01 Apr GS 2004 art 97
GS 2004 Article 97 – Appeal of the church at Grand Rapids against Art. 73 of Synod Neerlandia re: Phase Two
Committee 2 presented its proposal on the appeal from the church at Grand Rapids against Art. 73 of Synod Neerlandia 2001 re: Phase Two. After several rounds of discussion, the following was adopted:
Appeal from the church at Grand Rapids against Art. 73 of Synod Neerlandia 2001 re: Phase Two
The appeal from the church at Grand Rapids is admissible since it appeals a decision of Synod Neerlandia 2001.
- 3.1. The church at Grand Rapids is appealing the decision of Synod Neerlandia 2001, Article 73, regarding the relations with the United Reformed Churches of North America (URCNA).
- 3.2. The church at Grand Rapids does understand the high biblical call to pursue diligently the unity of the body of Christ.
- 3.3. The church at Grand Rapids has been busy on a local level interacting with three URCNA consistories, but they deliberately abstain from implementing the elements of the Phase Two relationship established between the two federations, as they do not agree with the way in which unity between these two federations of churches is being pursued.
- 3.4. The church at Grand Rapids reflects on how the matter of relations with the OPC was dealt with from Synod Coaldale 1977 until Ecclesiastical Fellowship was declared at Synod Neerlandia 2001. The church at Grand Rapids feels that the differences in supervision of the Lord’s table, church government and confessional membership were ignored by Synod Neerlandia in its decision. They believe that this method of ignoring differences in coming to a relationship has influenced the decision of Synod Neerlandia with respect to its decision regarding the URCNA.
- 3.5. The church at Grand Rapids contends that guests can be admitted to the Lord’s table in URCNA churches on the basis of self-attestation or the attestation of church members. Grand Rapids believes that this method of supervision of the Lord’s table in the URCNA is contrary in principle to the historical understanding of Article 61 C.O. of the CanRC. They contend that by proceeding with Phase Two, Synod Neerlandia has gone beyond this article of the Church Order.
- 3.6. Grand Rapids remarks that the description of the current practices of admitting guests to the Lord’s table in the URCNA, and the CPEU’s implied agreement with it in the “Statement of Agreement” is vague and confusing. They feel that the phrase “as much as possible” leaves the manner of supervising the Lord’s table open to subjective interpretation.
- 3.7. The church at Grand Rapids states that the term “Ecclesiastical Fellowship” is foreign to our Church Order. The Church Order knows no other relationship than that of “sister-church” (cf. Articles 4,5,61,62). Therefore, as they state, Synod Neerlandia “went beyond the Church Order (C.O.) in creating an interim stepping-stone type of relationship with the URCs….” They argue that the relationship created with the URCNA is not the same as a sister-church relationship, because Synod Neerlandia did not include in its description of Phase Two the possibility of calling each other’s ministers.
- 3.8. They also assert that it is presumptive and even wrong to give each other the full rights and privileges of a sister church relationship before we have come to federative unity.
- 3.9. Grand Rapids believes that Synod Neerlandia was being inconsistent in the requirements for guests at the Lord’s table in the URCNA, when it remarked concerning the decision of Synod Leusden in our Dutch sister churches about the administration of the Lord’s Supper by army chaplains: “It is important that our sister churches maintain Article 60 and 61 of their Church
- Order, and not ignore the Scriptural teaching about the Lord’s Supper as summarized in the Reformed Confessions.”
- 3.10.Grand Rapids recommends that Synod:
- 3.10.1. Judge that Synod Neerlandia’s decision to establish EF with the URCNA contradicts Article 61 of the Church Order;
- 3.10.2. Rescind on the basis of the above the decision to recognize the URCNA as true churches and move to Phase Two;
- 3.10.3. Establish a relationship of ecclesiastical contact with the URCNA equivalent to Phase One.
- 3.10.4. Instruct the CPEU to communicate this decision to the CERCU.
- 4.1. Synod appreciates that the church at Grand Rapids, in line with the biblical requirement for church unity, is pursuing local interaction with United Reformed Churches.
- 4.2. The conclusion that the manner in which the CanRC has dealt with the OPC has influenced the decision of Neerlandia concerning the Phase Two relationship with the URCNA may be true but cannot be substantiated.
- 4.3. The phrase “as much as possible” in the “Statement of Agreement” stands in the context of the elders’ interview with persons requesting admission to the Lord’s Supper as a guest, or when making inquiry about individuals with others. In those instances elders are to acquire information about a person’s faith and life. It is also not correct to judge the practices of other churches only in the light of our own “historical understanding” of Article 61.
- 4.4. The church at Grand Rapids is arguing about old and new terms. Even though the term “Ecclesiastical Fellowship” is not used in the Church Order, it is equivalent to the term “sisterchurch” relations. Since Synod Lincoln 1992 both terms have been used interchangeably. This means that the relationship created with the URCNA is the same as a sister church relationship. The argument that Phase Two does not include the possibility of calling each other’s ministers does not have any bearing on this. The rules for Ecclesiastical Fellowship (Acts of Synod Lincoln 1992, Art. 50, IV.B.1-7) do not specify that the churches can call each other’s ministers, but this does not mean that this may not take place. After all, this is a sister church relationship and the calling of ministers is governed by Article 4 of the Church Order.
- 4.5. In response to its assertion that the full rights and privileges of a sister church relationship can only be exercised when there is federative unity with the URCNA, the church at Grand Rapids should take note of the Acts of Synod Neerlandia, where synod replied to a similar concern from the church at London. “The strategy given by the CPEU is based on a common understanding that recognition of one another as true churches (Art. 29 BC) requires an exercising of fellowship (Art. 28) to come to federative unity in due time” (Article 67, Consideration 4.11, pg. 71).
- 4.6. In Article 73, Consideration 4.6, Synod Neerlandia refers to “Appendix 3” of the report of the CPEU. Unfortunately this was not appended to the Acts of Synod Neerlandia 2001. In this appendix, entitled “Guidelines for Ecumenicity and Church Unity of the URCNA,” Phase Two of the relationship is called “Phase Two – Ecclesiastical Fellowship.” This document is now added as an appendix to the Acts of Synod Chatham 2004.
- 4.7. The matter of administration of the Lord’s Supper by army chaplains in our Dutch sister churches is a completely different matter, as it deals with exceptional circumstances and is a matter which is presently under study. The key concern of Synod Neerlandia is that the Lord’s Supper be celebrated in a worship service and under the supervision of the elders (Acts of Synod Neerlandia 2001, Art. 80, Consideration 4.11, p. 94).
Synod decide to deny the appeal of the church at Grand Rapids.