Orthodox Presbyterian Church

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Orthodox Presbyterian Church
TheologyReformed Evangelical
AssociationsNorth American Presbyterian and Reformed Council, International Conference of Reformed Churches
OriginJune 11, 1936
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Separated fromPresbyterian Church in the United States of America
SeparationsBible Presbyterian Church
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Orthodox Presbyterian Church
TheologyReformed Evangelical
AssociationsNorth American Presbyterian and Reformed Council, International Conference of Reformed Churches
OriginJune 11, 1936
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Separated fromPresbyterian Church in the United States of America
SeparationsBible Presbyterian Church

The Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) is a confessional Presbyterian denomination located primarily in the United States. It was founded by conservative members of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA) who strongly objected to the pervasive Modernist theology during the 1930s (see Fundamentalist–Modernist Controversy). Led by J. Gresham Machen, who had helped found Westminster Theological Seminary, the church attempts to preserve what they consider to be historic Calvinism within a Presbyterian structure.


John Calvin the founder of the Reformed family of Protestantism

The OPC system of doctrine is the Reformed faith, also called Calvinism. Calvin's doctrines continued to develop after his death, and a particular evolution of them was set forth in the Westminster Standards (which include the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms). The OPC holds to the Westminster standards with the American revisions of 1788.

The OPC provides the following summary of its doctrine:[2]


At the 2013 General Assembly, the OPC reported 270 churches, 49 mission works, and 30,555 members.[3] The OPC has 17 Presbyteries, the Central Pennsylvania, Central US, Connecticut & Southern New York, the Dakotas, Michigan & Ontario, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, New Jersey, New York & New England, Northern California & Nevada, South, Southeast, Southern California and Southwest.[4][5]


In the early 1970s the General Assembly commissioned a report[6] that acknowledged that the OPC was a "largely white" denomination and that this was the result of ecclesiastical "neglect."[6] The Committee which authored the report identified several reasons why this is so. First, the report identifies the fact that the OPC emerged from the Presbyterian Church USA, which "lost the allegiance of blacks during the ecclesiastical discrimination against blacks in the post-civil war period."[6] Second, it acknowledged that the OPC's "ministry to minority groups has been almost non-existent."[6] The report recommended more outreach to minority and urban areas. The report's rationale that the denomination inherited the reconstruction racial dynamics of the PCUSA has not been updated since 1974.[6] The committee which authored the report was dissolved after submitting it to the General Assembly.[7]


Although the OPC does not officially endorse any political party or philosophy, broader political tendencies and trends are quite evident.[improper synthesis?] While there have been no official surveys to determine the political demographics of the denomination, there have been several indications that the membership of the OPC is hardly reflective of the broader American populace.[improper synthesis?] The membership and leadership of the OPC tend, by in large, to eschew the political left.[citation needed]

The denominational magazine has taken up the question of whether the Christian right is good for American conservativism (a topic that has nothing to do with Reformed Christianity).[8] In the early 2000s, the General Assembly commissioned a report that concluded that undocumented workers could not claim to be true Christians if they were not willing to "repent" and return to their countries of origin.[9] The denomination has published the ideas of a minister who has asserted, against all historical and scientific evidence, that dinosaurs existed in England just five hundred years ago.[10] Likewise, it has published statements by a minister who describes feminism as "primarily one aspect of the general revolt against God's rule in this world."[11] After considerable debate, the 68th General Assembly declared that women serving in combat positions in the military is contrary to the Word of God. [12] The editor of the OPC's ministerial journal has asserted that the American political system originally "assumed the internal constraints of true Christianity," which, he argues, "are now rapidly disappearing in the Western world."[13]

In 1993, the denomination petitioned then President Bill Clinton to disallow homosexuals from serving in the military. According to the petition, "homosexuality is a reproach to any nation. It undermines the family, and poses a substantial threat to the general health, safety and welfare of our citizens."[14] The OPC has also made statements expressing opposition to women serving in combat roles,[15] and the anti-abortion movement.[16]

The vast majority of OPC members can be described as either conservative, Republican, libertarian, or theonomic.[citation needed] Several of the most important founders of American reconstructionism (such as Rousas John Rushdoony and Greg Bahnsen) were Orthodox Presbyterian ministers. Some important Orthodox Presbyterians, including Machen,[17] were and are libertarians (but not left-libertarians). Many ministers and elders are members of the Republican party.[citation needed]


The Orthodox Presbyterian Church has a Presbyterian polity and has several components, with specific duties.

