03 Aug GS 2010 art 56
GS 2010 Article 56 – Appeals re: Administering the Lord’s Supper to Shut-ins
Letters from Toronto-Bethel (8.5.c) and Burlington-Ebenezer (8.5.n, Contents – Part 3).
- 2.1 Synod Smithers 2007 dealt with an overture from Regional Synod West 2006 (RSW) asking that the CO Article 56 be changed to accommodate the administration of the Lord’s Supper to shut-ins.
- 2.2 In Article 96, Consideration 3.1, General Synod Smithers 2007 agreed with four considerations of RSW 2006, listed earlier in Article 96:
- [2.6.1] It is not the numbers of attendees nor the venue that constitutes a “public worship service,” but the presence of office bearers together with congregation members (the ‘form of the church’).
- [2.6.2] The current recognition of the form of the church in multiple places can by extension be applied to extraordinary circumstances in the congregation, in the sense that the consistory could have a worship service for those who cannot come to the normal gathering. In principle this does not differ from a consistory calling the congregation at two times (e.g., because the building is too small, necessitating two services back to back) or calling the congregation together at two locations (e.g., because members live too far apart).
- [2.6.3] Consistories are responsible for the pastoral care of the members. If in a consistory’s judgment a shut-in member requires the encouragement contained in the Lord’s Supper, consistory ought to do what it can to provide that encouragement.
- [2.6.4] Even if an alteration to the Church Order is not deemed necessary, a decision on the topic by synod may be beneficial for the churches.
- 2.3 Synod Smithers 2007 decided that no change to the Church Order was necessary.
- 2.4 Toronto-Bethel requested advice from Classis Ontario North on the matter of administering the Lord’s Supper to shut-ins.
- 2.5 Classis Ontario North December 11, 1987 advised Toronto-Bethel as follows:
- 2.5.1 The churches have agreed that private celebrations of the Lord’s Supper will not be conducted (Article 56 CO), but that the administration of the Lord’s Supper shall take place in the normal gathering, at the place where the congregation ordinarily meets.
- 2.5.2 From the information presented by the church at Toronto it appears that such a private celebration is considered for the benefit of one member.
- 2.5.3 C lassis advises the church at Toronto “not to proceed in this direction.”
- 2.6 Toronto-Bethel has since held this advice as settled and binding.
- 2.7 Toronto-Bethel questions “whether the incidental meeting of a minister and elders at the home of an individual member could be considered a ‘public worship service’ that can be compared to an officially organized and temporary house congregation
- (under the weekly supervision of the elders) or a second worship service in a church that has become too large for a single service of its members.” (Cf. Acts of Synod Smithers 2007, Article 96, Consideration 2.6.2).
- 2.8 Toronto-Bethel further believes that “General Synod Smithers’ Observation 2.6.3 leaves the matter open to subjective interpretations and varying applications by the churches. Such an observation also gives rise to arbitrary judgments that could cause confusion among the churches in general and with the members individually.”
- 2.9 Toronto-Bethel observes that in Consideration 2.6.5, Synod Smithers 2007 states that “a decision on the topic by synod may be beneficial for the churches.”
- 2.10 Burlington-Ebenezer disputes the claim of Synod Smithers 2007 that, “The current recognition of the form of the church in multiple places can, by extension, be applied to extraordinary circumstances in the congregation, in the sense that the consistory could have a worship service for those who cannot come to the normal gathering.” (Acts of Synod Smithers 2007, Article 96, Consideration 2.6.2).
- 3.1 By agreeing to the Considerations 2.6.1 – 2.6.4 of RSW 2006 in coming to its decision in Article 96, Synod Smithers 2007 did make a decision on this topic. Thus, it is not necessary to reconsider Article 96, or to appoint a study committee to prepare a recommendation on the matter.
- 3.2 The reasoning of RSW 2006, as taken over by Synod Smithers 2007 and disputed by Burlington- Ebenezer, namely, that it isn’t the place that determines a public worship service; it isn’t the number of people which determines a public worship service, but the presence of office bearers and members; that therefore consistory could have a public worship service in a separate place for those who cannot come to the normal gathering (“the form of the church”); and that therefore the administration of the Lord’s Supper to shut-ins is allowed by the present Article 56 of the CO, is not faulty.
- 3.3 Synod Smithers 2007, in agreeing with Considerations 2.6.1 – 2.6.4 of RSW 2006, correctly judged that the administration of the Lord’s Supper to shut-ins, conducted according to the provisions of Article 52 of the CO, is to be seen as a legitimate way for consistories to address a need within the congregation.
- 3.4 Synod Smithers 2007 correctly judged therefore, that the administration of the Lord’s Supper to shut-ins, conducted according to the provisions of Article 52 of the CO, is not in fact a “private celebration of the Lord’s Supper,” but rather, constitutes a public worship service, and thus is allowed under Article 56 of the CO.
That Synod decide: to deny the appeal of Toronto-Bethel and the appeal of Burlington-Ebenezer (8.5.n, Contents – Part 3).
Br. A. Bax requested that his negative vote be recorded.