Louisville, Kentucky (June 15, 1999)-Tom Leopard, church administrator for Briarwood Presbyterian Church, Birmingham, Ala., was elected Moderator of the 27th General Assembly tonight. He won on a ballot vote, 553-289-1.
Mr. Leopard is well-known to the Assembly, having attended every meeting of the court except the first one, in 1973. He has served in a variety of capacities, including on the denominational Standing Judicial Commission (SJC).
Dr. Cortez Cooper, who was Moderator of the 18th General Assembly, nominated the successful candidate. In his nominating speech, Dr. Cooper stated that "the General Assembly has shown great confidence through the years in Tom Leopard." He also said: "I've seen the gleam in his eye when he speaks of the Lord."
Also nominated for Moderator was Howard Q. Davis of Indianola, Miss. A lawyer, "Q." has served the General Assembly and Covenant Presbytery in a variety of ways, including being on the Candidates Committee of the Presbytery. Placing his name in nomination was the Rev. Mr. John Stodghill.
Shortly after his election, Mr. Leopard quipped: "I will address you only as 'brothers,' since there's no one here old enough to be my 'father.'" After the evening recess, Mr. Leopard was asked how it felt to be elected. He replied, "Oh, I'm scared to death."
Asked about the state of the denomination, the Moderator responded: "I think we've got a very healthy denomination. The Lord is blessing." He opined that the church will expand tremendously as it adapts not its message, but the methodology in presenting its message. He expressed hope that "every brother will keep in mind what we're here for-building the kingdom. We can get lost in paperwork and points of order."
In his view, the key issue is that of the Study
Committee on Creation. With regard to a personal resolution presented
this evening by Dr. Joseph Pipa [see related story-Ed.], the Moderator
said "I think I could affirm every affirmation that he was
affirming." However, he demurred regarding another controversial
issue, viz., women preaching. On that issue, he would "rather
let the Assembly speak to that."
Louisville, Kentucky (June 15, 1999)-Kennedy Smartt used his retiring moderator's sermon this evening to call the General Assembly to look back, look around, and look ahead. His message, entitled "Passing the Torch," was based on Joshua 1:1-9.
The text speaks of a time when Moses was dead. "God required Joshua to look back and reflect on this leader." In a similar way, Dr. Smartt named several of the key people in the founding of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) who had also passed on, including: Aiken Taylor (Editor of the Presbyterian Journal), Bill Hill (founder of the Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship), Leon Hendricks (Moderator of the Third Assembly and a judge in Jackson, Miss.), John Richards (who left his pastorate to work on behalf of the Continuing Presbyterian Church movement), Ken Keyes (leader in Concerned Presbyterians, Inc.), and Don Patterson.
The mentioning of Dr. Patterson was especially apropos, since the 1998 Assembly had named him as an Honorary Moderator. His illness prevented him from attending the Assembly; he was taken home to be with the Lord in December of last year. With his friend, Don Patterson, being unable to serve, Kennedy Smartt was tapped for the post.
The retiring Moderator called the commissioners to "say a resounding 'Yes' to evangelism and world evangelization, and . . . to the Reformed faith in all of its strength and purity." He exhorted the worshippers to a "personal pursuit of holiness and renewal," and a "sacrificial giving, going and praying for world evangelization."
In terms of Looking Around, Dr. Smartt recounted the children of Israel experiencing the rolling away of the reproach of Egypt at Gilgal. "Many of us are too young to remember the days of former denominational connections," declared the veteran of ecclesiastical wars. Unbelief, godlessness, faithlessness to ordination vows, liberalism, syncretism, and the replacement of the gospel with a social gospel were tolerated for many years. But when the PCA was formed in 1973, "We were out and the reproach of Egypt had been rolled away from us." With this relief comes responsibility; as a denomination, "God had laid upon us a charge, to be strong and very courageous."
In terms of Looking Ahead, the Moderator said that God had promised to give the Israelites every place where they set their feet. Today, "God has promised us the power of the Holy Spirit for every task."
Dr. Smartt averred that "if we're not faithful to the Great Commission, our orthodoxy becomes heresy. . . . Nothing kills like dead orthodoxy."
He continued: "Many of us are fishing in a bathtub. We're preaching to the choir. Jesus did not say, Sit and wait in all the world, He said, Go into all the world and preach the gospel. . . . God sends us out!"
The preacher also touched upon personal morality. He called upon anyone listening tonight who was involved in either an emotional or physical adulterous relationship to repent of that sin.
Kennedy Smartt concluded by saying that "if we do not rededicate, re-consecrate, our lives here tonight, we will die. If we do not remember our history and the rock from which we were hewn, we're going to die." He exhorted the commissioners to plant their feet on the promises of God.
Following the address, the sacrament of communion
was served, administered by Dr. L. Roy Taylor, Stated Clerk of
the General Assembly.
Louisville, Kentucky (June 15, 1999)-On the opening night of the 27th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), Dr. Joseph Pipa introduced a personal resolution on Creation. The President of Greenville (S. C.) Presbyterian Theological Seminary is asking the Assembly to make a declaration on the doctrine of Creation, which would affirm: "That God made all things directly by his command, concurring with our fathers 'That no part of the universe nor any creature in it came into being by chance or by any power other than that of the Sovereign God'"; "That the eight fiat acts of Genesis 1 were discreet, supernatural acts"; "That those things created by these acts were brought into existence immediately and perfectly"; "That God made Adam immediately from the dust of the ground and not from a lower animal form and that God's in-breathing constituted man a living soul, in the image of God"; "That God made Eve directly from Adam"; "That the entire human race, with the exception of our Lord Jesus Christ, descended from Adam and Eve by ordinary generation"; and "That all species were created perfect and needed no further development, thus denying progressive creation and macro evolution."
In arguing for the reception of his resolution, Dr. Pipa admitted that when the PCA was formed in 1973, "there was this allowance" of the word "day" in Genesis 1 having different interpretations. But there were some things that were not allowed. Noting the turmoil and dissension within the denomination over the matter of Creation, he offered the resolution in hopes that it would "do much to bring healing."
The question of where to send the resolution caused
a brief debate on the floor. Dr. Paul Gilchrist, former Stated
Clerk of the General Assembly, wanted it given to the Ad Interim
Creation Study Committee. But Dr. Pipa objected, stating that
the matter needed to be dealt with at this Assembly and not wait
another year. Moderator Kennedy Smartt said that he would send
it to Bills & Overtures Committee, and the Assembly, overwhelmingly,
agreed with his decision.
"Drink lots of fluids, eat wisely, get to bed
early, and use the exercise facilities."-Stated Clerk Roy
Taylor, reciting the advice from the General Assembly's doctor-on-call.
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