In 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.