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MTIOPC: Book of Discipline

Every communicant member of the OPC has taken a vow to submit to the discipline of the Church in the following words or words similar in form and meaning:

Do you promise to participate faithfully in this church's worship and service, to submit in the Lord to its government, and to heed its discipline, even in case you should be found delinquent in doctrine or life?

It is too easy to affirm a membership vow without taking the vow seriously. When the time comes to face our church officers and talk about some problem, too many people let their fears and doubts about those officers justify ignoring their membership vows. In the name of a free Protestant conscience we may choose to argue whether the discipline is biblical before we even hear or prayerfully consider what our church officers are saying to us. If we so fear the fallibility of the church officers who are charged to govern, that we refuse any church membership or bounce from place to place, have we not failed to trust the Lord who establishes and gives life to his Church? Our conscience should direct us to find a good church. Some former churches have become "synagogues of Satan" (Rev 3:9; WCF xxv); but having found a sound church, we need to recognize our own fallibility and need to be instructed by God through the ministry of his servants. Granted that these servants are still fallible, we may take comfort that Presbyterian government and discipline provides strong due process safeguards including appeals to other officers.

The "discipline" every member should should accept does not mean that we agree with everything our church leaders do or say. Further, that discipline has a wider and narrower focus. In the widest sense, discipline involves receiving constructive teaching and admonitions from the pulpit or fellowship with non-ordained fellow Christians that never envisages a formal confrontation, trial or threat of excommunication. In my pastoral experience, the formal disciplinary procedures of our Book of Discipline are less successful in correcting people than informal personal discussions because by the time formal confrontations and processes are decided upon, there has been a history of failure or misunderstanding. That said, "formal discipline" remains an important feature of OPC church life. Because church officers can err, they too must be ready to accept discipline and those under their care have the opportunity to bring their concerns to a broader body for resolution if they believe they have been dealt with unfairly. The processes for having our "cases" heard by sessions or the broader governing bodies of the church (Presbytery and General Assembly) are not often well-understood, even by the ministers and elders. For that reason the OPC has included a course on the Book of Discipline in the course listing of its Ministerial Training Institute above and beyond the instruction carried out by some sessions or candidates committees.

A course on the Book of Discipline (BD) sponsored by MTIOPC and taught by Rev. Stuart R. Jones, will begin February 6, 2017 and conclude with an onsite intensive session May 23-25 at Grace OPC in Vienna, VA. OPC pastors and elders, along with men who are licensed and under care of a presbytery of the OPC are eligible to take the course. The level of instruction is comparable to a seminary course. Students should plan to spend about two to four hours per week on class work. Attendance at Intensive Training is mandatory.

The basic units for this course are:

I. Overview (including historical perspectives)

II. Jurisdiction and Standing

III. Charges

IV. Censures

V. Process

VI. Supervision and Review

The cost to you, besides commitment of your time and energies, will be the cost of books and materials, plus travel expenses in excess of the MTIOPC travel scholarships for qualified students. All students pay a $50 per course registration fee that is fully refundable upon successful completion of the course. While tuition is free for OPC ministers, licentiates, and men under care, tuition is charged to OPC elders ($50 per course) and men from other ecclesiological denominations ($100 per course).

The MTIOPC offers a travel scholarship to help OPC men under care, licentiates, and pastors defray the cost of travel to intensive training. Those men are eligible for a travel scholarship grant of up to $350. Up to an additional $100 for travel expenses also is available if that amount is matched by your local session or presbytery.

Complete the MTIOPC Student Application/Registration Form and send it with your registration fee and tuition by January 27, 2017 to the address below. Classes start February 6, 2017. Enrollment is limited.

Applications are available on the MIOPC page. Checks should be written to the Committee on Christian Education with "MTIOPC" written on the memo line. Mail the application, registration fee, and tuition fee to:

The Committee on Christian Education
Orthodox Presbyterian Church
607 N. Easton Road, Building E

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