The RPCNA Synod week wrapped on day 4. Delegates were spiritually refreshed by the preaching of Pastor Martin Blocki (North Hills [Pittsburgh, Pa.] RPC) as He preached God’s Word from 1 Cor. 15:50-58. Then the court turned its attention to “landing the plane” at the end of a long and important week together.
Synod heard about the planning for the 2024 RP International Conference scheduled back here at Indiana Wesleyan University from June 25 (Tuesday) – July 1 (Monday) with Monday morning breakfast as the final event. Presenter Sam Spear encouraged delegates to consider the importance at this season of our denomination being together in fellowship and learning.
In conjunction with the Business of Synod Committee report, dates were discussed for next year’s Synod. A resolution to extend the dates to a Saturday-Friday schedule was vigorously discussed, but ultimately defeated. Dates for Synod 2024 are set for June 11-14 at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pa.
The Finance Committee had a whole series of routine recommendations, but they were handled confidently and efficiently in the only “omnibus” recommendation of the week.
The results of last night’s electronic election were reported, together with interesting data as a result of the computer-based process. All servants elected by Synod who were up for renewal of their three-year terms were reelected: Seminary president Barry York, professor of New Testament Jeff Stivason, treasurer Jim McFarland, and publication directors Drew and Lynne Gordon. Also, the rosters for one new commission (Latin America) and four new study committees (female deacons, exclusive psalmody practices, abortion, and court recordings) were approved.
A key part of “landing the plane” of the court is the opportunity to reflect on the present state of the church. Quoting from the 2023 State of the Church Report:
As your committee reflects on the state of the church, we invite you to join us as we consider reasons to grieve, reasons to rejoice, reasons to pray, and reasons for hope and joy.
Reasons to Grieve
- The loss of veteran servants of the Lord and his Church: pastors, elders, and wise women who have strengthened their husbands in their ministries of preaching and care.
- Continuing turmoil over past and present disputes and wrongs done. It is surely the device of Satan to divide, distract, and discourage the church.
- The closing or departure of some congregations. These have happened for of a variety of reasons, sometimes because of unforeseen hardship, or economics, and some because of conflict.
Reasons to Rejoice
- The founding of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Canada. We believe that our mediatorial king, Jesus Christ, has commanded us to disciple the nations, so we rejoice at and pray for this new national church that will testify to their particular nation.
- That God has granted relief from the pandemic, enabling a return to more normal life and travel and ministry.
- That God has blessed faithful ministry in congregations as evidenced in the slight growth in membership (an increase of 0.6 %) which continues a trend of slight growth.
- For the 169 souls added to the church by profession of faith.
- For the number of men who graduated from RPTS who have gone on to fill vacant pulpits across the denomination.
- Answered prayer for ruling elders. We prayed and fasted, humbling ourselves before the Lord for such need, and now thanking Him for His answer, increasing the number of active ruling elders from 265 to 280.
- The growing interconnectedness among the global Reformed Presbyterian family which enriches all the member churches.
- In the variety of global languages and accents heard during Synod (the writers counted eight), including in the devotional preaching service. This is a tangible reminder of the fruitful mission works around the world.
Reasons for Prayer
- The need for men to serve as pastors and elders, so we beseech our risen and ascended Lord to give gifts to His church (Eph. 4)
- The ongoing and newly initiated study committees on crucial subjects such as abuse, the singing of Psalms in worship, and women deacons. Lord, instruct us and teach us the way we should go; guide us with Your eye (Ps. 32:8).
- That God would purify us through our griefs—“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:10–11, NKJV)
- Our enemy desires to drive us apart. Lord, have mercy. Christ Jesus pray for us and enable us to bear with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph. 4:2-3)
- That God would be glorified through the conversion of the lost. Lord, send us out with the gospel, and bring to Yourself that promised great multitude from all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues. (Revelation 7:9)
Reasons for Hope
- We have been preserved as a denomination for 225 years.
- We have a little strength, and yet the Lord Jesus is exalted by using the few, the weak, and the humble to accomplish his ends.
- God has used the holy mess of presbyterian church government to care and strengthen the churches in our denomination.
- Despite differences of opinion, the Lord has blessed this Synod with a spirit of peace and collegiality.
- Last but not least—As we have been reminded by wise pastors this week, starting with our retiring moderator, Christ is on the throne, our risen Lord.
In the final “taxi to the gate,” Moderator Pete Smith reminded delegates that we are colleagues, and a Band of Brothers. He reminded delegates that the “Easy” Ranger Company in Stephen Ambrose’s book was 168 rangers and 8 leaders—just about the size of our Synod. He called us all to be steadfast, to work, to suffer if necessary, and to glorify God in our individual and collective ministries. The 191st Synod then sang Psalm 133A and prayed to adjourn. Soli deo gloria!