The 88th General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is meeting from June 8–14, 2022, at Eastern University, St. Davids, Pennsylvania. This running daily report was written by Jim Stevenson and edited by Linda Foh. Questions or comments may be addressed to Hank Belfield, stated clerk. Go to Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday.
Eastern University is located in St. Davids, Pennsylvania, northwest of Philadelphia. This is where the 88th General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church met to conduct the business of our Church.
As is the usual custom, the Assembly began with a worship service, which was held at McInnis Auditorium. The Session of Emmanuel OPC, Wilmington, Delaware, had oversight of this service. The moderator of last year’s Assembly, Rev. Zachery Keele (Escondido OPC, Escondido, CA), convened this year’s Assembly and preached from Mark 6:30–44, the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand. Rev. Keele reminded the commissioners of the kind affection of Christ, as well the great feast we receive from the endless supply of grace provided by Christ, our great shepherd. Rev. Greg O’Brien (Christ OPC, Downingtown, PA) administered the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. The offering collected was designated for the Committee on Christian Education’s Intern Program.
Following a brief recess, the Assembly reconvened at the gymnasium, which will be the primary meeting place as we conduct the business of the Church. Mr. Keele opened in prayer. The roll call was taken by the stated clerk, Rev. Hank Belfield (Providence OPC, Chilhowie, VA). Members of the Assembly’s committees who are not commissioners were seated as corresponding members. Corresponding members are granted the privilege of the floor which means they can speak on matters but they are not allowed to make motions or vote.
On behalf of the Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations, Rev. Tony Curto introduced the fraternal delegates from the Bible Presbyterian Church (BPC), Reformed Presbyterian Church in North America (RPCNA), Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS), Presbyterian Church in Korea, Evangelical Reformed Church Westminster Confession, and Gereformeerde Kerken Nederland. These delegates were also seated as corresponding members.
Elder David Mahaffy (Oak Harbor, WA) gave a preliminary report for the Committee on Arrangements, noting key information regarding the campus of Eastern University. At this point the Assembly tested the voting devices with two statistical questions. The first one was “Is this your first General Assembly?” There are 26 first timers and 100 seasoned veterans. The second one asked for the decade of ordination: 13 in the 2020s; 34 in the 2010s; 32 in the 2000s; 20 in the 1990s; 13 in the 1980s; 8 in the 1970s; and 4 in the 1960s, who were asked to stand.
The stated clerk presented the minutes of the 87th General Assembly. He noted that the hard copies of the minutes were delayed due to unusual circumstances. Firstly, last year’s Assembly met a month later than usual. Secondly, there was an inordinate number of appeals and complaints in part due to the meeting being postponed from 2020 due to the COVID pandemic. Thirdly, there was a shortage of paper due to the pandemic as well.
The next item of business for the evening was to elect a new moderator for this year’s Assembly. Elder David Nakhla (Glenside, PA) was the only nominee and declared elected. Elder David Winslow (Westminster, CA), who had nominated Mr. Nakhla, led in prayer for the newly elected moderator.
The docket was adopted, and subsequently the clerk proposed the assignment of the matters of business to the various advisory and temporary committees, which were adopted by the Assembly. The newly elected moderator closed the evening with prayer.
After a pre-dawn rain, the first full day of the Assembly’s work began following breakfast. However, rather than begin the day as a whole, the commissioners meet in in their respective advisory committees at various locations on campus.
What exactly is an advisory committee? All members of the assembly, except the moderator, clerks, and commissioners who give presentations in advisory committees, are assigned to an advisory committee. Advisory committees and temporary committees help the assembly with its work. They are tasked with meeting with representatives of the various committees of the General Assembly (e.g., Committee on Christian Education or the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extensions) to review those committees’ reports and recommendations. When an advisory committee reports that it is “silent” with regard to the work of a committee under its review, this silence is understood to convey approval of the committee’s work and concurrence with its report and/or recommendations. However, an advisory committee may bring recommendations to the assembly that might differ from a committee’s report or recommendations under its review. But they may not do so without conferring with at least one member of that committee present at the assembly.
Each day the commissioners and corresponding members receive breakfast, lunch and supper at the dining commons in Walton Hall. There are two 20-minute breaks with coffee and refreshments each day, at 10:00 a.m. and 3:15 p.m. The Assembly pauses its work each morning at 11:40 for daily devotional with the exception of the Lord’s Day when commissioners will have the opportunity to worship at nearby OPC congregations.
At 11:40, the commissioners reconvened at the gymnasium and Rev. Wayne Forkner (Covenant OPC, Berkeley, CA) led a devotional on Exodus 34:5-8. He noted that the basis of God’s intercession is His own name and glory. Moses could not intercede personally, but he pleaded with God as the only one who could go in the midst of His stiff-necked people and be gracious to them. This is the God we need. The Assembly recessed for lunch and afterward the commissioners returned to their advisory committees to finish their remaining work.
Mr. Curto introduced more corresponding members from the Canadian and American Reformed Churches, Reformed Presbyterian Church of Central and Eastern Europe, and The Free Church of Scotland Continuing with each delegate being seated as a corresponding member.The Assembly recessed for lunch and subsequently, the commissioners returned to their work in Advisory Committees.
The Assembly reconvened at 3:45 and sang from the Trinity Psalter Hymnal #425, “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place,” followed by prayer led by Rev. Lendall Smith.
The moderator addressed the Assembly and then the Assembly recessed until after supper.
The Assembly reconvened at 6:48 p.m. with the singing of hymn #159, “Abide with Me.” Rev. Nathan Trice (Resurrection OPC, Matthews, NC) led in prayer.
The moderator addressed the Assembly.
Mr. Belfield presented the report of the Stated Clerk. Mr. Belfield serves in this capacity on a part time basis while also serving in full time ministry. Mr. Belfield noted that all of the presbyteries had approved the amendment to Form of Government XXV.7 which was proposed at the 87th General Assembly. He expressed gratefulness for the help from the clerk’s staff, Mrs. Charlene Tipton, Mrs. Linda Porter Foh, and Mrs. Judith Dinsmore. Rev. John Keegan (Grace OPC, Fair Lawn, NJ) prayed for the clerk and his work.
Mr. Curto introduced fraternal delegates from the United Reformed Church of North America and the Free Reformed Church of North America who were then seated as corresponding members.
Rev. Richard Ellis, President of the OPC Board of Trustees, presented the report of the trustees. The trustees nominated Mr. Belfield to be re-elected to serve a second term as stated clerk of the General Assembly. Two men were reelected to service for another term on the Board of Trustees: Mr. Ellis and Mr. John Hearn (Orlando, FL). Rev. David Graves (Covenant OPC, Coeur d’Alene, ID) prayed for the Trustees.
Rev. Robert C. Van Kooten (Sovereign Grace OPC, Oak Harbor, WA) presented on behalf of the statistician, Mr. Luke Brown. During 2021 the number of local churches grew by six to 296. The number of mission works remained at 38, as seven new mission works were started or received, while five were organized as new and separate churches, one withdrew, and one was closed.
Total membership increased by 596 persons to 32,255 persons. Morning worship in-person attendance of 22,849 in November 2021 recovered to 91 percent of the 2019 pre-COVID level. Sunday School attendance of 9,580 in November recovered to 77 percent of the 2019 level.
Total giving grew by 11.2 percent over the previous year to $75.1 million. In addition, there was a robust 9.2-percent increase in average giving per communicant member, which reached $3,175.
There were 576 ministers in the OPC at the end of 2021, representing a net increase of six in the number of ministers on the rolls of the presbyteries. Eighteen were ordained as ministers, eight were received into the OPC from other churches, but twenty ministers were removed from the rolls of presbyteries: six by dismissal to other churches, eight by reason of death, two who demitted the ministry, two who were deposed and two who were erased.
