26 Aug GS 2007 art 75
GS 2007 Article 75 – l’Église réformée du Quebec (ERQ)
The advisory committee presented its second proposal:
- 1.1 CCCA Report 1
- 1.2 CCCA Supplementary Report
- 1.3 -11 Letters from the following nine churches:
- Chatham, Coaldale, Dunnville/Wainfleet, Elora, Grand Rapids, Guelph, Lincoln, Ottawa, Yarrow
- 2.1 Synod Chatham gave the CCCA the mandate initially given by Synod Neerlandia:
- 2.1.1 To discuss the differences between the Three Forms of Unity and the Westminster Standards as found in the “Evaluation of Divergencies” received by Synod 1986. Considering the limited resources of the ERQ priority should be placed on discussion and clarification of pulpit supervision, fencing of the Lord’s table, and confessional accountability.
- 2.1.2 To work towards formalizing a relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship under the adopted rules.
- 2.1.3 To encourage the churches to continue supporting the ERQ financially, when needed.
- 2.1.4 To respond if specific requests for assistance and advice are made on matters of confession, church polity, liturgy, and mission.
- 2.2 The CCCA has had a number of meetings with their counterparts in the ERQ. The brothers have used the opportunity to discuss confessional membership, supervision of the pulpit and fencing of the Lord’s table. They have also taken the opportunity to write to the ERQ about these subjects.
- 2.3 On the three points needing further clarification and discussion, CCCA advise us that:
- 2.3.1 Confessional Membership: confessional subscription is explicitly required of the office bearers. Members in the local churches have the duty to receive this doctrine and be willing to be instructed in it.
- 2.3.2 Supervision of the Lord’s Supper: the elders have the duty to supervise admission to the Lord’s Supper, and to exclude unbelievers.
- 2.3.3 Supervision of the pulpit: local consistories exercise supervision of the preaching. The churches together at synod examine candidates for the ministry.
- 2.4 In their report, the CCCA has included a letter from the ERQ Interchurch Committee, responding to the CCCA’s explanation of the Canadian Reformed position on the three points still in discussion. In reply, the Interchurch Committee writes:
- 2.4.1 On admittance to the celebration of the Lord’s Supper: “the present practice of the ERQ congregations involves celebrating monthly communion during which the pastor addresses a clear verbal invitation and warning to all those who are present…. With respect to visitors, the same verbal invitation and warning are addressed without requiring a written attestation.”
- 2.4.2 On confessional membership: “at present, we do not require professing members to be bound to or to adhere to the Reformed doctrine articulated in our confessions.”
- 2.4.3 On supervision of the pulpit: “Most of the councils have restricted themselves to ordained ERQ pastors and approved candidates, while a limited number of councils have permitted non-ERQ pastors to fill their pulpits.”
- 2.5 The committee reports that the ERQ has forwarded to them a draft version of a proposed liturgical form for Profession of Faith, and solicited their feedback, which the CCCA has supplied. The ERQ’s fraternal delegate to synod, Rev P. Bédard, has meanwhile informed synod that the ERQ has recently adopted “Vows for Public Profession of Faith.” The first question asked is, “Do you believe whole-heartedly that the Holy Scriptures, Old and New Testaments, are the Word of God, the only infallible rule for your faith and your life, and that its doctrine of salvation is taught faithfully in this Church?”
- 2.6 The ERQ is working on a Form for the Baptism of Infants, a Form for the Baptism of Adults, a Form for the Ordination of Office Bearers, and a Subscription Form. Our CCCA will be asked to supply feedback on these forms.
- 2.7 The CCCA concludes that “it has become clear from our discussions that although the practices in the ERQ and the Canadian Reformed Churches are not identical, their position mirrors what the Canadian Reformed Churches have agreed to in discussions with the OPC, and that in this respect there is an agreement on the same principles.” Later on they state: “As such ongoing discussions should occur in the context of ecclesiastical fellowship” (Report, p. 128).
