208th Meeting of General Synod
June 6, 2012
Moderator Steve Suits’ Challenge to Delegates
What’s Eating at the Fabric of the ARP Church?
In his Moderator’s Challenge to Synod delegates, guests, and members of the press this morning, incoming Moderator, Dr. Steve Suits, began by painting a bleak picture of a denomination with declining membership and giving – with stagnant or dying congregations.
The picture did not improve as he mentioned reports by the Strategic Planning Committee and 2007 Vision Committee. Both reports alluded to apathy and mediocrity characterizing much of the attitude of the work of the Church in the “sphere of denominational affairs.” This, in turn, has led to “blame-shifting and conflict for control.”
Later, Moderator Suits appealed to members of Synod to consider that in all this, God may be working in the ARP Church. “Often, when the church seems buried and things seem most discouraging, God is working profoundly beneath the surface.”
“Fathers and brothers, what is God doing to further his grace among us so that He can work his grace through us? Let us not look at the externals – the statistics, the reports, the so-called struggles for control and blame-shifting. Rather, let us call upon our Sovereign God under whose lordship we stand and serve.
“Let us look for his hidden pattern of providence that works all things – yes, even General Synod meetings – after the counsel of his will. Our ups and downs are his sovereignly moving forward to his goal. For I am convinced that He who began a good work in us will perfect it as we approach the day of Christ Jesus.”
What would a biblically and confessionally-centered Synod look like?
In order to carry out the functions enumerated by our Westminster Confession of Faith, Suits suggests the following:
- We need to be a fellowship of the ministers and elders of our churches who care deeply about excellence in faithful ministry to the Word.
- We need to look forward to our gatherings – at Presbytery and Synod levels – as opportunities for soul-feedings and not gamesmanship.
- We need to return to biblical discipline that is both timely and focused on repentance and reconciliation, not punishment and isolation.
- We need the strong pulpits that characterized the times of Robert Murray McCheyne; pulpits that preach the Word both by mouth and manner of living.
Let us heed McCheyne’s instruction so that we pray, “Lord, do in me first what I am asking you to do in this congregation. Apply the preaching to my life that I am seeking to have applied to this people whom you have given me.” That is my prayer for my service to you.
Everything under the lordship of Jesus Christ:
The theme the Moderator chose for his 2012-13 year of service. “This is not just a slogan; it’s a reality,” Dr. Suits said. “He is Lord!
“We need not try to determine how to put everything under his lordship; everything is under the lordship of Jesus Christ. Will I recognize his lordship in my service to his kingdom as it is embodied in the ARPC? I pray I will.”