The 180th synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA) met at Indiana Wesleyan University from 28 June-1 July this year.
Ruling elder, Steve McMahon (Midwest presbytery), was nominated as moderator and the Monday evening began with a gripping sermon from Matthew 16, entitled, ‘I will build my church’, given by Dr Jerry O’Neill.
The members then took time to remember some of the pastors who had died in the past year. Drs D. Carson, K. Hoffman and C. Chao were among them.
Tuesday began with a sermon from this writer on Colossians 1, followed by an extensive discussion concerning the finances of the denomination.
The East Asia Committee reported on a recent trip, in which Jerry O’Neill and David Reese met with the leaders of 20,000-30,000 Reformed Presbyterians seeking to organise as presbyteries, and to have those called to the pastorate and eldership ordained and installed. Ordinations and the organisation of these presbyteries will result in a denomination up to four times larger than the North American branch.
Pastor Rut Etheridge led us in worship on Wednesday morning, with a sermon entitled, ‘The struggle of a pastor’s heart’. Doug Lee, executive director of an organisation that oversees RPCNA chaplains, gave a report on our chaplains. It was reported that Chaplain Leach has recovered remarkably from his stroke. He also mentioned Brent England and his work with hospice ministry.
The Sudan report was reason for giving praise and thanks to our great God. Last year at this time there were 300 members of the Sudan RP Church. At the time of this meeting, there are more than 1200 members to Sudanese RP Church. Many churches have been planted, pastors trained, Christians discipled and idols burned.
The psalter revision committee gave its report, along with the final changes to the fifth printing of the Book of Psalms for worship. A new setting of Psalm 136D was sung and proved to be a worshipful rendition of the psalm.
The synod took on a huge task last year by forming a committee to study sexual orientation. Forty-six pages of biblical, confessional, and pastoral material was produced and this was adopted by the synod. This paper will be passed to our sister churches in the US and around the world, to set the standard for confessionally reformed churches’ position on homosexuality.
It will be available later in the year as a book from ‘Crown and Covenant’. It may also include in the introduction the real life stories of RPs who have struggled with sexual identity issues.
Wednesday evening was taken up with greetings from fraternal delegates. Reformed Presbyterians from Australia, Scotland and Cyprus gave greetings and told of the work of Christ in their churches.
Pastor Andrew Quigley spoke of the work of the Scottish RP Church and how it is growing, in part from recent events involving the Free Church of Scotland, as well as from pursuing church planting with vigour and prayer.
For the second year in a row, fraternal churches have challenged the RPCNA on our position concerning women deacons. Two denominations this year asked us to review our theological position and practice.
There was a motion to form a committee to give an answer for our current practice, but this motion lost. Dr Spear directed the court to a 2002 exegetical paper on our position.
The Thursday morning worship was from Colossians 3 and the sermon was preached by the chaplain of Erskine College and Seminary. This is the Associate Reformed Presbyterians’ (ARP) college.
The practice of having an ARP preach for us is becoming something of a tradition in the RPCNA. An RP has preached at its synod every year.
The Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary gave its thanks to Don Piper for 25 years of service on the board of trustees. His seat has been filled by Los Angeles ruling elder David Ashleigh.
Pastor David Whitla spoke about the youth ministries of the denomination. The young ladies of our denomination were also given credit for being quite spiritually mature, but the youth ministries committee is afraid our young men are not stepping up and showing the leadership they should. This will be an area of focus to this committee in the next couple of years.
Overall the synod was an important time to reconnect with fellow pastors and elders. There was much prayer, psalm singing, fellowship and even some healthy banter. Psalm 133 was lived out as brothers ‘dwelled in unity’ in the courts of our king, the Lord Jesus Christ.