Category Archives: General Synod

212th Stated Meeting Of The General Synod Of The Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church

arpc_2846216In the midst of a very busy week for meetings of the highest governing bodies (substitute courts, judicatories or councils if you wish) the next one I want to highlight is the 212th Stated Meeting of the General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.

The meeting begins today, 7 June, and continues until Thursday, 9 June, at the church’s Bonclarken conference center in Flat Rock, North Carolina.

The basic documents for the meeting are posted. There is the tri-fold program, and the more focused meeting schedule. The book of Reports and other documents related to the business of the Synod is also online. And there was also a PreSynod program featuring Josh Packard taking about Church Refugees, a workshop related to his book of the same name.

This Synod does not have a live stream, but it has the next best thing — The ARP’s official media outlet. ARP Magazine will be extensively covering the meeting on their news feed, Facebook page and on Instagram. The news feed will also be the place to look for daily updates every evening. They are also the official Twitter feed for the meeting as well (@arpmagazine) and the hashtag is #arpcsynod2016. Other official and related entity feeds that may or may not be active include the main @ARPChurch, Outreach North America (@ONA_ARP), World Witness (@theworldwitness), and Erskine Seminary (@ErskineSeminary). The latter two are significantly fresher than the first pair.

Individuals who I follow but that may or may not be tweeting during the meeting include ARP pastors Benjamin Glaser (@BenjaminPGlaser) and Clint Davis (@cleetus74). It looks like Michael Cochran (@koineguy) is at the meeting and actively tweeting. As always, I will update with others as the meeting progresses.

While this meeting does not have the level of interest and excitement as last year’s joint meeting with the Reformed Presbyterian Church General Synod, there are a few business items that caught my eye. One that carries some polity, parliamentary and theological interest is Memorial #5 that suggests changes to the recently adopted revision to the Form of Government. The issue in play here is that the categories of Active and Inactive members were eliminated in the revision and it is now just members. There are five recommendations that propose changes to better work with this new arrangement but maybe the most interesting, and possibly problematic, is one that would let each session decide how many “capable and eligible” members there are. While the interest in local flexibility is worthwhile, among the issues that it raises are the lack of a definition could lead to inconsistency across the denomination, it would be a de facto reinstituting of active and inactive members, and the proposed wording could open the session to possible charges of favoritism and politics if some members see viewpoints as part of who is eligible and who is not.

The Committee on Theological and Social Concerns has a couple interesting items as well. One would have the Synod adopt a position statement expressing concern that “The Word of God gives no warrant, expressed or implied…” for women in combat and so they should be excluded from selective service and inclusion in combat forces. The also ask that a position paper regarding race relations and the APRC be received as information. That paper can be found beginning on the 50th page of the Reports Book and may be the single longest document in the book.

A few other interesting actions include an invitation to the Free Church of Scotland to enter into fraternal relations, revisions to the Manual of Authorities and Duties for the Board of Erskine College and Seminary, and a revision of a membership vow to return an emphasis on accepting the “doctrines and principles” of the church.

So, as the business meeting gets off to a start we pray for their deliberations and look forward to hearing how they are guided by the Holy Spirit in their business.

 

General Assembly Season 2016

May 1st – The date on my calendar that marks the beginning of the General Assembly Season. This is our binge year, or we max out on GA’s, as we can include the two biennial assemblies and the triennial one.

So buckle up and here we go.

As always, this is the line-up as I know it – I will update as I clarify additional Assembly and Synod meetings.

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61st General Assembly
Presbyterian Church in Taiwan
29 March-1 April 2016

 

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Synod
The Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia
3-5 May 2016
Mt. Druitt, N.S.W.

 

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General Assembly
Presbyterian Church of Tasmania
10 May 2016 (begins)

 

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General Assembly
Church of Scotland
21-27 May 2016
Edinburgh

 

 

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General Assembly
Free Church of Scotland (Continuing)
23-26 May, 2016
Edinburgh

 

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General Assembly
Free Church of Scotland
23-26 May 2016
Edinburgh

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General Assembly
Presbyterian Church of South Australia
22 May 2016 (anticipated) No Assembly this year – see comment below

 

Presbyterian_Church_in_Canada_(logo)142nd General Assembly
Presbyterian Church in Canada
3-6 June 2016
York University
Toronto, Ontario

bush

 

General Assembly
Presbyterian Church in Ireland
6-10 June 2016
Belfast

 

arpc_2846216
212th Stated Meeting of the General Synod
Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church
7-9 June 2016
Bonclarken
Flat Rock, North Carolina

 

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General Assembly
United Free Church of Scotland
8-10 June 2016
Perth

 

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83rd General Assembly
Orthodox Presbyterian Church
8-14 June 2016
Sandy Cove Conference Center
North East, Maryland

 

logo+pcusa222nd General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
18-25 June 2016
Portland, Oregon

 

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General Assembly
Presbyterian Church of Queensland
19-23 June 2016
Brisbane Boys College
Brisbane

 

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141st General Assembly
Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America

