Next Month, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARPC) and the Reformed Presbyterian Church North America (RPCNA) will hold corresponding Synods at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. This event is the second concurrent meeting of our synods. The first was held in June of 2015 at Bonclarken (the ARPC conference center in Flat Rock, North Carolina). It was wonderful to meet in 2015. This meeting in 2019 is a unique opportunity for both our denominations to further the progress made in 2015.
There is much that the ARPC can learn from the RPCNA. They are a third of our size and run a college and seminary, publish a magazine, and have had tremendous successes in planting churches. Hopefully, there are things that they can learn from the ARPC as well. It is always good to look at another church and see how they accomplish the work of ministry. One of the main things I have learned from my RPCNA friends is their great love for Christ and their great trust in Him for the ministry of the church.
Our concurrent synods will allow us to get to know each other better. I have been blessed to get to know many of the RPCNA ministers and elders. I have appreciated the writings of Gordon Keddie, Michael LeFebvre, and Rosaria Butterfield. My family has been blessed to be in their homes, and I have had many chances to preach in their pulpits. It is my hope and desire that real friendships will develop through our meetings this June and that these friendships will bless our own lives and our churches.
There are panel discussions and seminars planned to help us better understand each other's structure and views. There will be formal times of worship with men from each denomination preaching. My real hope is that each of us will come back with two or three men that we can build a relationship for the future. We are living in an age where we need to have good friends who understand us and can support us. This is the reason why I think both of our denominations need each other.
Here are some ideas that you can do to help make our synods successful:
We need to be in prayer for these meetings. There will be the usual annual problems and issues to be dealt with by both denominations. However, there will be even more at stake with the concurrent synods. The great enemy does not want us to be friends. Satan wants to see us divided. Jesus is clear in John 17 that He desires us to be one so that the world might see and believe. Pray that we can see our synods grow closer to each other this year.
We need to go into these meetings with an open mind. We will not be at Bonclarken which means the ARPs will not know where everything is located. Schedule and flow will be different. As a result, there will be many opportunities to gripe and complain. But we must keep our eye on the bigger picture. We are going there for a reason, and it is worth the inconveniences.
We need to go there to make new friends. We are more alike than we realize. We need to build friendships. Do I see the RPCNA and ARPC merging in an organic union? I am not sure I do, but would it not be wonderful if we did! What I do know is that we need to be friends based on our common salvation, common theology, common heritage, and common future.
Finally, we need to eat lots of Oram's donuts. I mean even if everything goes haywire. There is always coffee and donuts — Oram's donuts. It could be that a casual conversation over coffee and donuts could be the start of a new friendship, a new project, a new connection that blesses God's people and brings glory to His name.