Tonight (June 14) the 189th meeting of the RPCNA Synod convened. And so did the 190th!

Cancellation of the 2020 Synod meeting (due to COVID) meant that Synod gaveled in as a formality for 10 minutes this evening. The single item of business was to vote together on the question: “Shall we change the announced 2021 Synod meeting schedule from the morning of June 15 to the evening of June 14?”

The motion passed without objection, and Synod was over–for five minutes. Then the regular meeting began.

A Socially – Distanced Synod

This year will be remembered as the “socially distanced Synod.”

Synod’s 150-plus delegates are meeting in the Philippe Performing Arts Center on the spacious campus of Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Indiana. The Arts Center seats about 1,000, and due to Indiana requirements delegates are encouraged to sit at least three feet apart.

Distance was also evident as Canadian and Japanese delegates were prevented from international travel by continuing COVID restrictions, meaning they are attending virtually via Zoom.

Finally, retiring moderator Andy McCracken preached the retiring moderator’s sermon by video – from 10 thousand miles away in Australia, where his family moved to minister in 2020. He also was unable to attend due to international COVID restrictions.

Nonetheless, Pastor McCracken brought forth from the Word a challenge tonight for Christ’s servants to live by His “new command” in John 13:34. “John couldn’t stop talking about this feature of Christ’s church,” said McCracken. “It was glorious in a counter-intuitive way. Christ’s ministry had displayed this sincere, humble love. And now His people needed to learn to experience Christ’s ministry through the humble love of His Body – the church in the world.” Throughout the rest of the week, Synod’s devotional times will focus upon the nurture and display of the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23.

A Night of Weighty Deliberations

Pastor Bruce Parnell (Stillwater, Okla., RPC) was elected as Synod’s moderator. Amid applause, he took the moderator’s gavel and led the Synod through its first night of weighty deliberations.

One standout item of business this evening was the disposition of a large number of Synod communications. After deliberation, Synod established three five-man judicial committees to report back to this meeting of synod on important judicial cases arising from the Great Lakes–Gulf Presbytery and the Pacific Coast Presbytery. These committees will begin their deliberations tomorrow, and bring recommendations later in the week to assist the full Synod in addressing these cases.

In addition, two study committees were appointed to address more technical and theological communications, including one addressing oaths and vows sent by the Midwest Presbytery.

A unique feature of this Synod is that 18 reports were approved by 2 “batch recommendations.” Given the intense time pressure of this Synod’s agenda that essentially covers two years, these reports that contained no recommendations for action were bundled together, including the presbytery reports. It is hoped that any further comment on these reports can be heard on Thursday.

President Barry York of the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary (RPTS) addressed the Synod with a simple and urgent appeal: We really need preachers! He appealed to Reformed Presbyterians to pray for the churches with open pulpits, and to pray for the prospering of church plants.

A Time of Remembering

One final touching portion of this evening’s business was reflection on two years’ worth of memorials to departed ruling and teaching elders who served faithfully in the RPCNA.

Deaths of Teaching Elders: John Tweed (Winchester, KS), James Carson (Beaver Falls, PA), Robert Fullerton, Gene Spear (Overland Park, KS), Jack White (Beaver Falls, PA) and Norman Carson (Beaver Falls, PA).

Deaths of Ruling Elders: John “Jack” Ramsey (Fulton, NY), Jorge Klajnbart (Springs, CO), Bruce Adams (Southfield, MI), Bob Mann (Springs, CO), Charles “Chip” Lorraine (Fulton, NY), Aubrey Ayer (Ottawa, Ontario), Gene Huggins (Syracuse, NY), Philip Duguid (Topeka, KS), Bruce Miller (Rose Point, PA), Russell James (Clay Center, KS).

Two friends of the RPCNA were also remembered: George Scipione (RPTS Professor of Counseling) and Timothy Russell (multiple churches and Geneva College). The Synod was led in prayer by Elder Steve McMahan of Clay Center, Kan., RPC in thanksgiving for these faithful servants of the Lord and their ministries in the lives of so many.

Pastor Brad Johnston, pastor, Topeka, Kan., RPC, and Drew Gordon, editor, RP Witness

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