GS 1992 art 58


Address of Rev. S. Phillips

The chairman gives Rev. S. Phillips, who is a fraternal delegate from the OPC, the opportunity to address Synod. Rev. S. Phillips addresses Synod with the following words:

I wish, personally, to thank Synod for operating under the New Covenant fulfilment of the prophecy of Micah 4:6 read this morning by the chairman (“I will assemble the lame…”) in allowing this lame man to enter the house of God [Mr. Phillips arrived at Synod using crutches], as well as permitting G.I. Williamson and myself to interact with your advisory committee dealing with the report of your CCOPC. Both of us believe the report re Agenda Items VIII.F.1-8,11 is an accurate reflection of the present status, and generally concur with its recommendations. I trust my saying this will not have an adverse effect on your deliberations to adopt them!

You must be aware that though the title of fraternal delegate has been bestowed on me by our Committee on Ecumenicity and InterChurch Relations (CEIR), I’ve learned through years of experience that no Orthodox Presbyterian speaks for the whole denomination. As it is your practice to transcribe this address in your Acts of Synod, you may be fairly certain, unless your CCOPC reports to the contrary at Synod 1995, that I was not subsequently lynched by my brothers for what I am about to say.

Permit me, then, in this light, to limit these remarks to the following:

I. RE: the Denver case (and, partially, the Blue Bell case)

This has affected our brethren because the appropriate court of the CanRC has acted or may act (1) without encouraging said parties to work through the proper OPC Form of Government processes in such cases, and (2) without ascertaining from the appropriate OPC court(s) whether the information provided them is indeed indisputable.

As to (1), I am led to believe that the Presbytery of the Dakotas itself may be and perhaps should be faulted because it did not insist that Rev. Pollock follow due process fully in the PCA before he was received by the Presbytery. However, this failure on the part of the Presbytery should not have precluded the appropriate Classis from informing Mr. Pollock that with respect to his ministerial credentials, he should have talked with his brethren in the Presbytery of the Dakotas, and, if not satisfied, taken his concerns to the higher court.

As to (2), Synod ought to be made aware of the fact that, and Mr. Pollock should have attested that, he had attended the March 1987, September 1988, September 1990, January 1991, and March 1991 meetings of the Presbytery of the Dakotas where at the latter meeting he took vows and was received as a member of the regional church (cf. Art. 109, 110). At that same meeting, a committee of three was appointed to “examine the applicants [from Christ Presbyterian Church] and appoint a time for their reception and organization as a particular congregation of the OPC. (FG XXIX.A.5.b.)” (cf. Art. 113). Articles 114 and 115 read: “The members of Christ Presbyterian Church who signed Communication I1 were placed on the rolls of the regional church until such time as the church is particularized.” “On motion, Presbytery directed that the Committee shall see to it that officers are ordained and installed (FG XXIX.A.5.d.).” (emphasis added)

II. Your CCOPC has noted the action of our 58th General Assembly erecting a committee “to examine the method of admission of guests to the Lord’s Supper.” (cf. Minutes 58th GA, Art. 107.3) We are under no delusions that this study will necessarily lead you to change your stance, nor should you be under any delusions that the study will necessarily lead us to change our stance. As far as I know, it is the purpose of the Committee to make our position as clear as possible.

III. Your CCOPC has noted the action of our 58th General Assembly “to direct the Committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations to consider the desirability and feasibility of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church adding the Three Forms of Unity (Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort) to its present confessional standards (the Confession of Faith, the Larger Catechism and the Shorter Catechism) and of establishing a common Presbyterian and Reformed church order, so as to provide a basis for unity into one church body of those who are committed to one faith.” (cf. Minutes 58th GA, Art. 113) This action was not further delineated.

