RPCNA Synod – Day Two

Behold How Very Good It is, A Pleasant Thing to See

Ironically, one area where the court was divided was the issue of whether to remove the standing committee called “Understanding the Times.” Historically, this committee has been used as a way for the Covenanters to call the church and nation to repentance and to provide prayerful insight into what the church would fast over, covenant over, and seek the face of Christ over…The court voted 62 to 61 to retain the Understanding the Times Committee

Thursday’s meeting of the 181st Synod of the RPCNA began by praising the Lord Jesus Christ with the singing of Psalm 96. Reverend Barry York led us in morning worship as we sang the 100th Psalm and then read from Ephesians 20. Speaking of the methods of the American church, Pastor York said, “We are better at swine and bovine than we are with ovine. We know how to slop and drive, but not shepherd.” With this powerful reminder that we are shepherds, he gave us instruction on biblical shepherding from Ephesians 20.

Reminding us of our vows as office bearers, Rev. York stressed the solemn charge of shepherding. He then moved into a discussion about how the church was purchased by the blood of Christ and that we need to view our sheep as ones for whom the Great Shepherd gave his life. Even with this solemn charge in mind and the example of Jesus’ shepherding, we were reminded that “the enemy is sheep hungry. There is nothing like the smell of blood to get the enemy moving. Paul warns that savage wolves will come in, hungry not for the Word of God but for the people of God.”

Pastor York charged members of Synod to focus on the historic doctrines of the church and not to remove the ancient landmarks that have been laid by our fathers. As spiritual shepherds we have this great responsibility as we declare the Kingdom of God. When the Apostle Paul declared the Kingdom, it was with an expectation of response from the hearers.

Rev. York then reminded us that we are men who are called not only to shepherd our flocks, but to be shepherded and to shepherd our fellow pastors and elders. Additionally, pastoring needs to be both passionate and compassionate. Rev. York said, “There is no shame in crying over our people. Jeremiah did it. Paul did it. Our Lord did it.”

After further encouragement and with one accord, the court joined in the singing of Psalm 133, the great psalm of Christian unity. The sermon in its entirety can be heard here.

Following the morning sermon, a paper was presented requesting that the court define the terms “senior pastor, associate pastor, and assistant pastor.” As the RPCNA grows, there are congregations moving to a multiple pastoral staff model and we need to define our terms. Pastor Gordon Keddie noted that “Our brothers in the PCA have already done this work for us.” A committee was set up to study the issue and this writer is confident that the PCA’s Book of Order will be used as a starting point (one of the beauties of NAPARC).

Some of the trends in our churches were discussed and clearly there is much to be thankful for in the RPCNA. The Lord Jesus has been blessing us with sustained growth and the trajectory looks good for our denomination. One long-term trend that was noted is that over 35% of our membership resides within congregations that are less than 30 years old. This is evidence that Jesus is building His Church and that you can plant a cappella, psalm singing, mediatorial-kingship-of-Christ Presbyterian congregations! Confessional church planting? Innovative? No, biblical!

Ironically, one area where the court was divided was the issue of whether to remove the standing committee called “Understanding the Times.” Historically, this committee has been used as a way for the Covenanters to call the church and nation to repentance and to provide prayerful insight into what the church would fast over, covenant over, and seek the face of Christ over. The committee has lost some of its original intent as many of these old practices have fallen out of use in the denomination, practices such as solemn assemblies, covenanting, and fasting.

The court voted 62 to 61 to retain the Understanding the Times Committee. It is this writer’s desire that the practices of solemn assembly, fasting as a body, and covenanting will be the end result of a renewed commitment to this committee. Would you join in praying that these ancient landmarks be restored in our church?

A committee was established to study the relationship of the RP Women’s Association to the Synod. Some make a strong case that the oversight of the RP Home needs to be separate from the Synod for legal reasons, to protect the church from lawsuit. One delegate who has formerly served the RP Home clarified to those of us new to the denomination that:

“The RPWA was formed in 1897 by a direct act of Synod.  The women of the church were to establish a home for ‘the widows and orphans and aged people of the Reformed Presbyterian Church.’  The [1897] motion states in part ‘That the Board of Trustees of the Synod be relieved from further work, management, and responsibility in connection with the Home, and that Synod by formal resolution commit such management and responsibility from this time forth to the women of the Church under the corporate name hereinbefore referred to.( i.e. Reformed Presbyterian Woman’s Association.)’” 

This committee’s work will be followed with much interest by many in the church. The work of the RP Home is dear to hearts, but not all of the history and purpose is understood by those of the church.

The reports of the presbyteries were all encouraging. There is vision, growth and thankfulness seen in each one as these bodies press forward to advance the Kingdom of God here on earth. A committee was approved to study whether the current make up of our presbyteries is most beneficial and strategic for church planting in the 21st century or whether it would be advisable to adjust the boundaries. That committee will report in 2013.

The evening continued with a discussion about the global mission of the church. The Lord Jesus is doing wonderful things through the labors of the RPCNA and there is a lot of growth that has proved to be a blessing to world-wide communion of Reformed Presbyterian Churches. It is a good time to be an RP!

Many other matters were discussed throughout the long day. Men prayed together. Men wept over what Jesus is doing in the church. Men sang psalms with grace in their hearts. Men were pleased to submit to our great king and high priest, the Lord Jesus Christ. Throughout the proceedings of Synod there has been an overwhelming sense of awe concerning what Jesus is doing in our midst. We are enjoying unity of purpose and the fellowship of the saints as the work of the church is accomplished in the courts this week. For that, any Presbyterian can give thanks and stand in awe!

Pastor Nathan Eshelman is pastor of the Los Angeles RPCNA and is a contributing blogger at www.gentlereformation.com. You can follow him on Twitter @pastoreshelman