The Sixty-fifth General Assembly (1998) approved a plan for the Subcommittee on Ministerial Training (SMT) of the Committee on Christian Education to establish a Ministerial Training Institute of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (MTIOPC). The SMT stated that the purpose of the MTIOPC was to assist in maintaining and enhancing the quality of ministerial service in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, especially pastoral and missionary, by helping men to prepare for informed and effective ministry that conforms to the standard of Holy Scripture. To this end, the Institute shall advance a constructive view of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and its doctrine, government, discipline, and worship.
Since the establishment of the MTIOPC in 1998 with this stated purpose in mind, ten different courses of instruction, taught by experienced OP pastors and elders, have been offered. Over 570 pastors, elders, licentiates, and men under care have been enrolled in MTIOPC courses. Intensive training sessions have been held in California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington.
The SMT's desire is to continue to develop this vital ministry of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. This Catalog provides important information for those interested in enrolling in the MTIOPC course of instruction.
Sincerely in Christ,
Danny E. Olinger
Director of the MTIOPC
CCE General Secretary
An Institute, Not a Seminary
The MTIOPC is an institute, not a seminary. It does not come close to offering a full seminary curriculum. Our goal is to offer instruction in five key areas: (1) the Westminster standards, (2) Presbyterian church polity, particularly as embodied in the OPC, (3) the history, character, and distinguishing characteristics of the OPC, (4) practical theology, and (5) presuppositional apologetics. Some seminaries do an acceptable job of teaching some of these subjects that are essential for preparing men for effective, biblical ministry in the OPC, but we believe that no one seminary covers all of them well.
An Institute, Not a Location
The MTIOPC does not have a campus. It serves men who are preparing for, or are currently in, ministry across the whole country.
A Church Institute, Not a Parachurch Organization
The Institute is answerable to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church through the General Assembly and its Committee on Christian Education (CCE). The Assembly can direct the Institute to take certain actions or to refrain from others. The six members of the CCE's Subcommittee on Ministerial Training (SMT), which serves as the Institute's board of directors, are elected directly by the Assembly. The SMT is responsible for appointing a director, an administrator, and the teachers of the Institute.
Presbyterian, Not Hierarchical
In the OPC, as in Presbyterianism generally, the presbytery is the church judicatory that is primarily responsible for the admission of men into the gospel ministry. The presbytery takes men under care, examines men for licensure and ordination, oversees a minister's life and doctrine, and is the court of original jurisdiction over him. We by no means intend to weaken these roles of the presbyteries. Rather, we want the Institute to strengthen them. We hope that presbyteries will interact with the Institute and will encourage their men under care to take advantage of it.
Where Is the Institute Going?
• An OPC Identity, Not Isolationism.
As we offer instruction to ministerial candidates, there is a danger of becoming ingrown. That would be contrary to the Reformed ecumenical spirit and history of the OPC. The distinguishing commitments of the OPC are not a parochial possession, but are fundamental to the struggles of the whole church of Jesus Christ in the contemporary world. Preserving a knowledge of our history and of its relevance to today's ecclesiastical scene will be a service not only to the OPC but also to the whole body of Christ.
• Scholar-Preachers, Not Shallow Preachers.
Presbyterianism envisions that her preachers should also be scholars. Her scholar-preachers should be equipped to open the treasures of the Word of God to the people of God. The instruction offered in the MTIOPC should therefore not be "safe." We should not try to keep our ministerial candidates from being exposed to ideas that are foreign to our church and confession. Rather, we should want them to be exposed to the alternatives, and to be prepared to teach and defend our confession and polity from the Word of God. This means that the Institute's level of instruction must equal or even exceed that of seminary training.
• Pastors, Not Hired Men
But scholarship and education are not ends in themselves. The Institute must also prepare men to love and serve the OPC as pastors, shepherding the flock of God. Like Christ, they must be prepared to lay down their lives for the flock. Another part of OPC history worth remembering—and we trust that it is cherished in heaven—is the many sacrifices made by our early ministers and missionaries. Some of them lived from hand to mouth, enduring a voluntary poverty and exile in order to minister in the OPC. They went out without knowing whither they went, having been privileged not only to believe in Christ but also to suffer for him. It is our hope that the teachers in the Institute will model that kind of spirit to their students.
