GS 2007 art 142

GS 2007 Article 142 – CRCA — General Mandate

The advisory committee presented its second proposal:

1.      Material

  • 1.1     CRCA Report 12
  • 1.2-10  Letters from the following nine churches:
  • Willoughby Heights, Guelph, Spring Creek, Smithers, London, Surrey, Edmonton Immanuel, Abbotsford, Yarrow

2.      Observations

  • 2.1     With regard to its mandate, the CRCA writes: “It is the Committee’s request that Synod Smithers consider carefully the limits of what we can and should do as churches in the world, and that Synod not mandate something as general as ‘investigate diligently all requests.’”
  • 2.2     In addition, “the Committee requests Synod to realize the limited resources of the Committee when it comes to investigating and evaluating issues and challenges in our present sister church relations. It has become clear that where there is strife and schism in sister churches abroad, the causes of the strife and schism are various different issues, each of which may warrant a booksize report or a whole separate study committee in the sister churches. We, however, are but one Committee charged with overseeing the whole state of affairs in all of the sister churches.”
  • 2.3 Furthermore, the CRCA continues, “it is the Committee’s opinion that when there are various issues (church/court proceedings in Scotland, hymns in Holland, along with divorce-remarriage, Sabbath-Sunday) that Synod Smithers wants to consider more carefully in the relations with sister churches, Synod should not look to the CRCA to study such topics and issues. Some other solution ought to be sought for such in-depth studies.”
  • 2.4     The CRCA also informs synod that it has been handicapped both by committee members who either left the country or moved to the other side of the country. As a result it asks synod to consider two aspects in determining appointments to the committee. The first is that synod should give priority to making the CRCA a regional committee with members living in close proximity to one another. The second is that continuity on the committee is important. To facilitate this, the CRCA informs Synod that it will send a letter with suggestions to accomplish these aspects.
  • 2.5     The CRCA asks synod for guidance and direction in the matter of responding to requests to attend assemblies and synods. It suggests that there are occasions when the churches would be well served by sending a full delegation, such as in the case of the meetings of the ICRC. It also makes the suggestion that synod consider one of the habits of some sister churches who decided ahead of time where the churches would like to have the CRCA visit and attend.
  • 2.6     The CRCA recommends that Synod Smithers give it the following charge:
    • 2.2.1    To consider requests for ecclesiastical fellowship from churches abroad in direct consultation with, and deferring to the judgment of (in accordance with the rules for ecclesiastical fellowship re third party relationships), a sister church in the part of the world from which the requests originates.
    • 2.2.2    To investigate diligently those requests which come from places which are in closer proximity to our churches than to sister churches abroad.
    • 2.2.3    To respond, only if necessary, to specific requests made to attend Assemblies, Synods, or meetings of other churches outside the Americas, besides those visits specifically mandated by General Synod.
  •   2.7 Willoughby Heights concurs with the concerns expressed by the CRCA. It urges synod to reflect on the path that took the CanRC to its present state of church relations. Historically, the CanRC have had sister church relationships with federations in other countries that maintain the same polity and confessions. More recently the CanRC have established Ecclesiastical Fellowship with more churches. Some of these churches maintain different confessions and hold to a different church polity. Willoughby Heights also states: “once this development had taken root the terms sister church and ecclesiastical fellowship were forced to become synonyms.” Willoughby Heights suggests that synod divide (or instigate investigation toward dividing) our present relations into two categories:
    • 2.7.1    Sister Churches — being those that would join in federative unity should they be in geographical location to do so. The present rules for Ecclesiastical Fellowship would apply to such a relationship.
    • 2.7.2    Churches in Ecclesiastical Fellowship — being those that we have recognized as true churches of our Lord Jesus Christ, but who, as result of historical development have developed or adopted different practices, polity and confessions. Abbotsford presents a similar suggestion for synod’s consideration.
  •   2.8 Edmonton Immanuel requests synod to mandate the CRCA and the CCCA to study the differences between the churches and resolve these divergences with the respective churches. If synod judges that we cannot resolve the existing divergences, then Edmonton Immanuel requests synod to consider dividing our ecumenical relationships into two sets of rules:
    • 2.8.1    Ecclesiastical Fellowship with true churches which do not maintain the Three Forms of Unity and a similar church order.
    • 2.8.2    Fraternal Relations with churches that do maintain the Three Forms of Unity and a similar Church order.
  • 2.9     Guelph and Spring Creek agree with the CRCA’s first recommendation ( mentioned above 2.6.1.
  • 2.10   Smithers recommends that the following be added to the mandate of the CRCA:
    • 2.10.1 The CRCA is to determine and describe what differences there are between the particular church being dealt with, (Name) and the Canadian Reformed Churches, and recommend to general synod whether
    •  the differences are “minor” and therefore no longer need to be discussed, or  the differences are “major” and therefore either are
      •     worthy of brotherly admonition (in the case of existing union) or
      • an impediment to coming to the level of unity being sought (in the case of seeking union).
  • 2.11   London supports the recommendations of the CRCA and
  • 2.12   Surrey agrees with the recommendations of the CRCA.
  • 2.13   Yarrow sends synod its comments on the CRCA recommendations but makes no specific recommendations of its own.
  • 2.14   Smithers recommends that the CanRC send a proper amount of representatives to future meetings of the ICRC and that the costs associated with this be accepted.

