21 Jun GS 1998 art 97
GS 1998 Article 97 – Relationship with L’Église Réformée du Québec
Committee III presents: IA, IIJ, IIK, IIN, IIQ, IIR, IIY, IIAA, IIJJ, IILL, IIOO, IIVV, IIWW, IIZZ, IIAAA, IICCC, IV G, IV T (part 1).
- A. Report of the Committee for Contact with l’Eglise Reformee du Quebec
- B. Letters from the churches at Watford, Chatham, Yarrow, Willoughby Heights, London, Attercliffe, Lincoln, Fergus, Burlington South, Calgary, Guelph, Houston, Grand Valley, Neerlandia, Elora, Orangeville, Burlington East.
General Synod Abbotsford 1995 gave the Committee for Contact with l’Eglise Reformee du Quebec (ERQ) the following mandate:
- 1. To discuss with the deputies of the l’Eglise Reformee du Quebec the differences in Confession, Church Polity and worship which exist between our federations.
- 2. To discuss with the deputies their relations with the Christian Reformed Church and the Presbyterian Church in America, and evaluate them;
- 3. To further investigate whether it is possible to have the Canadian Reformed Churches and the l’Eglise Reformee du Quebec as part of the same federation;
- 4. To make use of the report submitted by the church at Ottawa and Classis Ontario North;
- 5. To keep the churches informed about the l’Eglise Reformee du Quebec so that their financial needs and other needs as missionary churches can be responded to in a positive manner;
- 6. To serve Synod 98 with a report to be sent to the churches at least six months prior to the beginning of Synod.
- A. From the Committee Report:
- 1. The ERQ bases its faith on the revealed Word of God as found in the Old and New Testament and has officially adopted the Westminster Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism as its confessional statements. The Committee did not evaluate the Westminster Standards since Synod 1965 already “considered and judged that a church federation maintaining the Presbyterian church government and subscribing to and upholding the Westminster Standards would be a product of the Calvinist Reformation and a true church of the Lord”.
- 2. The Preamble to the Westminster Confession, which was added by the founding synod of the ERQ in 1988, allows for freedom of conscience in relation to articles concerning the place of the political government in the life of the church, marriages with consanguinity, and in relation to the occupations and duties to be accomplished on the Lord’s Day. Furthermore The Preamble does not bind the conscience to some of the polemical expressions found in the Westminster Confession.
- 3. The Committee is of the opinion that no further discussion is necessary on The Preamble.
- 4. At present the ERQ has no official relationships with any other church federations. Contacts are growing with the United Reformed Churches. The ERQ now has a Committee for Inter-Church Relations.
- 5. The Committee states that a Reformed church polity shines through in the ODE (Order and Discipline of the ERQ). The Committee reports that though some weaknesses can be pointed out it does not articulate these weaknesses.
- 6. The office of deacon is open to all members (2.4.3, pg. 29), in contrast to the office of elder which is restricted to the male gender (2.2.4, pg. 28). Thus the office of deacon is open to women. Deacons are not part of the ruling council of the church (126.96.36.199, pg. 10), deacons are “elected” and “ordained” to office. “Pastoral visits must be made part of the work of elders, ministers of the word and deacons under the direction of the local council. The purpose of these visits is to watch over the spiritual growth of the members and particularly their faith and their conduct. ” (4.2.5, pg. 31). The Committee quotes Calvin’s Institutes to prove that there were deaconesses in the early church.(188.8.131.52, pg. 11)
- 7. “As in the CanRCs there is no officially adopted order of worship in the I’ERQ.” (5.1.3, pg. 12). This same section adds that “there is one worship service a week, generally on Sunday morning” as well that “occasionally a minister from another church may be invited to preach, at the discretion of the local pastor and elders” . The Committee Report provides further information regarding the elements of the worship service in the ERQ. “Prayers in the worship services are led by the conductor of the service and by some people of the assembly. “(184.108.40.206, pg. 14) “On these occasions there might be alternation of appropriate songs and Bible readings, short meditations, banners, Bible stories for and by children etc.” (5.1. 3. 6, pg. 15)
- 8. The Lord’s Table is deemed to be “rather open ” in that some people who are not members also participate. The ERQ committee admitted “that there is a growing awareness that the councils needed to fence the table more closely. ” The Committee recommends that within the framework of Ecclesiastical Fellowship the CanRCs could urge movement to a more closely fenced table.
