13 Jul GS 1995 art 106
GS 1995 ARTICLE 106 – Contact with the OPC
The following amendment is presented:
To add the following paragraph between the existing paragraphs C and D under part VI Recommendations:
- D. To offer to the OPC a relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship under the adopted rules and if this offer is accepted, to formalize this relationship in a manner satisfactory to both church federations.
- by renaming the existing paragraphs D, E, F, G, H as paragraphs E, F, G, H & I by deleting the existing paragraph D(1) and replacing it with the following:
- 1. to continue discussions with the OPC, using the statement of Synod Lincoln 1992 (Acts 1992, Art. 72,IV.A.1.e.i,ii) as a guideline to arrive at a mutual understanding with the OPC on the matters of fencing of the Lord’s Table and confessional membership.
- And by deleting the second paragraph under the existing D(4) and existing para- graph E.
- The Executive rules that this amendment is not germane to the Committee’s proposal and is therefore disallowed. After some discussion how to proceed, the Chair rules that the proposal of Committee I is the main motion currently under discussion.
- The following motion is presented: to amend V.B.3 as follows:
- The complaint that the matters at stake (confessional membership, admission to the Lord’s Table) are of a confessional nature actually deals with certain practices in the OPC and not its confessional documents. That the problem does not lie in the Westminster Standards as such is confirmed by the fact that the FCS, maintaining the same standards as the OPC, has different practices with regard to confessional membership and the fencing of the Lord’s Table. It cannot be denied that these practices give reason for concern since they touch the very nature of the church and what the church confesses regarding its marks and therefore they need to be clarified.
This amendment is DEFEATED Committee I Presents:
Agenda Items VIII. A. 6, 7, 15, 20, 21, C. 5, 6, 7, 10 – 15, 17, 21, 25, 27, 29, 30, 32, 37, 39, 41, 44, 45, 47, 48, D. 10
- A. Report from the Committee for Contact with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (CCOPC)
- B. Letter from the church at Coaldale re: General Synod Lincoln 1992, Art. 72
- C. Letter from the church at Orangeville re: same
- D. Letter from the church at Fergus re: appeal from church at Orangeville.
- E. Letter from Rev. P. Kingma and br. T. Kingma re: Ecclesiastical Contact with Presbyterian Churches
- F. Appeal from the church at Blue Bell re: General Synod Coaldale 1977, Art. 91 and General Synod Lincoln 1992, Art. 72
- G. Appeal from the church at Carman re: Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the OPC
- H. Overture from the church at Surrey re: Relationship with the OPC
- I. Appeal from the church at Grand Rapids re: General Synod Lincoln 1992, Art. 128
- J. Appeal from the church at Grand Rapids re: General Synod Lincoln 1992, Art. 111
- K. Appeal from the church at Grand Rapids re: General Synod Coaldale 1977, Art. 91
- L. Overture from the church at Grand Rapids re: Goal of Contact with the OPC
- M. Appeal from the church at Grand Rapids re: General Synod Lincoln 1992, Art. 72
- N. Appeal from the church at Watford re: General Synod Lincoln 1992, Art. 72
- O. Letter from the church at Port Kells re: Report CCOPC
- P. Overture from the church at Chilliwack re: Report CCOPC.
- Q. Letter from the church at Carman re: Report CCOPC
- R. Appeal from the church at London re: General Synod Lincoln 1992, Art. 72
- S. Letter from the church at Neerlandia re: Report CCOPC.
- T. Appeal from br. W. DeHaan re: Relationship with the OPC
- U. Appeal from the church at Attercliffe re: General Synod Lincoln 1992, Art. 72
- V. Letter from the church at Burlington-East re: Report CCOPC
- W. Appeal from the church at Lincoln re: General Synod Lincoln 1992, Art. 72
- X. Letter from the church at Houston re: Report CCOPC
- Y. Letter from the church at Winnipeg re: Report CCOPC
- Z. Letter from the church at Smithville re: Relationship with the OPC AA. Appeal from the church at Brampton re: Report CCOPC
- BB. Appeal from br. and sr. B. Jansen re: General Synod Lincoln 1992, Art. 72 CC. Letter from church at Fergus, re: Report CCOPC
Synod declares the agenda items admissible with the following proviso:
Agenda items A 15, 20, 21, C 18, 30, 32, 45, 47, 48 should be declared inadmissible because Guidelines for Synod state that “all appeals should ordinarily be at the convening church at least one month before Synod convenes,” and these were submitted late with no reasons given to justify the lateness of their submission. However, they are declared admissible on the ground that they deal with an issue of major concern in the churches, and to avoid the impression of not doing full justice to the matter.
