Synod/ Presbytery Report – Mar ’17

Synod is the highest court of the IPC that meets annually, it is comprised of all the voting elders of the English Presbytery, the European Proto Presbytery, The Korean speaking Presbytery in England and the South Korean Presbytery, altogether there are 91 voting elders spread across the world!!

 

For the first time we met on the continent in the OM Zav Centre in Belgium. The morning was taken up with a lecture from Jose Sagovia on the Reformation in Europe. Jose encouraged us not to think of the Reformation as a finished project in which we just take books off the shelves and study what the Reformers said. He closed with 4 applications
1. We need to rediscover the human problem of sin and be willing to address it.
2. The roots of the Reformation were in Revelation
3. Our strength has become our weakness – to give testimony should be to speak about Christ and not our  own experience. He had a lovely line about ‘we speak the truth realising we are part of the problem’ he then riffed on Martin Luther and Woody Allen
4. We must be more dependent on prayer

 

It was a real shame the address was not recorded, Jose is a great gift to the church he is fresh in his thinking and speaking.

 

The business part of Synod began in the afternoon and there was slight confusion over whether we were actually quorate. Initially we thought we weren’t but then somehow we were!! It’s going to be an ongoing issue for us as the South Korean Presbytery were only able to send one delegate of their 29 members. We debated it for quite a bit of the afternoon and I think it’s fair to say we’re not of one mind!!

 

We did decide to take church relations more seriously which I think that will be a good thing moving forward. The standing committee of Synod will take responsibility for this. I hope that will mean that we join the ICRC at some point in the future. It was a joy to have delegates from the GKV – Gereformeerde Kerken. in the Netherlands who were asked for their wisdom a few times. Reports were given from each of the Presbyteries……….

 

Korean speaking Presbytery in England – Puk Kyong Kim has retired as Moderator and thanks were expressed for his pioneer work over the years. There is a new church plant in New Malden.

 

English Presbytery – 2 new church plants – Brentford, Ilford, Leeds. A number of churches looking for buildings. An encouraging number of elders being trained across the denomination as well as the men under care of Presbytery. There have been discouragements too resignations and retirements to ill health this past year.

 

European Proto Presbytery – Welcomed a new church in Prague with 3 elders, aiming for 5 churches with a  growing number of relationships with churches and church plants across the denomination. In December had a Presbytery retreat where wives were invited along and had sessions on the implications of Covenant Theology – it was a great time for deepening relationships.

 

Korean Presbytery – 5 churches and other churches exploring joining. There are around about 20 elders going through the process of Ordination.

 

Synod also approved the new book of liturgy that should be published in the next few months which is a very helpful document. Thanks were also given to Ranald Macauley who has written a history from his perspective over the early years of IPC. It’s a fascinating document and should be on the website shortly

 

We’ll next meet in the Kingston Korean Church next March.

 

The following day we were back for Presbytery which began with Ranald Macauley who is in his 61st year as a converted atheist  preached movingly to us from Psalm 1 & 2. He began by recounting how in 1955 he had walked out of a church in South Africa muttering under his breath “I do not believe in the Father, I do not believe in the Son, I do not believe in the Holy Spirit” after a year of living in the horror of a natural universe he came to Christ in Cambridge. Ranald spoke of the joy of being discovered by the Psalter in these 61 years, pointing us to the juxtaposition of  Psalm 1 & 2 the micro “blessed is the man” and macro “The nations”, how we are immediately projected into a situation of intense struggle and of an entire globe. It is the Word of God we must focus on. The laughing of God in Psalm 2 is the laughter of incredulity “you must be crazy”. The central issue today is that of a creator and creation on this we must be clear. It was warm hearted encouraging stuff.

 

The business part of Presbytery was brief and we dealt with church reports, Finance committee, Church Planting, Candidates and Credentials. It was a joy to welcome Peter Leach who has come ‘under care’ with a  view to entering the ministry. He has been working in Trinity, York for a year and will do another one before moving on to the next stage of training. We now have 8 men under care which is the most we’ve ever had……
Stephen Moore – working on a Phd in Leiden
Will Allen – Oak Hill
Adam Wilson – Westminster Seminary, Philadelphia
Gethin Jones – Westminster, Philadelphia
Chris Roberts – London Seminary
Sean Clokey – Edinburgh Theological Seminary
Steve Clark – at Immanuel Brentford looking to start theological education.

 

We had a discussion on how we move forward on the Synod question with various ideas proposed, we probably generated more heat than light and it may well be we just need to be patient. We’ve experienced growth over the last number of years and that brings its own issues.

