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2006 General Assembly Report (Topical)

(The running daily 2006 General Assembly Report is available by clicking here.)

Marking the 70th anniversary of the first General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the 73rd General Assembly of the OPC met in Ozinga Chapel, Trinity Christian College, Palos Heights, Illinois, June 21-28, 2006. Questions or comments may be addressed to Donald J. Duff, stated clerk.

The moderator of the 72nd General Assembly, the Rev. James Bosgraf, called the Assembly to order at 7:00 p.m., Wednesday. Breaking with long-standing tradition (but no rule), the Assembly did not start with a full worship service and communion, but heard a brief sermon from Mr. Bosgraf on Philippians 4:1-9, and then got right down to work taking care of many of the tasks necessary to set the Assembly up to do the work it came to do, including the setting up of the Advisory Committees to which all the work of the Assembly was assigned for careful study and recommendations to the full Assembly (all day Thursday was set aside for Advisory Committee meetings).

On Sunday evening there was a worship service of the Assembly with the Lord's Supper, to which area OPCs were invited, attending by over 400, and at which an offering for the family of missionary Matthew Baugh was received in the amount of $35,029.08

Census

Nineteen commissioners were present for their first G.A.

Each day of the Assembly (except the Lord's day) the Assembly was led in devotions at mid-day by several ministers.

Throughout the Assembly at various times fraternal greetings were brought by delegates from other denominations (listed at the end of this report).

Moderator

The Rev. Richard Gerber (associate general secretary of the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension) was elected moderator (the only one nominated).

Stated Clerk's Report

The stated clerk, the Rev. Donald Duff, presented his report. As part of his report he informed the Assembly that the presbyteries have voted to approve amendments to the Book of Discipline proposed to them by the 72nd General Assembly. The moderator therefore declared those amendments (at BD II.B.2) to be adopted and to go into effect in 2010.

Mr. Duff was elected to continue as stated clerk for 3 more years (beginning with the 74th GA).

Trustees' Report

Elder Richard Barker presented the report. The Trustees recommended the adoption of the remuneration package for the stated clerk in 2007. The Assembly approved the package, which the Assembly adopted.

Election of Trustees (class of 2009). Samuel Bacon and Richard Barker, as the only nominees, were returned to the Trustees.

Statistician's Report

Elder Luke Brown, GA statistician, gave his report. Summary (as of 12-31-05):

Churches: 255. Mission works: 63

Total membership: 27,990 = 449 ministers, 19,968 communicants, 7,573 baptized members

In 2005 three congregations withdrew from the OPC to join the Presbyterian Church in America, one of which was a rather large congregation, resulting in a net loss of members for the OPC in 2005. The membership of the OPC has remained at about 28,000 for more than two years, which is a cause of concern. Total offerings in 2005 did increase 5.3%, reflecting an increase in giving per communicant member.

The Assembly elected Mr. Brown to continue as its statistician.

Report of the Committee on Foreign Missions (CFM)

The report was presented by the Rev. Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., who introduced ruling elder Mark Bube, general secretary of the CFM, who reported on the work of the Committee and its missionaries and mission fields.

Mr. Bube's report featured pictures of the missionaries and many of those they serve in various countries—often in spite of opposition and persecution of the churches.

The Rev. Tony Curto, now teaching at Greenville Theological Seminary, reported on the ministry he has been conducting in Ethiopia for two weeks at a time twice a year, and especially on the courage of young men who come from non-Christian areas to Addis Ababa to be taught and others who labor to bring the Gospel to difficult parts of Ethiopia. He pointed to the limitations on his effectiveness, due to the periodic nature of his contact, and stressed that a full time missionary is needed.

The Rev. Heero Hacquebord, a minister of the OPC who labors under Mission to the World (PCA) in the Ukraine, reported on his work, the progress of the growing Reformed and Presbyterian churches in Ukraine, the prospects for a closer relationship between the PCA and OPC in the oversight and support of his work, and his hope to take up church planting work in L'viv (western Ukraine).

The Rev. Al Tricarico, missionary in Nakaale, Karamoja, Uganda, reported on the mission in Nakaale and the surrounding district. Mr. Tricarico urged prayer that the Lord would send another missionary to work with the Proctors in Mbale, and prayer for the Karamojong in their need for the Gospel and its fruits and for the Lord's protection for missionaries and the people to whom they seek to minister.

Mr. Bube recounted the events that took missionary to Haiti, Matthew Baugh, from this world, brought the Assembly up to date on Matt's wife Shannon and their five children, and urged prayer for the Lord to call a man to continue the work in Haiti.

Mr. Bube reminded commissioners that great care must be taken with regard to putting information about our missions on the internet.

