23 Dec GS 1986 art 185
GS 1986 ARTICLE 185
Appeals re Edmonton
Committee 2 presents:
– Agenda, VIII, H, 1 Letter from Rev. D. DeJong of Burlington East re Art. 148 of the Acts of the 1983 General Synod.
The letter of the Rev. D. DeJong is an appeal against Art. 148 of the Acts of the 1983 General Synod. This appeal is thus at the proper place and can be declared admissible.
- 1. Rev . D. DeJong appeals against the considerations in Art. 148 of the Acts of the 1983 General Synod, which read:
- 1. It is regrettable that Synod Smithville 1980 did not publish the grounds for its decision mentioned above.
- 2. From both the above submissions it is evident that the issue is: Does Art. 28 of the Belgic Confession call the believers to prove that they are church members or to join the church while not being members at that moment?
- 3. Article 28 of the Belgic Confession states clearly:
- a. No person ought to withdraw from the church.
- b. All men are in duty bound to join themselves to the church, thereby maintaining the unity of the church.
- c. It is the duty of all believers to join themselves to this congregation.
- d. All those who separate themselves from it act contrary to the ordinance of God.
- e. All those who do not join themselves to it act contrary to the ordinance of God.
- 4. The statement that “all believers already belong to the church” would nullify the above confession.
- 5. Although we confess in Lord’s Day 7 that those are saved who are ingrafted into Christ by a true faith, yet it is obvious that Q. & A. 55 describes the communion of saints as a characteristic of and a gift to the church.
- To send the above Considerations to the Churches at London and Neerlandia as Synod’s judgment on the issue raised in their appeals .”
- 2. Rev . D. DeJong requests General Synod to declare “that the judgment as given by Synod Cloverdale 1983 in its considerations. Acts, Art. 148, should not have been made, and to rescind this judgment, on the following grounds:
- a. that this judgment was based on a wrongly formulated issue;
- b. that this judgment wrongly has narrowed down the work of Christ in the gathering of His church as confessed in Lord’s Day 21 of the Catechism and Article 27 of the Belgic Confession, and is in conflict with the third questions in the Form for the Baptism of Adults ;
- c. that this judgment is dangerous for the unity of faith, seeing that the fourth consideration has been repeated in Acts, Art. 165 (C, 5) and Art. 166 (C, 4), which repetition tends to stress this interpretation of our confession concerning the church as part of the accepted doctrine of the Canadian Reformed Churches. against which nothing may be taught.”
- 1. Indeed the 1983 General Synod correctly formulated the crucial issue, which was and is whether everyone who is brought to faith in Jesus Christ is thereby already a member of Christ’s church.
- In denying this, the General Synod of 1983 did not reject Christ’s world-wide gathering of His church. It is wrong to suppose that the 1983 General Synod posited a narrow view of the church as though the only believers are in recognized, true and local churches. Together with the 1984 General Synod of Heemse of our Dutch sister-churches (cf. its “Uitspraak . . . inzake de leer van ds. Joh Hoorn over artikel 28 NGB”), we reject such a narrow view. Thus the 1985 General Synod of Heemse maintained that there are believers outside of the church. The summary of article 28, B.C., as given by the 1983 General Synod of Cloverdale accented the norms which apply to the believers and which Christ maintains in gathering His church. The General Synod of 1983 stressed that Christ not only brings persons to faith, but also draws those people, calling them into the communion of His Church. In this work He maintains the norms and means He revealed in His Word (i.e. the Word of the Holy Spirit, the ministries of office bearers, the preaching, the use of the sacraments, the exercise of church discipline, and all means of grace).
