16 Jun GS 1998 art 96
GS 1998 Article 96 – Deputies for Ecclesiastical Unity
Committee IV presents their material on this matter again. Committee IV presents: Agenda items I.F, II.P, II.V, II.EE, IV.I, IV.P, IV.AA
- A. Report of Deputies for Ecclesiastical Unity;
- B. Letters from the churches at Hamilton, Surrey, Rockway, London, Taber, and the Ebenezer Canadian Reformed Church at Burlington.
General Synod Abbotsford 1995 re-appointed 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 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. (Acts General Synod Abbotsford 1995, Art. V.B.).
Deputies remember with gratitude the work that the late Rev. J. D. Wielenga did as deputy.
From the report of deputies, synod takes note of the following:
- A. activities:
- 1. Our churches were represented at meetings of the Alliance of Reformed Churches on November 14-16, 1995, November 11-13, 1996, October 16 and 17, 1997. Dr. J. DeJong was invited to prepare a memorandum to the committee on the church order as it was being discussed among the Alliance churches. The church order was later adopted at the synod of the URCNA in 1997. Deputies hope to continue discussions on the church order with the Committee of Inter Church Relations of the United Reformed Churches (URCNA).
- 2. Deputies sent a delegation to the first Synod of the United Reformed Churches, held on October 1 and 2, 1996, in Lynwood, when the URCNA federated. Deputies also attended the second Synod of the URCNA, held October 21-23, 1997. There is rapid growth in the URC; there is much movement and flux in these churches.
- 3. The Inter-Church Relations Committee of the UCRNA reports to synod gave considerable priority to the relation of the URC to the Canadian Reformed Churches, but the Synod itself pursued a policy of treating Reformed and Presbyterian churches equally. This has led deputies to believe that “federative unity has become much more of a long term option than before.” They see the decision to establish fraternal relations with twelve other national and foreign church federations as implying “that the specific goal of federative unity with Reformed churches of a more immediate range and historical background has been let go in favour of a broader policy on ecumenical relations.”
- 4. In December 1996, a letter of support and encouragement was sent to the Inter-Classical Conference organizing Committee, based in Escondido, California. Many churches in the conference are considering secession from the CRC.
- 5. The committee was also invited to send a delegate to the Classis East of the Orthodox Christian Reformed Churches. They see this as an opportunity to initiate talks on a local level, after which overtures can be presented to major assemblies for the purpose of attaining federative unity.
- 6. Several churches of our federation informed the committee of their work and asked for advice in their discussions with independent churches.
- B. Proposal from the deputies
- Deputies propose that Synod make the following additions/modifications to their mandate:
- 1. that deputies be instructed to pursue continued fraternal dialogue with the United Reformed Churches in North America with a view towards establishing federative unity;
- 2. that deputies pursue a more restricted involvement in the Alliance of Reformed Churches with a view to pursuing federative unity with unfederated (independent) Reformed Churches;
- 3. that deputies represent the churches (when invited) at meetings of the Orthodox Christian Reformed Churches, with a view to promoting greater understanding and exploring possibilities of federative unity;
- 4. that a new deputy be appointed from western Canada to fill the vacancy among the deputies created by the loss of Rev. J.D. Wielenga.
- C. Overtures from the churches
- 1. The Council of the Cornerstone Canadian Reformed Church at Hamilton overtures synod to:
- a. investigate with Deputies from the United Reformed Churches the possibility of a federative unity between the Canadian Reformed Churches and the United Reformed Churches in North America, and
- b. present to the churches a report on this investigation, one year before the next General Synod of the Canadian Reformed Churches.
- Since 1992, the Council of the Cornerstone Canadian Reformed Church at Hamilton has been engaged in discussions with the Rehoboth United Reformed Church (formerly the Hamilton Independent CRC). Through these discussions, Council of the Cornerstone Canadian Reformed Church at Hamilton and the Rehoboth United Reformed Church recognized each other as true churches of the Lord Jesus Christ, according to our confession in Art. 27-32 of the Belgic Confession. Classis Ontario-South, while expressing great joy over the fact that this recognition could be given, felt that implementation of this recognition is not permitted according to the Church Order, since such an arrangement appears to be a matter of the churches in common. The Cornerstone Canadian Reformed Church respects this decision, and consequently brought this matter to General Synod. They expect the Rehoboth United Reformed Church to place a similar overture on the agenda of their major assembly.
- The specific grounds for this overture, then, are summarized:
- i. Contact between the Cornerstone Canadian Reformed Church and the Rehoboth United Reformed Church has continued for three years since these churches officially recognized each other as true churches according to our mutual confession.
- ii. The decision of Classis Ontario-South, March 8 1995 obliged both Hamilton churches to question how to experience together the recognition given and how to give concrete content and meaning to the communion of saints.
- iii. The United Reformed Churches have (since the given recognition) adopted the same confessional basis and the same liturgical forms as the Canadian Reformed Churches have.
- iv. It is within the mandate of General Synod to deal with federative unity (Article 30 C.O.). It is important, however, that local contact is maintained at the same time as contact is in progress at the federative level.
- 2. Maranatha Canadian Reformed Church at Surrey proposes:
- “To mandate the existing Committees for the Promotion of Ecclesiastical Unity and Contact with L’Eglise Reformee du Quebec or a new committee to work towards establishing a relationship of ecclesiastical fellowship with the United Reformed Churches, the Orthodox Reformed Churches, L’Eglise Reformee du Quebec and the Free Reformed Churches under the existing rules of Ecclesiastical Fellowship as a stepping stone towards possibly further federative unity in the future.” The church at Taber supports this proposal.