Synod 1992 gave the Committee for Contact with the OPC the following specific mandate:
- A. To maintain the contact with the OPC, according to the rules for “Ecclesiastical Contact” as determined by Synod Coaldale 1977, and to request comment on the rules of ecclesiastical fellowship to determine whether these are presently acceptable.
- B. To continue the discussion of divergences which are considered to be impediments to ecclesiastical fellowship, and to see whether these divergencies stem from ecclesiological and/or historical differences (as outlined in [the considerations] IV, A3 vi…), with the purpose of having these impediments removed.
- C. To respond to the question of CEIR to the problem of receiving congregations and ministers that have been or are members of the OPC, as outlined under Considerations IV.A.2.a, b, and c.
- D. To continue to discuss and evaluate the current third party relationships of the OPC.
- E. To inform the OPC that the matters which still require resolution for the establishment of full ecclesiastical fellowship are (see [Consideration] IV, A3v)
- a. the matter of confessional membership
- b. the matter of supervision of the Lord’s table
- c. the matter of the relationship with the Christian Reformed Church.
- F. to serve the churches with regular reports of the work of the Committee and to serve General Synod 1995 with a report, to be sent to the churches at least six months prior to the beginning of Synod.
- A. Re: Report of the Committee for Contact with the OPC
- 1. Mandate Synod 1992
- a. With respect to the first point of the mandate, meetings were held, and the rules for Ecclesiastical Fellowship were presented to the CEIR, which made some suggestions for alternate wording. On the whole the rules for Ecclesiastical Fellowship were received favourably.
- b. The Committee found it nearly impossible to fulfil its mandate because of the CEIR’s reactions to the decision of Synod Lincoln 1992 to extend a relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship to the PCK and the FCS. The CEIR questions whether the Canadian Reformed Churches are dealing fairly and evenhandedly with the OPC, and not applying a double standard in interchurch dealings. Further, it feels that the OPC is being held to more rigorous and more exacting requirements for a relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship than other churches.
- c. With respect to receiving OPC congregations into the federation of Canadian Reformed Churches, the OPC’s main concern in these matters regards good ecclesiastical order.
- d. The OPC is heading towards an “hour of decision” with respect to the CRCNA. The matter of third party relationships was discussed but not evaluated.
- e. Point 5 of the mandate could not be fulfilled due to the reaction as noted under point (b).
- f. Reports were published in Clarion, and the report of the Committee for Synod was submitted to the churches in Feb. 1995.
- 2. The CCOPC further reports
- a. The Committee is of the opinion that discussions now take place in a different framework, due to a change in our concept of foreign relations (from “full correspondence” to “Ecclesiastical Fellowship”), and entering into Ecclesiastical Fellowship with Presbyterian churches.
- b. The Committee outlines two possible directions with respect to how to proceed in our contact with the OPC. The first one is to continue the discussions regarding the divergences as a precondition for Ecclesiastical Fellowship. The second one is to offer the OPC a relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship and to discuss these divergences within such a relationship.
- c. The Committee also feels that there is little point in further discussion of the divergences as such, since both sides have a clear understanding of each other’s position.
- 3. The CCOPC recommends
- a. To gratefully acknowledge the commitment of the OPC to be faithful to the Scriptures and to defend the Reformed heritage.
- b. To consider the comments of CEIR on the Rules of Ecclesiastical Fellowship.
- c. To use the statement of Synod Lincoln 1992 (Acts 1992, Art. 72, IV.A.1e.i,ii) as a guideline to arrive at an agreement with the OPC on the matters of the fencing of the Lord’s Table and confessional membership.
- d. To note with gratitude the OPC’s continued warnings against the unscriptural course taken by the Christian Reformed Church in North America, and to advise the OPC that the severing of this relationship is necessary before we can enter into a relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship with them.
- e. To combine the work of the Committee for Contact with the OPC with that of the Committee for Relations with Churches Abroad.
- 1. Mandate Synod 1992
- B. Various Churches have reacted to the Report of the Committee for Contact with the OPC.
- 1. The church at Surrey in response to the report of the CCOPC proposes that General Synod offer the OPC full Ecclesiastical Fellowship according to the adopted rules for such a relationship, and that further contact with the OPC be maintained via the CRCA. The basic ground is that if the OPC is a true church it should be treated as a sister church. Reference is also made to the Committee report which emphasizes that the OPC is a true church.
