GS 2010 art 77

GS 2010 Article 77 – Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA)

1.         Material

  • 1.1       Report 6 from the CCCNA re: the RPCNA (8.2.f).
  • 1.2        Letters from the following churches: Hamilton-Providence (8.3.F.1), Toronto (8.3.F.2), Smithers (8.3.F.3), Guelph (8.3.F.4), Burlington-Ebenezer (8.3.F.5), Grand Valley (8.3.F.6), Coaldale (8.3.F.7), Orangeville (8.3.F.8), Edmonton-Immanuel (8.3.F.9), Owen Sound (8.3.F.10), Fergus-Maranatha (8.3.F.11), Flamborough (8.3.F.12), Neerlandia (8.3.F.13), Willoughby Heights (8.3.F.14), Attercliffe (8.3.F.15), Surrey (8.3.F.17), London (8.3.F.19), Glanbrook (8.3.F.20), Ancaster (8.3.F.23), Lincoln (8.3.F.24), Cloverdale (8.3.F.25) Dunnville (8.3.F.26), and Barrhead (8.3.F.27).

2.         Observations

  • 2.1       Synod Smithers 2007 (Article 163, Recommendation 4) gave the CCCNA the following mandate:
    • [4.2.1] To confirm whether the marks of the church of the Lord Jesus are evident in the RPCNA.
    • [4.2.2] To explore further whether the matters mentioned in Considerations 3.3 and 3.4 are a hindrance to the establishment of ecclesiastical fellowship (EF).
      • –           Consideration 3.3 reads: “…The CCCNA should be instructed to study the status and content of the Testimony in the RPCNA including what it says about the Covenant…”
      • –           Consideration 3.4 reads: “The CCCNA’s concern about exclusive psalmody ought to be investigated further, as ought their views on ordaining women as deacons.”
    • [4.2.3] To submit its report to the next General Synod.
  • 2.2       The CCCNA interacted with the Interchurch Relations Committee (IRC) at NAPARC in November 2007 and again in November 2008. Members of the CCCNA attended an RPCNA Synod in 2008 and had another meeting with the IRC.
  • 2.3       The CCCNA comes to the conclusion that the RPCNA exhibits the marks of the church.
  • 2.4       The CCCNA studied the Testimony, including what is says about the covenant, and concludes that neither its status nor its contents present an obstacle to the establishment of EF.
  • 2.5       The CCCNA investigated the concerns about exclusive psalmody and concludes that this matter does not present an obstacle to the establishment of EF.
  • 2.6       The CCCNA notes that the RPCNA have congregations in Ottawa, Denver and in the Kitchener-Waterloo area; for the CanRC congregations in these areas, EF would potentially provide many practical benefits.
  • 2.7       The CCCNA consulted with other churches with whom we have EF about establishing a relationship with the RPCNA.
  • 2.8       The CCCNA recommends that Synod 2010 decide:
    • [1.]       To express gratitude to the Lord for the positive developments within our contact with the RPCNA.
    • [2.]       That the Committee has confirmed that the marks of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ are evident in the RPCNA.
    • [3.]          That the status and the content of the Testimony have been sufficiently studied, including what it says about the covenant, and that it does not present an obstacle to the establishment of EF.
    • [4.]          That the concern about exclusive psalmody has been investigated further and that it does not present an obstacle to the establishment of EF.
    • [5.]          That the views of the RPCNA with respect to ordaining women as deacons have been investigated and that they do not present an obstacle to the establishment of EF.
    • [6.]          That EF with the RPCNA has the potential to be meaningful and practical at the local level.
    • [7.]          To offer a relationship of EF to the RPCNA under the adopted rules.
  • 2.9       A total of 21 churches raise concerns about the recommendations of the CCCNA report. The concerns can be summarized as follows:
  • In regard to the ordination of female deacons in the RPCNA:
    • 2.9.1    While the RPCNA claims that deacons in their churches are not part of the government of the church and therefore do not exercise authority, Appendix 4, 4.c of the Report of the CCCNA seems to indicate that the office of deacon in the RPCNA involves not only assistance and administration but also leading, training, overseeing and teaching. Thus the practice of ordaining women as deacons would potentially involve women exercising authority over men, contrary to the injunctions of the apostle in 1 Tim. 2:12 and 1 Cor. 14:34.
    • 2.9.2    The ordination of women as deacons is a point contested by some ministers within the RPCNA to the extent that they declare an exception on this point.
    • 2.9.3    Apart from the functioning of women as deacons within the RPCNA, the very fact of ordination implies authority.
    • 2.9.4    In view of our concern about the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands which seem to be moving in the direction of female office bearers, it would not be wise to compromise our witness by establishing EF with the RPCNA.
    • 2.9.5    Scripture speaks of deacons as men who must be the “husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well” (1 Tim. 3:8-12) which passage plainly prohibits the ordination of women to this office.
    •                 2.9.6       Scripture indicates that the first deacons were men (Acts 6).
    • 2.9.7    Even though it occurred many years ago, the decision of the RPCNA to allow for the ordination of women as deacons may well show the influence of unscriptural feminism.
    •                 2.9.8     Synod Smithers cautioned the Reformed Churches of New
    • Zealand to be careful in their relationship with the CRC of Australia due to the ordination of women as deacons in these churches.
    • 2.9.9    Ordaining women as deacons is a major issue which must be resolved prior to the establishment of any relationship of EF.
    • 2.9.10 Article 30 of the Belgic Confession indicates that deacons are part of the governing body of the church and can only be men.
    • In regard to Exclusive Psalmody:
    • 2.9.11 Does the RPCNA view the singing of Hymns as sin? If so, how can it have EF with churches which have this practice?
    • 2.9.12 Exclusive Psalmody is an extra-scriptural binding which the church is not allowed to make.
    • 2.9.13 If the RPCNA would not bind a church in EF to exclusive
    • Psalmody, how can it bind its own members to this practice?
    • In regard to the Testimony:
    • 2.9.14 Churches should not be bound by extra-confessional documents.
    • 2.9.15 The distinction in the Testimony between external and internal covenant does not fit with the accepted understanding of the covenant among the CanRC.
    • 2.9.16 The Testimony is an obstacle to EF because it is the “interpretive lens” through which the confessional standards are read.

