PRESBYTERIAN OR REFORMED? - Rev. K. A. Kok


I . Is the OPC a Confessional Church? II .Confessional Problems Ill. Church Order Problems 
IV. The Situation at Blue Bell  V. The Church at Laurel and the Lord's Supper  VI. Conclusion 

 

The title of this article was deliberately chosen, and not. only to he provocative, for this is the choice which confronts the Canadian Reformed Churches in our contact with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) . Although the two terms in the title are frequently thought to be synonymous, they here denominate two mutually exclusive systems of confession and church polity. The Presbyterian system was formed in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries in the crucible of Puritan thought and practice. This gives a decidedly election-oriented cast to its confessional statements, with the attendant notions of the invisible church, the covenant of grace made with Christ and the elect, and so forth, and a decidedly pietistic/individualistic cast to its practice, with the attendant notion of assurance not being of the essence of faith.

Simply put, the thesis of this article is that the Canadian Reformed Churches have no business continuing the current contact with the OPC. Article 50 of the Church Order states that "0n minor points of Church Order and acclesiastical practice Churches abroad shall not be rejected."1 Yet, the differences between ourselves and the OPC are so great that the General Synod of 1977 had to create a new temporary form, of ecclesiastical contact. The accepted rules governing sister church relations and the Church Order itself had to he ignored in order to establish this contact with the OPC, and the intervening years have given little evidence that this was the proper course.

What happened at the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Blue Bell in 1981-84 to force that congregation out of the OPC and to seek affiliation with the Canadian Reformed Churches ought not to be seen as something unique. Nor ought it he personalized so that it becomes the history of what some nasty people in the Presbytery of Philadelphia did to some nice people at Blue Bell. Of course, I am inclined to consider the people at Blue Bell to be very nice indeed, but the conflict was of a deeper nature. The representatives of Presbytery and, ultimately, Presbytery itself did what they did in order to defend their form of polity and their confessions. Just because they were Presbyterians, they had to do what they did. The fact that the 'distinctives' of Blue Bell were unacceptable to the OPC yet readily acceptable to the churches of the classical region Ontario South certainly ought to give one pause about the current contact.

The procedure of this article will be to examine what the faith and practice of the OPC, according to its confession, Form of Government, and history, is. Only then will we be in a position to understand what happened at Blue Bell. It may seem as though we are taking the long route to Blue Bell, but we shall, eventually, end up there.

I . Is the OPC a Confessional Church?

Much of the debate concerning contact with the OPC has, quite rightly, focused on the Westminster Confession and Catechisms. I would, however, like to ask a prior question:is the OPC in any viable sense a confessional church?This may seem a strange question to ask. After all, I have already pointed to the Westminster Standards. Yet the question, which our committee for contact seems to have forgotten, remains: how do the standards function within the OPC?

One should keep in mind that from the very beginning the Presbyterian churches never envisioned the people subscribing to the standards. Indeed, when certain of the delegates to the Westminster Assembly suggested that all the members of the church should hold to the standards, the House of Commons intervened and ordered that only "competent knowledge" be the rule for church membership.2 Although the Scottish Church did have a different practice for a while,3 this notion of 'competent knowledge,' or, as it is called in the OPC, 'credible profession,' is the rule. The profession required of members is less than that required of office bearers and is a profession which is not to be judged by the standards of the church.

This policy of not requiring members of the church to hold to the standards became the official practice of the American Presbyterian church in the eighteenth century. The attempt to form an American Presbytery church necessitated creating a union between the Presbyterians and the Congregationalists. Unfortunately, the two groups held quite different views of the Westminster Standards. The Presbyterians wanted the standards to be binding upon the office- bearers whereas the Congregationalists only wanted the standards as non- binding guides. The controversy was settled in 1729 with the acceptance of the Adopting Act.4

The Adopting Act of 1729 states that the standards are "in all the essential and necessary articles , good forms of sound words and systems of Christian doctrine" (emphasis added).5 Here Charles Hodge notes that the key phrases relate to the essence of the Standards, i.e. "The essential parts of a confession are those parts which are essential to its peculiar character. 6 He then goes on to discuss why a candidate may state his scruples with regards to any article or articles of the, Standards. This is so because not every article of the Standards is essential and necessary in "doctrine, worship, or government. "7 An even more telling admission of Hodge is made when he writes, " [T]he act of 1729 was intended to require of new members nothing more than assent to the essential doctrines of the gospel, and yet the doctrinal standard of the Church might be something very different and far higher" (emphasis added).8 In other words, only ministers and elders are expected to subscribe to the standards and even they are allowed to have scruples about the standards.They subscribe to the standards inasmuch as they find the standards to be biblical and not because the standards are biblical. The practice of 1729, which was endorsed by Hodge, is still the practice of the OPC.

      • Even more amazing is the position of R.L. Dabney:
    • We aIso hold that , inas mu c h a s H o I y Scripture Comands us "to receive them that, are weak, but not to doubtful disputations," we are not to require of penitent believers asking admission to Christ's church any of the heads of our, creed, except. such as are fundamental to Christian redemption and holy living; but, upon their sincere adoption of the latter, the laity are to be admitted to all the privileges of the visible church. It is only of the pastors and the doctors of the church, and of such other officers as exercise spiritual rule therein, that we rightfully require the adoption of our whole creed, as containing the system of doctrine set Forth in the Holy Scriptures. And such requirements of these is reasonable and lawful and absolutely necessary to the faithful testimony of any church unto that system of truth for which her Lord has made her a witness. But, once more, we expressly repudiate the claim of right or authority to dismiss, exclude or expel any person, lay or clerical, from the catholic or universal church of Christ on the mere ground of his dissent from or rejection of parts of our creed. All we claim is the right to separate him therefore from among the teachers of our branch or denomination of the catholic church. leaving him free to join any other denomination whose creed he can heartily adopt. Should any dissentient from our doctrine refuse to us this method of self- protection, he would be invading our spiritual liberty and not defending his own.

      For when we have freely associated ourselves unto what we conscientiously believe to be a faithful witness-bearing to the testimony of Jesus, he who should claim to impugn our doctrinal testimony by our own authority would be only perpetrating a gross outrage upon our equal rights and liberty of conscience, and we accordingly declare that we do not limit the being and rights of "the holy catholic church'' to that company of believers holding with us our Standards and scripturally denominated by the term Presbyterian.

