By: Susan Tanner, Director of Communications
(The July/August ARP Magazine will have the detailed Synod Coverage. For official wording of Memorials and Motions, see the 2021 Minutes of Synod.)
The 217th General Synod meeting was held at First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, SC again. Virtual participation was set up through zoom for those in the Canadian Presbytery, Northeast Presbytery, and Missionaries. Livestream was available for others as well.
Reverend Philip Bunch, Fayetteville ARP Church opened the 217th General Synod meeting with a prayer saying, “He who is in us is greater than he who is in this world.”
Moderator Rob Roy McGregor, III called the meeting to order followed by a welcome from Dr. Derek Thomas, Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church Columbia. Rev. Rob Patrick of Boyce Memorial ARP Church led the time of worship from Philippians 2:1-11.
Following Opening Worship, we heard the Retiring Moderator’s Address which can be found in The ARP Magazine in its entirety along with the Moderator’s Challenge.
The Special Committee on Net Assets Reallocation
Moderator Malphrus was on the committee along with the Vice Moderator, so Past Moderator McGregor had to moderate this portion of the meeting. The special committee was created and charged by a motion from the 2020 October Synod meeting stating “A reallocation of at least $3,000,000 from the net assets of Synod boards and agencies to the ARP Retirement Plan Trust Fund be approved.” The report included their strategy, considerations, and a list of available funds. These funds were updated since the printing of the Synod Packet but are listed here as reported at Synod. (Funds used for retirement debt are denominational funds accumulated or other restricted funds after the proposed was accomplished. None of the funds designated for missionaries, projects, or Where Needed Most were utilized for this contribution.)
The Special Committee on Restructuring was tasked with reorganizing the denomination’s ministry structure. The committee stated the ARP Church does not like change. After much debate, comments, and questions the recommendations below were approved.
- That the Committee on Revisions be comprised of Presbytery members from each presbytery of the General Synod.
- That Synod dissolve its Committee on Worship by December 31, 2021, and that the Committee’s Music Conference be moved under the jurisdiction of the Board of Bonclarken.
- That Synod dissolve Christian Education Ministries as a Board and Agency of the ARPC by July 31, 2022 and that Horizon, Quest, and Family Bible Conference be moved under the authority of a new committee on camps and conferences, and that Appalachia be moved under the authority of the Board of World Witness, and that Camp Joy be incorporated as a separate agency of the ARPC, and that the Adult Quarterly be moved under the authority of the Executive Board’s Administrative Committee, and that the committee bring any further necessary recommendations to complete this action to the 2022 stated meeting of the General Synod.
- That Synod amend the “At Large” portion of the board composition section for the Board of Bonclarken in the Manual of Authorities and Duties to include the following sentence: “At least two of the board members shall be ordained ministers in the ARP Church.”
- That Synod direct its Principal Clerk to make all necessary changes in the Manual of Authorities and Duties to reflect the actions taken in the above recommendations.
- That Synod affirm the Restructuring Committee’s conviction that the Synod needs a fresh start and a renewed vision towards global ministry, evangelism, and church planting as it confronts the ever-changing challenges of the twenty-first century. As a part of this affirmation, Synod will empower the committee to develop a unifying organizational approach and possible organizational structures that will not only address the present work of Outreach North America and World Witness, but also give direction towards the presentation of the free offer of the gospel and the proclamation of the Lordship of Christ (Vision Committee Report, 2007). Any new organizational structure will be developed with the twin purposes of returning principal authority to Synod’s presbyteries (FOG 10.1) and optimizing Synod’s historical and biblical commitment to the ministry of the Word & Sacrament (FOG 1.7). The committee will bring its detailed recommendations to the 2022 stated meeting of the General Synod for approval.
The Board of Benefits report started with a presentation from Rev. Leo Markwat. “There were 3 principles to guide the board: a clear solution, a simple message as possible, and a strong witness,” Markwat said. Adam Bloom explained the remainder of the recommendations which are listed below and were all approved. The slides and webinar from the original presentation are available on ARPchurch.org.
That Synod adopt the Board of Benefits recommended action plan for the ARPC Retirement Plan including the following:
- That the Plan implements a Hard Freeze effective July 31, 2021.
- That there will be no change to retiree benefits (those currently collecting pension benefits).
- That all Active and Vested Terminated employees will be involuntarily terminated from the plan and paid 100% of their Present Value of Accrued Benefits as of July 31, 2021.
- That Active employees eligible to retire under the plan will either be allowed to stay in the ARPC Retirement Plan or receive a one-time option to take a lump sum.
- That the Board of Benefits and its officers be authorized to take actions necessary to implement these changes.
- That effective August 1, 2021, church contributions for minister’s retirement will remain at 12% and be directed to the ARPC Defined Contribution Plan(403(b)). The Board of Benefits recommends all churches participate in the ARPC Defined Contribution Plan. However, if a church decides to secure their own retirement plan for a minister they need to sign and return the form from Central Services acknowledging the risks and responsibilities associated with an individual church plan.
- That the General Synod provide approximately $8,500,000 to fund the recommendations of the Board of Benefits as the proposed changes are contingent upon the receipt or commitment of these funds.
(Take note that the Net Allocations Committee has pledged $6,092,235 as seen in the chart above. Also, one of the motions was to begin a Capital Campaign for the $2,000,000 if needed.)