Mr. Brown was re-elected as statistician. Mr. Van Kooten prayed for the statistician.
Rev. Craig Troxel, president of the Christian Education Committee, introduced the work of the committee by noting the petition “Thy Kingdom Come” from the Lord’s Prayer. He introduced the General Secretary, Rev. Danny Olinger who expressed his thanks for serving with this committee. Mr. Olinger reminded the commissioners that the Christian Education Committee is the communication arm of the OPC. He noted that the publication Ordained Servant has been in publication for 30 years and then introduced the editor, the Rev. Dr. Gregory Reynolds, who spoke of his work as editor. Ordained Servant’s primary audience is ministers, elders, and deacons of the OPC.
Mr. Olinger introduced the president of the Great Commission Publication Trustees for the OPC, Dr. Alan Strange. Mr. Strange spoke about the Trinity Psalter Hymnal that had five printings by early 2022 totaling 73,000 copies. There is a sixth printing planned for another 10,000 copies. The OPC accounts for about 29 percent of the sales of the Trinity Psalter Hymnal.
Mr. Strange introduced Rev, Mark Lowrey, a ministerial member of the PCA who serves as the interim executive director of Great Commission Publications, which produces Sunday School curriculum. GCP had taken a serious hit in sales due to the COVID pandemic, but by God’s grace things have improved greatly. Mr. Lowrey noted the challenges for GCP today such as inflation, the ramifications of the war in Ukraine, and printing costs, particularly the availability and cost of paper. Sales are starting to move upward again. GCP has stabilized financially by controlling expenses and paying off outstanding accounts payable. Mr. Lowrey introduced new curriculum called “Digging Deeper,” which is a two-year catechism study that should be available in July 2022.
The Assembly elected Dr. James Gidley and Mr. John Muether to the CCE’s Subcommittee on Ministerial Training, class of 2025, and Rev. John Currie was elected to fill a vacancy in the class of 2023. Rev. Stephen Tracey, Mr. Strange, and Dr. David Van Drunen were elected to the class of 2025. Rev. Chad Mullinix (Westminster OPC, Hollidaysburg, PA) prayed for Committee.
Mr. Curto introduced Nicholas Hathaway, fraternal delegate from the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). Mr. Hathaway expressed his thanks for the OPC and noted how many young people in the PCA have been inspired by the OPC’s commitment to biblical truth. He then asked for prayer for their own upcoming General Assembly, noting the controversies surrounding those who identify as same-sex attracted, particularly ministers. Mr. Currie prayed for the PCA.
Mr. Mark Bube, general secretary of the Committee on Foreign Missions, read a resolution of thanks:
The Committee on Foreign Missions of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church hereby makes known to the Rev. Dr. Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., our deep thankfulness to the Lord for you and for your faithful and diligent labors on behalf of Christ and the foreign missions work of the OPC for more than half a century. Born to missionary parents laboring in China less than a month after (what would become) the OPC was formed in 1936—you were one of the first, if not the very first, covenant children born into the OPC—a zeal for missions seems to have been in your blood all your life. Your life’s calling was to help prepare men for the gospel ministry at Westminster Theological Seminary, where you taught for forty-four years, eventually retiring as Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology in 2008. Over the intervening decades, your writings as a theologian of the highest order helped to deepen and enhance our understanding of the Scriptures and will continue to serve the church worldwide for generations to come. But it is your preeminent churchmanship upon which we now focus our attention. You and your dear wife, Jean, made service in and to Christ’s church a central part of your lives, and in so doing, set a godly example to us all. By our count, you served on fourteen General Assembly special committees and as a commissioner to the General Assembly thirty-four times; and you served as the moderator of the 51st (1984) General Assembly. The particular service for which we are most grateful is your fifty-two years of continuous labors on behalf of the Committee on Foreign Missions. You were first elected to the Committee by the 36th (1969) General Assembly and served continuously until 2021. During that time, you served as the Committee’s president for forty-two years (1972–1976 and 1981–2019). You would also serve on the Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations for fifteen years (1989–2004), helping to build and strengthen ecclesiastical relationships vital to our missionary endeavors. In 2019 you determined that, while you desired to continue serving on the Committee you loved, it was time, after thirty-eight continuous years, to pass the baton of the Committee presidency on to the next generation. In that same year, our Lord called your dear wife of sixty years home to Himself, and with you, we found our hearts clinging to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ of an inheritance in heaven that is imperishable. And in 2021, having moved several hours away to be closer to your son, you reluctantly requested, at age eighty-five, that your name not be offered in nomination for re-election to the Committee. Our dear brother and father in the faith, during all the years of our laboring together to advance the cause of Christ and His kingdom to the nations, your warm love for Christ, your diligence and wisdom, and your gentle, humble, and patient leadership displayed to us all the Holy Spirit’s grace at work in you. Christ does indeed give good gifts to His church, and we thank Him for giving you to us and to His church. Know that we miss you, for you are much loved among us, and we consider it a high honor to have labored with you in the fields of our Savior that are indeed ripe unto harvest. To God be the glory!
Mr. Olinger presented a slide show giving the commissioners a brief historical overview of Dr. Gaffin’s ministry in the OPC with a particular emphasis on his work for Foreign Missions.
The Assembly recessed for the evening at 9:07 p.m., following prayer by the Rev. Shane Bennett.
The commissioners awoke to a beautiful morning of blue skies and cooler temperatures. After a hearty breakfast, the commissioners trickled into the gymnasium for a full day of meeting together.
The Assembly reconvened at 8:30 a.m. and sang #48B, “The LORD Is Great and Greatly Praised.” Rev. Jonathan Falk led in prayer. The moderator addressed the Assembly, read Psalm 51 and the commissioners entered into a season of prayer.
Mr. Ashraf Guirgues (New Bern, NC) prayed for Mr. Belfield, who needed to leave due to a loss in the family. The assistant clerk, Rev. John Mahaffy (Trinity OPC, Newberg, OR), was appointed clerk pro-tem and Elder Michael Shields was appointed assistant clerk pro-tem.
Mr. Curto introduced Rev. Edward Lawman, the fraternal delegate from the Free Reformed Churches of North America. Mr. Lawman expressed appreciation for the relationship with the OPC. He noted his denomination has 22 churches and a couple of church plants with membership between five and six thousand. Despite the dark times in which we live and opposition to the gospel, he noted that the church ought to be encouraged to have an eternal perspective. Rev. Peter VanDoodewaard (Covenant Community OPC, Taylors, SC) prayed for the Free Reformed Churches of North America.
Rev. John Van Meerbeke, president of the Committee on Foreign Missions, introduced the report of the committee by noting Christ’s compassion for the people who were like sheep without a shepherd. As he introduced Mr. Mark Bube, the general secretary for the committee, he briefly noted his service for 31 years.
Mr. Bube began his portion of the report by expressing how blessed he has been to work with Rev. Douglas Clawson, associate general secretary. Mr. Bube turned his attention to the Great Commission in Matthew 28 noting that in missions we establish the worship of God and cast the net to bring in his people. He earnestly asked pastors to lead congregations in public prayers for missions. He then provided updates on OPC missionary work being done in parts of Asia, East Africa, Ethiopia, Haiti, Quebec, Uganda, Ukraine, and Uruguay.
Rev Benjamin Hopp, missionary to Haiti, spoke to the commissioners on his work there. Currently they are waiting for circumstances to improve so that they can return. He asked for prayer for the saints in Haiti with all the turmoil and unrest there. Mr. Hopp encouraged the body to pray that more workers be sent, particularly for each commissioner to examine whether God might be calling him to serve.
Mr. Bube challenged them: “Might the Lord be calling you to take up this work?”