19-22 June 2016
Nashville, Tennessee
Concurrent with the Cumberland Presbyterian Church

 

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186th General Assembly
Cumberland Presbyterian Church
20-24 June 2016
Nashville, Tennessee
Concurrent with Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America

 

01645A81-A5D8-4EB1-9E4C30D14028D30744th General Assembly
Presbyterian Church in America
20-24 June 2016
Mobile, Alabama

 

EvangelicalPresbyterianChurchLogo
36th General Assembly
Evangelical Presbyterian Church
21-25 June 2016
Ward Church
Northville, Michigan

 

Reformed_Presbyterian_Church_of_North_America_(banner)

Synod
Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America
27-29 June 2016
Indiana Wesleyan University
Marion, Indiana

 

 

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N.S.W. State Assembly
Presbyterian Church of Australia
in the State of New South Wales

4 July 2016 (begins)
Croydon, N.S.W.

 

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80th General Synod
Bible Presbyterian Church
4-9 August 2016
Sharonville, Ohio

NYA_0National Youth Assembly
Church of Scotland
19-22 August 2016
Stirlingshire
(Technically not a governing
body, but still an Assembly I track)

pca-logo-4b-small
General Assembly
Presbyterian Church of Australia
12 September 2016 (begins)

 

 

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General Assembly
Presbyterian Church of Victoria
3 October 2016

 

 

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General Assembly
Presbyterian Church in Western Australia
28 October 2016
Peppermint Grove, WA

 

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General Assembly
Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand
15-19 November
University of Otago
Dunedin

 

These are the ones that I am tracking at the moment. I will update as appropriate. If I have missed one, or have information wrong or incomplete, please provide the appropriate information and I will update the list.

And, to make the GA season complete here are two more items…

The first is the series of articles I wrote as an introduction to Presbyterian General Assemblies seven years ago. My GA 101 series consists of the following

GA101: Preface
GA101: Introduction – Why in the world would anybody want to do it this way?
GA101: Connectionalism – The Presbyterian Big Picture
GA101: The Cast of Characters – A score card to identify the players
GA101: The Moderator – All Things In Moderation
GA101: Where does the GA business come from? – Incoming!
GA101: Doing the business of GA — Decently and in Order

Yes, what started as a six part series expanded into seven completed articles with two more unfinished ones (still) in the queue.

And finally, on to the ridiculous. Lest we take ourselves too seriously, a couple years ago I had a little fun with the General Assembly and in the post passed along the GA drinking game and GA Bingo. In addition, Allan Edwards has posted an alternate Bingo card to use or modify for your particular polity. Please play responsibly. 😉

So, for all the GA Junkies out there I wish you the best of GA seasons. May you enjoy the next few months of watching us do things decently and in order!

Top Ten Presbyterian News Topics Of 2015

Once again, as I think back on the year and review what has happened I decided to make a list of the different themes that stood out to me from different Presbyterian branches. Here, in no particular order, is my list. Your list may vary.

Racial Reconciliation

One of the more dramatic moments in a Presbyterian General Assembly this year occurred at the 43rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America. A good narration of the action comes from Travis Hutchinson’s blog. He begins his post with this description of the personal resolution offered from the floor of the Assembly:

Mississippi Teaching Elders, Drs Sean Lucas and Ligon Duncan entered a personal resolution at the beginning of the Assembly which acknowledged the involvement of our denomination (and our predecessor denomination) in promoting racism and failing to act to support the goals of the Civil Rights movement. It encouraged us to seek repentance and carry this message to our local churches. The resolution was referred to our Overtures Committee for a recommendation.

The Overtures Committee recommended referring it to the next GA to allow for it to be perfected but when it returned to the floor it was clear that many commissioners felt making the statement at the current Assembly was a more important action than waiting for refinement. But in that parallel universe that is Standing Rules and Parliamentary Procedure the choice before the Assembly was not to adopt the original motion but to refer it back to the Overtures Committee or refer it to the next GA. After much debate, a couple of votes and not a small amount of prayer the Assembly voted to send it to the next Assembly. Then a protest was filed “expressing [personal] confession of sin and hope for repentance.” Over 200 of the commissioners signed onto the protest according to the official news item. Another detailed description of the Assembly action on this item can be found on TE Timothy R. LeCroy’s blog.

Other news in this topic includes the continued work of the Reformed African American Network, the formation of the African American Presbyterian Fellowship within the PCA’s Mission to North America ministries, and the PC(USA) has launched an anti-racism campaign.

In the PC(USA) the presbyteries approved the addition of the Confession of Belhar to the Book of Confessions leaving only the final approval of the 222nd General Assembly in 2016.

Finally, in Canada, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission has been working with the indigenous peoples and at the release of their final report the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada made a statement that acknowledged the pain of the past while expressing hope for the future.

