12 Jul GS 1995 art 86
GS 1995 ARTICLE 86 – Deputies for the Promotion of Ecclesiastical Unity
Committee IV presents:
Agenda items: VIII. C. 1, 1a, 16, 22, 26, 28, 31, 33, 36, 38, 42, 43, 47, 49, D. 10.
A motion to insert in Recommendation B the words “to promote the unity of Reformed believers who have left the Christian Reformed Church” is ADOPTED.
A motion to remove Consideration B is DEFEATED.
The amended proposal
- A. Report of the Deputies for the Promotion of Ecclesiastical Unity, plus a Supplementary Report.
- B. Letters from the churches at Attercliffe, Brampton, Burlington-East, Chatsworth, Chilliwack, Elora, Houston, Lincoln, Neerlandia, Watford, and from br. W. DeHaan and Rev. B. R. Hofford.
Several letters are from individuals and not from churches. This raises the ques- tion whether individual members have the right to address their concerns and views about a report directly to a General Synod, without first addressing them to their local consistory/council for consideration. However, it would be unfair to declare the personal submissions mentioned above invalid for this Synod because past Synods have been inconsistent on this.
- A. The Deputies received the following mandate from Synod Lincoln 1992 (Acts 1992, Art. 36):
- 1. to make their presence known for the purpose of information and consul- tation;
- 2. to represent the churches, whenever invited, at assemblies or meetings for the purpose of coming to ecclesiastical unity;
- 3. to report on its activities to the churches and to the next General Synod.
- B. The report of the Deputies includes a list of their activities: attending public meetings, writing and distributing a discussion paper, keeping the churches informed about the activities of the Alliance of Reformed Churches, correspondence received and sent. The Deputies bring the following matters to the attention of General Synod:
- 1. that the Alliance of Reformed Churches is making slow but steady progress toward federation and Deputies consider it important that deputies be re-appointed;
- 2. they also request the churches to keep them informed in order that they may more effectively speak for the churches in ecumenical settings;
- 3. the church at Port Kells raises the question as to how far a local church can go after two local churches have recognized each other as true;
- 4. the deputies thus far have not met together but ask Synod to take into account the budgetary implications of periodic meetings.
- C. The Deputies request Synod 1995
- 1. To approve the work of deputies.
- 2. To adopt the discussion paper so that future deputies to be appointed can build on this work.
- 3. To express officially that the Canadian Reformed Churches truly desire a Biblical ecclesiastical unity with the Independent Churches, Orthodox Christian Reformed Churches and all those who wish to be church on the basis of the Scriptures as confessed in the Three Forms of Unity and that Canadian Reformed deputies are available to discuss with them any issues that may form a stumbling block to realize this ecumenical goal.
- 4. To ask the churches to keep the deputies fully informed of activities or decisions in their discussions with those who have left the Christian Reformed Church.
- 5. To appoint again Deputies for Ecclesiastical Unity with the following mandate:
- a. to make their presence known for the purpose of information and consultation where still necessary;
- b. to authorize Deputies to officially approach the Orthodox Christian Reformed Churches and the future federation of Independent Christian Reformed Churches with the request that these respective churches appoint deputies for church unity who are mandated by their respective assemblies to speak on their behalf and to meet with their Canadian Reformed counterparts;
- c. to receive reports from the Canadian/American Reformed Churches on local ecumenical developments;
- d. to be available to consistories for counsel as necessary in local ecumenical discussions or developments;
- e. to represent the churches, whenever invited, at assemblies or meetings held for the purpose of coming to ecclesiastical unity;
- f. to report on its activities to the churches and to the next General Synod.
- D. The Orthodox Christian Reformed Churches were contacted by the Deputies but no response was received because the letter had never been tabled at the major assemblies of these churches.
- E. In a Supplementary Report, dated April 20, 1995, the Deputies describe several additional activities by them and by the churches. They also request that Dr. J. DeJong be appointed seeing that church polity matters will figure prominently in future discussions.
- F. The church at Watford, disagrees with the Deputies’ request that Synod “adopt the discussion paper” and with a reference to Prof. B. Kamphuis in which “covenantal thinking, view of the church, and historic redemptive preaching” are described as “our own specialities.”
- G. The church at Chilliwack takes issue with the same reference and states that there should be no pulpit exchange, exchange of attestations, and admission to the Lord’s Supper, until there is full ecclesiastical unity.