      But we recognize as other denominations in the sacramental host all who teach the fundamental doctrines and uphold the morals of Christ's gospel. We believe that the visible unity whereby God is to be glorified is to be found in the faithful recognition of each other's sacraments, orders and church discipline (limited to admonition and spiritual penalties), by each denomination in the church catholic; and not in a fusion and amalgamation of all into one visible ecclesiastical body; a result only made feasible by one or the other criminal alternative, popery or broad churchism. 9

 

What, then, is the meaning of the keys of the kingdom? To he Reformed is to be a type of Christianity, but there is no binding force in the confession of the church. All are but "denominations," different names for the same reality. Notice the Romanish language of laity and clergy. Is it any wonder that with ardent defenders of the faith such as Dabney and Hodge that liberalism came to dominate both the Northern and Southern churches? And is it any wonder that their spiritual heirs are either fundamentalists or evangelicals? Is it any wonder that on two occasions General Assemblies of the OPC have determined that members are not to be examined for membership according to the standards? Moreover, they decided that those who deny baptism to their children, as well as Arminians and other 'evangelicals' may be admitted to membership as the individual sessions see fit.10 This information is information which ought to have been considered by our own General Synods in 1977, 1980, 1983, and 1986. This is information which ought to have been uncovered by our committees for contact over the past 11 years. Yet, we still seem to believe that the OPC is committed to its standards in the same way that we are committed to the Three Forms of Unity. But this is simply not the case.

There are, of course, manifold problems with the position of the OPC. A distinction is made between saving faith and the confession of the church. As a result, one is left saying either that the ministers and elders are the only ones who truly make up the church, for they alone hold to the whole confession, or one says that the ministers and elders believe for the people; that is, the people are bound to the confession by implicit faith. If saving faith is different from the confession of the church, then why is there a confession? If the confession goes. beyond what is necessary to be saved, is it not a human tradition and something which represents a binding above Scripture?

You cannot begin your discussion with the OPC with the problems which you see in the in the Westminster Standards, for the simple reason that they will gladly allow you all sorts of reservationes mentales. Thus, they can speak in full confidence about the 'spirit and thrust', or 'system of doctrine' of the Standards. Of course, this leads only to the morass of subjectivism; what if one knows that these reservations concerning interpretation of and include objections to the confession which concern the very heart and core of the Standards? Can a church allow these reservationes mentales to her confession without losing her own heart, the cor ecclesiae? Saving faith and the confession of the church cannot be separate, for if they are, nothing remains of either saving faith or of the confession.

It is, I believe, clear that the insistent pluralformity of the OPC works to absolve them of the responsibility to be the church. If, after all, the church as 'organism', or the church 'invisible', is the real church, then there is no ultimate call for the visible denomination to he the church. Christians are found hither, thither, and yon, and are not to be bound together by confession and obedience, but by the 'mystical union' of 'saving faith' in Jesus as the Christ. If all Christians are, as B.B. Warfield avers, Calvinists on their knees,  then there is no urgency, save that, of 'systemic consistency, to get them to be Calvinists (or,, better, Reformed) when they are off their knees.11 Calvin, who quotes Cyprian, is anathema to these people when he says that "No man has God for his Father who does not have the Church for his Mother."12

I I .Confessional Problems

You can see, then, that it is extremely difficult to evaluate the confessional stand of the OPC. After all, only ministers and elders are bound to the Westminster Confession and Catechisms and then only to anill defined "system of doctrine."13 What is included in that 'system' is not clear. The waters are further muddied when you see that the Westminster Confession and Catechisms are not internally consistent. In correspondence with our Committee for Contact with the OPC, the OPC Committee on Ecumenicity and Inter-Church Relations speaks of "two lines of the covenant in our Church's confessional standards" so that one group emphasizes one line, another the other line, and some who try to combine the two.14 If there are two apparently contradictory lines within the confessional standards, how can anyone speak of a confessional basis, let alone a confessional unity? And if the OPC itself is not certain what its confession means and how it operates within its congregations, how can we hope to evaluate this confession? But we shall try to evaluate the differences, or 'divergences', between The Westminster Standards and the Three Forms of Unity.

The Westminster Confession and Catechisms is, to say the least, confusing regarding the doctrine of the covenant. On the one hand, the Larger Catechism in question 31 asks, "With whom was the covenant of grace made?" and the answer is "The covenant of grace was made with Christ as the Second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed." Clearly the Catechism teaches that Christ is the Head of the covenant and that the covenant is made only with the elect. And just as clearly this cannot he made compatible with either the Belgic Confession, article 34 or the Heidelberg Catechism, question and answer 74. The promise of baptism is not to every child, but only with elect children. Indeed, the same thing is found in the Shorter Catechism, question and answer 20: "God, having out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer" (emphasis added). Again, clearly, the covenant is made only with the elect. On the other hand, however, the Confession does say that the visible church "consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children" (XXV.II). It is small wonder that one group emphasizes one line and another the other line; the Westminster Standards are, at best, unclear; at worst, they teach a covenant made only with the elect.

This doctrine of the covenant becomes even less acceptable when you look at what is taught concerning the 'covenant of works':

  • The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience (WCF, VII, II).
  • God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which he bound him and all his posterity to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience, promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endued him with power and ability to keep it (WCF, XIX.I).

 

This doctrine of the covenant of works is not contained within the Three Forms of Unity. Within the Westminster Standards, this covenant of works stands over against the covenant of grace and this must lead to confusion.15 The Westminster Standards teach that Adam's obedience in Eden would have been meritorious, it would have earned for him everlasting life. Yet, man the creature can never make the Almighty Creator to be indebted to him. As S.G. de Graaf notes:

  • We are accustomed to speaking of this covenant as the covenant of works. However, we should not take this name to mean that man was expected to earn eternal life as a reward for doing good works, as though eternal life was man's payment for services rendered. Because man owes everything he is and has to God, we may never speak of man earning wages paid out by God. Therefore it might be wiser to speak of the covenant of God's favor. Grace generaly means favor, but in the Scriptures grace always has the special meaning of favor that, forgives guilt. 16

 

The Westminster Standards, however, posit an antithesis between grace and merit as two phases in God's dealings with man.

The Westminster Standards, at least at this point, define covenant as an agreement between God and man. Covenant becomes a pact instead of God's administration of favor and promise. This has resulted in an inversion of law over grace. As a result, there is a legalism attached to these standards as well as a bifurcation of nature and grace.17 This explains, for example, why there was widespread dissatisfaction with my examination before the Presbytery of Philadelphia to be declared eligible for call. I asserted that there was no covenant of works and that. man's obedience to God was never meritorious. The Rev. Arthur W. Kuschke objected that God's relations to man were not always covenantal, but that "Law is more ultimate than covenant." In this, he is a faithful defender or the Westminster Standards.

