Tuesday, October 14, 2014

New Pamphlet from the OPC

The Orthodox Presbyterian Church has just published a new pamphlet designed to introduce people to the gospel and to the OPC.  In the pamphlet, there is a brief discussion of the fact that the OPC is a "Presbyterian" church and particularly the fact that, as a Presbyterian church, the OPC is "connectional":

The Orthodox Presbyterian Church is also a Presbyterian church.  In its essence, this means that we are confessional and connectional. . . .

We are connectional.  We also express our connectional character by our intentional structure.  Congregations in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church are led by their elders, who serve on the local (session), regional (presbytery) and national (general assembly) levels.  At every stage, our church government provides accountability and connects each congregation to the worldwide mission of the church.  Together, we seek to establish the worship of God and take the gospel to all people everywhere.

The question left unanswered here is how does the OPC understand its relationship to other denominations in light of its presbyterianism?  The implication of this collegial and catholic view of the unity of the church is that denominational separation involves a mutual charge of schism and a mutual rejection of each others' de jure legitimacy and authority.  Thus, the OPC, in remaining separate from other denominations such as the PCA or the FPCS, is charging these other denominations with schism and rejecting their objective legality.  The OPC, therefore, ought to make this position more clear and explicit.  If it doesn't want to affirm this, then it needs to unite immediately with other denominations whose legality it accepts in order to honor the catholicity and collegiality of the visible church.  If it doesn't want to do either of these things, then it needs to stop pretending to be a Presbyterian church.

Since the OPC has clearly affirmed that it holds to Presbyterianism (and has written some great stuff on this point, such as this document), I will assume until I have clear reason to do otherwise that it understands (at least on paper) its relationship with other denominations in a presbyterian manner, even while calling it to do better at expressing its position clearly and consistently.

For more, see here, here, and here.


Chris Cole said...

Actually, the OPC voted in 1982 for a three-way merger with the PCA and the RPCES. That merger was voted down by the PCA (which then proceeded with the merger with the RPCES). Further, the OPC exists because its founders were expelled from the then-PCUSA for defending the biblical Gospel. To accuse them of schism is patently false. I am not a member of the OPC, but I felt compeeled to defend them from an unfair accusation.

Mark Hausam said...

Hi Chris,

Yes, I know that the OPC once voted to merge with the PCA. The more pertinent question is, Do they still wish to do this today? If they accept the legality of the PCA, then they have an obligation to try to unite with them. If the PCA refuses to unite with them upon their trying, then they ought to charge the PCA with schism and call a council, inviting both OPC and PCA elders to come, and in that council debate it out and resolve the conflict. Trying to join, and then sitting back and doing nothing afterwards, would be to abandon the care and collegiality of the catholic church. I haven't seen the OPC doing much towards seeking immediate organic union with the PCA lately. I don't think they would still vote to merge with them.

My opinion is that the OPC does not want to merge with the PCA, and thus that it does not accept the PCA's legality. That is what I said in the last paragraph.

I suppose that the "unjust accusation" you think I have made is in not giving credit to the OPC for trying to merge with the PCA back in the early 80s? My response is this: 1. I acknowledge that they did this. 2. If they still think the PCA has legitimacy, they should be doing it again, and following through as I outlined above. 3. I don't think they want to merge with the PCA anymore, and thus don't attribute legitimacy to them. In that case, I think they are doing just what they should do, except that I think they should be clearer and more explicit as to the meaning of their continued separation from the PCA.

Does that make sense? Feel free to clarify your point further if I've missed it, or if you want to add something or respond to anything I have said. Dialogue is always welcome, and is greatly needed in these matters!

In Christ,


Mark Hausam said...

Here is an article that speaks to some of the issues discussed in my previous reply--particularly the question of what to do when a church tries to merge with another church and the other church won't cooperate.


Chris Cole said...

Hi, Mark,
I cannot speak to the current attitude of the OPC, since I am no longer a member (I moved to an area without an OPC congregation). I am now a member of the ARPC, which is attempting to promote greater unity with the RPCNA, with which we share some historical roots.

All three share fraternal relations, both directly, and through NAPARC. Personally, it seems to me that, since the ARPC is the oldest of the evangelical presbyterian churches, the others should be seeking to join us. I am especially happy to point out that, in its 232 years, the ARPC has never suffered a schism, and is itself the result of an colonial-era merger.

Mark Hausam said...

Hi Chris,

Yes, I think that's the way we should be going about it. We have to look at all the denominations, their doctrine, practice, and history, and ascertain who has a right of separate existence, and then we should all join that denomination. This is the only Presbyterian way to go.

The ARPC seems like a good church. As a member of the FPCS, I'm interested in dialoguing with ARPCers in order to figure out why we are divided from each other today, so that we can work to attain unity in the truth.