• A Journey, Not a Destination
The Institute will not be a resting place. It is an experiment in ministerial training. Over the next few years, the SMT will learn much about offering instruction to ministerial candidates. We will learn more precisely what they need and whether we can help them effectively. And through our seminary visitation program, we will learn more about the strengths and weaknesses of the seminaries.
—James S. Gidley
Dr. Gidley is a ruling elder at Grace OPC in Sewickley, Pa., president of the Committee on Christian Education, and chairman of the Subcommittee on Ministerial Training.
Men who are under care, licentiates, ministers, and elders of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church may apply for admission to the MTIOPC. Also, ministers and men in training for the ministry from other ecclesiastical bodies may apply to the MTIOPC. For further information contact:
Mrs. Pat Clawson
Orthodox Presbyterian Church
607 N. Easton Road, Bldg. E
Willow Grove, PA 19090-2539
The MTIOPC offers a core set of courses that focuses on the determined needs of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The MTIOPC does not offer degrees. Rather, a student may take any or all of the courses offered by the MTIOPC. It is recommended that men seek the counsel of their local session and presbytery in determining which courses might be most helpful to their ministry.
MTIOPC courses are designed to equal or exceed seminary-level courses. As such, they will be academically rigorous and require considerable effort on the part of the student.
The MTIOPC offers courses through a combination of Internet and face-to-face interaction. Prior to the start of the semester, students will be sent a syllabus outlining the purpose and goals of the course, required and recommended readings, and assignments. During the semester, faculty and students will correspond via email. Completed assignments will be sent to faculty by email, and faculty will respond by email.
At the end of the semester, there will be a mandatory intensive training session, held in a predetermined location. It will provide an opportunity for students and faculty to meet face-to-face for discussion, testing (where appropriate), and bringing closure to the course. Attendance is required.
The site planned for intensive training is as follows:
The MTIOPC courses and their credits are:
Book of Discipline (1 credit)
This course gives special attention to the theory and practice of Presbyterianism as it finds expression in the Form of Government and Book of Discipline of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Jurisdiction, charges, process, review, and censure are covered in detail. Some applied exercises in the area of church discipline are used to help students think through the challenges faced in this difficult area of ministry.
Defending the Faith (Presuppositional Apologetics) (2 credits)
The purpose of this course is to provide a thorough introduction to presuppositional apologetics, and to highlight its importance in the theological encyclopedia and the life of the church. The first half of the course is an introduction to presuppositional apologetics. Topics include the history of apologetics, the nature of presuppositional apologetics, and the relationship between presuppositional apologetics and Scripture, the person of God, preredemptive revelation, the doctrine of the Fall, the covenant of grace—Jesus Christ, and the doctrine of the church.
The second half of the course deals with presuppositional apologetics and the marketplace. Topics include Cornelius Van Til and the theistic proofs for God's existence, the problem of evil, criticisms of miracles from a scientific worldview, religious-mystical experience, psychology, and postmodernism. The course concludes with a discussion of why presuppositional apologetics is so important to the future of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
Ecclesiology (2 credits)
The purpose of this course is to acquaint students with the biblical and historical foundations of Presbyterian church government and the consequent principles and practice by which the body of Christ should be understood and shepherded. A well-informed and biblical ecclesiology equips a minister with competency for his conduct in the church, and it prepares him for the theological challenges and controversies which often confront him in the area of ecclesiology.
Furthermore, those who have Reformed convictions about the church are increasingly challenged by the modern Zeitgeist of American evangelicalism and its thorough saturation with the parachurch agenda. Orthodox Presbyterian ministers and elders who live in such an age must be prepared to articulate the conviction that "there is no ordinary possibility of salvation" outside of the visible church (WCF 25.2). And they must give a thoughtful and winsome defense of the church's rightful claim to ordain "stewards of the mysteries of God" (1 Cor. 4:1) and to exercise the "keys of the kingdom" (Matt. 16:19) as the "pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15).