This is an abstraction of the covenant idea. In the Westminster Standards, 'covenant', functions as an overarching principle by which to explain election and predestination (e.g., covenant only with the elect). The pattern followed is a legal pattern, not a trinitarian one.18 As a result, election stands as distinct from temporally- administered covenants and can only result in weakening the Reformed doctrine of God. And, of course, from this view of possible meritorious obedience on the part of Adam, you find that in the covenant of grace--made, of course, with Christ and in Him all the elect--there are no conditions and cannot be broken. I remember well Dr. Edmund P. Clowney, former President or Westminster Theological Seminary, arguing against Prof. N. Shepherd that the warnings in the New Testament were only hypothetical.

From this we turn to the doctrine of the Church. The Westminster Confession begins with the same sort of election- oriented abstraction which marked the doctrine of the covenant:

  • The catholic or universal church, which Is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the head thereof; and is the spouse, the fullness of him that filleth all in all (XXV.II).

 
The catholic. or universal, church, then is not the church with an address. The church is defined in terms of its being invisible. This is different from the Reformers who spoke pf an invisible church in distinction from the papist view of the Corpus Christi in which mere visibility made a church true.19 For example, although Calvin speaks of an invisible church,20 he does not posit it as a church which exists along side, or separate from, the visible church, but only as the church in the judgment of God.21 Yet, in the Westminster Confession, the church is defined as invisible in distinction Lo the visible church. Unlike Calvin, the Westminster Confession works with a faulty metaphysic that, in some way, the 'invisible' church is somehow the 'real' church.22

Certain OPC theologians have become very uncomfortable with this distinction that the CEIR wrote to our Committee for contact that "Many, if not most, in our Church are uncomfortable with our confessional statements on visible and invisible Church because of the modern developments in the doctrine of the Church particularly in dispensationalism."23 The solution many have adopted is to follow Prof. John Murray in speaking of visible and invisible aspects of the church.24 But such a distinction is of no real help. To be sure, election, regeneration and so forth are, in a certain sense, invisible, but they do not exist in themselves. Election is the election of a people, call is the calling of a people and so on, and in each case the people are visible. You can never speak of the church as being invisible. To say that the church is invisible is to say that part of the essence of the church is to be invisible. This is a rather farreaching ontological claim. It is also a very wrong notion, for the church in history is perceivable and is, in fact, perceived.

True, there are hypocrites in the visible church and there are other sheep who are not yet of this fold, but this does not. warrant speaking of an invisible church. You cannot say that the hypocrites are in the visible church and not the invisible church, nor speak of an elect person outside of the visible church as being part of the invisible church.25 Such thinking is hopelessly confused and comes only from the decretal theology of the Westminster Standards. The Bible makes it clear that, there is chaff mixed with the wheat and Paul tells us that not all of Israel is of Israel. Still the one church--and not the invisible church as opposed to the visible church--is the body of Christ. It is far more simple and biblical t o say that the hypocrites are in, but not of, the church and that, those who are now outside of the church but who will he gathered in, are, quite simply, outside of the church until they come into the visible church.

The notion of the invisible church gives rise to the idea that there are two more or less independent, churches, and that the invisible church is the 'real' church. There is no support for this idea anywhere in Scripture. It comes from a Platonic -- or perhaps in our day, a Kantian -- idealism in which the visible church is the manifestation of the church which cannot be visible (the copy of the form?). Thus, if the visible church reflects the invisible church at all, it is a happy coincidence. The church, in the bible, however, is not an entity hovering above the earth. The church is in space and time. To project into the realm of the invisible, the true holy, apostolic church which fully bears the attributes and the marks of the church, while the visible church is a mere beggarly copy, is to denude the church of all. meaning. Yet this is precisely what the Westminster Standards do. The true church is not some sort of ontological thing which forms the deep background for the visible church. No, the true church exists here and now. And it is only in this church that Scripture is interested.

The church is always something real, something tangible, Just as Christians are always real and tangible. If the church is invisible, then Christians also are invisible. The church has spiritual aspects, but these aspects are all concerned with real people; otherwise they would be mere theological abstractions. It is not as though Christians have been transported from the visible realm into the some sort of invisible church idea. The teaching or the Westminster Standards eliminates the teaching, the Christ is gathering His flock here and now, and that, His flock hears His voice through the proper preaching of the Gospel. The invisible church is devoid of preaching, office-hearers, and, of course, discipline. Thus, Charles Hodge writes that the "Church, as such, Is not a visible society."26 Further, he writes:

  • Such, then, is the true idea of the Church, or, what is the same thing, the idea of the true Church. It is the communion of saints, the body of those who are united to Christ by the indwelling of his Spirit. The two essential points included in this definition are, that. the Church consists of saints, and that, the bond of their union is not external organization, but the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.27

Such a concept weakens Christ's call to all believers to join themselves to the true church. That true church, which is visible and has an address, is the church which preaches the pure doctrine, properly administers the sacraments, and exercises discipline according to the Word or God.

Given the Westminster definition of the church, it is difficult to see how the OPC can avoid practicing the theory of the pluriformity of the church. The CEIR denies that pluriformity is practiced within the OPC, 28 but the Form Of Government. presents another picture. Consider this passage from the chapter on "The Unity of Lhe Church":

  • The visible unity of the Body of Christ, though not altogether destroyed, is greatly obscured by the division of the Christian church into different groups or denominations. In such denominations Christians exercise a fellowship toward each other in doctrine, worship, and order that they do not exercise toward other Christians. The purest churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error, and some have gravely departed from apostolic purity; yet all of these which maintain through sufficient discipline the Word and sacraments in their fundamental integrity are to be recognized as true manifestations of the church of Jesus Christ.29

 
Such a passage embodies the notion of pluriformity. Notice what is being said: there is no specific divine norm for the church, so that in various denominations Christians exercise "a fellowship" toward one another, that they do not show to other Christians. The church, then, appears to be nothing but a voluntary association of like-minded people.30 Every denomination, then, is an attempt to arrive at the proper form-- although they may be more or less successful. But no church, certainly not the OPC, would claim to be true over against the other denomoninations. While they recognize a difference between the various denominations, they are able to recognize them all as churches and seek to assist each other. Notice as well, that the Body of Christ is basically an invisible thing which manifests itself in several forms, but that all the denominations together form the one Body of Christ.

Such a view cannot be squared with either Scripture or the Three Forms of Unity, but such is the announced basis of church unity within the OPC.

