By Delores McDonald

One of Moderator Andy Putnam’s remarks in Tuesday night’s opening worship service echoed the feelings of many attending Synod 2012, “There was a time when we all looked forward to attending Synod – now we dread coming to Synod.”

So many of our number are tired of hearing about “struggles for control and blame-shifting.”

However, we can take comfort in the fact that often, “when the church seems buried and things seem most discour- aging, God is working profoundly beneath the surface,” as incoming Moderator Steve Suits quoted in his Moderator’s Challenge on Wednes- day. He also said, “Our ups and downs are in reality God’s sovereign forward movement to his goal.”

There are Wolves Among Us

Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. Know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears (Acts 20:28-31).

At Tuesday night’s opening worship service of the 208th meeting of General Synod of the Associate Reformed Pres- byterian Church, Moderator Andy Putnam warned, “there are wolves among you – and they need to be stopped before they consume the denomination.”

As the retiring Moderator gazed around the room at more than 600 ARPs who had gathered for a time of worship, prayer, and communion, he added, “There are wolves in this room tonight.” But how can we know who they are? First, those who know Christ should reflect him in their conduct and actions. “As Christians, we need to be in prayer and hold fast to Scripture.”

However, those who are manipulated by Satan may be hard to spot, he said. And these people may not realize they are being used by Satan. Look for those who have selfish ambitions – who want power, those who put themselves first and strive to get attention.

Moderator Putnam also warned there are those who want to disrupt the unity of the ARP Church, and that we will hear of attacks to destroy the church. “Some mock us for being too ‘nice’ to one another,” he said.

How do we deal with the wolves knocking on the ARP’s door? Putnam offered three solutions:

Preach the Gospel – hold fast to the Gospel message – love one another.

“Shoot them” – don’t let them run free (Joel 3:10); starve them; ignore them; give them nothing.

Pray – for the wolves among God’s sheep; for peace and prosperity.

“If we don’t do this, we will be standing in the ruins of the ARP Church saying, ‘Oh, what used to be…’”

Retiring Moderator’s Address

Moderator Putnam continued Wednesday morning by saying he had seen the good, the bad and the ugly of the ARP Church during his term as Moderator. “By ugly, I’m not talking about the way we look on the outside,” he said. “I’m talking about our behav- ior, words, and actions in the way we represent the church and Jesus Christ. During my travels in the U.S. and Eu- rope, I would ask if some of our number are even Christians!”

Again, he warned delegates that there are wolves among them. “Stop them before they consume the denomination.”

“The bad” he spoke of represents statistics that show that the ARP Church is in decline, with many small, remote congregations. “Many churches are not healthy,” he said. “Most need to change their attitudes, what they tolerate, and selfishness. Christ must have preeminence!

“The good I referred to is that God loves you. God can transform lives and can change denominations. Some presbyteries are renewing their emphasis in church planting. I rejoice in the new work taking place across the ARP denomination. I’m seeing revival. We’re on track, but it will take time.”

In his travels this year, Putnam said he was encouraged by the mission work taking place in places like the Ukraine and Scotland. In his Moderator’s speech last year, he encouraged revival. “It’s a joy to say we are on our way,” he said. “The Lord has his hand on our denomination. My prayer is that He will continue to guide us.”