03 July, 2010

So What Happened At Synod?

Having had time to process what happened at the 179th Synod of the RPCNA, here are some highlights that were prepared as a bulletin insert for the Los Angeles RP Church:

The 179th Synod of the RPCNA met in Beaver Falls, PA, from June 21-25, 2010. Elder Howard Huizing and Pastor Nathan Eshelman were the delegates from Los Angeles. Here are some of the highlights of the meeting:

RPTS President (and son-in-law of the LA RPC) Dr. Jerry O'Neill was elected moderator of the Synod. This was a thoughtful selection due to the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the seminary this year.

The Pacific Coast Presbytery lead the prayer times throughout the meeting. Pastors Mark England, Nathan Eshelman, and Ryan Hemphill took charge of the psalm selections and prayer coordination for the week.

On Tuesday morning, Dr. Bruce Stewart preached from 2 Timothy 2 and encouraged the leadership of the church to consider these questions about their ministries: 1. Is the Lord well pleased? 2. Is the work well done? 3. Is the Word well used? It was encouraging to hear such a powerful sermon preached in such a gentle, pastoral way from our former pastor (1962-1973).

Pastor Titus Martin gave the report on the study of the “contents of the cup.” It was decided from the study committee that the Scriptural terms of “cup” and “fruit of the vine” are generic terms and may include both non-alcoholic pressed grapes, non-alcoholic wine, and alcoholic wine. The use of a “split cup” was discouraged and congregations were encouraged to seek unity in this matter.

The reports of the presbyteries were generally positive. Each presbytery seems to be growing and encouraged. The work of evangelism was encouraged by Dr. Dean Smith. He noted that our main growth as a denomination is in: 1. covenant children 2. transfers from other Reformed denominations 3. transfers from evangelical denominations. The congregations are encouraged to evangelize and seek growth through this means. It was also noted that about 20% of the RPCNA's membership does not regularly attend worship in an RP Church. This is problematic.

The International Conference Committee reported that the conference will move from Calvin College :( to Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, IN. The dates are set as July 21-27, 2012. Synod 2011 is also scheduled to meet at this location as a way to familiarize the presbyters with the campus of IWU.

Pastor Eshelman gave the Home Mission Board report. He encouraged the congregations and presbyteries to think about church planting and to be strategic in praying for plants in important cities within the bounds of the presbyteries. We are currently 11 congregations short of meeting the 20/20 Vision of 100 congregations by 2020. Keep praying!

Faith Martin gave the report of the RP Women's Association. She announced her retirement at the end of this year. She was given a standing ovation for her lifetime of labor for the women of the Church.

The Sudan Commission of RP Global gave an encouraging report. There was some debate about procedure over church planting in a global context, but that did not suppress the great joy of the Synod surrounding the work of Cush4Chirst. It was announced that we have a new sister church: The Reformed Presbyterian Church of Southern Sudan (RPCSS) is a court of Christ's Church! Members of the Sudan Commission will serve as counselors to this new presbytery. A special free-will offering was collected for the work of Cush4Chirst as well as those laborers who have left the field (thanks Heather!).

In other global RP news, Pastor John McFarland gave a report concerning the RP House Churches of Asia. This work continues to grow under the providence of God. A letter of thanks was read that discussed how the US's economic problems have caused a certain Asian country to focus on maintaining their own economy which gave the RP House Churches freedoms that they have not seen in a whole generation. Praise God for working all things out for the good of His Church!

One more global RP bit: The Trinity Christian Community Fellowship in Cyprus will have an open pulpit this year. In an attempt to sustain the mission and ministry of the RP global family in Cyprus, TCCF has been taken under the care of the Presbytery of the Alleghenies. This is a way to keep the work active without having to be reduced to a mission station. Keep an ear open for some familiar names who may be serving there in the future.