The one recommendation of the Committee on Foreign Missions (appearing at the end of a "Supplemental report of the Committee on Foreign Missions") was moved and adopted which addressed a matter referred to the CFM by the 72nd G.A. and arising from the creation of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Support of the OPC Japan Mission:

  1. Members of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church may associate together for specific purposes in the exercise of their common calling, bearing in mind, among other things, the several provisions of Form of Government XXX;
  2. The 73rd (2006) General Assembly observes that: (I) neither it nor any previous General Assembly has acted to give to the 'Ad Hoc Committee for the Support of the OPC Japan Mission' the assembly's approval to represent the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (Form of Government XXX.3), and (ii) the "Ad Hoc Committee for the Support of the OPC Japan Mission" is not subject to the jurisdiction and oversight of the General Assembly (Form of Government XXX.3); and
  3. The orderly ways in which Orthodox Presbyterian foreign missions are to be conducted are enumerated in Form of Government XXVII.1, that is, either "by the General Assembly on behalf of the whole church, or by individual presbyteries and congregations acting in coordination with one another and with the General Assembly."

The Assembly debated at length whether or not to record in the Minutes a "Supplemental Report" of some 25 pages from the CFM having to do with the Ad Hoc Committee. In the end it was decided not to print it in the Minutes.

The Recommendation of Advisory Committee 1 was moved: "That the General Assembly encourage presbyteries without foreign missions committees to form such, as suggested by the CFM in its Manual."

Election to the CFM (class of 2009). The two ruling elders nominated were declared elected: Arthur Thompson and Bradley Winsted. Ministers elected were Jack Peterson, Paul Browne and Glenn Jerrell.

Report of the Committee on Christian Education (CCE)

Elder James Gidley, president of the CCE, presented their report. He introduced the Rev. Danny Olinger, general secretary of the CCE, who continued to report for the Committee.

The Rev. Rodney King offered explanations of improvements and offerings in the OPC website.

The Rev. Greg Reynolds spoke with regard to the CCE's publication for officers in the OPC, Ordained Servant. The Assembly was told that the CCE has decided to present Ordained Servant online, rather than mailing it out (and publishing an annual printed edition). Mr. Reynolds declared that "we are committed to being confessional, not trendy"—but will evaluate trends in the world around us from the standpoint of the truths we confess in our Confessional Standards. The aim is to equip and strengthen men in all offices (ministers, elders, and deacons). Mr. Reynolds also told us that from now on Ordained Servant will be presented online only.

Mr. Olinger told about plans for new publications, including titles in Spanish.

The Rev. Thomas Patete (PCA), executive director of Great Commission Publications (a joint endeavor of the OPC and the PCA), spoke to the Assembly, calling attention to the "Show Me Jesus" graded Sunday School curriculum (developed on a biblical/covenantal grid), to the ongoing re-configuration from a 3-year cycle to a 2-year cycle, and to the inclusion of personal devotional guides for children. Future plans include revising middle school curriculum, adding to adult class offerings, promoting the translation of GCP curriculum into Greek, Portuguese (both in process now) and Spanish (future).

Mr. Olinger amplified the printed report with comments on the OPC's program for ministerial interns. He noted that they had difficulty this year lining up internships for willing ministerial students. As this seemed due primarily to the cost this program imposes on the mentoring churches, the CCE is considering increasing its financial support to those churches. The need is critical, as the average age of OP ministers is going up and a good many will likely retire within the next ten years.

Mr. Olinger also highlighted the OPC Ministerial Training Institute (this fall offering instruction in Polity, Covenant Nurture, and the Westminster Standards, with the on-site intensive session taking place in Matthews [Charlotte], NC).

The Ministerial Training Subcommittee visits seminary candidates, meets with students, provides conferences for presbytery candidates and credentials committees (next one to be sometime in 2007; date, speakers, goals to be announced).

Advisory Committee 2 recommended "that the assembly increase the proposed 2007 budget of the CCE by $12,680" (to allow more funding for internet ministries). At a later point this was adopted as an amendment to the Worldwide Outreach budget adopted by the Assembly.

Elections to the CCE (in two parts): (1) to the CCE, Ministerial Training Subcommittee, the Assembly elected elder David Winslow and the Rev. Thomas Tyson; (2) to the CCE in general, the Assembly elected elder Daryl Hart, the Rev. Sid Dyer, and the Rev. Archibald Allison.

Report of the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension (CHMCE)

The report was presented by the Rev. John Hilbelink, Committee president, and by the general secretary, the Rev. Ross Graham. Home missionaries present as commissioners were introduced and asked to stand, as well as the one regional home missionary present (James Bosgraf).

Mr. Graham reported that already in 2006 the CHMCE has approved the 15th church planter for support (a significant increase from the past), with the prospect for more this summer. He highlighted new works from various locations around the USA—including a home missionary for the Presbytery of New Jersey in San Juan, Puerto Rico!

In God's providence, David Haney, controller for the Worldwide Outreach ministry committees, was the man available to coordinate the response of the OPC to aid disaster victims following Hurricane Katrina. He showed a DVD presenting the work of the OP relief work teams. After the video he asked those commissioners present who had gone to work with the relief teams to stand, and the Assembly expressed its appreciation with applause. Mr. Haney told us that the needs continue and more teams can be put to work through this summer. And following that commissioners gave to David Haney a standing ovation in appreciation for his leadership of that effort.

