Visit to OPC Presbytery
On Saturday morning I had the pleasure of visiting a meeting of the OPC Presbytery of Michigan and Ontario. It was held in Sheffield, just down the road from Hamilton here. I’d never been to a presbytery meeting before, so this was a new experience. Of course, you hear things but to see it in action is quite different.
A presbytery is in some ways like a classis in continental Reformed polity. It is a largish group with people from various local churches in attendance. However, in other ways it is more like a consistory. For instance, it is a permanent body. The presbytery is always in existence, whereas as a classis only exists when it is meeting and then it ceases to exist. The only permanent body in continental Reformed polity is the consistory. Also, in the OPC, while the ruling elders are all members of their local churches, the ministers (teaching elders) are members of the presbytery. Therefore, the presbytery is responsible for the oversight of ministers.
This was especially in evidence on Saturday morning. The presbytery was dealing with a disciplinary matter involving a minister. In our churches, such a matter would have been first dealt with by the local consistory and then, if necessary, brought to a classis for approbation or appeal. But in the OPC (and other presbyterian churches, I assume), the discipline of a minister starts at the presbytery.
Another noteworthy difference was that this matter was handled in open session. There were quite a few visitors in attendance and all the details of the case were shared openly. If a matter like this were to come to a Canadian Reformed classis, it would be handled in closed session since it deals with persons. One could debate the virtues of transparency versus protecting reputations, but (as they say) it is what it is.
There are other differences, of course. Yet despite the differences, I felt at home with these brothers. There is obviously a shared commitment to Christ and his Word, and a deep love for the Reformed faith. We can be thankful for our relationship with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. May God continue to bless them richly.
Wes, did you providentially meet my friend Markus Jeromin, young OPC minister, who was there? He is supposed to be sent to Germany to work alongside of me in Heidelberg.
Yes! He was sitting beside me. I didn’t know he was coming to work with you. That’s great.
Great! That’s wonderful! We need all the help we can get. Any Can RC missionaries you want to send our way? Seriously, how would we go about looking into this possibility?
I think it would be great if we could help you out. I think the first step would be to get the word out there about the work you’re doing. Perhaps I can write an article about your work. Let’s talk…
Does this method leave itself open to abuse whereby the presbytery could discipline / depose ministers where they shouldnt?
Could. Just from a pragmatic perspective (leaving aside the debate about the principles undergirding our systems), the Presbyterian system seems to be more geared towards protecting ministers, while ours seems to be more geared towards protecting local churches and their prerogatives.