GS 1986 art 175

GS 1986 ARTICLE 175

Contact with Churches Abroad

Committee 3 presents: PART I: ICRC


  • – Agenda, VIII, G, 2 Letter from the Ebenezer Can. Ref. Church at Burlington East.
  • G, 3 (a) Report from the CCCA.
  • (b) Appendices to Report from the CCCA. G, 4 Letter from brothers in Carman.


  • 1.     The Committee on Correspondence with Churches Abroad reports:
    • a.     that the conference meeting took place in Edinburgh, Scotland;
    • b.     that the following churches were participating as members of the ICRC
      • –    Canadian Reformed Churches
      • –    Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Ireland
      • –    Free Church of Scotland
      • –    Free Reformed Churches of Australia
      • –    Gereja Gereja Reformaci in Indonesia
      • –    Gereformeerde Kerken Nederland
      • –    Presbyterian Church in Korea
      • –     Free Church in Southern Africa
      • –    Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia
      • –    Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland;
    • c.     further, the following churches were represented by “visiting observers”
      • –    Orthodox Presbyterian Church in New Zealand
      • –    Evangelical Reformed Church of Singapore
      • –    Free Reformed Churches of North America
      • –    Free Reformed Churches in South Africa
      • –    Iglesia Evangelica Presbyteriana del Peru
      • –    Iglesia Reformada Presbyteriana (Spain)
      • –    Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk (South Africa)
      • –    Orthodox Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.
      • –    Reformed Church in Japan
      • –    Christian Witness to Israel
      • –    Free Church in India;
    • d.    the next meeting is proposed for 1989 in Vancouver, BC;
    • e.    “the amendments to the Constitution and By-Laws of the ICRC” as pro­ posed by the 1983 General Synod of Cloverdale, “could not be dealt with because the provisions for amending these documents could not be met. They have been placed on the agenda of the 1989 meeting;”
    • f.     they recommend that these “constitutional amendments as proposed by the 1983 General Synod of Cloverdale be set aside, with the exception of the possible inclusion of a clause to explain our relationship to an understand­ing of the Basis;”
    • g.     they further recommend that the Church at Cloverdale be requested to organize a prayer service before the commencement of the 1989 meeting of the conference
      • ii     the professors J. Faber and C. VanDam be appointed as advisors iii two members of the committee be designated as delegates
      • iv     the committee submit to the conference a list of suitable topics after consultation with the sister churches
      • v      the Canadian Reformed Churches assume all reasonable costs, in­cluding the expenses of an outing for the delegates;
  • 2.    The Ebenezer CRC at Burlington wishes to amend the proposal of the 1983 General Synod Cloverdale (Acts, Art. 121, D, 1, c) concerning Art. V (Authority) of the Constitution of the ICRC. This church suggests the following reading: “member-churches are to be informed of the decision of the Conference . . .” rather than be “urged to consider” as proposed by the 1983 General Synod Cloverdale. This consistory is afraid of an “outside” body initiating matters at our major ecclesiastical assemblies.
  • 3.    The brothers from Carman claim that the ICRC is not a decision-making body, and therefore cannot determine its own constitution. They claim that such a con­stitution needs to be ratified by the member-churches before the conference can be instituted. These brothers present their objections to the constitution, in particular with regards to the purpose of the ICRC (Acts, General Synod of Cloverdale of 1983, p. 329). Their basic objection to the stated purpose is that there can be no expression of the unity of faith unless there is full ecclesiastical correspondence.
  • 4.    They propose that the purpose of the ICRC should be
    • a.    “To assist the member-churches by examining the doctrinal divergencies of their confessions and church polity and examine each others’ applica­tions of the confessions and Church Order so that the churches may deter­ mine whether it is possible to express the unity of faith by full ecclesiastical correspondence, and that this remain the only purpose of the ICRC until the stated purpose has been accomplished within a reasonable length of time which is to be determined by the churches.”
    • b.    “That for all the above reasons General Synod decides that the Canadian Reformed Churches will terminate their membership in the ICRC unless the above purpose is adopted by the member churches” (The 1983 General Synod, Acts, Art. 121, C, 6).