- 3. Rockway Canadian Reformed Church proposes:
- to appoint Deputies for Ecclesiastical Unity and to authorize these brothers to approach the Orthodox Christian Reformed Churches and the United Reformed Churches and the Free Reformed Churches for the purpose of engaging in official discussions with these bodies that are aimed towards ecclesiastical unity.
- 4. The Ebenezer Canadian Reformed Church at Burlington-East proposes:
- “that deputies be instructed to pursue continued fraternal dialogue with the United Reformed Churches of North America and specifically explore and discuss the impediments towards establishing federative unity.”
- 5. The Fellowship Canadian Reformed Church at Burlington-South endorses the Hamilton overture and supports the recommendation of the deputies:
- “to continue fraternal dialogue with the URCNA with a view towards establishing federative unity.”
- 6. The Fellowship Canadian Reformed Church at Burlington-South informs synod that:
- “we regret that the Deputies’ speech at the 1997 URCNA Synod appears to impose as a precondition to unity that there be “mutual understanding … that the Liberation of 1944 was an act of obedience and a necessary development. (Appendix 8)
- 7. The Taber Canadian Reformed Church indicates agreement with point 2 of the proposed renewed deputies’ mandate.
- 8. The Pilgrim Canadian Reformed Church at London report on their contacts with the United Reformed Churches at Aylmer, Woodstock, London and Clinton. They express frustration because they perceive a lack of willingness on the part of the local URCs to deal with the real issues. The Canadian Reformed Church at London has taken the position that pulpit exchange is only possible in a sister-church relationship but notes that other Canadian Reformed ministers do not follow the same rule. They request synod if possible “to give some direction on this matter in their mandate to the DPEU.”
- 1. The Council of the Cornerstone Canadian Reformed Church at Hamilton overtures synod to:
- A. Deputies are requesting a mandate that is generally more aggressive and focused in approach. This approach is consistent with our Scriptural calling for unity, and it also reflects the expressed desire of the churches to pursue substantial progress in this respect.
- B. Instead of being instructed to deal with those who “left the Christian Reformed Church” in general, deputies propose to continue dialogue in particular with the URCNA. Deputies do not need a specific mandate with respect to the Alliance of Reformed Churches because it is adequately covered in points 1,2 and 3 of their mandate.
- C. The proposal of the church at Rockway as well as the ‘package’ presented by Hamilton both acknowledge that their proposals should have gone to classis before coming to synod. The submission of the church at Surrey – supported by the Church at Taber – is a new proposal in the sense that it allows Ecclesiastical Fellowship as a stepping stone towards possible further federative unity. It is unfortunate that these proposals were not discussed in the minor assemblies before they came to General Synod. Since this was not done, General Synod can do no more than pass on these submissions to the deputies for discussion. The churches should be encouraged to bring these proposals to the minor assemblies, to resolve their differences there, so that the churches may proceed in a united and orderly fashion.
- D. The proposals from the churches at Hamilton, Surrey, and Rockway, and the supporting statement from Taber, offer suggestions on the procedure that should be followed in establishing federative unity. Deputies should be given some freedom, depending on what develops in the dialogue. They should also take into account the suggestions of these churches.
- E. With respect to the concern expressed by the Fellowship Canadian Reformed Church at Burlington-South, deputies at the 1997 URCNA Synod did not impose any preconditions to ecclesiastical unity. Instead they said that a mutual understanding and appreciation for the Liberation of 1944 would indicate that we have come a long way.
- F. From the reports submitted by the various churches, it appears that local discussions with the URC are encountering different obstacles and proceeding at different rates. In these circumstances it is appropriate that the churches inform the deputies appointed by General Synod of their positive and negative experiences. The deputies should also make themselves available to assist the local churches in particular matters. In this way the concerns expressed by the church at London are addressed.
- G. The church at Hamilton has proposed that deputies be instructed to report to the churches a year before the next synod. The current mandate of deputies is to report to the churches and to the next general synod. Deputies should be instructed to report regularly for the greater involvement of the churches.
- H. The proposal of the Ebenezer Church at Burlington is a good one. The desire of the churches to establish federative unity with the URCNA would be expeditiously accomplished by focusing on what impediments are keeping us apart, and how they can be resolved.
- A. To thank the deputies for their labours.
- B. To acknowledge, with gratitude to the Lord, the contribution of the late Rev. J.D. Wielenga to the work of the deputies.
- C. To rename the ‘Deputies for Promotion of Ecclesiastical Unity’: The ‘Committee for the Promotion of Ecclesiastical Unity.’
- D. To appoint a committee, including a new committee member from western Canada to fill the vacancy created by the loss of Rev. J.D. Wielenga.
- E. To give this committee the following mandate:
- 1. to make their presence known for the purpose of information and consultation wherever necessary;
- 2. to represent the churches, whenever invited, at assemblies or meetings held for the purpose of pursuing ecclesiastical unity;
- 3. to pursue continued fraternal dialogue with the United Reformed Churches in North America with a view towards establishing federative unity;
- 4. to represent the churches (when invited) at meetings of the Orthodox Christian Reformed Churches, with a view to promoting greater understanding and exploring possibilities of federative unity;
- 5. to make themselves available upon request of Canadian Reformed Churches for advice on local developments;
- 6. to discuss and develop a proposal as to how to proceed in encouraging federative unity;
- 7. to provide information to the churches at regular intervals, and to serve Synod 2001 with a report to be sent to the churches at least six months prior to the beginning of Synod.