- 2.8 The CCCA recommends that synod decide:
- 2.8.1 To express gratitude for the work of the Lord in the ERQ, for their commitment to the Reformed faith, and for their efforts to come to a consensus about some of the outstanding issues, as this is evident in their efforts to adopt liturgical forms.
- 2.8.2 To enter into a relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the ERQ under the adopted rules.
- 2.8.3 To mandate the CCCA:
- 22.214.171.124 To convey this decision to the next ERQ Synode, via the Interchurch Committee.
- 126.96.36.199 To actively engage in the relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the ERQ under the adopted rules.
- 188.8.131.52 To express to the Interchurch Committee a willingness to provide encouragement and assistance in the adoption of liturgical forms, and in other such matters, and to provide this assistance where possible.
- 184.108.40.206 To respond if specific requests for assistance and advice are made on matters of confession, church polity, liturgy, and mission.
- 220.127.116.11 To continue discussion on existing differences in confession and practice with a particular focus on admission to the Lord’s Supper and confessional accountability.
- 18.104.22.168 To meet and have contact with the Interchurch Committee as often as is feasible for this purpose, but bearing in mind the limited manpower of the ERQ.
- 22.214.171.124 To encourage the churches to continue supporting the ERQ financially, when needed, and prayerfully.
- 2.9 Guelph expresses concern that the committee may be a little hasty in their evaluation and acceptance of the ERQ’s method of supervision. They explain that “with the OPC it should be noted that ecclesiastical fellowship was established after it was agreed that the Lord’s Supper ‘supervision is to be applied to the members of the local church as well as to its guests. The eldership has a responsibility in supervising the admission to the Lord’s Supper’” (Synod Neerlandia, Art. 45:4.11, 5.5). Guelph would favour the establishment of ecclesiastical fellowship, and recommends that synod “mandate the committee to continue to work diligently with the Interchurch Committee of the ERQ on the matter of fencing the Lord’s Table.”
- 2.10 Grand Rapids advises synod not to establish ecclesiastical fellowship because “the ERQ itself acknowledges that it needs more time to study and discuss the three points” that the CCCA was mandated to discuss with them.
- 2.11 Chatham asks synod not to establish sister relations at this time on grounds that “the issues that need to be resolved have not been resolved at this time, but are set aside to be discussed at a later date.” Chatham mentions the supervision of the pulpit (i.e., ministers from churches with whom they have no formal relations) as one of these issues.
- 2.12 Coaldale “would argue that to continue to help the ERQ develop in a right direction, it would be most helpful to not yet enter into ecclesiastical fellowship.” Too much diversity remains in the ERQ, and “the ERQ does not have a clearly articulated and formalized official position on every issue.” Coaldale mentions that “it seems that once we enter into ecclesiastical fellowship with a federation of churches the impetus for discussing differences is undermined.”
- 2.13 Dunnville/Wainfleet recommends that synod decide not to enter into ecclesiastical fellowship with the ERQ at this time. They write: “It appears from the report that the ERQ is still in the process of formulating a unified position on some very important matters. Before creating a sister church relationship it would be helpful and wise to have a more firmly established position from these churches. Although the committee wishes to mirror the position the Canadian Reformed Churches have taken with the OPC, we believe it would be much more beneficial for both the ERQ and the Canadian Reformed Churches, to resolve these matters in a clear and precise manner before coming to full unity.”
- 2.14 Elora agrees with the CCCA’s recommendations to synod and encourages synod to pay particular attention to the ERQ practice of admission to Lord’s Supper and confessional accountability. Elora offers no grounds.
- 2.15 Lincoln urges synod not to seek ecclesiastical fellowship with this church at this time. Instead, Lincoln recommends that “we as churches continue to discuss with them the differences between our churches, and continue to keep contact with them.” Lincoln’s grounds for recommending this is that we can learn from the past. “We have entered into Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the OPC and we are still discussing the differences that were present 30 years ago. Would it not be wise to first work out these differences before we enter into Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the ERQ?”
