04 Aug GS 1992 art 36
ARTICLE 36 – Overtures Regarding Deputies for the Promotion of Ecclesiastical Unity
Committee III presents: Agenda item VIII E1,2,3,4
- A. Overture from the church at Vernon, BC re contact with the Federation of the Orthodox Christian Reformed Churches.
- B. Overture from Classis Ontario North June 12, 1992 re the appointment of a committee for ecclesiastical unity among Reformed churches.
- C. Letter from the church at Guelph, ON.
- D. Letter from the church at Burlington East, ON supporting the overture of Classis Ontario North.
The overtures have been placed before Synod because they deal with matters which belong to the churches in common (Art. 30 C.O.) as they concern a federation and provisional assembly of churches.
- A. The church at Vernon, BC proposes that General Synod 1992 “appoint Deputies to establish contact with the Federation of Orthodox Christian Reformed Churches to see if we can come to the mutual recognition of each other as true churches of Jesus Christ and seek ways in which our unity of faith can be expressed and experienced.” According to the church at Vernon, “our local contacts with the Orthodox Reformed Church of Kelowna have convinced us that there are no such differences that justify a separate existence.”
- B. Classis Ontario North proposes “to appoint a committee with the mandate to promote ecclesiastical unity with Reformed Churches and/or Assemblies which recently have withdrawn or are withdrawing themselves from the Christian Reformed Church and which in all things want to bind themselves to the Word of God and the Three Forms of Unity and which in governing the church maintain good order in accordance with a Reformed church order.” Classis informs us that these churches have seceded from the Christian Reformed Church and rejected errors in doctrine and church government which the Canadian (American) Reformed Churches had warned them about. The Orthodox Christian Reformed Churches in North America have also publicly stated that they wished to have ecclesiastical fellowship with all truly Reformed believers and wish to be united with congregations, based on God’s infallible Word. Classis Ontario North recognizes that the local contact leading to unity or merger has implications for the federation and therefore a committee appointed by General Synod can assist and contribute to the execution of the calling to true ecclesiastical unity.
- C. Classis Ontario North recommends that the following mandate be given to the committee:
- 1. to follow the ecclesiastical developments among Reformed churches in North America and be diligent to contact churches of Reformed confession and church government, which seceded from the Christian Reformed Church and bind themselves to the Word of God and the Three Forms of Unity and which live together or want to live together in accordance with a Reformed church order.
- 2. to inform these churches and/or assemblies as soon as possible about the existence of the Canadian (American) Reformed Churches, their confessions and church order, and stimulate and encourage local contacts, if geographically feasible.
- 3. to inform Canadian (American) Reformed Churches of these developments and upon request advise them and offer assistance in establishing and maintaining contacts within their ecclesiastical area.
- 4. to be available to consistories for counsel if problems and questions arise when contacts develop into a process of locally becoming one church.
- 5. to represent the Canadian (American) Reformed Churches when invited to the meetings of the Alliance of Reformed Churches and/or other meetings of Reformed churches/assemblies, held for the purpose of strengthening and developing the unity of faith among Reformed churches and believers.
- 6. to serve the following General Synod with a report and recommendations, which should be sent to the churches at least six months before the beginning of this Synod.
- 7. to keep the churches informed concerning its activities by means of interim reports.
- D. The church at Burlington East, ON emphasizes the need for such a committee as proposed by Classis Ontario North June 12, 1992 because “discussions at the meetings organized in October 1992 by the Burlington Reformed Study Centre in Ancaster showed that both Canadian Reformed and former Christian Reformed recognize the need to seek unity.” The letter points out that “local action, where possible, is necessary.” However it is also indicated that “there are many issues that go beyond the local situation… There are many issues that should be dealt with on a federative level and cannot be dealt with adequately locally.”
- E. The church at Guelph, ON asks Synod to reject the proposal of Classis Ontario North June 12, 1992 on grounds that the appointment of such a synodical committee is premature because more investigation and initiating contact should be made at the local level. It also contests that Classis Ontario North has not given sufficient information about these churches and refers to a decision made by General Synod Coaldale 1977:
- Minor assemblies when making a proposal for taking up contact with other churches should supply Synods with sufficient information as it appears from the decisions made by General Synod Hamilton 1962, Acts Article 82 and General Synod Edmonton 1965, Acts Article 141, sub II (see General Synod Toronto, Acts Article 64).
- Guelph also suggests that the mandate of the proposed committee is too broad and open-ended.
- A. The overtures properly acknowledge the Scriptural call for unity in Christ’s church (John 17:20,2l; Ephesians 4:1-6) and the expressions in our confessions underlining such a call (Belgic Confession, Art.27-29; Heidelberg Catechism, L.D. 21), but differ as to its implementation.
- B. Classis Ontario North and the church at Vernon, BC point to the need to have contact with the OCRC and other independent churches that have broken with the CRC at a federal level. However there is also the legitimate point made clear from the overture of the church at Guelph, ON that this should not intrude upon or interfere with contact at the local level.
- C. The mandate as provided by Classis Ontario North is somewhat intrusive upon and not sufficiently sensitive to the primary responsibility of a local consistory in promoting this contact, e.g. Point 1 “be diligent to contact churches of Reformed confession and church order,” and Point 2 “stimulate and encourage local contacts.”
- D. The observation by the church at Guelph, ON that Classis Ontario North June 12, 1992 did not provide evidence “that the churches who have left the Christian Reformed Church have returned to the true service of God and are faithful to the Three Forms of Unity” is answered by ground 6 of the overture made by Classis:
- “The Orthodox Christian Reformed Churches in North America have . . . declared to ‘seek unity with all Christians and congregations who wish to live together in Christian harmony through the humble submission to God’s infallible Word, as this has been summarized in our Three Forms of Unity.’ (Declaration of Separation and Return approved by the following Orthodox Christian Reformed Churches: Bowmanville, ON; Burlington, WA; Pella, IA; Cambridge, ON; New Westminster, BC.; Everson, WA; Grand Valley, MI; Lynden, WA; Ripon, CA; Surrey, BC.; Toronto, ON; Wingham, ON; Kelowna, BC.) Furthermore, independent Reformed churches have expressed similar sentiments.”
- E. The concern of Guelph as to the lack of background information, a concern raised by previous Synods in considering contacts with other churches, is legitimate. However, these are churches who have broken with the CRC, the very church with whom we have had contact in recent decades and to whom we appealed on the basis of God’s Word and our common confessions.
- F. Synod notes that the churches referred to in the overtures of Vernon and Classis Ontario North June 12, 1992 have organized as a federation or are organizing as provisional assemblies, thus providing an opportunity for contact beyond the local level. Further, the timeliness of the overtures justifies Synod’s consideration of the material presented. It is therefore warranted to establish a committee for the purpose of providing information, consultation and representation on behalf of the Canadian Reformed Churches, whenever invited, at assemblies or meetings, for the goal of achieving ecclesiastical unity.
- A. to acknowledge the concerns expressed by the church at Guelph regarding the appointment of a committee by recognizing the need for continued contact on the local level.
- B. to appoint Deputies for the promotion of Ecclesiastical Unity, consisting of an equal number of committee members from the two Regional Synod districts, to promote the unity of Reformed believers who have left the Christian Reformed Church with the mandate:
- 1. to make their presence known for the purpose of information and consultation.
- 2. to represent the churches, whenever invited, at assemblies or meetings held for the purpose of coming to ecclesiastical unity.
- 3. to report on their activities to the churches and to the next General Synod.