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or the draft of the new Book of Discipline that is part of the discussion at this meeting but is itself being superseded.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.

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