Moderator Elect & Vice Moderator Elect
Mr. Bill McKay, an elder at Grace Presbyterian Church in Woodstock, Ontario is the Moderator Elect. Reverend Lee Shelnutt made the motion saying what a dear friend McKay is. McKay is a member of the World Witness Board, Clerk of Session at Grace, and Clerk of the Canadian Presbytery. He is retired from a printing company and travels to Pakistan as a missionary. “He is a man committed to Christ, committed to the word, and the mission of the church,” Shelnutt said. “He loves this denomination and is a humble, joyful, fair churchman.” Rev. Jeff Kingswood, pastor of Grace Presbyterian gave the second by saying McKay “wants to do what the word of God says. He is obedient to the word. We rejoice and look forward to what the Lord will do through our brother.”
Bill McKay, joining Synod by zoom, responded to the election, “I will work faithfully with a humble heart to the best of my abilities to the glory of God. We are on a path God has laid out for us. God has plans through each of us today. Join with me as we work together and do so to reflect God’s Glory.”
McKay nominated Reverend David Lauten, Associate Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, as Vice Moderator Elect. “He is a man of integrity and humility. He is faithful to his church and a man to step in at a moment’s notice,” McKay said.
In response, Lauten said, “This is a great privilege in serving together. I am grateful for prayers of wisdom and advice.”
The only Moderator’s Committee this year was Memorials. The first Memorial from First Presbytery was very clear and well written. The concern from the committee was the speed of transitioning women out as deacons. There was lots of debate for both sides therefore the decision was to study it and study it well.
- First Presbytery’s memorial regarding women deacons was referred to a special committee by the moderator for study with a report due back to Synod 2022.
- (Northeast Presbytery) That General Synod amend the current Form of Government to include the requirement that the minimum number of congregations to form an ARP presbytery is five (5) congregations. (THIS WAS NOT APPROVED.)
- (Northeast Presbytery) That General Synod amend the current Form of Government to include the requirement of Greek and Hebrew for ministerial ordination and transfer. (APPROVED)
- (Virginia Presbytery) That the Theological & Social Concerns Committee prepare a statement regarding personal, financial, and organizational conflicts of interest, which statement can be adopted by the General Synod and its boards, agencies, presbyteries, and congregations. (THIS WAS NOT APPROVED.)
- (Catawba Presbytery) That General Synod instruct the Moderator to appoint a special committee to examine the size, boundaries and composition of all the presbyteries and, if necessary, make recommendations to the next stated meeting of Synod. (APPROVED)
The World Witness report was presented by Alex Pettett. An additional recommendation was brought forth to lift the hiring freeze so that an additional financial assistant could be hired. The Christian Education Ministries report was received followed by the Outreach North America report. The hiring freeze for ONA was lifted due to the need to have someone train and coach new church planters.
Reverend Rob Roy McGregor, Jr., had the honor to make the motion to adjourn at 4:30pm.
- That the Moderator appoint a special committee to examine the judicial case regarding David Harding.
- That the Allocation of Synod Fund Report be moved until after the Board of Benefits report.
- That the Retiring Moderator’s Address and the Moderator’s Challenge be printed in the minutes of Synod.
- That SCONAR be instructed to prepare a capital funds campaign to meet the current financial crisis while continuing the mission to preach the gospel to the nations.
- That a commission be appointed by the General Synod which shall be composed of the current stated clerk of each presbytery along with the Principal Clerk of the General Synod, and that this commission be tasked to examine both the content and the processes of annual statistical information so as to improve the process. The commission shall put a revised process in place in time for the gathering of information in January of 2022.
- That Synod grant theological and social committee concerns permission to publish drafts of papers for feedback and comments in preparation for its report to the 2022 General Synod.
- That the Committee on Interchurch Relations study the ARP’s membership in the World Reformed Fellowship and the current trajectory of the WRF and report back to the 2022 ARP Synod.
- That the General Synod commend Steve Nichols for his faithful service as the director of Planned Giving for the ARP Foundation.
- That the Order of the Day be changed until 10:00pm or until such time as we dispose of Index 32.
- That Recommendation #1 be amended to say, “That the DMF Allocation of 2021 be approved for 2022.”
- That Synod direct the special committee on restructuring to study the feasibility of returning the agencies of synod, excluding Bonclarken and Erskine, to a historic Presbyterian committee structure. The committee shall bring its proposals to the 2022 meeting of Synod.
- That Synod direct its agency boards to perform a biennial (i.e, every other year) competitive compensation analysis for their executive staff and/or directors, with the results to be included in their reports to General Synod.
- That the General Synod direct the Moderator to modify the original task of the Special Committee On Restructuring to include a study on the vision, values, and ministry of the ARP church; and if deemed necessary, to hire an outside consultant to assist them in this process and to report back to the 2022 General Synod.
- To amend Memorial #1 from First Presbytery to, “that the Moderator of Synod be moved to refer items #1, #2, and #3 to a special committee for study to report back to the 2022 ARP General Synod.”
- Based on a recommendation from the recently completed financial audit, World Witness requests approval from the General Synod to hire a financial assistant prior to the hiring freeze being lifted.
- That the employees and staff of Outreach North America be thanked by the General Synod for their work over the last year.
- That the State of Minnesota be added to the bounds of Florida Presbytery.
- Motion to Adjourn by Rev. Dr. Rob Roy McGregor, Jr.
See the 2021 Minutes of Synod for the official wording of the motions.