GS 2007 art 98

GS 2007 Article 98 – The United Reformed Churches in North America (URCNA)

The advisory committee presented its proposal:

1.      Material

  • 1.1     CPEU Report: 1) General; 2) Church Order Committee; 3) Common Songbook Committee; 4) Theological Education Committee; 5) all appendices
  • 1.2-20  Letters from the following nineteen churches:
  • Surrey, Spring Creek (2), Guelph, Smithers, London, Coaldale, Carman West, Flamborough, Grand Rapids (2), Carman East, Chilliwack (2), Lincoln, Grand Valley, Edmonton Immanuel, Langley, Neerlandia, Orangeville, Fergus North (3) Winnipeg Redeemer


2.      Observations

  • 2.1     Synod Chatham gave the CPEU the following mandate:
    • 2.1.1    To maintain the rules of Phase Two (Ecclesiastical Fellowship), so far as it concerns the churches in common (see Acts of Synod Neerlandia 2001, Article 73, Considerations 4.5 and 4.6).
    • 2.1.2    To pursue continued fraternal dialogue with the URCNA with a view towards entering the final phase of federative unity.
    • 2.1.3    To work closely with the sub-committees of the CPEU re church order, theological education and a common songbook, consulting with them concerning the progress made.
    • 2.1.4    To present a single comprehensive report, that has been prepared jointly with the CERCU of the URCNA to the next Synod, including a recommendation for a definite time frame for federative unity.
    • 2.1.5    To provide information to the churches at regular intervals.
    • 2.1.6    To make themselves available upon request of Canadian Reformed Churches for advice on local developments with the URCNA.
    • 2.1.7    To work closely with the CERCU of the URCNA.
    • 2.1.8    To commence discussion concerning the “Framework Hypothesis” and the support this theory has within the URCNA, and serve the next synod with information concerning this matter.
  • 2.2     The CPEU reports the following regarding its mandate:
    • 2.2.1    In general the commitment to implement Phase 2 of the relationship with the URCNA, and the desire to work towards full federative unity remains strong in the Canadian Reformed Churches. Among the URCs—in particular the ones located in Canada—there is definitely much willingness to cooperate with local CanRC and to implement Phase 2 of the relationship. There are many local contacts throughout the country. Some members and churches are hesitant when it comes to a possible merger of the two federations in the near future. This difficulty is especially noticeable among URCNA in the United States. The CPEU further states that “despite possible roadblocks on the way and despite the fact that we may need many more years than we initially anticipated, your committee remains positive about the developments.”
    • 2.2.2    Since Synod Chatham there has been one combined meeting of the CPEU and the Committee for Ecumenical Relations and Church Unity (CERCU). The two committees committed to meeting together at least every two years. During the combined meeting, the URCNA presented a list of theological questions on matters like federal vision, justification, common grace, covenant of works, internal and external covenant, etc. and inquired after the position of the CanRC or its ministers on these matters. The CPEU wants to consider these questions seriously but has not determined a method of responding on behalf of the CanRC or ministers. (In his speech to synod, Rev. Bouwers, fraternal delegate from the URCNA, urged the CanRC to find a way to respond to these questions). In the same vein, the CPEU is anticipating a response from the CERCU on the Framework Hypothesis matter.
    • 2.2.3    The three sub-committees of the CPEU were “busy with work in progress and had a clear mandate. Therefore not much consultation was needed with the CPEU.”
    • 2.2.4    The mandate to produce a joint report has not been completed, since the CERCU does not have a similar instruction from the URCNA Synod. Both committees are convinced that at this point of time it would not be helpful to put time-pressure on the unity process.
    • 2.2.5    The mandate to provide information to the churches was done mainly through Press Releases of the various meetings, published in Clarion and Christian Renewal. Two brothers of the Common Songbook Committee have also published a series of articles for the edification of the members in both federations.
    • 2.2.6    The CPEU reports that some advice was given in particular matters of local contacts between the URCNA and the CanRC. The CPEU did not consider it within its mandate to stimulate and promote cooperation between URC and CanRC on the local level beyond the specific requests for advice.
    • 2.2.7    The CPEU and the CERCU have agreed to meet as a minimum every two years.
    • 2.2.8    In the matter of the Framework Hypothesis the CERCU reminded the CPEU of a decision by Synod Escondido 2001 regarding creation and evolution, and expressed as their conviction that almost all URCs hold to a literal six days of creation. They agreed to provide a written response to this query.
  • 2.3     Surrey appreciates the attention being paid to the Framework Hypothesis, and encourages synod to ensure that this matter does not get swept aside.
  • 2.4     Guelph recommends that synod give the sub-committees the mandate to report directly to General Synod 2010 rather than to the CPEU.
  • 2.5     London recommends a cautious approach to theological questions raised by the URCNA about the position of CanRC and/or its ministers on matters like federal vision, justification, common grace, covenant of works, internal and external covenant, as well as the CanRC concern about the matter of the Framework Hypothesis.
  • 2.6     Carman West cautions that the CPEU not delve into local situations to promote contacts between local CanRC and URCNA “without waiting for request for advice.” Carman West also recommends that the mandate for the new CPEU should be clearly stated with details.
  • 2.7     Carman East asks synod to consider whether merger is the only biblical option available in relating to our brethren in the URCNA, and whether ecclesiastical fellowship is not an acceptable biblical alternative.
  • 2.8     Chilliwack sees evidence of difficulties in the discussions between the CERCU and CPEU and is not quite clear what more can be done at this point in time. Chilliwack is concerned that the Canadian Reformed Churches are “willing to compromise our beliefs and values for the goal of unity” and asks synod to affirm that “a move toward ecclesiastical fellowship would not necessitate an insistence upon federative and organic unity… but that the goal for the Canadian Reformed Churches at this time is to foster meaningful fraternal relations, rather than to become one federation.”
  • 2.9     Orangeville wishes to express agreement with the committee that “deadlines for federative unity not be implemented or recommended, due to the difficulties in coming to agreement on the matters of Theological training and a Common Song Book.”

