Danny E. Olinger
Ordained Servant: January 2022
Also in this issue
by Gregory E. Reynolds
by Gregory E. Reynolds
by Danny E. Olinger
by Alan D. Strange
by T. David Gordon
by Ryan M. McGraw
by G. E. Reynolds (1949– )
When the members of the Committee on Christian Education (CCE) of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) gathered on Friday, September 29, 1989, at the OPC administrative building on 7401 Old York Road, Melrose Park, Pennsylvania, the excitement revolved around the appearance of the newly appointed general secretary, Thomas Tyson. Ross Graham, the director of the intern program, reported on his activities. Finance subcommittee chairman Payton Gardner made sure to introduce everyone to David Haney, the new controller for the Committee on Coordination. Then, at the end of the meeting, the final action taken was the establishing of a Special Committee on the Equipping of Ordained Officers. The CCE appointed G. I. Williamson, pastor of Bethel OPC in Carson, North Dakota, and two ruling elders newly elected by the Fifty-Sixth General Assembly and attending their first CCE meeting, James Gidley and David Winslow. The mandate given the Special Committee was to “begin to prepare periodic study materials for churches designed to assist the office bearers of the church in their God-given task of the edification of the whole body.”
The Special Committee went to work, and nearly two years later, on September 13, 1991, they brought a recommendation that the CCE publish a journal designed to help church officers. The CCE approved the recommendation and then engaged in a discussion based upon the Special Committee’s additional recommendations on what the journal should look like. The presentation of the work of the elder and deacon would be theoretical and practical. The church standards—the Confession of Faith and Catechisms and the Book of Church Order—should be emphasized, along with historical studies of other Presbyterian and Reformed churches. The practical was to include the session’s oversight of Word, sacraments, and discipline and its leadership in worship, evangelism, and edification. Regarding deacons, the CCE sought to identify the task of deacons in the local congregation and to discuss practical problems that deacons face.
After determining the content, the CCE appointed G. I. Williamson as the editor. Ordained to the gospel ministry in 1952, Williamson had served as a pastor in five different denominations, the United Presbyterian Church of North America (New Bedford, Pennsylvania, and Fall River, Massachusetts), the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (Monticello, Arkansas), the Reformed Church of New Zealand (Auckland and Silverstream, New Zealand), the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (Wichita, Kansas), and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (Fall River, Massachusetts, and Carson and Lark, North Dakota).
As editor, Williamson chose Ordained Servant for the title of the new journal—the two options that the CCE had approved were either Ordained Servant or Ordained to Serve—and decided to print it locally through Pleroma Press in Carson, North Dakota. Since Pleroma Press was, in the words of Williamson, “a fledging operation” without even the standard press equipment of a mechanical page assembler, much of the work fell upon the members of Bethel Orthodox Presbyterian Church where Williamson served as pastor. But, as Williamson also noted, the work was done “willingly” by these members as they understood how important it was to the church to have faithful pastors, elders, and deacons.
For the inaugural January 1992 issue, Williamson put on the cover a portrait of John Calvin. In his editorial, “Introducing Ordained Servant,” Williamson stated that the aim of the journal was to provide materials to help in the effective functioning of elders and deacons in the OPC. He also declared that it was not the intention of the journal to promote a partisan viewpoint, such as a two- or three-office view, as exclusively legitimate. Rather, the task before him as editor was to find the best material to help ordained servants in the church.
Two articles in the first issue, “How to Get Started,” by Williamson and “Taking Heed to the Flock” by Peter Y. de Jong, concentrated on what would become a primary focus of Ordained Servant, the practice of family visitation by pastors and ruling elders. De Jong’s “Taking Heed to the Flock” would appear in ten installments in Ordained Servant over the next three years. An “Elders Visitation Roll” was even included on the concluding pages of the first issue so that session members could keep a record of families visited.
In the 1998–1999 volume, Williamson revisited the themes of the de Jong articles with a smaller three-part series by David Winslow Jr. In his article, “A Sample Sessional Calling Record,” Winslow explained the goal “in doing Home Visits is to help the lambs of the flock see their lives hidden in Christ, our Good Shepherd; to encourage them to follow Him in the obedience of faith.” So that the time of the visit did not turn into an opportunity to criticize the pastor, Winslow suggested that the visiting elders not ask, “Do you like the pastor’s preaching?” but “Are your understanding it?” and “Do you see that you are growing spiritually through it?”
