GS 1984 art 150

GS 1983 ARTICLE 150Overture Church at Ottawa re The Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America

Committee Ill presents:

A MATERIAL – Agenda L,1 Overture Church at Ottawa

re Contact Reformed Presby­terian Church of North America.


  • 1.  The Church at Ottawa has supplied Synod with information regarding the Re­ formed Presbyterian Church of North America, concerning the history, statis­tics, standards, church polity, worship, ethics, and relations of the RPCNA as follows:
    • a.   The RPCNA finds its roots in Scotland. They are commonly referred to as “covenanters” because in their struggles against such kings as Charles I, Charles II and James VII who fanatically attempted to force a semi-Roman Catholic system of worship and doctrine and an episcopal. hierarchical Eras­ tian form of Church government upon them, they found that the act of sign­ing “covenants” was of great benefit for mutual protection and the defense of Protestantism. All those who signed such a covenant would thereby swear to God to be faithful mutually to the Presbyterian and Scriptural principles of the Re format ion. The terrible years of persecution and bloodshed came to an end when James VII died and William of Orange came to rule in his stead; thereafter the Reformed Presbyterian Church gradually took shape. In 1743 the first Reformed Presbytery was organized. In the nineteenth cen­tury many members of these Churches immigrated to North America, and there formed the present RPCNA.
    • At this time the RPCNA has about 80 congregations and a total member­ ship of about 10,000. Over the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there existed in Canada about 26 congregations and about 80 other mission sta­tions or resident groups. Today however, only 3 congregations can be found in Canada, all in and around Ottawa; they are in Almonte, Lochiel, and Otta­wa itself.
    • b.   As to doctrine, the RPCNA adheres to the Westminster Confession of Faith and to the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms. In addition to these. in 1806 it has adopted The Declaration and Testimony of the RPCNA (amended 1823-1928); in setup as well as in contents, it is very similar to the Westminster Confession. Moreover, as recently as 1980 the RPCNA has adopted another Testimony: typed in parallel columns with the Westminster Confession. it at­ tempts to set forth the teachings of the RPCNA with respect to areas of con­cern today. Insofar as we have studied it, we have found it to be truly Re­ formed. speaking out against the erroneous views of Barth. Bultmann and others with respect to Scripture. against pentecostalism, evolution, gambling, pacifism. against hierarchical and independentistic systems of church govern­ment, for the establishment of Christian schools, and about a host of other matters. Furthermore, on account of its history and on account of its belief that just as “God’s people under the old covenant engaged in corporate acts of repentance and renewal in relation to the transgression of specific com­mandments or to general apostasy from God,” so in the New Testament “it is appropriate for Churches and nations to covenant to be the Lord’s and to serve Him,” (Testimony 1980, ch. 22), the RPCNA in 1871 subscribed to a document called The Covenant. Insofar as we have studied it, we have found it to be a moving, worshipful, Reformed document which in no way detracts from the Scriptural character of the other confessions mentioned above.
    • c.   As to church government, the RPCNA has adopted that system that is com­monly referred to as “Presbyterian.” In their history, they have shown them­ selves to be persons who will sacrifice life and limb to keep out all hierarchical and Erastian tendencies and to acknowledge Christ as the Sole Head of the Church. The document called The Form of Church Government (adopted, 1945) outlines this system, and another document entitled The Book of Dis­cipline (adopted, 1945) sets forth the steps to be followed in matters of discipline and in disputes.
    • d.   As to the matter of worship, the RPCNA has a couple of distinctive features: the use of hymns and of organs is forbidden. The Testimony of 1980 (ch. 21) says about this: “The Book of Psalms, consisting of inspired Psalms. hymns and songs, is the divinely authorized manual of praise. The use of other songs in worship is not authorized in the Scriptures … The Psalms are to be sung without the accompaniment of instruments, which are not part of the New Testament pattern of worship. Musical instruments were commanded for use with the offering of sacrifices in the Old Testament temple worship. The death of Christ being the perfect and final sacrifice brought an end to this way of worship. There is neither command for nor example of the use of musical instruments in the words or practice of Christ and the apostles. The com­mand of the New Testament is to offer the sacrifice of praise – the fruit of our lips …” With respect to the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, it can be noted that persons who are not members of the RPCNA are admitted on­ly after examination by the session of the local Church.
    • e.   As to ethics, The Testimony of 1980 witnesses to the fact that in an age of great moral decline, the RPCNA requires its members to walk in a manner that is godly and obedient to the Scriptures. Members are not to join in societies which require an oath of secrecy at initiation. The Testimony of 1980 urges members “to be careful in the use of drugs. Christians should avoid enslavement to alcohol. tobacco or any habit-forming drug” (ch. 26); officebearers must totally abstain from the use of any alcohol and tobacco.
    • f.    The RPCNA has “fraternal relations with the Reformed Presbyterian Church­es of Australia, Ireland, and Scotland. As a member of NAPARC (North Amer­ican Presbyterian and Reformed Council), it also has fraternal relations with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the Presbyterian Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church. Besides these, the RPCNA also has fraternal relations with the Greek Evangelical Church of Cyprus, the Free Church of Scotland (Synod of North America), and the Reformed Church in the USA (Eureka Classis).
  • 2.  a. The Church at Ottawa informs Synod particularly about “occasional contacts” established in Ottawa between members of the Canadian Reformed Church and local RPCNA congregations.
    • b. The Church at Ottawa has been “encouraged by the presence of these other small and faithful congregations and desires to establish more contacts and ties with them.”
    • c.  The Church at Ottawa does not want to proceed with these contacts in an “independentistic fashion” and feels that since local contacts “can only pro­ceed to a limited extent,” it is necessary “for (the) committees of the respective Synods to relate with each other.”
  • 3.   On the basis of the above, the Church at Ottawa recommends to Synod that:
    • 1.    Synod express its willingness to initiate contact with the Reformed Presby­terian Church of North America;
    • 2.   and that in order to establish such contact and to study fully the doctrinal, ethical. liturgical and church governmental principles and practices of the RPCNA, Synod Cloverdale either:
      • a.    broaden the mandate of its Committee on Correspondence with Church­es Abroad or of its Committee on Contact with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in such a way that one of these committees executes this task, or;
      • b.    that Synod appoint another committee and give it the above mandate.


  • 1.   The Church at Ottawa has made a fairly substantial submission to Synod on the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, however, it has not sup­ plied Synod with a copy of either The Westminster Standards as adopted by this Church, nor a copy of the Form of Government. nor a copy of The Testimony 1980.
  • 2.  General Synod Hamilton 1962, stated that minor assemblies, when making a proposal for taking up contact with other Churches, should supply Synod with sufficient information ( Acts, Art. 82: see also Acts 1965, Art. 141).
  • 3.   Synod Toronto 1974 (Acts, Art. 20) as well as Synod Coaldale 1977 (Acts, Art. 95), decided not to grant requests respectively from the Churches at Lincoln and Calgary to establish contact committees with other Churches because these requests were not accompanied with sufficient information about these Church­es, e.g. concerning Confession, Government, origin, history, statistical data etc.
  • 4.  The Church at Ottawa introduces a new matter which has not been dealt with at the minor assemblies and therefor e has not adequately involved and prepared the Churches re its overture.


Synod decides:

  • 1.   Not to grant the overture of the Church at Ottawa
  • 2.   To advise the Church at Ottawa to have this matter introduced in the way of the minor assemblies and to provide sufficient information as stipulated by pre­vious Synods.

The Recommendations D, 1 and 2 are