Mr. Graham added further remarks with regard to the willingness of the CHMCE to serve the church in administering disaster relief efforts in the future.

The Assembly adopted the CHMCE's one recommendation (here given in the form in which the Assembly adopted it):

that the 73rd General Assembly expresses its sincere appreciation to the many members of the OPC who sacrificially gave their gifts and offerings and those who volunteered their time and energy to go to the hurricane-ravaged parts of the southern United States during the fall of 2005 to provide their help and to represent their Lord and their Church in offering 'that cup of cold water' in Jesus' name and that this appreciation be expressed in the minutes of the Assembly, the New Horizons magazine, the denominational website, and the stated clerk's follow-up letter to the sessions of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

In the report of the CHMCE and in a separate communication from the Committee on Diaconal Ministries, the Assembly was informed that these two committees are working together on a proposal regarding response to future major disaster, by which the logistics would be handled by the CHMCE and the funding by the CDM.

Responding to this the Advisory Committee brought two recommendations which generated considerable debate. The first passed and the second did not (mandated that the CDM set aside $25,000 each year for the CHMCE to use in major disaster relief). The recommendation adopted by the Assembly:

1. That the General Assembly request CHMCE to undertake relief ministries on behalf of the GA in the event of a "major disaster" in North America [as defined by a CDM report to the 63rd GA].

Election to the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension. Only two ruling elders were nominated, Richard Barker and Garret Hoogerhyde, so the moderator declared them elected. Ministers elected: Dale Van Dyke, John Hilbelink, Mark Brown.

Report of the Committee on Coordination (COC) / Worldwide Outreach Budget for 2007

The report was presented by the Rev. James Bosgraf, Committee Chairman, who made some introductory remarks and then deferred to Elder David Haney (Director of Finance and Planned Giving) to continue presenting the report.

2005 was the first in eight years in which the OPC fully supported the Worldwide Outreach budget in its giving.

Those who have been members of the OPC for a number of years probably understand that as a denomination we support the ministries of foreign missions, home missions, and Christian education at the General Assembly level through a unified annual budget, but those who are new to the church may not be aware of this. It does distinguish the OPC from most (if not all) other denominations. One distinctive is that individual missionaries are not required to raise their support; the Committee on Foreign Missions takes that task upon itself. And at a broader level, the Committee on Foreign Missions, the Committee on Home Missions, and the Committee on Christian Education work together, through the coordinating work of the Committee on Coordination, to develop a single, unified budget which the General Assembly can agree to (or possibly amend) and urge the churches of the OPC to support as a whole. The whole work of Worldwide Outreach is then promoted throughout the OPC by various means, especially through the magazine New Horizons in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church which is direct-mailed to the home of every communicant member.

The 2007 Worldwide Outreach budget, proposed before the Assembly, comes with the unanimous support of the members of the Committee on Coordination and the general secretaries of the three program committees.

Proposed Worldwide Outreach Budget

 

Proposed

As Amended and Adopted by GA

Change

Committee on Christian Education

$299,320

$312,000

+ $12,680*

Committee on Foreign Missions

1,083,438

1,083,438

unchanged

Committee on Home Missions & Church Ext.

950,000

950,000

unchanged

Sub-total

 

2,332,758

 

New Horizons

250,000

 

unchanged

Committee on Coordination

297,000

297,000

 

Total Worldwide Outreach

$2,879,758

$2,892,438

 

*see above under CCE

     

The Assembly does not request a per-communicant-member amount to support the Worldwide Outreach budget. But for those who are interested in knowing: with the total number of communicant members and ministers at 20,417 (12-31-05, Statistician's report), the per-communicant member share of the WWO budget comes to $141.67.

The Assembly adopted COC recommendations 2 and 3 which proposed changes in the Standing Rules of the GA affecting elections to the voting membership of the Committee.

And at the end of its dealings with the report of the Special Committee on Financial Review (below), the Assembly also adopted the COC's 4th recommendation: an amendment to Instrument E of the Instruments of the GA, which will allow the indefinite continuation of "special relationship" support for a missionary.

Election to the Committee on Coordination. The Rev. James Bosgraf was returned to the COC.

Report of the Special Committee on Financial Review

The Rev. Robert Boline presented the report. Consideration of this report occupied the commissioners (with a few interruptions) most of one day and part of the next (evening recess postponed a half hour vainly hoping to complete it the first day).

The 71st GA created this committee with the following action:

That, in light of the financial needs laid out by the Committee on Foreign Missions, Home Missions and Christian Education in their reports to the 71st General Assembly, the General Assembly elect a committee of five members, none of whom is a member or an employee of the Committee on Coordination or the three program committees, to study the present means of providing funds for the work of the program committees of the Church, to consult with representatives of the Committee on Coordination and the three program committees, and to present recommendations to the 72nd General Assembly for possible structural changes to the present system of funding.

The need for this review arose from problems that have repeatedly been alleged to exist in the implementation of "the unified budget" process (those problems often referred to in terms of "Instrument E" [the GA document that regulates the unified budget] or "the cap"). The possibilities: (1) the unified budget approach is wrong, and we should return to the pre-1970s approach; (2) the unified budget approach is right, but major or fundamental revisions are needed in our current method; (3) the current structure and method are basically sound, but just need some improvement; (4) or no changes are needed. The Committee's recommendations seem to express the 3rd of these alternatives (though some might think their proposal to remove "the cap" a major revision).

The Committee report gave the history and philosophical/theological rationale of the current practice of the unified budget for supporting Worldwide Outreach, offered a careful analysis of its view of problems with the current method, and proposed remedies in the form of amendments to the governing document (Instrument E). The chairman supplemented the report with a very helpful graphic slide presentation, showing how it all works. The committee presented 17 recommendations.

Recommendations 2-15 from the Special Committee were moved as a block (rather than seriatim) in the form proposed by Advisory Committee 4, all of them modifying Instrument E at various places. The changes as a whole were intended to (1) require greater attention to promotion and solicitation (including better exchange of information between sessions and the COC) in support of the Worldwide Outreach ministries, and (2) eliminate the "cap."

Procedural motions were made and carried to separate these issues from each other for debate and vote.

The Assembly voted to eliminate the "cap" from Instrument E by a vote of 69 to 64.

The Assembly voted to approve recommendations 2-13 of the Special Committee (except for the parts eliminating the "cap" which were approved the evening before). The general effect of these adopted amendments to Instrument E is to require that more attention and effort be given to promotion of the Worldwide outreach ministries.

The Assembly adopted a motion to proceed to vote immediately on all remaining recommendations of the Special Committee (one of the very few times this reporter remembers a motion to end debate being passed).

Recommendations 14 and 15 carried. This action amends part of Instrument E that has to do with the financial support of new missionaries through "special relationships" (e.g., Hub-Spokes arrangements), and directs the CFM and Committee on Coordination to bring all of the special relationships into conformity with the amended provision within two years.

Recommendation 16 was moved, and then the Advisory Committee's substitute for it was moved and adopted by the Assembly. This act of the Assembly directs the Committee on Coordination to "explore means by which the program committees themselves may reach new sources of funding within and without the OPC and methods of reaching them for advancing the Reformed cause represented by the OPC and to suggest means of implementation; consider how the WWO program may be greatly simplified; and report their findings to the 74th GA."

A motion to dissolve the Special Committee with thanks was adopted.

Report of the Committee on Diaconal Ministries (CDM)

The report was presented by committee President, the Rev. Ronald Pearce, and its Secretary-Treasurer, the Rev. Leonard Coppes.

The recommendations of the CDM were adopted (recorded as amended):

  1. That the General Assembly request the congregations to give at least half of their contributions by the end of May.
  2. That the General Assembly remind the presbyteries not to approve a call containing "free from worldly care" if they consider the call under consideration to be inadequate to provide for the minister's livelihood, and 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 whether the candidate has adequate life insurance.
  3. That the General Assembly 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.
  4. That for the year 2007 the General Assembly request the churches of the OPC to support the work of this Committee at the suggested rate of $25.00 per communicant member.

The Assembly also adopted the following Advisory Committee recommendation:

That the General Assembly instruct the Committee on Diaconal Ministries to provide in their future reports to GA a detailed explanation of all foreign ministry disbursements with due regard for the safety and confidentiality of the recipients.

Election to the CDM. Deacons Jack Swann and Bob Wright were nominated and declared elected. The Rev. Lendall Smith was elected.

A motion was adopted expressing the Assembly's gratitude to Dr. Leonard Coppes and his wife Diana for their thirty-three years of service to the Committee on Diaconal Ministries.

Report of the Committee on Pensions

The report was presented by Elder Roger Huibregtse, who reported on the performance of the OPC Pension Fund and the state of the hospitalization insurance plan.

The Assembly adopted the recommendation of the Pensions Committee that the Assembly "request the congregations to contribute $10 per communicant member to the Hospitalization Reserve Fund in 2007."

Election to the Committee on Pensions. The Rev. Robert Broline, and Elders Bruce Stahl and Roger Huibregtse were returned to the Committee for another term.

Report of the Committee On Chaplains and Military Personnel

The Rev. Robert Needham presented the report, assisted by Elder Robert Coie.

The OPC, PCA, and Korean-American Presbyterian Churches cooperate together in forming the Presbyterian and Reformed Joint Commission on Chaplains and Military Personnel (PRJC), which serves as an endorsing agent for chaplains from their communions (which enables both ecclesiastical discipline of our chaplains and also intercession on their behalf). The PRJC is currently endeavoring to bring about needed changes in the "Revised Interim Guidelines Concerning the Free Exercise of Religion in the Air Force," particularly to defend the right of military personnel as well as chaplains to pray in the name of Jesus on any and every occasion for which prayer is requested. Mr. Needham requested prayer for the success of this endeavor.