The Form of Government (2 credits)
The Form of Government course will focus on the meaning, history, and polity of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church; the nature and exercise of church government; the officers of the church; the governing assemblies and local administration; the process of licensing, ordaining, and calling ministers and other ordained officers; ways to amend the constitution; and Robert’s Rules of Order.
A Greek Refresher (2 credits)
This course seeks to aid pastors in refreshing and expanding their grasp of Greek so they are strengthened in their presentation of the whole counsel of God. Returning to the study of the biblical languages is the best source of sound exegesis and preaching.
The course will renew and expand one’s basic skill with Koine Greek syntax and vocabulary, improve proficiency in sight-reading Koine Greek, and recall the main theological and exegetical themes of various New Testament authors and their relation to the Reformed confessions. The instructor will meet via video-conference with students weekly. Students may expect to spend about 30–45 minutes on each of the two or three short weekly assignments before attending the three-day summative workshop at the Intensive Training.
A Hebrew Refresher (2 credits)
This course is intended for ministers and licentiates who have been trained in Hebrew to refresh and deepen their knowledge of the basics of Hebrew grammar, syntax, and vocabulary. Even those who are quite rusty in their Hebrew are welcome to take the class. The student will gain experience and confidence in reading Old Testament Hebrew, especially prose, and understand how to use these skills in preparing to preach and teach God’s Word.
This course will focus on review and reading. Students will be expected to parse and define words and translate verses. The class will meet weekly on Skype before Intensive Training.
Homiletics (2 credits)
The purpose of the Homiletics course is to serve as a practicum that will supplement standard seminary homiletics programs. The practicum will provide instruction, discussion, models, and experience in preaching that is both pastoral and sensitive to the standards of preaching that have historically marked Presbyterian and Reformed churches. Special attention will be given to these standards as presented in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church's Form of Government and Directory for the Public Worship of God. The course will offer the equivalent of a two-semester seminary homiletics class in a combination of preparatory work, an intensive training program, and follow-up. Preference will be given to pastors and licentiates.
OPC History (1 credit)
The course examines the history, character, and distinguishing commitments of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The first part of the course will explore the historical setting of the church through a survey of American Presbyterianism from colonial times to 1936 and the events surrounding the formation of the OPC. The class will then study the emerging ethos of the OPC as it has been shaped by the struggles it has experienced. Attention will also be given to the church's relationship with American evangelicalism and those churches with which the OPC stands in ecclesiastical fellowship. Through the process of reviewing different interpretations of OPC history, students will be expected to articulate and defend their understanding of the identity of the OPC.
Reformed Evangelism (2 credits)
This course seeks to explore the principles and practices of doing evangelism from a Reformed theological perspective for the sake of building up the body of Christ both spiritually and numerically. Course lectures will provide biblical, theological, historical, and practical reflections on the subject of evangelism. Evangelistic exercises and assignments will encourage students to put that content into practice.
Students should learn to articulate a biblical theology of evangelism, emphasize the priority of preaching and the role of the Holy Spirit, describe the evangelistic thought and practices of Reformers, distinguish the roles of the ordained and laity in evangelism, and prayerfully consider ways to help their own churches in evangelism. The goal is to enable students to move from the theory to the practice of evangelism in ways which are consistently reformed and practically effective.
Reformed Worship (1 credit)
This course introduces the biblical, theological, and historical roots of Presbyterian worship. The primary aim of the course is to equip students to plan and lead worship services that are in accordance with Holy Scripture and the subordinate standards of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Topics include the regulative principle of worship, the Christian Sabbath (the Lord’s Day), the reading and preaching of Scripture, the sacraments, psalmody, hymnody, corporate prayer, benedictions, the order of worship, and the architectural setting of worship.
The Westminster Standards (2 credits)
The purpose of this course is to enable the student to get a clear understanding of the rich heritage of the Reformation faith. The course offers a detailed analysis of the contents of the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF). The relationship between the WCF and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms is discussed. The goal is for the student to know the system of doctrine formulated in the WCF and the two catechisms, and to be able to subscribe to these standards with integrity. The method used includes reading of assigned materials, review of specific commentaries on these standards, and study of a detailed syllabus that reduces the doctrines of the Confession to a series of clear propositions. Special attention will be given to the OPC's form of subscription to the Westminster standards.
