A Report On the 220th General Synod of the ARP Church

Good Morning,

What a week. The 220th General Synod will be remembered for a lot of things: good preaching, spending a whole day on one recommendation (we’re not the OPC), lots of good stuff on the inter-church front, condemning Masonic orders, kicking the can down the road on women deacons/deaconnesses (however you say that), and erecting a study committee to deal with ESS (I’ll explain what this is in a minute) in a twenty-year old paper online. However, for those present at Bonclarken from June 11-13 there is one phrase none of us wants to ever hear again. This needs to go to the Committee On Revisions first. I’ve decided that if one of my kids is playing the fool I am going to start threatening with sending them to the Revisions committee if they don’t get themselves together.

Let me start this review by saying being ARP is the best. I love the spirit, the comradery, and the genuine seriousness mixed with a lack of arrogance which makes us unique in the modern confessional world. As I say all the time, in the ARP we are Reformed, but not mad about it. No place was this more evident than our ability to laugh at ourselves. As I was acting reading clerk I completely skipped a recommendation in a report, and no one went to a mic to scold, or passive aggressively point out my mistake. I noticed it, the Synod had a big laugh about it, and we moved on. That’s not to say things didn’t get heated, they did. You can’t dissolve a whole presbytery, especially for the reasons the Synod decided to do it, and not have the temperature rise in the room. We got intemperate at times, even our Canadians showed some emotion. But, at the end of it the ARP moved to do what it needed to do, not just for recent events, though they were the primary motivation, as it should be, but for a being a place where the basics of Christian life could not be held without controversy. Dissolving a Presbytery is never a light action, it needs gravitas, Biblical mercy and grace, and the hard love of a brother for a brother.

I don’t want to get into the nitty gritty of the because at the heart of how we got there are some very sensitive issues. You can probably find them online elsewhere but for the sake of the victims I’ll let them tell their own story. Suffice to say that sin must be strangled in its crib, if not, it will destroy everything around it. A 224 year old presbytery will cease to exist on September 1, 2024 because of the misguided, and gaslighted Presbyterian shenanigans of men under the sway of an individual who did not have the church of Christ in his heart. Presbyterianism is the Scripturally commanded form of government, and when it is used as a parlor game to abuse trust it is as ugly as anything man ever made. Yet, when followed is the best way to help.

One of the things you learn as you get older is that it is a lot easier and simpler just to do the right thing than to try and stop something from happening that you may not like. There is also a lesson to be learned from Numbers 32:23 as well.

One of the things some learned this week is that in the ARP the Synod is an appellate court, not a court of top-down commands. This makes us more Scottish than some of our American Presbyterian compatriots and points to some of the differences concerning being a Synod versus a General Assembly. I lost count how many times the Parliamentarian had to get up and remind the body that the Synod cannot tell you to do something. Only the Presbyteries, or the local Session, can do that. It can encourage, it can condemn, or even bless, but only the lower courts have teeth, excepting certain judicial cases. An action I alluded to above, concerning Freemasonry, is a good example of that. We as a Synod passed some recommendations about Secret Societies, which include a set of questions that a local church session can use to help their members and other members of the local church think through whether or not being a member of the Lodge is in keeping with their Christian commitments, and make certain that the local church knew the Synod’s feelings on it the Synod passed this statement, “That the 220th General Synod explicitly and forthrightly declare that Freemasonry is incompatible with Christianity.” While the Synod left it up to the personal conscience of each individual man, the wording of the above motion has little room for nuance. This is a sensitive issue that demands pastoral counsel and care, regardless of what your personal opinion may be on the matter.

A couple other matters worth noting from Synod this week is that while we dissolved one presbytery, we also began the work of dismissing another, in this case for sad, yet good reasons. There were even motions brought forward to stop our Canadian brothers from absconding north of the border. Yet, in good Christian love the ARP Synod (which I guess is of the South again since we are in that direction from Canada) voted to allow the Canadian Presbytery of the ARP to begin the process of establishing their own, national ARP denomination to begin September 1, 2025. I can’t express in words how much I am going to miss our Canadian brothers. Many of us look up to those men with gratitude at their humble strength, quick wit, and the times where their erudition teaches us backwoods folks some new words. The ARP in one Synod went from Ten Presbyteries, to soon-to-be Eight. It’s an interesting time to be ARP, but the Lord continues to bless us in many ways and I want to end with a few examples.

In some ways the most underrated, yet important thing to happen at Synod this week was the bringing in of our IPAR (Iglesia Presbiteriana Asociada Reformada de Mexico) brothers as fraternal fellows. What this means practically is that it opens up opportunities for peer-to-peer ministry works, especially around education and missions. We are hopeful that as much as we can be of help to our brothers in Mexico, that this is actually much more of a blessing to us in the States as we can learn from them for ministry to the growing Hispanic population in the U.S.A. The first fruits of that are already being seen in conversations happening with Erskine Seminary and Comunidad Reformada de Estudio Superiores (CRES), the denominational seminaries of the ARP and IPAR respectively. Likewise, World Witness’s SEED Ministry are looking into ways to help the Huasteca people learn more of Christ in concert with IPAR’s existing churches and presbyteries in the region.

As we begin this renewing of a relationship began in the 19th century we also got to hear from a dear friend of the ARP, Rev. Zeeshan Saddiq, of the ARP Church of Pakistan. We look forward to the future when we can become even closer, and there is a chance of that as the ARP Inter-Church committee looks to travel to Pakistan in the near future. Likewise brothers from the OPC, RPCNA, Canadian Reformed Churches, and the United Reformed Churches gave fraternal greetings. It’s always a great help to hear how the Lord is working in our sister denominations as we work together for God’s glory. We have a lot to learn, if we listen.

I mentioned above that I would say a little bit about the study committee we made to study the issue of Eternal Subordination of the Son (the second person of the Trinity). To try and summarize it the issue is over the unity of the Godhead, and whether or not God as the Bible reveals Jesus Christ to us in His divinity and humanity has one will or two wills, one human and one divine, and how that plays out in the relationship between the Father and the Son. If you would like more here is a good place to start.

In closing, it was a great week, as it always is. My good friend Jeff Temple likes to say that the ARP Synod is like a family picnic. Sometimes at family events things can get heated, not one hates like family, and no one loves like family, yet at the end-of-the-day we all still family. That’s the way it is in the ARP. We don’t feel like we need to be anyone other than we are. No need to be pretentious, because we ain’t, and we are fine with that. If you need to peacock to feel special, well there is another place you can be. We just who we are, in Christ, to the ends of the earth, together.

Blessings in Him,

Rev. Benjamin Glaser

Pastor, Bethany ARP Church

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