The Committee updates and publishes a monthly prayer list for all OPC members (and relatives) in military service.

The Committee's one recommendation was adopted (as amended):

The Committee presented one recommendation (printed here as later amended and adopted): " ... that the 73rd GA respectfully encourage the presbyteries to

  1. be prepared to aid churches where the pastor is mobilized,
  2. encourage their positive involvement in processing calls presented to those either currently serving as chaplains or intending to serve as chaplains in the military reserves,
  3. request that their churches consider utilizing approved chaplain candidates either as pulpit supplies or as interns or be utilized to assist the pastor in a manner that such candidates are enabled to fulfill their chaplain candidate ministry requirement of up to two years of ministry before endorsement.

Grounds:

  1. Pastors who serve in the reserves and National Guard are increasingly being mobilized in a time of war and the churches that they serve are in need of the care of their presbyteries;
  2. Being called up to serve their country in time of war should not jeopardize the pastoral relationship with the chaplain's local church;
  3. Chaplain candidates are increasingly being required to have two years of pastoral service before they can be endorsed for the military chaplaincy. Pulpit supply service and internships can provide for this requirement."

Election to the Committee on Chaplains. Mr. Richard Dickerson was returned to the Committee.

Report of the Committee to Study the Doctrine of Justification

The 71st General Assembly erected a six-man committee "to critique the teachings of the 'New Perspective on Paul,' 'Federal Vision,' and other like teachings concerning the doctrine of justification and other related doctrines, as they are related to the Word of God and our subordinate standards, with a view to giving a clear statement to the presbyteries, session and seminaries ... " Committee Chairman Rev. David VanDrunen presented to the Assembly the ninety-one page product of their two years of labor.

Following a brief introduction, the report has the following parts:

I. General Introduction, which devotes 29 pages to carefully expositing the doctrine of justification taught in Scripture and in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms (especially Larger Catechism, Question 70), and interacting point-by-point with those who have espoused differing views.
II. Justification in the Ecumenical Context—briefly sketching developments in the larger professing Christian world (such as the "Joint Declaration of Justification" signed on Reformation Day 1999 in Augsburg, Germany, by representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation).
III. The New Perspective on Paul—22 page examination and critique in view of the biblical and Reformed confessional doctrine set forth in part I.
IV. Federal Vision—29 page examination and critique.
V. Summaries of parts III and IV
VI. Recommendations—The Committee presented to the Assembly three recommendations based on its report:
"1. That the General Assembly recommend that presbyteries include the following topics in the examination of candidates, with a view to ensuring each candidate's fidelity to biblical and confessional teaching on justification and his ability to articulate that teaching: [here they list 14 doctrinal subjects about which candidates should be clear and sound].
2. That the General Assembly recommend that presbyteries, sessions, and pastors be proactive in addressing teachings of the New Perspective on Paul and of the Federal Vision and other like teachings that compromise the purity of the gospel.
3. That the General Assembly:
a. Distribute this report to the presbyteries, particularly to their candidates and credentials committees, and to all sessions of the OPC, commending the report to them for study.
b. Request the Committee on Christian Education: (1) to distribute this report to seminaries with which it has contact; (2) to post this report on our denominational web site for easy access by interested parties; and (3) to consider publishing it separately for distribution.
c. Request the stated clerk to mail copies of this report to those churches with whom the OPC has fraternal relations."

I do not recall hearing any disagreement with the substance of the Report on Justification. The debate centered entirely on the manner in which it was to be disseminated. That discussion, and the motions and amendments it generated, became somewhat convoluted. In the middle of it a motion was made (which was never voted on) to "adopt" the report.

The Assembly adopted the first recommendation by an overwhelming vote (after defeating a motion to substitute something similar for it).

The Assembly adopted the second recommendation with little discussion and a decisive vote.

Recommendation 3a was similarly adopted.

Debate on the rest of recommendation 3 had to do with the question whether or not, and in what form, the report should be given an explanatory preface before being distributed outside of the OPC. The following amendment was attempted: to add to 3b "and (4) to include the following statement with any distribution of the report outside the OPC: The General Assembly recognizes that this report is intended to criticize the Federal Vision and New Perspective on Paul as movements, and not primarily to criticize individuals. The General Assembly also recognizes that the report does critique published statements of various individuals, some of whom may believe that they have been misunderstood, and may wish to clarify or modify their statements. The General Assembly also notes that its Standing Rules V.3. state that 'If a report or paper contains only a statement of fact or opinion for the information of the Assembly, there is no necessity for action upon it. But if the Assembly desires to endorse the statement and thus make itself assume responsibility for it, the proper motion is to adopt it.' The Assembly has commended the report for study, but has not adopted the report."