 

There are two events happening over the coming months…
Catalyst 13-15 June in Ealing
Keystone Conference for those Aged 18-28 in York on 22/23 Sept
We meet next for Presbytery Fri 16/ Sat 17 June in Ealing

Prayer Points from Presbytery – Mar ’17

Grace Church, Larbert – Facing some accommodation issues – needing to find a temporary home for July – August. They are still looking for land and there is one possible option. Growth in the congregation has been more stable than spectacular but around 200 in the congregation now. Sean Clokey is halfway through his training at ETS

Trinity Church Aberdeen – Looking at a building and a need for wisdom and courage in this. Have been preaching through Luke’s gospel and encouraging the congregation to use Uncover doing 121’s with friends. This has seen encouraging results. Encouraged by having Ben Trainor on staff doing Cornhill part time.

HIC Inverness – Quite encouraged with recent growth – up to 50 people on a  Sunday morning, celebrating their 5th anniversary soon. Continued prayer for health of James and Jane Torrens

Trinity York – Encouraged – 2 elders are being put to the congregation which is good for the church but pray for unity in this. There has been an increase in attendance particularly in the number of Non Christians coming to church. Mums and Tots groups has started and a Drop in coffee for older folks. All their interns will finish this summer and so there’s a need to recruit new ones. Very grateful for Peter Leach coming under care and staying for another year.

Christ Church Derby – Lots of be thankful for, quite a number of new faces, 5 new members. Recently finished an evangelistic course and lots of good conversations. Pray for the Christ Church Central Leeds launch – it’s very exciting but that will have an effect on the congregation in Derby and particularly the finances as people move on. Pray for Jonty and George as they prepare to move house  – Ottilie Esther Grace Rhodes was born on 7 March.

New City Fellowship – Shepherds Bush – A stable time, have appointed a communications guy to the staff. Grateful for a woman who has moved back from New York. Marcus, Oong and Chris H meeting as a proto session and preaching through Acts. Grateful froa  Somali man coming and the music beginning to sound better

New Life Massih Ghar, Southall – Barry Schutter has just returned from a trip to India with the aim of reaching the families of people in NLMG back in India, helping publish books in India and real encouragement from a  girl in NLMG giving her testimony in Hyderabad.

Immanuel, Brentford – One of Stuart’s neighbours coming for a few months from Catholic background. There has been a family coming from the start and some people randomly coming. Hoping to run Life Explored after Easter. There are a number of pastor issue with older people who are frail and depression in the congregation.

All Nations, Ilford – Steady, Having an Away day in May. Pray for people on fringes for God to work. Still grappling with language issues and how to minister to those in a different language. Keep praying for a musician.

Grace Church, Kyle of Lochalsh – Not an easy situation. Week to week it seems to be settled and congregation is recovering. They are still below the scale where they need to be to call a minister. Hamish serving heroically

Ealing IPC – Training 4 men for eldership which is going well. On the building project, encouraged that we’ve been able to sort out legal situation CIO and a loan but the builders are proving problematic. Very grateful to have recently had Dariusz Bryckov with us from Poland and hope that we can have a long term partnership with the congregation in Warsaw. WE are looking at ways we can reach out to Polish people with the gospel. We are looking forward to having Gethin Jones work with us for a year and Chris Roberts coming back from London Seminary this summer. We need to pray for Graham who is having an operation for Colon cancer with quite a few uncertainties.

St Peter’s Liss – Has been a more settled time with loan elders working well together. The way forward plan for the congregation is being developed and there are encouragements. A pastoral search committee has been appointed.

Culcheth Community Church – Phil Wren has decided that he won’t serve as an elder and so Church Planting committee are talking to Bruce as to the best way forward  for the congregation.

Christ Church Central, Leeds – Jonty and George will be moving to Leeds in April.

Presbytery Report

Presbytery was held at Christ Church, Derby (CCD). The congregation have joined us in the last 3 years and have been a huge encouragement. Jonty Rhodes was the Church Planter and, 5 years on from the beginning of the work, he is leaving early in 2017 to head to Leeds to plant Christ Church Central. Joel Kendall was recently ordained and installed as the new minister in CCD. The church purchased a new building last year and this is the second time they’ve hosted Presbytery. The meetings began properly with worship on Friday afternoon. We sang Frank Houghton’s hymn ‘ Facing a Task Unfinished’. Frank Houghton was a well known OMF Missionary and, accompanying us on the piano was his grandson Tim, an elder at CCD. Andrew Randall who is the minister in Grace, Larbert preached very helpfully from 2 Timothy 4 on epitaphs – Demas – ‘In love with this world’, Mark – ‘Useful for ministry’, Alexander – ‘Did me great harm’ and Paul – ‘Strong in the Lord’.

