Summary of Actions at 77th General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church – Wednesday-Thursday, July 7-8, 2010

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

Approximate 120 commissioners gathered in this ‘delegated’ assembly, where only those Ministers and Elders elected by their Presbyteries are authorized to attend.

The Assembly is meeting in the Ozinga Chapel on campus, although the theatre-like seats normally found there had to be moved out to make way for a large, extended platform constructed specifically for the Assembly. This platform contains nine rows of tables, with two aisles separating the three groups.

Microphones were situated in each aisle at the front, middle, and back of the Assembly, to amplify speeches made from the floor. An elevated platform stood before the Assembly, flanked on either side by large video screens.

The Assembly was convened at 7:00 p.m. by the Rev. William Shishko, outgoing moderator of the 76th General Assembly. Mr. Shishko’s message was from 2 Corinthians 3:1-3, reminding the commissioners that their ministry goes beyond the writing of mere books of paper and ink. “We write on the tablets of human hearts the story of their redemption in Jesus Christ…This is the greatest book to write, a book written as the secretaries of the Lord Jesus, to be read by all. Let this writing of books begin right here at this assembly.”

Following his message, the formal business of the Assembly began.

Following a few housekeeping arrangements, a new moderator was elected for the 77th Assembly. Mr. Alan Pontier serves as the organizing pastor of Big Bear Lake Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Southern California. The Assembly then recessed for the day.

The Assembly returned to deliberations at 8:15AM on Thursday. The day was largely spent in committee, as the Assembly divided itself into ten work groups or “advisory committees” whose purpose is to receive, review, and evaluate the reports of the denomination’s permanent or “standing” committees. All committees met in separate classrooms during the morning and afternoon of the first day.

There was a break for a devotional just before lunch, after which the Assembly sang what has become known both in and outside the denomination as the OPC National Anthem: Watts’ “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place” (utilizing the new Trinity Hymnal which had changed the words from ‘How Sweet And Awful…’)

With the work of the committees completed, the full Assembly reconvened after supper at 6:45PM. The new Moderator appointed Mr. Mark Bube as Parliamentarian.

Mr. Donald Duff, the stated clerk of the 76th Assembly, took the floor at this point to make his final report. Mr. Duff has served the Assembly in this capacity for 18 years now, and would retire after making his report.

In his report he noted that the 76th General Assembly had proposed to the presbyteries a new Directory for the Public Worship of God. The presbyteries voted to approve the Directory with sixteen in favor and three opposed. The moderator then declared that the new Directory would take effect on January 1, 2011, in accord with the directive of the 76th General Assembly. Thus concludes the work of a committee that had worked on this project for some 25 years.

Mr. Duff then concluded his report. “I really do appreciate the honor and privilege of being the first full-time stated clerk,” he said. “I won’t miss the job so much as the lunch hour and the camaraderie.”

The moderator then asked for a moment of prayer on behalf of Mr. Duff as he retired from service, after which the Assembly erupted in a spontaneous standing ovation. Mr. Duff sat quietly at his seat as the Assembly rejoiced in the faithfulness of the Lord to his servant.

The new stated clerk, elected the previous year, Rev. George Cottenden, officially began his service as the stated clerk of the 77th General Assembly.

The moderator declared Martin L. Dawson, Sr. and Edward K. Tress elected to the class of 2013 of the trustees. Rev. John Mahaffy has agreed to serve another year as assistant to the new stated clerk.

Mr. Cottenden presented the report of the statistician, Mr. Luke Brown. The past year was marked by many encouraging trends. The number of churches increased by three during 2009, and 407 new members were added to the rolls. The total membership of 29,421 persons at year’s end consisted of 485 ministers, 21,123 communicant members, and 7,813 baptized children (non-communicants). The number of ruling elders grew by 25 to 1,079, and deacons grew by 38 to a total of 817. Attendance at morning worship services and at Sunday school showed a dip from previous years

The scheduled report of the Standing Committee on Arrangements was postponed in view of Mr. David Haney’s absence due to a previous commitment.

The report of the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension was next. The General Secretary, the Rev. Ross Graham, reported on his progress after double knee replacement surgery. He hopes to return to work in the near future.

Associate general secretary, the Rev. Dick Gerber, continued the report for the committee. He noted that giving to the committee work had surpassed budget to 105%.

The evening concluded with two reports from church planters on the field. The Rev. Brent Evans reported on his mission to Momence, Illinois and the Rev. Doug Watson reported on his ministry in Pearl City, Hawaii.

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