GS 1989 art 138

GS 1989 ARTICLE 138

Committee IV presents: Agenda Item VIII, D, 10


Letter from the Church at Coaldale, AB. re Acts Regional Synod West (Chilliwack, March 31 -April 3, 1987) art. 13, 14.



  • 1. The Church at Coaldale requests to judge that:
    • a. “Regional Synod Chilliwack 1987 erred in judging that Classis AB/MB Jan. 1987 was correct in stating that a ‘provisional release’ was proper in the emergency situation that existed.”
    • Grounds:
      • 1. Regional Synod failed to acknowledge that the temporary release was not imposed by Immanuel Council on the ground of an emergency situation;
      • 2. Regional Synod failed to prove an emergency situation;
      • 3. Regional Synod failed to prove the legitimacy of suspending the adopted C.O. without proven necessity;
      • 4. Regional Synod failed to acknowledge that suspending the law of the C.O. created an emergency rather than resolve it.
    • b. Regional Synod Chilliwack 1987 erred in judging that Classis AB/MB, Jan. 1987 did not use a double standard with regard to Rev. DeBruin on the one hand and the council of the Immanuel Church on the other.
    • Grounds:
      • 1. Regional Synod itself correctly admits, by implication, that it was the duty and calling of Classis to direct both parties to the church-orderly way;
      • 2. At the same time, and in conflict with the above, Regional Synod judges (Consideration 7) that one party did not have to go the churchorderly way;
      • 3. The principle of “one law for all” demands that Classis AB/MB should have bound both parties to the law of the C.O. instead of binding the one party to the church-orderly way while allowing the other party to operate according to the standard of “necessity in emergency situations.”
    • c. Regional Synod Chilliwack 1987 erred in judging that “by directing both parties to the church-orderly way, Classis AB/MB, Jan 1987 did not fail in its Scriptural duty.”
    • Grounds:
      • 1. Regional Synod failed to acknowledge that Classis did not direct both parties in the same way to the church-orderly way;
      • 2. Regional Synod denies in Consideration 7 that one of the parties had to go the church-orderly way, thus denying that Classis had the duty and calling to direct both parties to the church-orderly way;
      • 3. Regional Synod failed to address the motivation of the Appeal of the Church at Coaldale and the nature of the duty and calling of Classis, as stated in the Appeal, namely to work for the restoration of peace and unity in the now broken Immanuel Canadian Reformed Church at Edmonton.
  • 2. From the material available it appears that the chronology of events within the Immanuel congregation in 1986 is as follows:
    • April 21: An attempt to use Art. 11 C.O. is unsuccesful.
    • July 25: Council accepts judgment of General Synod 1986 and considers the issue settled and binding.
    • Oct. 7-9: Classis AB/MB had difficulty with the status of the delegates from Immanuel.
    • Nov. 5: Consistory Immanuel met with consistory Providence to discuss worthiness of suspension.
    • Nov. 13: Providence could not concur with the procedure.
    • Nov. 24: Report Church Visitation speaks of a complex situation existing in the Immanuel council. Possibility of using Art. 11 C.O. is raised and discussed.
    • Nov. 27: Council rescinds motion of Art. 71-72 C.O. and a motion regarding Art. 11 C.O. is tabled.
    • Dec. 11: Motion on Art. 11 is carried. A decision is made to provisionally release Rev. S. DeBruin of all duties and responsibilities as minister of the congregation pending approbation of Classis.
    • Dec. 11: Confidential letter to congregation regarding the provisional release of Rev. S. DeBruin.
    • Dec. 12: Letter to Classis to ask for approval.
    • Dec. 14: So-called “act of liberation” declared by Rev. S. DeBruin c.s., who calls the members of the congregation also to “liberate” themselves from the ecclesiastical authority of the majority of council.
    • Dec. 17: A decision is made to consider Rev. S. DeBruin and three other office-bearers worthy of suspension for schismatic actions.
    • Dec. 20: Combined meeting with Providence Consistory, which concurs with worthiness of suspension.


