GS 2016 art 61

GS 2016 Article 61 – OPC (Orthodox Presbyterian Church)

1. Material

  • 1.1    Report from the Committee for Contact with Churches in North America (CCCNA) – section Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) (8.2.4)
  • 1.2    Letters from the following CanRC: Fergus-Maranatha (, Hamilton-Blessings (, Lynden (

2. Observations

  • 2.1    GS 2013 (Art. 43) gave the CCCNA the following mandate with respect to the OPC:
    • [4.3] To mandate the CCCNA to continue the relationship of EF with the OPC under the adopted rules giving particular attention, together with the CEIR, to the functioning of the 2001 agreement.
  • 2.2    The CCCNA continued the relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship (EF) by correspondence, annual meetings with the Committee for Ecumenicity and Inter-church Relations (CEIR), and bi-annual attendance of the General Assembly, including participation in a colloquium about how to fulfill our tasks as churches, particularly in bringing the gospel to the world. One of the significant questions that the OPC asks churches in EF is: Are there specific occasions where you believe we have failed to live up to our commitments to you or have caused you grief? The CCCNA conveyed to the CEIR that the OPC has not caused any grief, but rather great joy in the fellowship we enjoy with each other.
  • 2.3    The CCCNA received assurance from the CEIR that the 2001 agreement is functioning well. The CEIR also expressed surprise and disappointment that the agreement was part of the mandate of GS 2013. The CCCNA made very clear that no particular offense occasioned this mandate, but that it arises from the concerns raised by individual churches within the CanRC. The CCCNA and the CEIR share the desire to be mandated to work together on new items rather than revisiting the issues of the past. (See also the CCCNA report, General matters).
  • 2.4    The CEIR reported on developing relations with the Presbyterian Church of Brazil (IPB), a church comprising about a million members. Some of the theological students of the IPB are studying at Greenville Theological Seminary which also trains many in the OPC. The OPC fraternal delegate also reported that OPC missionaries and IPB missionaries rub shoulders in the work in Uruguay. The IPB approached them after the IPB had broken off contact with the PCUSA. The IPB sees “her mother’s eyes” in the OPC and thus sought fellowship with it. They have invited the OPC into a relationship of EF. In its consideration of this invitation, the CEIR expressed the concerns around the fact that one of the IPB’s presbyteries asked if it was permissible for women to preach under the oversight of session, even though the IPB, in principle, is against the ordination of women to the offices. The delegate attending synod reported that the concern was satisfactorily addressed, and the OPC entered into EF with the IPB in 2015.
  • 2.5    The CEIR also reported that the General Assembly appointed a study committee on the issues of the republication of the covenant of works given how one of the Presbyteries faced significant struggles on this issue. According to the Acts of GA 2014, this committee was mandated to study “whether and in which particular senses the concept of the Mosaic Covenant as a republication of the Adamic Covenant is consistent with the doctrinal system taught in [our] confessional standards.” According to the CCCNA this view is somehow tied to the two kingdom viewpoint. Within that presbytery a deep rift and conflict on this had developed and became quite personal. The General Assembly also established a visitation committee to be available should the Presbytery request help.
  • 2.6    The CCCNA asked the CEIR for clarification on the OPC entering into EF with the Independent Reformed Church of Korea (IRCK). The IRCK is a consciously confessional church, and the relationship arises out of a mission situation: one of the OPC missionaries in China developed contact with this church. The OPC also has an indigenous candidate moving into a church planting situation.
  • 2.7    The CCCNA passed on the interim copy of the report sent to GS 2016 regarding the GKv.
  • 2.8    The CCCNA highlights to synod the helpful questions the CEIR uses for its discussions with other inter-church relations committees.
  • 2.9    Fergus-Maranatha asks synod not to drop the two specific issues of confessional membership and admission to the Lord’s Supper, but instead to mandate the CCCNA:
  • 2.9.1     To clearly illustrate why we continue to have confessional membership, and thus how confessional membership would benefit the OPC;
  • 2.9.2     To demonstrate to GS 2019 how the CanRC and the OPC have moved ahead on these two issues so that it no longer is a matter of concern for the churches.
  • 2.10  Fergus-Maranatha also urges synod to encourage the OPC, in its dialogue with the Presbyterian Church of Brazil, to advise them that it is not permissible for women to preach.
  • 2.11  Lynden asks if the CanRC, in retrospect, have been straight with the OPC regarding our ongoing concerns of the fencing of the Lord’s supper table and confessional membership. Neither the OPC nor the CanRC have officially changed their positions. This begs the question: are we consistent, transparent, and forthright with the brothers in the OPC when we promised to continue the discussions on the existing differences in confession and church polity?
  • 2.12  The OPC fraternal delegate remarked that it would be good for the federations to work more together on foreign mission projects since to have teams of workers where the workers come from different federations is very helpful in overcoming the growth of “dependence mindsets” on the mission fields.

3  Considerations

  • 3.1    The CCCNA fulfilled its mandate regarding the OPC.
  • 3.2    Re: Observation 2.10. The OPC has already made its concerns very clear in its address to the IPB General Assembly, and the matters were satisfactorily resolved in a subsequently adjourned assembly, thus allowing the OPC to proceed with EF.
  • 3.3    Re: Observation 2.12. The CanRC should keep this point in mind as they ponder their mission tasks.
  • 3.4    Rule 1 of EF states that “the churches shall assist each other in the maintenance, defence and promotion of the Reformed faith in doctrine, church polity, discipline and liturgy, and be watchful for deviations.” Within this context there is always room for brotherly discussion about differences in matters of doctrine and practice.
  • 3.5    When we enter EF we accept each other as faithful churches without qualifications. Differences that were noted and discussed prior to EF, but which did not hinder entering EF, do not require resolution. It is incorrect to speak of “outstanding differences.” The word “outstanding” implies a need for resolution. Bringing up these issues repeatedly, without proper proof of necessity, is potentially damaging to sister-church relationships. Discussion of these issues may take place naturally in the course of EF, but a specific mandate, identifying particular issues, need not be given.

4  Recommendations

That Synod decide:

  • 4.1    To thank the LORD for the way in which the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) actively provides a faithful Reformed witness to the gospel;
  • 4.2    To mandate the Committee for Contact with Churches in North America (CCCNA) to continue Ecclesiastical Fellowship (EF) with the OPC under the adopted rules.