Williamson, however, also gave notice that Ordained Servant was going to focus on the diaconate, with C. Van Dam’s “Some Old Testament Roots and Their Continuing Significance.” Van Dam maintained that the diaconal task was to provide congregational fellowship in the joy of the Lord. In the second issue, April 1992, William Shishko built upon Van Dam’s start with a three-part series, “Reforming the Diaconate.” Shishko argued that Acts 6:1–6 presented the origin of the diaconate as a distinct and uniquely New Testament office. He then identified what he believed were the specific responsibilities entrusted to deacons, not only making provision for the basic needs of widows, but just as importantly relieving those entrusted with the ministry of the Word from responsibilities that detracted from this most important work of the church.
The publishing of de Jong, a Christian Reformed minister, and Van Dam, a Canadian Reformed minister, previewed Williamson’s penchant for utilizing theologians from the Dutch continental tradition. Most often an issue of Ordained Servant would include a mix of articles and reviews written by Orthodox Presbyterians and Canadian Reformed, United Reformed, and Reformed Church of New Zealand authors.
But the opening issues also revealed some of the difficulties involved with trying to write, edit, and print a periodical all by oneself as Williamson was attempting to do. Five different times during the publishing of de Jong’s “Taking Heed” series the contents page listed the wrong numerical installment of the series. Grammatical errors were commonplace, and the paper and ink combination used in printing varied from faint and hard to read to bold and blurry.
Some also noted that, despite the editor’s declaration in the opening issue that Ordained Servant did not want to enter the two- or three-office debate, Williamson’s emphasis and terminology was decidedly two-office. In the second issue, Williamson’s “A Look at the Biblical Offices” argued that more important than the way that the offices are classified is the way the offices are defined. Larry Wilson supplemented Williamson’s article with an article expressing what he believed were the practical concerns of the office debate in the OPC. Wilson maintained that the three-office position on the one hand was concerned with guarding the faithful ministry of the Word by maintaining its necessity, distinctiveness, and importance. On the other hand, three-office advocates did not want to undermine the office of ruling elder by disqualifying men from that office who did not have gifts or training for publicly teaching the Word. The two-office position sought to guard the parity of the governing officers of the church and to avoid hierarchicalism. Wilson thought that each of the concerns were biblical and that the church should endeavor to emphasize all four concerns.
Over the years, the two- or three-office debate lessened in the pages of Ordained Servant. One reason was that it was apparent that the predominantly three-office OPC and the predominantly two-office Presbyterian Church in America were not seeking to join, as they had officially attempted in 1981 and 1986. Another reason was the appearance of Mark Brown’s 1993 book, Order in the Offices. In his Ordained Servant article accompanying the appearance of the book, “Why I Came to a Three-Office View,” Brown argued that the historical Presbyterian position was correct: the minister is not an elder who teaches but a preacher who also governs.
Williamson revisited the topic in the January 2003 issue with his article, “The Two- and Three-Office Issue Reconsidered.” He confessed that he had long hesitated on the issue in that 1 Timothy 3:1–13 and Titus 1:5–9 seemed to him to be only speaking of elders and deacons (a two-office view), but 1 Timothy 5:17 proves that there was a marked division of labor among those who were called elders (a three-office view). Williamson confessed that he had been wrong in believing that Paul only lists the qualifications for two offices: the elders and the deacons. Rather, it is more accurate to say that he lists qualifications for three offices: 1- the deacons, 2- the elders who rule but do not labor in the Word, and 3- the elders who labor in the Word and rule as their vocation. The qualifications for category 3 are found in the entire content of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, not just in those portions of Scripture like 1 Timothy 3 that speak of the qualifications for categories 1 and 2. He concluded, “So I am finally driven to the conclusion that the three-office view is really what the Scriptures teach. But I also see that recognition of this in no way implies—in the slightest degree—any hierarchical status for ministers.”
Another issue that Williamson eagerly engaged at the start of Ordained Servant was the more effective use of modern technology. In his judgment, as the invention of the printing press was vital in the promotion of the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century, so the electronic revolution could be of similar importance to the church in the future. He marveled that with a Macintosh IIsi computer and small GCC personal laser printer a master copy could be produced for the printer. The first of many reviews keeping readers updated on new technology for the church came from Leonard Coppes in the January 1993 issue. Coppes highly recommended the Logos Bible Study Software that was compatible with MS Windows 3.0 and 3.1.