It is not surprising, then, that the OPC allows into membership those who will not baptize their children, that members are not required to to hold to the confessions of the church, that minister and elders are required to hold only to the system of doctrine contained in the confessions,31 and that the OPC allows to the Lord's Supper Table all "earnest Christians" even if their confession is incompatible with the confession of the OPC.32 As Charles Hodge makes clear, the "one fath" or Ephesians 4:5 cannot he predicated of any external society calling itself the church of God, but, is only realized in heaven.33 It should not surprise us to read Dr. Richard Gaffin arguing that there is essential unity between Reformed believers and other believers. Indeed, Reformed theology expresses the "deepest intentions" of the non- Reformed. The only difference is a matter of consistency.34 It is not surprising, also, that this attitude parallels the attitude of the synodical churches in the 1920' and 30's.35 Since the church is to be empirically determined, you should expect to find--just as you do find-- that Charles Hodge argues that the "evidences of piety" are all that are required for admission to the Lord's Table 36 , and that the OPC follows Hodge in this regard. All of this flows from the defective and non-biblical teachings in the Westminster Standards concerning the covenant and the church.

There are also other problems within the Westminster Standards. For example, the Larger Catechism denies that assurance is of the essence of faith. In answer to question 81 you read:

  • Assurance of grace and salvation not, being of the essence of faith, true believers may wait long before they obtain it; and, after the enjoyment thereof, may have it weakened and intermitted, through manifold distempers, sins, temptations, and desertions; yet, are they never left without such presence and support of the Spirit of God as keeps them from sinking in utter despair.

The CEIR tries to pass this off as the same Teaching found in the Canons of Dordt, V.II, 37 but what. is taught in the Larger Catechism is something quite different from saying that the believer experiences varying degrees of salvation. What is clearly said is that assurance is not part of faith and that true believers may well be without, assurance. Again you see the lack of a proper doctrine of the covenant as well as the election-orientation of the Westminster Standards.

We must conclude that the Westminster Standards are not compatible with the Three Forms of Unity and that the much discussed 'divergences' are actual and significant differences. Judging by article 50 of the Church Order, relations with the OPC are highly suspect.
 

Ill. Church Order Problems

Article 50 of the Church Order tells us that on "minor points of Church Order and ecclesiastical practice Churches abroad shall not, be rejected." The question becomes, then, are the differences between the OPC Form of Government and our Church Order only of minor significance You face a problem, however, because the two are assumed to be the same. Consistory and Session, Classis and Presbytery are assumed to be different names
for the same things, but, are they?

When you turn to chapter 14 of The Form of Government, you find the Title: "The Regional Church and It's Presbytery." What is this "regional church"? There you read:

  • A regional church consists of all the members of the local congregations and the ministers within a certain district. The general assembly may organize a regional church when there are at least four congregations, two ministers, and two ruling elders, within a region.38

Presbytery is the "governing body of a regional church."39 What does this mean? According to this theory, the New Testament church was organized into city churches which were subdivided into house congregations. The city church was the aggregate of the house congregations and had authority over the house congregations. The house congregations existed because the city church allowed them to exist and they were, thus, responsible to the city church. The governing body of the city church was made up of all the elders from the house congregations. This has been translated into the regional church and its presbytery. The regional church is the modern equivalent or the city church and the local congregation is the equivalent of the house congregation, or so the theory runs.40

Several interesting features arise from this idea. First, one finds that presbytery has the same power over local churches as the session has over members of the congregation:

  • The presbytery has the power to order whatever pretains to the spiritual welfare of the churches under its care, always respecting the Liberties guaranteed to the individual congregations under the constitution. In the exercise of it's jurisdiction the presbytery has responsibility for evangelism within the bounds of it's region, especially in areas which are not within the sphere of service in any one congregation. Similarly the presbytery shall seek to foster fellowship in worship and nurture in the church as a whole within its region.
  • The presbytery has the power to organize and receive congregations, to unite and dissolve congregations, at the request of the people and with the advice of the sessions involved, to visit particular churches for the purpose of inquiring into their state and of taking proper measures to insure that the evils which may have arisen in them shall be redressed. Presbytery shall examine and approve or censure the records of church sessions. 41

Indeed, this power was made clear in chapter 12, where you find that ''All governing assemblies have the same kinds of rights and powers. 42 Local churches and their sessions are completely subservient to the regional church and its presbytery. Presbytery is not confined to matters of appeal, or to matters concerning the churches as a whole, or with what the local churches bring to it. Instead, presbytery can order whatever it deems pertains to the well-being of the churches under its care. Moreover, all actions of the local session which are recorded in its minutes must be approved by presbytery. If presbytery does not approve, the local session must either change, or appeal to General Assembly.

Second, presbytery never ceases to exist. As the session of the regional church, its power and existence are not confined to its meetings. Although the regional church has no worship services and administers no sacraments, it is considered to be a real and full church in the biblical sense.43 The local congregation is not a church in the real and full sense, but a part of the regional church. Thus, although the marks of the church are not present. at a 'regional' level, inasmuch as they are present on the local level, they are ascribed to the regional church. Further, the regional church itself is merely part of the "whole church," for you find in chapter 15 as discussion of "The whole Church and Its General Assembly." Clearly, then, there can be no autonomy 44 of the local church since the "whole church" exists only at the highest level. Thus, as you go higher, or to more board assemblies, within the church court structure, you also find more power and authority. The structure of the OPC's government, is federalistic. Power emanates from the top down, for it is at the top that you find the widest representation.45 The lower levels are only guaranteed what protection the 'constitution' affords.

Third, you find a unique situation in which a minister is not a member of the congregation of which he is minister:

  • Every minister shall be a member of the regional church and has communicant fellowship in any local congregation of that regional church. The presbytery, with the concurrence of a ministerial member, may request a session within its bounds to exercise pastoral care over him in its behalf. A session, with the concurrence of the presbytery, may grant the right to vote in the congregation to any ministerial member of the regional church.46

 
Notice well: the minister is a member of the regional church and so has communicant fellowship in all of the local congregations under the control of presbytery.  Pastoral care for a minister belongs to presbytery which may, or may not, delegate it to a local session. The local session does not have jurisdiction over the minister of the Word. The minister is a member of presbytery and may only he disciplined by presbylery.47 Presbytery, as the governing body of the regional church, may call men to be evangelists, or teachers (not necessarily in a theological. college, or even in the field of biblical studies ), or "in some other specific way, such as writing or editing in the field or Christian religious education."48 These men are ministers called by presbytery and directly responsible to presbytery. No local church is involved in calling these ministers. As a result, theological professors, Christian school teachers, and assorted ecclesiastical bureaucrats are full voting members of presbytery. They are not delegated to presbytery by a local church, but they are members of presbytery. They are not members of a local church and need not even attend a local church--although such is frowned upon. First, last, and always, they are members of that regional church which has neither worship services nor the sacraments.