- 2. Scripture and the confessions speak about the church in a general way and a more specific way. On the one hand, there is the general aspect of Christ’s work of gathering all those whom the Father has given Him and whom He regenerates. This gathering-work of Christ is broader than the local, true churches. It is therefore within the bounds of Scripture and the confessions to say concerning the holy, catholic church that it is the gathering of those who are chosen and by regeneration are ingrafted into Him. Calvin calls this the church as God sees it, cf. Eph. 1: 5-32; Col. 1: 18, 24: Art. 27 of the Belgic Confession; L.D. 21 (Q. & A. 54). There is also the more specific aspect of the holy, catholic church as it is gathered locally by Christ in true churches, in the unity of the true faith, according to the norms to which we are bound for the gathering of the church. Although Scripture and the confessions base the church-gathering work of Christ on God’s election and its fruit, regeneration, this does not mean that they teach that election and regeneration as God’s invisible work are now the norm for the gathering of the church (Deut. 29: 29). The norm is and remains what God’s Word teaches, namely, that Christ gathers it in the unity of the true faith, according to the marks of the true church. When Art. 28, B.C., speaks about the holy, catholic church as congregation and assembly of the true Christian believers, this church is gathered locally by Christ – the word “ecclesia” indicates a visible assembly of believers. These believers are bound to the norms which Christ has given regarding the gathering of His Church, cf. Art. 28, 29 of the Belgic Confession. By taking election not only as his starting point but as the norm (cf. his distinction between being a member of the church already, and being all ready to join the church), the appellant neglects the true norm is for the gathering of the church as confessed in Art. 29, B.C. and he also does injustice to the norms for church membership as pointed out in Art 28 of the Belgic Confession and in L.D. 21 (54) with the words, “by His Spirit and Word in the unity of the true faith” (cf. John 17:20; Acts 2:42; I John 1:3: II John 9-11; Ill John 5-8)
- 3. The Apostles’ Creed further characterizes the church as the communion of saints. The Heidelberg Catechism explains this communion of saints as having two sides. There is the participation in Christ, which makes the communion of saints a gift, and there is the fellowship of believers who are to be a hand and foot for each other. This latter aspect shows that the communion of saints is a normative description of the church. In order to be gathered, defended and preserved, the church is bound to Christ ‘s norms, and these same norms apply to the communion of saints, cf. Arts. 28, 29, Belgic Confession. The communion of saints must be exercised and has to function there where the true Church of our Lord Jesus Christ is gathered in the unity of the true faith.
- 4. The following considerations are made concerning the specific references to the confessions:
- a. Art . 27 as an introductory article describes the church in general terms. It nowhere states that everyone who is a believer is already a member of the (holy, catholic) church even if the believer is not a member of a true, local church. This would make the concept of the holy, catholic church into a nebulous term devoid of meaning, since “church” means an assembly which Jesus Christ gathers, defends, and preserves, and which can be discerned by means of three marks, i.e. the preaching of the pure Word, the administration of the sacraments, and the exercise of discipline.
- b. Art . 28 again refers to the church as an assembly and congregation (congregatio and coetus as interchangeable terms) of the redeemed. The appellant then uses this description of the church in Articles 27 and 28 to claim that all the believers, as redeemed and regenerated , are already members of the holy, catholic church, though they may not be all ready to join the true church (attempting hereby to systematize a broken and sinful situation). This view undermines the urgent call for all believers to join the true church wherever God has established it, and it neglects the norms mentioned in Art. 28. Scriptural evidence for this latter consideration can be found, e.g, in I Corinthians. In this letter the apostle addresses himself to the church at Corinth with its official congregational meetings (“when you are assembled,” 5:4; 14:26; “when you assemble as a church,” 11:18; 14:23), in which discipline is exercised (5:4, 5) and the Lord’s Supper is celebrated (11:20), where the Word is preached (14:19) and where outsiders and even unbelievers may come in and be convinced by the preaching (14:22-24) and where the believers receive their appointments, gifts, and assignments in their special office and in the office of all believers (12:27-31). The church (ekklesia) in Paul’s letter is the assembly of the saints which is called together.
- c. Form for Adult Baptism, Third Question. The statement that “by the power of the Holy Spirit you have become a member of Jesus Christ and His church” should again not be taken out of its setting. An adult has come to the church to hear the proclamation of redemption and for instruction in the way of salvation; the person has appeared before the consistory to be examined; and now that adult stands up in the congregation to have his membership in the church and kingdom of God sealed. Under those circumstances this language is understandable (cf. the parallel in the case of infant baptism, in which the infants “must be grafted into the Christian church” (Q. & A. 74) and yet “as members of His church ought to be baptized” (Form). One should not press this language to posit a Scripturally unknown concept of a non-observable church of the elect and regenerated.
On the basis of the above considerations, General Synod decides to deny the ap peal of the Rev. D. DeJong.
The recommendation is ADOPTED.