On Thursday Synod gathered for its last full day of deliberations.
Pastor Romesh Prakashpalan (Dallas RPC) proclaimed God’s Word on the vital calling of church elders to “Take Up Your Cross of Persecution.” He preached with clarity and conviction from Matthew 5:10-12, pointing out that, according to 2 Timothy 3:12, the Christian facing persecution is a promised certainty. This sermon answered three questions: 1) Why are we persecuted (see 1 Pet. 4:15)? 2) Who do we endure for? and 3) What is our reward?
Much of the morning was then taken up with the careful completion of the Synod Judicial Committee (SJC) Report that was first taken up on Wednesday. The SJC appointed by the 2021 Synod was dismissed, but former members of the commission will continue to serve in the upcoming year in important shepherding roles in the conflict at Immanuel RPC in West Lafayette, Ind. Ongoing shepherding work will continue in this coming year by two smaller commissions, to report back to the 2023 Synod.
Ministry Reports li
Prior to the mid-morning break, leaders from several ministries supported by the RPCNA were on hand to give updates about their labors for God’s kingdom:
- Elder Bill Weir updated Synod about the Reformed Presbyterian Home and its important role in the lives of the elderly saints within the denomination and through the challenges of a pandemic.
- Pastor Jonathan Watt and Alex Swem (Director of China Operations) presented on the Chinese Education Freedom Fund. They reported about ways to support this strategic effort in Christian curriculum development.
- Bruce Martin presented the work of Reformation Translation Fellowship, featuring the recent decision of the board to embark on the labors of translating Christian and Biblical classics into the South Asian language of Urdu. Pastor Mark Koller is the new director of RTF-US. Nick Needham’s series on church history is being translated in Urdu.
Education – RPTS & Geneva College
After a season of refreshment over lunch, delegates turned their attention to the ministry of the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary. President Barry York rose to address Synod about this year’s eleven RP graduates and the ongoing need for additional laborers in Christ’s harvest field. He spoke of concrete steps the seminary is taking to steward its funding with a view to raising RPCNA ministers of the Gospel.
Calvin Troup, president of Geneva College, brought a report to the Synod later in the day. He gave thanks for the Lord’s blessing upon Geneva – her finances, student body, and academic endeavors. This year the Trustees adopted the following vision statement: “Geneva College will be known nationally for advancing integration of faith and learning under Christ and His Word, preparing students for courageous engagement throughout their life’s work.” This year Geneva awarded 235 undergraduate degrees, 32 adult bachelor’s degrees, 44 master’s degrees, plus three associates degrees from the Center for Urban Biblical Ministry in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Study Committee – Incarcerated Christians
One very interesting question that has been before the Synod for a couple of years is how long-term prison inmates can be tied into the visible church. Synod’s study committee came back with the recommendation that Synod rule in favor of this principle: “Under the right circumstances it can be in accord with Scripture’s teaching for a congregation to take into communicant membership someone who professes Gospel faith in Christ but still anticipates extended incarceration, providing the Session has the ability to provide oversight over the individual. If the Session is unable to baptize an unbaptized incarcerated believer at the institution where they are incarcerated, they should not proceed with membership.” After numerous questions about this principle statement, Synod adopted it for the encouragement and guidance of the churches.
The publishing arm of the RPCNA is Crown & Covenant Publications, overseen by the Board of Education & Publication. President Kyle Borg presented the board’s strategic planning and sales data.
One new development this year is the announcement of the first three titles in the Grassmarket Press imprint. These three books are in the final editing process:
- The Lord’s Day by Daniel Howe,
- I Have a Confession by Nathan Eshelman, and
- What is Love? by Kyle Borg.
Other books published this year:
- Redemption, Reconciliation, & Reformation: a compilation by Gordon Keddie of the writings of Alexander McLeod; this was released in January and paid for with donations.
- Ten Words by Gordon Keddie. This is a book on the 10 Commandments.
- A Candle Against the Dark by Bob Copeland and Ray Wilcox. This book, available soon, is the story of the American Covenanters’ leadership in the abolitionist movement.
- History of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (1920-1980) by Bill Edgar. This sequel to his first history title is now at the printer.
- The Shadow of Christ in the Book of Lamentations by C.J. Williams.
- The Sum of Saving Knowledge by David Dickson & James Durham (edited by David Whitla). This little book is intended to be a companion piece to the Westminster Larger Catechism and will have the same design and color.
- The Book of Psalms for Worship For the first time ever, C&C ran out of stock of this title and at the time of the writing of this report is waiting on extended manufacturing schedules to get it back in stock.
As part of this report, Drew Gordon addressed the Synod, emphasizing the practical and theological value of the RP Witness, stating the desire that each member of the RPCNA would have access to this resource in both its print and online formats.
In the afternoon the Synod heard from a number of study committees on various questions. It referred reports back to committees on Recusals in Discipline Cases and Vows and Queries for additional work. Synod adopted changes to its Book of Discipline, explicitly allowing for the use of videoconferencing (and other technologies) in trials under certain circumstances but specifying that it is a less beneficial alternative.
It was a busy day, with a little bit of this, and a little bit of that. But God was gracious in guiding and directing.
Brad Johnston (RPCNA Pastor) and Drew Gordon (RPCNA Elder)