- 2.16 Ottawa notes that the diversity with the ERQ is largely due to the relative youth of this federation, and states that “extending Ecclesiastical Fellowship to these churches would be a great blessing to them at this time in their history and help them as they strive to put Reformed principles into practice.”
- 2.17 Yarrow submits that “the outstanding issues namely confessional membership, supervision of the Lord’s Supper and supervision of the pulpit should be concluded before we enter into Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the ERQ. It is our observation that after we entered into Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the OPC and the FCS, the will to discuss and resolve the differences seems to have waned.” Yarrow urges that the way we recognized the OPC should not become the new litmus test or benchmark for entering into a new relationship with the ERQ.
- 2.18 There is evidence that the contacts the St Georges and Owen Sound congregations have had with each other for some years have been mutually beneficial.
- 3.1 Synod notes with gratitude that the ERQ, under God’s blessing, is growing in the Lord and his service.
- 3.2 Synod notes with gratitude the newly adopted “Vows for Public Profession of Faith.” The questions asked in this form demonstrate a scriptural understanding of confessional accountability. This addresses Synod Chatham’s mandate on this matter.
- 3.3 The CCCA is to be commended for their ongoing work with the ERQ. Much work has been done, and much work remains to be done. That the ERQ seeks CanRC input as they develop more liturgical forms demonstrates that there is much opportunity for more mutually productive work to be done, also on matters beyond the outstanding issues mentioned by previous synod.
- 3.4 The CCCA recommends that synod decide to enter into a Relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the ERQ on grounds that its practices mirror “what the Canadian Reformed Churches have agreed to in discussions with the OPC.” The church at Guelph, though, correctly reminds synod that “with the OPC it should be noted that Ecclesiastical Fellowship was established after it was agreed that the Lord’s Supper ‘supervision is to be applied to the members of the local church as well as to its guests. The eldership has a responsibility in supervising the admission to the Lord’s Supper.’” From the way the ERQ Interchurch Committee writes (see Obs. 4a), it is evident that the elders do not address visitors beyond the “invitation and warning” from the pulpit. This allows visitors to attend the table ultimately at their own discretion.
- 3.5 Already the CCCA and some of the churches are interacting with the ERQ in a way consistent with the rules that belong to ecclesiastical fellowship. Given the openings there are to stand beside one another in the struggles of faith in our common nation, it is fitting to formalize ecclesiastical fellowship at this time, and continue to assist one another under the Rules for Ecclesiastical Fellowship.
- 3.6 In his providence the Lord God has given to the Canadian Reformed Churches and to l’Église réformée du Quebec their own particular history and character. Given our proximity and place within one country, increased contact between the churches of these two federations would be mutually beneficial.
- 4.1 To thank the committee for its work in the contact with the ERQ, with the prayer that the Lord may bless the continued study and discussions.
- 4.2 To enter into a Relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the ERQ under the adopted rules.
- 4.3 To give the CCCA the following mandate:
- 4.3.1 To convey this decision to the next ERQ Synode, via the Interchurch Committee.
- 4.3.2 To actively engage in the Relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the ERQ under the adopted rules.
- 4.3.3 To express to the Interchurch Committee a willingness to provide encouragement and assistance in the adoption of the liturgical forms, and in other such matters, and to provide this assistance where possible.
- 4.3.4 To respond if specific requests for assistance and advice are made on further matters of confession, church polity, liturgy, and mission, as per the Rules for Ecclesiastical Fellowship.
- 4.3.5 To continue discussion when appropriate on existing differences in confession and practice with a particular focus on admission to the Lord’s Supper and the supervision of the pulpit.
- 4.3.6 To meet and have contact with the ERQ Interchurch Committee and synods if and when invited.
- 4.3.7 To encourage the churches to continue supporting the ERQ prayerfully, and financially when needed.
- 4.4 To encourage the churches to seek out ways and means to develop contacts with individual ERQ churches as is done between Owen Sound and St. Georges.
The chairman spoke about this historic decision in that we have now entered into ecclesiastical fellowship with a church federation entirely within Canada. The meeting sang 87:1 and 4 and Rev. Schouten led in a prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord.