We are condemned for separation by them who refuse to admit us into union!”

History & Position Statement of RPCI (Relief)

(THIS PAGE WILL BE UPDATED SHORTLY TO REFLECT THE COMMON HISTORY OF OUR DENOMINATION. THE STATEMENT BELOW HAS REFERENCE ONLY TO OUR PORTADOWN CONGREGATION.)

 

UPPER BANN, PORTADOWN:

ORIGINS: As is so often the case in the history of the Christian Church, our denominational identity arises out of controversy. The particular controversy that has led to our formation had its genesis in the Loughbrickland congregation of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland (RPCI). In the public preaching there in 2012 it was alleged that God has the power and authority to sin and act unjustly. Quite a number of members in the Loughbrickland congregation raised this matter with members of the church Session (the governing body). However, the matter spiralled out of control when biblical and church procedures were ignored. Spurious ‘discipline’ was enacted against a number of those members concerned about such doctrine and eventually it became impossible for some to continue to worship in that congregation. From 19th January 2014, forty members, including covenant children, temporarily attended elsewhere in the denomination for the sake of the peace of the Loughbrickland congregation, and to find spiritual feeding and relief while the matter was appealed to the highest court in the RPCI denomination (Synod). This court failed to resolve the matter satisfactorily or in a just manner, as is evidenced by the fact that the issue continues to trouble the whole denomination. As it is an on-going controversy still before ecclesiastical courts, elements of which may also come before the civil courts, we refrain from presenting details of the case at present. Truth and the public record will demand that they are stated eventually, but not at this point in time.

SCHISM: After a number of Loughbrickland RPCI church members were forcibly ejected from the denomination, without being allowed constitutional redress within the RPCI, application for advice, fellowship, and/or membership was made to quite a number of other denominations in the Reformed and Westminster Traditions. Sadly, only two denominations responded to us regarding this schismatic action of the RPCI. We, therefore, as a body were left without the preaching of the Word, the Sacraments, and the fellowship of God’s people in the meeting and membership of the church.

RELIEF: Despite the divisions that arise from time to time within the Church, we are all under our Lord’s continuing command, as given in Scripture by the writer to the Hebrews, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (10:25). Those who found themselves shunned by the professing Christian church, having been meeting together for Christian fellowship and worship on a temporary basis since June 2014, began to meet regularly for Sabbath worship in November 2014. In the context of the closed doors already mentioned the decision to regularise our situation was taken in December of that same year. A congregation (and a denomination) was formally constituted in Portadown on Thursday 25th December 2014, at a Service of Reaffirmation. Other believers joined with us to witness this solemn occasion. It was a service of ‘reaffirmation’ of earlier commitments that our Members (and an Office-bearer) had already undertaken in the RPCI many years previously. We, therefore, continue under the same terms of communion and order which we committed to many years ago as Reformed Presbyterians within the RPCI. We are a denomination which adheres to Covenanting principles and we are a Confessional church in the Westminster tradition, adhering to the Regulative Principle in worship. We are, nevertheless, catholic in spirit, and, in line with the Westminster Confession of Faith 26.2, we maintain free communion with all true Christians (that is, not loose or indiscriminate communion, but the occasional admission to fellowship in the Lord’s Supper of baptised persons belonging to other religious denominations respecting whose Christian character satisfactory evidence has been obtained).

We are NOT in opposition to the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland; we rightly belong to her. We, therefore, pray that she will join us again to herself in true and full fellowship by revoking and reversing the wrongs done against a section of her membership in this particular controversy, thereby opening up the way for formal union. We are, however, in opposition to any teaching that suggests that God has the power and authority to sin and act unjustly. Such errors have been publicly preached and promulgated within that denomination. The same errors continue to be countenanced and tolerated by the higher courts of that denomination. We are also in opposition to unbiblical and unlawful abuse of ecclesiastical power by church officers; and we are in opposition to the public defamation with impunity of members’ reputations without giving those members opportunity to defend themselves.

FORMAL OFFER: Though the RPCI Courts refuse to recognise some of us as Christians (never mind as a church), we are duty-bound[1] to recognise its members as our brothers and sisters in Christ, though unwillingly separated from them by enforced division. We, therefore, HEREBY FORMALLY DECLARE OUR OFFER OF, AND DESIRE AND WILLINGNESS FOR, BIBLICAL & CONSTITUTIONAL RECONCILIATION, contingent on a setting right of the matters which have caused the enforced division. (This formal offer was presented to the Officers and Members of Synod of the RPCI on 16th March 2015). Honourable resolution of these matters will remove the need for a Relief body of Reformed Presbyterians.

We will continue to pray for and seek every opportunity to exercise Christian fellowship with the membership of the RPCI denomination. In the absence of a spirit of biblical reconciliation on the part of the RPCI governing body (Synod) we beg their leave to worship God according to our conscience and to fellowship the one with the other according to Christ’s appointment. We regret that such division exists at present, but we continue to strive to ensure that this division is honourably removed.

FUTURE: It must be kept in mind that the Church of Jesus Christ is much greater than denominational identity, and its work much more extensive than internal controversy (unfortunate but necessary at times). Our existence, therefore, as a ‘denomination’ may, circumstantially, be as a result of an RPCI controversy, but our existence as a ‘church’ lies in the fact that Christ calls men and women to Himself, and in doing so, unites them in one spiritual body under His leadership, with the instruction to meet together locally under a specified order of gathering (polity). It is in following our Saviour and Lord’s command that we come together as the church. Christ then builds up His church spiritually by the preaching and teaching of His Word. He also builds it up numerically by two concurrent methods, His adding to the church the children of believing parents by special covenant promise, and the bringing in of others and their families by evangelisation. It is with sadness that so much of our energies in the past two years has been largely spent in seeking to remain in fellowship with the professing body of Christ. Going forward we will, therefore, as a local church, seek the furtherance of the cause of Christ and His Truth by remaining committed to the spiritual edification of our present membership drawn from the Upper Bann area, and in the presentation of the gospel to our unbelieving neighbours in the Portadown district.

 “If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.” (I Timothy 4:6)

“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

[1]     Matthew 5:43 “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you .…”
Matthew 7:12 “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”

Statement Date: 16th March 2015