 

Mass Shootings and Gun Violence

With several high-profile mass shootings in the U.S. this year it may be impossible to chronicle every Presbyterian connection. But two in particular caught my attention. The first was the shootings at Charleston’s Emmanuel AME Church in June. Among many connections, the church has had a long and close connection to Second Presbyterian next door. I chronicled some of the many connections in a headlines piece at the time. The other tragedy was the recent San Bernardino shootings close to where I live and several friends were mentioned in local news stories about responses and pastoral care. The PC(USA) issued both a pastoral letter as well as an initial and then a follow-up news article.

In addition, the Vice-Moderator of the General Assembly, Larissa Kwong Abazia, issued her own personal statement about the situation and asking the denomination to seek ways to respond to gun violence in general. In addition, in light of all the shootings it was a year in which the PC(USA) film about gun violence, “Trigger“, was highlighted.

As I said above, there were multiple incidents world-wide and that same June Headlines piece also contained links to several stories about a terrorist attack in Tunisia that killed adherents from the Church of Scotland.

 

Presbyterian denominations and same-gender relationships

This was an issue across many Presbyterian branches this year with the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada beginning a study process to consider making their standards more inclusive and the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland debating and sending to the presbyteries under the Barrier Act the proposed changes to their governing documents. For the Canadian church the study documents have been released. In the case of the Kirk the indication is the changes to the Acts and Proceedings have been approved by a majority of the presbyteries but the results will not be certified until next year.

In the American Presbyterian church, the PC(USA) presbyteries approved a change in the definition of marriage in the Directory for Worship in the Book of Order. That change went into effect at the end of June and in early September the chapel at the PC(USA) national offices hosted its first same-gender wedding ceremony.

 

Reaction within the Presbyterian family to same-sex marriage decisions

The reaction to these decisions is worthy of its own item in the list with the reaction to the PC(USA) decision being swift and wide-spread. Within two weeks of the vote total being reached the National Black Church Initiative cut ties with the PC(USA) over the vote. A couple of months later the Independent Presbyterian Church of Brazil (IPIB) and the Evangelical Presbyterian and Reformed Church of Peru (IEPRP) ended mission partnerships on the national level. The PC(USA) has issued a news article acknowledging these breaks but also saying that other mission partners have decided to continue the partnerships.

Elsewhere, the decision by the Church of Scotland was a concern in the Presbyterian Church of Ireland which initially expressed “deep sorrow” at the decision and during their General Assembly decided that they would not send a representative to the Kirk’s 2016 General Assembly. Outside the Presbyterian family the Russian Orthodox Church has broken off ecumenical discussions with the Church of Scotland over this.

 

Shifting between Reformed branches

The movement of churches between different Presbyterian and Reformed branches continues unabated. ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians announced that their membership had grown to over 240 churches, most are congregations that have departed the PC(USA). In Scotland the Free Church continues to see a few congregations and ministers wishing to move from the Church of Scotland. In addition, a few churches completed the process of transferring from the Reformed Church in America to the PCA.

 

Property

With shifts in Reformed branches comes the question of taking or leaving property. Those moving from the Church of Scotland to the Free Church typically do not get to take it. University Reformed Church was assessed about $300,000 to take their campus to the PCA.

But bigger and more plentiful property disputes came from churches departing the PC(USA) including congregations that walked away, were graciously dismissed with a payment, kept their property in civil suits, lost their property in civil suits, and one of the more unusual cases where the court awarded the property to the PC(USA) faction of the congregation but not on behalf of the presbytery.

Other interesting property cases include a very convoluted property case in California with the KAPC and a case in Malawi where the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) “sued itself” over property.

 

Presbyterian branches working together

Particularly in light of very recent developments this might qualify as the most interesting topic of the year.

Let me begin with the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America whose Unification Task Force is on track to bring a proposed set of bylaws to the 2016 General Assembly. This would put the two denominations on track to make final approvals in 2017 and unite in a single general assembly in 2018.

While not a move with unification in sight, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America and the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church held their General Synods jointly in a move to strengthen the ties between these two streams of American Presbyterianism. For those not aware, each of these branches traces their heritage back to Scotland separately and apart from the mainstream branch of American Presbyterianism.

Finally, in a move that is not between two Presbyterian branches but between two national churches, the Church of Scotland and the Church of England just formally announced their intent to be more intentional in their joint work in what they are calling the Columba Declaration. This was followed by the Church of England’s Anglican partner in Scotland, the Scottish Episcopal Church, issuing something of a “what about us” statement.

 

Refugees

In putting this list together it seemed at times that I could have filled it with humanitarian crises. But if there is one that that Presbyterians world-wide seemed not just outspoken about but responsive to it would be the Middle East refugee crisis.

Regarding statements, these came from all quarters including the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Presbyterian Church in Canada, the Free Church of Scotland, the Church of Scotland, the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand, and the PC(USA), and many others.

In terms of action, there are accounts of relief and resettlement efforts all over the news. The Presbyterian Church in Ireland is partnering with the Hungarian Reformed Church. Presbyterian churches are among those across Canada ready to help resettle refugees. Similar things can be said for the U.S. where, among many towns and churches, Trinity Presbyterian in Atlanta is ready to sponsor two families. And in Princeton, NJ, Nassau Presbyterian Church and the Seminary are working together to help resettle a family.