After considerable work (including referral back to the Advisory Committee), the Assembly adopted 3b and 3c as follows (on recommendation from the Advisory Committee):

"1. That the Assembly "request the Committee on Christian Education: (1) to distribute this report to seminaries with which it has contact; (2) to post this report on our denominational web site for easy access by interested parties; (3) to consider publishing it separately for distribution; thereby commending the report for study; and (4) to consider devoting an issue of New Horizons to providing popular critiques of the New Perspectives on Paul and Federal Vision to its readership. The General Assembly requests that the Committee on Christian Education write a prefatory statement to the report explaining: (a) the reasons and context surrounding the origin of the report, including the republishing of the statement on Justification adopted by the 71st General Assembly, and (b) an explanation of what it means for the General Assembly to commend a report for study.
2. ... request the stated clerk to mail copies of this report with the prefatory statement to those churches with whom the OPC has Ecclesiastical Fellowship or a Corresponding relationship."
3. ... thank the members of the Committee on Justification for their arduous labors and dismiss the Committee."

Report of the Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations

The report was presented by the Rev. Messers. Thomas E. Tyson and Jack J. Peterson.

The CEIR brought 3 recommendations, the first quite lengthy. Their recommendations were adopted by the Assembly in separate actions:

1. Their 1st recommendation sought to amend "the policy of the OPC on its relationship with other Reformed churches" (as adopted and amended by previous General Assemblies), by
(1) determining to focus the development of fraternal ecumenical relationships with churches "seeking ecclesiastical relationship with the OPC" which are "either geographically proximate to the OPC" or have "some other form of substantial contact or history with the OPC" (other churches being encouraged to seek membership in the ICRC);
(2) drop the current section on "Limited Contact" and replace it with a new section on "Ecumenical Contact" (thereby re-formulating the three levels of ecumenical relationship entered into by the OPC: ecclesiastical fellowship (closest), corresponding relations, and [if the amendment is adopted] ecumenical contact [instead of "limited contact"]; and
(3) create a list of churches in ecumenical contact.
2. Their 2nd recommendation was to approve the membership of the Free Reformed Churches in North America in NAPARC.
3. Their 3rd recommendation proposed a response to NAPARC's request that the OPC (and other member churches) ratify "a new formulation regarding women in combat", declining to grant their request (suggesting instead that NAPARC refer member churches to each other's statements on the subject).

Election to the CEIR. Elder Mark Bube and the Rev. George Knight were re-elected to the committee, and the Rev. John Hilbelink was elected to fill the place left open by G. I. Williamson's declining to be returned to the committee.

Overtures

There were two overtures (actually 4, but two of the four were in support of the other two) from presbyteries before the Assembly)—Overture 1 and Overture 3.

Overture #1 came from the Presbytery of Southern California requesting advice from the Assembly (supported by Overture 4 and Communication 6).

On recommendation from Advisory Committee 3 the Assembly amended adopted the following:

That the General Assembly respond to Overture 1 by electing a committee of three and one alternate member to study the issue regarding the propriety of the reception of illegal aliens into membership in the OPC and to propose to the 74th General Assembly advice for presbyteries and sessions, and that the Assembly approve a budget of $1,000 for the work of the committee.

Elected to the new Committee Study the Issue of Aliens: the Rev. Todd Wagenmaker, Elder David Winslow and the Rev. John Fesko, with the Rev. Charles Telfer as alternate and Mr. Wagenmaker named as convener. This election took a surprising number of ballots to complete.

Overture #3 came from the Presbytery of Ohio (supported by Overture 4).

Advisory Committee 2 recommended that the Assembly respond as follows:

that the assembly instruct its Committee on Christian Education to explore, together with Great Commission Publications, the need for and requirements of a new Psalter Hymnal and report back to the General Assembly, no later than 2008.

The Advisory Committee cited the grounds for the Overture as the grounds for its recommendation:

  1. Orthodox Presbyterian congregations ought to have all 150 Psalms available for singing...
  2. Providing an OPC Psalter-Hymnal may contribute to greater continuity in worship from congregation to congregation within the OPC....
  3. Moreover, currently available versions of the metrical Psalms are deficient....
  4. Developing a Psalter-Hymnal would fulfill a desire that the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressed....
  5. The Orthodox Presbyterian Church has a unique opportunity to provide such a Psalter-Hymnal at this time....

The Assembly ended up adopting the following motion instead (basically using the language of the Overture):

That the 73rd General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church authorize its Committee on Christian Education to seek to develop a Psalter-Hymnal by 2011 (our 75th anniversary)—which includes musical settings of all 150 Psalms, in their entirety, with as much accuracy and as little archaic language and confusing syntax as possible—for use in our congregations; that it authorize the Committee on Christian Education to appoint a special Psalter-Hymnal committee; and that it grant this special committee a budget of up to $5,000 [per year for committee expenses].

Report of the Committee on Appeals and Complaints

The report was presented by the Rev. John Mallin.

There was only one such matter before the assembly: an appeal by a member of a church against his conviction and censure (excommunication). He appealed first to his presbytery, which upheld his conviction and censure, and then appealed that to the G.A.

