27 Aug GS 2007 art 80
GS 2007 Article 80 – Free Church of Scotland (FCS) & Free Church of Scotland – Continuing (FCC)
The advisory committee presented its proposal. After some discussion iIt was moved and seconded to delete from Consideration 4.2 to following:
According to the report, the FCC themselves state that “we still firmly believe that we have no scriptural warrant for separation in perpetuity.” This demonstrates that the action of the FCC is not scripturally valid according to Belgic Confession Article 28 where we confess that “all therefore who
draw away from the church or fail to join it act contrary to the ordinance of God.” The amendment was defeated.
- 1.1 CRCA Report 1 re FCS and FCC
- 1.2-14 Letters from the following thirteen churches:
- Willoughby Heights, Owen Sound, Edmonton Immanuel, Chilliwack. Elora. Yarrow, Guelph,
- Burlington Ebenezer, London, Brampton, Fergus Maranatha, Glanbrook, Winnipeg Redeemer
- 2.1 The report and letters from the churches are admissible.
- 3.1 The report of the CRCA, which is included as an appendix to the Acts, serve as Observations.
- 3.2 The CRCA recommends that Synod Smithers 2007 decide:
- 3.2.1 [1.10.1] To acknowledge that Synod Chatham 2004 inadvertently entered into a relationship of ecclesiastical fellowship with the FCC, which in effect also compromised our adherence to rule #3 of the rules for ecclesiastical fellowship.
- 3.2.2 [1.10.2] To nevertheless continue the relationship of ecclesiastical fellowship with both the FCS and the FCC under the adopted rules.
- 3.2.3 [1.10.3] To acknowledge that we have sufficient clarity to know how to proceed with both the FCS and the FCC, while acknowledging that further clarity on the causes of the division between them is not crucial and might very well remain elusive.
- 3.2.4 [1.10.4] To express thankfulness for the earnest efforts which have been made by both the FCS and the FCC towards reconciliation; to exhort the FCS and the FCC to continue to make such earnest efforts towards reconciliation, for the honour of Christ the one Head of the Church; and to urge the FCS and the FCC not to be discouraged by the difficulties on the path towards that goal.
- 3.2.5 [1.10.5] To mandate the CRCA:
- 220.127.116.11 [18.104.22.168] To convey the decisions under Recommendations 1, 2, and 4 to both the FCS and FCC, assuring them of our continued prayerful support.
- 22.214.171.124 [126.96.36.199] To continue to monitor the situation in the sister churches in Scotland and report any important developments to the next Synod.
- 3.3 The committee reports that it was able to discuss the existing differences in confession and church polity with the FCS. This was done in face-to-face discussions with representatives from both federations. The matters of the fencing of the Lord’s Supper, confessional membership, and the view of the covenant were discussed and each other’s beliefs and practices on these points clarified. The committee “would like Synod to consider that its mandate re discussion of differences has been satisfactorily concluded.”
- 3.3.1 The committee asks that if synod decides to renew the mandate for continued discussion that synod “be very specific about what needs to be discussed and what the precise goal of these discussions would be.” They further state that it “is a blessed goal to grow together in the unity of the true faith” but that the “Rules for Ecclesiastical Fellowship are sufficient in providing a broad context for that to happen.”
- 3.4 Chilliwack expresses concern about an apparently different standard in the FCS compared to the Canadian Reformed Churches for admitting children to the Lord’s Supper table and wonders how it would function in real-life terms. They reference the report where it is mentioned that children as young as 8 years old may become communicant members in the FCS. Chilliwack asks: “If they were to visit us, are we expected to invite these kids to our Lord’s Supper when we don’t allow our own kids until they have completed Catechism instruction and Profession of Faith class and shown that they know our doctrine?”
- 3.5 Yarrow supports Recommendations 1.10.1 – 1.10.4 of the committee. They request synod to add to Recommendation 1.10.5 the following “mandate 188.8.131.52 ‘to continue the discussion on the existing differences in confession and church polity.’” Winnipeg Redeemer requests the same and urges synod “not to rank them as of lesser importance but to encourage the FCS and FCC to study these issues in light of the Rules for Ecclesiastical Fellowship Article 1.” Elora expresses similar thoughts and mentions such divergences as confessional membership and the FCS’s “view of the invisible Church.”
- 3.6 Guelph requests synod to:
- 3.6.1 Ask the committee to request documented discussions on reconciliation between FCS and FCC.
- 3.6.2 To ask the committee to offer assistance in reconciliation when requested.
- 3.6.3 To review the progress at the next synod.
- The basic reason for these requests is to “lessen the load of this committee in the involvement of negotiations with the FCS and the FCC.”
