It is my privilege, duty, and honor to participate in a deeper way in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. In these months since being elected moderator, I have had opportunity to attend many committee and board meetings. Up-close, I have seen the work being done by many in the denomination. It is encouraging to see the elders who lead in the work of the Church. While the ministers may not have some of the same business experience, they are the “conscience” of the church. These two perspectives propel the work forward. I have been encouraged and assisted by the support people at the ARP Center. Please know that a great work of detail takes place by the Church support staff.
This 211th Meeting of Synod in 2015 is an historic event. The ARP Church hosted the Reformed Presbyterian Church, North America at Bonclarken. We learned more about the respective ministries of our two denominations. The RPCNA is a cousin to the ARP Church, holding similar values and theological commitments to the ARP Church.
Our histories are somewhat parallel, expressing a common origin in the Covenanting heritage from the 17th Century in Scotland (1638) and immigrating to the New World where the Lordship of Jesus Christ can be propagated by an evangelical outreach without the inhibiting demands of government. This meeting together is a recognition of our common roots and our abiding mission in North America.
Joint Meeting of Synods
Over the last two years, a fair amount of talk has been taking place about this joint meeting of Synods. I confess that I, too, was ambivalent about the unknown. “What does this joint meeting mean?” “Are we considering a merger with the RPCNA?” “Why, they don’t even sing the hymns we have grown to love!” Upon inquiry, I have learned that our two denominations have been learning from each other for as many as ten years. And, the Inter-Church Relations Committee has been renewing acquaintance with them and planning this historic Synod meeting for more than two years. Historic it is, impulsive it is not.
Humbly, we should receive this opportunity to learn how we can fulfill our mission in a more effective way. While the RPCNA is somewhat smaller than the ARP, they have made an intentional and significant impact in Church Planting in recent years. The RPCNA has a vigorous conference ministry that has informed the church theologically and challenged the Church in a renewal of mission. And, their college, Geneva College, has approximately 1600 students, and a graduate program including Masters in Business, Counseling, Education, and Leadership. Geneva also has a football team!
On Wednesday, we had a fun afternoon learning more of each other’s work in a series of Joint Presentations. Delegates could choose 3 of the 4 presentations, which included Christian Higher Education, Christian Education in the Church, Global Missions, and Church Planting.
The Joint Meeting of Synods is a mature event. As has been said to me, this event is not a “courting to marriage” event but rather a “family reunion.” Who knows what God has for these two churches in the future? For now, let us enjoy discovering some “cousins” with whom we had lost contact.
“Now, therefore, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19-22)
Synod Emphasis Theme
The theme for 2015-2016 is “Fresh Insight from Ancient Paths.” This theme is found in Jeremiah 6:16 “Thus says the Lord: Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”
Like Israel, the Church, with our culture has been seduced. We have been neutralized in our witness. Homes and parents are paying a dear price for a compromised lifestyle. Our children are leaving us and the church as they find other interests and pleasures. One might expect this from the unbelieving world, but we must repent of our own failure; our cold devotion and our failure to pass this “good way” gospel revealed to us and for the next generation.
Jeremiah called Israel to return to basic truths of faith and life: “To the Law, the Prophets and the Gospel.” The Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church must return to the Lord in simple faith and obedience. As Jeremiah gave a call to repentance, so this small denomination must call our families and communities with the Gospel to return to the Lord. Our mission must be that of discipling our covenant families in order to win others to Christ. No area of life can be untouched by the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the costly redemption of His cross.
In the coming months this year, some of the “old paths” will be noted with lessons for the future. I hope that you will read the ARP Magazine so that your heart can be warmed as you “stand in the ways and see.” The Emphasis Committee that I assembled was very helpful as we discussed the issues, which might be helped if we would “ask for the old paths.” We certainly need to “find rest for [our] souls”. Articles are planned and are being written by individuals and I pray you will read them. Perhaps God will do a reviving work among us yet.
Now, do not misunderstand what I am saying. I believe that answers for our future can be found in the commitments of our fathers and mothers past. I am not suggesting a return to a dead and formal past, but a revival in our souls that will draw us to the essential commitments of our biblical faith. Thus, we will challenge and inspire ARP Church families to greater works and witness.
This beginning emphasis was declared on Thursday morning, as Dr. Stephen Myers preached of our glorious gospel of free grace offered to all sinners. Dr. Myers sets the tone for our year ahead. Others will be writing articles and I hope that you will be careful to read the articles in the ARP Magazine.