thanks to the Lord that 2013 saw the first fully funded diaconal missionary, Mr. Mark Weber, in Uganda.

The committee also provided the assembly with a copy of its Short-Term Missions & Disaster Responses brochure that will be mailed to churches later this summer. The committee’s S.T.O.R.M. Report, which stands for Short-Term Outreach, Relief & Missions, was also distributed. The S.T.O.R.M. report is a publication from the office of the Short-Term Missions Coordinator and updates congregations on the work of short-term missions and apprises the denomination on short-term mission needs within the denomination.

Mr. Nakhla introduced missionary Ben Westerveld, who reflected on the helpfulness of the short-term mission teams from the OPC and particularly Covenant OPC in Barre, VT that have assisted him with summer English camps for the past nine years.

Devotional Break

At 11:40 the assembly took a break from its work to hear a devotional from Acts 20:26–28 by Rev. Jim Stevenson from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Mr. Stevenson reminded the commissioners of their responsibility in the church which Christ has redeemed with is precious blood to shepherd their people. Particularly, we were encouraged to watch and care for all of God’s people because each of them was bought with the precious blood of Christ. They are precious to Jesus, so they ought to be precious to us as well.

Fraternal Address

The Rev. Richard Holst, minister in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in England and Wales (EPCEW), addressed the assembly and brought fraternal greetings from his denomination. Mr. Holst has two sons who are ministers in the OPC, the Revs. Jonathan and Matthew Holst.

Mr. Holst gave a brief history of the denomination, which was formed in 1995 with the Westminster Standards as their Confessional documents. The denomination consists of only one presbytery at this time, but plans to divide into three. The denomination also recently adopted a Book of Discipline, which is modeled after our denomination’s Book of Discipline.

Continuation of the Report from the Committee on Diaconal Ministries

One of the recommendations brought to the assembly by the committee requested that General Assembly erect a temporary study committee of five (consisting of at least one member from CDM and one member from the Committee on Pensions) to investigate the needs of OPC ministers and suggest ways in which care can be provided or enhanced during all phases of ministry, and report their findings, along with any recommendations, to a future Assembly. The committee asked that elections for this committee be delayed to give the assembly time to consider nominations for this committee.

The Report of The Committee on Pensions

Mr. Roger Huibregtse, president of the Committee on Pensions (CoP) reported on behalf of the committee.

The committee report noted that when a church calls a pastor it normally promises to provide him a compensation package so he can be “free from worldly care and employment.” One of the primary responsibilities given to the CoP is to help the church free pastors from worldly care, even in the years of retirement. The committee does this by providing a pension plan for the ministers of the OPC (and also full-time employees). The committee also provides a group life insurance plan for the ministers, officers, and full-time employees of the Church and their families. Finally, the committee makes supplemental payments to certain ministers with inadequate pensions.

Because the Committee on Pensions and the Committee on Diaconal Ministries have a mutual interest in caring for the retired and elderly in the church, the committees met together in 2012 and two sub-committees, one from each committee, continue to work together. Both sub-committees continue to be concerned about the number of retired ministers without adequate provision and are seeking ways to address this. The committees have further indicated that the OPC will be facing a potentially significant diaconal need if these pastors are not making appropriate plans for their retirement. These two sub-committees are committed to continuing to work together to address this matter that is a concern to both committees.

Report of the Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations

The Rev. Anthony Curto, chairman of the committee, made opening remarks about the important work of ecumenicity in the church of Jesus Christ.

The Rev. Jack Sawyer, committee administrator, presented the report on the behalf of the committee and began with the reading of 1 Corinthians 1:1–2, remarking that a local congregation does not exhaust the scope of the church of Jesus Christ, and we should be seeking out those who share our confession of Christ around the world.

The Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations (CEIR) is charged with making recommendations to the General Assembly on all matters relevant to the relationship of the OPC to other churches and to ecumenical bodies, both in the United States and abroad, including the establishment of official relationships in accordance with the assembly’s policy on church and ecclesiastical fellowship. The committee is also tasked with nurturing these relationships, putting into practice the assembly’s Biblical Principles of the Unity of the Church, appointing fraternal delegates to the assemblies with which the OPC has an official relationship, appointing representatives to the annual meeting of the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC), and reporting to each Assembly on its work and on the churches with which the OPC has an official relationship.