- 2. The church at Port Kells requests Synod not to proceed further towards Ecclesiastical Fellowship until we clarify our view of the church, the nature of Ecclesiastical Fellowship, the status of the “Evaluation of Divergences” as received by General Synod 1986 and the matters “that still require resolution” before we can establish Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the OPC. Port Kells is of the opinion that the divergences and those matters that “still require resolution” have not been explained adequately to convince the members of the Canadian Reformed Churches that they are not impediments to Ecclesiastical Fellowship. Further, the inconsistencies in the decisions of Classis, Regional Synods, and Synods 1977-1992 have caused confusion, conflict, and division in our federation of churches, and also for the OPC.
- 3. The church at Chilliwack requests Synod to decide that all three divergences be resolved before entering into Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the OPC. To leave them unresolved would discredit Art. 61 C.O. Further, a mandate given to a committee should be completed.
- 4. The church at Carman makes the following comments on the report of the CCOPC:
- a. Synod is requested not to adopt the recommendation to “gratefully acknowledge the commitment of the OPC to be faithful to the Scriptures and to defend the Reformed heritage.” The basic ground is that since the divergences have not been resolved this is inconsistent. Further, this might affect our churches adversely.
- b. Regarding Recommendation B., Carman requests Synod to mandate the Committee to complete its mandate.
- c. Regarding Recommendation C., Synod is requested not to adopt this. This is addressed in Carman’s appeal.
- d. Regarding Recommendation D., Synod is asked to adopt this, but at the same time it must be made clear that also the other two divergences must be resolved.
- e. Regarding Recommendation E., Synod is asked not to adopt the idea that the work of the CCOPC be combined with the CRCA because this would treat the OPC as a foreign church, whereas the aim should be merger resulting in one federation of churches. Synod is requested to maintain the original purpose of reaching full correspondence, that is, merger.
- 5. In response to the Report of the CCOPC the church at Neerlandia remarks
- a. That Synod impress on the committees to submit their report six months before a Synod is to be held.
- b. That it is thankful for the recommendation to combine the work with the CRCA, and the Committee’s recommendation that the OPC must break its contact with the CRCNA.
- c. That there is some concern about the consequences of the relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship especially with regard to the preaching, including the calling of ministers. Synod is asked to mandate the Committee to investigate these matters further before Ecclesiastical Fellowship is seriously considered.
- 6. The church at Burlington-East expresses its appreciation and agreement with the recommendations of the CCOPC.
- 7. The church at Houston proposes to continue the mandate of the Committee for another three years, and to have the three divergences resolved before entering into Ecclesiastical Fellowship. As ground it is stated that the reference in Art. 50 C.O. to “minor points” refers to liturgical matters and not to matters of confession and church polity.
- 8. The church at Winnipeg comments that Recommendation E. of the report of the CCOPC is not wise, for the CRCA has enough work, and it would break the continuity so important at this crucial time when ecclesiastical contact is so nigh-ready to be changed to Ecclesiastical Fellowship. Further, with respect to Recommendation C, it feels that the mandate should be maintained to resolve the three divergences.
- 9. The church at Smithville cautions General Synod from going into a relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship when the remaining divergences are not solved satisfactorily to both churches. Further, fear is expressed of creating disunity in our churches by seeking unity with the OPC.
- 10. The church at Brampton appeals the CCOPC’s proposal to establish Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the OPC.
- 11. The church at Fergus requests that Synod proceeds with the greatest caution especially since there is a real danger for disunity within the churches. It recommends that Synod adopt all the recommendations, except for E.
- C. Appeals from the churches and individual members regarding the relationship with the OPC
- 1. The church at Carman is convinced that there are serious confessional differences which must be resolved or Ecclesiastical Fellowship is impossible. Synod is requested
- a. “[T]o judge that what we confess from Scripture in Lord’s Day 30 Q.A. 82 of the Heidelberg Catechism and upheld by Article 61 of the Church Order is not maintained in the OPC. Namely, that: ‘… according to the command of Christ and His apostles, the Christian church is duty bound to exclude such persons…’ from the use of the sacraments.”
- b. “[T]o judge that the church pluriformity practiced in the OPC is contrary to what we confess in Belgic Confession, Article 29 and makes it impossible to maintain scripture and confession.”
- c. On the basis of the above, Synod is requested “to call the OPC to con- form to God’s Word concerning these points, and, if the OPC fails to do so, take the sad but necessary step to terminate the temporary ecclesiastical contact.
- d. Synod is also requested to re-investigate the PCK and FCS, and if they have the same practices to take appropriate action.