And we also have the account of a PC(USA) group traveling to Turkey and seeing relief efforts first hand as they worked in a local soup kitchen and food pantry to help feed Syrian refugees.

In another refugee story, the final Central American individual who found sanctuary at Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson was able to go home after 15 months under a confidential agreement. However, with an announced round of deportations coming up the church, with others, has responded that they are ready to offer sanctuary to more refugees who fear for their lives if they are deported.

 

Membership trends continue

Not much new to say here. As with all the mainstream churches in the U.S., the PC(USA) membership decline continues with a loss of 2.1% in the number of congregations and a 5.3% decline in the total membership. What is interesting, at least to me, is that when normalized and compared the membership decline in the PC(USA) over the last decade is very similar to the decline in the Church of Scotland.

 

Publications and Media

Not sure what it was this year but publications and media, particularly those recognized with awards and honors, seemed to catch my attention more than most years.

Let me begin with the Learn resources from the Church of Scotland, particularly the Learn Eldership book that I reviewed last spring. It has been joined by two additional pieces – hard to call the relatively short How Will Our Children Have Faith? a book – that I might get time to review in the future.

But the series in general, and the Learn Eldership in particular, have been recognized by different organizations. In addition to being a best seller, Eldership was a finalist in the Publications category of the Scottish Creative Awards. It was also recognized in the Innovation category as being among the crème-de-la crème of Scottish magazines in the Scottish Magazine Awards.

From Westminster John Knox Press we have a winner of the 2015 Christianity Today Book Awards in the Theology/Ethics category. It is Faith Speaking Understanding: Performing the Drama of Doctrine by Kevin J. Vanhoozer. (Yes, technically announced in 2014 but awarded in 2015)

I would also include in this topic the just-released book by Dr. Sean Michael Lucas, For A Continuing Church: The roots of the Presbyterian Church in America. It is described as the “first full scholarly account of the theological and social forces that brought about [the PCA’s] creation.”

Finally, two films directed by PC(USA) Presbyterian Disaster Assistance agency photojournalist David Barnhart have been invited to the Beaufort International Film Festival in February. The films are “Kepulihan: When the Waters Recede” about the aftermath of the 2004 Indonesian Tsunami and “Locked in a Box” about immigration detention facilities.

 

So there you have my list of what caught my attention.

Some of you may be wondering where all the issues that were happening in Louisville are? In my list above I tried to capture more broad themes and those are more denomination specific. But, to add them here the news out of Louisville included: an outside audit of cost overruns at the last Presbyterian Youth Triennium; continued investigation, dismissals and lawsuits related to the New Church Initiative fiscal management; the departure of Linda Valentine and hiring of Tony de la Rosa in the Executive Director position; the search for a new Stated Clerk and Gradye Parsons announcing he would not apply again; and the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s own budget crisis.

For more information specific to the PC(USA) you can check out the Presbyterian Outlook’s list of top stories. For that matter, the Free Church of Scotland has their own year in review, and the Church of Scotland Mission and Discipleship agency has one as well.

And so I hope that 2015 was a good year for you and my prayers for all of you for a good 2016. My year will start out on a very high note, so stay tuned for that. Until then

Happy New Year and a Joyful Hogmanay

General Assembly Season 2015

It is the First of May, the day I have traditionally used to mark the start of the General Assembly Season. (Although you will see it started a bit before that.)

There is lots of excitement ahead this year so get ready.

Here is this year’s line-up as I know it now. I will update as I clarify additional Assembly and Synod meetings.

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60th General Assembly
and 150th Anniversary of the founding
Presbyterian Church in Taiwan
7-10 April 2015

 

pcea_logo
Synod
The Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia
5-7 May 2015
Mt. Druitt, N.S.W.

 

pca_tasmania_logo
General Assembly
Presbyterian Church of Tasmania
12 May 2015 (begins)

 

Logo_of_the_Church_of_Scotland
General Assembly
Church of Scotland
16-22 May 2015
Edinburgh

 

 

Free-Church-Continuing-logo

General Assembly
Free Church of Scotland Continuing
18-21 May, 2015
Edinburgh

 

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General Assembly
Free Church of Scotland
18-21 May 2015
Edinburgh

pca-logo-1a-hires

 

General Assembly
Presbyterian Church of South Australia
25 May 2014 (begins)
Naracoorte, S.A.

 

bush

 

General Assembly
Presbyterian Church in Ireland
1-4 June 2015
Belfast

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82nd General Assembly
Orthodox Presbyterian Church
3-9 June 2015
Dordt College
Sioux Center, Iowa

 

Presbyterian_Church_in_Canada_(logo)141st General Assembly
Presbyterian Church in Canada
4-8 June 2015
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, B.C.

