OPC History, Missions and the Annual Thank Offering
The formation of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in 1936 was due, in part, to a desire among its founders to provide the mission fields of the world with faithful Presbyterian missionaries who were committed to proclaiming the biblical, orthodox gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and who would not compromise with the theological modernism (or “liberalism”) which was then exerting a powerful influence on the Foreign Missions Board of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Dr. J. Gresham Machen, a New Testament professor at the prestigious Princeton Theological Seminary, author of numerous scholarly books, staunch defender of presbyterian orthodoxy, and dignified southern gentleman of high culture, was deeply concerned that some of the missionaries the PCUSA was sending out into the mission field were clearly of modernist sentiments. For example, some of them could not affirm even basic gospel truths such as the Deity of Christ, his supernatural miracles, substitutionary atonement on the cross or his bodily resurrection from the dead, etc.
Dr. Machen and his sympathizers, being persuaded that there no longer remained any ecclesiastical channels available to them whereby they might successfully protest and help to turn around this sad state of affairs, and being convinced that they could not in clear conscience support the official Boards and Agencies of the church as long as those Boards and Agencies were controlled by modernist factions in the church, they ceased all financial support to the offical Board of Foreign Missions, and instead began the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, with the goal of sending out Bible-believing Presbyterian missionaries. For his leadership role in the formation of the Independent Board and his principled stand for presbyterian orthodoxy, Dr. Machen was perceived by the modernists in the church as a troublemaker who was alleged to be guilty of disturbing the peace of the church. Ecclesiastical charges were brought against him, ultimately resulting in his being suspended from the gospel ministry in the PCUSA.
At his ecclesiastical trial Dr. Machen was not permitted to offer evidence in his defense, and even the secular press in attendance at his trial agreed that the proceedings were a sham and grossly unfair to him. Though Machen appealed the Presbytery’s judicial decision to the 1936 General Assembly, that Assembly upheld the lower court decision in the case of Machen and others who, like him, had been tried for their refusal to support the official Boards and Agencies of the church without question. All of this led to the formation of the Presbyterian Church of America in 1936, which was soon renamed the Orthodox Presbyterian Church(1).
What does all of this denominational history have to do with the annual Thank Offering? Here’s the connection: The annual Thank Offering was initiated by the OPC General Assembly in 1949 to support the Worldwide Outreach of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The OPC’s “Worldwide Outreach” includes its three program committees: The Committee on Christian Education; The Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension; and the Committee on Foreign Missions. These program committees exist to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ and to build up Christ’s Church, both here in the United States and abroad throughout the world. Through these committees Christian Education materials and gospel literature is made available to the churches and the public; ministerial internships designed to help train men aspiring to the gospel ministry are supported financially; church planters and mission churches are provided with financial support; foreign missionaries and their families are sent out into the mission field and fully supported financially; and much, much more!
Though the OPC has always been and remains today a relatively small (though gradually growing) denomination, its zeal to be obedient to our Lord’s great commission (Matthew 28:18-20) has been seen throughout its history in the high priority it has placed on missions and in the generous giving of its members toward the missionary labors of the church, both here in the United States and abroad in foreign lands. Dr. Machen and the other founders of the OPC laid the foundation for this mission-mindedness one finds in the OPC by their own example in supporting biblically presbyterian missionaries, and members of the OPC have often generously supported the missionary labors of the church in a way that exceeds the smallness of the denomination. In other words, for a church this small, our members have been big-hearted in their giving to missions. The annual Thank Offering, which is usually collected as a special offering (above and beyond the regular giving of the members) sometime in late November, is one of the important ways that the OPC today continues the missionary vision of Dr. Machen to see Jesus Christ faithfully proclaimed throughout the world as the only God-appoined Savior of sinners.
At Lake OPC we will be collecting our annual Thank Offering to benefit the OPC’s Worldwide Outreach on Sunday, November 22. While this is a voluntary offering (and not in any way a “church tax”), members are encouraged to prayerfully consider giving generously this year to this important offering in support of the ministries of the Worldwide Outreach of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Bulletin inserts explaining the work of the various program committees will be found in the weekly bulletins leading up to this special collection, which you are encouraged to read carefully. The recent edition of New Horizons, our denominational magazine, also highlights the OPC’s Worldwide Outreach and provides a map, names and pictures of all our home and foreign missionaries. All of the funds given to the Thank Offering will go toward benefiting the denominational ministries of Worldwide Outreach, and not our local congregation (which is supported by the ordinary weekly offerings of congregants). To learn more about the OPC’s Worldwide Outreach and/or the annual Thank Offering, go to the OPC’s website (opc.org).(2)
Let us demonstrate our thanksgiving and gratitude to God for his marvelous gift of salvation in Christ by giving cheerfully and sacrificially to the annual Thank Offering.(3)
(1) The PCUSA had brought a lawsuit against the newly formed denomination, claiming that its name was too similar to its own. Thus the new denomination changed its name from the Presbyterian Church of America to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
(2) The OPC has produced a brief video on Worldwide Outreach, which you can find here on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/142918051 Or, if you prefer, an online version of the Worldwide Outreach brochure can be found here: http://opc.org/committee_wwo.html
(3) If you would prefer to send in your Thank Offering gift separately by mail, you may send your check, made out to “The Orthodox Presbyterian Church” and designated “Thank Offering”, to the following address:
The Orthodox Presbyterian Church
607 N. Easton Rd., Bldg. E
Willow Grove, PA 19090-2539