Reflections on the 85th General Assembly of the OPC, Part 1: Ecumenicity

Ecumenicity is simply a term used to speak of how denominations work with one another.  The Orthodox Presbyterian Church has a committee on Ecumenicity and Interchurch Relations.  The committee works hard throughout the year strengthening our ties with many Presbyterian and Reformed denominations around the world.  Currently, we are Ecclesiastical Fellowship with twenty different churches.  We are in Corresponding Relationships with nine churches.  We are in Ecumenical Contact with fifteen churches.  For more information on how we work with other churches I will refer you to the following website:  https://www.opc.org/icr.html

This year’s General Assembly showed forth the great efforts of Ecumenicity as we met in joint sessions with the United Reformed Churches in North America (URCNA) [www.urcna.org].  They held their Synod concurrently as we held our General Assembly.  We met together for a joint worship service on Monday afternoon.  We began each day at 8AM with a joint devotional service.  And we had a closing worship service together on Friday afternoon.  In addition, each evening we gathered in joint session to discuss work common to both churches.  On Tuesday evening we discussed ecumenicity and our history to one another (this weekly thought). On Wednesday evening we discussed Home Missions (next Friday’s weekly thought).  And Thursday evening we discussed Foreign Missions (the weekly thought in two weeks). 

Part of the reason for our gathering together this year as two churches was to celebrate the publication of a joint Trinity Psalter-Hymnal.  Back in 2006 the seventy-third GA began work on a Psalter-Hymnal project.  In 2011 the seventy-eighth GA created a special committee to work on this project and extended a special invitation to the URCNA to work with us to develop a Psalter-Hymnal for use in a wide range of confessional Presbyterian and Reformed Churches.  This year we celebrated as two churches the culmination of those efforts.  I think the finished project does a great job of combining the best of both musical traditions in the church.  There are arrangements of all 150 Psalms as well as great Hymns of the church, bringing together the great traditions of Psalmody and Hymnody in church music.  I am sure this will be a great worship tool that will be useful to the church for many years to come.  

In addition, on Tuesday night we discussed our relationship as two churches and our history together.  The OPC came out of the PCUSA in 1936 due to the battle for modernism where the Word of God was being compromised.  In much the same way the URCNA came out of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) in 1996 due to the Word of God being compromised.   Between 1956-1973 the OPC and the CRC were talking of organic union—two churches becoming one church.  Those talks did not come to fruition, but it was interesting at this current General Assembly meeting on Tuesday night to hear the brief discussion of a possible union in the future in God’s timing.  Two churches candidly discussed their differences and prayed for the future and how we can continue to work together on projects such as the joint Psalter-Hymnal.  Be encouraged at unity in the body of Christ that is a true unity based on solid doctrine and based on the Word of God and not based on the lowest common denominator.  In today’s world unity means that the Gospel is watered down so far that almost no one would object to it.  However, if unity is not a unity based upon God’s Word it is not a true unity at all.  

Next week I hope to discuss Home Missions and share the great things that God is doing as churches are being planted, people are being reached with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and as God continues to build His Kingdom. I want to encourage you to pray for the unity of Christ’s church.  It is difficult for brothers to hold one another accountable to the Word of God at times.  Other denominations opening up ordained offices to women has damaged relationships and even severed relationships with churches in recent years.  However, it is a sweet thing when brothers dwell together in unity and for that, we continue to pray.

Psalm 133:1, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”