- H. The church at Chatsworth informs Synod that it is not in favour of granting any of the requests made by the Deputies. Chatsworth also recommends not to re-appoint the Deputies.
- I. The church at Neerlandia appreciates the work of the Deputies but would like the Deputies “to elucidate” on the statement of Prof. B. Kamphuis and explain “how this would function within the parameters of the Three Forms of Unity.”
- J. Br. W. DeHaan requests Synod to declare that the Deputies went beyond their mandate in making suggestions about some of the matters mentioned above.
- K. The church at Elora objects against both the reference to Prof. B. Kamphuis, as well as the statement “that we stress in our contacts with other Reformed churches and bodies that we do not bind them to our idiosyncracies…” It urges Synod to remove this reference and to “adopt a statement which is informative and instructive, and reflects the thinking of our federation.”
- L. The church at Burlington-East expresses its appreciation for the work done by the Deputies.
- M. The church at Lincoln also disagrees with the reference to Prof. B. Kamphuis and the use of the word “idiosyncrasy.” They also express concern about the Deputies response to the church at Grand Rapids and say that there was no need for the Deputies to respond to this church. Lincoln considers the Deputies request 3 to be “redundant” and wants Deputies to be re-appointed on the basis of their existing mandate.
- N. The church at Houston requests Synod to add the following to the Discussion Paper: “We will not consider providing for pulpit exchange, speaking an edifying word, admitting of their members to another’s Holy Supper, and recognizing one another’s attestations, until the following situation has developed:
- 1. that the independents have provisionally federated.
- 2. and that they have agreed to federative unity.”
- O. Rev. B. R. Hofford expresses a number of concerns about the Discussion Paper and requests of the Deputies that deal with the same matters mentioned above.
- P. The church at Brampton objects to the reference to Prof. B. Kamphuis.
- Q. The church at Attercliffe is concerned about the first three requests of the Deputies about Synod approving their work, adopting the discussion paper, an official expression of unity, as well as the wording of their pro- posed new mandate.
- R. The church at Fergus requests Synod to approve the work of the Deputies but not to re-appoint them.
- A. It is not normal procedure for a Synod “to approve” the work of its deputies or committees, but “to take note” of the work done and to express thankfulness for their efforts. Seeing that Synod did not mandate the Deputies to produce a discussion paper, the Discussion Paper that has been presented need not be altered or adopted by Synod.
- B. The use of the terms “specialities” and “idiosyncrasy” in the Discussion Paper have created controversy and confusion and as such detract from the overall value of the paper. It would also have been better procedure if the Discussion Paper had been used internally and sent to the churches for their comments and interaction and had not become a public document.
- C. Because of our Lord’s prayer in John 17, it is essential that the unity of the church be promoted and that the Canadian Reformed Churches seek to be one with all those who desire to be church on the basis of the Scriptures as confessed in the Three Forms of Unity. In order to promote this unity, it is fitting that there be deputies who can discuss, on behalf of our churches, issues that may form a stumbling block to realizing this ecumenical goal.
- D. While maintaining the task of each local church to pursue unity in its area, there still remains opportunity for contact beyond the local level. It is therefore warranted to continue the Deputies for the Promotion of Ecclesiastical Unity with a carefully defined mandate.
- E. The request of the deputies to approach the Orthodox Christian Reformed Churches and a future federation of Independent Christian Reformed Churches, asking them to appoint deputies to meet together, is problematic seeing that the mandate of the deputies was “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” (Acts 1992, Consideration F). Official approaches to other federations should be requested by the churches and conducted by deputies appointed by Synod for that purpose.
- F. It is not within the province of General Synod to instruct the churches that they have to send documents to deputies, yet it would be desirable for them to do so.
- G. While respecting the initiative of the local church to pursue contacts with churches in their area, it is desirable that as much as possible the churches follow a common approach and make use of the advice of the deputies.
- A. To thank the Deputies for their labours.
- B. To re-appoint Deputies for the Promotion of Ecclesiastical Unity 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 wherever necessary;
- 2. to make themselves available to consistories for advice on local developments;
- 3. to represent the churches, whenever invited, at assemblies or meetings held for the purpose of pursuing ecclesiastical unity;
- 4. to report on its activities to the churches and to the next General Synod.