- 2. The church at Grand Rapids requests Synod to rescind the 1977 declaration that the OPC is a true Church according to Art. 29 B.C., and end the temporary ecclesiastical contact. Further, it requests that an explanation and apology be sent, along with a reaffirmation of our desire to come to full correspondence. Grand Rapids considers that one cannot recognize a church as true, without entering into a sister church relationship. It is of the opinion that the differences are not merely administrative but of such a serious nature that these still have not been removed in the 18 years that have intervened since the recognition of the OPC as a true church.
- 3. The church at Grand Rapids overtures Synod to change the goal of our con- tact with the OPC from Ecclesiastical Fellowship to full ecclesiastical unity, by which they mean federative unity. The ground for this overture is that Canada and the USA are often regarded as one entity ecclesiastically. At present, both federations have churches in both countries. By pursuing Ecclesiastical Fellowship you give the message to the churches in the U.S. that they should unite with the OPC, which would mean they would have to submit to the Westminster Standards and a hierarchical system of church government.
- 4. The church at Watford requests Synod to decide to discuss the doctrinal divergences further before offering a sister church relationship. Further, the Committee should put more effort into investigating local practices within OPC congregations, and the OPC should be invited to do likewise within our churches. Watford bases this on the conviction that the divergences are not of a minor nature but rather of a confessional nature.
- 5. The church at London requests Synod to rescind the decision of 1977, ending the temporary ecclesiastical contact, and to continue discussions of all the divergences on a committee level. This is based on the fact that the OPC adheres “to a confession and form of government of which several points are contrary to the Word of God.” They consider the relationship with the PCK and FCS as unwise and premature for this reason as well.
- 6. Rev. P. Kingma and br. T. Kingma plead strongly that the churches break off Ecclesiastical Fellowship with all churches of Presbyterian background (OPC, PCK, FCS) on the ground that THE unity of faith is only possible when churches have the same confessional standards and live by the same Church Order. They stress very strongly the history of the churches in the Netherlands, the confessions used by those churches, and especial- ly the points learned through the Liberation, as the norm for recognizing the church gathering work of Jesus Christ.
- 7. Br. W. DeHaan appeals to Synod to discontinue the Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the OPC, nevertheless trying to convince the OPC of the necessity of a union.
- 8. Br. and sr. B. Jansen request Synod “to examine the erroneous decision made at Synod 1992 which declared the divergences to no longer be ‘impediments to ecclesiastical unity’.” They are disturbed by the ongoing minimalization of the divergences between the Westminster Confession and the Three Forms of Unity. They see these as major issues which find their roots in the marks of the true Church. This can be seen in the Presbyterian views regarding the Lord’s Supper, the covenant, Christ’s church gathering work, non-confessional membership, and church government.
- 1. The church at Carman is convinced that there are serious confessional differences which must be resolved or Ecclesiastical Fellowship is impossible. Synod is requested
- D. Appeals from churches and individual members against Art. 72 of General Synod Lincoln, 1992
- 1. The church at Orangeville requests Synod
- a. To revoke Art. 72,V,B, while giving the CCOPC the mandate to investigate and report whether the hindrances to ecclesiastical fellowship with the OPC have been removed in accordance with the Scriptures. The basic ground is that Synod 1992 prematurely concluded that these divergences were not impediments to Ecclesiastical Fellowship. Orangeville suggests that one can only speak of a unity in the true faith when the confessional documents do not contradict each other on any point.
- b. To decide that Synod 1992 prematurely offered a relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship to the PCK and FCS. The ground given is that both these federations have the Westminster Standards and the Presbyterian FOG, which have errors or unscriptural elements which are hindrances to full fellowship.
- 2. The church at Fergus supports the appeal of Orangeville and expresses the fear that “an unscriptural, forced upon the churches ‘unity’, will result into greater disunity or – may the Lord forbid – a possible split.”
- 3. The church at Grand Rapids overtures Synod to acknowledge the deficiency in the consideration of Synod Lincoln which says, “this is not to say that an identical practice is required with respect to the supervision of the Lord’s table to come to ecclesiastical fellowship…and that a profession of the Reformed faith is required in the presence ” (Art. 72.IV.A.1.e.i.). The ground for this is that while you can interview as to the Reformed faith, it is virtually impossible for the elders to determine whether or not the guests live in a godly manner.