The Session - The Session consists of its ministers and ruling elders of an individual congregation.[18] It's duties include overseeing public worship, the addition and removal of members, discipline of members and keeping records of membership and the administration of the sacraments.[19] The session is also to oversee worship.[19]

The Presbytery - All of the members of local congregations and its ministers are organized into a regional church, and the presbytery serves as the governing body of the regional church.[20] The presbytery is composed of all of the ministers and ruling elders of the congregations in the regional church, and presbytery meetings are to, if possible, all of the ministers on the roll and one ruling elder from each respective session.[20]

The duties of the presbytery include overseeing evangelism and resolving questions regarding discipline. The presbytery also takes candidates for ministry under its care, as well as examines, licenses and ordains them. It also, if necessary, can remove a minister [21]

General Assembly - The General Assembly, for the OPC is the supreme judicatory (BCO, pg. 25), and as such, it is to resolve all doctrinal and disciplinary issues that have not been resolved by the sessions and presbyteries.[22] The other duties of the General Assembly include organizing regional churches, calling ministers and licentiates to missionary or other ministries, and reviewing the records from the presbyteries.[23] It also arranges internship training for prospective ministers, oversees diaconal needs.[2]

The General Assembly is to meet at least once a year, and is to have, at maximum, 155 voting commissioners, including the moderator and stated clerk of the previous General Assembly, and ministers and ruling elders representing their respective presbyteries.[22]

Women in Office - The OPC does not ordain women as pastors or elders.[24] While the vast majority of OPCs do not recognize the continued legitimacy of the biblical office of deaconess,[25] at least one congregation does allow for women to serve as deacons.[26]



The OPC works (alongside other Reformed churches) to establish "indigenous national churches that are firmly and fully committed to the Reformed standards, that are self-supporting, self-governing, and self-propagating, and with whom the OPC may have fraternal relations."[2]

The Committee on Foreign Missions currently sends missionaries to: China, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Haiti, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Québec, Suriname, and Uganda.[2]


The OPC's Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension serves to help sustain and plant congregations in the United States and Canada. Amongst their duties is to aid presbyteries in planting congregations, assist presbyteries in the support of home missionaries, help new congregations find organizing pastors, help established congregations to find pastors and to manage a loan fund that helps congregations in need of property and buildings.[27]

Ecumenical relations[edit]

In 1975, the OPC became a founding member of the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC).[28] Through NAPARC, the OPC currently enjoys fraternal relations with the PCA, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, the Reformed Church in the United States, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, the United Reformed Churches in North America, the Canadian and American Reformed Churches and several other confessional Continental Reformed and Presbyterian Churches in the United States and Canada.[29]

The OPC is also a member of the International Conference of Reformed Churches, which includes Reformed & Presbyterian denominations from across the globe. Outside the ICRC and NAPARC, the OPC has relations with the Africa Evangelical Presbyterian Church, the Reformed Church in Japan, the Presbyterian Church in Japan and the Presbyterian Church of Brazil.[30]


  1. ^ "2013 General Assembly Report". Opc.org. Retrieved 2014-02-12. 
  2. ^ a b c d "What is the OPC?: Part II.1. Our Constitution; II.2. Our System of Doctrine". The Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Retrieved 8 January 2013. 
  3. ^ Fox, Arthur. Orthodox Presbyterian Church "2013 General Assembly Report". Retrieved 5 November 2013. 
  4. ^ "Presbyteries". Opc.org. Retrieved 2014-02-12. 
  5. ^ "Presbytery of New Jersey, Orthodox Presbyterian Church". Pnjopc.org. 2011-01-01. Retrieved 2014-02-12. 
  6. ^ a b c d e "Report of the Committee on Problems of Race". Opc.org. Retrieved 2014-02-12. 
  7. ^ "Report of the Committee on Problems of Race". Opc.org. Retrieved 2014-02-12. 
  8. ^ "New Horizons". Opc.org. Retrieved 2014-02-12. 
  9. ^ "Q and A". Opc.org. Retrieved 2014-02-12. 
  10. ^ "Q and A". Opc.org. Retrieved 2014-02-12. 
  11. ^ "Q and A". Opc.org. Retrieved 2014-02-12. 
  12. ^ Author Barnes, Doug (2001-08-07). "Should Women Fight?". Banner of Truth. Retrieved 2014-02-12. 
  13. ^ "Ordained Servant Online". Opc.org. 1991-05-06. Retrieved 2014-02-12. 
  14. ^ "Humble Petition to President Clinton". Opc.org. Retrieved 2014-02-12. 
  15. ^ "Report of the Committee on Women in the Military and in Combat". Opc.org. Retrieved 2014-02-12. 
  16. ^ "New Horizons". Opc.org. Retrieved 2014-02-12. 
  17. ^ "J. Gresham Machen | Acton Institute". Acton.org. Retrieved 2014-02-12. 
  18. ^ "The Book of Church Order of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church", pg. 17accessed July 4, 2013 http://opc.org/BCO/BCO_2011.pdf
  19. ^ a b BCO pg. 17
  20. ^ a b BCO, pg. 20
  21. ^ BCO pg. 21
  22. ^ a b BCO pg. 23
  23. ^ BCO, pg. 24
  24. ^ http://www.opc.org/GA/women_in_office.html#The Office of Elder
  25. ^ http://opc.org/qa.html?question_id=8
  26. ^ http://www.ncpcboston.org/about/leaders/
  27. ^ "About Home Missions," retrieved Oct. 1st, 2013 http://chmce.org/about-home-missions/
  28. ^ "The Constituting Meeting of the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council(NAPARC)" accessed July 4th, 2013, http://www.naparc.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Minutes-of-the-1st-1975-Meeting-of-NAPARC.pdf
  29. ^ "Member Churches" accessed July 4th, 2013 http://www.naparc.org/member-churches
  30. ^ "The OPC's Ecclesiastical Relations" retrieved September 14th, 2013, http://www.opc.org/relations/links.html

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