IV. Your CCOPC apparently has not been made aware of three actions of our 59th General Assembly:

  • A. “That the Orthodox Presbyterian Church cordially invite the churches listed below to enter into a relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship with us, with the following conditions:
    • 1. The implementation of the relationship of ecclesiastical fellowship where possible and desirable would be by:
      • a. Exchange of fraternal delegates at major assemblies
      • b. Occasional pulpit fellowship (by local option)
      • c. Intercommunion (regulated by each session/consistory)
      • d. Joint actions in areas of common responsibility
      • e. Communication on issues of joint concern
      • f. The exercise of mutual concern and admonition with a view to promoting the fundamentals of Christian truth and unity.
      • g. Exchange of minutes/yearbooks
    • 2. The churches are:
      • a. The Presbyterian Church in Korea (Kosin)
      • b. The Reformed Church in Japan
      • c. The Reformed Church in the United States
      • d. The Reformed Churches of New Zealand
  • B. Overture 10 (“…to review, through its Committee on Ecumenicity and InterChurch Relations, the propriety of the OPC’s continued fraternal relations with the Christian Reformed Church of North America (CRC). Further, the committee shall bring its recommendation to the Sixtieth General Assembly (1993).” …with grounds) was referred to the CEIR.
  • Please note in this matter that we are driven by the Word of God. Whether the Committee recommends to the Assembly that relations be terminated or continued, the decision of the Assembly will be based on the force of God’s Word. So it has been. Some years back the Christian Reformed Church was ready to bid us ecclesiastical farewell because we were seen only and always as prodding and poking at those areas where we saw them being influenced by other than the Word. We refused to let them dismiss our small, but noisy bark at their heels. It was our drive to understand and implement Ephesians 4:13 and other passages that compelled us to scratch to the last fingernail in the Reformed Ecumenical Synod (now Council). This is our heritage, our founding fathers doggedly working their way through the courts of the northern Presbyterian Church for the cause of faithfulness to the Word of God as the only rule of faith and practice, until they were excommunicated. Brothers, it feels very odd to have the tables turned with a small, but noisy barking at our heels. Don’t give up barking! But on the other hand, bear in mind that relations do not live by barking alone!
  • C. Overture 1 (“…to expand the boundaries of the Presbytery of the Midwest to include the counties of Essex, Lambton, Kent, Middlesex, Elgin, Oxford, Brant, Haldimand, Hamilton and Niagara in the province of Ontario, Canada.”) was referred to the CEIR.

V. RE: Relations in General

You are to be commended for desiring to be inflexible in your commitment to the biblical Reformed faith, your creeds, and your church order, though this commitment appears at times to make you ever so guarded against certain forms of divergence among your own communion as well as in your varying degrees of ecclesiastical association. It is understandable that you do not wish the wrath of the holy God to fall upon you due to association with or tolerance of that which offends our Lord. It seems to this brother that we all need to be inflexible in our allegiance to and obedience to the Word of God, for “…if you rebel against the Lord today he will be angry with the whole congregation … tomorrow.” “Did not Achan … break faith … and wrath fell upon all the congregation…?” But we all need to be as flexible as the Word of God itself. The federation which spotted “rebellion or breach of faith toward the Lord” in their ecclesiastical brothers, were bent on permanently denying those brothers any legitimate covenant membership. Thankfully, they discussed the matter, and the detestable divergence actually became “a witness between [them] that the Lord is God.” (quotations and summary from Joshua 22:10-34).

VI. Conclusion

In closing, I note with interest Synod’s uncertainty concerning whether ecclesiastical bodies in the USA come under the foreign/churches abroad category or not. You may be unsure about such status, but I am certain about mine. Like Abraham, I am an alien in a foreign land, and doubly so, by birth and by re-birth. When one is a guest in a foreign land, it is appropriate that an attempt be made to speak in the native language. With faltering tongue, but from the heart, I do so now. Wij bidden dat God u zal zegenen (We pray that God will bless you).

Response of Rev. J. Visscher

The chairman, Rev. J. Visscher thanks Rev. S. Phillips for his frankness and openness, and expresses the hope that his words may be blessed. He also mentions that Rev.

P.G. Feenstra will respond to Rev. S. Phillips at the appropriate time during this Synod.