Mr. Curto spoke of his work for the committee’s Mobile Theological Mentoring Corps (MTMC), noting his labors in both Africa and Europe. He thanked the Assembly and the OPC for their prayers and encouragement over the last couple of months following his wife Kathleen’s entrance into glory.
Mr. Bube continued by presenting the MTMC’s work in Columbia. He thanked the commissioners and asked them to consider if the Lord might be calling them to serve Christ’s kingdom on the mission field.
After a recess at 10:15, the Assembly reconvened at 10:30 sang hymn #224, “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise.”
Mr. Curto introduced fraternal delegates from Presbyterian Church in Korea, Kosin and the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church who were then seated as corresponding members.
Rev. HakKoo Kang, the fraternal delegate from the Presbyterian Church in Korea, Kosin, addressed the Assembly. He reflected on the history of the OPC’s relationship to his denomination, noting it went as far back as 1938. He spoke of the courage of former OPC missionary Rev. Bruce Hunt and others who refused to participate in emperor worship. He noted they hope to update the Westminster Standards, Korean edition soon. He expressed the hope that the two denominations can work closely together for Christ’s kingdom. Mr. Bube prayed for the Presbyterian Church in Korea, Kosin.
The Assembly then took up a more somber matter. What follows is an announcement provided by the Office of the General Assembly.
On Thursday afternoon, June 9, representatives of the Conferencing Office of Eastern University informed the Committee on General Assembly Arrangements of reports of four incidents of egregiously offensive behavior by more than one person. After describing accounts of racist speech that had been reported, Mr. Nakhla declared that such conduct violates the campus’s zero tolerance policy on racism and brings shame to the church of Jesus Christ. He then stated the assembly would stay in recess the rest of the afternoon and requested that the commissioners commit themselves to a season of prayer.
In the morning session of Friday, June 10, the Assembly passed the following statement of regret and sorrow without dissent.
The 88th (2022) General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church hereby expresses to the faculty, staff, and students of Eastern University its grief, sorrow, and disgust regarding four recent incidents of racial disparagement reported being made by some present at our Assembly. There is no place in the church for such conduct.
The church seeks to magnify and honor Christ as the Creator of every human being, each one reflecting dignity and value as the image of God. Therefore, in accordance with God’s Word and the two great laws of love, we repudiate and condemn all sins of racism, hatred, and prejudice, as transgressions against our Holy God, who calls us to love and honor all people. In keeping with the law of God and the right order of the church for Christ’s honor, we resolve to deal directly and biblically with any such sins of hatred committed by members of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. In keeping with the gospel, we resolve to offer our assistance to Eastern University to confront offender(s) and seek reconciliation.
The assembly returned to the Committee on Foreign Missions. For the election to the Committee’s class of 2025, the Assembly needed to elect three ministers and two ruling elders. Revs. James Lim (Faith OPC, Long Beach, CA), Philip Proctor (Sterling OPC, Sterling, VA), and John Van Meerbeke (Living Hope OPC, Gettysburg, PA), and Elders John Emmett and Hayo Jager were elected.
Elder Bruce Stahl (Wentzville, MO) prayed for the Committee on Foreign Missions.
Rev. Charles Williams (Westminster OPC, Corvallis, OR) led the morning devotional and his text was Matt 5:1-12. He opened the word to the body giving an encouraging reminder that these beatitudes are Christ’s blessings to the citizens of His kingdom. He noted that our sufferings and trials take the shape of the cross. He quoted Thomas Watson who said, “you might be under a cross, but you are not under a curse.”
The Assembly sang #103C, “Come, My Soul, and Bless the LORD” (st. 1–4) and then recessed for lunch.
The Assembly reconvened at 1:16 p.m. with the singing of hymn #417, “Jesus Shall Reign Where’er the Sun.” Rev. Jeffrey Carter (Sovereign Grace OPC, Hickory, NC) led in prayer.
Mr. Curto introduced the fraternal delegate from the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA), Rev. Edwin Blackwood who addressed the Assembly. Mr. Blackwood serves at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary. He used the words “robust” and “kinship” to describe the OPC General Assembly, a serious brotherhood. The RPCNA has about 7,500 members. The door has opened to them to eastern Asia as some men from there are coming to RPTS to study and learn how to preach. He asked for prayer for their upcoming synod as they deal with some weighty matters. Rev. John Shaw prayed for the RPCNA.
Mr. David Mahaffy (Oak Harbor, WA) on behalf of the Committee on Arrangements read a response from representatives of Eastern University to the Assembly’s earlier statement; they thanked the Assembly for its statement and consider the matter closed unless another incident occurs.
Rev. Mark Sallade, vice president of the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension, began the report of the committee. He introduced the general secretary, Rev. John Shaw.
Mr. Shaw reminded us that even in March 2020, it was a time of blessing. The recent church planter conference had about 70 attendees and the Readiness for Ministry conferences have resumed. In the last 18 months, five new regional home missionaries began serving the presbyteries. The OPC now has five new regional home missionaries, all within the last 18 months. In addition, the first 5 months of 2022 brought eight new evangelists. Mr. Shaw introduced one of the church planters, Rev. Caleb Smith (Thousand Oaks OPC, Thousand Oaks, CA) who spoke about the mission work where he serves. Just as the mission work was given approval to open, the COVID pandemic hit the nation. In June of 2020 the Smiths moved there. The work began as a Bible study going through Romans. Over time, they grew to about 40 people for this study, so they petitioned presbytery to begin worship services. His installation service took place in a parking lot due to the pandemic. They now worship at the Thousand Oaks Teen Center with about 50 attending each week. Pray that the Lord would raise men to serve as officers and for a place to meet more frequently during the week.
Associate general secretary Al Tricarico spoke about the Regional Home Missionary (RHM) program. At the end of 2019 we had five, now we are about to have 12 with another presbytery hoping to have one soon. Mr. Tricarico thanked the commissioners for their prayers for RHMs and asked for prayer for three other Presbyteries to get an RHM. He introduced Rev. Charles Biggs, RHM for the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic, who spoke to the commissioners about his work in that region, noting particularly three other potential works.
Mr. Shaw spoke to the commissioners about the Neilands fund which is now Seed and Sowers fund. The purpose of this fund is for church planting that follow a mother-daughter church planting model.
He then introduced Rev. Carl Miller (Heritage OPC, New Braunfels, TX) who presented a brief report on the newly particularized congregation he now serves as pastor. This congregation was the daughter church of South Austin Presbyterian Church who guided them every step of the way. He spoke of the blessing of the Neilands Fund which gave them a boost from the very beginning. He noted that the people in the church have a wonderful zeal for reaching out to others with the gospel. They hope to move into a larger facility in July.
Mr. Tricarico noted in 2018 CHMCE joined with CCE to establish church planting interns. Fourteen men have participated with positive results.
Mr. Shaw noted that the committee is starting a revitalization program after receiving inquires about revitalization of struggling congregations.
For the election to the Committee’s class of 2025, the Assembly needed to elect three ministers and two ruling elders. Revs. James Cassidy (South Austin OPC, Austin, TX), Mark Winder (Wolf River, Collierville, TN) and Jeffrey Scott (Covenant Grace, Roseburg, OR) and Elders Michael Cloy (Marion, NC) and Stephen Vanderwey were elected.
The Assembly elected Mr. Jeremy Geaslen to fill a ruling elder vacancy in the class of 2023
Rev. Richard Gerber prayed for the work of the committee.
Rev. Benjamin Snodgrass, chairman of the Committee on Coordination, presented the committee’s report. The report contains the following purpose statement for this committee: “The purposes of the Committee on Coordination are to recommend to the General Assembly a combined budget for the three Program Committees of Christian Education, Foreign Missions, and Home Missions and Church Extension for the succeeding year. The Committee seeks to help the Church maximize the use of its resources for the fulfillment of its tasks, to support the ministry of the pastors and sessions in their responsibility to teach and encourage the practice of Biblical stewardship in the Church, and to help coordinate the promotion of the work of the three Program Committees in the development of support for their work.”
