Last week I spent 3 and a half days in Queensland attending the 20th Synod of the Westminster Presbyterian Church (WPC) as a delegate. (Actually, we changed the name to ‘National Assembly’ to make it more straight-forward to explain to people, but that’s another story). As most congregational members don’t ever get to see what happens at a Synod, I thought I’d summarize some of what happened and what I took out of it as an encouragement to everyone.
Let me give you some basic background. The WPC at present consists of 13 churches; 8 in Perth, 1 in Canberra, and 4 in Queensland. On top of this we have missionaries who are part of us but working within other organisations (like the Stuarts in Alice Springs and the Richards in Vanuatu), and some churches which are in the church plant stage (like Harbour City Church in Sydney). The Synod is where we all meet together. But even with representatives from each church or ministry and some visitors, it leads to a meeting of a little under 40 people all up.
Synod (or elder’s meetings, or Presbytery) can seem like some sort of secret elder’s business, where certain initiated people meet behind closed doors to discuss things. Actually, the Synod is an open meeting, and we did have some visitors from our host church, some wives of elders, and even some representatives of other denominations who came to bring greetings. And the meetings were not particularly serious either, not stale and over-formal. There was an order of doing things, yes, but it was very good natured. The tone was friendly; it is a meeting of friends after all!
So what is talked about at these meetings? Well, Synod meetings are for things that affect the whole denomination, so things like relating to other denominations. We spoke about our relationship with some churches in Myanmar, and the Presbyterian Church of Brazil. We spoke about theological education and church planting. We did some business concerning our Book of Church Order and our website which needs upgrading.
Let me briefly share a few things I found very encouraging from this Synod:
- Prayer. We did a fair bit of praying together. We prayed to start each day. We prayed after hearing from each pastor or ministry representative. There was more informal prayer between individuals. There was a real sense that this was God’s work and not ultimately ours, so we needed to pray.
- Interviews. A representative from each church or ministry was interviewed informally and asked about ‘the joy of gospel ministry’ (which was the theme for the 3 days). We heard about churches trying new things evangelistically, of the training of new leaders, and of God being gracious to grow many of the churches. It is a wonderful reminder that we are not alone ministering in ‘our patch’.
- Attitude. This is harder to define nicely, but there was a real sense of unity. I feel I understand the Qld context much better than I did beforehand. As is the case with much in Australia, sometimes there is East-West division, but it didn’t feel like this. The discussions, both formal and informal, were very good-natured.
God has been good to our small denomination. And there are plans to plant more churches, and some established churches might join us as well. We have good relationships with like-minded denominations both locally and internationally. God is good to us as small and weak as we are. People are being saved and built up and we pray that God is being glorified.