- 9. With regards to Public Profession of faith it is stated that “a thorough knowledge of the Reformed doctrine is not demanded.” Confession of and binding to the Reformed doctrine are not required (220.127.116.11, pg. 14).
- 10. There are no standardized liturgical forms (18.104.22.168, pg. 15). “This has as a result some lack of uniformity of practice.” The Report states that “though the use of standard liturgical forms is relatively important, the lack of such forms should not be an insurmountable barrier to Ecclesiastical Fellowship.”
- 11. In view of the Committee’s mandate “to further investigate whether it is possible to have the Canadian Reformed Churches and the Eglise Reformee du Quebec as part of the federation” the Committee considered two possibilities: a “French Classis” and “full integration”. Neither of these models seemed to be workable. The Committee cannot recommend that church union or merger would be beneficial or advisable. Language is the great divider. The Committee states that “it is important for the CanRCs to understand that the ERQ now needs to maintain this independent ‘Francophone’ identity.”
- 12. The Committee recommends Synod accept the request of l’Eglise Reformee du Quebec, made to Synod ’95, and reaffirmed at their Synod of Sept 12/13, 1997, to enter into Ecclesiastical Fellowship and to do so under their adopted Rules (1997)
- 13. The Committee recommends to appoint a Committee for Contact with l’Eglise Reformee du Quebec with the following mandate:
- a. To respond if specific requests for assistance and advice are made in matters of confession, church polity and worship;
- b. To initiate and continue discussions with the ERQ CICR concerning the supervision of the Lord’s table with a view to admitting only professing members of the church to the table; the need for professing members to express agreement with the confessional standards; the necessity and desirability of adopting liturgical forms;
- c. To respond, if possible and feasible, to specific requests made to attend Synods of the ERQ;
- d. To be ready to give assistance in developing mission possibilities in Quebec;
- e. To keep the churches informed about l’Eglise Reformee du Quebec so that we can respond in a positive manner to their financial and other needs as missionary churches;
- f. To serve Synod 2001 with a report to be sent to the churches at least six months prior to the beginning of Synod.
- g. Inform the Committee on Relations with Churches Abroad of the relationship with l’Eglise Reformee du Quebec.
- B. Through overtures and letters several concerns are raised and suggestions are given by the churches:
- 1. The church at Watford suggests we are not ready to enter into Ecclesiastical Fellowship since the ERQ allows for women to serve as full-fledged deacons. They also have difficulties with the prominent role given to Synods in ordaining ministers and in matters of discipline.
- 2. The church at Chatham is not in favour of entering into a relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship until the ERQ adopts a stricter policy regarding the fencing of the Lord’s Supper.
- 3. The church at Yarrow urges Synod not to accept the request of the ERQ to enter Ecclesiastical Fellowship because of how they view the fencing of Lord’s Supper, confessional membership, women deacons, Sabbath observance. The church at Yarrow is of the opinion that the last two matters should be added to the mandate of the Committee.
- 4. The church at Willoughby Heights is not in agreement with the report of the Committee and questions why Ecclesiastical Fellowship should be established under the rules suggested by the ERQ.
- 5. The church at London disagrees with the recommendations of the report. They question whether the matters under discussion are minor points that fall within the scope of Article 50 of the Church Order. The church at London is especially concerned about the confessions (Westminster), church polity, style of worship of the ERQ. They also raise concerns about the worship services and about the ERQ’s position on deaconesses.
- 6. The church at Attercliffe is of the opinion that the considerations and conclusions of the Committee Report “are seriously flawed and that at this time there is no ground to recognize the ERQ as a faithful and true church of the Lord Jesus Christ and enter into Ecclesiastical Fellowship.” They disagree with the Committee’s suggestion that federative unity is impractical and take exception to the reasoning of the Committee on this point. The church at Attercliffe also has difficulties with the Committee’s reference to Synod 1965. “Having studied Article 141 of General Synod 1965 Council disagrees with the report. Synod 1965 did not judge that a church federation maintaining Presbyterian church government and subscribing to the Westminster Standards is a true church of the Lord. If that would be true than the implication is that the Canadian Reformed Churches have made such a judgement concerning all kinds of Presbyterian churches.”
