When the 80th General Assembly (GA) of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) met from June 5-8 in Moraga, CA, it was the first time in 23 years that the Assembly was held in California and the first time ever in northern California. Voting equipment detained due to a train derailment arrived just in time, but then malfunctioned. Despite that minor problem, business flowed efficiently.
“This GA went smoothly, finishing almost a day early,” says Assistant Clerk John Mahaffy (Trinity OPC; Newberg, OR). “I appreciated the good spirit and the fellowship.”
“Remarkably, ‘Machen’s Warrior Children’ have had three GAs in a row finish early,” says Rev. Jack Sawyer (Pineville OPC; Pineville LA), Administrator of the Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations. “This, in part at least, is due to the sweet, brotherly spirit that has prevailed at these assemblies. But most especially the praise for this goes to the author of concord, our gracious God and his grace, mercy, and peace.”
Rev. Jeffery Landis (Covenant OPC; San Jose, CA) was elected as moderator. According to an online report by Rev. Arthur J. Fox (Calvary OPC; Middletown, PA), he had a “gentle manner and a good sense of humor” that kept business “moving along briskly.”
The GA dealt with a variety of matters, mostly in the context of committee reports. Rev. Mahaffy relates how highlights of this Assembly were reports of reconciliation. “Two encouraging highlights were the reports of the two committees set up by the GA, one to visit the Presbytery of New Jersey and the other Presbytery of Northern California and Nevada. The first grew out of a series of appeals of judicial cases, and the GA several years ago recognized that there were issues that went far deeper than technical points of the Book of Discipline. By God’s grace, his blessing was on the work of that committee, though one church abandoned the OPC at the end of the process. The report of the Committee to visit the Presbytery of Northern California and Nevada was similarly encouraging. Both committees were dissolved with thanks.”
An article by Rev. Larry J. Westerveld (Trinity OPC; Hatboro, PA), who chaired the Committee to Visit the Presbytery of New Jersey, in the August-September 2013 issue of New Horizons describes the emotional scene in which the Moderator of the Presbytery repeatedly stepped down from the chair and read statements to six individuals, confessing the Presbytery’s sin and seeking their forgiveness.
Missions and Ecumenicity
The Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension reported that six new church plants have been started in 2013, and more are anticipated in the second half of the year. The Committee on Foreign Missions testified that many believers around the world suffer for their faith. Missionaries are needed in several fields, including Uganda and Haiti. General Secretary Mark Bube reminded commissioners of the importance of prayer.
The Committee on Christian Education supervises the Psalter-Hymnal project, which has now posted online a list of 238 metrical psalms, considered in cooperation with representatives from the URCNA.
“For your readers, [URC minister] Adam Kaloostian was an exemplary fraternal delegate,” shares Rev. Sawyer. “Welcome, in my personal view, was his communication that the URCNA is seriously interested in deepening the ties between the OPC and the URCNA.”
Fraternal delegates from many other fellowships were present and shared how the Lord is working around the world.
Rev. Sawyer says, “As a member of our ecumenicity committee, I was especially pleased by the contribution of our fraternal delegates: ARP, PCA, RPCNA, RCUS, and the URCNA.”
Overseas delegates included the Presbyterian Church of Brazil, Presbyterian Church of Japan, and the Evangelical Reformed Church/Westminster Confession (from Switzerland and Austria), the OPC’s newest church in Ecclesiastical Correspondence.
The Diaconal Committee reported extensive financial response to the Japanese tsunami and Hurricane Sandy. The PCA, RPCNA, the URCNA, and the Reformed Church of Japan have cooperated with the OPC in disaster response.
Chaplains and Military Personnel
It was noted that chaplains remain free to pray in Jesus’ name, although some problems may exist. The Assembly called OPC churches to a day of prayer for the spiritual and physical welfare of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a non-communicant member of the church, on June 30, 2013, the fourth anniversary of his capture.
The GA approved an amendment to the Form of Government allowing retired ministers from other denominations to transfer their ministerial credentials to the OPC without a call and installation when satisfactory reasons are given and proper procedure is followed.
A problem with ministers who are not adequately compensated or prepared for retirement led to recommendations aimed at encouraging presbyteries to provide adequate financial support. After extensive discussion, the recommendations passed.
An overture seeking changes in the Form of Government section about licensing candidates was debated extensively and eventually referred to the Committee on Christian Education, which will report to the next Assembly. The 81st GA will meet at KuyperCollege in Grand Rapids, MI, from June 4-10, 2014.
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 16-17 of the July 31/August 21, 2013, issue of Christian Renewal.