When the 79th General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) met from June 6-12, 2012, at Wheaton College in Illinois, the denomination’s diaconal summit was held at the same time on the same campus. Commissioners and deacons met together twice in formal venues.
The 189 deacons joined approximately 150 commissioners during the Friday evening GA session at which the Committee on Diaconal Ministries reported. Mr. David Nakhla serves as part-time administrator of the Committee as well as short-term missions coordinator for the OPC, and becomes a disaster response coordinator when the need arises. Mr. Nakhla gave a power-point presentation on the OPC response to the earthquake and resultant tsunami that devastated areas of Japan in March of 2011.
On Saturday morning, commissioners met with the deacons to hear Dr. Philip Ryken, an ordained PCA minister and President of Wheaton College, speak about applying Reformed doctrine to diaconal ministry.
The Rev. Dr. Anthony Curto served as the moderator for this year’s GA. Rev. George Cottenden was elected to another year as stated clerk, and Rev. John Mahaffey was appointed as assistant clerk. Statistician Mr. Luke E. Brown reported that the OPC now consists of 275 churches, 51 mission works, and 30,279 members.
The OPC enjoys fraternal relationships with 36 denominations in the US and around the world. The assembly heard greetings by representatives from the PCA, the RCUS, the Bible Presbyterian Church, the Heritage Reformed Congregations, the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Liberated), the Presbyterian Church of Brazil, the Reformed Churches of New Zealand, the Reformed Church in Japan, and the Africa Evangelical Presbyterian Church.
Commissioners approved an invitation to the Free Reformed Churches of Australia to send a fraternal observer to future assemblies. It also approved a recommendation to enter into a Corresponding Relationship with the Evangelical Reformed Church-Westminster Confession, a group of churches in Austria that recently embraced the Reformed faith.
“Foreign Missions continues to be at the heart of denominational life in the OPC,” says Rev. Jack Sawyer, Administrator of the Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations. “The Committee on Foreign Missions report highlighted new open doors in Asia, South America, and Europe. The call of Rev. Eric Tuininga to labor in Uganda was highlighted and gratitude expressed to the URCNA for seconding him to us! New fields await and more missionaries are needed, especially in Haiti.”
Rev. Sawyer notes the pending retirement of Rev. Ross Graham as General Secretary for the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extensions “after a tenure that began in the 1980s, and which has seen the OPC top 30,000 members for the first time, and many new churches begun!”
Rev. Graham has written a booklet, How to Start an Orthodox Presbyterian Church, which Rev. Sawyer says “is into its second printing and which has proven very helpful to other Reformed churches as well.”
Reporting on the OPC’s continuing church planting work, Rev. Graham said that in 2011 the denomination began supporting twelve mission works, while six new works have already begun during 2012.
The Committee on Christian Education reported progress on its Psalter-Hymnal project and its hope for a cooperative effort with the URCNA.
A substitute motion calling for suspension of the Psalter-Hymnal work was defeated. The original communication was returned to the Presbytery of Philadelphia for its consideration.
In the official report on the OPC website, Rev. Alan Pontier noted that the 2010 GA had set up a special committee to deal with “difficult situations that had developed over several years in the Presbytery of New Jersey and one of her local sessions, specifically to seek reconciliation of parties offended by certain actions of the presbytery and session.”
According to Rev. Pontier, a temporary visitation committee reported that much progress has been made “in bringing reconciliation between the Presbytery and the offended parties, due to the unequivocal acknowledgment by the Presbytery of their errors and their humble request for reconciliation.”
Because more reconciliation needs to take place, commissioners approved that the committee’s work continue for another year.
Having accomplished its work in a timely manner, the 78th GA dismissed a day earlier than scheduled. There was little to cause contention during the Assembly, which Rev. Sawyer characterized as “harmonious.” He adds, “The peace and love evident among ‘Machen’s warrior children’ was manifest, and a great blessing.”
The next General Assembly of the OPC is scheduled for June 5-11, 2013, at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, CA.
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 6 & 8 of the August 1, 2012, issue of Christian Renewal.