 

The business began with reports from the different churches and then we dealt with lots of the admin things regarding Presbytery, Data Protection Policy, Reports from Trips to the US, Visa Sponsorship, Delegates to the  European photo Presbytery. The Candidates and Credentials Committee reported back. We managed to get it done ahead of time and then different folk went off to places to eat and to the homes of people from Christ Church Derby.

 

Saturday morning started with the first of Jonny Gibson’s sermons from 2 Peter 3. He gave the big theme as ‘Ethics by Eschatology’ – how do we live now in the light of then? The first talk was from 2 Peter 3:1-10 – ‘Unembarrassed Supernaturalism – Recovering our eschatology’ – There were lots of great insights into the text. I liked the point about us often being told to avoid certain places in scripture in our evangelism – don’t open the can of worms. Peter on the other hand proclaimed angels, creation, the flood and Sodom and Gomorrah. In dealing with the scoffers question ‘Where is the promise of his coming?’ Jonny’s first point was ‘Remember God’s powerful word in Creation and the Flood’ and secondly, in dealing with the Question of the Scoffers – Gods timing is not our timing. God isn’t being slow he is being patient; Christ’s coming will be surprising and exposing. The second talk, 2 Peter 3:11-18 gave us 4 points on living in the present in the light of the future:

 

1. In light of the coming judgement live holy and godly lives v11,12.
2. In the light of the coming renewal live pure and ‘at peace’ lives, v12,13 – Jonny had a beautiful illustration of going into the sun. We feel it’s heat and light at the same time. In the same way we receive justification and sanctification – Christ for sin and Christ died to sin.
3. In the light of coming judgement and renewal, be patient.
4. In the light of Bible twisters, guard and grow.

 

Both sessions were very helpful. It’s so encouraging to have good, solid teaching at Presbytery. It means that when people ask you ‘How did Presbytery go?’, the first thing you talk about is what you learnt and the Scriptures. Jonny heads to Westminster Seminary on Thursday. We will miss him hugely at Presbytery but he plans to stay part of IPC.

 

The Church Planting Committee gave their report. We accepted the resignation of Michael Davis from Christ Church Culcheth and so there’s much need for prayer there. Presbytery appointed a Commission to work with Kyle of Lochalsh (for those who don’t know the difference a Commission can act with the power of Presbytery whilst a committee must report back to Presbytery). We were all finished by lunchtime on Saturday. We’re due to meet next in Belgium with the Europeans and Koreans for Synod on March 3/4 2017.

The Four C’s of Presbytery: What is the purpose of Presbytery?

In many peoples minds there is often confusion about the role of Presbytery. Sadly, sometimes elders don’t even fully understand the importance of Presbytery, and often it’s seen as dull, stuffy, churchy and irrelevant. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am convinced that elders and ministers must speak as positively as they can about their Presbyteries to their people. It allows the congregation to see how much we value and respect the provision of accountability and encouragement in Christ’s church. But exactly what should Presbytery be doing? When I was Moderator of IPC (a period of time we now affectionately refer to as ‘The Glory Days’) I used to talk about the four C’s of Presbytery (well, the last one has a C in the word).
 
1. A Court
There are four occasions each year when I, as a minister of the denomination, could get fired. Presbytery provides accountability for me and all the other elders. Sin is an ever-present reality in the life of the Christian, in the life of the Church and in the life of the elder. Issues and problems will arise in church life, and that is unavoidable. The New Testament gives examples of decisions made by elders that are binding on all the churches. It also speaks of the Presbytery laying hands on Timothy, and so Presbytery is responsible for the training and ordination of ministers. It is also responsible for the disciplining of pastors, if that should ever be necessary. Presbytery acts as a check and a balance on a local eldership. At times, sessions get things wrong and so a congregation can appeal to Presbytery if it is felt that the local elders have acted wrongly. There is a right and proper formal accountability for us as Presbyterians, something which fellowships, associations, networks, partnerships can never have. Presbytery is accountability with teeth.
 
2. A College
Presbytery has to be a place where men are stretched to think theologically. To have elders and ministers together and not use the time for training and developing our understanding of the faith is surely madness. As well as meeting for worship and preaching, for the last number of years we’ve had at least a couple of lectures at Presbytery from people like Sinclair Ferguson, Garry Williams, Bob Letham, Donald Macleod, Jose De Segovia, James Eglinton, followed by questions and discussion from the floor. There is a sense in which every member needs to be a learner no matter how theologically literate (or illiterate) they may be. Time is very precious, and yet, by Presbytery setting aside chunks of time to learn and study together, this is setting a right priority that will benefit the congregations.
 
