12 May GS 2001 art 53
GS 2001 Article 53 – CRCA: International Conference of Reformed Churches (ICRC)
Committee 3 presented its proposal on the ICRC. The following was adopted:
- 1.1. Report of the Committee on Relations with Churches Abroad regarding the International Conference of Reformed Churches (ICRC).
- 1.2. Letter from the Church at Barrhead re Synod Fergus article 52.
The letter from the Church at Barrhead is declared admissible because it is an appeal against a decision of Synod Fergus.
- 3.1. The report of the CRCA re the ICRC, which is included as an appendix in the Acts, serves as Observations.
- 3.2. The concern raised by Synod Fergus re: article 52,IV, D was forwarded to the secretary of the ICRC, “The new reading of the Constitution makes an unnecessary distinction between the Reformed Faith and the confessional basis. It has the potential of opening membership in the ICRC to churches whose confessions, upon examination, are found wanting.”
- 3.3. The CRCA recommends that synod decide to:
- 3.3.1. Either reconsider and withdraw the proposed change to the Constitution or give clarification of what is meant so those delegated can defend this proposal.
- 3.3.2. Continue the membership of the Canadian Reformed Churches in the ICRC.
- 3.4. Barrhead appeals the decision of Synod Fergus, “to mandate the CRCA to make and support membership recommendations at ICRC for those churches only with which we have official sister-church relations.”
- 4.1. While the concern raised by Synod Fergus was forwarded to the ICRC, it was not clear to the CRCA what the real difficulties of Fergus were. This is understandable in light of the explanatory notes on the constitution change by the ICRC 1997. Synod Fergus referred to these notes. On page 78 of the Proceedings of the ICRC 1997 we read the following:
- We have reformulated the Basis so as to refer now to ‘Reformed Faith.’ As churches, ICRC members stand together on the basis of a shared commitment to this biblical understanding of our Faith. If it be asked, “Where is this Faith you share summarized?” the answer is stated clearly: ‘In the documents listed in the Basis.’ This does not require any applicant church to subscribe to all of the six documents, or even to any of them, thus leaving open the possibility of admission of churches who subscribe other Reformed Confessions than those listed. Such churches and their confessions would have to be in agreement with the Reformed Faith as summarized in the six documents.
- 4.2. Synod Fergus expresses the concern that, “The concept of ‘the Reformed Faith’ could be perceived as the lowest common denominator in confessional unity and takes away from the need for confessional basis. It has the potential of opening membership in the ICRC to churches whose confessions, upon examination, are found wanting” (Acts 52,IV, D). The above quoted notes of the ICRC proceedings make clear that it is impossible to reduce the “Reformed Faith” to the lowest common denominator and so open the ICRC to churches whose confessions are found wanting. We see that, for instance, in the last line, “Such churches and their confessions would have to be in agreement with the Reformed Faith as summarized in the six documents.” A church whose confessions are found wanting cannot be said to be in agreement with the Reformed Faith as summarized in the Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, Canons of Dort, Westminister Confession, Larger and Shorter Catechism (see the Basis of the ICRC in article 2 of its Constitution).
- 4.3. Barrhead appeals a decision of Synod Fergus, which came as a response to an overture from the Church at Yarrow. Barrhead interacts with the reasoning of Yarrow’s overture, particularly the words: they “believe that our membership in the ICRC can usurp the authority of our ecclesiastical bodies, thereby challenging the integrity of our church federation.” Synod Fergus did not pick up on the reasoning of Yarrow, but simply referred to the recommendation of Synod Abbotsford in Acts 101,IV, B, 3,“that the CRCA should not have supported the request of the FRCNA and the RCUS. The letters of support state more than our Synods have decided with regard to these churches.” Thus the recommendation of Fergus does not show that it follows the reasoning of Yarrow; it refers to a decision that goes back to Synod Abbotsford. The point is simply that the CRCA should not be recommending a church for membership within the ICRC until we have ecclesiastical fellowship with a church. Therefore Barrhead’s appeal, which interacts with the reasoning of Yarrow, does not deal with the actual decision of Synod Fergus.
- 5.1. To withdraw the proposed change to the Constitution of the ICRC by Synod Fergus, and mandate the CRCA to make this known to the ICRC.
- 5.2. To deny the appeal of the Church at Barrhead.
- 5.3. To continue the membership of the Canadian Reformed Churches in the ICRC.