The Book of Church Order of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is a rich document and, like other church orders, the work of generations. But it doesn’t always say why such and such a conclusion was reached or why certain terminology is used.
Well, good news: in June 2020, Ordained Servant started publishing a commentary on the OPC’s Form of Government written by Alan Strange. (2022 Update: this work is being followed by commentary on the Book of Discipline.)
Dr. Strange is a minister in OPC and a church history professor at Mid-America Reformed Seminary. He specializes in American Presbyterian history and, having served on the OPC Appeals and Complaints Committee for many years, he has a rich and practiced understanding of presbyterian church government. As such, he’s one of the best people to be writing a commentary on the form of government.
A good commentary on the BCO provides several benefits. It enriches our understanding of the BCO, strengthens our trust in it, and helps us apply and improve our church order. And it can serve ecumenical purposes by helping us to know which differences between us and other denominations matter and which ones don’t.
Commentaries on church orders have been written before. For example, on the Dutch Reformed side, Martin Monsma and Idzerd Van Dellen published a commentary on the church order of the Christian Reformed Church, updated in 1967. And there are some great essays edited by J. De Jong in Bound Yet Free. A commentary similar to the Monsma, Van Dellen volume was written by W. W. J. Van Oene for the Canadian Reformed Churches, which is now available online. See also the commentaries by Biesterveld and Kuijper, and van Rongen.
You can also find several commentaries and commentary-like works on the Presbyterian side of the Reformed world. The PCA Historical Center has a good bibliography of some these works; of special note is the commentary on the PCA’s church order by Morton Smith. R. B. Kuiper’s The Glorious Body of Christ comes close to a commentary on the OPC form of government, but it doesn’t have the section by section commenting that Alan Strange is doing.
Strange has already clarified a few things for me and I’m excited to read more. This commentary will be a valuable to the church for many years. I pray for the Lord’s blessing on his work.
The commentary is being published serially in Ordained Servant. As a resource for myself and others, I am linking to the available chapters.
1-2: Christ, the King and Head of the Church; The Church
3-4: The Nature and Exercise of Church Power; The Unity of the Church
5-6: Offices in the Church; Ministers or Teaching Elders
7-11: Evangelists; Pastors; Teachers; Ruling Elders; Deacons
13: The Local Church and Its Session
14: The Regional Church and Its Presbytery
15: The Whole Church and Its General Assembly
16-17: Congregational Meetings; Congregations without Pastors
18-20: Moderators; Clerks; Ordination and Installation
21: Licensing Candidates to Preach the Gospel
23a: Ordaining and Installing Ministers (Part 1)
23b: Ordaining and Installing Ministers (Part 2)
24: Dissolving Ministerial Relationships
25: Electing, Ordaining, and Installing Ruling Elders and Deacons
26-27: Divesting from Office; Missions
28-29: Ministers Laboring outside the Church; Organizing and Receiving Congregations
30-32: Organizations of Members of the Church; Incorporation and Corporations; The Constitution and Its Amendment
1-2a: The Nature and Purposes of Discipline; Jurisdiction (Part 1)
3a: Steps in the Institution of Judicial Process (sec 1-3)
3b: Steps in the Institution of Judicial Process (sec 4-6)
3c: Steps in the Institution of Judicial Process (sec 4-7)
4a: The Trial of Judicial Cases; Rules for Those Involved