3. A Catalyst
Presbytery must be a place where ministers and elders want to be. It’s why I think having meals together is important. You’re forced to sit down and talk to one another, hear about each others’ churches and what they are doing. Nearly every good idea is stolen from someone else and, as we share, talk and pray together we will be stirred up to think freshly about church life. Presbytery naturally becomes a catalyst for ministry. We need to beg, borrow and steal good ideas from one another. Often from spending time together, ideas and initiatives proceed. Presbytery must not just be meetings; it must be a band of brothers. The famous quote that ‘The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton’, I think could be applied to our Presbytery —’The little growth we’ve known is partly because of Presbytery nights at the Drayton Court.’
 
4. An Encouragement
Church leadership can be lonely and difficult. There needs to be strong friendships formed within Presbytery, hence the need for people to spend time together, eat together. Even part of the fun of traipsing round the country to meetings builds stronger relationships. I’m always struck by the warmth of Paul’s relationships with people in Philippians Chapter 1: their partnership in the gospel has created warm friendship and even more than that strong affection. We must strive for the same. All friendship takes work, but we must endeavour for Presbytery to be a friendly place where people are prayed for, encouraged, and where there is mutual care and strengthening of one another.
 
In conclusion, to be Presbyterian in this way takes commitment and prioritising. We want to hold fast to theological truth and take the teachings of our Confession seriously, to be theologically rigorous — and that has implications. This will affect the way we run our meetings. Presbytery must never become just a business meeting that drowns itself in motions and counter motions. What all of the above means is that Presbytery is a big deal; it’s a big deal for elders and ministers to give up the amount of time that it takes for a Presbytery to function properly.  It takes lots of work from the Moderator and Clerk in setting the agenda. Hosting Presbytery becomes hard work for the churches but it’s worth it. It’s worth it, because, God willing, Presbytery can continue to grow and flourish and be a place elders and ministers want to be.

Presbytery Prayer Points – Sept 2016

Culcheth – Encouragement with new people a couple who have some experience with youth work   Pray against burn out in the congregation

Trinity Church, York – Encouraged in lots of ways, blessed with this building, things are just starting children’s and teenage group this term. New trainee minister Phil has started along with 4 interns. Trinity have sent Will Allen off to Oak Hill. Still operating with 2 loan elders, we are in the process of training new ones hopefully on home straight. Had key families leave in the last year all for good reasons but that means  services are smaller which is ok but can be disconcerting, pray for new people and students who are arriving in the next few weeks. Pray for people in the congregation keen to take on responsibility for things. The Building lease is for 6 year.

Liss – Continue to soldier on. Doug asked for prayer personally after the difficult 18  months.. Finance is encouraging starting to move back in the right direction. Doug is on 2/3 salary. Christianity Explored is starting next month with some people who’ve been coming. Children’s work to continue to grow. Planning permission has been given for a shepherds hut! The plan is for a Leadership training process to begin in Jan. Grateful for loan elders and the time they have given

Derby – Joel Kendall arrived in Derby with Catherine and their 3 kids, pray for them to settle church patterns, family. Give thanks Joel passed his Presbytery exams. Having begun a catechism for primary school age – wonderful watching families jump into it. Seeds being sown. A girl starting coming as 12/13 year old but now off to uni, in the last year and half she’s become a Christian. Praying for transition time, Jonty tired and needs to find energy before going to Leeds

Larbert – Newcomers people to settle in. New families to integrate well. New young people bible study on a Sunday night 5 or 6 coming along teenagers. Looking for land for building

Aberdeen – 2 big things encouragements – Ben Trainer – ministry trainee, his wife Sarah with 2 little boys come to join us, doing Cornhill 2 days a week. Do a new evangelistic course – Destiny book – giving a free book to students CU, a retired chef doing all the food, short talk and discussion there. 6 Thur evenings.