Mr. Snodgrass indicated that the finances for 2021 were strong. He noted that the committee is striving to serve the program committees of the OPC in the best way possible. While the proposed 2023 budget represents a 15.6% increase over last year, income projections have been very good. The Assembly adopted the proposed Worldwide Outreach program budget for 2023.
The Assembly needed to elect one minister and one ruling elder to the committee’s class of 2025. Rev. Scott Johnson (Mount Rose OPC, Reno, NV) was elected.
The Assembly recessed at 3:15 and sang #423, “Far and Near the Fields Are Teeming.” Rev. Damon Young (Grace and Peace OPC, California, MD) led in prayer.
Mr. Curto introduced Rev. Jeff Temple, the fraternal delegate from the Canadian Reformed Churches. Mr. Temple brought greetings from his denomination which has approximately 20,000 members with a few congregations in the U.S. He asked for prayer that they would stand firm in the face of secular pressure. Mr. Bube prayed for the Canadian Reformed Churches.
The Commissioners returned to the Committee on Coordination elections. Elder Ashraf Guirgues was elected to the class of 2025.
The Assembly needed to elect one minister to fill a vacancy on the Committee’s class of 2023. Rev. Warren Bennett (Covenant OPC, Natchitoches, LA) was elected.
Rev. George Cottenden prayed for the Committee on Coordination.
Mr. Keele assumed the chair for the report of the Committee on Diaconal Ministries (CDM). The president of the committee, Rev. Nathan Trice (Resurrection OPC, Charlotte, NC), presented the report which summarized the committee’s work in 2021 ministering to the needs of those in the OPC as well as other domestic and international needs. Mr. Nakhla, who serves as the administrator of the committee, addressed the commissioners. He noted the new podcast, The Reformed Deacon. He encouraged presbyteries to be prepared and ready for disaster relief.
Upon the recommendation of the CDM, the Assembly determined to request the churches of the OPC to support the work of the committee at the suggested rate of $30 per communicant member.
For the committee’s class of 2025, the Assembly needed to elect one minister, one ruling elder, and one deacon. Rev. Richard Dickinson, Elder Peter Haines (Concho, AZ) and Deacon John Voss were elected. Mr. Smith prayed for the committee.
Mr. Nakhla resumed the chair as moderator.
Rev. Douglas L. Watson (Redeemer OPC, Waipahu, HI) presented the report for the Committee on Ministerial Care who noted that this is the fifth anniversary of the committee. He also told the commissioners how much work there has been to get this committee firmly established, but also noted how much the committee has been able to accomplish through the efforts of the men on the committee. He introduced the director, Rev. John Fikkert, who presented a video summarizing their work helping ministers plan for retirement, encouraging rest, and increasing available resources. Mr. Fikkert introduced Mr. John Hearn who informed commissioners of resources helping ministers with financial planning.
The Assembly recessed at 5:15 for dinner and Mr. Van Kooten prayed.
The Assembly reconvened at 6:30 and sang hymn #502, “All for Jesus!” followed by prayer by Rev. Chad Bond (Faith OPC, Garland, TX)
Mr. Curto introduced the fraternal delegate from the Gereformeerde Kerken Nederland (Reformed Church of Netherlands), Rev. Jaap Vreugdenhil, who addressed the commissioners. He noted that their denomination has more pulpits than ministers to fill them. Mr. John Terpstra prayed for the Reformed Church of Netherlands.
Mr. Michael Cloy, a member of the Committee on Chaplains and Military Personnel, presented the committee’s report. He introduced Rev. Richard Dickinson, committee secretary, who noted that the committee has keenly felt the need for legal counsel given the real possibility of repercussions for upholding the truth of the gospel. He said, “The pressure to conform has never been greater.”
Messrs. Richard Dickinson and Robert Samuelson (Wilmington, DE) were elected to the committee’s class of 2025 and Rev. Patrick Morgan was elected to the class of 2023 to complete the term of Mr. Mark Rogers who entered his eternal rest. Rev. Michael Myers (Heritage OPC, Royston, GA) prayed for the committee.
The Assembly returned to the report of the Committee on Ministerial Care.
Upon the recommendation of the committee, the Assembly authorized the committee to request each congregation to support the ministry of the CMC at $20 per communicant member, or through designated gifts.
For elections to the committee’s class of 2025, the Assembly needed to elect three men consisting of at least one minister and one ruling. Rev. Ronald Pearce, Elder John Hearn, and Rev. Bret McNeill (Reformation OPC, Olympia, WA) were elected. Mr. Smith prayed for the committee.
Mr. Curto introduced the report of the Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations by reading Psalm 133. He gave a brief explanation of how best to read the report particularly noting the variety of way the OPC has relationships with other Reformed churches throughout the world.
The Assembly recessed at 8:30 following prayer by Rev. W. Vernon Picknally (Bethel OPC, Fremont, MI).
The Assembly reconvened at 8:45 and sang #435, “Not What My Hands Have Done.” The moderator read Psalm 61 and Rev. Richard Shaw led in prayer.
Mr. Curto introduced the fraternal delegate from the United Reformed Churches of North America (URCNA), Rev. Brian Lee, who greeted the commissioners on behalf of his denomination. He noted the relationship between the two denominations are wide, deep, and growing. He expressed his hope that our denominations would continue to work together despite our distinctions. Rev. Marcus Mininger prayed for the URCNA.
The commissioners returned to the business at hand, namely the report of the Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations.
Upon the recommendation of the committee, the Assembly approved an invitation into corresponding relations with the Sudanese Reformed Church and the Gereformeerde Kerken Nederland. The Assembly also approved support for the Gereformeerde Kerken Nederland’s application for membership in the International Conference of Reformed Churches (ICRC).
The Assembly elected Messrs. Tony Curto, Matthew Holst (Shiloh OPC, Raleigh, NC), and Robert Tarullo (Westminster OPC, Indian Head Park, IL) to the committee’s class of 2025.
Rev. John Mallin introduced the report of the Committee on Appeals and Complaints. The Assembly will be hearing a judicial appeal from the Presbytery of the Southwest and a complaint on appeal from the Presbytery of the Southeast. The committee is also proposing two amendments to the Book of Discipline.
The first proposed amendment is to Book of Discipline III.2 (proposed addition in bold): “No charge shall be admitted by the judicatory if it is filed more than two years after the commission of the alleged offense, unless it appears that unavoidable impediments have prevented an earlier filing of the charge. Such impediments may include, but are not necessarily limited to, a late discovery of an alleged offense or the requirement of more than two years for the offended party to come to terms with an offense, such as abuse, due to the nature of the offense. Furthermore, any alleged offense, or specification thereof, that may be part of a demonstrable pattern or have a clear ongoing aspect may be admitted more than two years after the beginning of the offense. A charge shall be considered filed when it has been delivered to the clerk or the moderator of the judicatory.”
The Assembly recessed at 10:10 and reconvened at 10:30 singing hymn #429, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” Rev. Bennie Castle (Grace OPC, Lynchburg, VA) led in prayer
Mr. Curto introduced the fraternal delegate from the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARP), Rev. Benjamin Glaser, who addressed the Assembly. He noted that on June 9, 1778 not far from the location of this Assembly, actions were taken that led to the formation of the ARP in 1782. His own congregation is celebrating their 225th anniversary this year. One current concern for the denomination is their careful transitioning away from having deaconesses. He reported on and asked prayer for both Erskine College and Erskine Seminary. Rev. Alan Flowers (Spencer Mills OPC, Gowen, MI) prayed for the ARP.