Intensive Training in Grand Rapids, Michigan (May 15–17, 2018)
Students will receive pass/fail grades at the completion of their coursework. Seminary credit will not be available.
The Standard of completion is the fulfillment of all syllabus requirements and attendance at the Intensive Training sessions. The student has until the end of the next semester to complete this course. A student with an incomplete grade will not have his $50 or $100 application fee returned until he has completed the course.
A student wanting to withdraw from a course must do so before the end of the second month of the semester. A withdrawal will not be accepted after that date. To withdraw, a student must complete a withdrawal form and submit the form to the Administrator. The form is available from Pat Clawson at Pat.Clawson@opc.org. A withdrawal carries with it the forfeit of the $50 or $100 application fee, whichever applies to the student.
Attendance at the Intensive Training Session
Because the intensive training session is an integral part of the course, attendance is required. Students who do not attend the session will receive an incomplete for the course. They will forfeit the $50 or $100 registration fee, whichever applies to the student.
The MTIOPC provides tuition-free courses for men under care of a presbytery, licentiates, and pastors in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Elders in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church are charged $50 per course. Men outside of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church are charged $100 per course. All students are required to pay a $50 per course registration fee. This registration fee is refunded upon successful completion of the course.
Students are required to purchase certain texts and materials for courses. Except for those materials provided free of charge by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church to men under care, students must assume the cost of class materials.
Travel arrangements for the intensive training week are the student's responsibility. Students may apply for a travel scholarship to help defray some of the cost of travel. In addition, the MTIOPC will provide food, housing and transportation to and from class and the airport during the intensive training week.
Students are encouraged to work with their local sessions and presbyteries to fulfill the financial obligations of the MTIOPC course.
Members of the Subcommittee on Ministerial Training:
Director: Rev. Danny E. Olinger
Coordinator: Mrs. Pat Clawson
Education: Southwestern Christian University, Bethany, Oklahoma, B.A.; Westminster Theological Seminary, M. Div.; Erskine Theological Seminary, D. Min.
Ordination: Presbytery of New Jersey, OPC, 2005
Present position: Pastor, Providence OPC, Austin (Pflugerville), Texas
|Douglas Blake Clawson|
Education: Westminster College, B.A.; Westminster Theological Seminary, M. Div.
Ordination: Presbytery of Ohio, OPC, 1984
Present position: Associate General Secretary, Committee on Foreign Missions
|William David Dennison|
Education: Geneva College, B.A.; Westminster Theological Seminary, M.Div., Th.M.; Michigan State University, Ph.D.
Ordination: Presbytery of the South, OPC, 1995
Present position: professor of interdisciplinary studies, Covenant College; fellow at Greystone Theological Institute
|Stuart Randall Jones|
Education: University of Nebraska at Omaha, B.A.; Westminster Theological Seminary, M.Div.
Ordination: Presbytery of New York and New England, OPC, 1977
Present position: retired OPC pastor and former member of the OPC Appeals and Complaints Committee
|John Robert Muether|
Education: Gordon College, B.A.; Westminster Theological Seminary, M.A.R.
Ordination: ruling elder at Lake Sherwood OPC in Orlando, Fla., 1991
Present position: librarian and associate professor of church history, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, Fla.; historian of the OPC
|David Craig Noe|
Education: Calvin College, B.A.; University of Iowa, Ph.D.
Ordination: ruling elder at Bethel OPC in Leesburg, Va., 2004
Present position: associate professor of Classics, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Mich.; secretary of the Committee for the Historian; chairman of the Candidates and Credentials Committee, Presbytery of Michigan and Ontario
|Matthew H. Patton|
Education: Lafayette College, B.S.; Westminster Theological Seminary, M. Div.; Wheaton College, PhD.
Ordination: Presbytery of Ohio, OPC, 2015
Present position: pastor, Covenant OPC, Vandalia, Ohio
|John S. Shaw|
Education: Geneva College, B.A.; Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary, M. Div.
