The 212th meeting of Synod took place from Monday 12th until Wednesday 14th June 2023 and was hosted by Trinity Reformed Presbyterian Church. The outgoing Moderator, Rev. Geoffrey Allen (Dromara), preached from Isaiah 66:1-2, reminding us that our God reigns over all the earth and is to be approached with humility. Mr Allen then gave a report of his work during the year.

A memorial record for Rev. George McEwen was read by Rev. Joel Loughridge; Rev. Prof. Warren Peel read the memorial record for Rev. Prof. Edward Donnelly.                              

Rev. Stephen Wright accepted the nomination of Synod to act as Moderator and preached on the importance of persevering in prayer from Luke 11:1-13.

Business of Synod Committee: Rev Prof. David McKay represented the denomination at the International Conference of Reformed Churches in Namibia in October 2022. Rev. Robert Robb represented the denomination at the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in England Wales’ (EPCEW) meeting in Yarnfield, Staffordshire, in March 2023 and the Moderator attended the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) in Glasgow in May 2023. Synod agreed not to pursue the possibility of an official fraternal relationship with the Free Church of Scotland, given the Free Church’s recent decisions on worship practices. 

Covenanter Witness Editors’ Report & Business Report:  The cost of designing and printing the magazine has increased, which will likely necessitate a price increase for subscribers in 2024. Members of the denomination are encouraged to subscribe to the magazine if they do not already do so. 

Finance Committee: The Committee has agreed the following increases in payments for 2024:

  • NI Minister’s salary to increase to £29,400;  
  • RoI Minister’s salary to €40,050;  
  • Minister’s Pension to £10,000;   
  • Minister’s Widows’ Pension to £5,000;   
  • Minister’s Orphan Fund to £1,050.00;
  • Interim Moderator’s payment to be a minimum of £3,550.  

Mission Committee Report:

  • The Home Section is revising the “Rebuilding the Broken Walls” material, first published over 20 years ago, for use in our congregations. Sadly, numbers in our denomination, as in other churches, have been falling in the last 20 years. “Rebuilding the Broken Walls” provides Bible Study and discussion material based on the book of Nehemiah.
    • Daniel Moore (member of Lisburn) has been involved in Short Term Service (STS) in The Gambia and is due to finish mid- June.
    • Mr Gareth Orr has applied to begin STS in September in Ballenon & Ballylane.
    • Monday 13th November will be a Synodical Day of Prayer in Faughan.
    • A conference on the subject of evangelism is being organised for Saturday 11th May 2024; the speaker will be Rev. John Woodside. 
  • Irish Section: Rev. Vincent McDonnell will be commissioned as a mission worker and church planter for Limerick on Friday 16th June. Rev. Nigel Agnew continues to meet with and minister to a group of Chinese believers in Dublin.
  • France: this has been a difficult year for the Lytle family. Andrew has had health issues, Heather’s mother has been unwell and Matthieu’s best friend in school died. There have also been set-backs in the work of the building project but it is hoped this work will be completed and the building opened in the autumn. To date almost £207,000 has been raised for the new building. A Go Relief team has been organised for August 2023 to work on the final stages of this project. More new people have been attending the church recently. 
  • Spain: the congregation consists of approximately 50 people. They have 2 ruling elders, Juan and Marcos. Approximately 13 young people attend the youth meetings. The congregation is now contributing 10% of Isaac’s annual salary and hope to increase this each year. It is hoped that a GO Team might be organised for 2024. Rebeca and Lea are hoping to continue their education in Northern Ireland. Please pray for accommodation for them. 
  • International Mission to Jewish People: Rev. John Watterson brought an encouraging update on the work of the gospel among Jewish people. Congregations are encouraged to host a speaker from IMJP. 

Public Morals Committee: The Committee expressed thanks to MPs and MLAs who have opposed abortion. The Committee is waiting for an opportunity to address the NI Assembly on the subject of Gambling legislation. There was some discussion on how to deal with domestic violence and abuse.  A day conference, Truth be Told, is being organised for Saturday 17th February 2024 in Cullybackey RP Church, with Dr Sharon James to be the main speaker.

Reformed Theological College Superintendence Committee: Rev. Prof. Robert McCollum plans to retire from the Chair of Pastoral Theology and Homiletics at the end of academic year 2023/24 (Prof. McCollum will continue to serve as Principal of the College). The Committee nominated Rev. David Sutherland (Newtownards) to replace Prof. McCollum. Synod agreed to the nomination and Dr Sutherland accepted.

RP Camps: The work of camps continues to be an intrinsic part of our denomination’s ministry. Numbers attending this year are expected to increase on last year. Congregations are asked to encourage their young people to attend and help financially to facilitate this if necessary. 

Congregational Aid Committee: The Committee provides up to 50% of a minister’s salary for congregations unable to pay it. Currently there are 4 congregations receiving aid. If some of our vacant congregations are successful in calling a minister the number of aid-receiving congregations could increase to seven, a significant additional expenditure. Financially stronger congregations are encouraged to help those who may be struggling; those receiving aid are encouraged to pay a growing percentage of their minister’s salary. 

Psalmody Committee: The Northern Presbytery choir has sadly ceased to exist. There are plans for a denominational Psalm-singing event in the near future.

Christians in Education: Following some discussion of the Public Morals Committee Report Synod, and in light of renewed government efforts to apply radical Relationships and Sexual Education in both the United Kingdom and Ireland, it was agreed to establish a committee to investigate the challenges facing Christian teachers, parents and pupils in education and to bring recommendations to Synod in 2024. 

Reception of Delegates: On Tuesday evening Rev. Peter Loughridge updated Synod on the work and witness of the RP Church of Scotland. Rev. Noah Bailey brought greetings from the RP Church of North America along with points for prayer and thanksgiving.

Synod 2024: Synod accepted Limavady RP Church’s invitation to meet in the beautiful Roe Valley from Monday 10th – Wednesday 12th June 2024.

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