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140th General Assembly
Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America

7-10 June 2015
Huntsville, Alabama

 

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Synod
Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland
8-10 June 2015
Bready

 

 

Reformed_Presbyterian_Church_of_North_America_(banner)
Synod
Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America
8-12 June 2015
Bonclarken
Flat Rock, North Carolina
Concurrent with the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church

 

arpc_2846216
211th Stated Meeting of the General Synod
Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church
9-11 June 2015
Bonclarken
Flat Rock, North Carolina
Concurrent with the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America

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43rd General Assembly
Presbyterian Church in America
8-12 June 2015
Chattanooga, Tennessee
(And the logo at left was proposed last year and referred so we will see what the report back is.)

 

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General Assembly
United Free Church of Scotland
10-12 June 2015
Perth

 

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185th General Assembly
Cumberland Presbyterian Church
19-26 June 2015
Cali, Columbia

 

EvangelicalPresbyterianChurchLogo
35th General Assembly
Evangelical Presbyterian Church
23-27 June 2015
Orlando, Florida

 

pca-logo-4b-small
General Assembly
Presbyterian Church of Queensland
21-25 June 2015

 

 

pca-logo-4f-small
N.S.W. State Assembly
and 150th Anniversary Celebration
Presbyterian Church of Australia
in the State of New South Wales

29 June 2015 (begins)
Croydon, N.S.W.

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79th General Synod
Bible Presbyterian Church
6-11 August 2015
Cape Canaveral, Florida

NYA_0National Youth Assembly
Church of Scotland
14-17 August 2015
Stirlingshire
(Technically not a governing
body, but still an Assembly I track)

pcv_logo
General Assembly
Presbyterian Church of Victoria
5-8 October 2015

 

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General Assembly
Presbyterian Church in Western Australia
30 October 2015
Peppermint Grove, WA

 

And in case you were looking for one of these high-profile GA’s, they are not annual events and you will have to wait for next year:

These are the ones that I am tracking at the moment.  I will update as appropriate.  If I have missed one, or have information wrong or incomplete, please provide the appropriate information and I will update the list.

And, to make the GA season complete here are two more items…

The first is the series of articles I wrote as an introduction to Presbyterian General Assemblies seven years ago.  My GA 101 series consists of the following

GA101: Preface
GA101: Introduction – Why in the world would anybody want to do it this way?
GA101: Connectionalism – The Presbyterian Big Picture
GA101: The Cast of Characters – A score card to identify the players
GA101: The Moderator – All Things In Moderation
GA101: Where does the GA business come from? – Incoming!
GA101: Doing the business of GA — Decently and in Order

Yes, what started as a six part series expanded into seven completed articles with two more unfinished ones in the queue.  (Maybe this will give me some motivation to finish those up.)

And finally, on to the ridiculous.  Lest we take ourselves too seriously, a couple years ago I had a little fun with the General Assembly and in the post passed along the GA drinking game and GA Bingo. Please play both responsibly. 😉

So, for all the GA Junkies out there I wish you the best of GA seasons.  May you enjoy the next few months of watching us do things decently and in order!

Presbyterian News Headlines For The First Half Of December 2014

Moving on to the next group of headlines, here are a few things that caught my attention.

A good chunk of Church of Scotland news in this period including the following:

An honorary degree from Glasgow University for a former Moderator

Honorary degree for former Moderator Lorna Hood – from The Scotsman

A challenge from the Moderator and questions about trying to grow the Kirk, including connecting online

Moderator hopes 100,000 people click with Kirk – from The Scotsman

Doubts over whether new stance on gay clergy could revive Kirk membership – from The Press and Journal

Church of Scotland: Will online outreach help ailing attendance figures? – from Christian Today

Moderator calls for Church to redefine membership in digital age – from Church of Scotland

The launch of the Scottish Leaders Welfare Group that includes the Church of Scotland. And for a bit of context, the issue of poverty was an important one in the Indy Ref campaign as well as the ongoing work of the Kirk, which will be regularly mentioned in these headlines posts.

Church and union leaders unite in bid to end cruel austerity measures in Scotland – from Daily Record

 And in worship news

New Gaelic hymn book launched – Hebrides News; compiled by a church in Skye with new and classic hymns; the continued use of Gaelic in worship is a major factor in maintaining the language

 

The issue of religious conscience in a commercial setting and same-sex marriage has become a hot topic in the U.S. but there is similar controversy about it elsewhere, in this case Northern Ireland, and the local presbytery sides with the baker after Equality Commission ruled against them:

Presbytery backs Ashers in legal row – from Ballymena Times

 

And similarly, dwindling congregations can be found the world over as well, in this case a church in Andersons Bay, New Zealand

Historic church’s future in doubt – Otago Daily Times

 

At the annual conference of the Mizoram Synod in that province of India:

Mizoram Synod turns down proposal to ordain women theologians – from Business Standard

 

From the U.S., one of the more unique stories of the time period…

Shurat Hadin charges US Presbyterian Church with having ties to Hezbollah: Israeli NGO says tax-free status should be revoked. – from The Jerusalem Post

 

Water projects built by the Presbyterian Church of Ghana

Presby[terian] Moderator commissions water projects for Northern and Upper presbyteries – from ModernGhana

Upper Presbytery Commission Water Project at the Cost of GHc 100,000 – from MyGhanaOnline

 

Buildings, buildings and more buildings…

W. Lebanon Church Has New Owner – from Valley News; former Seventh Day Adventist building bought by Providence Presbyterian Church (OPC)

Old Sutersville church may yet survive – from Trib Live; former Presbyterian Church building, believed oldest structure in borough, saved from wrecking ball for now.

