22 Nov GS 1986 art 22
GS 1986 ARTICLE 22
Address Rev. G.D. Jerrell
On behalf of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the Rev. G.D. Jerrell of Roswell, New Mexico, addresses Synod with the following words:
“Mr. Chairman and brothers in the Lord Jesus Christ,
Four years ago, I had the joy of attending worship at the American Reformed Church in Grand Rapids. Following that worship service three Orthodox Presbyterian ministers, including myself, were graciously hosted in Rev. Kingma’s home.
I attended Westminster Seminary. It was there that I had my introduction to the Cana dian Reformed Churches. Your Rev. W. Huizinga, Professor C. VanDam, and Rev. Ralph Boersema were my classmates there. It is a joy to know them.
It has been a privilege to have your delegates attend our General Assemblies. In keeping up this contact in this way you have demonstrated a churchly concern for us. You have been represented well by your delegates.
On a presbytery/classis level, the Presbytery of the Dakotas of the OPC was benefited by the presence of Rev. P.K.A. DeBoer a year ago at their meeting in Amarillo, Texas.
This year is the fiftieth anniversary of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Perhaps you have heard of J. Gresham Machen. He was a central figure in the formation of the OPC. J. Gresham Machen was our Schilder. Machen did not stand alone, but the crowd in which he stood was not a big crowd by anybody’s standards.
In 1929 the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. reorganized the board of Princeton Seminary. This sealed the doom for orthodoxy there. So Machen and others formed Westminster Seminary. They organized it independent of the General Assembly and the church. The faculty at Westminster Seminary was the OPC in embryo form. There in the early years were Cornelius VanTil, Ned 8. Stonehouse, John Murray, R.B. Kuiper, Edward J. Young, and J. Gresham Machen.
The controversy with modernism went far beyond the Seminary. The struggle raged in the church. They must have been tiring years. Yet the men at Westminster pursued orthodoxy in faithfulness to the Lord. In 1936 the Orthodox Presbyterian Church was formed. It came at the end of a long struggle, a struggle about which gospel would be preached on the mission fields around the world. The Board of Foreign Missions of the General Assembly was sending out missionaries who questioned the historical nature of the Bible. They were missionaries who styled themselves as modernists. One of them, Pearl S. Buck, complimented Machen on his statesmanlike conduct and on his adherence to the church’s standards – even though she did not agree with him.
The struggle in the ‘old’ church climaxed when Machen was removed from the ministry of the church. He was defrocked. Others also were found guilty of not being loyal to the boards of the church. The heavy-handed use of church power unknowingly gave birth to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The new church was formed on June 11, 1936.
A notable feature of that struggle in the church was this: Machen and others did not simply quit or leave the church. They pursued one avenue of redress after another, though it must be said that they did not file charges against the modernists when they might have. It is perhaps easier for us to look back and see what could have been done. At least we can learn from that and increase our diligence. Yet, Machen and others did stay in the church and pursue change and reformation. They took their covenantal responsibilities seriously. They did not determine to leave. They were put out of the ministry of the church. That is our heritage. That is our humble beginning as a church. Perhaps we should talk about it as a ‘Liberation.’
In the OPC we must ask ourselves, ‘Who are we?’ Our fiftieth anniversary gives us a special occasion for this question. Certain books and a special anniversary volume are being published for the occasion. One of the volumes gives special attention to the question ‘Who are we?,’ since it traces our history.
The covenant is vital to us. We have been growing in appreciation of the covenantal way. Such volumes as Schilder’s trilogy on Christ’s passion and S.G. DeGraaf’s Promise and Deliverance have wide usage in the OPC. Sola Scriptura by S. Greidanus, My God is Yahweh by Van’tVeer are some others.
The Three Forms of Unity have found use in some of our churches. We recognize that the Reformed faith has been an international movement from its inception. It is imperative from where we stand that the OPC not be a church bound by nation and culture, but that we be a Church of Jesus Christ bound together in covenant unity with faithful Reformed and Presbyterian Churches. It takes lime to grow in the breadth of Reformed thought and life. We have many churches that have begun from scratch and have gone on to be growing, Reformed congregations. We have congregations that have begun with one, two, or three families. The additions to the congregation come from all different church and non-church backgrounds. We do not have your established identity. We have not always appreciated our own heritage as much as we ought. We have not always appreciated our Reformed and Presbyterian heritage as fully as we should. So we still ask, ‘Who are we?’
In a few weeks , in the middle of June , our General Assembly will meet and vote on the J & R with the PCA. J & R is the method of ‘ joining and being received’ which the PCA has used in extending an invitation to the OPC to join her. The OPC is handling the invitation to J & Ras a question of constitutional revision. That means three votes are required for the process to go full circuit. The first vote would be taken by this General Assembly. The second vote by the presbyteries. The third vote by the following General Assembly. The full process would take one year. A ‘no· vote at any point would stop the process.
A key to considering this J & R with the PCA is in answering the questions ‘Who are we?’ and ‘Who are they?’ It has been said that the question is ‘Shall we continue or shall we cease ?’ Some say in effect that it would be sin to vote ‘no.’ There are those who are undecided.
How will the voting go? What will be the outcome? Our General Assembly ‘s Committee on Ecumenicity and lnterchurch Relations was evenly divided on its vote – 3 to 3. The report to the General Assembly contains principles on church union adopted unanimously by the committee. and yet the committee gives two different responses to the principles. Does the committee’s divided vote reflect the church? That remains a big question mark. We shall see. Our future is not far away.
The OPC has contact with other churches. We are members of NAPARC – the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council. The member churches are: the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, the Korean American Presbyterian Church, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. the Christian Reformed Church, and the PCA. The council has recently formulated a statement on fugitives from discipline. It asks each member church to ‘take seriously’ the discipline of the other churches.
As you are aware, we are members of the RES – the Reformed Ecumenical Synod. The RES continues to be in crisis. The GKN – the Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland – is still a member of the Synod and so are we. At this point in history we are pursuing the course of using every avenue legitimately open to us to deal decisively with the GKN. Five days ago I received the current RES ‘News Exchange ·. It reports that the GKN has determined to stay in the RES. that they did not withdraw their advice to the churches on ‘homophilia,’ and that they want to work for the revision of the RES constitution. The course we have followed is to oppose the GKNs defection from the Reformed faith with the warnings of Scripture. We have sought to be faithful to the Lord in bearing testimony to the Reformed faith. We are using the means available and we continue to insist that the GKN be dealt with decisively ii the integrity of a Reformed and Presbyterian testimony is to be maintained.
The OPC is working on revisions to the Directory for the Public Worship of God. Another draft of the first chapter, ‘Principles of Worship ,’ is being submitted to our upcoming General Assembly. A key principle is that worship is the most important activity in the church. Our committee on revisions has found G. VanDooren’ s book, The Beauty of Reformed Liturgy quite useful in their work. The covenantal perspective has helped to focus the revisions at the crux of the Reformed faith.
I have taken up much of your time. You have been gracious to me.
Pray for us as we face issues which challenge the unity which we have. We will pray for you that the unity you have in Christ will not only be maintained but grow.”