The Assembly returned to the time of question about the report of the Committee on Appeals and Complaints. At the recommendation of the members of the committee present, the first recommended amendment to the Book of Discipline was referred back to the committee which will bring the matter to the 89th General Assembly.
The committee presented, as part of its report, the second proposed amendment to the Book of Discipline. The proposed amendment is to Book of Discipline IX.1 (proposed change in bold): “A complaint is a written representation, other than an appeal or a protest, charging a judicatory with delinquency or error. It may be brought by an officer or other member of the church against the session or the presbytery to which he is subject, by one session against another session in the same presbytery, by a session against the presbytery which has jurisdiction over it, or by one presbytery against another presbytery.”
A motion was made to substitute the proposed wording “in the same presbytery” with the words “whether in the same or another presbytery.”
At 11:40 Rev. Peter Puliatti (Calvary OPC, Harrisville, PA) delivered the morning devotional on 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 reminding the commissioners that it is required that ministers be found to be faithful. He noted that God uses sanctified Christians to sanctify Christians. The Assembly sang hymn #217, “My God, How Wonderful Thou Art.”
The Assembly recessed for lunch following prayer led by Rev. Tim Walker (Covenant OPC, Marina, CA).
The Assembly reconvened and sang #463, “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus!” Elder Richard Duggan (Hammond, WI) led in prayer.
The clerk pro tem, Mr. Mahaffy, presented the first portion of the minutes for correction.
The Assembly returned to the committee’s second proposed amendment to the Book of Discipline resumed. After lengthy debate, the matter of the proposed amendment was recommitted to the Committee on Appeals and Complaints.
The Historian, Rev. Camden Bucey (Hope OPC, Grays Lake, IL), presented his report. He noted that he is researching the life and ministry of Ned Stonehouse with a view toward publication in the future. In consultation with the Reformed Forum, there will be a 12-part series on J. Gresham Machen for use in Sunday School classes. Rev. Danny Olinger, chairman of the Committee for the Historian, presented the committee’s report. He told the commissioners that the Historian is already planning for the centennial anniversary of the OPC 14 years from now. Mr. John Muether, the former historian, was granted the privilege of the floor and presented a video tribute to the fathers and brothers the OPC who died in 2021 and 2022. Rev. Brian DeJong (Grace OPC, Sheboygan, WI) was elected to the committee’s class of 2025. Mr. Van Kooten prayed for the Historian and the Committee for the Historian.
Rev. Roger Wagner (Bayview OPC, Chula Vista), a member of the Special Committee to Visit the Presbytery of the Dakotas, presented the committee’s report. This committee was appointed at the 86th General Assembly to help the presbytery “work through the serious division that is affecting our functioning as a Church of Christ.”
After a recess at 3:15, the Assembly reconvened at 3:35 and sang Psalm #23C, “The LORD Is My Shepherd.” Elder John Terpstra (Austin, TX) led in prayer.
Mr. Curto introduced the fraternal delegate from the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Central and Eastern Europe (RPCCEE), Rev. Gyula Bagoly, who addressed the Assembly. The RPCCEE has Churches in Hungary, Ukraine, and Romania in two presbyteries. He spoke of the publishing endeavors, including the publication of Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism. He told the commissioners the ways in which they are helping Ukrainian refugees. The moderator prayed for the RPCCEE.
The Assembly returned to the report of the special committee. Upon the recommendation of the committee at the request of the presbytery, the Assembly determined to continue the work of the special committee for another year. Mr. Gerber prayed for the special committee.
Rev. Douglas Clawson, associate general secretary for the Committee on Foreign Missions, was granted the privilege of the floor. The Assembly heard a wonderful tribute for Mark Bube’s thirty-one years of service as general secretary. Mr. Clawson read the following resolution of thanks from the committee:
The Committee on Foreign Missions of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church hereby makes known to Mark T. Bube our deep thankfulness to our God for you and for the thirty-one years of faithful and sacrificial service you have rendered to the Committee, the missionaries of the OPC, the church as a whole, and above all to your Lord and Savior. Raised by godly parents, it was impressed upon you from childhood that your God-given gifts were to be used for God’s glory and the uplifting of His people. Issues raised by the occasion of your baptism would eventually bring your parents into Calvary OPC in Ringoes, New Jersey; and you publicly professed your faith at age 12 at First OPC in Sunnyvale, California, where you were mentored pastorally by the Rev. Henry W. Coray, who had served as one of the first foreign missionaries of the OPC. Ordained in 1983 as a ruling elder at First Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Portland, Oregon, you have given your heart in service to King Jesus and His church. We praise God for your service on the Committee on Coordination for the past thirty-eight years and on the Committee on Ecumenicity and Inter-Church Relations for the past twenty-eight years, and as Moderator of the 55th (1988) General Assembly. But it is especially as general secretary for the Committee on Foreign Missions for the past thirty-one years that we give praise to God. You have administered the Committee’s work, implemented the Committee’s decisions, and applied its policies to the foreign missionary fields with truthfulness, kindness, and love. You have mentored and encouraged those laboring on mission fields as far ranging as Uganda and Quebec. You have dealt compassionately and prayed continuously for brothers and sisters in Christ in distress in Eritrea, Haiti, and Asia. The friendships that you have made with so many people on so many fields testify to your seeing Christ in others and loving them accordingly. Administratively, your superior organizational skills, attention to detail, and grasp of financial matters are deeply appreciated by all. Well-prepared and well-spoken in meetings and gatherings, you are able to address problems calmly and with clarity. Your ability to make decisions in light of long-term results, and still take heed of the daily concerns and personal aspects of the program is widely admired. Your approach to ministry, which we have relied upon time and time again, reflects your servant’s heart and the wisdom of an elder and churchman. You have shown great warmth, kindness, and insight when dealing with people in many different and, sometimes difficult, situations. With your dear wife, Kathy, you have graciously opened your home to show hospitality to missionaries and others, from both near and far. Both you and Kathy mirror the love of Christ for His people and consciously seek to honor the Lord in thought, word, and deed. To God alone be the glory!
The Assembly expressed its love and thanks to Mr. Bube with a standing ovation. Mr. Clawson presented a video tribute of OPC missionaries who expressed their thanks to Mark for his work, support, and prayers.
Mark addressed the Assembly thanking the church for the privilege of serving. He expressed thanks for Christ, his wife Kathy, the CFM, the office staff, the secretaries through the years, the other general secretaries, and the missionaries. He reminded the commissioners that the steadfast love of the Lord endures forever.
The Assembly recessed at 4:45 following prayer by Mr. Smith. A reception was held at the campus library. The Assembly will reconvene Monday morning. Recessing for the rest of the day allows the commissioners time to prepare for the Lord’s Day.
“If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 58:13–14, ESV)
No business, meetings or debates are on the schedule for this day as it is the Lord’s day, the Christian Sabbath. After a few days of meetings, the commissioners had the opportunity to “turn it off” for a day of spiritual rest and rejuvenation. As such, nearby OPC congregations made themselves available not only to be a place to gather for worship, but also fellowship over a meal together. Each of these host churches provided lunch following their worship service.
Supper was back on campus followed by an evening worship service under the auspices of Calvary OPC, Glenside, PA. While area congregations welcomed commissioners in the morning, area churches were welcomed to this worship service to join our voices in praise to the living God. Rev. Steven McDaniel, associate pastor, led the service and Rev. Mark Sallade, pastor, preached on Acts 8:26–40, the account of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. He noted that in the Old Testament, there were quite a number of things that could make an Israelite ceremonially unclean thus preventing him or her from coming to the temple. Most of those were temporary in that certain cleansing rituals can be done to make one clean, but a eunuch had no such recourse. Thus, being both a eunuch and a gentile, we have an example of a true outcast who could not come to God in the Temple.
