GS 2010 art 27

GS 2010 Article 27 – Appeal from Attercliffe re: Article 83 of Synod Smithers


1.         Material

Appeal from Attercliffe against Article 83 of Synod Smithers 2007 (8.5.k).

2.         Observations (history of the appeal)

In order to understand the appeal of Attercliffe the following history should be mentioned:

  • 2.1       Synod Fergus 1998 (Article 130)
    • 2.1.1    The Committee for Contact with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church submitted to Synod Fergus a “Proposed Agreement” for opening the way to EF. This agreement had two sections: one concerning Fencing of the Lord’s Table; the other concerning Confessional Membership (Synod Fergus, Article
    • 130 IV. B).
    • 2.1.2    Synod Fergus added some words to this “Proposed Agreement” before adopting it (Synod Fergus, Article 130
  • VI).
  • 2.2       Synod Neerlandia 2001 (Article 45)
    • 2.2.1    The OPC did not accept the “Proposed Agreement” as revised by Synod Fergus, and thus the matter came to Synod Neerlandia 2001.
    • 2.2.2    Synod Neerlandia decided to establish EF with the OPC on the basis of the original agreement as suggested by the CCOPC to Synod Fergus 1998 (Synod Neerlandia, Article
  • 45).
  • 2.3       Synod Chatham 2004 (Article 86)
    • 2.3.1    As can be gathered from the Acts of Synod Chatham 2004 (Attercliffe did not enclose its 2004 submission as part of its current appeal) Attercliffe requested Synod:
      • [3.1.1] To decide that Synod Neerlandia erred in the decision to come to Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the OPC by deleting the words agreed upon by Synod Fergus and doing so without scriptural grounds;
      • [3.1.2] To charge the Committee for Contact with the OPC (CCOPC) to as yet fulfill Synod Fergus’ mandate, namely, “To adopt the proposed agreement as amended… as the basis for Ecclesiastical Fellowship with the OPC, and to instruct the CCOPC to pass it on to the CEIR for adoption by the General Assembly.”
    • 2.3.2    Synod Chatham did not accede to this request from Attercliffe (nor to similar requests from other churches), giving lengthy considerations for this decision.
  • 2.4       Attercliffe appealed to Synod Smithers 2007 (cf. Article 83) to reverse Chatham’s decision to uphold Synod Neerlandia’s decision. Attercliffe was convinced that Synod Neerlandia did indeed err in making its decision about the OPC, and asked that Neerlandia’s decision to rem ove the words Synod Fergus (Article 130) inserted in the agreed statements for the OPC be reinstated. Attercliffe based this appeal on the ground that our practices (re: Lord’s Supper) are based on the Church Order, which is in turn based on the Word of God. In Consideration 4.3 of Article 86, Synod Chatham quoted with approval a sentence lifted from the report of the CCOPC: “the amendment inserted by Synod Fergus goes beyond the wording found in the Reformed Confessions.” Attercliffe terms this quotat ion
  • “a false assumption.”
  • 2.5       Synod Smithers 2007 denied Attercliffe’s appeal based on the following considerations:
    • [3.1]     Attercliffe bases this appeal on its conviction that the how of su pervising guests at the Lord’s table must be a condition for EF. The churches, however, have said years ago that the how of supervising guests at the Lord’s table “cannot in the end be made a condition for EF” (Abbots ford 1995, Article 106, V.B.3). Appeals against this decision have been denied, and Attercliffe now brings up no new grounds to revisit this decision.
    • [3.2]     Synod Chatham correctly notes that a Church Order expresses how churches have agreed to carry out biblical principles in practical church life (Article 86, 4.5). That the Canadian Reformed Churches have bound themselves to a specific Church Order (and hence a certain practice re: supervising guests at the Lord’s table) does not mean that the practices described in this Church Order are the only way any church of God could ever supervise the table.
    • [3.3]     Attercliffe does not prove that the statement, “the amendment ins erted by Synod Fergus goes beyond the wording found in the Ref ormed Confessions” is, in fact, a false assumption.
  • 2.6       A ttercliffe now appeals this decision of Synod Smithers on the basis of the following:
    • 2.6.1    T hough Synod Smithers dealt with the matter of the supervision of the Lord’s Supper, it ignored the matter of confessional membership.
    • 2.6.2    The Acts of Synod Fergus contain the scriptural and confessional proof for both amended insertions.
    • 2.6.3    The amended agreement as adopted by Synod Fergus 1998 has been the historic continental Reformed position for establishing EF that has up until lately been maintained by our churches, while the decisions from 1992 on amount to a foundational shift. If churches wish to make such a shift, then they must appeal previous decisions of Synod concerning the phrase in the baptism and public profession of faith forms which states “summarized in the confessions and taught here in this Christian Church” (Attercliffe references Article 145 of Synod Cloverdale 1983, Article 144 of Synod Burlington 1986, Article 161 of Synod Winnipeg 1989, and Article 122 of Synod Lincoln 1992.
    • 2.6.4    A quotation from a Church Order Commentary by I. VanDellen and M. Monsma, stating that a Church cannot remain Reformed without confessing the Reformed fundamentals.

3.         Considerations

  • 3.1        Synod Smithers 2007 indeed did not deal with the issue of confessional membership. However, this matter was dealt with extensively by Synod Chatham 2004. Attercliffe did not bring up any new grounds for revisiting this decision.
  • 3.2       To simply state that the Acts of Synod Fergus contain the scriptural and confessional proof for both amended insertions is not an interaction with the considerations of Synod Chatham 2004, and thus cannot be considered “new grounds.”
  • 3.3       To speak about a “historic continental Reformed position” is nebulous and not helpful. While Attercliffe speaks about the “burden of proof” lying with others, the decisions of Synod Neerlandia were based on lengthy considerations with which Attercliffe did not interact.
  • 3.4       Using quotations from authors has its place but does not negate the necessity to interact with the lengthy considerations of Synod Neerlandia.

 4.        Recommendation

That Synod decide to declare the appeal inadmissible on the basis of Article 33 of the Church Order.