Insurance costs could shut Inverness’ Old High Church – from BBC News

For Neighbors, Construction On Kansas City Church Is Good News – from Kansas City Public Media; update on a previously mentioned redevelopment project by the presbytery

First Look: Downtown church’s $17.7M transformation into a community center – from Columbus Business First

These Philadelphians Want to Get Closer to Their Neighbors – from Next City; a church being converted into a cohousing development

 

That’s it for now. Moving on to the next topic.

210th General Synod Of The Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church

Beginning tomorrow, Tuesday 10 June, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church will convene the 210th Stated Meeting of the General Synod. The meeting, running until Thursday morning, 12 June, will be held at the ARPC conference center Bonclarken, in Flat Rock, North Carolina.

This meeting is not live streamed but the schedule and the reports packet are available online.

For the constitution and secondary standards, which will be necessary for this meeting, you can download the current version as a single document. For the individual parts you can download the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Form of Government or the 2012 Draft of the new FOG, the Directory for Public Worship and the Book of Discipline or the draft of the new Book of Discipline that is part of the discussion at this meeting but is itself being superseded.

News items about the meeting can be followed through the official ARP Magazine web page.

There is also a pre-Synod conference for Outreach North America and one following for World Focus 2014.

For social media you can watch the ARP Facebook page for updates or a better place to follow is the ARP Magazine Facebook page. The official feeds on Twitter are @ARPChurch and @ARPMagazine. The official hashtag has been announced as #Synod2014, but while the ARP Synod may be the dominant one using the hashtag this week, you are advised to read carefully since a couple other discussions are using that hashtag, including lingering conversation from the URC Synod Visalia that finished last week and the meeting of the Diocese of Guyana this week. In various threads I have also seen suggestions for using the hashtags #arpsynod, #GeneralSynodARPC and #210ARPGS so some tweets may appear under those as well. (Personally, I would have gone for #arpsynod as the least confusing and most character efficient but I am kinda late weighing in.)

UPDATE: As the Synod gets under way it appears that #210ARPGS is the crowd favorite for a hashtag. Looks awkward to me since it reminds me of one of the LA Freeways.

Besides the official Twitter feeds, a couple more that stand out so far include Andy Stager (@ARStager), Daniel Wells (@danielfwells) and  Michael Cochran (@koineguy – and I’m with you on the hashtag preference). There is also the parody account @ARPModerator which has not been active since last Synod, but you might want to keep an eye on it.

Considering what I am most interested in some of the business before this Synod is the most interesting that I have seen queued up for this year.

Leading off is a discussion of their version of the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) and whether to drop two sections and a declaratory statement added roughly a century ago. The sections are 35 Of the Holy Spirit and 36 Of the Gospel. The Special Committee reviewing these later sections recommends eliminating them from the WCF and returning the WCF to a form closer to the original. Their report begins on the 48th page of the packet and picking one short piece from their report they say:

Our committee finds that our current version of the WCF deviates from our historic identity as an evangelical, Reformed and confessional Church that is passionate about the Gospel. Our current WCF with the two additional chapters, Of the Holy Spirit and Of the Gospel, are relics of 20th-century theological modernism’s movement away from historic, confessional Calvinism. Both additional chapters—by emphasizing human agency in salvation—alter the original WCF’s design that highlights God’s sovereign, eternal decree to save sinners by grace alone.

They go on to argue that “The brilliance of the WCF is found in its pervasive treatment of the person and work of the Holy Spirit throughout many chapters.” For a good review of the development of the WCF and the inclusion of those sections the rest of the report is an interesting read.

Turning to Presbyterian polity, both the Form of Government and the Book of Discipline are being revised. Maybe the most interesting development is a decision by the committee working on the Book of Discipline to reshape that document and their revision may not be ready for this meeting. They explain it this way (38th page of the packet):

However, during the meeting on February 17, the committee decided to change the emphasis of the Book of Discipline from an adversarial format to a pastoral, shepherding, board of inquiry format, which we submit is more Biblical. In light of this change in paradigm, your committee is completely revising the draft revision (hereinafter referred to as Draft # 1) which was included in the 2013 Synod Packet. We hope to have this new draft (hereinafter referred to as Draft #2) ready for this General Synod. However, failing that, we will endeavor to have Draft # 2 circulated, so that we can receive suggestions and comments, and ultimately produce a user-friendly document (a “Discipline for Dummies,” if you will) which will edify the church and bring glory and honor to our Heavenly Father.

