Interview #86 – 2015 ARBCA General Assembly – Douglas VanderMeulen [Audio Podcast]

arbca ga


Pastor Douglas VanderMeulen
Pastor Douglas VanderMeulen

On episode 86 of our interview podcast we have Pastor Douglas VanderMeulen on to tell us all about the 2015 ARBCA General Assembly (GA).

If you haven’t already, you’ll want to make sure you’ve listened to episode 49 for more background on ARBCA (Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America).


  • Testimony
  • On the ARBCA General Assembly:
    • Why was two of the three days spent on Impassibility?
    • How do Position Papers get started up and what purpose do they serve?
    • How did the discussions on Impassibility go?
    • What other business gets taken care of at the GA?
  • + more


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Gordon Taylor beginning #ARBCAGA15 with an encouraging devotional from Psalm73

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ARBCA General Assembly here in Mansfield, Texas.

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The Theology Committee fielding questions at the #ARBCAGA15

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Pastor Tom Lyon finishing Day 1 of #ARBCAGA15 with a message from God's Word.

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My personal heroes. #ARBCAGA15

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The simplistic BTC table at the 2015 ARBCA General Assembly #ARBCAGA14

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Jesus With Thy Church Abide by Andrew Osenga

14 Replies to “Interview #86 – 2015 ARBCA General Assembly – Douglas VanderMeulen [Audio Podcast]”

  1. Still trying to get my head around what ARBCA is… sort of an almost-but-not-quite a presbyterian mode of government? Which is good, but then how does that work with a network of churches with congregationalist piety? Is it sort of a “Gospel Coalition”-kind of thing?

    1. Johnny,

      ARBCA is nothing at all like TGC, which is a loose affiliation of celebrities. It is neither Presbyterian nor Congregational. It is an association – or to use 17th Century language, a formal communion of churches, which – while independently constituted – have joined together to hold one another accountable to a common Confession of Faith and to assist one another in the propagation of the gospel.

      I think the difficulty is that many are trying to say what it is like” It isn’t like anything since the old Philadelphia Baptist Association over a century and a half ago. It has no parallel in our century – either among Presbyterian denominations or in the loose, non-denominational coalitions.

  2. The point at around 26:00 about not trying to reach unanimity and not trying to retain every church in the association is worth highlighting more. It seems that the fact that each pastor (and church) was independent and could retain their liberty of conscience in the matter without fear of losing their vocation or ministry (ordination) contributed to the fruitfulness of the outcome.

    I would love to see someone put together a comparison of how this point affects discussion in a denomination vs association.

  3. I think the confusion enters because there are different ways that people think of church “power” and “authority”–and deliniating an association’s power is not as simple as just saying it has none over the local congregation.

    Any organization that has the ability to censure or make demands has some sort of power.

    To say that “ARBCA does not have any authority over…” may be technically correct in one sense, but ultimately, ARBCA does have power and authority over the church’s membership in the association, and as long as that membership means something, there will be power that the association has over the local church, even if it isn’t formal. As part of the association, there are certain things the congregation is not free to do without censure. There are also demands of membership churches. ARBCA has a power of censure, not to the same as a Presbyterian denomination, but it still is able to censure and make demands of their membership (albeit more limitedly than the Presbyterians).

    Someone might say that it is voluntary and the church can leave. So is individual church membership. So is, according to my understanding, Presbyterian church government (I think a session can vote to leave the presbytery). And both of those, we would acknowledge, involve serious authority and power. So, the voluntary nature of it does not mean there isn’t power or authority so long as the voluntary association persists.

    This is not an argument for or against ARBCA or Associations, its just to say that saying ARBCA has “no authority” or “no power” ignores the very real dynamics of power that censure (in this case, of expulsion from an association) has.

    So, my basic point is that saying “it is just an association… [doesn’t] have any authority…” probably needs more explanation. That’s all I’m really saying.

    1. The nature and limits of a communion of churches (to use 17th century and confessional language) is defined in paragraphs 14 and 15 of chapter 26 of the 1689.

      The point made by “guest” above is crucial: no one was in danger of losing his ordinational status. This is a very non-Presbyterian approach. The church ordains, and in a Baptist setting, the church is local. This is what the confession means by “no church power properly so called.” The communion has no authority to remove from ministry nor to enact discipline. It may, however, commend or not commend churches, by inclusion or exclusion from its own associational communion.

      This is not Presbyterianism; neither is it 20th Century Fundamentalist or Evangelical Independency. It is the polity of the 17th Century Particular Baptists slowly coming to life again in one wing of 21st Century American Reformed Baptist movement. It is fascinating to watch, and for Confessional Reformed Baptists, it is an encouraging development.

      1. (Without commenting on modern practices) It’s also worth noting that original Presbyterianism (so far as I understand it) knew nothing of a session voting to leave a presbytery because there is only one church, organized in a Presbyterian hierarchy spanning the globe. To try to leave the church of Christ for another “denomination” was schism. That’s why baptists and Independents were considered schismatics. Presbyterianism is the belief that the universal visible church is one institution.

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