3.      Considerations

  • 3.1     Synod is satisfied with the reasons given by the committee for not providing a joint report as mandated.
  • 3.2     In light of the fact that the CPEU has met infrequently with the CERCU and that the bulk of the work is being done by sub-committees, it seems wise to replace the CPEU with coordinators who oversee the work of the sub-committees. These coordinators will represent the subcommittees in meetings with CERCU and respond to invitations to major assemblies. The subcommittees would report directly to general synod.
  • 3.3     In light of the appointment of a Liturgical Forms and Confessions Committee by Synod Calgary URCNA, it would be proper to appoint a fourth sub-committee to work with them on unified texts for creeds, confessions, liturgical forms, and prayers for the new Common Songbook.
  • 3.4     Having taken note of the work of the three sub-committees and some of the obstacles they have encountered as well as the comments by the CPEU regarding reluctance in both federations for quick federative unity, synod considers it wise not to establish a definite time frame but to continue to work diligently towards federative unity.
  • 3.5     Synod is grateful for the progress of the various sub-committees toward the goal of federative unity with the URCNA and is not convinced that impasses have been reached. Therefore the questions of Carman East and Chilliwack about ecclesiastical fellowship being a satisfactory goal are premature.
  • 3.6     The matter of responding to questions of federal vision, justification, common grace, covenant of works, internal and external covenant, etc., is complicated by the fact that synod does not wish to make extra-confessional statements and that there is no other means to answer on behalf of the churches. Synod considers the possibility of the coordinators to request capable men to write personal articles about these topics or organize conferences to discuss these matters.
  • 3.7     Synod is grateful for the commitment of CERCU to provide written response to the CanRC inquiry regarding the Framework Hypothesis.
  • 3.8     Regarding the CPEU’s mandate to be involved in local contacts, synod commends the committee for not imposing itself in situations where its advice was not requested.

4.      Recommendation

Synod decide:

  • 4.1     To acknowledge with gratitude to the Lord the progress of the CPEU and the CERCU and their sub-committees in the work towards federative unity.
  • 4.2     To thank the members of the CPEU for their work over the years and to consider their mandate concluded.
  • 4.3     To appoint two ecclesiastical unity (EU) coordinators to facilitate contact with CERCU of the URCNA, and mandate these EU coordinators:
  • 4.3.1    To represent the four committees in meetings with CERCU and to respond to invitations to major assemblies.
  • 4.3.2    To coordinate responses to questions from the URCNA, and to receive their response to the Framework Hypothesis question.
  • 4.3.3    To make themselves available upon request for local assistance.
  • 4.4     To reappoint the Church Order Committee, the Theological Education Committee and the Common Songbook Committee and to appoint a Liturgical Forms and Confessions Committee, which will all report directly to general synod.
  • 4.5     To recognize the difficulty of establishing a definite time frame for federative unity, but encourage the committees to work diligently toward that goal.