The Committee on Appeals and Complaints led the Assembly through the chronology of the case, summarized the charge against the appellant and summarized and made observations regarding the contents of his appeal. The Committee made one recommendation: "that the appeal be found in order and properly before the Assembly." The Committee also made procedural recommendations.

The Rev. Larry Westerveld presented the report of Advisory Committee 10, alerting the Assembly to the existence of a minority report.

The Assembly found the appeal in order and properly before the Assembly, and the Assembly agreed to hear and consider the appeal in the manner proposed by the Appeals and Complaints Committee, but in a slightly different order than proposed.

The appellant's third specification of error was taken up first (as to its admissibility), alleging that his presbytery "erred in not sustaining the appeal regarding the proposed censure of excommunication." On recommendation from Advisory Committee 10 the Assembly found this specification to be in order and properly before the Assembly.

The appellant presented (in writing, he was not present) a number specifications of error alleged against the presbytery in the hearing of his first appeal.

A procedural motion was passed (at 8:29 p.m.) delaying the time for recess until the resolution of the Appeal (but at 10:33 p.m. the Assembly voted to recess for the night with the matter uncompleted).

The first specification of error considered by the Assembly was his allegation that the presbytery erred in not finding that the trial judicatory erred in denying him his right under the Book of Discipline to call witnesses of his choosing.

The Assembly voted to sustain that allegation of error.

Related to this, the Assembly considered the recommendation of its Advisory Committee that this error not be deemed sufficient to overturn the judgment against the appellant.

But substitute motion was made and adopted by the Assembly (here as amended):

that the Assembly find that the specification of error is sufficiently weighty not to sustain the judgment of the presbytery so as to warrant remitting the case to the trial judicatory for a new trial.

Further amendments were then added to it:

Furthermore the Assembly requests and strongly urges the session of Grace Covenant OPC to provide Mr. V. with competent trial counsel; and the Assembly further requests and strongly urges Mr. V. to receive such counsel (BD IV.A.3.a).
Furthermore the Assembly encourages the Presbytery of Michigan and Ontario to offer its assistance to Grace Covenant OPC to augment the session for the purpose of conducting this trial (FG 13.10).

And the amended motion carried, thereby vacating the judgment against Mr. V. and returning the case to his session for a new trial.

The Assembly advised the trial judicatory that "informal suspension" is not provided for in the Book of Discipline.

The moderator ruled that the Assembly, although having remitted the case to the trial judicatory, must now continue to consider the rest of the appeal and the report of the Advisory Committee.

The moderator's ruling was challenged, and the Assembly did not uphold his ruling (rather overwhelmingly).

Election to the Committee on Appeals and Complaints. The Rev. Alan Strange was elected to the Committee; and the Rev. Thomas Foh was elected as alternate.

Historian and the Committee for the Historian

The Report of the Historian (John Muether). At the historian's urging the Assembly acknowledged the 50 years of service of Elder Newman DeHaas (Silver Spring, Maryland) with standing applause.

The Report of the Committee for the Historian. Advisory Committee 9 noted the need for space for the archives (justifying the amount budgeted).

Elected to the Committee for the Historian: Chad Bond.

Review of Presbytery Minutes and Standing Committee Minutes

The work of these two committees, appointed by the Assembly each year, is one important way that the assembly exercises its oversight over the presbyteries and over the committees it has created to carry on the work of the church at the denominational level.

Report of the Committee on Presbyterial Records—presented by the Rev. Douglas L. Watson. With almost no discussion and no debate, the Assembly quickly adopted the 25 recommendations of the Committee. None of the exceptions brought to the attention of the Assembly were of a weighty nature.

The Report of the Committee for Examining Standing Committee Records was presented by the Rev. Douglas Snyder. This committee reviews the minutes of the standing committees of the Assembly (Foreign Missions, Home Missions, Christian Education, Coordination, Pensions, Trustees, Diaconal, Chaplains, Historian, Ecumenicity).

The 5 recommendations of the committee were adopted with no debate. None of the exceptions noted were of a weighty nature.

Report of the Committee on Arrangements

Recommendations for allowing excuses for some absences (with compensation), travel and housing reimbursement, expense reimbursement to Covenant OPC, $10 per communicant member request for support of Travel Fund, arrangements for the 74th, 75th, and 76th GAs (see below)—all adopted.

Elected to the Committee on Arrangements: Elder Robert Meeker, class of 2009; Elder John Muether, alternate.

Report of the Committee on Revisions for the Directory for Public Worship

The report was presented by its chairman, the Rev. George Cottenden.

Due to the flood of responses from presbyteries suggesting amendments to the Amended Proposed Revised Version of the DPW, the committee did not recommend adoption of the proposed revision this year. Their recommendations instead asked for another year, with a view to presenting a finished product to the 74th GA.