A number of Fraternal Delegates gave their greetings to the Synod Wednesday evening. Let's play a game. Can you name all of these denominations? Greetings were given by the: TCCF, ARP, HRC, OPC, PCA, RCUS, and the URC. Got 'em all? The delegate from the FCS(C) was unable to attend, but sent greetings via email. There was also a letter read from the American (and Canadian) Reformed Churches stating that they have decided not to enter into fraternal relationship with the RPCNA due to the practice of the ordination of women to the office of deacon.

A proposed $20 per communicant assessment that would go to the RP Home was voted down. The current assessment of $40 will be maintained (this goes to RPM&M to be distributed to the various ministries of the RP Church). The Synod expressed their desire to aid the RP Home, but did not think that taxation was an appropriate way to help. The need at the RP Home is great, and in this writer's opinion, each communicant member should send in $20 to aid in the deficit there. Pray for this historic work of the RP Church.

The proposed Directory for Public Worship was adopted. Each of the five chapters were approved. Dr. O'Neill declared that the new Directory is now the “law and order of the church.” Pray that as congregations make changes in their own worship practices, that it would be done organically and not through the courts of the church. Pray also for the “unity and uniformity” of the RP Church as she begins using her third Directory of Worship (1645 and 1945 were the previous ones).

There will be some changes in future printings of the Book of Psalms for Worship. Psalm selections 19C, 24B, 47C, 150C, and 150D will be revised as well as each of the three selections of Psalm 136. This will be completed under the authority of the Board of Publication. These revisions are consistant with our view of translation and interpretation, but do pose a logistical problem. Expect updates to follow on the progress of this work.

Thursday evening was a joyous time of celebration as 650 gathered at the Heinz History Center to commemorate the 200th anniversary of RPTS. Dr. Stewart was also awarded with a “Faithful Servant Award” that evening. Drs. Sinclair Ferguson and Derek Thomas preached on themes related to seminary training. Hearing 650 people singing the psalms without musical accompaniment was a moving experience.

Pastor Eshelman and Elder Huizing were both nominated for positions of service in the Church. Elder Huizing was appointed to a special committee to study “sexual orientation” and homosexuality in the church. This committee will report to Synod in 2011. Pray for Elder Huizing as he participates in this very important work in 21st century Christianity. Pastor Eshelman was appointed to the Board of Education and Publication (which means he has some work to do on the “new” New Psalter).

The Pacific Coast Presbytery also met while in Beaver Falls. Here are two of the highlights from that meeting:

San Diego reports that they are exploring beginning Spanish language worship services as soon as possible. There are no Reformed Spanish speaking Churches in San Diego County.

The Presbytery has decided to move ahead with a December-January youth conference for the young people of the PC Presbytery. The LA Session was appointed to take charge in this matter. $1000 was set aside as seed money to begin. A Return to Basics will be the theme and all young people (9th grade thru college aged) will be encouraged to attend. Please be in prayer as our Session works with the leaders and young people in the presbytery toward this goal.

Besides all of these matters in both the Synod and the Presbytery, there was much prayer, psalm singing, fellowship, and encouragement amongst the presbyters of the Church. The meeting ended with the singing of Psalm 133A from the Book of Psalms for Worship. There was a couple who stumbled as the “old words” were sung in place of the new... but despite the setting, Psalm 133 was exemplified in the week of doing the work of building Christ's Church. Please continue to pray that the Synod of the RPCNA would remain faithful to Christ and that the work done at each Synod would be for the purpose of glorifying Christ and seeing His Kingdom come.


Wes White said...

Nathan, thanks for this helpful post. I am especially encouraged about the Spanish speaking Church plant. That's great news.

Irene said...

Thanks! I appreciated the update. I'm wondering if at some point there might be a summary of the changes in the new Directory of Church Worship. Also, the Int'l Conference website says that Indiana Weslyan is in Marion, Indiana...not Illinois. I think that might be closer to Chicago and GR! :)

Nathan Eshelman. Living a life unto the glory of Jesus Christ. said...

Thanks Irene. The correction has been made. :)