- 4. The church at Attercliffe appeals General Synod 1992 Art. 72.V.B., which states that the divergencies have been sufficiently discussed to confirm that these are not impediments to Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the OPC but may be discussed within the framework of church unity. It asks Synod to rescind this decision. The grounds given are that this decision is unsubstantiated. Further, Attercliffe believes that General Synod must either judge the divergences or rescind the 1977 decision regarding the OPC, for it sees the divergences as being of a confessional nature. The church at Attercliffe fears that proceeding to full Ecclesiastical Fellowship would seriously endanger the unity and faithfulness of the Canadian Reformed Churches, and relativize the promise we have made in the Subscription Form and thus jeopardize our confessional integrity as churches. They feel it is our calling to defend what we have received from the Lord in the past.
- 5. The church at Lincoln asks General Synod to revoke Synod 1992’s decision as recorded in Art. 72 B,V, because “…Synod Lincoln 1992 still did not judge the divergencies from 1971 and 1986 and that the mandate of CCOPC of Synod ’89 was not completed for reasons given and that Synod should have instructed the CCOPC to continue to evaluate the divergencies in light of Scriptures and Confessions.” Lincoln also indicates that unless the divergences can be resolved in submission to God’s Word and the Three Forms of Unity, the relationship with the OPC should be terminated.
- 6. The church at Blue Bell submits an appeal against the decisions of Synod Lincoln 1992, Articles 72, 111, 128, and Synod Coaldale 1977, Art. 91. The requests is made to rescind the decision re. the OPC since it was made without proper grounds, and it is questionable whether the OPC is a confessional church. The church at Blue Bell suggests that a committee be formed to call the OPC to obedience on the divergences.
- 7. The church at Coaldale requests General Synod to judge that
- a. Synod Lincoln 1992 in its Recommendation C.2.5. (Acts Art. 72) did not take into account the form of ecclesiastical unity the Canadian Reformed Churches and the OPC are pursuing, namely fellowship between separate and independent federations as distinct from federated unity;
- b. the three divergences which Synod Lincoln considers to be still out- standing matters, are no impediments to ecclesiastical fellowship between two independent federations and can be discussed in the framework of church unity as in Recomm. B.” As a consequence Coaldale asks General Synod to honour the 1977 decision to recognize the OPC as a true church according to Article 29 of the Belgic Confession, by entering into fellowship with the OPC according to the Rules for Ecclesiastical Fellowship, or other rules which are mutually acceptable to both federations.
- 1. The church at Orangeville requests Synod
- E. Appeals regarding the Free Church of Scotland and the Presbyterian Church of Korea.
- 1. The church at Grand Rapids requests that the decision to declare the FCS a true church and establish Ecclesiastical Fellowship be rescinded, that an explanation and apology be sent, that we reaffirm our desire to continue contact and come to full Ecclesiastical Fellowship, and that the CRCA investigate these matters and report to the next G.S. This request is based on the fact that the FCS holds teachings (civil magistrate and doctrine of the church) which are in conflict with the Scripture and our confessions.
- 2. The church at Grand Rapids requests that the decision to establish Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the PCK be rescinded because the issue of confessional membership and the supervision of the Lord’s Supper table should have been resolved before entering into Ecclesiastical Fellowship, that an explanation and apology be sent, that we reaffirm our desire to continue contact and come to full Ecclesiastical Fellowship, and that the CRCA investigate these matters and report to the next General Synod.
- 3. The church at Orangeville also requests Synod to judge that Ecclesiastical Fellowship was offered prematurely to the FCS and PCK.
- 4. The church at Blue Bell requests that the Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the FCS and the PCK be withdrawn having been made prematurely, before the divergences were resolved.
- A. Re: The fulfilment of the mandate of Synod 1992 and responses from the churches
- 1. Though the Committee found it nearly impossible to fulfil its mandate, it appears that the Committee was diligent to do so. It is understandable that the situation became difficult for them because of Synod 1992’s decision with respect to the FCS and the PCK, and the OPC’s reaction to it.
- 2. It is understandable that the OPC would be confused due to the formal set- up of the various ways we deal with our interchurch relations, namely, that we have separate committees for the OPC and other churches abroad. The reaction of the CEIR of the OPC is, however, regrettable. Their charge of applying a double standard (re: admission to Lord’s Table, and confessional membership) is not substantiated. For example, information avail- able to Synod regarding the Lord’s Supper, indicates that there are different practices with regards to the supervision of guests at the Lord’s Table in the FCS compared to the OPC (see Acts 1989, p. 161; Acts 1992, p. 126; see also Report CCOPC II.B.4). It must be admitted that with respect to the PCK Synod is not able to evaluate the situation with the information available to us.
- 3. It is noteworthy that despite the difficulties, and the unresolved divergences, the Committee recommends the grateful acknowledgement of the commitment of the OPC to be faithful to the Scriptures.
