21 Jun GS 1998 art 119
GS 1998 Article 119 – Grand Rapids Appeal re the Free Church of Scotland
Committee III presents: Agenda items III S, T, U.
Three appeals from the Church at Grand Rapids re:
- 1. The Free Church of Scotland and the Scots Confession
- 2. The Free Church of Scotland and the issues of Lord’s Supper and Confessional membership.
- 3. The Free Church of Scotland and Rule 5 for Ecclesiastical Fellowship
Synod decides that the appeals of the church at Grand Rapids are admissible.
- A. The church at Grand Rapids requests Synod 1998 to judge:
- 1. That the decision to establish Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the FCS be rescinded.
- 2. That an explanation and apology be sent to the FCS…
- 3. That we reaffirm to the FCS our desire to continue contact with them with a view to resolving the differences between us so that full ecclesiastical fellowship can be established.
- 4. That the CRCA be instructed to discuss these issues with the FCS and report to another General Synod.
- B. This request is based on the fact that the FCS holds teachings (civil magistrate, the doctrine of the church), and practices (fencing of the Lord’s Supper, and confessional membership) which are in conflict with the Scripture and our confessions. According to the church at Grand Rapids “the OPC’s objection to the double standard…” in the face of the information available, reflects their understanding that the variation in practice is not a difference in principle.
- C. The substance of the first two appeals is identical to appeals which were made to Synod Abbotsford 1995. Synod 1995 denied the appeals of the Church at Grand Rapids based on the following considerations:
- 1. “The requests to rescind the decision to have Ecclesiastical Fellowship or to declare that Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the FCS and PCK was premature 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.” (Synod 1995, Article 106, Consideration D.2)
- 2. ” …information available 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).” (Synod 1995, Article 106, Consideration A.2)
- 3. “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.”
- D. The church at Grand Rapids finds it impossible to consistently fulfil our obligation under Rule 5 of Ecclesiastical Fellowship: “the churches shall open their pulpits for each other’s ministers in agreement with the rules adopted in the respective churches.” Discomfort with maintaining this rule stems from the fact that the church at Grand Rapids is of the opinion that what the Scots Confession teaches about the church and the civil magistrate is in conflict with Scripture and confession.
- A. General Synod agrees with the church at Grand Rapids when it states that General Synod 1995 “erred in thinking that the differences in editions of the Scots Confession referred to in their response altered the considerations of Grand Rapids.” General Synod 1995 does not substantiate the statement “This sheds a different light on the matter”.
- B. The church at Grand Rapids is incorrect that the practice of fencing the Lord Supper in the FCS is similar to the OPC. They fail to observe that in the FCS the practices surrounding the admission to the Lord’s Table are implied to be alike for members and guests (see Synod Winnipeg 1989, p. 161, 5.2, Synod Lincoln 1992 p. 126, and confirmed by the Proceedings of the ICRC 1993, Report for Theological Affirmation p.80).
- C. There is no justification for reversing the decision to have Ecclesiastical Fellowship simply on the basis of third party information. Furthermore, previous synods have stated the doctrine of the church is not an impediment to Ecclesiastical Fellowship (Acts Synod 1995 Article 106 V C 5). The CRCA could, however, be instructed to seek further clarification on the practice of confessional membership, the doctrine of the church, and the position of the civil magistrate in relationship to the church.
- D. The church at Grand Rapids misrepresents and misinterprets Rule 5 of Ecclesiastical Fellowship when they turn what is optional into an obligation. The actual reading of rule 5 is as follows: “the churches shall in principle, open their pulpits for each other’s ministers in agreement with the rules adopted in the respective churches.” In the actual application of the rule every local consistory has the option of inviting a guest minister from within our federation and from those churches with whom our churches have Ecclesiastical Fellowship.
Synod decide to deny the appeals of the church at Grand Rapids.