  • 1. According to the Consistory of the Immanuel Church a complex situation, which had dragged on for years had become severely aggravated because of reactions to the Consistory’s decision (July 25, 1986) to consider the decisions of General Synod 1986 settled and binding. The Consistory concluded on Dec. 11, 1986 that it was “impossible for him (Rev. DeBruin) to bring back together, this flock, our congregation, into a unity”, and that Rev. DeBruin “no longer can be considered to work fruitfully in his congregation as a whole”. (Confidential letter to congregation December 11, 1986)
  • 2. This complex situation could not be resolved by Classis AB/MB Oct.7-9 1986, nor by consultation with the neighbouring church (Nov.13, 1986), nor through the advice of the Church Visitors (Report Church Visitation Nov.24, 1986). It was in this situation that the Consistory began considering dismissal according to Art. 11 C.O. as the only way out of a situation of “intolerable tensions and disunity.” (Confidential letter, point 6) The possibility of using Art.11 C.O., which had been discussed already in April 1986, again came to the fore.
  • 3. Art. 11 C.O. deals with a situation when “a minister of the Word is judged unfit and incapable of serving the congregation fruitfully and to its edification, without there being any reason for church discipline.” The Consistory of the Immanuel Church concluded that the confusion, tension and stress in council and congregation had been “caused to a large extent by the explanations and applications concerning the doctrine of the church . . . as well as his (Rev. DeBruin’s) manner and publications.” (Confidential letter, Dec.11, 1986; emphasis Synod). Urgings of more care and restraint had not the desired effect.
  • 4. The letter of the Consistory indicates that indeed a situation existed in which Art. 11 C.O. could be applied.
  • 5. The above demonstrates that Classis AM/MB, Jan. 1987, did not fabricate an emergency situation as Coaldale contends, neither did Regional Synod West 1987 do this. This situation indeed existed.
  • 6. The fact that the Immanuel Consistory in its request to approve the decision did not provide grounds for this request does not mean that there are no grounds. This letter was a notification to the next Classis that the Consistory would seek classical approbation. (Appeal III, Consid. 6)
  • 7. Provisional release according to Art. 11 C.O. is not a suspension according to Art. 71-72 C.O.
  • 8. The Church at Coaldale by separating the decision regarding provisional release from the dismissal according to Art. 11 C.O. attempts to show that the provisional release was against the C.O. (“a lawless act”, Appeal III B7) However, the provisional release cannot be understood except as an application of Art. 11 C.O. in the given circumstances. Regional Synod West 1987 did not maintain this connection consistently. (Acts, Art. 14, consid.4 and 5)
  • 9. Only a Consistory can dismiss a minister, and may not do this without the approbation of Classis and the concurring advice of deputies Regional Synod. However, Art. 11 does not state that the dismissal goes into effect only after the approbation of Classis, although this may be assumed as being normally the case. A dismissal can due to circumstances go into effect immediately, but is then provisional, pending the approbation by the next Classis.
  • 10. A dismissed minister ought not to withdraw himself from the church, but must go the way of appeal according to Art. 31 C.O. Rev. DeBruin should have gone to the same Classis which had to approbate his dismissal.


Synod decide:

  • 1. Regional Synod West 1987 did not err when it concluded that there was an “emergency situation” which may have required a dismissal according to Art. 11 C.O. The evidence shows that such a situation existed not after but already before the “provisional release”.
  • 2. Regional Synod West 1987 was correct in directing Rev. DeBruin to go the way of the Church Order (Art.31) instead of withdrawing himself from the Church at Edmonton. The Immanuel Church at Edmonton had properly placed the matter on the provisional agenda of Classis AB/MB, Jan. 1987 (Art. 11 C.O.) and therefore no double standard was applied by this Classis.
  • 3. Regional Synod 1987 did err when it judged that Classis AB/MB Jan 1987 had directed both parties in the way of the Church Order. The Immanuel Church did not need to be directed in this way, because it did go the way according to the Church Order (Art.11)