Delegates of presbytery gathered at our mother church, Seattle RPC, on March 2-3, 2023. The hospitality of the congregation was warm and inviting. Many volunteered to meet our needs and make the work of the presbytery more enjoyable, especially the women of the congregation. We express our thanks to all who helped and provided warm fellowship.
The two days of our meetings were opened with devotions from the Moderator, Rev. Tim McCracken, and Elder Paul Perkins (Seattle RPC). Rev. McCracken gave a message from Ephesians 1:15-21 on the theme: our Lord’s plan is sure, and He is able. He encouraged us to take the truth of God’s power to heart, especially in those times we face issues which seem impossible to overcome. In our ministries, we need to know the power of God to save, which is like in kind to the power of God which raised Jesus from the dead. Elder Perkins opened Friday’s meeting with a devotion on the Lord’s Prayer, asking the question: how can we claim that God is our Father? He reminded us it is only by the grace of God in Christ that we are adopted as His children and live for Him. He encouraged us to let this truth shape and mold every aspect of our lives
After first time delegates Rev. Johnathan Kruis (Fresno RPC) and Rev. David Witmer (Seattle RPC) were introduced we received reports and spent time in prayer for our eleven congregations and missions. There is much to be thankful for among our works, but there are also burdens we carry. A couple of congregations saw net loss in membership after losing their pastors, but have also seen new people become members of the church. The Phoenix congregation will be moving to a new location in the Phoenix area and selling their current property. This is seen as a positive move for the church. Rev. Colin Samul resigned from the Great Basin RPC (Reno, NV) for personal reasons. And so, though we rejoice in the Fresno and Seattle congregations receiving a pastor, we are still in need of laborers to pastor our churches.
After much discussion we voted to dismiss our Church Extension Committee with thanks. This committee acts like a point person between the presbytery and church plants, or those seeking a church plant within our bounds. The Lord has blessed us with growth over the past 10 years unlike anything we have experienced in our history. In 2011 we had five congregations, and now we have 11 churches and missions (before the formation of the Canadian Presbytery by the Synod of 2022 that number was 15). Of the 10 churches or church pants (the eleventh is the prison ministry) seven are either without a ruling elder (church plants) or pastor (established congregation). Most of our teaching and ruling elders serve on multiple sessions. Presbytery can keep close tabs on our planting efforts through the provisional elders on these governing bodies and sessions. Our Ad Interim Commission will be the point of contact for any group who may desire a church plant in their area. Since the primary work of our Church Extension Committee can be accomplished in this way, the presbytery decided it was time for us to reorient for a season our focus from expansion to strengthening what God has given.
In anticipation of future church planting efforts, the court passed a recommendation from our finance committee to set aside the Lord’s Day before June 6 as a Thank Offering to be collected for our Next 100 Fund. The official birthday of the presbytery is June 6, 1911. This fund was established in celebration of our 100th anniversary. There were regular contributions in the fund’s early days, but it has been used and giving has dwindled (to about $50 per year). In an effort to revitalize this fund and to be able to help support church planting efforts financially in the future, this Lord’s Day was set aside to collect a special offering in celebration of our anniversary. The offerings collected will be given to this fund. However, if you would like to contribute to future Pacific Coast Presbytery church planting efforts, please contact our treasurer about making a donation.
A couple of difficult issues were dealt with by the court. The presbytery sent an accusation of sin from one member of the court against another member to a judicial committee of the day to investigate. The judicial committee found the accusations to be credible which center around the content of a sermon and recently published essay by the accused. The main issue was the apparent connection of trusted English translations of the Bible to what the accused termed “Satan’s Bible” (defined as corrupted Greek texts of the New Testament). The presbytery gave a formal rebuke to the accused, laid out a path of repentance it wants to see, and assigned a three man committee to work with our brother.
The second issue was a complaint brought against the presbytery by a member of the court. The complaint centers around the issue of sustaining the exams of future ministers and singing hymns in non-RP worship settings. In an exam at a previous meeting, a student answered that he was still working through the issue of singing a hymn when not worshiping at an RP church, and presbytery sustained the exam. The court asked the complainant to consider rescinding the complaint in order to rework it and present it as a paper to study. He duly considered this request, but decided to pursue the complaint. It was then forwarded to synod without comment. This action means presbytery is simply forwarding the complaint as required without endorsing it or officially writing anything against it. However, members of the court are still free to submit to synod (through their sessions and Ad Interim Commission) their personal response to the complaint.
To end on a positive note we heard from Rev. McCracken and the Central Valley Prison Mission (CVPM) Commission (Commission) on the work there. As a Home Mission Board (HMB) representative, I accompanied the Commission on a recent visit to observe CVPM in action. Here is an excerpt of my report to the HMB:
“The HMB can read Rev. McCracken’s report and the report of the Commission for more details of the work, but my own observation is this is a vibrant ministry unlike anything I have witnessed. Some of the men look forward to being released in a few years, others have no hope of seeing the world outside their prison walls again. However, in each there seemed to be a genuine hunger for the truth of God’s Word, especially in the Reformed tradition. For those who anticipate their freedom, the greatest need they expressed is connection with local congregations outside. Even with those connections, these brothers need our prayer. One silver lining to their current situation is they have daily contact and fellowship with fellow brothers. This is something we do not enjoy in our churches. Those congregations who welcome former inmates will need to work through how to disciple these men to adjust to the daily grind of life and normal fellowship of the saints.”
I was truly blessed to see this ministry in action and commend supporting it to you all. Rev. McCracken would be more then happy to come to your congregations and give a presentation on the work. If your church is able, place a small line item in your budgets, or ask your session to consider putting a line item in the budget, to give financial support. If you can’t give financial support, consider sending solid, biblical resources to your local prisons. In the words of one inmate, “All we have is this Joyce Myers garbage.” Above all pray for this ministry.
We closed our meeting with singing Psalm 133A. Although some of the issues we dealt with were difficult, the Spirit maintained our peace and unity, for that we give Him praise.
We set our next meeting to be in Phoenix in March 2024. Continue to pray for us on the west coast! The greatest practical provision we need is people. We need men to fill our empty pulpits, men to fill our need for ruling elders, men and women and covenant children to fill our pews. Over the past 10 years God has blessed us with more work, pray He blesses us by securely establishing these churches and missions over the next 10 years for generations to come.
Rev. Ryan Hemphill, Clerk of the Pacific Coast Presbytery