The revision to the Form of Government was approved at the last General Synod and sent down to the presbyteries for their concurrence. At this Synod meeting there is a memorial (some other branches would call it an overture) from Catawba Presbytery (142nd page of the packet) to “delay its implementation until such time has passed that the amendment process can correct any flaws or include such suggestions which were not deemed of enough import to convince the Committee to include them in the proposal.”

Finally, what is an ARP General Synod meeting without breaking news from its college and seminary, Erskine. It was recently reported that a top candidate for the position of President of Erskine pulled out of the running because objections were raised that he was a Baptist and not a Presbyterian. This could produce interesting discussion, although in the Erskine report (114th page of the packet) was produced before the short list was presented to the full Board of Trustees. However, the report does highlight positive responses from the Erskine Board to recommendations from the last General Synod.

Those are the business items that caught my attention and it will be interesting to see how those, and other business items, develop over the next few days. As always, prayers for the commissioners to the General Synod for their prayerful discernment and productive discussions around these and all the matters they have before them.

General Assembly Season 2014


As the First of May rolls around we mark the start of the 2014 General Assembly Season.

Are you ready for an interesting year of Assemblies?

Here is this year’s line-up as I know it now. I will update as I clarify additional Assembly meetings.

  59th General Assembly
Presbyterian Church in Taiwan

  22-25 April 2014
Tainan

  General Assembly
Presbyterian Church of Tasmania
  13 May 2014 (begins)

  General Assembly
Church of Scotland

17-23 May 2014
Edinburgh

  General Assembly
Free Church of Scotland Continuing
19-22 May, 2014
Edinburgh

  General Assembly
Free Church of Scotland
19-23 May 2014
Edinburgh

  General Assembly
Presbyterian Church of South Australia
26 May 2014 (begins)
North Adelaide, S.A.

  140th General Assembly

Presbyterian Church in Canada
30 May – 2 June 2014
Wilfrid Laurier University
Waterloo, Ontario

  General Assembly
Presbyterian Church in Ireland
 
2-6 June 2014
Belfast

General Assembly
United Free Church of Scotland
  4-6 June 2014
Perth

81st General Assembly

Orthodox Presbyterian Church
4-10 June 2014
Kuyper College
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Synod
Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland
9-11 June 2014
Dervock

210th Stated Meeting of the General Synod

Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church

10-12 June 2014
Bonclarken
Flat Rock, North Carolina

221st General Assembly (2014)

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
14-21 June 2014
Detroit, Michigan
(note this is a biennial Assembly)

139th General Assembly
Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America

15-18 June 2014
Chattanooga, Tennessee

184th General Assembly
Cumberland Presbyterian Church
16-20 June 2014
Chattanooga, Tennessee

42nd General Assembly

Presbyterian Church in America
17-20 June 2014
Houston, Texas

34th General Assembly

Evangelical Presbyterian Church
17-21 June 2014
Knoxville, Tennessee

  General Assembly
Presbyterian Church of Queensland

  30 June – 3 July 2014
Clayfield (Brisbane), QLD

  N.S.W. State Assembly
Presbyterian Church of Australia
in the State of New South Wales

 
30 June 2014 (begins)
Croydon, N.S.W.

  78th General Synod
Bible Presbyterian Church
31 July – 5 August 2014
Olympia, Washington

  National Youth Assembly

Church of Scotland

15-18 August 2014
Stirlingshire
(Technically not a governing
body, but still an Assembly I track)

  14th General Assembly
Presbyterian Church of Ghana

15-21 August 2014
Abetifi Kwahu

  General Synod
ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians
18 August 2014
Dallas, Texas

  6th General Assembly
Evangelical Presbyterian Church — Ghana
August 2014
Ho

  General Assembly
Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand

  3-7 October 2014
Saint Kentigern College
Auckland

  General Assembly
Presbyterian Church of Victoria
  6 October 2014

  General Assembly
Presbyterian Church in Western Australia
  24 October 2014

These are the ones that I am tracking at the moment.  I will update as
appropriate.  If I have missed one, or have information wrong or incomplete, please provide the appropriate information and I will update the list.

And, to make the GA season complete here are two more items…

The first is the series of articles I wrote as an introduction to Presbyterian General Assemblies six years ago.  My GA 101 series consists of the following

GA101: Preface
GA101: Introduction – Why in the world would anybody want to do it this way?
GA101: Connectionalism – The Presbyterian Big Picture
GA101: The Cast of Characters – A score card to identify the players
GA101: The Moderator – All Things In Moderation
GA101: Where does the GA business come from? – Incoming!
GA101: Doing the business of GA — Decently and in Order

Yes, what started as a six part series expanded into seven
completed articles with two more unfinished ones in the queue.  (Maybe
this will give me some motivation to finish those up.)

And finally, on to the ridiculous.  Lest we take ourselves too seriously, a couple years ago I had a little fun with the General Assembly and in the post passed along the GA drinking game and GA Bingo. Please play both responsibly.