It is Jesus who comes to the Ethiopian eunuch. Jesus fulfills what is found in Isaiah 56:3–8 where the promise to both foreigner and eunuch is made that one day they will come to God’s holy mountain. A man who was a gentile and unable to receive the Old Testament covenant sign was truly an outcast, but Jesus comes to him and saves him through the word Philip brings. He receives the covenant sign of baptism and is brought into God’s house. So it is today. None are worthy to come to God, but Jesus comes to us, cleanses us, saves us, and brings us into God’s presence! What wonderful hope and comfort to warm the heart at the close of the Lord’s Day.
After a day of rest and worship, the Assembly reconvened at 8:47 and sang hymn #265, “In Christ Alone.” Elder Mark Stumpff (Mifflinburg, PA) led in prayer.
The next item of business for the Assembly was the hearing of Overtures (an overture is a request from a lower court of the church—in this case, a presbytery—to a higher court of the church for specific actions). The 2022 Assembly received three overtures.
Overture 1 from the Presbytery of Ohio requested the Assembly to revise the membership vows in the Directory of Public Worship. One proposal involved taking the second membership vow as it currently reads and dividing it into separate vows as follows:
1. That the second membership vow (DPW III.B.2, IV.B.2, IV.D.2, IV.E.2, IV.F.2) be amended from: “Do you believe in one living and true God, in whom eternally there are three distinct persons—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—who are the same in being and equal in power and glory, and that Jesus Christ is God the Son, come in the flesh?” to: “Do you believe in one living and true God, in whom eternally there are three distinct persons—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—who are the same in being and equal in power and glory?”
2. That a new third membership vow be inserted as follows: “Do you believe that Jesus Christ is God the Son come in the flesh, who for us and for our salvation lived and died, rose again from the dead, ascended into heaven, and will come again to judge the living and the dead?”
The Assembly granted these proposed changes in the overture. These proposed changes will be sent to the presbyteries for their approval before they take effect.
Another proposed change concerned the second vow parents make when presenting a covenant child for baptism. The overture read as follows:
That the second parental vow for baptism (DPW III.B.1.b.5) be amended from: “Do you promise to teach diligently to [name of child] the principles of our holy Christian faith, revealed in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments and summarized in the Confession of Faith and Catechisms of this Church?” to “Do you promise to teach diligently to [name of child] the principles of our holy Christian faith, as revealed in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments?”
After recessing at 10:15, the Assembly reconvened at 10:35 and sang #404, “The Church’s One Foundation.” Elder James Berry (Morgantown, WV) led in prayer.
Mr. Curto introduced the fraternal delegate from the Evangelical Reformed Church Westminster Confession, Rev. Kurt Vetterli, who addressed the Assembly. He brought greetings to the OPC from his denomination. He expressed his thanks because he has learned so much from how the Assembly functions and conducts its business. He gave the commissioners a glimpse of what his denomination has faced in the past two years, noting how the church in Vienna has a new building able to seat 150 worshipers. Sadly, a church near Zurich closed due to several factors. His own congregation is the only one from ERCWC in Switzerland. He noted that his denomination has recently finished a new translation of the Westminster Standards. Mr. Curto prayed for his denomination.
Mr. Curto introduced the fraternal delegate from the Bible Presbyterian Church (BPC), Rev. Kevin Backus, who addressed the Assembly. He brought warm greetings from the BPC. He spoke to the commissioners about Western Reformed Seminary. He asked for prayer for church plants abroad affected by the pandemic in various ways. He spoke about a church plant in Unionville, NY about an hour north of New York City. He noted the close relationship the OPC and BPC have and the Bible Presbyterians’ ongoing love and appreciation for the OPC. The moderator thanked Mr. Backus for his many years of attendance and fellowship at the OPC General Assembly. Mr. Bube prayed for the BPC.
The Assembly returned to the business of Overture 1. An amendment by addition to the proposed change was presented and can be seen in bold: “Do you promise to teach diligently to [name of child] the principles of our holy Christian faith, as revealed in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments and summarized by this church in its Confession of Faith and Catechisms?” This revision to the overture was approved.
But the overture in its revised form failed to be granted by the Assembly.
Rev. John Shaw led the morning devotional, and his text was Psalm 27. Mr. Shaw encouraged us to see how this psalm gives us a focused perspective of the glory of God and face of Jesus in the midst of great adversity. The psalmist is experiencing real conflict with and threat from evildoers, adversaries, and foes, Psalm 27 reminds us of the adversaries we face as the church. Nevertheless, the psalm shows that we can have confidence and courage: as we stand in Christ fearing no one and nothing. Despite David’s hard circumstances he desired to dwell in the house of the Lord and gaze upon His beauty. Christians should seek the same, namely the face of Jesus.
The Assembly sang #492, “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds,” and then recessed at 12:00 following prayer by Rev. Francis VanDelden (New Hope OPC, Frederick, MD).
The Assembly reconvened at 1:15 and sang Psalm #1B, “How Blest the Man.” Rev. Zachary Simmons (Cornerstone OPC, Ambler, PA) led in prayer.
Mr. Curto introduced the fraternal delegate from the Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS), Rev. Maynard Koerner, who addressed the Assembly. He noted the long-standing relationship between the two denominations. The RCUS held their 276th Synod last month in Kansas City. He spoke of his denomination’s work in the Philippines and noted the denomination’s commitment to home missions. He expressed his happiness seeing the OPC care for her ministers. Mr. Smith prayed for the RCUS.
Mr. Mahaffy, the clerk pro tem, presented the next set of minutes for review. He expressed thanks for work of the assistant clerk pro tem, Elder Michael Shields.
The Assembly took up the matter of Overture 2 from the Presbytery of Ohio. The following is a synopsis of the overture provided to the commissioners: “Requesting the 88th General Assembly to form a special committee of seven (4 ministers, 2 ruling elders, and 1 deacon) elected by the Assembly to (a) collect, study, and develop resources on topics related to forms of abuse, (b) produce and recommend to the church resources to equip officers and lower judicatories to recognize and respond to abuse in the church, (c) recommend to a future Assembly possible amendments to the BCO that more explicitly address the sin of abuse, and (d) report to the 89th General Assembly, et al., together with its grounds.”
The advisory committee recommended an amendment by addition: “The study shall include the definition of abuse in the light of the Scriptures.”
The Assembly heard the report of the minority of the advisory committee and then entered into time of questions and debate.
The Assembly recessed at 3:20, reconvened at 3:40 and sang hymn #413, “Revive Thy Work O Lord.” Elder Eric Kooi (Long Beach, CA) led in prayer.
Mr. Curto read a fraternal address from the Independent Reformed Church in Korea and then prayed for this denomination.
The Assembly returned to the matter of Overture 2. A substitute to the Overture was presented and debated. The Assembly adopted the motion to substitute which reads as follows:
A. That the Assembly form a special committee of six, consisting of three ministers, two ruling elders, and one deacon, chosen by the moderator to do the following:
i. Collect, study, and develop resources to equip the officers of the church to protect her members from sexual predators and domestic violence.
ii. Report to the 89th General Assembly
iii. Grant the committee a budget of $6000
This substitution became the main motion which the Assembly adopted.
Overture 3 from Presbytery of the Northwest (PNW) came to the floor. It proposed the following:
“Requesting the 88th General Assembly to consider changes to the Book of Discipline to clarify if a session may bring a complaint against a session in another presbytery (BD IX, 1), even in cases in which the session does not have standing as an aggrieved party, together with its ground and accompanying documentation.”
The advisory committee recommended the overture be recommitted to the Committee on Appeals and Complaints; the representatives of the PNW who met with the advisory committee concurred. The Assembly adopted the recommendation.
