02 Jul GS 1995 art 19
GS 1995 ARTICLE 19 – Contact with Churches Abroad (FRCA, FRCSA, RCN)
Committee III presents:
Agenda items VIII. C. 3, 24, 35, 40
- A. Report of the Committee for Relations with Churches Abroad regarding the Free Reformed Churches of Australia (FRCA), the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands [Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland (Vrijgemaakt)] (RCN), and the Free Reformed Churches in South Africa (FRCSA).
- B. Letters from the churches at Burlington-East, Guelph and Houston.
The Committee for Relations with Churches Abroad (CRCA) received from Synod 1992 the following mandate:
- A. General
- 1. To continue the Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the FRCA, the RCN and the FRCSA in accordance with the adopted rules.
- 2. To charge the CRCA to send an invitation to our sister churches abroad to attend the next General Synod as soon as its date has been established and published by the convening church and to have our churches repre- sented by a delegate to General Synods of such churches abroad if invited and when feasible.
- B. The Free Reformed Churches of Australia (FRCA)
- 1. To request the CRCA to convey our appreciation for support given by the FRCA to our Theological College in Hamilton.
- 2. To mandate the CRCA delegates to attend, if possible, the meeting orga- nized by the FRCA to discuss their concerns regarding the ICRC and report about this to General Synod.
- 3. To mandate the CRCA to convey our reservations about the rules for Ecclesiastical Fellowship adopted by the FRCA.
- A. The Free Reformed Churches of Australia (FRCA) The CRCA notes
- 1. The Acts of Synods (Lincoln 1992, Bedfordale 1992, Byford 1994) were exchanged.
- 2. Rev. E. Kampen and Rev. M. VanBeveren visited the FRCA General Synod Byford June 14 – 27, 1994 as delegates of the CRCA.
- 3. Rev. Cl. Stam and Rev. J. Visscher attended an informal meeting held in Zwolle, the Netherlands, in conjunction with the meeting of the ICRC (September 1 – 9, 1993) together with delegates from the RCN, the FRCSA and the Presbyterian Churches of Korea (PKN) to discuss the con- cerns of the FRCA in regard to the expression “unity of faith” at the ICRC. The Australian opinion that closer unity in credal statements and church polity must be reached before we can speak of such unity, was not shared by others at the meeting.
- 4. Synods Bedfordale 1992 and Byford 1994 decided to continue member- ship in the ICRC.
- 5. Both FRCA Synods (1992 and 1994) decided to continue their support for the Canadian Reformed Theological College.
- 6. With respect to interchurch relationships, Synod Byford 1994 decided
- a. to continue sister church relationships with the Canadian Reformed Churches, the RCN, the PCK, the FRCSA and the Reformed Churches of Sumba Timor Savu (RCSTS);
- b. to continue contact with other churches in Indonesia;
- c. with respect to the Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia (PCEA), the Free Church of Scotland (FCS), the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Ireland and the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland (RPCI), to continue contact/relations at a low level (passing on Acts and greetings) leaving discussions in abeyance while the churches study relations with Presbyterian Churches in general.
- 7. Synod Bedfordale 1992 instructed their deputies “once more to communi- cate to our sister churches our rules for declarations for ministers who visit abroad or who visit us.”
- 8. Synod Bedfordale 1992 adopted rules for Ecclesiastical Fellowship which are similar to ours. Although Synod Lincoln 1992 mandated the CRCA to convey our reservations about the rules adopted by the FRCA in so far as they differ from ours concerning entering into third party relationships (Acts 1992, Art. 49.III.A.9), there is no evidence in the CRCA report that these concerns were responded to.
- B. The Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (RCN) The CRCA notes:
- 1. The Acts of Synod (Lincoln 1992 and Ommen 1993) were exchanged. Rev. J. Visscher attended Synod Ommen on behalf of the Canadian Reformed Churches.
- 2. The CRCA notes from the Acts of Synod Ommen 1993 and from corre- spondence that
- a. New rules for sister church relationships were adopted by Synod Ommen. These rules are almost identical to the rules which were adopted by the Canadian Reformed Churches in 1992 and therefore show a desired harmony for which we have pleaded in the past.