So, for all the GA Junkies out there I wish you the best of GA
seasons.  May you enjoy the next few months of watching us do things
decently and in order!

77th General Synod Of The Bible Presbyterian Church

I have been remiss in not mentioning the the 77th General Synod of the Bible Presbyterian Church which got underway last Thursday, August 1, and will conclude tomorrow.  The Synod is meeting at Grand Island Bible Presbyterian Church in Grand Island, NY.

This is typically a pretty quiet meeting while it is under way and so far I have not seen any updates through mainstream or social media.

There is one place you can get some of the flavor of the meeting and that is through the talks and sermons that the host church is posting on its web site.

Sometime following the meeting we can expect important business items to be posted on the News and Resolutions page.

And if you want to check out their constitutional documents, their confessional and polity documents can be found on their Our Beliefs page.

So we wish them well for their Synod and offer our prayers for God’s guidance in their deliberations and discernment. And we look forward to the updates following the meeting.

166th General Synod Of The Presbyterian Church Of Eastern Australia


My thanks to a regular reader who brought to my attention the 166th General Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia.

  This branch is not one that I regularly track and the Synod meeting did not make it onto my earlier list. It is a small branch but lays claim to being the oldest Presbyterian denomination in Australia. And while it was not a formal branch of the Free Church of Scotland, it did adopt the “Free Church” label and generally paralleled it in belief and practice. It is a continuing church being the descendant of those churches which did not join the state churches leading up to their federation that formed the Presbyterian Church of Australia in 1901. It is also worth noting that in style of worship they follow the Regulative Principle and their singing is in the style of unaccompanied psalmody.

For further information about this Presbyterian branch I refer you to the various pages that are part of the Introducing Ourselves section of the web site. You can also find their polity documents in their Handbook of Practice and Procedure.

The Annual Meeting of the Synod was held 7 to 9 May, 2013, in Wauchope, NSW. For information about the details of the meeting the Minutes are posted and the church’s publication, Presbyterian Banner, has a summary and some pictures in the June issue with a continuation in the July issue. It also includes the sermons given by the outgoing Moderator, Sjirk Bajema, and the new Moderator, Andres Miranda.

I do not see the reports to Synod online so a couple of the items that caught my attention in the summary and minutes are missing context and details. One of these is the ongoing work related to church property. The property of the denomination is held by trustees with a set of trustees appropriate to each state the church is in. Last fall the Parliament of the State of Victoria adopted modifications to the appropriate property act and this Synod approved modifications for the State of New South Wales. The two presbyteries in the state are now given the opportunity to make minor modifications before it is sent on to the civil government for their action.

I would presume that modifications are similar for the two states. In Victoria, the changes made included some minor ones, but one of the more notable changes was the dropping of the word “Free” from the name of the church. What seems to be the most significant change to the act is the granting of more power to the trustees to manage properties and the funds under their control.

The other business item that looks interesting, and I would be very interested in seeing the final product, is a series of brief statements on the topics of yoga, a Christian’s right to protest, homosexual marriage, and abortion. In the published summary it is suggested that they will hopefully be published in the Presbyterian Banner in the near future.

This looks to have been a productive and efficient meeting and a successful one from the prospective of the business of the church as well as the fellowship and encouragement of the servants of the church. Well done and I will try to remember to include the church on my list next year.

Presbyterian News Headlines For The Week Ending June 22, 2013


With the numerous Assemblies and Synods that have been happening over the last few weeks I have pushed the news headlines off to the side in favor of my following and commenting on the meetings. Having gotten a bit caught up, let me offer a few of the headlines that caught my attention last week and maybe I will later do an omnibus to cover a couple of interesting items that transpired in the earlier weeks.

First, a few interesting items not from a Presbyterian body but other Reformed bodies that have parallels or application to Presbyterians.

From the Christian Reformed Church General Synod:

Join a Faraway Classis If You Must, Synod Tells Churches – The Banner. CRC Churches allowed to join a non-adjoining classis for theological affinity.

Synod Approves New Study on Ministry to Those Who Are Gay – The Banner

And so far from the Reformed Church in America (The meeting is still going on):

Reformed Church Removes ‘Conscience’ Exemption for Women’s Ordination – Christian Post

Problems at the Presbyterian University of East Africa with financial and academic scandals:

Presbyterian University of East Africa given six months to comply with law – Standard Digital News: Need to get a charter or else license will expire

Students expose more rot at troubled Presbyterian University of East Africa University – Standard Digital News

Uhuru Kenyatta’s principal secretary nominee caught in varsity scandals – Standard Digital News: Political nominee was chair of the University Council

From the Mizoram, India, Synod:

Marriage should be between man and woman only: Mizo church – Times of India

Mizoram Presbyterian Church issues dress code for women – Mizonews.net

In other news…

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance receives grant from Red Cross
Disaster News Network: To coordinate housing for Sandy relief workers

Obituary: Elizabeth Anne Cameron ‘Betty’ Walls, former general secretary of the Overseas Council of the Church of Scotland – The Scotsman