The Assembly turned to the judicial appeal from the Presbytery of the Southwest. According to Book of Discipline (VII.1), “An appeal in a judicial case is the removal of the case to an appellate judicatory by the filing of a petition asking that the final judgment of a lower judicatory be reversed or modified. An appeal may be taken by the accused, or by a judicatory whose judgment has been reversed or modified by an appellate judicatory.”
The judicial appeal from the Presbytery of the Southwest involves the Presbytery’s decision to pronounce a censure of rebuke against a couple who brought multiple charges against three ministerial members of the Presbytery. The Presbytery dismissed those charges and proposed a censure of rebuke in accordance with Book of Discipline III.6 which reads: “When a member of the church is about to present a charge, he shall be solemnly warned by the judicatory that he may be censured if the judicatory, after conducting the preliminary investigation defined in this chapter, Section 7, determines that judicial process with respect to such charge may not be instituted. No censure stronger than a rebuke shall be pronounced without a trial.” The appellants, who are members of a local congregation within the Presbytery, argue that since the Presbytery is not their court of original jurisdiction, they do not have the authority to censure them. They also argue that no grounds were provided and therefore seek the Assembly to sustain their appeal.
To deal with the appeal, the Assembly needed to suspend Standing Rule V.13. This standing rule has to do with the timely submission of documents to the Stated Clerk for consideration at General Assembly. The matter was recommitted to the advisory committee.
The Assembly moved to the report of the Committee to Examine Presbyterial Records (which reviews the minutes of the presbyteries). Their recommendations were adopted.
The commissioners heard the report of the Committee to Examine Standing Committee Records. The work of this committee is similar, but focused on the records of the standing committees of the OPC such as Foreign Missions or Christian Education.
The Assembly recessed at 5:15 for dinner following prayer by Elder Thomas Austin (Fort Collins, CO).
The Assembly reconvened at 6:30 and sang #526, “He Leadeth Me: O Blessed Thought.” Rev. Richard Dickinson led in prayer.
The Committee to Examine Standing Committee Records continued its report. Mr. Keele assumed the chair. After a brief discussion, the report was referred back to the Committee and Mr. Nakhla resumed the chair.
The Assembly turned to Complaint on Appeal 1 from the Presbytery of the Southeast.
Again, to quote the Book of Discipline (IX.1), “A complaint is a written representation, other than an appeal or a protest, charging a judicatory with delinquency or error. It may be brought by an officer or other member of the church against the session or the presbytery to which he is subject, by one session against another session, by a session against the presbytery which has jurisdiction over it, or by one presbytery against another presbytery.”
The complaint is on appeal from the Session of Covenant Reformed Presbyterian Church, Mount Airy, NC against the Presbytery of the Southeast. The synopsis of the complaint is as follows: “Appeal of complaint against the Presbytery of the Southeast that ‘the presbytery erred by failing to submit to “the deliverances of the general assembly … with deference and submission” and by doing so contradicted the “nature of the general assembly as the supreme judicatory of the church” (FG 15.8).’”
The Assembly heard from the appellants (those bringing their complaint on appeal) and subsequently from representatives of the presbytery. The Assembly entered into debate. The order of the day (in this case, to recess) was extended for no more than 15 minutes and debate continued.
The Assembly recessed at 9:17. Debate on the complaint will continue Tuesday morning.
The Assembly reconvened at 8:30 and sang #567, the “Doxology.” The moderator led in prayer.
The Committee to Examine Standing Committee Records returned and continued its report. The committee’s recommendation concerning the approval of the minutes of the standing committees was approved.
The Assembly returned to the complaint on appeal from the Presbytery of the Southeast. The Assembly determined to end debate and subsequently sustained the complaint. Some commissioners requested their negative votes be recorded in the minutes.
The Assembly adopted the first proposed amend which states:
That the General Assembly send the following communication to the Presbytery of the Southeast:
The 87th (2021) General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church judged that the Presbytery of the Southeast erred when it allowed reviling speech to be used in a judicial trial, damaging the reputations of named women in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
The 87th General Assembly determined that the Presbytery make the following amends:
That the Presbytery of the Southeast acknowledge its error in allowing Mr. Spangler to use reviling language in his trial, damaging the good names of Aimee Byrd and Rachel Miller, record this in its minutes, communicate this to Aimee Byrd and Rachel Miller, and offer to both, in writing and in person, if possible, whatever expression of regret it deems appropriate.
The 88th (2022) General Assembly, having sustained a complaint on appeal, determined that the Presbytery was deficient in its execution of the amends stipulated by the 87th General Assembly. It went on to remind the Presbytery of the following:
1. “The lower assemblies are subject to the review and control of higher assemblies, in regular graduation” (FG XII.2).
2. The general assembly is the “supreme judicatory of the church” (FG XV.8).
Representatives of the presbytery testified that it has been difficult for the presbytery to harmonize submission to the decisions of the General Assembly and the satisfaction of individuals’ consciences, and that returning the complaint to the presbytery would yield no different results.
Nevertheless, the 88th General Assembly urged the presbytery to have the actions of both the 87th and 88th General Assemblies inform the consciences of the members of the presbytery. The Assembly also appointed a committee of three to assist the presbytery and report back to the 89th General Assembly.
After approving a small amendment, the Assembly determined to adopt the second proposed amend:
That the General Assembly send the following communication to Aimee Byrd and to Rachel Miller:
We write to you on behalf of the 88th (2022) General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. You will recall that the 87th (2021) General Assembly judged the Presbytery of the Southeast to have been in error when it allowed Mr. Spangler to use reviling speech about you, further damaging your reputation, while he was on trial before that presbytery for that very sin.
The 87th General Assembly also instructed the Presbytery of the Southeast to acknowledge this error and its consequences, record this in its minutes, and communicate with you, in writing and in person, if possible, whatever expression of regret it deemed appropriate.
In adjudicating a recent complaint against the Presbytery of the Southeast, the 88th (2022) General Assembly judged the response of the Presbytery of the Southeast, expressed in its communication to you, to fall short of the redress stipulated by the 87th GA.
Accordingly, the 88th General Assembly, as an act of the whole church, determined to express its sorrow that you have suffered the effects of the original reviling speech; the failure of the presbytery to restrain the further use of such speech during the trial of the original offender; and the subsequent failure of the presbytery effectively to carry out the actions deemed by the Assembly to be necessary.
We regret and grieve that the church has failed adequately to protect your good name and to bring about a full resolution of the matter, which would involve – at the least – a clearly expressed recognition by the offending parties of the offenses against you. Falling short of evoking the latter, and having taxed your patience beyond reasonable expectation already, we thought we owed you an expression of our recognition of the offenses against you.
While we hope this letter does express in a measure our recognition of those offenses and our grief that they have not been remedied, we would like representatives of the Assembly to meet with you in person to convey more fully the Assembly’s expression of regret, if you are willing. We do not want to cause you more grief or pain by the prospect of such a meeting, but in hope of a favorable response, suggest that you may contact [Name] at [Number and/or email] if you are willing to meet with [Name] and [Name].
Thank you for your consideration. We remain,
Yours in the service of the Lord of the Church,
Some commissioners requested their negative vote be recorded in the minutes.
The Assembly returned to the judicial appeal from the Presbytery of the Southwest (PSW) hearing first from the appellant and then from representatives from the presbytery.
After a 10-minute recess, the Assembly reconvened at 10:15 and sang the first verse of “Amazing Grace.” Mr. Olinger led in prayer.
The moderator addressed the Assembly as follows:
1. Regarding the four incidents of reported racism on campus, I am thankful to report that the individual responsible for the first two incidents surrounding remarks about the 13th Amendment has been identified. He was ashamed to come forward on his own, as his statements were a misunderstood attempt at humor. They were not intended as a racist remark. He desires and is seeking to apologize to those offended. Please pray for those hurt by his careless words and for this brother’s heart in all of this.
