Friday brought a fitting conclusion to the meeting of the 190th Reformed Presbyterian Synod. One of the final official actions was to establish the Canadian Presbytery of the RPCNA, with a view to the presbytery developing into its own denomination at a future point.
Canadian Presbytery Established
Canadian Pastor Matt Kingswood (Russell, Ont., RPC) preached God’s Word to delegates from Matthew 28:16-20. All the previous sermons were a providential preparation for this morning’s “Cross Bearing and the Great Commission.” The Great Commission must never be separated from the Great Commissioner.
Following the devotional period, Synod’s moderator invited the Canadian elders of the court to the front for the purpose of sending them forth. Moderators of presbyteries, boards, and institutions also joined them in the front for the purpose of extending the right hand of fellowship to these dear brothers. They were commissioned with the following charge, adopted by Synod earlier in the week:
On this 24th day of June, in the Year of our Lord Two Thousand and Twenty-Two, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America does hereby send forth those congregations and mission works within the Presbytery of Canada with the authority to form a new denomination, committed to the Word of God, contained within the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. As a theological foundation for this new denomination, we provide the subordinate standards of the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, the Testimony, the Directory for Church Government, the Book of Discipline, and the Directory of Public Worship. Understanding the Authority of Christ as the Mediatorial King over the Church and Nations, we charge you to call the Magistrate of your land to repentance and to recognition of the Lordship of Christ over all nations. We encourage you to be faithful in your commitment to Public Covenanting and to faithfully maintain purity in your practice of worship as you seek to preach the Word of God to your nation.
After prayer, Synod sang Psalm 72, which has special significance for the Dominion of Canada, since its national motto (in Latin) A Marie Usque Ad Mare (From Sea to Sea) comes from Psalm 72:8. There were tears of joy over this multiplication, but also a sense of loss as these co-laborers go out from us.
Synod concluded its meetings with the reading of two traditional reports: the State of the Church report and the Resolution of Thanks report.
The State of the Church Report
The 2022 State of the Church report was presented as follows:
The task of your Committee is to reflect on the state of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in light of the past year. We see that there are areas where God has humbled us this year, and caused us to go forth into the darkness and misery of this present and fallen world. Psalm 13:1-2a says: “How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? Forever? How long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily?” These have been our questions of examination. And we pray together the prayer of faith: “Restore us again, O Lord!”
There are also aspects of our work and ministry that cause us to rejoice, remembering that it is Jesus who builds His church, remembering that Jesus reigns victoriously. We have seen pastoral students raised up, numerous churches planted, institutions funded, and mission efforts multiplying in numerous fields. In the midst of the darkness and the disciplining hand of God, we see His love for us and we see His glory. Four aspects of the state of the church stand out as noteworthy:
COVID. The last two years have shown the effects of an international pandemic on the life of our congregations. Regulations, safety protocols, collections through drop boxes, and online services have become normalized in many of our congregations. The questions about Christian liberty and our duty to the civil magistrate in relationship to the church and health policies has caused disagreements among congregations, sessions, and presbyteries. Attendance in Reformed Presbyterian churches has fallen by 6% due, in part, to online services and those that have stayed home or gone elsewhere. As we have come out of this pandemic world, there is much that will need to be rebuilt by way of relationships and church life.
COURTS. Often, in the context of pastors, that prayer and clarion call goes out for “men for the ministry & ministry for the men.” Yet the clarion call among us at this present time is to beseech Christ that He would graciously raise up ruling elders in our congregations. Presbyteries report very low numbers of ruling elders. The stated clerk reports that we have lost 6% of our ruling elders in just the past year, and that on average our churches have shrunk. This means that—although we have grown in our number of churches—our churches are smaller and they have fewer shepherds to keep watch over the flock of Jesus. This is why the R. P. Global Alliance is calling upon Reformed Presbyterians worldwide to set aside time to pray for the Lord to raise up ruling elders in His church. This is a great need among us and we petition the Lord to provide these gifts to bless His people.
COMMISSION. Much of our emotional energy, meditations, and prayers have focused around sin this year & the very tragic aftermath in one of our congregations. Accusations of slander and gossip have accompanied media attention as the name of Christ was smeared and the church’s sins brought to light. Through the year we have heard of a divided denomination & the divisions that sin has caused. A Synod Judicial Commission spent up to 10,000 man-hours of time working through this matter. Despite what we have heard and feared, the church’s highest court has spoken clearly on a way forward, laying forth a path of repentance, and desiring to see God glorified in this important matter.
CANADA. “Let the nations praise you!” says the Psalmist. This year is historic in the forming of a Canadian Presbytery which will, Deo Volente, result in the soon establishing of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Canada. Long-time prayers for the establishment of a national church in that country have been answered & our Canadian brethren go forth “understanding the authority of Christ as the Mediatorial King over the church and nations… call[ing] the magistrate of your land to repentance and to recognition of the Lordship of Christ over all nations. We encourage [them] to be faithful in [their] commitment to public covenanting & to faithfully maintain purity in [their] practice of worship as [they] seek to preach the Word of God to [their] nation” (RPCNA Synod’s 2022 “Sending Out Resolution” for the Presbytery of Canada). Surely the motto of the Dominion of Canada, “From Sea to Sea” (based on Psalm 72:8) captures the vision and labors of our Canadian brothers!
In conclusion, despite acute difficulties in our churches in this season, despite a great need for more ruling elders, despite navigating a post-pandemic world, we together give all glory to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have experienced darkness and yet we behold the brightness of the light of Christ.
Humbly submitted ~ Brad Johnston, Nathan Eshelman, Sam Spear
Resolution of Thanks Report
Synod’s final official act prior to adjournment was to adopt the Resolution of Thanks Committee’s report as the expression of gratefulness on behalf of the entire body. That report is as follows:
We are thankful for the staff of Indiana Wesleyan University working hard to allow us to stay here and serving us well with room and board. We give thanks for the Lord bringing us together as a court of Christ’s Church. There were many challenging things that came before us. We are thankful for the decorum of the Court as delegates who disagreed did so in a godly manner with humility. A good measure of unity and consensus was reached.
The Lord blessed us with a faithful moderator in Harry Metzger along with a careful and diligent Clerk John McFarland and first time Assistant Clerk Andrew Barnes. Carla Butler blessed us with the treats and with Crown & Covenant books for us to buy; pages Kevin Dennis, MartinMonteith, and Jonathan Sturm supplied technical assistance and passed out materials. The Lord has blessed our Canadian brethren with their own presbytery. King Jesus is to receive the praise for this development, and may He bless a future formation of a denomination that bears witness to the rights & gospel of King Jesus.
We give thanks to Herb McCracken and the Business of Synod Committee for all the planning and preparation that went into the Synod meeting and its administration. We give thanks to all those who serve on committees, boards, and commissions of the Church. We pray earnestly for the continuing favor of the Lord & for the peace of Zion. Praise to the Lord Jesus Christ for His goodness and sanctifying truth.
—Kent Butterfield (chairman); Bob Hemphill; Drew Poplin
Next year’s Reformed Presbyterian Synod is called to convene June 20-23 at Indiana Wesleyan University.
Thanks to Drew Gordon, and the RP Witness for sharing this report.