In keeping with the stated goal of providing resources for the training of elders and deacons, Williamson notably published during 1993 and 1994 John Hilbelink’s “A Training Course for Elders and Deacons” and Archibald Allison’s “Biblical Qualifications for Elders.” In addressing practical problems that deacons face, Roger Schmurr’s 1995 article, “Deacons and/or Trustees” sought to answer the question whether the handling of finances and the physical upkeep of the church property was limited to ordained individuals or not.
As the years progressed, Williamson and Ordained Servant fell into a comfortable rhythm as such topics as confessionalism, Presbyterianism, expository preaching, and church discipline were regularly discussed and wholeheartedly endorsed. What Williamson, however, never quite achieved was consistency in the editing and printing of the journal.
At the close of 2005, Williamson retired at the age of eighty. During his fourteen years as editor, he produced fifty-one issues, wrote ten editorials, thirty-five articles, and reviewed twenty-three books. More than that, he established a standard of commitment to confessional fidelity.
The introduction of Gregory Reynolds as editor in 2006 brought subtle changes to the content of Ordained Servant, and drastic changes to the production and printing. Rather than sending up to four issues in the mail to sessions, the new format was an online monthly issue (except July and September) with a single print edition of the articles made available the following year. Regarding the content, Reynolds declared in his opening editorial, “Galvanized Iron: A Tribute to G. I. Williamson for His Pioneering Work on Ordained Servant,” that he intended to build upon Williamson’s “fine efforts to cultivate confessional consciousness in the mind of the church through the faithful ministries of its officers, that the Scripture may be understood and lived to the glory of God.”
In moving forward, Reynolds articulated that exploring the combination of digital and print publications for Ordained Servant represented a challenge. Digital publication brought with it the efficiency and accessibility of the internet; printed publication brought with it greater thoughtfulness and durability. In Reynolds’s judgment, both had benefits and liabilities.
Finally, Reynolds proposed J. Gresham Machen as the model of piety, doctrinal integrity, and intellectual cultivation that should mark Ordained Servant. According to Reynolds, Machen had been able to communicate profound ideas with cogency and focus. This was accompanied with strong conviction, but those strong convictions were always held as a true Christian gentleman.
The January 2007 online issue, the first issue solely assembled under the editorship of Reynolds, was devoted to the ruling elder. In his editorial, “Ordained Servants: The Ruling Elder,” Reynolds lamented that one cause of the weakness of the contemporary church was its failure to understand, accept, and implement the biblical form of government, particularly the scriptural office of ruling elder. For Reynolds, too many religious leaders had concluded that careful oversight and feeding of the flock might take the church away from the task of evangelism. But, Christ, the head of the church, instituted the office of ruling elder for the spiritual welfare of his people. Further, only a biblical view of eldership will enable the church to avoid the Scylla of dictatorship and Charybdis of individualism.
William Shishko contributed two articles, an essay on ruling elder Herbert Muether entitled “Lessons from the Life of an Extraordinary Ruling Elder” and “Tools for the Elder’s Toolbox.” In the former article, Shishko emphasized that he learned from Muether that part of an elder “ruling his household well” (1 Tim. 3:4) is that he “seeks first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matt. 6:33) in everything. In the later article, Shishko reviewed a reprint of David Dickson’s The Elder and His Work. Shishko appreciated the fact that Dickson, a nineteenth-century Scottish Presbyterian, was enthusiastic about the practical benefits of Presbyterian church government. Dickson argued, “We need no new machinery in the Christian church. It is all provided ready in our hand in the Presbyterian system. What we need is motive-power to set it going and keep it going.”
If that issue showed the continuity that would exist between the Williamson and Reynolds editorships, the March 2007 issue, “The Importance of Reading Fiction,” revealed how Reynolds intended to broaden the scope of the articles that appeared in Ordained Servant. Reynolds’s “Preaching and Fiction: Developing Oral Imagination” encouraged ministers to consider reading fiction to improve their preaching. Good fiction presents a picture of humanity that squares with reality, helps one become a better storyteller, and expands the color and cadence of the preacher in the preaching moment.
