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Question and Answer

Micro Reformed Denominations

Question:

I was on a Puritan board webpage and they were talking about micro denominations like the WPCUS, FRCNA, RPCGA and others like the RPCUS. What are the pros and cons about joining denominations like these that have anywhere from 2–18 churches compare to larger denominations like the PCA, OPC, and PRC? I've been looking around but haven’t found any articles or answer. The FRCNA looks just like the HRC, which also looks to me like the Protestant Reformed Church. We see the same thing on the Presbyterian side as well. Pros and cons, please.

Answer:

Well, this is a very complicated question, not because of the OPC or its position (or lack thereof), but simply because of the complexity of the many micro Presbyterian churches.

Let me start by repeating some of the biblical material, which you probably already know. We read in Romans 12:4–5, “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” The Lord here teaches that although there are differences between us, there is but one body of Christ Jesus, and so we are members of one another. This teaching is reflected in the Westminster Confession of Faith, where we read in Chapter 25, paragraph 5, “The purest churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated, as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan.” We believe this concerning ourselves, that is, that our church is subject to mixture and error, even in our effort to be faithful to Christ Jesus.

And while the OPC takes no official position with respect to most of the micro Presbyterian churches, I would offer my personal opinion that we recognize them as true churches of Jesus Christ and would not hesitate to welcome their members to participate in the Lord’s Supper. I say most, because the OPC has made efforts to make closer contact with the Protestant Reformed Churches and one of the Bible Presbyterian Churches (there are a variety of them). Having said that, some of these denominations have their origins in schisms from the OPC, and there may be some questionss about the leadership of such churches.

I’d like to give some opinions about the micro Presbyterian churches. These are personal opinions, but, I do think that they are valid, and might be helpful to you.

First of all, I believe that many of these micro Presbyterian churches are much more concerned about the OPC and spend a lot of time and effort talking about us, and we spend very little time either to respond or to be concerned about them. For example, when I was a missionary in South America, I was presented with a glossy brochure from one of these churches, which I am sure was prepared at some cost, and the primary theme was the errors of the OPC. It was poorly written, slanderous and false in many respects, but what interested me was that someone would bother to go to all the trouble to produce and distribute an attack piece which focused principally on the OPC. Having said that, most of my personal contacts with micro Presbyterian churches (principally having to do with my Spanish website) have been positive.

Secondly, most of these churches focus on just a few doctrines and give them exaggerated importance. For example, they may emphasize exclusive Psalm singing, or head coverings for women, or special liturgical practices, or reconstructionism, Christian economics, or exclusive home schooling, all of which can be found in some, but not most, OP churches. Or extreme separation from other churches, or infant communion, or an emphasis on male headship that excludes women from voting in the church or working outside the home, practices which are not part of the OPC. Either way, even when they are right, it is not these doctrines per se which are the problem, but rather their emphasis on these doctrines to the neglect of more basic doctrines. For example, I visit the website of one of these church which has a wealth of good materials, but they all emphasize the political and economic implications of the Gospel without explaining the Gospel as such, or justification by faith and other more basic doctrines.

Thirdly—although not always true—very typically, these churches tend to be divisive. While a few congregations join or leave the OPC over the years, the micro Presbyterian churches are typified by repeated and constant divisions. They join together, then divide, then join, then divide again. One aspect of this is that oftentimes their pastors dominate their churches, unlike OP churches, where the elders have real power and a real voice in the affairs of the church. This can adversely affect members of the church, since unlike the OPC, they cannot appeal to other members of the session when they are treated unfairly, or go to a presbytery or general assembly where their pastor will not necessarily dominate the discussion or the judgment. Another aspect of this is that the OPC well supports both its domestic and international mission and evangelistic efforts, so that their missionaries do not have to beg for support, and the church expands in the US by church planting, and not just be receiving churches that are dissatisfied with other denominations. Many of the micros depend almost exclusively on congregational evangelism (thus greatly limiting their reach) or on receiving discontented churches, rather than reaching out to new mission fields.

So, would I join a micro Presbyterian church? I would strongly recommend that one seek out an OPC, or a congregation of a largely consistently Reformed church (e.g. RCUS, RPCNA, PCA, URC). There may be some smaller Presbyterian and Reformed denominations or independent congregations which do not have the problems that I have outlined, but, truthfully, that is much harder to determine when they are not part of a well-known denomination with a history that can be examined.

May the Lord bless you in his grace, now and forever.


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