Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America Short Synod Not Short on Work

No Judicial Cases will allow time to put into matters relating to the future

Our 202-year-old denominational seminary, RPTS, is looking toward faculty changes due to faculty retirement. This year we will vote on the proposed appointment of Reverend Barry York (Sycamore RPC, Kokomo, IN) as Professor of Practical Theology. Within the next five years, the synod will also be asked to nominate and approve a new President as well as a new Professor of Biblical Counseling

 

The 181st Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA) is scheduled to meet June 27th-29th on the quaint campus of Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. This summer, in addition to the meeting of synod, the quinquennial Reformed Presbyterian International Conference will be held with a record 2,160 attendees registered. Because of RP International, last year’s synod decided to attempt a shortened time frame for this year’s meeting of synod. Normally it meets for five days; this year the schedule will be reduced to three days.

This does not mean that important discussions will not occur. As the Docket and Digest arrived, this writer assumed that “Synod-Lite” would be placed before us so that we could just dot a few I’s and cross some T’s. This, however, is not the case. There are important matters on the Docket and Digest that will affect the life, ministry, and future trajectory of the RPCNA. Thankfully, there are no judicial matters to consider this year and that will make for more time to discuss other matters that relate to our future and vision as a denomination.

A couple of items to be addressed are the result of work that has been done in previous synods. For example, last year the synod adopted a position paper on sexual orientation. The result of that work is a very fine book that is available through Crown and Covenant Publications called The Gospel and Sexual Orientation. This committee has also produced a proposed tri-fold that summarizes what the Bible says about sexual orientation and how to reach out to those in need of healing from sexual sin.

The synod will also hear of the work of Christ in other parts of the world through the global missions of the RPCNA. As a result of our work in South Sudan, a new, indigenous presbytery and denomination were formed in 2011. This year we will answer the request from the Aweil Community Church of South Sudan on whether to enter into fraternal relations with them. The Synod will also address a report on the work of the East Asia Commission that was formed last year. The Commission has been hard at work ministering to tens of thousands of men and women in a closed eastern country, men and women who consider themselves Reformed Presbyterian.

New considerations for this year include what will be big changes ahead for the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America. Our 202-year-old denominational seminary, RPTS, is looking toward faculty changes due to faculty retirement. This year we will vote on the proposed appointment of Reverend Barry York (Sycamore RPC, Kokomo, IN) as Professor of Practical Theology. Within the next five years, the synod will also be asked to nominate and approve a new President as well as a new Professor of Biblical Counseling who also will oversee the Wilson Center, a Biblical Counseling ministry on the grounds of RPTS. These are important and strategic positions for our seminary.

The Home Mission Board (HMB) is also looking ahead with anticipation. The RPCNA has seen 25% growth over the past 30 years and this trajectory continues into the next number of years as many congregations are considering church planting efforts. This work, of course, costs a lot of money, and even while celebrating the growth and vision of church planting as it moves ahead, the HMB is feeling the weight of the financial burden. Consequently, there is a request for more funding that will come before synod. Additionally, as the HMB considers vision and strategy for church growth, one of the major overtures at Synod 2012 is a request for a committee to study whether our current presbytery boundaries are the most strategic for church planting and whether they need to be changed. This, of course, will bring much discussion.

Another consideration that could bring much discussion is the relationship between the Synod and what is called the “Reformed Presbyterian Women’s Association.” Historically the RPWA has raised funds for missions and the care of missionaries and pastors in their old-age. Much of the work of the RPWA is now confined to the funding and management of the RP Home in suburban Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Questions being asked have to do with the authority of the RPWA and whether or not they answer to synod or are they a ministry made up of Reformed Presbyterians that would be classified as a para-church organization.

Finally, the synod will hear reports from the various agencies and boards of the church. Each presbytery will report on the work of Jesus within their boundaries and prayers will be lifted up on their behalf. Will three days be enough to cover all of this material along with time for worship, fellowship, and presbytery meetings? We will see… brethren, pray for us!

 

Nathan Eshelman is a minister in the RPCNA and serves as pastor of the Los Angeles Reformed Presbyterian Church.  He is a contributing blogger at Gentle Reformation.

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