Greenville Conference Celebrates Gospel Freedom

crowd-c“Trumpet Call: 500 Years of Gospel Freedom” served as the theme for the spring conference of Grenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary (GPTS). About 375 people (including people from Nigeria, South Africa, and Canada) attended all or part of the lectures presented at Woodruff Road Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Simpsonville, SC, from March 14-16, 2017.

A chapel service on Tuesday morning concluded the Seminary’s annual open house for prospective students and initiated conference activities. Dr. Joseph A. Pipa, Jr., President of GPTS, preached from Romans 3:1-4 on “Whose Fault?”

Lectures began on Tuesday afternoon with Dr. Joel Beeke, President of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, MI, speaking on Sola Scriptura. Using Psalm 19:7ff and 2 Timothy 2:14ff as his texts, he first delineated doctrines that flow from Sola Scriptura. He then defined and clarified the sufficiency of Scripture, before bringing practical applications. He stated, “The heart of Sola Scriptura is that the Bible is sufficient for the faith and practice of the church.”

Dr. Robert Kolb, Professor Emeritus at Concordia Seminary and a widely-recognized expert on Luther, presented a lecture on “Luther’s Providential God.” He noted that while most people think of Luther’s primary emphasis as being on Christ, he also had a robust theology of God’s providence.

Pipa chapel
Dr. Pipa

Following a Question & Answer session, Dr. Pipa drew from Ephesians 2:1-10 to speak on Sola Gratia. His three points were the function of grace, the purpose of grace, and the fruit of grace. He said, “Salvation, from beginning to end, is of Jehovah, the triune God, that He might be glorified in His people.”

Dr. Kolb then enlightened listeners on “Luther’s Preaching on the Parables.” The key to understanding this biblical genre, he said, is to “recognize the Person telling the parable as the main point of it,” and that Christ provides the proper interpretation for each one.

On Wednesday, Pastor Cliff Blair, Redeemer Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Charlotte, NC, preached from John 6:26-71 on Solus Christus. He spoke movingly of Christ as the focus of the entire Scriptures, the holy One of God, who is the center of it all. He urged listeners, “Set your feet on this rock, eat this bread, drink this blood, taste eternal life now, and know that you will have it forever and ever.”

Pastor Carl Robbins, Woodruff Presbyterian Church, used James 2:14ff to address the topic of Sola Fide. He noted that Protestants tend to warn against legalism, but fail to recognize the danger of antinomianism. In a memorable introduction, he compared the two threats to ditches on the sides of a narrow country road.

L-R:  Drs. Pipa &, Whiting, Pastor Blair, Ryan Speck (moderator), Dr. Morales, Pastor Robbins, and Dr. Kolb

After another panel discussion, Dr. L. Michael Morales, Professor of Biblical Studies at GPTS, spoke on Soli Deo Gloria. Based on Matthew 4:1-11, he encouraged hearers to look to Jesus, who lived completely to the glory of God and glorified the Father through obedience to His Word.

Dr. Michael Whiting, author of Luther in English, led off Thursday’s lectures by exploring “Law as Friend and Foe in Luther’s Theology.” He noted that Luther’s famous paradox about believers being simul justus et peccator (both righteous and sinners) can guide our understanding of his paradoxical language regarding the law.

The last presentation by Dr. James E. McGoldrick, GPTS Professor of Church History, was about “Luther on Life without Dichotomy.” Based on 1 Peter 2:1-12, he spoke about Luther’s doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, which was in stark contrast to the prevailing dichotomy between clergy and laity. He stressed that a life of service is indispensible to the Christian life, saying, “True faith is always active in love.”

The conference concluded with a final Question & Answer session.

The above article by Glenda Mathes was one in the Reformation Conference Series and appeared on pages 10 & 11 of the May 31, 2017, issue of Christian Renewal.


The RPCNA’s Reformation Indy 2012

About 200 people attended the Reformation Indy 2012 conference at Southside Indianapolis Reformed Presbyterian Church on March 23-24, 2012. Dr. Joseph A. Pipa, Jr., president of Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, spoke on the theme, “Divine Guidance: Finding God’s Will in a Confusing World.”

Dr. Joseph Pipa

“I was assigned the topic,” Dr. Pipa says, “but think it very useful for today’s Christian.” He listed his hopes for the conference as: “to simplify the process of decision making; help people be more practically committed to the sufficiency of scripture; help get rid of a voodoo approach to guidance; and help both parents and young people better appreciate the parental role, particularly in vocational and marriage decisions. Also to challenge young men to consider the call to ministry.”Dr. Pipa addressed attendees in three lectures: Scripture and Guidance, Providence and Guidance, and Practical Steps for Guidance. He also answered questions during a 45-minute session at the conclusion of the conference.

Conference organizers have multiple goals for the annual conference.

The Keddies

“We hope to establish this as a ‘lamp’ for the Reformed faith in Indianapolis to reach out to the Christian community with sound teaching,” explains Senior Pastor Gordon Keddie, “and also to be a meeting place for the Reformed community and those who are wrestling with the issues which we hope to address in future years.”

Southside Indianapolis RP Church began to plan its first Reformation Indy conference on “Balanced Christianity” in 2010, but at very short notice had the opportunity to host speaker and author Rev. Ted Donnelly (pastor of Trinity Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland and Professor of New Testament at the Reformed Theological College in Belfast).

“Since he is so well known in RP circle, it was well attended,” says Rev. Keddie, “notwithstanding the haste with which it had to be put together and the limited time for publicity.”

The 2011 conference emphasized “Reforming Missions” with speaker Rev. Steven Miller, former OPC missionary in Eritrea, now a pastor and Adjunct Professor of Missions at Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh.

“We are very happy with the progress we have seen in three years,” says Rev. Keddie. “The news is getting out. Perhaps half of the people come from other churches and some attendees I spoke with are being drawn to the Reformed faith.”

Next year’s conference is scheduled for March 22-23, 2013, with Dr. Joel Beeke speaking on “Spiritual Warfare.” 

Southside Indianapolis RP Church consists of 220 members with an additional 30-40 adherents. The congregation began meeting in a member’s home in 1979 and has met on its current property for 28 years.

“Originally the building was a house (built of Bedford limestone) with a three car garage,” Rev. Keddie says. “As the church grew, from about 50 souls who were sent from Second RP on the Northside, additions were made until just three years ago a $1.2 million auditorium was added.”

The original part of the building was then converted into a suite of offices, a small conference room, and a large classroom. The property is a 3.5 acre site on the south side of Indianapolis on Meridian Street, which Rev. Keddie describes as “the central N-S axis not only of the city, but also of the state of Indiana.”

In addition to Rev. Keddie, who is from Scotland, the congregation is served by Associate Pastor David Whitla, from Northern Ireland. Both are married to American women. The Keddies have three adult sons and anticipate the birth of their second grandchild. The Whitlas have four young children.

The Whitlas

 The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 14 of the April 11, 2012, issue of Christian Renewal.