Patricia E. Clawson
Stephen Doe has been the pastor of four Orthodox Presbyterian churches and currently serves as regional home missionary for the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic. With all his experience, you might think he wouldn’t benefit from taking a course on the Form of Government from the Ministerial Training Institute of the OPC. You would be wrong! Doe learned new things and hopes to use them to help the sessions of new churches “start out right.”
Doe was one of twenty-seven men who attended the final leg of the Spring 2013 term of MTIOPC in May—three days of Intensive Training with instructors at Bethel Presbyterian Church in Wheaton, Illinois. Doe was joined by seasoned pastors, new OP pastors, some who are under care of a presbytery in preparation for ministry, ruling elders, men who are licensed to preach, church planters, and ministerial interns. The Intensive Training concluded three months of reading about five hundred pages per course and writing response papers.
Doe, who was taking his fifth course, appreciates the MTIOPC program. “The genius of MTI is that we’re maintaining, expanding, and building that sense that we are a church with a history and an understanding of who we are.”
In the Form of Government course, Doe appreciated how instructor Alan Strange showed biblical principles in Robert’s Rules of Order, such as showing esteem to one another and having good decorum.
Licentiate Mark Soud, who is an intern from Calvin OPC in Phoenix, Arizona, took the Form of Government course to help him prepare for future ordination exams and to learn how to be a better parliamentarian. Soud appreciated how Mr. Strange encouraged the men to take their calling seriously, asking them, “Are we self-consciously Presbyterian?”
James Berry, a ruling elder at Reformation OPC in Morgantown, West Virginia, took Form of Government for that reason: “We need to recognize that God has called both the minister and the ruling elder to govern his church, and we need to take this office seriously. The class helped define what my role is as an elder and that will help me in the local congregation and in the broader church.”
Although Glenn Ferrell, pastor of First OPC in San Francisco, California, had read a great deal about OP history before joining the OPC in 2005, he learned far more through the OPC History course, taught by OPC historian John Muether. “As someone coming from outside the OPC and relatively new to the denomination, it’s important for me to understand the history of the OPC. I think the history explains the current dynamic of the denomination.”
Ferrell believes that the course will “inform my pastoral ministry and my preaching. It is very easy for a pastor to fall into a rut and only read in preparation for preaching, but we need the discipline of reading things that we might not read on our own.” Ferrell adds: “This is such a great resource in the OPC, and more ministers need to take advantage of it, regardless of their experience and age.”
The OPC History course also helped Eugene McKinnon, who is a new member of Grace OPC in Vienna, Virginia, and recently came under care of the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic. “I’m getting to know the denomination, its culture, people, and its beliefs. It’s like falling in love, getting to know my new family,” said McKinnon. “It helps a potential candidate learn why the OPC is what it is.”
Jonathan Moersch, a church planter at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Capistrano Beach, California, also is new to the OPC. He took the Westminster Standards course to refresh his knowledge of the OP standards after coming from the URCNA with its Three Forms of Unity. Moersch wanted to take a course taught by Chad Van Dixhoorn, who was often quoted at his seminary for his important work on the Westminster Assembly. Moersch hopes to pass on this teaching to his congregation, most of whom do not have a Presbyterian background.
Jeremy Boothby, an intern under care at Christ Covenant Presbyterian Church in Amarillo, Texas, didn’t grow up in Reformed circles, so he took Westminster Standards to gain a better understanding of the OPC’s Confession and Creeds and to prepare for his presbytery’s theology exam. The class taught him “what is and isn’t confessional. I think these MTI courses are helpful in continuing to exercise our minds concerning the depths of Scripture,” said Boothby. “Since our methodology ought to come out of our theology, the MTI courses are also very helpful in how the church ought to be run with Christ as its head.”
The course and its instructor also caught the attention of longtime pastor Matthew Judd of Memorial OPC in Rochester, New York. He appreciated the discipline of formal studies. “I think for men who are pursuing pastoral ministry, this would be an excellent class to have under their belt,” said Judd. “They will have a special emphasis that they won’t get in their seminary class.”
Since OP church planter Brandon Wilkins started to build up Christ Covenant Presbyterian Church in Crystal Lake, Illinois, the former Reformed Baptist had lots of questions about ecclesiology. “This gave me a good opportunity to get some answers,” he said. “This also provides a good blueprint for what we’re hoping to establish in Crystal Lake. Since it’s a class taught by a minister for ministers, there is a greater awareness of practicality and fleshing things out. It’s not theoretical.”
Licentiate Robert Mossotti of the Presbytery of the Southwest appreciated instructor Craig Troxel. “He brought some specialized research and thoughts on these questions that shortened the time it would have taken me to research them myself.”
Both men were thankful they took an MTIOPC class. “For ministers in the OPC, MTI is especially important because it is geared to OP ministry, whereas seminary is a more general preparation for ministry,” said Mossotti. “It’s like seminary for free, and the fellowship is also definitely worth the time and effort in traveling [to Intensive Training].” Wilkins agrees: “[MTI] is a great time of refreshment and ministry. It gives us a reminder of why we’re in ministry and an opportunity to grow in important doctrines.”
Look in October for announcements of the 2014 classes of MTIOPC on our website: opc.org/cce/MTI.html. If you want to be on the e-mail list announcing new classes, please send your request to Pat Clawson at firstname.lastname@example.org.