GS 2010 art 83

GS 2010 Article 83 – Appeal from Grassie re: Article 103 of Synod Smithers 2007

1.         Material

  • 1.1       Appeal from the church at Grassie (8.5.a).
  • 1.2       Acts of Synod Smithers 2007.

2.         Observations

  • 2.1         The church at Grassie states that the decision of Synod Smithers 2007 “which mandates the Theological Education Committee to “express the strong preference for at least one federational seminary (Article 103” is “contrary to Scripture because 2 Timothy 2:2 ‘indicates that those ordained by the church should work to supply the church with future preachers’ (Report of the Theological Education Committee, Acts 2004, p.227).”
  • 2.2       Grassie also states that “It is part of the responsibility of the officebearers of the churches to ensure that there will be ministers who are able to preach and teach God’s people in the future. This responsibility should not be carried out by an institution or institutions which have no integral connection with the churches.”
  • 2.3       Grassie argues further that the decision of Synod Smithers is contrary to Article 19 of the Church Order which states, “The churches shall maintain an institution for the training for the ministry.” Grassie states: “We fail to understand how this institution in Article 19 ‘is not the same as a federational seminary,’ as stated in 3.4 of Article 103 of Synod Smithers. An institution which the churches maintain is a federational seminary by definition.”
  • 2.4       Synod Smithers stated in Article 103, Consideration 3.4, that “The principle of 2 Timothy 2.2, which points in the direction of the churches being responsible for the training for the ministry, does not necessitate the conclusion of a ‘federational’ seminary. Article 19 of the Church Order of the CanRC also does not necessitate a federational seminary as ‘an institution for the training for the ministry’ is not the same as federational seminary. Already it is possible under Article 19 for the churches to maintain an institution apart from that institution having to belong to the federation. Therefore, it would be best, for clarity’s sake, to realize that ‘federational’ seminary is terminology that has arisen (in the Statements of Agreement and in the mandate of Synod Chatham) out of current practice and is not itself the Reformed theological education principle. The principle remains: the churches are responsible for the training for the ministry.”
  • 2.5       Synod Smithers also stated in Article 103, Consideration 3.6, that: “A seminary at which the board and faculty are appointed by the synods of the churches is one of the fullest ways to express the principle that the churches take responsibility for the training for the ministry. Therefore a federational seminary cannot and must not be quickly removed from the discussion of the theological education committees… Synod expresses the desire that the next URCNA synod would mandate the URCNA theological education committee to engage the CanRC committee on all options, including the possibility of at least one federational seminary.”

3.         Considerations

  • 3.1       In evaluating the decision of Synod Smithers, the context of that decision must be kept in mind. The report concerning theological education received by Synod Smithers indicated that an “impasse” had been reached in discussions with their URCNA counterparts (Article 103, 2.3.4). It was with the desire to break through that impasse and continue fruitful discussion that Synod Smithers laid out a careful distinction between biblical principle and ecclesiastical practice and also between current realities and future possibilities. The intention of Smithers was not to remove the CanRC commitment to a federational seminary or remove any one legitimate possibility from the discussion. Instead Smithers wanted to “leave sufficient room for a broad range of possibilities to be considered and explored based on scriptural principle and in accordance with the agreements the committees have already made” (Article 103, 3.5).
  • 3.2       Grassie’s statement in Observation 2.2 has merit. However, Grassie does not prove that a “federational” seminary is the only possible expression of the principle contained in 2 Timothy 2:2. In a discussion about future possibilities it cannot be denied that there is more than one legitimate way for those “ordained by the church” to “work to supply the church with future preachers.”
  • 3.3       The decision of Smithers pertains to ongoing dialogue with the URCNA concerning a potential and future federation of merged churches. That future federation would operate under a new Church Order which at the time of Smithers was still in development. In particular, no article on theological education for the new Church Order had yet been proposed. As such, Grassie’s appeal to the present Church Order of the Canadian Reformed Churches is out of place when considering the matter of how to put into practice the biblical principle in this proposed, future union. How that new federation will agree together by common consent (i.e. in the new Church Order) to implement the principle of 2 Timothy 2:2 has not yet been determined. At the same time it is good to make clear that Article 19 of the present CanRC Church Order gives expression to a certain practice which is based on the principle laid out in 2 Timothy 2:2. Other possible practices based on that same principle could not (in 2007) be removed from the dialogue between committees. Synod Chatham 2004 already made this clear when it stated that, “the new federation should retain at least one federational theological school at which the board of governors, the professors and teaching staff are appointed by synod” (Acts Chatham 2004, Article 75, That statement implies that theological training in a different format cannot be excluded from discussions.
  • 3.4       It is clear from the statements of Synod Smithers that it has not in any way dismissed the notion of working toward at least one federational seminary. It merely has distinguished between the biblical principle proper and the application of that principle. The biblical principle is this: the churches are responsible for the training for the ministry. One of the fullest ways to apply that principle is this: a seminary owned and operated by the federation of churches (i.e. a federational seminary).

4.         Recommendation

That Synod decide to deny the appeal.


After some further plenary discussion in regard to committee proposals, synod was adjourned for committee work.