GS 2010 art 41

GS 2010 Article 41 – Meeting with delegates of the URCNA

1.         Material

  • 1.1       The main report of the Ecclesiastical Unity Coordinators submitted to General Synod Burlington-Ebenezer 2010 (8.2.a.i).
  • 1.2       Supplementary Letter of the Coordinators Church Unity of the Canadian Reformed Churches (8.2.a.ii).
  • 1.3       Letters from the Churches at Hamilton-Providence (8.3.A.1), Toronto-Bethel (8.3.A.2), Fergus-Maranatha (8.3.A.5), Flamborough (8.3.A.6), Neerlandia (8.3.A.7), Ancaster (8.3.A.11), Burlington-Ebenezer (8.3.A.3), Edmonton-Immanuel (8.3.A.4), Glanbrook (8.3.A.10), Abbotsford (8.3.A.12), Barrhead (8.3.A.17), and Cloverdale (8.3.A.16).

2.         Observations

  • 2.1       I n their main report, the Coordinators mention that the members of the ecumenical relations committees of both churches met together from Oct. 30-31, 2008 in Hamilton. They state that this was “the second time the two committees sat around the table together.” Furthermore, they remark that “the meeting was characterized by a warm, frank, and brotherly exchange of questions and answers.” They add: “it is helpful for brothers in the Lord to come face-to-face.”
  • 2.2       In their main report, the Coordinators refer to a proposal from the church at Lincoln about “face to face meetings between the delegates of our respective synods and representatives of our respective federations, where the concerns and questions could be presented, and responses could be received.” The Coordinators recommend in 7.3 of their report that this proposal of Lincoln be implemented.
  • 2.3       In their Supplementary Report the Coordinators report that they were invited to a face-to-face meeting by Classis Southwest of the URCNA meeting in Escondido, CA on January 19-20, 2010. In their stead, Dr. J.P. Van Vliet and Dr. G.H. Visscher visited this Classis and answered quite a number of outstanding questions. The Coordinators attach both the questions asked and the answers given to their report.
  • 2.4       The following churches express their agreement with all the recommendations of the coordinators report: Hamilton-Providence, Toronto-Bethel, Fergus-Maranatha, Flamborough, Neerlandia, and Ancaster.
  • 2.5       The following churches express their agreement with the recommendations of the coordinators report, with the exception of Recommendation 7.3 (the proposal of Lincoln): Attercliffe, Burlington-Ebenezer, Edmonton-Immanuel, Glanbrook, Abbotsford, Barrhead and Cloverdale.
  • 2.6       The church at Winnipeg-Redeemer endorses Recommendation 7.3.
  • 2.7       Burlington-Ebenezer does not support this recommendation for two reasons:
    • [1.]          Ecclesiastical unity should only be sought and implemented on the basis of Scripture and the Confessions.
    • [2.]          Such face to face meetings are impractical given the nature of synods and, especially for the URCNA, the limited time available.
  • 2.8       Edmonton-Immanuel does not support the same for the following reasons. Given the short time frame before General Synod, the proposal of Lincoln would not be a practical solution as many churches would not have time or take the opportunity to respond. The problem is that either federation may not be well represented using this model. We should strive to have discussions at the formal (written) level rather than informally between a select few representatives and members of synod.
  • 2.9       Glanbrook does not support the same for the following reason. Their concern is that the proposal from Lincoln is premature considering this statement from the committee on page 15 of their report: “it would be more beneficial to deal with these matters in light of the decisions of the next Synod of the URCNA (London).”
  • 2.10     Attercliffe questions the wisdom of Recommendation 7.3 stating that its validity is countered by Consideration 6.4 where the committee doubts the value and status of face-to-face meetings.
  • 2.11     Barrhead expresses concern about the recommendation of 7.3 to implement the proposal of Lincoln, as they find the idea of a “public discussion” at this stage of our communication with the URCNA open to being volatile and counter-productive.
  • 2.12     Abbotsford suggests that Synod seriously consider the option of having a session together with the URCNA Synod which is to meet a few months later in London. The reasons for this suggestion are: costs are not prohibitive, a combined session purely for the purposes of understanding each other better (asking the questions Lincoln is asking for) could give more clarity on what the URCNA as a federation wants, and while the written word is important, face to face meetings have their own value (2 John 12; 3 John 13-14.)

3.         Considerations

  • 3.1       The Coordinators Report indicates that the face-to-face meetings that our ecumenical committee had in the past with the URCNA committee have been helpful and not at all impractical, volatile or counter-productive. Furthermore, from the URCNA representatives present at Synod Burlington-Ebenezer, plus the address of the Rev. J.A. Bouwers of the URCNA, we learned that the Escondido face-toface meeting at which Dr. J.P. Van Vliet and Dr. G.H. Visscher were present was extremely helpful in answering outstanding questions and clearing up misunderstandings.
  • 3.2       In view of the success of these previous face-to-face meetings, there is value in Synod Burlington-Ebenezer giving serious consideration to taking the same approach.
  • 3.3         No proof is given that such an approach undermines the fact that unity is ultimately based on Scripture and confession.
  • 3.4       While the Coordinators believe that an official reaction to the Nine Statements of Schererville should wait until after Synod London, they support a face-to-face meeting on other outstanding issues.
  • 3.5       A number of churches submitted a list of questions which would make a face-to-face meeting at this time beneficial.
  • 3.6       While it is true that the time frame we are working with is limited, there are sufficient questions from both sides for such a meeting to
  • prove beneficial. At the same time it may be possible in the future to have more face-to-face meetings in various places to answer questions and clear up misunderstandings. All of this does not come in the place of formal or structured discussions.
  • 3.7       The church at Attercliffe misunderstands the thrust of the Coordinators remarks for while they are reluctant to speak on behalf of the whole federation, they see the merit of a face-to-face meeting and thus support the proposal of Lincoln.
  • 3.8       The church at Abbotsford strongly supports a face-to-face meeting; however, it suggests that Synod adjourn and meet again later. The costs and time commitments, however, make such a meeting impractical, especially at this late juncture.

4.         Recommendation

That Synod decide:

  • 4.1       To support the proposal of the church at Lincoln, taken over by the Coordinators, for a face-to-face meeting between the members of Synod and delegates from the United Reformed Churches.
  • 4.2       To set aside at least one hour on Wednesday evening, May 19, 2010 for delegates from the United Reformed Churches to answer questions submitted to them by the churches and delegates.
  • 4.3       To delegate the coordinators along with Dr. J.P. Van Vliet and Dr. G.H. Visscher to represent the Canadian Reformed Churches at a similar session proposed for the Synod of the United Reformed Churches that will meet in London, Ontario in July of 2010.