- b. Synod Ommen decided to grant women the right to vote. According to the CRCA this should not affect the relationship with the Canadian Reformed Churches who have in the past also struggled with this issue and concluded that “there is an obvious lack of consensus on this matter.”
- c. Synod Ommen decided it was permissible for elders to extend the benediction. The CRCA raises questions concerning the distinction between the offices of elder and of minister.
- d. The RCN show increased activity with respect to relations with church- es abroad. While this is in itself laudable according to the CRCA, it also points out that care must be taken to consult with sister churches, especially in areas where the sister churches are actively involved (for example, in Brazil).
- 3. The churches at Burlington-East, Guelph and Houston all address Synod concerning the RCN’s relationship with third parties.
- a. The church at Burlington-East overtures Synod to instruct the CRCA to convey concerns about the “perceived relative ease” with which the RCN “establish contacts all over the world” and about the need for con- sultation with sister churches especially in areas where sister churches are already involved.
- b. The church at Guelph overtures Synod to instruct the CRCA to seek clarification concerning the RCN’s practices with respect to consulting sister churches when entering into third party relationships.
- c. The church at Houston overtures Synod to instruct the CRCA to seek improved consultation with the RCN especially with respect to estab- lishing third party relationships on the North-American continent.
- C. The Free Reformed Churches of South Africa (FRCSA) The CRCA notes
- 1. Acts of Synods (Lincoln 1992 and Pretoria 1992) were exchanged.
- 2. The CRCA did not send a delegation to Synod Pretoria but appropriate correspondence was sent.
- 3. The FRCSA were informed of our new rules for Ecclesiastical Fellowship. The CRCA was informed that the FRCSA planned to discuss this matter at its Synod Johannesburg 1994.
- 4. From the Acts of Synod Pretoria 1992 the CRCA observed that the FRCSA re-evaluated their contacts with the Reformed Churches in South Africa (RCSA) after concluding that the RCSA recognize Scripture as the infallible Word of God, accept the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed and the Three Forms of Unity and have a similar Church Order and Subscription Forms.
- A. From the correspondence and the Acts of the FRCA, the RCN and the FRCSA we may gratefully conclude that these churches are faithful to the Word of God, the Confessions and the Church Order.
- B. The CRCA has fulfilled its mandate regarding our Ecclesiastical Fellowship with these churches.
- C. The FRCA are to be commended for the generous support they give to the Theological College in Hamilton.
- D. The FRCA should as yet be requested to consider our concerns regarding their Rules for Ecclesiastical Fellowship relating to third party relationships.
- E. The question raised by the CRCA concerning the blessing elder and its impact on the distinction between the offices of elder and of minister in the RCN mer- its further discussions pursuant to our Rule Six.
- F. In light of concerns raised by the churches and the CRCA, the issue of consul- tation prior to entering into third party relationships merits further discussion with the RCN. The discrepancy between the RCN’s use of the word “inform” and our use of the word “consult” could lead to difficulties where both church federations are working toward a relationship with the same third party.
- A. To thank the CRCA for its work done since 1992.
- B. To continue the Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the Free Reformed Churches in Australia, the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands and the Free Reformed Churches in South Africa in accordance with the adopted rules.
- C. To request the CRCA to convey our appreciation for the support given by the Free Reformed Churches in Australia to our Theological College in Hamilton.
- D. To charge the CRCA to send an invitation to our sister churches abroad to attend the next General Synod as soon as its date has been established and published by the convening church and to have our churches represented by a delegate to General Synods of such churches abroad if invited and when feasible.
- E. To mandate the CRCA to solicit a response to our reservations about the Rules for Ecclesiastical Fellowship adopted by the Free Reformed Churches in Australia.
- F. To mandate the CRCA to discuss with the Dutch deputies, pursuant to our Rule Six, our questions concerning the blessing elder and its possible conse- quences regarding the distinction between the offices of elder and minister in the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands.
- G. To mandate the CRCA to seek clarification from the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands concerning the use of the word “inform” in Rule Three.