The document that defines the position of the OPC in its ecumenical service is Biblical Principles of the Unity of the Church. It can be found on the denominational website at http://opc.org/relations/unity.html.

There are varying levels of ecumenical relationship with other Reformed churches that have been adopted by the General Assembly, beginning with “Ecumenical Contact,” then moving to “Corresponding Relationship” (the “getting to know you” stage), and finally “Ecclesiastical Fellowship,” the deepest relationship.

At present the OPC is in Ecclesiastical Fellowship with 15 churches, in Corresponding Relationship with 12 churches, and in Ecumenical Contact with 12 churches.

The committee reported that it has also adopted a program to better carry out its duty to deepen its relationship with other churches with which is has ecclesiastical fellowship, and strive for the unity of the churches contemplated in Biblical Principles of the Unity of the Church.

Mr. Sawyer reported that the Synod of United Reformed Churches of North America (URCNA) has received the “Psalm Proposal” to be the psalter portion of the new songbook that is the combined effort of the URC and OPC.

A letter from the Stated Clerk of the Synod noted that the URC adopted the following recommendation:

“That the next Synod be held in June 2016 and that we invite the OPC to hold its 2016 General Assembly concurrently and contiguously with the next Synod of the URCNA.” The grounds of the recommendation were as follows: “a.) this would express our unity as sister churches in Christ; b.) this would be an expression of our appreciation for their invitation to join them in the production of a new songbook; and c.) this would allow an opportunity to hold a joint discussion on the songbook should both assemblies desire to do so.”

The question of this Assembly’s reception of the Psalter portion of the Psalter-Hymnal from our Committee on Christian Education will be taken up later in the assembly.

Ecumenicity Report Continued

Mr. Sawyer introduced Rev. Eric Kampen, minister in the Canadian Reformed Churches (CanRC), and Mr. Kampen brought fraternal greetings.

Mr. Kampen presented the work of the Canadian Reformed Churches and used a map to show the assembly the distribution of the churches across the country. The median size of a church in the CanRef is 335 members, with two churches having a membership around 700. However, the CanRC have just 55 congregations, and just over 17,000 members, making membership numbers in the local congregation high. The OPC has been in Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the Canadian Reformed Churches since 2001.

After the fraternal greeting, the assembly approved a number of recommendations in relationship to CEIR’s work with other denominations. One of these recommendations included a letter to the Reformed Church in Japan (RCJ) regarding its movements toward the ordination of women in ecclesiastical office. The OPC currently has Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the RCJ.

The Report of the Historian and the Report of the Committee For the Historian

Dr. David Noe, vice-president of the committee, opened the work of the committee by reviewing some of work to bring e-books of certain OP publications to the website.

John Muether, Historian for the OPC, then addressed the assembly and noted that as the Archives of the OPC now have a permanent home, he would like to collect histories of the churches in the denomination.

Mr. Muether pointed the assembly to a new feature on www.opc.org entitled “Today in OPC History.” This feature can be found on the front page of the website in the upper right-hand corner under the tab labeled “Historian.”

Election of Members to the Temporary Committee Requested by the Committee on Diaconal Ministries

The assembly took up the earlier recommendation of electing members to the temporary study committee of five (consisting of at least one member from CDM and one member from the Committee on Pensions) to investigate the needs of OPC ministers and suggest ways in which care can be provided or enhanced during all phases of ministry, and report back their findings, along with any recommendations, to a future Assembly. Mr. Douglas L. Watson, Mr. David Haney, Mr. David Winslow, Mr. Lendall Smith, and Mr. David Vander Ploeg were elected.

Fraternal Address

Mr. Sawyer introduced the Rev. Han Su Kim, a ministerial member of Independent Reformed Church in Korea (IRCK). Though the denomination is small, it is producing copies of the Westminster Standards and the Heidelberg Catechism in Korean.

It was at this Assembly that the IRCK was invited into a relationship of full Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the OPC. Mr. Kim thanked the assembly particularly for its work with the Scripture references for the Westminster Confession, as it has been helpful for them in their own development of references for their translation of the Confession. Mr. Kim also thanked the Committee on Foreign Missions for sending pious and qualified men to spread the gospel in Korea. Finally, Mr. Kim gave thanks to Christ, who calls his people from every nation and tribe and who has brought our two denominations together.

Rev. Daniel F. Patterson, Pastor, Second Parish Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Portland, Maine.