Extracted from Ordained Servant vol. 3, no. 4 (October 1994)

In this issue of Ordained Servant we consider what has been called, historically, “the fencing of the Lord’s table.” And we acknowledge at the outset that there is a considerable diversity of opinion—and practice—with regard to this in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. This should not, however, be allowed to obscure the fact that there is also—in spite of that diversity—a large measure of agreement. We are agreed, it seems to me, that it is the Lord’s table. It is not our table. For this reason we have always resisted any view which denies that bona fide Christians who are visiting with us ought to be kept from the Lord’s table. At the same time, and without contradiction to the above, we also hold that

...all ignorant and ungodly persons, as they are unfit to enjoy communion with [Christ], so are they unworthy of the Lord’s table; and cannot, without great sin against Christ, while they remain such, partake of these holy mysteries, or be admitted thereunto (WCF 29:8).

For this reason it sometimes becomes necessary for sessions to suspend “from the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper for a season” (WCF 30:4).

It is clear, then, that the differences arise—not as to the what, but—as to the how! How are we going to best ensure that all who should be admitted to the Lord’s table are received, and that all who should not be permitted to come to the Lord’s table are excluded. It is our hope that the material presented in this issue will contribute to a constructive reconsideration of our OPC traditions and, perhaps, to a greater consensus as to the best way to honor the principles professed among us in our present-day context. The first article (by the editor) seeks to address the current situation in American society. The second and third articles set forth the manner in which two of our Orthodox Presbyterian Churches fence the table. These are not intended to be the last word on this subject. It is our impression that there may be yet other ways of seeking to properly fence the table. We therefore hope to present more articles, in future issues of Ordained Servant, in hopes that out of it we may come to as much unity as possible with respect to the “how.”

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At the recent General Assembly a questionnaire relating to this publication was circulated among the commissioners by a member of the Christian Education Committee. The purpose of this survey was to seek to find out what ruling and teaching elders of our churches think of Ordained Servant and the results were not such as to make us feel at all complacent. Of the 75 who responded 42 said this publication is worth the cost. But 8 said it was not, 10 said they were not sure, and 15 did not give any opinion at all—which is certainly no ringing endorsement. Various opinions were offered concerning ways to make the publication more effective, and these will be evaluated by the committee at the fall meeting. But what about you? Perhaps you were not at the General Assembly, and would like to express your opinion, one way or the other, as to the usefulness Ordained Servant. If so please send your comments to Mr. David Winslow, 10130 Stilbite Ave., Fountain Valley, CA 92708. If you want a copy of the “Reader Survey” questionnaire prepared by Mr. Winslow—and used at the General Assembly—you can write to him, or call him, and ask for a copy to be sent to you. It would be of great help to our committee if we could hear from more of you by the end of the year. This will enable sub-committee members to consider your input before the spring meeting of our committee.

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  In this issue we are pleased to present part one of an exegetical study of 1 Timothy 3 by the Rev. Archibald Alexander Allison. This study, by one of the younger ministers in the OPC, grew out of assignments given to Archibald while he completed studies for the ministry at Bethel Church in Carson, NorthDakota. It was the opinion of Session members there that there was considerable value in this series of studies, and so they were recommended for publication in Ordained Servant. It is our hope that they will help to guide sessions—and church members— in the selection of godly elders. We also believe that it will do us all good—all of us who are already teaching or ruling elders—to review these careful studies in order to take a good look at ourselves in the light of them.

“The need for extensive reading must be stressed.... Office-bearers should have a good library of theological books, reference material and also subscribe to several Christian magazines to be well- informed. Regular study is a requirement. It is strongly advised that every office-bearer should resolve to read at least 15 mintues a day; he will find that such an effort will make itself felt at the end of the year”—The Church Order Commentary by D. G. Vanderpyl of the Reformed Churches of New Zealand.