- 3.7 Burlington Ebenezer recommends that Synod Smithers acknowledge to the “FCC that a mistake was made and to express sincere regret for any hurt this may have caused.” To support this they mention that the CRCA does not provide any grounds to continue ecclesiastical fellowship; that Synod Chatham did not have the intention to enter into ecclesiastical fellowship with the FCC; that we should not establish relationships by mistake; that no other federation other than the Christelijke Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland have entered into ecclesiastical fellowship with the FCC; and that by discontinuing ecclesiastical fellowship with the FCC we will resolve the concern expressed by the committee regarding Rule #3 for Ecclesiastical Fellowship. The churches at Glanbrook, Brampton and Owen Sound express the same sentiments. Owen Sound points to the CRCA’s report that “the split is because of a sharp disagreement on a church polity matter in a specific instance, and not because of any doctrinal matter.” Owen Sound then asks: “if there is no good basis for one group to leave a federation, is it proper to establish Ecclesiastical Fellowship with them?”
- 3.8 London questions “whether it is accurate to speak – as the committee does – about the differences in confession and church polity being ‘satisfactorily concluded.’” They suggest that we should be “quite frank” about the fact that such differences still exist.
- 3.9 Fergus Maranatha disagrees with the CRCA’s request to consider its mandate “regarding differences in confession and church polity to be concluded.” Fergus points to the FCS practice of admitting a guest to the Lord’s Supper based on their ‘oral attest’ and suggests this conflicts with passages such as John 5:31, 8:17, and Deut 19:15. They also state that the “FCS does not bind its members to the confessions the way we do” and that both such practices need further discussion.
- 4.1 From the report it is clear that the CRCA has fulfilled the mandate given to it by Synod Chatham with respect to the FCS & the FCC.
- 4.2 The committee clearly shows that Synod Chatham erred in deciding to “continue” a relationship of ecclesiastical fellowship with the FCC, a relationship which, in fact, did not exist. The committee makes clear that the FCC seceded from the FCS because of a “sharp disagreement in the application of church law or practice in a specific instance” and not for any doctrinal reason. According to the report, the FCC themselves state that “we still firmly believe that we have no Scriptural warrant for separation in perpetuity.” This demonstrates that the action of the FCC is not scripturally valid according to Belgic Confession Article 28 where we confess that “all therefore who draw away from the church or fail to join it act contrary to the ordinance of God.” To now admit our error and discontinue ecclesiastical fellowship with the FCC would show the FCC that we take this matter very seriously and so would help urge them to make things right again.
- 4.3 We can be thankful that the Lord has led the FCC to see that separation “in perpetuity” is scripturally unwarranted. In the context of ecclesiastical contact we can continue to exhort them to work sincerely toward reconciliation with the FCS for the glory of Christ our Head.
- 4.4 We can be thankful that the Lord has led the FCS to pursue restoration of unity with the FCC. In the context of ecclesiastical fellowship we may and we must (according to Rule #1) continue to urge the FCS to do whatever it can to facilitate such reconciliation of unity for the glory of Christ our Head.
- 4.5 The committee reports that the “admission of children to communicant membership is still relatively infrequent” and that the “FCS requires a credible profession of faith for children.” From this it is clear that the FCS does not endorse paedo-communion and, with respect to the qualifications for participants in the Lord’s Supper, stays within the bounds of Scripture as summarized in Q/A 81 of the Heidelberg Catechism.
- 4.6 The committee correctly observes that the goal of growing together in the unity of faith can be pursued under the Rules for Ecclesiastical Fellowship. Existing differences in confession and polity have not proven to be impediments for ecclesiastical fellowship. Thus, within the context of ecclesiastical fellowship, the one can learn from the other about varying legitimate ways to summarize God’s Word and how to put into practice its principles, understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each. We can also learn from each other about other matters of common concern which develop from time to time in the life of the churches. From such interaction, as opportunities arise, each federation can sharpen the other as iron sharpens iron.
- 5.1 To thank the committee for the work done re the FCS and the FCC.
- 5.2 To continue the Relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the FCS under the adopted rules.
- 5.3 To acknowledge that Synod Chatham 2004 erred by “continuing” a Relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the FCC which, in fact, did not exist.
- 5.4 To discontinue the Relationship of Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the FCC and express regret for the error and any hurt we may have caused them with this error.
- 5.5 To express thankfulness for the efforts which have been made by both the FCS and the FCC towards reconciliation.
- 5.6 To exhort the FCS and the FCC to continue their efforts toward reconciliation for the glory of Christ our Head and not to be discouraged by the difficulties on the path towards that goal.
- 5.7 To mandate the CRCA:
- 5.7.1 To convey the decisions under Recommendations 5.1-5.6 to both the FCS and FCC, assuring them of our continued prayerful support.
- 5.7.2 To continue to monitor the situation between the FCS and FCC and report any important developments to the next synod.