- 4. Despite having some questions about some of the terms in the rules for Ecclesiastical Fellowship the CEIR responded favourably to these rules.
- 5. The meeting held in Grand Island – Sept. 27, 1994, appears to have been a very good meeting which gives room for continued discussion about the divergences. The fact that the OPC delegates did not react negatively to the report of the ICRC Committee on Theological Affirmation is also a good sign. It suggests that they agree with the statement that “we can say that members of churches that are recognized as true churches should be allowed to participate in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, upon valid attestation or certification.”
- 6. Though there are developments which indicate that the OPC is coming to the “hour of decision” with respect to the CRC, these developments will need to be followed closely. The OPC should be sensitive to our predicament in this situation due to our history with the CRC.
- 7. The reasoning of the Committee which seems to lead its Recommendation E, namely, that the OPC Committee be combined with the Committee for Relations with Churches Abroad, is based on an unsubstantiated claim that the discussions now take place in a different framework, due to a change in our concept of foreign relations. In light of the request of the Committee to conclude matters and for the sake of continuity, it is best to maintain the Committee.
- 8. The concern expressed about the consequences of Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the OPC with respect to opening of pulpits to each other’s ministers and calling of ministers are adequately covered by the rules for Ecclesiastical Fellowship (Acts 1992, p. 32, rule 5 and compare Consideration D. p. 33) and the Church Order.
- 9. Synod notes that the church at Brampton appeals the Report of the CCOPC. Since it is not possible to appeal a Committee Report, Synod cannot deal with it. It should be noted, however, that the concerns raised by Brampton are covered by the answers given to other submissions.
- B. Re: Appeals from churches and individual members regarding the relationship with the OPC
- 1. The argument that recognizing a church as a true church implies having full Ecclesiastical Fellowship is confessionally warranted, as is stated for example not only by the churches at Coaldale and Surrey, but also by the church at Grand Rapids. The request to offer Ecclesiastical Fellowship to the OPC without any condition does present a problem to Canadian Reformed Churches due to their history with CRC, although it is also understandable that it is hard for the OPC to break off contact due to their history with the CRC. It should be noted that the OPC continues to warn the CRC, and will do so as long as it does not compromise its own confessional integrity.
- 2. The request to rescind the decision of 1977 because it was made without proper grounds is a repetition of requests submitted to previous Synods. All General Synods since 1980 rejected requests to rescind the decision on the ground that the divergences are not of such a nature that the OPC is not a true church. Therefore this request need not be dealt with again as there are no new grounds (Art. 33 C.O.).
- 3. The complaint that the matters at stake (confessional membership, admission to the Lord’s Table, contact with the CRC) are of a confessional nature actually deals with certain practices in the OPC and not its confessional documents. The practices with respect to the admission of guests at the Lord’s table, confessional membership, and contact with the CRC have not been proven to undermine the OPC’s confessional integrity as a true Church. It cannot be denied that these practices give reason for concern, but they are not proven to be a matter of the Westminster Standards. Rather, these are more a matter of the OPC living up to its standards. That the problem does not lie in the Westminster Standards as such is con- firmed by the fact that the FCS, maintaining the same standards as the OPC, has different practices with regard to confessional membership and the fencing of the Lord’s table. Therefore, there is reason to continue to discuss these practices, but they cannot in the end be made a condition for Ecclesiastical Fellowship. Further, Synod 1992 did not mandate the CCOPC to see if these were indeed confessional matters but whether they stem from ecclesiological and/or historical differences.
- 4. To rescind the decision of 1977, and then continue to speak to the OPC on a committee level would undermine our credibility as churches. Rescinding the decision of 1977 would in effect be the same as declaring the OPC false. When you speak with another church with the goal of Ecclesiastical Fellowship, then you can only do that when you treat each other as equals.
- 5. Though it is true that there will be some overlap of these federations in Ecclesiastical Fellowship as we live on the same continent, this is unavoidable under the present situation where we have our different histories, confessional documents, and forms of government. Although we should strive to become one organizationally, it is unreasonable to leave recognition and fellowship until that goal be attained.
- 6. The suggestion to have a committee investigate local practices is not acceptable. We judge each other not on the basis of local practices, but on the basis of our confessions and official documents. This is not a practical request, and there is a danger of judging the “body” by its weakest members.
- C. Re: Appeals from churches and individual members against Art. 72 of General Synod Lincoln, 1992
- 1. Regarding Art. 72.V.B.