Craig Troxel’s “Why Preachers Should Read Fiction” furthered Reynolds’s contention. Troxel maintained that reading fiction is a helpful way of gathering sermon illustrations. But mining for illustrations is the lesser reason why preachers should read fiction. The better reason is developing as pastors and persons. Troxel related that, when he came to minister in suburban Philadelphia, the standard allusions and examples understood by friends and family in rural western Nebraska did not always translate smoothly. Reading fiction helped him expand his horizons, and most importantly, to sympathize with others.
Danny Olinger positively reviewed Ralph Wood’s Flannery O’Connor and the Christ-Haunted South. Olinger affirmed Wood’s premise that O’Connor’s literature has supreme value for the church because in it “she was willing to slay certain things that seem to be good—the seemingly necessary modifications of the gospel that would make it fit modern needs and thus ensure its success.”
Another sterling example of the literary emphasis was the April 2016 online issue devoted to William Shakespeare. Leland Ryken’s “Why Shakespeare Matters” encouraged Christians to take up the Bard’s writings for four reasons. Shakespeare matters because beautiful language matters; understanding of human experience matters; good entertainment matters; and the Bible matters. Ryken also maintained that Shakespeare was a “Christian” writer, one whose literary world is based on Christian premises.
Reynolds also devoted issues to anniversaries of significant figures in the history of the Reformed church. In 2009, to celebrate the semi-millennial anniversary of the birth of John Calvin, Reynolds published back-to-back issues of “Calvin at 500: The Word” and “Calvin’s Soteriology.” In his article “John Calvin: Servant of the Word,” Glen Clary argued that Calvin was above all else a preacher, one whose entire theological labor was the exposition of Scripture. Calvin’s devotion to the whole counsel of God was also seen in his commitment to the lectio continua (“we must not pick and cull the Scripture to please our own fancy”) in the selection of texts.
Richard Gaffin’s “Calvin’s Soteriology” examined the structure of the application of redemption in book three of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. Gaffin started by quoting Calvin:
Christ was given to us by God’s generosity, to be grasped and possessed by us in faith. By partaking of him, we principally receive a double grace: namely, that being reconciled to God through Christ’s blamelessness, we may have in heaven instead of a Judge a gracious Father; and secondly, that sanctified by his Spirit we may cultivate blamelessness and purity of life.
Gaffin emphasized from this the twofold grace of justification and sanctification in Calvin’s soteriology. First and foremost, the focus is on the person of Christ. The saving benefits in view, justification and sanctification, do not accrue to faith apart from the person of Christ. It is in the believer’s union with Christ that the benefits are “grasped” and “possessed.”
Secondly, by partaking of Christ, believers principally receive a double grace. Gaffin argued that concerning justification, believers are reconciled to God, he being a gracious Father rather than a wrathful and unreconciled Judge. Concerning sanctification, believers, having been joined to Christ, are to cultivate blamelessness and purity of life. In Gaffin’s judgment, Calvin then affirms an aspect that is settled, justification, and an aspect that is continuing, sanctification. Even then, however, it is just as believers have been and already are sanctified, in distinction from having been justified, that they are to cultivate a life of holiness.
Just as Williamson had been interested in the intersection of technology and the church, Reynolds showed a fascination with technology and the church also, but in a way that went beyond simply suggesting resources. Particularly, Reynolds focused on media ecology and the church. In his December 2011 article, “John, the Media Ecologist: Why I am a Media Ecologist,” Reynolds argued that media ecology for the Christian is a part of the general stewardship of life in this world. He did so by focusing on the insights of Marshall McLuhan on technology and how it applied to the internet age. Technology is not neutral. For instance, the internet may expand our knowledge of the world, but at the same time, it may narrow our view of the world to the social networks we know. Reynolds was not advocating the avoidance of the internet but engaging with the technology in a way that brought glory to God.
In his December 2012 article, “Face-to-Face: The Importance of Personal Presence in Ministry and Life,” Reynolds appealed to J. Gresham Machen’s “Mountains and Why We Love Them.” As Machen warned of a centralized tyranny in a technological civilization that undermined liberty and diminished the human spirit, Reynolds urged that we should be concerned not to use technology to centralize and thus diminish liberty and face-to-face interaction in the church. Ministers and ruling elders need to encourage church members to ask themselves how their use of electronic media advances healthy personal relationships in the church.