Finally, you must conclude that the relationship between the presbytery and the local session is, at least, implicitly hierarchical. Such was the design from the time of the Westminster Assembly on. 'Conservative' presbyterians assured the worried Anglicans that the presbytery was just the bishop "writ large."49 Presbyterianism has substituted a plurality of elders for the one man, but the power wielded is much the same. In fact, there is more than a trace of clericism in this structure. Theoretically, all ministers and ruling elders of the
local churches constitute the presbytery of the regional church. In reality, however, when the presbytery meets, all men called by the presbytery in specific ways and all ministers may vote, but only one ruling elder from each congregation may vote.

Edmund Clowney quotes Christian Reformed theologian W. Heyns as writing, "Only in the local church does the concept, the significance, the task of the church comes to its rights." He then goes on to note that the "authors of the Westminster Form of Government could not have written Heyns' first statement, and Presbyterians in general would feel called to dispute it." In fact, Clowney finds the entire Reformed emphasis on the "place of primacy given to the local church and its consistory" to be out of accord with the Presbyterian distinctive concerning the power of presbytery (called by Clowney the "organic principle" of presbyterian polity).50 Speaking from the Reformed side, I would have to agree with Clowney that the two polities differ significantly at this point.

Here again you see the results of the Westminster doctrine of the church. The Westminster Standards place an unwholesome emphasis upon the universal church, conceived of as the aggregate of credible confessors, and the invisible church, conceived of as the aggregate of the elect wherever they may be found. If the real visible church is the total of true confessors, inside or outside of the presbyterian communion, then the local church is not seen as the origin of authority in church government. Instead, the local church is merely a "slice of the pie" called the visible church. The government of the OPC is not Reformed and biblical, but it is collegialist.

The notion of church and its government if far different from the view set forth in the Three Forms of Unity. Here the emphasis is placed on the gathering work of Christ and on the responsibility of the Christian to assemble himself with Christ's flock. The church in view here is always visible, always the church with an address. Hence, the local church takes on a much greater importance. It is the place of Christ's gathering work; it is the place to which the believer must join himself. Until this fundamental difference is resolved, the two traditions will go their separate ways in terms of church government.
 

IV. The Situation at Blue Bell

All of the above helps us understand the situation which led to Blue Bell's separation from the OPC. Under the influence of Dr. J. Payton, the then-pastor of Blue Bell, who had been a student of Prof. N. Shepherd, the church at Blue Bell had begun to practice a form of confessional membership. New members of the church had to express a "knowledge of and commitment to" the Reformed faith. Blue Bell also began to ' fence ' the Lord's, Supper Table, admitting to the Table only those who were members in good standing in churches with which the OPC had fraternal relations. And as well, the session began the practice of catechism sermons from the Heidelberg Catechism in the second service.

Objections to all of these practices were voiced in the Presbytery of Philadelphia when the records of the church at Blue Bell were examined and the session was ordered to make a defense of these practices before Prosbytery. Before that defense took place , however, Dr. Payton followed the example of Prof. Shepherd and took a call I into the Christian Reformed Church. This, left. the church at Blue Bell with two elders and two deacons. One of the elders, however, was enamored of the theology of the Protestant Reformed Churches and wanted the congregation to leave the OPC to join the Protestant Reformed.  The other elder, and the majority of the congregation,did not want to go in that direction.The situation rapidly decayed and resulted in several men of the congregation seeking to have the elder with Protestant Reformed leanings deposed from office. They were informed by representatives of the presbytery of Philadelphia that this was not possible and that , moreover, Protestant Reformed covenant, theology was closer to the Westminster Standards than was the position of the majority of the congregation.

Instead, the Presbytery proposed a solution which was ingenious if nothing else: both elders should resign and Presbytery would appoint elders from other congregations as the interim session. This it was allowed to do according to the Form of Government, but the consent of the congregation had to be sought.51 Unfortunately, although Presbytery imposed elders from outside of the church at Blue Bell, the consent of the congregation was never sought. When members of the congregation later complained against this action, Presbytery said that consent ought to have been sought, but that the imposed interim session still was the true and legitimate session of Blue Bell, even without that consent. Here is Presbytery ordering "whatever pertains to the spiritual welfare of the churches under its care ."52

This session set about systematically to dismantle Blue Bell's distinctives. Early on in the dispute one of the members of the interim session wrote to the committee charge with finding a minister:
 

  • The requirements for church membership and for participation in the Lord's Supper should be no stricter--and no broader--than those for entrance into heaven Itself. The congregation at Blue Bell is a church of the Lord Jesus Christ and should welcome all. those who profess faith in him and give evidence in their lives that this faith is genuinely saving. Granted that the credibility of the evidence is subject to fallible judgment, both in terms of the profession made and the life practiced, the criterion of judgment must be in terms of what Christ himself would accept.

     This area of concern needs discussion, however, not dictums. What, defines saving faith, how consistent a Christian life must be demonstrated (admitting that no one of us is perfect), are areas of discussion and discernment. But the basic principle for membership and admission to the Table must he no more or less than Christ requires. There is no such thing as a Reformed church that limits itself to those who can fully accept, all major- doctrines of the Reformed faith; such a body is a sect,_ not a church. A church rightly in conformity to the Word will indeed require of its office-beavers that they be fully and self- consciously Reformed in doctrine and practice; it will require of its members no more than a credible profession in word and life, including a readiness to accept the loving discipline of its office-bearers.

  • The "one true church in each locality," as that idea developed in continental, particularly Dutch, circles, has grounding in Scripture. The Westminster Confession is entirely correct when it speaks of churches being "more or less pure"; that is the plain implication of Paul's letter to such churches as those in Corinth and Galatia--churches far from pure, but churches of Christ all the same. To strive to develop a "one true church" in Blue Bell is an unbiblical goal. 53

 

It was clear from the outset that Blue Bell's views on the doctrine of the covnant and the church, as well as it's practices concerning membership and the Lord's Supper, were not going to be tolerated --although we spent, the full of 1983 and the winter and spring of 1984 trying to be tolerated.