- a. A number of churches contend that the decision of General Synod 1992 as recorded in Article 72.V.B was premature since it has not been proven that the divergences had been sufficiently discussed to show that there is a unity in the true faith. The suggestion made for example by the church at Orangeville, that you can only speak of a unity in the true faith when the confessional documents do not contradict each other on any point, does not adequately keep in mind that churches have their own histories which has influenced the way they formulated their confessional documents. Further, they have not proven that the confessions are contradictory. On certain points they can be said to be complementary. It is also good to keep in mind that in the “Evaluation of Divergences” it is indicated that the differences in confessional statements are not such as to war- rant the conclusion that the OPC is not a true church.
- b. This same point is to be kept in mind in connection with the submissions from Grand Rapids, Blue Bell, and Rev. P. Kingma and br. T. Kingma, which suggest that one can only speak of unity in faith when churches adhere to the same confessions (i.e. the Three Forms of Unity). Historically this has not been the position of the Reformed Churches. It is well known that already since the days of the Secession, there was good contact with churches maintaining the Westminster Standards, and they were recognized as true churches of our Lord Jesus Christ. By insisting that unity requires adherence to only the Three Forms of Unity we step out of the historic line maintained by the Reformed Churches. Although there is a recognition that the Westminster Standards on certain points might benefit from emendation (see Acts Synod 1986, p. 146), these points do not detract from the fact that churches maintaining the Westminster Standards can be considered true churches (see Acts Synod 1986, p. 147). We should also remember that the aim at this point is not federative unity but Ecclesiastical Fellowship, which does not require that we share the exact same confessional documents. Further, we should realize that as a church which has developed through immigration, we will come across churches from different countries and their particular confessional documents that may differ somewhat, but still summarize the Reformed faith.
- c. In all this it has to be asked: how do we use our confessions? We should be careful not to use the one set of standards as a norm to judge the other one. Not the agreement with the Three Forms of Unity makes the Westminster Standards a Reformed confession, but whether they are in agreement with the Word of God. Our confessions refer us to the Scriptures as to how we can determine whether or not we can speak of true faith and who may attend the table of the Lord. (see Heidelberg catechism: Q.A. 21 – What is true faith? Q.A. 22 – What then must a Christian believe? Q.A. 81 – Who are to come to the table of the Lord?) In our own confessions we acknowledge that unity of faith is not limited to those who hold exactly the same confessional documents (Belgic Confession, Art. 27; Lord’s Day 21 Q.A. 54.). By insisting on the need for complete harmony in confessional documents among churches of different historical background, there is no eye for the work of the Lord in history, and impassable barriers are raised before Ecclesiastical Fellowship can be reached.
- 2. It has been stated that Synod 1992’s consideration “that a general verbal warning is insufficient but that there must be at least a confession of the Reformed faith in the presence of the supervising elders before someone can be admitted to the Lord’s table” (Acts 1992, Art. 72.IV.A.1.e.i.) is not in harmony with Art. 61 of the C.O. This complaint suggests that Art. 61 is the only possible way to execute what we confess in Lord’s Day 30 Q.A. 81, 82. However, this suggestion is not proven from Scripture.
- 3. With regard to the complaint that the divergences have not been judged, the General Synod 1992 acknowledged the fact that Synod 1986 received this report as “the detailed evaluation of the divergences which Synod 1977 neglected to give for its decision to recognize the OPC as a true church of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Synod 1992 concluded that this report does substantiate the decision of 1977 and that therefore these diver- gences had been discussed sufficiently as far as being an impediment to Ecclesiastical Fellowship is concerned. It should be noted however, that this does not mean that the divergences should no longer be discussed within the framework of Ecclesiastical Fellowship. This conclusion is fully warranted when it is kept in mind that Synod 1986 received the Report of the “Evaluation…” as a fulfilment of the mandate given by Synod 1980: “For the benefit of our churches a detailed evaluation of these divergences showing them not to be an impediment in recognizing the OPC as a true church, should yet be provided” (Acts 1986, Art. 97 II.C.3, p. 69). It should be noted that no church reacted to the substance of the evaluation of divergences received by Synod 1971 and Synod 1986. None of the sub- missions challenge that report. The appellants are reacting to the status of the Report rather than the substance of the Report. The burden of proof that the divergences are not discussed sufficiently and therefore are still impediments for Ecclesiastical Fellowship lies with the appellants, which they do not provide.