During the COVID-19 period in July 2020, Reynolds wrote “Reflections on Virtual Church Meetings in a Time of Coronavirus.” Citing 2 John 12, “Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete,” Reynolds acknowledged that, while a mediated media connection with other people is good in certain circumstances, nothing can replace their actual presence. “The present necessity is like John’s paper and inking—better than nothing—but making us long for a better day.” 
Another feature of Ordained Servant that Reynolds stressed in the media ecology realm was the reviewing of books that touched on that theme. An example of this was T. David Gordon’s January 2013 review article of Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. Gordon supported Turkle’s notion that the powerful technologies of the modern world come with human cost. Turkle wrote,
The ties we form through the Internet are not, in the end, the ties that bind. But they are ties that preoccupy. We text each other at family dinners, while we jog, while we drive, as we push our children on swings in the park. We don’t want to intrude on each other, so instead we constantly intrude on each other, but not in “real time.”
As Ordained Servant moves forward, it continues to seek to serve the ordained officers of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Among Reynolds’s editorial goals are to cover issues that threaten the unity and faith of the church. These issues often come from the surrounding culture and infect the church. In its worst form these beliefs and practices come in the guise of true spirituality within the church. An example of this would be the idea that formal membership in a congregation is unspiritual, when in fact the biblical case for it is overwhelming. According to Reynolds, this is the spirit of radical individualism in the guise of true spirituality.
The CCE gives thanks for thirty years of Ordained Servant and the work of its two editors, Williamson and Reynolds, and many others who have contributed to it as writers, copyeditors, and proofreaders. This journal for church officers has seen a great deal of change over the years, but what has not changed is a commitment to encourage, inform, and equip church officers for faithful, effective, and God-glorifying ministry in the visible church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
 The cover portraits of the first two years of Ordained Servant following the initial Calvin cover would be J. Gresham Machen, Martin Luther, John Murray, Calvin, B. B. Warfield, and Martin Lloyd-Jones.
 Williamson, “Introducing Ordained Servant,” 5 and 8.
 Williamson, “A Look at the Biblical Offices,” 38. On the Contents page, the article is named “The Office Debate.” On page 38 where the article appears, the title is “How Many Offices are There? Practical Concerns.”
 Gregory Edward Reynolds, “Galvanized Iron: A Tribute to G. I. Williamson for His Pioneering Work on Ordained Servant,” Ordained Servant 17 (2006): 6, Ordained Servant Online (Jan. 2006), https://www.opc.org/os.html?article_id=4.
 Richard B. Gaffin Jr., “Calvin’s Soteriology: The Structure of the Application of Redemption in Book Three of the Institutes,” Ordained Servant 18 (2009): 68, Ordained Servant Online (Nov. 2009), https://www.opc.org/os.html?article_id=174.
 Gaffin, “Calvin’s Soteriology,” 68.
 Gregory Edward Reynolds, “Face-to-Face: The Importance of Personal Presence in Ministry and Life,” Ordained Servant 21 (2012): 20, Ordained Servant Online (Dec. 2012), https://www.opc.org/os.html?article_id=340.
 Gregory Edward Reynolds, “Reflections on Virtual Church Meetings in a Time of Coronavirus,” Ordained Servant 29 (2020): 9, Ordained Servant Online (June-July 2021), https://www.opc.org/os.html?article_id=826.
 T. David Gordon, review of Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle, Ordained Servant 22 (2013): 124 (citing Turkle), Ordained Servant Online (Jan. 2013), https://www.opc.org/os.html?article_id=344.
 Interview with author, September 24, 2021.
Danny E. Olinger is a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and serves as the General Secretary of Christian Education of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Ordained Servant Online, January 2022.
Contact the Editor: Gregory Edward Reynolds
Editorial address: Dr. Gregory Edward Reynolds,
827 Chestnut St.
Manchester, NH 03104-2522
Electronic mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ordained Servant: January 2022
Also in this issue
by Gregory E. Reynolds
by Gregory E. Reynolds
by Danny E. Olinger
by Alan D. Strange
by T. David Gordon
by Ryan M. McGraw
by G. E. Reynolds (1949– )
© 2023 The Orthodox Presbyterian Church