Inverness – James Torrens  unable to be here this week – his wife Jane is in hospital after having an operation. Do continue to pray for Peter’s health. There are encouragements A new elder coming on board and being examined and James O Neil – Ministry trainee

Shepherds Bush – Chris Hatch Family in lot of transition. Good but busy summer – summer interns, kids club. Pray for Hatch kids at Rahel at uni and 16 year old Kaleb in school in the US. Church – consistently over 20, staff team has grown – Marcus and his wife  arrived, 4 interns lots of manpower and so wisdom needed on how to use them Discipleship Class called the next step starting Sunday afternoons – people considering the faith and people new to church

Southall – Busy summer – in July hosted 80 people to do door to door. 80 people asked for bibles from door to door in one evening session. NLMG following up. Our church sent a group to India – preaching to a Hindu school of a 1000 kids. Starting a new members class. Starting a leadership training time with a view to raising up new elders and deacons

Ealing – Good but long summer – encouragements were taking young people on camp to Swansea, Holiday bible club. Quite a lot of new 20s and 30s in the congregation and integrating them. We’ve approached a number of men about eldership and will be seeking to train them. The building project has been delayed but we are hopeful of it starting in November

Kyle of Lochalsh – Tricky situation where there is not agreement on what should happen and so prayer needed for upcoming meetings.

All Nations, Ilford – Was fearful about the summer but it was an encouraging time. We will be joined by Will Allen and family on placement from Oak Hill. Starting a 4.30 service and so it means Sundays will be a busy day. Number of Baptisms coming up. Had an influx of Muslim converts moving to Ilford around 10 coming to the church

Immanuel Brentford – Had a good summer. Sunday afternoon kids club starting this weekend. Around 20-25 adults, 12 Children coming along. Outreach for young adults being planned this autumn. Stuart has become Chaplain at Brentford FC. Real challenge to get members involved in Brentford

Leeds –  17 Adults and 6 children committed to coming, pray they get jobs in Leeds. The website is read to go Venue is going to be a challenge

Candidates and Credentials – Pray for Gethin Jones who we’ve taken ‘under care’ studying at Westminster Seminary with a view to going to France in the long term for ministry.

 

Presbytery

Presbytery was hosted by Trinity Church, York and for the first time we met at St Anthony’s Hall, Trinity’s new home. Committees took place on the Friday morning and we started proper after lunch with Chris Hatch exhorting us from Romans 12. Chris Cradock is the Moderator and is doing a fine job. The business began with church reports and I gave the report on Liss which Presbytery  dealt with calmly and quickly. My resignation as a loan elder was accepted and Paul Meiners one of the other elders here in Ealing will take my place. Kyle of Lochalsh has also had some difficult times but there was a good spirit in how these things were dealt with.

The main event of the afternoon was Joel Kendall’s presbytery floor examination. Joel is a Welshman who was a student at Nottingham, doing an apprenticeship with Beeston Free before going to WEST (now Union). For the past 4 years he’s worked as an Assistant Minister in Christ Church, Westbourne. Our congregation in Derby also called Christ Church have called Joel to be their minister replacing Jonty Rhodes who is moving to plant in Leeds early next year. It was a joy to see how Joel answered the questions. I think the exam lasted 45 minutes and the questions were good and helpful, Joel answered thoughtfully, humbly and biblically. I am so grateful for the men the Lord is bringing into our denomination. Joel will be a terrific addition to the Presbytery.

In the rest of the afternoon we approved Jonty Rhodes and Matthew Roberts to go to the US for a fund raising trip. There was a good time of prayer with others to finish off the day. In the evening we were at Matthew and Kate Roberts’ house for a meal and it was such an enjoyable talking and catching up with folk.

On the Saturday morning of Presbytery we had James Eglinton who is a Bavinck scholar teaching at New College, Edinburgh who gave two papers on ‘Bavinck the Preacher’ and ‘Bavinck’s Trinitarian thought’. I enjoyed both papers the second one particularly we were given some great quotes and whetted appetite to get into Bavinck.

In the final session there were 3 very exciting and encouraging things. The Candidates and Credentials Committee appointed Gethin Jones to come under care. Gethin is originally from the Heath Church, Cardiff, he studied at Cambridge and most recently was working in Paris doing student work. Gethin is in his final year at Westminster Seminary and hopes to be in France long term. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know Gethin and we had him to preach earlier this summer. We think this is the first time we’ve taken someone under care with a view to them going abroad.

Up next was Matthew Roberts who chairs our Church Planting Committee. Around 6 years ago we started a fund with a view to being able to give grants to new church plants and Presbytery voted to give Christ Church Central, Leeds –  £30,000 in year 1 and then £20, 000 for the second and third year. This is the biggest grant we’ve ever given from the fund and there is something thrilling about being able to give large sums of money to potential church plants.

The last business of the day was to clarify our Assistant Minister Fund, Matthew Roberts again did a good job in just explaining how this could really help our churches and how congregations can apply. All was passed without a hitch. Hopefully this will have a big effect in years to come with training men.

So we will meet again on Friday 2/3 December in Derby. I am so grateful for Presbytery and how God has blessed it. It’s still small and fragile but we’re getting there.