- 4. The assumption made that Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the OPC would mean that we take over their confessions and will lead to losing what we have gained in our history, and accordingly, losing our identity, and not being faithful to the Subscription Form, is a wrong assumption. Each church maintains its own confessions and church order. By entering into Ecclesiastical Fellowship we are not adopting the Westminster Standards nor the Presbyterian Form of Government. Therefore it is a misunderstanding that the decision of 1992 means that the matters involved in the divergences now can be taught and maintained in our own federation. For that reason, Synods have maintained that the divergences continue to be matters of discussion with the OPC. Even though we should be thankful for our heritage, and we should maintain what we have learned through history this should not necessarily be the norm for others. As Canadian Reformed Churches we are called to share with others what we have received, as they must share with us. It has not been proven that having Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the OPC will undo the gains of the Liberation. We may not limit the church gathering work of Jesus Christ only to what he has done with his church in the Netherlands.
- 5. When it is stated that B.C. 29 and FOG IV.4 contradict each other because the B.C. says that the true and false church are easily distinguished and the FOG says that this distinction is obscured, it is overlooked that the FOG speaks about the fact that the “visible unity of the Body of Christ is greatly obscured.” The FOG IV also speaks about churches that have become Synagogues of Satan. Further, it should be kept in mind that the view of the church has been dealt with under the divergences, which Synod 1992 said had been sufficiently discussed.
- 6. With respect to the suggestion that Synod not proceed any further since it could lead to further confusion and disunity in the churches, Synod 1992 already stated that this confusion can only be resolved through a proper resolution of the matters which still hinder full ecclesiastical fellowship (Acts Synod 1992, Art. 72.B.6).
- 1. Regarding Art. 72.V.B.
- D. Re: Appeals to rescind decision regarding the FCS and PCK
- 1. The requests to rescind the decision to have Ecclesiastical Fellowship or to declare that Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the FCS and PCK was pre- mature is based on the assumption that these two federations have the same position as the OPC which to date has prevented Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the OPC. This assumption has been addressed under Consideration A.1.b.
- 2. With respect to the doctrinal point about the civil magistrate raised by the church at Grand Rapids, it should be kept in mind that this issue is not fully resolved in our own federation (see the words in brackets in Art. 36 of the Belgic Confession). The opinion that the views of the role of the civil magistrate expressed in the Scots Confession as well as in the Westminster Confession are contrary to Scripture and our Confession, is not proven by the conclusion that these views are not taught in the Three Forms of Unity. Further, with respect to the doctrine of the church, it is uncertain what edition was used. The two editions consulted do not agree with the quote “Then wherever these notes are seen and continue for any time, be the number complete or not, there beyond any doubt is the true Kirk of Christ.” Instead, it reads, “Wheresoever, then these former notes are seen, and of any time continue, (be the number never so few, about two or three) there, without all doubt, is the true Church of Christ; who according to his promise is in the midst of them: Matt. xviii.19, 20” This sheds a different light on the matter.
- A. To thank the Committee for Contact with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church for the work done.
- B. To acknowledge with gratitude the commitment of the OPC to be faithful to the Scriptures and to defend the Reformed heritage.
- C. To note with gratitude the OPC’s continued warnings against the unscriptural course taken by the Christian Reformed Church in North America.
- D. To continue the Committee for Contact with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church with the following mandate:
- 1. to work towards formalizing a relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship under the adopted rules by using the statement of Synod Lincoln 1992 (Acts 1992, Art. 72, IV.A.1.e.i,ii) as a guideline to arrive at an agreement with the OPC on the matters of the fencing of the Lord’s Table and confes- sional membership;
- 2. to communicate to the OPC the discomfort in our churches with respect to their continued relationship with the CRCNA;
- 3. to communicate that there is a need to continue to discuss the differences in confession and church polity in accordance with the rules for Ecclesiastical Fellowship (Rule 6);
- 4. to serve the churches with regular reports of the work of the Committee, and to serve General Synod 1998 with a report, to be sent to the churches at least six months prior to the beginning of Synod. Synod expresses the hope that in this way the protracted discussions between the Canadian Reformed Churches and the OPC can be concluded by the establishment of a relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship within the next three years so that, the Lord willing, it can be finalized by Synod 1998.
- E. To deny the requests for Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the OPC at this time.
- F. To deny the requests to revoke or rescind Art. 72.V.B. of General Synod Lincoln 1992.
- G. To deny the requests to rescind the decision of 1977.
- H. To deny the requests to rescind, or to declare premature the decision of Synod Lincoln 1992 re: FCS & PCK (Art. 111, 128).
The chairman mentions that in making this decision Synod has dealt with matters of great concern within the churches. He thanks the brothers that in spite of marked differences the discussion was conducted in a fair, honest and brotherly fashion. It is now the task of the churches to work with this decision.