3.      Considerations

  • 3.1     The recommendations of the CRCA have value in that they give greater clarity to the task and mandate of the committee. At the same time, what the CRCA recommends does need some modification. For example, it would be too much to say that we should “defer” in these matters to the judgment of a sister church. In addition, the second recommendation of the CRCA is questionable seeing that geography is an inadequate criterion when it comes to determining which requests to investigate. Also, Recommendation 2 of the CRCA is covered to some extent under its Recommendation 1.
  • 3.2     Willoughby Heights implies that formerly we had sister church relations and when this was later changed to ecclesiastical fellowship the two terms were “forced to become synonyms.” A close study of decisions in previous Acts, however, reveals that the term “sister churches” has always been a popular term to describe our relations with foreign churches. Prior to 1992 relations with sister churches were governed by Rules of Correspondence and thereafter they were governed by Rules for Ecclesiastical Fellowship. Furthermore, the Acts of 1983 reveal that Synod Cloverdale took over the term “Ecclesiastical Fellowship” from the report of the Committee for Correspondence and began to use it to describe our relations with sister churches (see: Acts 1983, pp. 313-4, as well as Art. 121). Hence the two terms “ecclesiastical fellowship” and “sister churches” are synonymous. The former being the official name and the latter being the popular or common name.
  • 3.3     Abbotsford, Edmonton Immanuel and Willoughby Heights would all like to see our churches divide present relations into two categories. Unfortunately, none of these churches interact with the decision of Synod 1980, (Acts, Art. 154) which concluded that (1) “there is no reason to establish a different form of permanent ecclesiastical relationship with other churches in the world than as regulated in the rules for correspondence, (2) These rules can be applied realistically according to the circumstances, like the lesser or greater degree of difference between the churches.”
  • 3.4     In recommending that the CRCA add to its mandate, the church at Smithers needs to realize that minor differences are covered by the Church Order (Article 50). Should there be major differences, Smithers ought to reckon with the fact that these are normally dealt with by the CRCA and then passed along to synod in its report.
  • 3.5     The recommendations of Smithers and the CRCA regarding full delegation to the ICRC has merit seeing that at the last two meetings of the ICRC our delegation was kept to a minimum but other CanRC members present were expected to help out (i.e., the Corresponding Secretary and Treasurer of the ICRC). This put added pressure on them. It also needs to be realized that the meetings of the ICRC provide a valuable opportunity for members of the CRCA to hold additional meetings with deputies from sister churches at virtually no additional expense to the churches.
  • 3.6     The recommendation of the CRCA whereby synod gives direction to the committee as to which churches in ecclesiastical fellowship should be visited has merit as it involves the broadest assembly of our churches in the matter of delegation. At the same time the CRCA should not be forced to rely solely on the direction of synod seeing that there may be circumstances and situations in our relations with other churches that demand an unexpected visit.

4.      Recommendation

Synod decide:

  • 4.1     To mandate the CRCA:
    • 4.1.1    To consider requests for ecclesiastical fellowship from churches abroad in consultation with and taking note of the judgment of (in accordance with the rules for ecclesiastical fellowship re third party relationships), a sister church familiar with the church from which the request originates.
    • 4.1.2    To respond, only if necessary, to specific requests made to attend assemblies, synods, or meetings of other churches outside the Americas, besides those visits specifically mandated by general synod.
    • 4.1.3    To serve Synod 2010 with a report with suitable recommendations, to be sent to the churches six months prior to the next general synod.
  • 4.2     Keeping in mind Consideration 3.6 above, synod decide to instruct the CRCA to send delegates to:
    • 4.2.1    The General Synod 2008 of the Reformed Churches in The Netherlands
    • 4.2.2    The General Synod 2008 of the Reformed Churches in New Zealand
    • 4.2.3    The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Korea (in consultation and rotation with sister churches)
    • 4.2.4    The 2009 meeting of the ICRC (full delegation: two delegates and two advisors).