This interim session also used the pulpit to seek to tear down Blue Bell's 'distinctive'. Rev. J.J. Mitchell told us that there was no difference between the children of believers and the children of unbelievers. Further, in another sermon, he asserted that we were the church that had left its first love because we would not allow sincere Roman Catholics to partake of the Lord's Supper. Yet another time, we were the Pharisees to whom Christ would say, "Depart, from Me. I never knew you." At other times, various individuals who had defended the practices of the congregation were criticized from the pulpit. It became a game among some of the congregation to look at the text for the sermon in the bulletin, and then try to figure out how it would be turned against the congregation.

The interm session also did all that it could to block the selection of elders from among the congregation. After six months, it finally examined seven men for elder, but would only present two of that seven to the congregation. The other five were disqualified because of their positions on church membership, the Lord's Supper, the covenant, and the church. After the two were elected by the congregation, the interim session refused to ordain one of the men duly elected, and would ordain the other only after he renounced the 'distinctive' which he had held at the time of his election. After nine months, the church at Blue Bell was still ruled by elders imposed upon it by the Presbytery.

It was in May of 1984 that I went before the Presbytery or Philadelphia to be examined to he declared eligible for call. The Committee on Candidates and Credentials report on Candidate Kok:

  • The committee has examined Mr. Kok in all areas required by the Form of Government and presents him to the presbytery for examination with a view to licensure. The candidates has reservations regarding Mr. Kok's candidacy on the basis of his views on church membership and related matters ....[Mr. Kok] holds a traditional Reformed Church position on the requirements for church membership and admission to the Lord's supper. The committee believes such views to be incompatible with the Presbyterian view. 54

 
The Presbytery evidently agreed for I was rejected by a vote of 19 to 2. Objections to my view of the covenant were voiced by Rev. A. Kuschke and objections to my view of the church were voiced by nearly everyone else. I was asked if I would give Billy Graham the Lord's Supper and I said that since Graham was an Arminian, a Baptist, and a Dispensationalist, I did not think that I could. One elder, seeking to be helpful, asked that although I held these convictions, I was not saying that everyone should, was I? I responded that if what I believed was true, everyone should practice it; if it was false, no one should; but it could not be true for me and false for someone else. In the end, it was said that I gave offense to Christ's little ones and set stumbling blocks before His lambs. On the other hand, it was said that I had an excellent grasp of the Reformed faith and should be encouraged to seek ordination within a Reformed church, instead within the OPC. The shepherds were telling the sheep to seek another fold.

It had become clear, then, that Presbytery would not allow Blue Bell to have it's own elders, nor to have a minister who held to its 'distinctive' positions. Spring and early summer, 1984 degenerated quickly into charges and counter-charges between the interim session and the majority of the congregation. At one point, two men of the congregation were disciplined because they had met on Sunday afternoons to study the Heidelberg Catechism. By the end of July, the congregation had taken the first of two votes necessary to withdraw from the OPC.55 This was done in preparation for a special presbytery meeting scheduled for August 10.  At that meeting, presbytery upheld the legitimacy of the interim session and postponed dealing with the complaints concerning church membership and the Lord's Supper. During that meeting, the interim session resigned and Presbytery appointed a three man committee to deal with the substantive issues at Blue Bell.

This committee came to Blue Bell and tried to find a compromise solution. First, they declared that the remaining complaints concerning church membership and the Lord's Supper were inadmissable because they were complaints against the actions of the interim session which no longer existed. In one stroke, the complaints were eliminated.56 Second, this committee sought to present to the congregation two of the seven men who had been rejected as nominees for elder by the interim session. This action, however, was stymied by the actions of members of the former interim session. Finally, they tried to bring less divisive preaching to Blue Bell. Again, members of the former interim session were able to stop this as well.

This, then, was the situation at the end of September, 1984. The complaints of the members of the congregation were dismissed as having no standing. The congregation was still not allowed to have elders from among its members and was faced with the prospect of yet another imposed interim session. Thus, on October 7, 1984, the congregation at Blue Bell separated itself from the OPC.

But should not Blue Bell have appealed all the way to General Assembly? In effect, the congregation did. Now there was no way, given the situation, that Blue Bell could have remained within the OPC and appealed to General Assembly while maintaining its integrity as a church, We were forced outside of the OPC. Yet, just as presbytery must examine and approve or censure the records or local session so, too, general assembly must examine and approve or censure the records of each preshytery.57

The church at Blue Boll sent out a 75 page report to every OPC congregation and requested that the Presbytery of Philadephia's handling of the matter he challenged. 58 At the General Assembly that summer, however, the records of the Presbytery of Philadelphia were approved without challenge. It, cannot be maintained that the churches as a whole were not informed about the issues at Blue Bell, nor can it be maintained that the issue was not dealt with at the broadest level. This approach may have been indirect, but it was the only route open in the given situation.
 

V. The Church at Laurel and the Lord's Supper

Of necessity, I will be somewhat briefer here. Rev. Hofford has already published an account of the struggle at. Laurel in Shield and Sword. I will limit myself to a discussion of the decision of the Fiftieth General Assembly regarding the complaint of Rev. Hofford, et. al., and I will rely on the evaluation given by Classis Ontario-South, December 9, 1987.59

The complaint, in simplest form, was against the session or the Burtonsville OPC for replacing a somewhat strict oversight of the Lord's Table on the part, of the elders with a mere verbal warning on the part of the minister prior to the celebration of the sacrament. The committee reporting to the General Assembly affirms that this verbal warning is allowed for by the "practice of the Presbyterian churches." This policy consisted of the following: "The table will be verbally fenced but open to members in good standing with their churches. It will be requested that those who partake will sign communion cards. The visitors' home churches will be notified of their participation. Continued eligibility of adherents of Covenant Church will be considered by Session on an individual basis."60 This procedure, at best, allows for discipline after the fact and represents an abdication of the elders responsibility to guard the Table.

Consider the opening or the Table to all in good standing in their churches : but. which churches? The Baptist? the Roman Catholic? Are all churches equal in this regard? (Of course, given the OPC doctrine of the church, all churches are equal, more or less.) This committee also stated that it was up to each individual session to determine how the Lord's Supper ought to be celebrated.61 Yet, here classes Ontario-South rightly notes:

  • Although it may he true that the Session must take into account the circumstances of the church, this may not have the priority. The priority must be what God says in His Word. This may run counter to what we consider to be the needs of the congregation. This point makes the circumstances the norm instead of the Word of God. This invalidates this point so that it cannot be a ground for denial of the complaint.62

 The OPC General Assembly decided that a session may legitimately leave it up to the individual whether he shall partake of the Supper or not.