Ordination: Presbytery of the Midwest, OPC, 2006
Present position: general secretary, Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension
|Alan D. Strange|
Education: Centenary College of Louisiana, B.A.; College of William and Mary, M.A.; Westminster Theological Seminary, M. Div.; University of Wales, Ph.D.
Ordination: Presbytery of New Jersey, OPC, 1990
Present position: professor of church history, theological librarian and registrar at Mid-America Reformed Seminary; associate pastor of New Covenant Community Church (OPC), New Lenox, Ill.
|A. Craig Troxel|
Education: Anderson College, B.A.; Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, M.A.T.S.; Westminster Theological Seminary, Ph.D.
Ordination: Presbytery of Philadelphia, 1995
Present position: pastor of Bethel OPC, Wheaton, Ill.; adjunct professor of systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary; adjunct professor of ministerial studies at Mid-America Reformed Seminary
|Chad Bernard Van Dixhoorn|
Education: Huron College, University of Western Ontario, B.A.; Westminster Theological Seminary, M.Div.; Th.M.; Selwyn College, University of Cambridge, Ph.D.; junior research fellow, Wolfson College, University of Cambridge; postdoctoral fellow, British Academy, University of Cambridge; senior research fellow, Wolfson College, University of Cambridge
Ordination: Presbytery of Philadelphia, OPC, 2006
Present Position: Chancellor’s Professor of Historical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, Washington, DC; adjunct professor of church history, Westminster Theological Seminary; visiting fellow, Wolfson College, University of Cambridge
|Dale A. Van Dyke|
Education: Dordt College, 1985, B.A.; Westminster Seminary California, M.Div.
Ordination: Presbytery of the Midwest, OPC, 1995
Present position: pastor, Harvest OPC, Grand Rapids, Michigan
|Eric B. Watkins|
Education: Southeastern Bible College, B.S.; Westminster Seminary California, M.Div.; Reformed Theological Seminary Orlando, Th.M.; Theological University, Kampen, the Netherlands, Ph.D.
Ordination: Presbytery of the South, OPC, 2001
Present position: pastor, Covenant OPC, Saint Augustine, Florida
Seminary studies and internships are valuable, but they do not fully prepare a man for ministry in the OPC. Where does he learn about our form of government, denominational distinctives, and history? This is where the MTIOPC is indispensable.
I have found the teachers not only to be competent in their field, but to sincerely love the church and her future leaders. The fact that the classes are similar to correspondence courses makes them easy to fit into a hectic schedule. The week of intensive study is far more refreshing than it is intense.
In almost every field, continuing education is expected of those who would do well. Why not pastors? MTIOPC is for established pastors, too. Even the best tools need sharpening once in awhile.
I simply cannot express what a great joy it was (and is) for me to take these classes, which have served to deepen my appreciation for the Reformed faith as well as the beauty of Presbyterianism. The men under whom I "sat" are profoundly knowledgeable in the areas assigned to them to teach. Interacting weekly with Stu Jones opened up a whole new world of the intricacies and nuances of Presbyterian polity. Reading stalwarts such as Hodge, Witherow, and Smyth was tremendously helpful. Exercises, such as writing bylaws for a local congregation, were eminently practical. Roughly six weeks after the class began, I found myself having to write bylaws for our church as part of the process of bringing it into the OPC—it was no longer a purely academic exercise.
It was a wonderful experience for four of us from the same congregation, Bethel Reformed Presbyterian Church in Fredericksburg, to learn together at MTIOPC. Bill Dennison's assignments on the apologetics of Cornelius Van Til challenged us to work together, and gave us many opportunities to discuss the material. Dr. Dennison's lectures brought out even more discussions and we already see ways in which this time together is preparing us to serve the church better. Our thanks to the Committee on Christian Education for providing this great opportunity and to Dr. Dennison for making this such a valuable experience.
Coming from a dispensational background and education, MTIOPC has been more than helpful to me. Apologetics, Ecclesiology, and OPC History have been just a few of the classes that have served to correct or have filled in the gaps of my previous training.