- 7. The church at Lincoln overtures Synod not to accept the recommendation of the Committee but to amend the recommendation to read:
- a. Accept the request of L’Eglise Reformee du Quebec, made to Synod’95, and reaffirmed at their Synod of Sept. 12,13, 1997, to enter into Ecclesiastical Fellowship and to do so under their adopted rules (1997), subject to the mutual satisfactory conclusion of the discussions on the matters listed in point B 2, of the recommendations as a, b, and c.
- b. To list under B 2 in addition to a, b, and c:
- i. The necessity and desirability of conducting two (2) official worship services on each Lord’s Day.
- ii. the desirability of not ordaining women to the office of deacon.
- c. To delete point C from the recommendations.
- 8. The church at Fergus is not in favour of entering into a relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship at this time due to problems with confessional membership and the fencing of the Lord’s Supper.
- 9. The church at Burlington South expresses some reservations about the way the Lord’s Day is observed in the ERQ and about entering into a relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship on the basis of their terms.
- 10. The church at Calgary is of the opinion that the same approach should be taken with the ERQ as with the OPC. This church wants more extensive discussions with the ERQ on the fencing of the Lord’s Supper, confessional membership, deaconesses and on the fact that ministers from other denominations are allowed to preach in the ERQ.
- 11. The church at Guelph questions the report on the matters of deaconesses, worship, fencing of the Lord’s Supper, profession of faith, lack of standardized liturgical forms and why we would have to enter into a relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship on the basis of their rules.
- 12. The church at Houston is not in favour of entering a relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship until the issues of fencing the Lord’s Supper, confessional membership, the need for adopted liturgical forms and the matter of women deacons are resolved.
- 13. The church at Grand Valley is of the opinion that the matters of the fencing of the Lord’s Supper, Confessional Membership, and women deacons are obstacles for Ecclesiastical Fellowship.
- 14. The church at Neerlandia raises concerns about one worship service per Lord’s Day, admission to the Lord’s Supper and about having women deacons.
- 15. The church at Elora urges Synod not to follow the recommendations of the Report because of the issues of Sabbath Day observance, ordination of women deacons, fencing of the Lord’s Supper, absence of adopted liturgical forms and order of worship, lack of clarity on their status with the PCA and the position of Synods within in the ERQ.
- 16. The church at Orangeville expresses concern about the ordination of women deacons and the lack of standard liturgical forms.
- 17. The church at Burlington East supports the recommendations of the Committee.
- A. It is obvious that the ERQ is in the beginning stages of church development. On certain matters and issues they have not articulated a position (eg. liturgical forms, fencing of the Lord’s Supper, order of worship). A relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship, therefore, is neither feasible nor advisable at this time.
- B. From the observations and concerns expressed by the churches it is evident that the following areas need further clarification and should remain topics of discussion:
- 1. The nature and status of the deacons and deaconesses;
- 2. The matter of liturgical forms, order of worship, supervision of the pulpit and Lord’s Day observance;
- 3. The fencing of the Lord’s Table and possible different practices among the various congregations;
- 4. The need for confessional binding for members and office bearers;
- 5. The differences in the Rules for Ecclesiastical Fellowship of the ERQ and the CanRCs;
- 6. The question whether federative unity is possible or not.
- A. To note with gratitude the contact and developing relationship with the ERQ.
- B. To decline the invitation of the ERQ to enter into Ecclesiastical Fellowship at this time.
- C. To re-appoint the committee for contact with the ERQ with the following mandate:
- 1. To clarify and discuss the points raised in Consideration B in view of the concerns raised by the churches;
- 2. To keep the churches informed about the ERQ so that they may be able to respond to financial and other needs of the ERQ;
- 3. To respond if specific requests for assistance and advice are made in matters of confession, church polity, and liturgy;
- 4. To respond, if possible and feasible, to specific requests made to attend Synods of the ERQ;
- 5. To serve Synod 2001 with a report to be sent to the churches at least six months prior to the beginning of Synod.
It is moved to delete from IV.B.6: “The question whether federative unity is possible or not.”
The committee proposal is voted on.