18 Apr GS 2010 art 171
Article 171 – Appeal from Willoughby Heights re: Article 5a of the Acts of Regional Synod West 2009
Appeal from Willoughby Heights re: Article 5a Acts Regional Synod West 2009 (8.5.j).
- 2.1 The church at Willoughby Heights observes that in Considerations 1, 3, and 5, Article 5.a of the Acts of Regional Synod West (RSW) 2009, RSW 2009 went against “the Church Order, Article 76 (i.e. ‘… they shall endeavour diligently to observe the articles of this Church Order as long as they have not been changed by a general synod’).”
- 2.2 The church at Willoughby Heights further suggests that what RSW 2009 says in these Considerations “could set a dangerous precedent in our churches with regard to the use of the Church Order.”
- 2.3 The church at Willoughby Heights provides the following four grounds for its charge:
- 2.3.1 Regional Synod West in its Consideration 1 reads something into this article, which it doesn’t say, by speaking about the intent of this article. The application of this article in the churches should not depend on all kinds of interpretations of the intent of this article.
- 2.3.2 A main principle of reformed church policy is that decisions are being made by the churches, either at the local level, or the churches in common (meeting in classis, regional synod or general synod). The Church Order does not mention committees as having official status or jurisdiction in the churches. . . If article 55 CO says that the metrical Psalms adopted by general synod as well as the Hymns approved by general synod shall be sung in the worship services.’ . . It is not possible to read into that, that also a committee appointed by synod can do, what the churches decided should be done by the churches in common.
- 2.3.3 In Consideration 3, Regional Synod West tries to prove from history what the intent of the present Church Order is. However throughout the history we see in the Canadian Reformed Churches a struggle to find their way in a new situation…. It is therefore not justifiable to use the history before 1983 to explain the intent of an article that was adopted in 1983.
- 2.3.4 In Consideration 5, Regional Synod West states that “Close analysis shows that there is no significant difference between the Church Order prior to and after 1983.” However, this change from the old edition of this article to the new one, is exactly the same as our sister churches in the Netherlands made in 1978… the close analysis of the churches in the Netherlands in 1978 came to a different conclusion about the same issue, than Regional Synod West 2009 and our sister churches recognized this as a real change . . . Therefore, an interpretation of Article 55 of the Church Order based on the history before 1983 is wrong.
- 3.1 Article 31 of the CO recognizes the right of anyone who complains that he has been wronged by the decision of a minor assembly to appeal that decision to a major assembly. Willoughby Heights does not claim that it has been wronged by the decision of RSW 2009 in the appeal of br. H. Voorhorst against the decision of the consistory of Cloverdale, to use the revised Psalms in the worship services. Willoughby Heights seeks to provide a ground for its right to appeal the Considerations of Article 5a of the Acts of RSW 2009 by speaking about “a dangerous precedent” that could be set by those Considerations with regard to the use of the Church Order.
- 3.2 The dangerous precedent about which Willoughby Heights is concerned seems to be the fact that RSW 2009 spoke about “the intent” of Article 55. Willoughby Heights judges that, in doing so, RSW 2009 went “against Article 76 CO.” However, it is clear that the provisions of the CO do not address every possible situation or church orderly question that may arise. In fact, therefore, the diligent observation of the articles of the CO (Article 76) frequently requires that their provisions be interpreted, and their true intent discerned, so that they can be properly applied. In principle, therefore, it was not wrong for RSW 2009 to speak about “the intent” of Article 55.
- 3.3 In its Consideration 2, Willoughby Heights seems to suggest that RSW 2009 read into Article 55 the notion that “a committee appointed by synod can do, what the churches decided should be done by the churches in common.” In its Consideration 2, Willoughby Heights describes the rationale that RSW 2009 followed in arriving at its decision about the relevance of Article 55 to the appeal of br. Voorhorst. However, it does not show that RSW 2009 implied or claimed that “a committee appointed by synod can do, what the churches decided should be done by the churches in common.”
- 3.4 In its Consideration 3, Willoughby Heights states that RSW 2009 “tries to prove from history what the intent of the present Church Order is.” However, RSW 2009 did not try to prove from history what the intent of Article 55 CO is. RSW 2009 used the historical practice of the Canadian Reformed Churches to show how the provision of Article 55 (formerly Article 69) has been applied in the past. In fact, Willoughby Heights does the very same thing, when it argues that the situation pre-1983 was substantially different, because they “see in the history of the Canadian Reformed Churches a struggle to find their way in a new situation.”
- 3.5 In its Consideration 4, Willoughby Heights claims that the adoption of Article 55 in 1983 brought about a real change in regard to the singing of Psalms or Hymns not yet approved by a general synod. However, comparing pre-1983 Article 69 with current Article 55 shows that RSW 2009 correctly judged that “there is no significant change between the Church Order prior to and after 1983. Both the older Article 69 and the present Article 55 clearly limit the churches’ singing to synodically-adopted songs.” The issue, therefore, is not simply “What does the article say?” It is rather, “How should the churches apply Article 55 to the use of Psalms and Hymns which have not been approved by a general synod, but have been given to the churches for testing?” It was proper, therefore, for RSW 2009 to use the historical practice of the churches in that regard in order to come to a conclusion about br. Voorhorst’s appeal.
That Synod decide to deny the appeal of Willoughby Heights.