  • 1.     The Report of the Committee on Correspondence with Churches Abroad clear­ly presents the proceedings of the ICRC. The committee makes a number of acceptable proposals in preparation of the next ICRC meeting. An invitation to one or more of our professors should be made relative to the topics to be discussed.
  • 2.    The amendments proposed by the General Synod of Cloverdale of 1983 (Acts, Art. 121, D, 1) have been placed on the agenda of the 1989 meeting of the ICRC, but the committee’s request to set aside these proposed amendments cannot be granted in full for the following reasons:
    • a.    Re: amendment to “Art. II – Basis”: although those present at the con­ference appeared to understand the intent, the committee itself recognizes that the present formulation of the “Article II –    Basis” may be confusing to others. An addition in the minutes of a meeting is not sufficient to clarity an article as important as the basis of the conference.
    • b.    Re: membership in the RES: General Synod of Cloverdale considered membership in the RES an impediment for membership in the ICRC. Our Committee on Correspondence with Churches Abroad argues that member­ ship in the WCC and “any other organization whose aims and practices are deemed to be in conflict with the Basis” should remove the concern of the General Synod of Cloverdale, and that, if we insist on adding the RES, other members may well add “a host of other ecclesiastical organizations.” However, it must be remembered that our churches, in particular in the con­tacts with the OPC, have deplored membership in the RES .
    • c.    Re: amendment ” Art. V – Authority”: the concern expressed by the Church at Burlington East is justified. Therefore, “Art. V – Authority” should be amended to read: “The conclusions of the conference shall be advisory in character. Member churches are to be informed of these conclusions and are recommended to work towards their implementation.”
    • d.    Re: “Art. Ill, 5 – Purpose”: the Committee on Correspondence with Church­es Abroad argues that the conference as a non-ecclesiastical body indeed can and may “present a Reformed testimony to the world” since such a testimony cannot be considered as contrary to Art. 30 of the C.O., which forbids churches to deal with non-ecclesiastical matters. The committee therefore suggests that the proposed amendment be withdrawn . Since the conference can speak out on matters which are legitimately placed on it agenda by member churches, the amendment proposed by the General Synod of Cloverdale is in fact confusing. Therefore it should be withdrawn .
    • e.    Re: Art. II concerning the election of officers: the Committee on Cor­ respondence with Churches Abroad suggests that the proposed reading (“Each Conference shall elect… “) is merely stylistic. Although the General Synod of Cloverdale does not give reasons for its proposed amendment, it must be remembered that the conference is not an ecclesiastical assembly, while it needs a more or less permanent executive to enable it to function. This article, however, fails to indicate the length of the term of service for each officer.
    • f.     The suggestion of the Committee on Correspondence with Churches Abroad that the amendment to Regulations Art. II, 4, b, iv (“publish materials, reports or other publications as authorized by the conference;”) so that it reads “to forward to the churches material . . .” is merely stylistic and can be accepted, since the churches will be informed by their delegates, and there is no reason why the proceedings of the conference, including papers presented could not receive wide(r) publications.
  • 3.     The objections of the brothers in Carman against the “Purpose” of the ICRC are based on their opinion that the unity of faith can only be expressed by means of a relationship on the basis of our rules of correspondence. Such a statement has never been made by our churches, as illustrated by the fact that the 1983 General Synod of Cloverdale did not reject “Art. Ill – Purpose (1)”, as well as in the temporary ecclesiastical contact with the OPC. This does not mean that membership in the ICRC can be taken as replacing sister church relationships. The ICRC might indeed help “to encourage the fullest ecclesiastical fellowship” by providing a forum where churches may meet with each other. But formal recognition of churches as true Churches of our Lord Jesus Christ should not be based on testimony of sister churches only or on ICRC membership; such recognition remains the churches’ own responsibility. Therefore no amendment to the “Purpose” as proposed by the brothers in Carman is necessary.


Synod decide:

  • 1.     To instruct the Committee on Correspondence with Churches Abroad to prepare the next meeting of the ICRC as they have outlined in their report by:
    • a.     requesting the Canadian Reformed Church at Cloverdale to organize a prayer service before the commencement of the 1989 meeting of the International Conference of Reformed Churches:
    • b.     consulting the sister churches on suitable topics for the 1989 meeting of the ICRC;
    • c.     by assuming all reasonable cost related to their role as host on behalf of the Canadian Reformed Churches;
    • d.     depending on the nature of the matters to be discussed to invite either one or both of the professors of the Theological College recommended by the committee as advisors to the conference;
    • e.     designating two members of the committee as delegates.
  • 2.    To advise the executive of the ICRC that the amendments as proposed by the General Synod of Burlington West of 1986 be placed on the agenda instead of those proposed by Synod Cloverdale 1983, to wit:
    • a.     that a stipulation be included in the “Basis” of the ICRC that the delegates subscribe only to the standards of the churches of which they are a member;
    • b.     that membership of the RES is an impediment to membership of the ICRC; c. that “CONSTITUTION Art . V – Authority” be amended to read:
      • “The conclusions of the conference shall be advisory in character. Member churches are to be informed of these conclusions and are recommended to work towards their implementation.”
  • 3.     to deny the request of the brothers in Carman;
  • 4.     to advise the Ebenezer Church in Burlington and the brothers in Carman of this Synod’s decision.

The recommendations are ADOPTED.

The chair rules that, according to Art. 32, C.O., the Rev . P.K.A . DeBoer, being one of the appellants, cannot take part in the vote. Synod is adjourned for supper.