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.