2. The one responsible for the third and most egregious statement has not been seen on campus since the incident. That means we know it’s not a commissioner. We frankly have no idea who it is.
3. Regarding the fourth incident, we were able to better understand what transpired in the cafeteria. It was not words spoken, but was an action that we now understand as confusion over how the cafeteria is organized, whether it was self-service or whether we would be served by the staff. We are seeking to work this out with those who were offended.
The Assembly returned to the matter of the judicial appeal from the PSW. A motion from the advisory committee to return the appeal to the PSW was proposed the commissioners debated this. This motion failed.
The Assembly voted on each of the five specifications of error and only one was sustained. Thus the Assembly believed the PSW needed to include some kind of statement as to “the serious character of the offense” (BD VI.B.2) in its proposed rebuke.
The Assembly determined that the sustained specification of error is of such importance as to a require a reversal of the judgment of the Presbytery. The Assembly then reversed the judgment of the PSW and determined to include the advisory committee’s grounds from its recommendation for each specification of error in all relevant communications.
Mr. David Mahaffy reported for the Committee on Arrangements and the Assembly adopted the proposed change to Form of Government XV to send to the presbyteries for their approval:
To amend paragraph 3 of FG XV by inserting “ordinarily” between “meet” and “at” and inserting after “every year” the committee’s recommended language. The rest of what is now 3 becomes a new paragraph 4. All subsequent paragraphs to be renumbered accordingly.
Proposed Amended FG XV.3 and new paragraph 4, etc.
3. The general assembly shall meet ordinarily at least once in every year. In the event of unanticipated circumstances that require a change in date or location of the general assembly, the stated clerk and the moderator of the preceding assembly, in consultation with appropriate committees, are authorized to change the date and venue, along with other provisions that may be warranted.
4. On the day appointed for the purpose the moderator of the preceding assembly shall open the meeting and preside until a moderator is chosen. In the event of his absence the member present who was last elected moderator of the general assembly shall preside in his place. Each commissioner shall present his credentials to the clerk of the assembly. Any twenty of these commissioners, of whom at least five shall be ministers and at least five ruling elders, being met on the day and at the place appointed, shall be a quorum for the transaction of business. No commissioner shall have a right to deliberate or vote in the assembly until he has been enrolled.
Upon the recommendation of the committee, the Assembly will request churches to contribute $12 per communicant member for the General Assembly Travel Fund. The Assembly decided to hold the 89th General Assembly at Trinity Christian College, Palos Heights, Illinois starting at 7:00 p.m. on June 7 and ending no later than noon on June 13. Messrs. Muether and Tarullo were reelected to class of 2025.
Rev. Stephen Philips presented the budget portion of the report of the Trustees. Both the proposed budget (including the additional monies for the new special committee of six) and the request of $20 per communicant member for GA operations fund were adopted.
Mr. Falk presented the resolution of thanks:
RESOLUTION OF THANKS. “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers …” (Ephesians 1:16). We, the commissioners of the 88th General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, give thanks to the following individuals and groups for their diligent service rendered both before and during the General Assembly. We give thanks and acknowledge the tireless labors of the Committee on Arrangements: David Mahaffy (chairman), Robert Tarullo, Alan Montgomery, John Muether, Joseph Troutman, Jesse Montgomery, and Hank Belfield (ex officio). We also thank Linda Jones who cheerfully served the Assembly as registrar. In addition, we recognize the service of Melodie McKenzie, a registration volunteer. Andrew Davis, our on-site coordinator, also described as gopher extraordinaire, contributed to the functioning of the assembly. Ed Tress, a member of the Presbytery of Philadelphia, and his team of airport shuttle drivers, along with his greeters and runners delivered commissioners safely from the airport to our destination. The airport drivers were Richard Martin, Frank Mullen, Joel Bacon, David Smith, Neysha Medina, and Doug Swauger. Ed Tress, along with Jack Swann, Ed Schnitzel, and John Stahl, served as presbytery volunteers who were responsible for coordination. We acknowledge the labors of Tricia Stevenson, Rachel Kinney, and Kristin Olinger, who carefully recorded a pictorial account of the GA with their cameras. Our youthful and energetic pages, Mary Lois Wallace, Sarah Wallace, Elizabeth Wallace, Elizabeth Troutman, Elizabeth Biggs, Esther Biggs, Joshua Stevenson, Josiah Nahkla, and Emma Nahkla, roamed the aisles distributing papers to the commissioners. The golf cart drivers, Paul Woo, David Garrett, Kim Hight, George Wilkie, Simon Yovino, YaPing Li, Brent Jeffries, Carlos Medina, Nate Jeffries, Daniel Finegan, and Robert Jones, skillfully navigated the winding paths throughout the campus. Our liaisons at Eastern University have been Mr. Efram Harkins and Ms. Meggin Capers, and we extend our thanks to them for their service along with their entire Conferences and Special Events staff. We are grateful to Dr. Chad Van Dixhoorn and his wife, Emily, for the gracious hospitality extended to many commissioners. We give thanks to the following congregations and their pastors for both their invitations to worship with them and the meals and hospitality that followed: Immanuel OPC Medford NJ, Immanuel OPC, Bellmawr, NJ, Calvary OPC, Glenside, PA, Cornerstone OPC, Ambler, PA, Immanuel OPC, Collingswood, NJ, Emmanuel OPC, Wilmington DE, Knox OPC, Lansdowne, PA, Christ OPC, Downingtown, Trinity OPC, Hatboro, PA, and Grace OPC, Pennsville, NJ. Our able accompanists, Alan Montgomery, Jeffrey Dronenburg, John Shaw, and Zachary Simmons contributed to the assembly’s joyful praise of our God in the singing of psalms and hymns. Finally, we give thanks to our Moderator, David Nahkla, for his gentle humor as well as his wisdom and skill in addressing serious matters that came before the assembly.
The Assembly adopted Mr. Falk’s resolution.
Rev. Larry Westerveld (Trinity OPC, Hatboro, PA) presented the eagerly anticipated report of the Committee on Levity. Rev. Jim G. Stevenson (Providence OPC, Tulsa, OK) was awarded the prestigious, yet not-so-coveted Jack-in-the-Box award.
Rev. Alan Strange began to present report for the Special Committee on Updating the Language of the Doctrinal Standards. He noted the resignation of Rev. Glen Clary (Providence OPC, Pflugerville, TX) from the committee. Mr. Gidley continued to report for the committee. The committee’s work is to continue for another year. Mr. Mullinix prayed for the committee.
The Presbytery of Connecticut and Southern New York sought the advice of the Assembly concerning a candidate for gospel ministry related to the language requirements for candidates (see Form of Government XXI.1–6). The proposed advice to the presbytery was adopted.
Given the late hour, the Assembly determined to instruct the moderator to appoint six members, rather than hold an election, to the Special Committee to Help Equip Officers to Protect the Flock regarding sexual predators and domestic violence.
Next came elections for the Committee on Appeals and Complaints to the class 2025. Two men and an alternate needed to be elected and there were eight nominees. Revs. Malin and Jonathan Hutchison (Reformation OPC, Morgantown, WV) were elected and Rev. Alan Pontier (Living Hope OPC, Cerritos, CA) was elected as the alternate.
A motion to adjourn was adopted by the Assembly and Moderator Nakhla made the following declaration: “By virtue of the authority delegated to me by the church, let this general assembly be dissolved, and I do hereby dissolve it, and require another general assembly, chosen in the same manner, to meet Trinity Christian College, Palos Heights, Illinois, beginning Wednesday, June 7, 2023, at 7:00 p.m.” The moderator prayed and the Assembly sang the Doxology unaccompanied. The Assembly dissolved at 12:00.
This report was written by Jim G. Stevenson, pastor, Providence OPC, Tulsa, Oklahoma.
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