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New Horizons

A Thumbnail Sketch of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

Thomas E. Tyson

Definition: The Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) is one manifestation of the church of Jesus Christ and is Reformed in doctrine, Presbyterian in polity, and evangelical in outreach.

Purpose: The OPC sees as its reason for existence the glorification of the name of the triune God through covenantal obedience and gospel witness. That is to say, it wants to be upward- and outward-facing.

History: The OPC came into being in the mid 1930s, when the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. deposed certain ministers and elders (led by J. Gresham Machen) for their insistence that the church uphold its standards against inroads of unbelief and apostasy.

Standards:

  • Primary—the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments
  • Secondary—the Westminster standards, consisting of
    • The Confession of Faith (with certain amendments)
    • The Shorter Catechism
    • The Larger Catechism
  • Tertiary—The Book of Church Order of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, including
    • The Form of Government
    • The Book of Discipline
    • The Directory for the Public Worship of God

Structure and Government:

  • The local church, governed by the session
  • The regional church, governed by the presbytery
  • The whole church, governed by the general assembly

Statistics: At the end of 1998 (the last year for which official data are currently available), there were 199 local churches and 54 unorganized mission works among the 16 regional churches. The membership totaled 24,413, including 383 ministers of the gospel. Morning worship attendance averaged 20,414 in November 1998, and total giving approached $27 million for the year.

Worldwide Outreach: Mission activity of the OPC falls into three categories:

  • Local—evangelistic outreach, direct support of missionaries both within and without the OPC, and "daughter church" planting efforts
  • Regional—"Hub-spoke" foreign missionary support and presbytery home mission works
  • Whole Church—Worldwide Outreach, administered by three program committees directly responsible to the general assembly, each consisting of fifteen members (nine ministers and six ruling elders) and funded through a combined budget (administered by a Committee on Coordination, which employs a controller):
    • The Committee on Foreign Missions (Mark T. Bube, General Secretary)
    • The Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension (Ross W. Graham, General Secretary; Richard R. Gerber, Associate General Secretary)
    • The Committee on Christian Education (Thomas E. Tyson, General Secretary)

In 1998, $2,170,105 was expended by Worldwide Outreach (Home and Foreign Missions and Christian Education).

The administrative office building of the OPC is located at 607 N. Easton Road, Bldg. E, Box P, Willow Grove, PA 19090-2359; tel. 215/830-0900.

Other Standing Committees of the General Assembly:

  • Appeals and Complaints
  • Chaplains
  • Date, Place, and Travel
  • Diaconal Ministries
  • Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations
  • Pensions
  • Trustees of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church

The Stated Clerk of the OPC: Donald J. Duff (same address as above)

Great Commission Publications, a joint publications ministry of the OPC and the PCA, with offices in Suwanee, Georgia, produces Sunday school, VBS, and catechetical materials, as well as Trinity Hymnal.

A Ministerial Internship program is administered by the Committee on Christian Education through its general secretary, providing the arrangement of, and financial support for, both summer and yearlong internships.

The Ministerial Training Institute of the OPC, which began operation in January 1999, provides supplemental instruction to men preparing for the gospel ministry in the OPC, in such areas as the Westminster standards, the history of the OPC, church polity, practical theology, and apologetics.

Thomas E. Tyson is an OPC minister and general secretary of the Committee on Christian Education. Reprinted from New Horizons, June 2000.

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