Acting on recommendations from the Committee (and Advisory Committee for #7 below):

  1. The Assembly agreed to postpone consideration of the APRV to the 74th GA—carried.
  2. The Assembly referred all overtures and communications to this GA regarding the APRV to the Committee on Revisions for orderly presentation to the 74th GA—carried.
  3. The Assembly requested the Committee to complete its work by Dec. 31, 2006, and post it to the OP web site.
  4. The Assembly instructed the stated clerk to include in the docket for the 74th GA a full day to allow for consideration of the APRV and contingent changes to the Book of Discipline and Form of Government.
  5. The Assembly instructed the stated clerk to include in the printed minutes of the 73rd GA the report of the Committee but not the APRV itself or the contingent proposed amendments to the FG and BD.
  6. The Assembly recommitted the Suggested Forms for the Book of Discipline to the Committee.
  7. The Assembly agreed to elect an alternate member of the Committee and request him to attend the meetings of the Committee as an observer.

Election of an alternate to the Committee on Revisions. The Rev. Danny Olinger was elected.

Candidates Not Meeting All Educational Requirements

Two presbyteries informed the Assembly of men who had been approved by them for ordination (Presbytery of the Southwest, ordination for Mr. Phil Hodson) and licensure (Presbytery of Philadelphia, licensure for Mr. James La Belle) who have not met all of the educational requirements specified in the Form of Government.

On their recommendation of the Advisory Committee, the Assembly expressed no objections.

General Assembly Operating Budget

The recommended 2007 G.A. Operating Budget, totaling $229,981 and a $14 per communicant request to support the Fund were adopted by the Assembly.

Various Protests

I think this Assembly may have set a record for the number of protests read into the Record, only one of which was answered:

On motion, the Assembly appointed Messers. Fesko, VanDrunen, and Strange to answer the last protest of the four. Just before adjournment they read a proposed answer to the protest which the Assembly adopted.

Fraternal Greetings from Delegates from Other Denominations:

Several Expressions of Gratitude

At different times during the Assembly a number of expressions of gratitude were offered, usually received with applause, sometimes standing, some of them officially adopted for the Record.

Summary of Budget Approvals / Support Requests

Resolution of Thanks

The 73rd General Assembly takes this opportunity to acknowledge the great goodness of our God in providing brothers and sisters in the Lord who have enhanced this Assembly by both upfront and behind the scenes service. We wish to especially mention the following:

For the hosting hospitality of Trinity Christian College, a serene oasis in the midst of the bustling Chicago megalopolis, we express our thanks to the Board and to the President Dr. Steven Timmerman and his staff in various departments whose labors have so comfortably housed and fed us, and attended to our electronic and other needs, allowing our ecclesiastical purpose to be accomplished unhindered. Among them are Pete Hamstra (VP of Marketing and Admissions), Larryl Humme (VP of Development), Ginny Carpenter (VP of Student Development), Jim Erickson (Director of Dining Services), Tim Timmons (Director of Physical Plant), Jim Van Schepen (Director of Security), Bob Grotenhuis (Interim Director of Marketing), Mary Tambrini (Catering Coordinator), Dee Carranza (Dining Services Manager), Dave Jousma (A/V Coordinator), Kevin Jacobs (Computer Services Coordinator), Jan Kosmel (Facilities Coordinator), Cindy Sorice (Custodial Coordinator), Jeremy Junkin (Setup Coordinator), and the special presence of our lady-in-waiting, Joanne Gritters (Conference and Events Coordinator).
We appreciate the Session of Covenant Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Orland Park, Illinois, for hosting the communion service for combined Chicago-area churches and the Assembly commissioners, for the Pastor Iain Alastair MacKay Wright, who coordinated many menial tasks and had general oversight, even chauffeuring commissioners ... and, on the correct side of the road. And a special thanks to Covenant Church members John and Frank Voss, who volunteered to build the stage extension [on which about half of the Assembly had its tables and chairs], and also contributed all the materials, not an insignificant donation.
The chore of sorting through stacks of paper ballots (some folded, some invalid, most submitted correctly) and distributing papers continued under the faithful leadership of David R. Heise. Joining him have been his grandson, Alexander D. Mollohan, Elijah DeJong, Grace DeJong, Joy Muether, Timothy Muether, Daniel Sawyer, Nathaniel Thompson, and David Veldkamp. We thank this crew of volunteers for their quiet, valuable assistance.
This year, again, the Committee on General Assembly Arrangements has fulfilled its mandate to "be responsible for arrangements before and during the meetings of the General Assembly that will enable the work of the Assembly," and therefore we thank them.
Finally, we express our sincere thanks to the Rev. Richard R. Gerber, moderator of the 73rd General Assembly, for patiently guiding us through our docket, to Stated Clerk Donald J. Duff and Assistant Clerk John W. Mahaffy in keeping an accurate record of the Assembly, and to David E. Haney for his work as projectionist ... one among the many hats he wears at the Assembly.

Dates and Places for the Next Three General Assemblies

At noon on Wednesday, June 28, the Assembly sang "Jesus with Thy Church Abide" as its closing prayer, and received the benediction from the moderator, who declared the Assembly dissolved and called for the 74th GA to meet as decided.

The Rev. David W. King is pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church (OPC), Janesville, Wisconsin.

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