3.         Considerations

  • 3.1       While the CCCNA report provides extensive information about the nature and functioning of female deacons in the RPCNA, many serious questions about this practice remain.
  • 3.2         The churches are legitimately concerned that the ordination of women as deacons contradicts the teaching of Scripture that deacons ought to be men (1 Tim. 3:8-12).
  • 3.3       The official RPCNA position is that women deacons do not govern or exercise authority over men; in practice, however, it would seem that they do (see Appendix 4, 4c). If this is the case, this would conflict with Scripture (see 1 Tim. 2:12 and 1 Cor. 14:34 and cf. Article 30, Belgic Confession).
  • 3.4       It would be inconsistent and confusing for the CanRC to enter into EF with a federation of churches which ordain women as deacons while Synod 2007 cautioned the Reformed Churches of New Zealand about their relationship with the Christian Reformed Churches of Australia due to their practice of ordaining women as deacons.
  • 3.5       Exclusive psalmody has never been seen as an obstacle to EF as is clear from the existing relationship between the CanRC and the FCS. Even if the RPCNA views the singing of hymns as sinful, they do not press the matter in terms of their ecumenical relationships.
  • 3.6       It would seem that some of the churches are mistaken in speaking of the Testimony as an “extra-confessional” document. In reality, this document has the status of a confession on par with the Westminster Confession and Catechisms. More study would be necessary to determine whether this document is a faithful Reformed confession.

4.         Recommendation

That Synod decide:

  • 4.1       To not enter into EF with the RPCNA at this time.
  • 4.2       To mandate the CCCNA:
    • 4.2.1    To monitor developments in the RPCNA regarding the ordination of women as deacons.
    • 4.2.2   To continue informal contact with the RPCNA via NAPARC.
    • 4.2.3    To report to the next General Synod.