The answer to the complaint makes clear the pluriformity of the OPC view of the church. The committee observed:

  • Just as we risk abuse by limiting our requirements for church membership so as not to deny baptism to the weak who make credible profession of faith, so we may risk abuse of the Supper in limiting our requirements for visitors to members of evangelical churches, but we may do so in order not to deny the Supper to those who are joined to Christ and to His church invisible.The privilege of offering 
  • to visitors the Sacrament of the Supper is not simply a gracious extension of Christian communion on the part of of the government of a particular church. .Far less is it an irregular or unauthorized assumption of spiritual jurisdiction. It is rather a proper and requisite expression of the catholicicity of the church and of the character of church government presented inthe New Testament. 63.

    It is clear that the OPC considers all evangelical churches, Reformed and non-Reformed, to be true churches. Indeed, the committee is critical of judging evangelical churches solely by the marks of the church and of judging an individual because of his church affiliation.64 Surely Classis Ontario-South was 

    right to object to this equation of evangelical church with true church. And surely this Classis was right to judge that this approach takes "refuge in an invisible church concept, undermining covenant responsibility.  65

The committee for the General Assembly also concluded that a verbal warning was in accord with the judgment of charity, because Christian love "believeth all things" (I Cor. 13:7). Thus, the verbal warning shows the "spiritual hospitality of welcoming love" and properly shows credit to the word of a brother or sister. Indeed, to demand "official certification" could easily compromise our witness to the Table as the Lord's."66 Such reasoning is the path to madness; this lifts the passage out of its context and has the net effect of negating the elders responsibility to guard the Table.67 In fact, it makes the elders direct supervision a thing to be avoided.

In the end, the committee argues that it is better to risk having the Table abused than to be too "exclusive."68 Again, Classis rightly noted that this approach plays down the seriousness of God's Judgment:

  • Classis considers that in this statement the Assembly shows more fear of displeasing men than of displeasing God. Our love for the neighbor may not exceed our love and obedience to Christ, Moreover by speaking of "our witness to the Table as the Lord's" the Assembly creates a false dilemma. The Table is indeed the Lord's, and is therefore the Table which the Head of the Table entrusts to His ordained elders to guard and to keep. Removing the discipline connected with the Table from the elders and leaving it to the direct discipline of God is a pious fallacy. Participation in the holy things of the Lord by those who have not "discerned the body" indeed brings the wrath of God upon the whole congregation. Witness Nurnbers 16:20 -24; Joshua 7:10 -15; II Chronicles 30:18-20; I Corinthians 11:29-30; Heidelberg Catechism Q.A. 82. It has therefore 

    pleased God to charge the elders with the exercise of discipline connected with the Lord's Table as is evident from many places in Scripture, e.g. I Corinthians 5; II Thessalonians 3:6, 14.69

     
    The method or celebrating the Lord's Supper which is certainly allowed within the OPC and which this General Assembly seems to commend is out of accord with Scripture and the Three Forms of Unity. The covenant responsibility of the church to delight God and abide by His  truth requires saying "no" as well as saying "yes. " And a church which cannot say "no" soon loses its ability to say "yes." A church which distinguishes between the faith it confesses and the faith necessary for salvation has already set out upon the path from true to false church, because it has denied Christ's presence and teaching in its midst. We must conclude from this method of celebrating the Lord's Supper that the OPC has lost the ability to say "no." We must also conclude that the OPC does, in fact, distinguish between its standards and the faith necessary for salvation. So we must also inescapably conclude that, the OPC has set out on the path from true to false church.
     

VI. Conclusion

We have seen that the OPC cannot, be called a confessional church. The members of the church are not bound to the Standards. Only ministers and elders are bound to the Standards and then only to the system of doctrine contained within the Standards.For the OPC to be seen as a confessional church, then, either the church must. be defined as its office-bearers, or a doctrine of implicit faith must be brought in, i.e. the people implicitly believe what the ministers and elders believe.

Further we have seen that there are serious problems with the Westminster Standards themselves. By the OPC's own admission, it contains two antagonistic doctrines on the covenant; its doctrine of the church emasculates the call to come out and be separate; and its doctrine of assurance is unbiblical. The church government informed by these doctrines of the covenant and the church is, at best, collegialist and hierarchical; it denies the legitimate rights and authority of the local congregation.

Finally, in the histories of the churches at Blue Bell and Laurel, we have seen how these Factors work themselves out. What. then are we to conclude?

After 12 years of ecclesiastical contact, has the OPC drawn closer to our churches? Clearly not. After 12 years, can we say that only minor points of Church order and ecclesiastical practice separate us? Again, clearly not. After 12 years, have the differences between the OPC and ourselves ever been discussed by an OPC General Assembly? No. We must, then, question whether or not contact with the OPC is profitable and proper. The answer would appear that it is neither.

Rev. K. A. Kok  

First published in Shield and Sword.


Footnotes

1 "Church Order," Book of Praise (Winnipeg: Premier Printing, 1984, rev. ed.), p. 666.

2 Robert S. . Pau I , The Assembly of the Lord (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1985), pp. 496f., 539f.

3 Cf. ''The National Covenant," Westminster Confession of Faith (Glasgow: Free Presbyterian Publication, 1973), pp. 347ff.

4 A through study of the Adopting Act is to be found in James R. Payton, Jr., "Background and Significance of the Adopting Act of 1729," Pressing Toward the Mark, ed. C.G. Dennison and RX.C. Gamble (Philadelphia: The Committee for the Historian or the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 1986), pp. 131-145.

5 ibid ., p.137.

6 Charles Hodge, The Constitutional History of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1851; reprinted 1983), Part 1, p. 150.

7 ibid., pp. 150ff.

8 ibid. , p . 1 71 .

9 Robert L. Dabney, The Westminster Confessions and Creeds (Dallas: Presbyterian Heritage Publications, 1983; reprint of 1897 edition), pp. 16-17.

10 "Report of the Committee to Consider the Matter Proposed to the Assembly by the Presbytery of the West Coast," Minutes of The Thirty-Third General Assembly (Philadelphia: The Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 1967), pp. 92-96; "Report of the Committee to Consider the Matter Proposed to the Assembly by the Presbytery of Wisconsin," Minutes of The Thirty-Fourth General Assembly (Philadelphia: The Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 1968), pp. 135-36.

11 Cited by R.B. Gaffin, " On Being Reformed," The Bulletin of Westminister Theological Seminary ( 1985, no 4), p.4.

12 John Calvin, The Institutes of The Christian Religion, trans. F.L. Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960),vol. 2 p, 1012, Bk. 4.1.1.

