Summary of Actions at 77th General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church – Monday, July 12, 2010

The OPC is meeting through Wednesday on the campus of Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois (a community about 30 minutes south of Chicago).

The Commissioners returned on Monday after a full day of rest and worship on the Christian Sabbath.’

While a number of different OPC congregations in the Greater Chicago area hosted special speakers in the AM, Sunday evening a joint worship service was held for the local churches and commissioners on the campus of Trinity Christian College. Communion was served in the course of this service with the Rev. A. Craig Troxel, pastor of Bethel Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Wheaton, Illinois, presiding.

The Assembly reconvened on Monday morning at 8:15 a.m. at the call of the moderator, Mr. Pontier.

Mr. Paul H. Tavares introduced the report of the Committee on Coordination. The purpose of the COC is threefold: to bring a combined budget for our three program committees (Christian Education, Foreign Missions, and Home Missions and Church Extension); to raise support for their work; and to teach and encourage the practice of biblical stewardship.

Mr. David Haney, director of finance and planned giving, spoke of the current economic situation. The Assembly adopted the budget proposed by the Committee on Coordination for total of $3,400,000.00. The allocation of undesignated gifts was set as follows: Christian Education would receive 15%, Foreign Missions would receive 42%, and Home Missions would receive 43%.

As has often occurred during this Assembly, the number of men nominated for service fit the number needed, so the moderator simply had to declare the nominees elected.

The Assembly elected Mr. Duff and ruling elder John D. Mazunik to serve in the class of 2013, and ruling elder Mr. William Muether to the class of 2012.

The Rev. Lendall H. Smith presented the report of the Committee on Diaconal Ministries to the Assembly. The Committee is concerned for how it can serve the church better. To that end, a national Deacons Summit was held on June 3-5, 2010, at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. Over 200 deacons came to hear Dr. Brian Fikkert speak on the theme, “How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor … and Yourself.” The Summit was a great success and very much appreciated by our deacons.

Mr. Haney reported on the relief effort in Haiti. He was very grateful for the rapid response from our churches. Immediately after the quake hit, Mr. Haney’s email box was flooded with messages from over 200 volunteers ready to help. Teams were assembled swiftly with the appropriate vaccines, visas, and skill sets.

On the first trip, an assessment was made of how future efforts should be directed. It was noted that an impressive amount of emergency assistance was available from the various governments around the world, but they weren’t being effectively deployed.

Five months after the quake there was still no heavy equipment to remove the rubble. Within five days of the earthquake the OPC had relief supplies ready to send, but they sat for nearly six months on our shores before they could get into Haiti. There is a lot of frustration in knowing just how to help these people. One wants to be very careful about how one distributes aid.

The Lord’s provision is wonderful, not only in gifted men, but also in men bearing gifts. The Obadiah Fund was started three years ago as an effort to help retired ministers who had exhausted their meager pensions. An unnamed donor stepped up and offered $150,000 to start the fund. Accordingly, a check of $1,000 was sent to each of the needy ministers or their surviving spouses. Despite the troubled economy, this donor continued to give, contributing another $150,000 the following year, and again the third year. The donor’s attitude was very gracious. “I’m just a conduit,” he said. “I am blessed so that I can bless others.”

After a mid-morning recess, the Assembly approved the recommendation of the Committee on Diaconal Ministries to remind presbyteries not to approve a call containing the phrase “free from worldly care” if they consider the call under consideration to be inadequate to provide for the minister’s livelihood, to make certain that the call includes a provision for adequate retirement and for payment of hospitalization, surgical, and major medical insurance, and to inquire as to whether the minister has adequate life insurance.

The Assembly determined to request the presbyteries to investigate whether all their ministers have adequate medical and life insurance coverage and retirement provision including looking into the sufficiency of co-pay and other alternatives.

The Assembly approved a request of the churches of the OPC to support the work of the committee at the suggested rate of $25.00 per communicant member.

The moderator declared that Messrs. Ronald E. Pearce, David P. Nakhla, and Christopher A. Sudlow were elected to class of 2013.

Mr. Haney reported for the Standing Committee on Arrangements. There is extensive planning going into the 75th anniversary of the OPC, which will coincide with the meeting of the 78th General Assembly at Sandy Cove Conference Center in Northeast, Maryland next summer.

The Assembly approved the recommendation of the Committee on Arrangements to suspend Standing Rule 10.2 (H) and elect an alternate member to assist the committee. The Assembly voted to approve the budget for the General Assembly Operating Fund with a request of $16.00 per communicant member.

After the lunch break the moderator read the announcement from the OPC Book of Church Order as follows:
This body is about to sit in a judicial capacity and I exhort you, the members to bear in mind your solemn duty faithfully to minister and declare the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice, and to subordinate all human judgments to that infallible rule. (BD IV.A.1.a.)

This announcement was repeated through the remainder of the day each time the Assembly reconvened.

Mr. Foh made the report for the Committee on Appeals and Complaints. A further request was made to determine who would be eligible to vote on the recommendation of the Committee on Appeals and Complaints. At issue was whether those members of the Assembly who served as counsel to the appellants were eligible to vote.

The moderator was of the opinion that the counsel was eligible to vote. He cited Book of Discipline IV.A.3.a and VII.7, and made the case that in an appeal, as distinguished from a judicial trial, the counsel was not prohibited from voting. The ruling of the moderator was overturned by the Assembly and therefore counsel for the appellant was not eligible to vote. The prevailing opinion was that the requirements of BD VII.7 assumed the contents of BD IV.A.3.a, and that it was not necessary to repeat the stipulation that counsel not be eligible to vote.

The Assembly began its deliberations over the first recommendation of the committee, that the appeal was in order and properly before the Assembly. The motion was approved.

Advisory Committee 10 next made its recommendation that Standing Rule V.5.c.e be suspended and a new procedure be adopted specifying the time limits for debate over Appeal #1. The recommendation carried.

The Assembly determined, in agreement with the Committee on Appeals and Complaints, that specification #3 be considered first.

The order of the day arrived, and the Assembly recessed at 3:15 p.m. to have a group picture taken and to enjoy some refreshments and reconvened at 3:35 p.m.

The Assembly then began to examine the Appeal itself. The counsel for the appellants presented the case for the appeal, citing five specifications of error in support of their contention. Counsel for the Presbytery argued that the appeal be denied.

A minority report to the report of Advisory Committee 10 was distributed to the Assembly.

The Committee on Appeals and Complaints recommended that the Assembly deal first with specification #3 of the appeal, which argued that the session involved in the appeal erred in presuming jurisdiction over persons outside the session’s jurisdiction. The Assembly agreed with this procedure.

Advisory Committee 10 recommended that the Assembly deny specification of error #3. The order of the day arrived at 5:20 p.m., and the Assembly recessed for dinner.

The Assembly reconvened at 6:45 p.m. An extensive debate ensued with careful deliberation over the requirements of our Book of Church Order. A vote was taken with regard to specification #3. The specification of error was sustained. The General Assembly then sided with the appellants, granting their request that their censure be vacated.

The order of the day arrived at 8:32 p.m. Mr. Poundstone closed in prayer.

This report is adapted, with permission, from the more detailed daily blog produced by the OPC, which is available at: http://www.opc.org/GA/77th_GA_rpt.html