13 OPC Form of Government XXXIII.8, p. 97.

14 Committee for Contact with the OPC, Report to General Synod Burlington-West 1986, p. 22.

15 This is the conclusion of Dr. J. Faber, "The Covenant of 'Works'," Clarion, vol. 31, no. 5, March 12, 1983, p. 91. The entire article is an excellent analysis of the idea of the covenant of works.

16 S.G. de Graaf, Promise and Deliverance, vol. 1 (St.Catherines: Paideia Press, 1977, trans. H.E. Runner), p. 37.

17 Willem Van Gemeren, "Systems of Continuity," Continuity and Discontinuity (Westchester: Crossway Books, 1988), ed. J.S. Feinberg, p. 43.

18 ibid., p. 43.

19 Geddes Mac Gregor, Corpus Christi - (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1958), pp. 23-42.

20 John Calvin, Institutes of The Christian Religion. IV.1.1.

21 Kenneth A. Kok, "Praedicatio Verbi Dei: The Nature and Authority of Preaching in Calvin's Theology," Unpublished Master's Thesis, Westminster Theological Seminary, 1985, pp. 17-20.

22 John Macpherson, The Doctrine of the Church in Scottish Theology, (Edinburgh, 1903), pp. 63f.

23 Report, p. 21.

24 John Murray, "The Church: Its Definition in terms of 'Visible' and 'Invisible' Invalid," Collected Writings, vol. 1 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1976), pp. 231ff. John Murray, "The Theology of the Westminster Confession of Faith," Scripture and Confession, ed. John Skilton (N.P.: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1973), pp. 146-148.

25 This is precisely what Edmund Clowney does in his book written for the publishing branch of the OPC, Living in Christ's Church (Philadelphia: Great Commissions, 1986), pp. 103-107.

26 Charles Hodge, The Church and It's Polity (New York:Thomas Nelson and Son, 1879), p. 5.

27 ibid., p. 7.

28 Report, p. 22.

29 Form of Government IV.4, p. 14.

30 This is the definition of the church given by J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (Grand Rapids,: Eerdmans, 1974, reprint of 1923 edition), pp. 169f.

31 As the CEIR puts it, "A further consideration in this regard is the matter of subscription to the Confession of the Church. In the second ordination vow of the OPC the question is asked: 'Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures?' This vow and an affirmative answer to it, has never been interpreted by us as involving an ipsissima verba understanding of subscription. What is demanded is a sincere receiving and adopting as our own the confessional documents as containing the system of doctrine set forth in the Scriptures." Report, p. 22.

32 Minutes of The Thirty-third General Assembly, April 25-28, 19661 p.94.

33 Charles Hodge, I and II Corinthians, Ephesians (Wilmington: Sovereign Grace, 1972), pp. 71-73

34 Gaffin, op cit ., p .4.

35 Rev. De Jong notes the attitude of the synodical churches in "The Significance of The Liberation of 1944 for the Gathering of the Church Today,'' Secession and Liberation For Today,  ed. Rev. J. Mulder (London: I.L.P.B., 1986), p. 22.

36 Hodge, The Church and  It's Polity, pp. 218-224.

37 Report, p. 22

38 Form of Government, XIV.1, p. 50.

39 ibid., XIV.2 p. 50.

40 This explanation of the presbytery is taken from Thomas Witherow, The Form of The Christian Temple: Being a treatise on the Constitution of the New Testament Church (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1889), pp. 173-188. Also see Edmund P. Clowney, "Distinctive Emphases in Presbyterian Church Polity," Church Order and Church Union, Reformed Ecumenical Synod Conference Papers (N.P., 1967), pp. 8-12. The same essay is re-printed unchanged in Pressing Toward The Mark: Essays Commemorating Fifty Years qf The Orthodox Presbyterian Church, ed. C.G. Dennison and R.G. Gamble (Philadelphia: Committee for the Historian of the OPC, 1986), pp. 99-110. See especially pp. 105-109. Clowney's essay is important because he is consciously distinguishing presbyterian government from Reformed polity.

41 Form of Government, XIV.5, pp. 50-51.

42 ibid.,XII.1,p.41.

43 This explains why the Presbyterians present at the ICRC meeting had no problem proposing the celebration of the Lord's Supper; after all, if presbytery is a church, why not a conference as well?

44 Autonomy here does not mean congregationalism. Rather, it. means that, each congregation is a full and complete church, and has all the gifts and marks which go along with that status. .Just, because each congregation is the body of Christ there is the necessity for joining together in federation.

45 At this point I am reminded of what one OPC minister told myself and another member of the church at Blue Bell. He argued strongly that no congregation has everything necessary to be a church. Instead, he. said that. the church only exists when you add together all of the congregations, and all of the Christians throughout the world.

46 Form of Government VI.4, pp. 21-22.

47 ibid., XIV.6. Also The Book of Discipline, II.C.2, p. 168.

48 ibid. , IX. 2, 1). 31

49 Robert S. Paul, The Assembly of the Lord (Edinburgh: T. T. Clark, 1985), pp. 90f, 345.

50 Clowney, "Distinctive Emphases," p. 11 (p. 108 in Dennison, et al.).He quotes W. Heyns, Kybernetiek (Grand Rapids: 1910 mimeo), p. 157.

51 Form of Government XI I I. 10, p. 47.

52 ibid. , X IV. 5, p. 5 0.

53 The Reverend John J. Mitchell, Letter to the Pulpit comittee of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Blue Bell, October 16,1983, p.2 Emphasis added.

54 Annual Report of the Committee on Candidates and Credentials to the Presbytery of Philadelphia, May 1, 1983-April 30, 1984, pp. 3-4

55 Form of Government, XVI.7, p. 61.

56 In September, 1984 , a former member of the interim session complained against, the "plenary" powers given this committee to deal with the complaints. This objection was upheld and the committee was disbanded. The same three men were then appointed to a new committee with essentially the same mandate and power.

57 Form of Government, XV.7, p. 57.

58 The document was entitled "The Controversy at Blue Bell OPC" and was sent out on January 14, t985. This document was later sent to all of the churches within the Federation of Canadian and American Reformed Churches.

59 This decision is reported on in the press release, Clarion, vote 37, no. 6, March 18, 1988, pp. 134-136,

60 Minutes of The Fiftieth General Assembly of The Orthodox Presbyterian Church, June 2-9, 1983, pp. 12l-122.

61 ibid..

62 "Press Release," p. 135.

63 Minutes, 1983, pp. 123-124.

64 ibid., p. 123.

65 "Press Release," p. 135.

66 Minutes, 1983, p. 123.

67 "Press Release," p. 135.

68 Minutes, p. 123, passim.

69 "Press Release," pp. 135-136.

 

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